Friday 27 September 2013

Eric Pickles. Oh, Eric.

He's at it again.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles wants to do away with parking enforcement based on cameras. Pickles, who believes high cycling rates in Cambridge are a problematic symptom of elitism, has announced a whole load of measures to make life easier on motorists. Or so he thinks.

So double yellow lines will be challenged to see if we really need them, parking on high streets accepted, and we won't be actually trying to catch people who park illegally because that would just be cruel. Apparently councils can make money out of that at the expense of hard working motorists. Or something like that.

I find myself wondering what the world according to Pickles is like. What sort of place does he want to live in? And who does he represent?

He doesn't like cyclists. He made that clear while talking about Cambridge. So he doesn't want cycle lanes to encourage people to take this 'elitist' choice - so he doesn't like the 'elite'. Likewise he doesn't approve of walking - the purpose of many of the parking restrictions he's so against is to make an environment in which we can walk, breathe and just get about safely. As he hates the two cheapest forms of transport, he also can't like the poor. He mustn't like disabled people either - parking restrictions are required to allow space for those who need mobility aids, and indeed are invaluable in keeping spaces clear for those who really DO need to park close to where they're going.

He also hates children. That is quite obvious - walking and cycling are also the only ways for children to have any independence, which is something (as a hater of pedestrians and cyclists) he's obviously opposed to. 

I also think he can't really like most motorists, who for the most part want to drive to where they're going without having the busiest sections partially or wholly blocked by other traffic - he's not really thought it through if he thinks doing away with parking restrictions is going to do anything other than block traffic. Thats mostly what yellow lines are all about - keeping the roads moving.

So if he isn't out to help cyclists, pedestrians, the 'elite', the poor, most motorists, disabled people or children, who does Pickles represent?

I suggest that Pickles is champion of the Moton. You know the folk I'm talking about - you're riding down the road on your bike, going outside the traffic past a hundred or more cars all in a line, and if they even emerge from the trance like state they're in all they can manage is to change their expression from hollow, empty nothingness to one of resentment. These are people for whom the car journey can be long, or it can be short, but so long as its a car journey thats fine, its not real time its 'zone out' time that doesn't really matter. Shuffling forward inch by inch isn't really taking up real time, its just extending the zone out... But then when they near their destination and 'switch on' again they're still pumped up with all the adrenaline of the road journey they've had, and they're pissed off. There isn't a parking space RIGHT THERE, why can't I park where I want to? Its so unfair. I've been looking for AGES.

Ironically Pickles proposals will only make journeys longer and more hazardous as roads are constricted with badly parked cars. This won't help motorists, it'll just make things worse for everyone else at the expense of those who are basically zonked out as they're driving anyway. School drop off zones will be even crazier melees than they currently are. There will no longer be the odd person on double yellow 'just popping in' to a shop, there will be abandoned cars ruining access for everyone else. You won't be able to cross the road safely, but you're not meant to - you're meant to get in your car and perform a u-turn. Which, incidentally, is what we require of this set of policies.

This is the politics of the zombie motorist - someone who finds car time in itself something entirely tolerable because it isn't really perceived as real, and who really doesn't care how long that takes. Someone who dreams of driving down the open road but is immune to the reality of being caged by the vehicle they invest so much of their emotion and money in to.

It is, in short, the politics of a dark, technological dystopia. Here and now.

Wednesday 25 September 2013


A chance for a bit of a social ride on Friday evening...

Shame about the emphasis on wearing bright clothes guys - no evidence it makes us safer and often just encourages close passes. So with greatest respect, lose that bit!

Otherwise, fine idea. Events permitting, see you there...

Monday 23 September 2013

Cambridge Police Commissioner still hates cyclists.

There's a bizarre regularity to it.

The new academic year is starting so Cambridgeshire Constabulary decide to have a crackdown on cyclists. More or less an annual event, although last year we had an extra one because we had the new Police Commissioner who especially despises us. He (like councillors and the Police) doesn't need or have any data to back up his assertion that we're deserving of special measures. So we sometimes get EXTRA enforcement measures against us, especially when brazenly anti-cyclist measures are employed by the City and County Councils with the intention of using the Police to force cyclists into life threatening situations on the flimsy pretext that we must use cycle lanes so hazardous many people fear to do so.

