It's that time of year when full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn and gathering swallows twitter in the skies (poetry). It's also that time when you pack your waterproofs, ensure you're visible in the stealthy twilight with bright lights and plenty of shiny stuff, and keep finding yourself either under- or overdressed for the weather.
Seasonal tip: now is the time when shorts are the ideal solution to all your climate troubles - low skin cancer risk, not too cold, and if it rains, legs dry out quicker than trousers. It is also the time when the unseasonable warmth starts you worrying about climate change and the world that you are bequeathing to your children, and wondering whether it was such a good idea to sit through that Al Gore movie after all. My colleague David Prosser looks a little further into autumn on this page.
Taking a rosier view, it's not too much of a sadness to be rid of a summer that was, in many ways, dispiriting for cyclists. For a start, there were the weeks of excessive heat and smog: cycling by night, warm breeze smoothing your cheeks and ruffling the hairs on your legs, was a pleasure; cycling by day was, at times, a purgatory of sweat and red eyes. Worse than that was the way that slinging mud at cyclists took off as a sport for press and politicians alike.
The recent kite-flying about making bicycle bells compulsory - as if a bell can do anything that a loud "Excuse me, please" can't - isn't even the silliest example. The prize for that goes to Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, who, in July, was floating the idea of compulsory registration plates for cyclists. Given the difficulties of enforcement, the expense of administering the scheme, and the hostility it would arouse among cyclists; and given that he has spent so much time promoting cycling in London, this is back-of-the-fag-packet thinking - except, of course, that Ken can't stand smoking.
Meanwhile, there was the case of Daniel Cadden, fined £100, plus £200 costs, by a magistrate for "inconsiderate cycling" because cars had to cross a white line in the middle of the road to overtake him. The motorists involved, who had broken the law on crossing white lines, were allowed to continue unimpeded.
The comparison that keeps cropping up in online cycling forums is with the motorist who killed four members of Rhyl Cycling Club and, having pleaded guilty to three counts of driving with defective tyres, was fined £180.
In the light of this, David Cameron's admission that his bike rides are usually accompanied by a car carrying his paperwork looks less like a blunder than a canny piece of back-pedalling - a reassurance to voters that he was only playing at being "bikey", and really, he's as much in love with the car as everyone else.
How should cyclists react to this kind of official discouragement? By carrying on cycling, and by converting as many people as possible. Statistics show that, as more cyclists take to the road, casualty rates drop: we want as many people as possible out there, for their good and ours. Give way to pedestrians, wave thanks to polite motorists (turn a blind eye to idiots), light up at night, obey the rules. Give no one an excuse to rant about cyclists who hog the road and don't pay road tax.
The good news is this seems already to be happening. I've been pleasantly shocked to find out how many commuting cyclists I'm sharing the road with, compared with last year. And I no longer find myself sitting alone at red lights while cyclists sail past: some days, the cycle space is crammed. Give it time and we may become a useful voting bloc. Then the politicians will change their tune.Reuse content