Letter: Bicycles can never overtake cars as success symbols

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The Independent Online
I DESPAIR when I read well-intentioned articles such as Martin Wright's on persuading motorists to use the bicycle ('A clean pair of wheels', Review, 6 February). Of course, looked at purely in terms of transport, the bicycle is simply more fun and practical than the car. The point is that in our society the car is not primarily a form of transport.

Its primary function is as a social signifier. A City lawyer or ambitious young businessman could not cycle to work: it would mean saying goodbye to promotion. To prefer the bike is to be a crank. Company car parks are full of Ford Mondeos to signify the aspirations of their owners, not to meet their transport needs.

Another important function of the car is economic. Ours is, as Margaret Thatcher bragged, a 'great car society'. So much of our economic activity is tied up in the manufacture and servicing of motorcars and roads that any real shift in

favour of the bicycle would have to be countered by any government.

But draconian measures are unlikely to be required because, as Martin Wright says, most people are terrified of using a bike on British streets. The high death toll among cyclists is a more effective deterrent than the law.

As such the situation will not improve.

Joe Bryce

Glasgow

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