Sean O'Grady: Cyclists don't own the road

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Indy Lifestyle Online

There is what must be an enormously expensive advertising campaign going on in London, promoting the idea that "You're better off by bike". The ads are paid for by Transport for London, the Mayor of London's transport quango.

Before I go any further, I should apologise for such a London-centric article but, as far as transport is concerned, where London leads the rest of the nation surely follows. Parking restrictions, congestion charging and vastly expensive public transport were all pioneered in London. Thus you can be sure that your local council will be apeing the "big boys" in London and spending your money on trying to persuade you to get on your bike, whether you want to or not.

Anyway, you don't have to live in the capital to realise that the "You're better off by bike" campaign must be one of the more futile in the often inglorious history of official propaganda, and a waste of public money. Everyone surely knows the arguments in favour of cycling. Those few who don't will hardly be persuaded by these weak ads, designed roughly like the old spoofs that used to run in Viz, consisting of a single strapline such as "Eat Food" or "Drink Beer". Indeed, the biggest boost to cycling in the capital came with the terror attacks on the London Underground. No matter that cycling is rather more dangerous than the one-in-millions chance of being blown to bits on public transport. Which brings me to my point about this ad campaign: it's not true.

You're worse off by bike, because every time you put your helmet on and take to the roads you are asking for trouble. I've known cyclists who have suffered broken ankles, broken jaws, broken teeth, broken pelvises. I don't care how many pennies you've saved or how much weight you've lost; that will never be a prize worth seeking against the risk of such serious injury.

Transport for London say that "cycling is safe and quick". No, it isn't. No bike can beat a car, even in heavy traffic. You don't have to drive far to see cyclist taking risks with their own lives and everyone else's, too. Cyclists mounting pavements, knocking pedestrians over. Cyclists jumping red lights and then cursing motorists who have narrowly missed them. Cyclists weaving in and out of fast-moving, tightly packed traffic, seemingly daring cars to hit them. Cyclists trying to squeeze into gaps that don't exist and scraping cars and vans. So far from cyclists being some timid, cowed minority, the Lycra-clad yobs on two wheels are the most nasty, foul-mouthed and aggressive maniacs on the road.

Yes, it is the cyclists who seem to think they own the road, even though they pay not a penny in road fund licence. Nor are they insured.

But really I'm thinking of the cyclists themselves. Whoever's fault it is, if you're injured the one thing you cannot say is that you're "better off". And they are very, very vulnerable. No one would think of letting pushbikes on to motorways, yet the conditions in busy city roads are scarcely less hazardous. For the cyclists' own good, cycling in cities should be licensed, paid for and rationed. That way we'd all be better off.

motoring@independent.co.uk

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