Saturday 30 November 2013

Cyclist Hater Type VI: Cyclist Myself...

I'm not in to tribal cycling. I'll ride my chunky hybrid, my road bike, or my funky old racer happily enough. And I don't for the most part care about how other people ride their bikes or what they ride, so long as its not doing anyone any harm its their own business. Or if they've got a basket on a carbon road bike or something, then I might worry. 

But that's not how the 'I'm a cyclist myself' sees things. This is probably one of the most annoying types of cyclist hater. The 'I'm a cyclist myself' thinks that he (and its normally a he, but you encounter some females) is speaking from a position of authority because 'I'm a cyclist myself'. In this way he's more dangerous than the Brat or the Codger. He's not a Gripper nor does he normally have the capacity to reach as many with his ill informed whinging as the Trollumnist does. Perhaps the closest relative of the 'cyclist myself' is the Beamer.

The 'cyclist myself' wants to criticise other cyclists for how they ride. Well, criticise is perhaps the wrong word - they really want to blame other cyclists for the ills we collectively suffer. And interestingly enough it almost doesn't matter how the 'cyclist myself' rides - thats less important than the simple truth that their mode of riding is RIGHT. And other ways of riding a bike are WRONG. Here's a mish mash of the kind of offensive, sickeningly wrong wank you might hear from one of them.

Its hardly surprising so many cyclists die on the roads, they're not in effective primary position, its their own fault. I'm a cyclist myself. And then they get in the way of the traffic, what do they expect to happen when blocking the lane? Speaking as a cyclist, I have to say I'm shocked when I see cyclists with helmets that don't fit properly, its worse than not having a helmet. And they shouldn't be allowed out with a helmet on it makes cycling look more dangerous for cyclists like myself. And we cyclists really believe in having lights on even when its not dark, that person who isn't dressed in tinfoil and dayglo isn't a cyclist, they're just a person on a bike (POB). Its not even a bike, its rubbish, its a bike shaped object (BSO) that a keen cyclist like myself...

Now this kind of malicious crap is just as bad as you get from a Beamer. Its just as ignorant of recorded accident causes, and every bit as victim blaming. 

It transpires that yes, there are things a cyclist can do that are dangerous. But lets be clear - if you add them all up together that still accounts for a very, very small proportion of cyclist deaths and serious injuries. What kills and maims cyclists? Motorists. So lets just cut the crap, and quit the infighting Mr. 'cyclist myself', you're speaking out of your lycra clad arse. Quit the victim blame - yes, the other cyclists might be doing things you disapprove of, but 'correct' cycling (whatever the hell that is) is not some kind of moral crusade we're all involved in. Okay, if you want to pass on some advice on good cycling or on etiquette between us I'm fine with that, but can you not stop short of accusing other cyclists of being somehow lacking because of how they ride?

How should we deal with folk who rain hate down on us as cyclists themselves? Well its quite hard to do so without risking hypocrisy. Its worth pointing out the reality that accidents we suffer are relatively rarely due to our own actions, and that such incidents are enormously, almost comically outnumbered by those caused by motorists. 

But perhaps its better to just remind yourself and the hater that neither you nor they speak for all cyclists, and that while we can view whatever advice you like as useful in finding a way to survive on a crazy, hostile road network, ultimately this is all missing the point - we need a road system designed such that what should be viewed as trivial errors by cyclists are not answered with a death penalty. Ride how you like, but quit pretending that the deciding factor in cyclist survival is acting precisely as you do. You're not that special, even if you are an opinionated little git of a cyclist yourself.

Monday 25 November 2013

Telegraph Post in Middle of Lane!

So you've just finished building a road. Its lovely and smooth, a decent enough route, but its rather lower than another road next to it so you'll be blinded by oncoming vehicles. Oh, and there's a telegraph pole in the middle of this route on which you'll be thus blinded. Obviously the local road authority will be in a desperate hurry to move said pole out of the way, because there's no way that can be a good road?

Not if its a route intended for cyclists it won't.

Maybe dangerous roads are not inevitable?

It strikes me that recent campaigns to tell cyclists to ride safely, especially in the wake of catastrophes we've seen in London, aren't only a reflection of our innately victim blaming road culture. They're also a symptom of conservatism in road design and management.

There's an inevitability to traffic, at least people think there is. To congestion. To the fact that you've got heavy goods vehicles and busses 'competing' for space with cyclists (what a crazy notion, that such a complete mismatch should be viewed as a competition). There seems no other way than to adapt cyclists to the hostile environment they're in, and maybe just accept that some of them will die as an unavoidable consequence of them just being there.

The logical conclusion to this is that we tell the police to go out and warn them. We target cyclists with road safety advice. We tell them to be more responsible, ignoring the fact that riding responsibly is not measurably less hazardous than most of the 'irresponsible' riding being targetted.