But it is, more or less, an annual event. Really. Every year. 

Usually plod set out stall on one of the well lit, slow paced city centre roads, often just after dark, waiting to nab newbie student cyclists who are racing home before it gets dark, just after the clocks have changed, on routes where the visibility is entirely constrained by the street design rather than the ample street lighting. They don't much patrol the darker suburban roads because of course you don't get so many newbie students to ticket there - to hell with the fact that these are actually the places its more hazardous to ride on without lights.

Once in a while they'll pick a route on which you can only know you're breaking the law if you've got incredible in-depth knowledge of traffic control orders - where there is no sign telling you that the cycle route has ended flanked by signs telling you it IS a cycle route and upon which only a complete idiot would think you can't ride.

Naturally these crackdowns aren't about reducing harm. If they were, they'd be basing this on real stats which show us that very few cyclists in Cambridge are injured after dark, that they're not causing lots of injuries on pavements, etc. They'd be looking at dealing with whats actually harming both cyclists and pedestrians, namely, motorists. For in-depth analysis of such stats, go no further than Cottenham Cyclist.

So this years new blitz, cheered on by chief trollumnist for drumming up cyclist hate at the local rag Ramond 'Britney' Brown, shouldn't come as a shock. Its not meant to change cyclist behaviour, and its not meant to make us safer - it can't be or it would be a crackdown on those things that demonstrably, measurably and repeatedly kill cyclists. This is meant to remind the motorists that Cambridge Police and their Commissioner love them, not us.

And the result? Nothing changes. You can crack down on students all you like, you'll stop some riding, some will buy lights or not ride on the pavements, but any changes are as transitory as the student population itself. But you can do it every year, get a good number of 'hits' every year, and claim a decent headline every year. It is however a waste of time and resources, both of which could be spent on policing the things that maim and kill cyclists. Or, in other words, because resources are spent on the wrong thing, people may die. And their blood will be on our Police Commissioners cake hands.

So obviously the local campaign group Cambridge Cycling Campaign are up in arms about this and threatening demonstrations, refusal to cooperate with a blatantly and openly anti-cyclist police commissioner and... errr... well, no, lets wait to see what they'll come out with. This needs a robust, direct and vocal response. It is a disproportionate policy that only alienates the Police force from cyclists in this city, and while we should not and must not countenance any idea that rejecting this crap is in any way an endorsement of anti-social cycling, we should insist that policing of cycling matters must be evidence based, with a strong ethos of protecting cyclists from that which causes them harm every bit as much as enforcing the law upon cyclists. And anything short of that should be treated as what it is - ant-cyclist bias worthy of complete boycott. None of this 'well we should police ALL road users' crap. Police based on capacity to cause harm and the recorded probability of causing harm - which means police cycling LESS and police motoring MORE.

The police will once again prioritise cyclists on the pavement while openly ignoring motorists breaking exactly the same law. Apparently stopping motorists from using the pavement is not in the public interest but stopping cyclists is. Its pretty clear that Cambridgeshire Constabulary only really want to look after the motoring public, isn't it?

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Hell is Other Cyclists? Really?

I had rather a bizarre discussion with a few other cyclists on Twitter today. It all stemmed from someone presenting an image of a cyclist riding with an umbrella, presenting it as perfectly normal. And I disagreed.

This is one of those practices that I hate to see. Its a stupid thing to do on nearly any route. If you're on a quiet, segregated cycle route with very few other people I don't particularly care (like someone speeding on a completely empty motorway - don't ask me to get het-up about that). But this is something I encouter quite often in Cambridge, and I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

I've been rear ended by other cyclists five times in Cambridge. Once was a guy who who came off his bike on a wet drain cover and slid into me - can't really blame him. Another time was a bloke who planned to plough straight through a red light I was stopping at - a complete plonker who only just swerved enough to clip me rather than really crunch in to me. Third one was a woman who was so intent on her mobile phone conversation that she rode in to me. None of those caused any damage to me or my bike.

