James Daley: The Cycling Column

Insulted by my views on bikers? You will be
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Indy Lifestyle Online

The call to arms in my war against motorcyclists appears to have come a little earlier than I'd expected. After writing about my dislike for the two-wheeled menaces a fortnight ago, my colleague Tim Luckhurst (a professor, no less), who pens the motorbike reviews for this section, decided to launch an immediate retaliation, writing a piece about his dislike for people like me and my "lunatic whingeing".

After a year or so of writing this column, I have developed a relatively thick skin when it comes to tirades of abuse from motor vehicle users. Being compared to a terrorist by Prof Luckhurst, and accused of making an argument that resembled a "creationist rant", was all fairly modest stuff compared to some of the vitriol that I've received.

What concerned me most about his article, however, was that his perception of the relationship between motorbikers and cyclists was so very detached from reality.

For those of you who missed it, Prof Luckhurst's article was entitled " Bikers and cyclists are a kindred spirit", and opened with a long purple patch about how he has always enjoyed an "intensely amicable" relationship with cyclists.

Apparently, cyclists have offered him directions, cycle couriers have advised him where to lock up his motorbike, and "bicycle commuters often let me through to the front of queues at traffic lights".

Exactly which planet is it that the professor has been biking on? In my experience, if cycle commuters ever let motorbikes through at traffic lights, it's usually because they have been intimidated by the biker revving his or her engine.

I received several letters of support from cyclists after writing my column – some of which recounted stories about their near (and some not so near) scrapes with bikers. One correspondent talked of how he was recently physically abused by a biker at a junction in London, after he accidentally scraped the motorbike with his pedal while trying to get past him. Fair enough? Perhaps it would be if it were not for the fact the biker was stationary in the cycle lane at the time.

Others expressed their support for keeping motorbikes out of bus lanes, claiming that in those areas where bikers are already permitted into them, they have terrorised the cyclists with whom they share the space.

I agree with the professor that many modern motorcyclists are not the " macho, testosterone-fuelled psychopaths" that I have made them out to be, but it is dangerous to snipe at a fellow journalist for generalising. Newspaper columnists generalise as often as rabbits copulate – but that's not to say we can only think in black or white.

Of course there are plenty of cyclists and motorcyclists who pay due care and attention to their fellow road users. There are, however, many more who do not.

Although the professor tries to marginalise the serious concerns that cyclists have about motorbikes, he is wrong to. It really is not the case, as he puts it, that motorbikers are as vulnerable as cyclists. On a big piece of metal with a powerful engine, you can get yourself out of sticky situations much quicker than someone on a flimsy piece of carbon fibre. Furthermore, there is little doubt who comes off worse in a collision between a motorcyclist and a push-biker.

Alas, Professor Tim's boast that he has "never been insulted or criticised by a cyclist" before is probably a bit naïve. The truth is he's probably already disappeared into the distance by the time most cyclists are shouting their insults at him. But I'm willing to accept that he may never have been insulted or criticised to his face. Until now, that is.


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