So the truth of road statistics we have, of course, doesn't back up this action. But we can't persuade motorists to drive more carefully - how people drive is just how they drive, bad motoring is a constant against which cycling has to be viewed. And we can't make the roads safer, there's not room what with all the cars and everything. So cyclists will just have to be told. And pedestrians? Well we'll put up railings to keep them safe, and we'll direct them on longer routes to walk to get them where they're going. A detour of 50 yards to get to a crossing isn't a problem, its safer. Why would they want to cross where its dangerous, why are they putting themselves at such risk by crossing in the wrong place when a detour would only be a few minutes at each of the six junctions they've got to cross. Whats that? Victim blame? Okay, its a small percentage we're talking about, but surely saving ANY life is worthwhile?

The problem with this argument is that its horseshit. By which I mean its thick, smells bad, and surprisingly spreadable. Everyone just believes it without question - very few people look at our road network and say 'hold up a moment, if we managed this route for pedestrians then these rounded junction corners would be squared off and they could cross right here - we could also have a cycle route across it, so then people wouldn't be in such danger. Then there would be fewer cars, so less congestion, cleaner air, safer streets...

Brits are innately opposed to big changes. We're suspicions of people telling us to change how we do things - and we're slow to question our own priorities - we'll just ignore thousands of deaths if that doesn't fit in with how we see the world being. Apply that 'logic' to our roads and look what you get. 

Our problem is that what we require for safe cycling is just a little bit different to what we have. It requires change in how we look at and use our roads. Its change for the better - but 'change' is never viewed as a good thing in Britain, especially on our roads.

Changes in road management are few and far between - we have to grasp the nettle each and every time another road, junction, crossing or resurfacing happens and require that this one is as good, for us, as it can be. No more half measures, anywhere, at all. Time to show people that change isn't frightening. There is no alternative.

Friday 22 November 2013

Its the little things Police say that reveal so much...

A few comments from the Met. Police Commissoinner have rather reminded me that people often get the BIG stuff right when talking about cycling, but reveal their innate attitudes toward how things are and should be on the roads via the little things.

Take, for example, these comments from the aforementioned Sir Bernard Horgan Howe.
"Of course some people don't have the choice, economically.
"If you've got someone who can't afford to take a car into the congestion zone, if they did, you can't park it anyway.
"I understand why they take the choice, [but] it wouldn't be mine."
So cyclists are paupers who can't afford to drive or who aren't important enough to warrant their own parking space, eh Bernie? Trouble with your offensive generalisation is that it is, as ever, wrong - TFL data shows that cyclists in London (thats where you are Bernie, in case you're confused) have higher than average income. So while yes, undoubtedly cycling makes enormous economic sense, most cyclists are not driven to this because they have no other economic choice - the majority are doing it because its the best way to get around in a congested city. Will the Met never learn that stereotyping gets them in to trouble?

So we're paupers, basically. We cycle because we're poor, at least thats what the Mets boss thinks.

Closer to home I'm reminded of Inspector Poppitt of Cambrideshire Constabulary. While its gratifying that the people who answer tweets on behalf of the local police will be telling him to get his language right and stop saying 'road tax' I rather think that they could also do with getting 'vehicle excise duty' correct.

In itself a little error in terminology mightn't be such a revealing thing - although this does reinforce a very damaging myth. Its when we go and look to see what else Inspector Poppitt has to say about road policing that I start to worry (in that link you'll see that Inspector Poppitt basically wriggles out of accepting that he should police pavement parking).

It isn't always the big statements that tell us things - everyone in every position of responsibility will say that they support cycling, that cycling is a good thing to be encouraged. They'll say that they support the rule of law, that people should obey the law and act responsibly to make the lot of pedestrians better. Scratch the surface though, and it transpires that really caring about the needs of cyclists or pedestrians is a rare thing among the motoring classes.

Oh well. I suppose I can always walk down the road dodging vehicles next time the pavements are blocked by parked cars that there is no public interest in dealing with. If as an impoverished cyclist I can afford shoes, that is.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Perne Road - Cambridge Cycling Campaign Response

You may recall this post where I talked about a frankly terrible misappropriation of cycling funds to pay for changes to lanes for motorists.

As far as I can tell Cambridge Cycling Campaign went right down to the wire when getting their response in. It can be found here.

If you've read this blog for a while you'll know that on occasion the Campaign have been pretty good with such responses. And you'll also know that I'll criticise them if I think they're not going nearly far enough.

This time they're decidedly 'meh'. I mean they're not outright supporting a bad scheme. They're offering qualified 'meh'. Really.