I've been hit by cyclists riding with umbrellas in one hand, twice. One of those was a woman who rear ended me as I stopped due to the presence of a fire engine in front of me. Big, obvious, static red fire engine, not moving at all, flashing blue lights, attending a building that had been hit by lightning in the ongoing storm. If she hadn't hit me I wonder if she'd have hit the fire engine. Knocked my chain off, it jammed and left me with a three mile walk home in the rain. Second one was on Kings Parade - I slowed down so as to not ride in to the back of a car that was slowing up in front, another cyclist rear ended me and knocked me off. She simply couldn't stop in the rain with only one hand for one brake and an umbrella in the other.

Its an oddly common phenomenon here in Cambridge - riding with an umbrella. Typically its students, riding pretty normal student bikes - usually mountain bikes that have seen better days, not usually with the tightest brakes around, rather than perhaps bikes with back-pedalling brakes or even high quality disc brakes. And its terrifying, I can confidently predict seeing three or four coming off their bikes with brollies every year. I'll see several hit or nearly hit pedestrians as they hold their brollies out in front of them, and very often in the narrow canyon like streets of Cambridge freak gusts of wind will blow them in unpredictable directions.

But there are other bad habits you see among Cambridge cyclists. We get a lot of 'racer' types here, especially with the new autumn term. Usually blokes - younger guys, undergrads who want to get up later and then weave rapidly left and right through the commuter peloton with little regard for others. We've also seen plenty of single speed and fixie bikes come in to Cambridge in recent years too - and many of them are ridden by numpties who will slowly, slowly creep past you at a juncion, past the white line, past the light, anything to avoid actually stopping.

Oh, and then there are all the cyclists who queue in the feeder lanes for the advance stop lines. So you'll be stuck way back in traffic behind cyclists who probably want to turn right across the traffic while the box at the front remains annoyingly empty...

Annoying, irritaing, bothersome... But step back for a moment. 

Does any of this matter? Think about it, I've been hit by other cyclists, from behind, 5 times. The worst damage was a jammed chain. I see similar things happen every year, usually in autumn - the worst injury I can remember seeing as a result was a skinned elbow. And those fixie riders wibble-wobbling slowly through the lights, I can't honestly say I've ever seen any of them get hurt. Those folk who queue in the ASL on the left of Downing Street to turn right, blocking me getting to the junction where I want to turn left, I can honestly say the worst they've done for me is stopped me getting through until the lights change next time.

Hell is not other cyclists. Other cyclists can, perhaps, get right on your tits sometimes - but lets be reasonable. Worse things happen on the roads.

Monday 16 September 2013

Superb trolling for cycle hate by Cambridge News

(disclaimer - I'm off work with a thumping cold today. So forgive me if I ramble).

You may recall I recently wrote about type 5 cyclist haters - Trollumnists. You can see how superbly well trollumnists can do at their tasks if you look at articles like this one here.

In a nutshell - our Cambridge MP Julian Huppert has managed to get the Liberal Democrat party to endorse a proportionate liability policy for UK roads. Or, in other words, if this came to pass then in the absence of other evidence, from an insurance perspective those who bring most risk to the road are assumed most liable. It means if a lorry t-bones a car we'd assume its the lorry drivers fault. If a car driver mows down a child and there are huge medical bills then unless there is compelling evidence to that it should not be the case the insurance company of the motorist would have to pay up. This is the same system as across continental Europe and its pretty much the same as we see in work places - you don't have to be 'to blame' to be liable. But the person who brings most of the hazard to any scenario is held to be most responsible when something goes wrong, because the person bringing most potential harm is judged to need to take most care.

Its reasonable. Its fair. Its a no brainer - and across all of the countries where this happens its not even raised as a problem. Its generally going to provide cheaper insurance premiums too - after all if you're not immediately assuming that there must be a legal battle you've got immmeduiate cost savings right there.

