Cycling, like politics, is not for wimps


Uh oh, watch out: the Government is "encouraging" something. You know you should worry if the Government starts encouraging something that you do, because it only ever encourages things that are somewhere between futile and completely suicidal. Remember when it attempted to solve the crisis of too many single households by "encouraging marriage"? Or when its best policy to get us out of a recession was to "encourage spending"? When governments "encourage" things, it means that it would be better for the country if people acted as no sane individual could be persuaded to. Well, now it is encouraging cycling.

A cross-party group of MPs has come up with a sensible list of proposals that they believe would increase cycling fivefold and therefore cut congestion, pollution and spending on health. The Prime Minister's reaction? "The report has many good points," David Cameron said. "We should be doing much more in our country to encourage cycling …. I hope local authorities can … do more" (i.e."These are all good ideas, but they're going to cost money in the short term so let's not bother.")

This came in a week of bad news for cyclists. A Norfolk police chief recommended changing the law to allow "good drivers" to drive as fast as they like. (Hasn't he seen the famous study of "illusory superiority" in which 80 per cent of people rated themselves as above- average drivers?) Then a study by Direct Line showed that car drivers do not see 19 per cent of cyclists on the roads. Then the rugby player Danny Cipriani walked out in front of a bus after doing "beer bongs" on a 14-pub pub crawl. The bus came off pretty badly, but its passengers must have thanked luck and good sense that they were riding on a bus and not a bike when they hit him.

The good news is that there is to be a crackdown on drivers of HGVs who put cyclists at risk – but only in London. I cycled to work last week and I nearly died a dozen times on Kensington High Street alone. I must have been among the 19 per cent of cyclists that are invisible to motorists, because the bloke on Kew Bridge in the red Fiesta didn't even see me when I peered through his passenger window shouting "Please stop texting while merging lanes."

In the capital there is not much need to reduce the speed of the cars any further, but some of the MPs' other recommendations would be helpful, such as more segregated cycle routes, improved lorry design and driver training (not just in London), and stricter enforcement of the law. Perhaps bus drivers could be taught to indicate before they pull out, not after. Unfortunately, last time I politely suggested this to a bus driver he spent the next 400 yards angrily trying to squash me and my bike into the side of the road.

David Cameron has cycled in London so he knows all this, which is presumably why he uses these dispiriting words. Still, I'd like to encourage him to put his money where his mouth is. Cyclists vote, too – if they live long enough.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Andy Coulson  

Andy Coulson: With former News of the World editor cleared of perjury charges, what will he do next?

James Cusick James Cusick
Jack Warner  

Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Tom Peck
Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?