Martin Whitfield: Stop whingeing and get on your bike, Mr Walsh

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Indy Lifestyle Online

John Walsh recently wrote that he had had "a letter from the Bill tells me that court proceedings will start shortly, and I should Do Nothing until summoned. So, here I sit, waiting to appear in court and be told that I'm banned from driving for six months or a year. I cannot bear it. I am practically married to my car. Everyday things - the school run, the trip to Waitrose, the drive to work - suddenly seem touched with an elegiac glow, now that I am about to lose them".

Oh come on, Mr Walsh, and the hundreds of middle-aged, unhappy men like you who are about to lose their licences because they simply failed to observe those brightly painted cameras and huge white chevrons in the middle of the road.

Treat not having a car less as a threat to your manhood, but more a heaven-sent opportunity to change your life. Forget all that motor manufacturers' rubbish about the car you drive defining the person you are. Think of the benefit of not being thought of as a sad poseur when you say goodbye to that soft-top Chrysler PT Cruiser.

And please stop considering yourself as a victim - it is not attractive. No one I know admits that the speed camera caught them doing more than a few miles an hour over the limit. Now what can you do? I know that for someone who considers themselves to be married to a car that this may sound ridiculous, but there is a simple answer: Get a bike. Before you go dismiss the idea without a second thought, let's have a look what the bike can do for you, a typical, fashion-conscious urban sophisticate.

Firstly the image, which is crucial for acceptance in the media world you inhabit. No problem here. Cycling, particularly in London, has none of the old stereotypes of working men in cloth caps. It is the transport of choice for everyone from judges to comedians, students to television presenters. Even newspapers journalists have been known to cycle to work. For the style obsessed, you can spend hours picking a bike in the wide range from macho full-suspension mountain bikes to the European functional cycles, much favoured by the cultured classes of Berlin and Amsterdam.

You admit your daily journeys are short and local. Ideal for the bike, which will be quicker and stress-free. No problem either for the journey to work. Transport for London has invested in some excellent cross-London cycle routes, including one to the centre of Canary Wharf. Contact the London Cycling Campaign - www.lcc.org.uk - which will give you free cycle maps, show you where to get training if you need an adult refresher course, and generally be about as helpful and friendly as you could wish. Mix in a few parks, canal towpaths, and riverside cycle routes and your journey will not only be faster than by car, but a lot more pleasant. Regular journeys will keep you fit without having to go to the gym. The exercise will make you feel better, your shrinking waistline and firmer muscles will boost your vanity.

You will now have time to stop at all those shops you never had chance to before as you were in too much or a rush, or couldn't find a parking place. Attractions will become more and more accessible. Eventually, when the time comes to get that licence back you will have another choice. Do you go back to the transport equivalent of the couch potato, or do you continue with something a little more varied and interesting?

Mr Walsh could always ask the personal assistant he mentions, Ms Xanthe Fellatio - or any of your female friends - which is the more attractive? A slightly podgy and pasty bloke whining and whingeing about speed cameras, or a man with colour in his cheeks and a trim little bum who enthuses about the signs of spring he sees on the way to work.

The writer runs cycle city guides. www.cyclecityguides.co.uk

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