So how would you report that if you were a journalist? "Lorry drivers to be held responsible if they hit cars"? "Cyclist to be assumed liable for hitting pedestrians"? Oh, no. Of course not. Not if you're a Cambridge News journalist.

Julian Huppert's reforms which could see motorists held automatically liable for crashes with cyclists adopted as Liberal Democrat policy

This trolling is working remarkably well too - as of writing this there are pages and pages of comments, mostly from the frothing at the mouth, swivel eyed loon type who will keep going back over and over again to be ever more offended.

Now of course the journalist Chris Havergal would be keen to point out that the article itself is far more balanced. He could tell us that the article does allude to other things Julian Huppert said on cycling, or that the same law would also judge cyclists at fault if they harm pedestrians. But we must delve deep into the article to find the truth behind the harm that has been done. Few people read a whole article rather than skim the headlines - journalists know full well the power of a headline. This is high quality trolling for cyclist hate - lets look at just how well he's done by going through some comments...

The result of this, will be cyclists who are already a law unto themselves on the road, putting themselves into all kinds of dangerous situations as they know the driver will be deemed at fault. Smart move. Not.
anadapter: typical stupid remark that we have come to expect from a cyclist. If only they could behave like responsible road users instead of loutish lycra louts and then blame everyone else for their stupidy.
 As soon as the cyclists start paying attention to the road signs and signals I'm all up for this! 
 Katiel, your dead right, think its the only way, especially with idiotts that jump lights and cross the road like a bat out of hell in front of my car with out stopping or looking,plus its time he got on HIS Bike

I could go on, but you get the picture. There are some comments criticisng the journalist - but they'll be happy with that because it also generates more hits then the cyclsit haters turn up en masse to ctiticise the criticisers. You make more money from ads if people keep angrily clicking back.

Trolling for cyclist hate is the same as inciting that hate towards us. It normalises that hate - in giving those who already despise us opportunity to revel in this as if its a reasonable stance articles like this post a real threat to us. That headline is a direct attempt to do encourage people to post abuse towards us - it intentionally slants the readership, hence the responses, in a particularly savage unpleasant way. 

Be under no illusions - we can draw no positives from journalism like this, and any and all cyclist organisations who don't vocally come out against such reporting are also not acting in our interests.

Hey, Cambridge Cycling Campaign, you'll be ridiculing this crap, won't you?

Monday 9 September 2013

Is why we cycle also why we don't drive?

I've been asking folk lately why they cycle, and the answers are exactly what you're expecting them to be - if YOU are a cyclist. If you only drive you're probably wrong.

People invariably say that they ride their bikes because they like getting about that way. It's nice. It's easy. It's fast and economical. It's not stressful. It's not hard to find somewhere to lock your bike up, at least its normally not hard. Further down their list of reasons is that its a good way to stay fit - not a lot of people give that as a main reason for riding.

No one says that they ride a bike because it's 'green'. They tell you thats a good thing if you ask them, but I've yet to hear anyone answer 'because of the environment'.

I've also asked colleagues who drive why they think people ride - and this is way more telling. Right up near the top is 'environment', alongside 'health'. No one says 'because its quick', but 'cheap' is quite a common statement - they're listing reasons why cycling is generically a good thing, without really getting under our helmets and thinking like a cyclist.

Now if you ask cyclists why they don't drive where they're going the simple answer is usually because cycling is easier, faster or cheaper. Or all three. If you ask why a motorist doesn't cycle it will be because 'I NEED MY CAR' or 'cycling isn't a choice'. Or, sometimes , 'because I have a car'. One chap I asked who drives from Kingsway Flats in Kings Hedges and parks in the closest spot he can get to work, which is in Newnham, and then walks to the City Centre. So his commute takes him 45 to 60 minutes - or longer than it would take him to walk to work. The same bike journey would be 15 minutes if he took it incredibly slowly, but you'd be hoping to do it inside of 12 minutes. His reason? 'Because I've got a car'.

And if you ask cyclists why motorists drive, you don't really get a consensus. 'Because they've got a lot to carry', 'because they're travelling a long way', 'because they're lazy', 'because they're not well enough to travel any other way'... All sorts. No strong opinions, no particular slant to it. But often a great deal of pitying going on.

