Two wheels good, everybody else bad, if you listen to cyclists...

How could it take 16 months to 'improve' a roundabout? Building the Golden Gate Bridge didn’t take much longer

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The Independent Online

If I’ve learned one thing from writing this column for the past 15 years, it’s who gets easily offended. There are the vociferous fans of Paul McCartney. There are Scientologists. There are the Scots and the Welsh. And there are cyclists. Cyclists are a particularly angry bunch – possibly it has something to do with the constant leg shaving or maybe it’s the effect of tight Lycra around the genitalia? Whatever, they are angry and, what’s even worse, unbelievably self-righteous.

It all started with a traffic jam. It was gridlock on my approach into Oxford. Forty-five minutes into the jam I crawled past a sign informing me that delays were possible until November 2016. I took a photo of the sign and tweeted my displeasure to Oxfordshire County Council. How could it take 16 months to “improve” a roundabout? Building the Golden Gate Bridge didn’t take much longer. This was when cyclists stuck their unwanted noses in.

I started to get tweets from people called things like “CarbonPete” and “WheelyJim” haranguing me for using a phone to take photos from my car. It didn’t matter that I had been a passenger in said car and that we had been at a standstill. I was being attacked for being a “murderer in a two-ton killing machine.” At first I ignored the cyclists and continued my attack on the county council. Their plan to cause traffic chaos for 16 months in order to “alleviate” a bottleneck didn’t seem entirely logical. They had history in this.

It hadn’t been long since they’d completed years of works to “improve” the Oxford-Witney road. When it was finished, all they had done was put in a cycle lane along which, approximately one smug cyclist an hour pedalled, past the angry gridlock. The council tweeted me back that it was all about safety, and being able to do the work to the roundabout while keeping it open. By this stage, I had got to the “works” in question. It was 11am and there was one man in a hard hat staring gormlessly at the traffic with a cup of tea in his hand. I’m starting to think that 16 months is a little optimistic.  

Meanwhile, a full cyclist Twitter posse had been assembled and started tweeting the usual stuff – the “comedian” in quotation marks, asking me why I wasn’t funny any more, hinting that cycling aids weight loss, the photos of cyclists hit by cars, blaming me for global warming, human hunger and Bosnia. These people were angry, and I wasn’t entirely sure why.

I couldn’t resist stoking the fire a little in a couple more inflammatory tweets. They didn’t disappoint. A series of Tweets came in about how racism was now illegal but how come it was still OK to be bigoted about cyclists? Someone threatened to call the police accusing me of a “hate crime”. This had all escalated somewhat from annoyance at a traffic jam but then, that’s Twitter for you.

Next week, I write about a Welsh Scientologist who cycles to the coal mine listening to Paul McCartney ….