I tend to think how people answer why OTHER folk do something tells you more about themselves than the others.

I think for the most part motorists think cyclists are riding for reasons that would appease their own guilt, the guilt they're feeling because they know that maybe their decision to drive isn't the best one they could make. They know driving is unhealthy, they know its dirty, and deep down they resent that cyclists are showing them up - they don't analyze the situation further than that. Cyclists ride, in their view, for those reasons. And if they were cycling, they'd be smug for those reasons.

Cyclists, on the other hand, don't really analyze the decision of people to drive unless you ask them to. They don't see people driving as a challenge to riding bikes. They don't see motoring as a comment on the morality (or otherwise) of cycling. In short, cyclists mostly don't think about why motorists drive, and they give all sorts of answers that more or less summarise why they would, in other circumstances, choose to drive. Like they've got a heck of a lot to carry.

Simply put, why we cycle isn't why we don't drive. The two are not the same things. And why we cycle is not why they think we cycle. We're not crusaders for the planet, we're not health nuts. We're just folk choosing to travel a way that makes sense. And they (the motorists) know it also makes sense, or they would if they were to calmly analyze the facts. But they're not going to do that; they'll continue to view us as yoghurt knitting fitness freaks who are judging them for the things they're already feeling guilty about. They view our presence on the road as a moral judgement on the mistakes they're making. Even our presence on the road is enough to anger them - this is a sign of their own guilty consciences. 

Bottom line? That red faced shouty-man who is leaning out of his Skoda Octavia, yelling at you... Maybe we should pity him. He doesn't know why you're cycling, but its not for any of the reasons he's thinking. And to him the moral dimension is quite clear - you're doing good, he isn't. And he can't get over the fact that you must be loving yourself for it. 

We're doing good, but despite the fact that this isn't our intention, we're punished for it anyway. Go figure.

Friday 6 September 2013

Hate to say I told you so... Catholic Church Junction

Well, but for some filling in holes in the pedestrian ghettos, errm, I mean redoubts (refuges?), its done.

I'm referring to the Catholic Church Junction, in Cambridge. One of the key crossing points that, really, cyclists can't avoid. I've touched on the scandalously bad plans presented to, then approved by councillors before.

Lets be clear - from a cyclists perspective the plans had little to commend them. It looked like a large proportion of the budget for cycling improvements was about to be nicked on the flimsy pretence that some red paint would make our lot in life better. Cambridge Cycling Campaign opposed this plan, I opposed this plan, in fact pretty much everyone involved in cycling in this city opposed the plan. It was a bad plan.

But on the plus side its a bad plan well implemented. They've made it more or less precisely as shit as they said they would.

 (thanks to RadWagon for his video)

On all four approaches we've got ASL's (Advance Stop Lines). We've got a cycle lane feeding to one of them - to reach any of the others you'll have to squeeze in between two lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, through a gap thats probably no wider than you are. And if the lights change and the traffic starts moving as you approach, you're fucked. You'll be stranded between two accelerating rows of vehicles with no safe escape route because the ASL's exist purely to demonstrate to non-cyclists that Cambridge is cycling city; designers and councillors couldn't give a wet slap for our safety or convenience.

You'll see in Rads video up there you can't even get to the one ASL with a feeder lane safely. If you can, there's a 5 second head start - and thats the only positive we can take from this. Thats all cyclists get for £450k - hald of the £900k spend came specifically from a cycling budget. But every time I've been down there that has been impossible to do safely - just like in the video above. If you're heading down towards the Station end of town you'll see this...

Oh look, there's an advance stop box under the bus there...
So, yes, there's an ASL. That would be really useful if I could get to it, and if upon getting there I could be sure of using it to get off ahead of the traffic. But an ASL I can only get to when its quiet? An ASL I can only use when the traffic isn't really all that bad anyway? Thats an insult. Its both impractical and unhelpful.

And of course these ASL's, like all of the others you'll normally see, will not be enforced by the police so they will not be obeyed by motorists. There is no evidence of Cambridgeshire Constabulary, at any time, enforcing cycle lanes. You can drive through them or park in them as frequently as you like - you won't get stopped for doing so. And the motorists know this - so already these new ASL's are being widely flouted by motorists.

Oh,  wait, the white line and the bike mean its there space? Surely not.
I'd go so far as to say that on every occasion I've looked there has been a car stopped in the ASL on Lensfield Road, there has been a bus in the cycle lane in Hills Road, and it has been physically impossible to reach the ASL without taking an extreme risk in the traffic if you're heading towards the Station from town. Be under no illusions, this is a scheme designed to look good if you're trying to convince a moron that you don't despise cyclists. But it doesn't help us. 

So who was this FOR? Well it isn't for us. Its not really for pedestrians either - if that were the case the traffic islands would be bigger and you wouldn't have a silly chicane to negotiate. You'd also straighten out the wide, sweeping corners to give proper straight routes for those crossing. It isn't for the bus passengers - bus lanes are no more continuous or navigable than they were, and the bus drivers will still be stuck behind cyclists (who will in turn be stuck behind the bus thats blocking access to the ASL). This is a design BY motorists FOR motorists. Because ultimately thats all Cambridgeshire County Council care about - theyre running scared of the car lobby like most local politicians across the country are. Moaning minnie motons are their only priority.

So we've been swindled out of a big cash spend that ought to have been for cyclists. Is there nothing positive we can take from this? Well, actually, yes there is.

I confidently predicted that after this was built, Cambridge Cycling Campaign would cling to whatever slim positives they could and continue their traditional smug back-slapping with the County Council. It seems that we've seen number of changes at the Campaign, and they're sticking to their guns rather than selling out as they previously have. This looks like a sign of maturity from the group - and I wholeheartedly welcome that. Finally standing up for who we really need to help - those who want to cycle but who don't dare because of junctions just like this.

So what now guys? They've nicked cycling money and spent it on complete crap. Critical Mass demo in protest, starting at Parkers Piece, ambling around the city centre at rush hour time, finishing off at Shire Hall? Carpe diem (I gather it means 'catch the Frisbee'). Name the date, Cambridge Cycling Campaign. See you there?

Thursday 5 September 2013

So much for being nice...

Coming down with a cold right now, which means that with the weather being stinking hot I'm feeling especially naff.

So I bugged out of work early and rode home at a pretty sedate pace through the heat of what seems to be something of an Indian summer.

I thought I'd ride home a simpler route with fewer twists and turns - meant a bit more time in traffic, but as it was mid-afternoon it seemed unlikely that it could be that bad. I was wrong.

It all started to go wrong along East Road - a delivery van was parked in the cycle lane just past the fire station, so I didn't enter that lane. It would have been foolish to do so - but of course the car driver behind me had other ideas as he passed within inches, jerking his finger at me, pointing at the kerb. How precisely I ought to have navigated the van - should I have flown over it perhaps? - is a mystery to me.

At the roundabout a little further on I didn't 'amber gamble', I flat out ran the red light. And I'm glad I did - I don't believe the car behind me could have stopped had I done so, he'd either have had to pass me far too close or more likely just gone straight through me. So yes, I'm one of those evil red-light jumping cyclists - I defy you to condemn me when doing so would otherwise have left me hospitalised or dead.

Then at the bottom of Arbury Road, I chose to slow down to let a van pass me - he'd been patient, and there were dozens of cars heading the other way, it was either let him pass before the parked cars started or keep him where he was until up past the Manor School (or whatever they've re-named it now - 'Not in Arbury Academy, honest Guvnor' or something). Pretty standard practice - but I couldn't see the car literally a foot off his bumper, and he had no way of seeing me. And damned near took me out passing. 

I can only conclude that there is no percentage in a cyclist being nice - all I've achieved through my early ride home was (1) one driver intimidating me because I physically couldn't get in to a cycle lane, (2) another driver who would have killed me had I obeyed the law, and (3) yet another driver endanger me because he was driving like a cock and I'd been polite to someone else. Why, in a road environment so incredibly hostile, would I choose to be 'nice', to 'show respect' when doing so increases the risk I face?

I've learned my lesson - if motorists want respect, I'll oblige - but not until every last one of them stops taking insane risks with my safety.

Monday 2 September 2013

Cyclist Hater Type V: Trollumnist

This is the fifth in my series covering the taxonomy of cyclist haters. Others previously covered include the Brat, the Beamer, The Gripper and the Codger

I'm now going to talk about a fifth class of hater. A kind that thinks it is important but, strangely, probably isn't. A kind of cyclist hater that is rare, but vocal. Today I'm going to talk about the Trollumnist - already sent up wonderfully elsewhere.

At one time these folk would have been considered 'columnists'. They write cosy little opinion pieces in local or national newspapers, filling up space because opinion is cheaper than news (and actual journalism is hard work!). But the world of newspapers has changed - people aren't buying the paper for news. Heck, they're mostly not buying the paper at all these days, with news being available online or on the television, fast paced and updated constantly. Newspapers, or the shadows of what newspapers used to be, now rely on 'content' which is generated by 'content providers'. And 'content' that generates more hits is of more value than simple news where people look once.

The way a paper makes money in the digital age is through people clicking on the site, then clicking on adverts. The more 'hits' you get the more you can sell your advertising for. And the easiest way of doing that is to post in such a way as to get comments, because those who comment will keep coming back to respond again... Or, in other words, many newspaper columnists have morphed into nothing better than old fashioned internet trolls. 

And trolls, as you know, tend to post to get people angry. But these trolls are trapped - they can't have a go at those of different race or gender quite as openly as they used to, so they're restricted to what they view as softer targets. And, regrettably, the current breed of Trollumnist sees cyclists as fair game.

You can pretty much select the 'opinions' of the trollumnist from a list. Select from lycra, arrogant, road tax (lack thereof), millions spent on cycle lanes, not using cycle lanes, not insured, not tested, rude, jump red lights, ride on pavements... You get the picture. The thing that unifies these articles is that they completely lack original thought. It could be an ignorant rant about cycle lanes not being used, ignoring the obvious conclusion that if they're not being used then they mustn't be very good. It might be a baseless accusation that we're smug and arrogant. It might even be a chilling statement that we deserve death or a frightening claim to have assaulted cyclists using a car as a weapon. There is a never ending supply of these lazy articles, and ultimately if you've read one of them, you've read them all. Let me paraphrase.

"Cyclists are a visible minority I'm not in. And I'm assuming you're not in that minority so I'm going to say some outrageous things about them - I'm going to extrapolate from the bad behaviour of one (and it is bad behaviour - thats what minorities do) to all of them, to reinforce your own prejudice, possibly adding in a few more points to give you new avenues to express that prejudice. Oh, and like all prejudiced folk I'll say I've got nothing against 'them'. I might even say some of my best friends are 'them'".

But trollumnists have exploded out from the opinion pieces and they now infest news like a metastatic cancer - they twist news stories to their own bizarre agenda to get as many repeat visits as possible.

The thing is, none of these columns, not a single one, gives us anything new. This isn't someone stating what they really think, this is an opinion for hire, a hollow, empty hack who isn't paid for their brains or their insight, they're paid to eloquently espouse any kind of crap to get a response. These articles state, and re-state, the same rubbish over and over again. Their purpose isn't to explore an issue or create discussion, their purpose is to troll for response. And you know what? If you link directly to them, if you post comments, they win. Do. Not. Feed. The. Troll.

How should we respond then? Well, its easy to argue that we shouldn't - but its not obvious to me that giving the asylum over to the inmates ever did much for collective sanity. If you feel you must respond then post a link to something that generically answers their generic crap. The As Easy As Riding A Bike article is a great start. If there are multiple haters commenting (and this is fertile ground for finding the codger) then stay above the melee. Roll around with pigs and you'll get covered in shit. If you must post then do so once, make it clear you'll do so once, and put the facts and details in. Don't go back, don't keep posting, don't keep responding - hit the bastard trollumnists where it hurts. In the pocket.