The gist is grudging support. Sort of. Maybe. If the details are right. So you can see why I'm saying 'meh'. The bit that for me is most revealing is quite early on:
We strongly share the view of the Cycling Team and other officers that this will be an opportunity to demonstrate that roundabouts built to Dutch geometry will work in the UK, that the traffic will not grind to a halt, lorries will not get wedged and they will perform safely and efficiently. This will make it easier to get improvements at junctions like the Sainsbury's roundabout where there is both space and the need to put in a segregated path around the perimeter.

This is a bad scheme - its taking a vast sum of money from various pots, all supposedly meant to be for cycling, and spending most of it on nudging motorists slightly differently around the roundabout, renovating a tired, run down road layout using cycling funds without giving us what we really need - safe, continuous segregation. What we get is a slightly different geometry but we get extolled to get off the fecking road and share with pedestrians who don't want us in the restricted space available for them, giving way three times crossing lanes of angry traffic that will simply never give way if we're turning right. And of course if we don't choose to use those cycle routes we WILL end up being bullied by motorists who think we should - thats what happens when you install a bad cycle route, we're then stuck between a rock and a hard place. This utterly invalidates the entire scheme - and should not have been the basis for providing conditional support, it is grounds for complete rejection. Spending cycling money renovating things for motorists is unacceptable.

But this grudging support for a bad scheme (which comes across as a bit 'meh') rather shows that the Campaign itself thinks it is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Reject this and risk better schemes not appearing elsewhere?

The bottom line is that this is how Cambridgeshire County Council want the Campaign to act. This is how they have always relied on the campaign acting - they want to give us bad facilities so they can spend the swag on motorists as they always have, threatening to remove the carrot held out in front of the Campaigns nose. And over, and over again the Campaign have come out in support of bad schemes because they fear things will be worse otherwise.

Yeah, maybe the Sainsburys roundabout WILL be better than this one. But it will have nothing to do with this - we know that geometry works because its been tested many times elsewhere, it would be obtuse to demand proving the same thing yet again. Its being trialled not a million miles away by TFL. And I believe the Netherlands is merely at the far end of the A14. 

It seems to me that the Campaign resolutely refuses to draw a line in the sand - no more half measures, no more bad facilities. From now on if you're spending cycling money then put. us. first. Yes, thats what the Campaign won't say.

Listen Cambridge Cycling Campaign, if you keep rolling over then the County will keep doing this. We won't get what we want for as long as they're go-to cycle campaign group fail to stand up for what we need. I put it to you once again (I have been asking you this for years); if here and now in Cambridge we do not hold out for the best then where, and when will we do so?

When you answer that then you can possibly defend supporting bad schemes like this. If this is 'the one' that means 'the next one' MUST be top quality then you can support this scheme with a clean conscience. Sorry guys, there are so many people in the campaign who I think are great, and personally I've got a lot of time for the committee members I know. It pains me to say this, but until you entirely withdraw support for schemes that do not demonstrably put cyclists first, what is Cambridge Cycling Campaign for?

UPDATE: Oh, look. The TFL roundabout entirely fits in the space taken up by the Perne Road roundabout - utterly invalidating the claim that this geometry needs to be further trialed. Cambridge Cycling Campaign - You. Have. Been. Had.

Thursday 14 November 2013

Cambridge Cycle Campaigning 2034

Indulge me if you will. This is a speculative piece about what we'll be saying in 2034, assuming we continue with the kind of crap we're seeing on our roads now. Its a worst case scenario, or at least approaching that - its a warning against cheering on the kind of crap we're offered. 


Looking back at cycling in the UK since I first started this blog, I'd like to be able to say now where it all went wrong but, really, thats rather difficult. What is viewed as a great heyday for cycling back in 2020 was really nothing of the sort, and what we now call 'peak bike' was just a demographic passing through at the time. A now dispirited, angry, ageing demographic.

I think we laid the foundations for our failure back in 2012-2015. Thats when we needed to hit harder - numbers were on the up and campaigners talked about a 'cycling revolution' happening in London and in other major cities. Even then, Government projections were for cycling to fall (as it has done) in the intervening time, but at least then there were a few scraps of money given our way to improve facilities - we needed to fight harder to get what we really needed.

While the Dutch were going further and further with fully segregated infrastructure, we remained static. In Cambridge, key battles we lost were at the Catholic Church junction, Perne Road and Cowley Road (2012, 2013 and 2014) - more of the same old crap was branded as 'high quality' and we didn't do enough to challenge that. In London investment in 'cycle superhighways' dried up a little later after accusations that they were unsafe, and the project failed to deliver a meaningful rise in cycling. Specific investment was frittered away on nonsense that barely benefited us at all - as a result cycling in Cambridge continued to stagnate outside of the city centre. Cycling 'facilities' that were too awful to contemplate simply weren't used, these useless routes (such as the shared use facilities that were briefly put in around the Perne Road roundabout) became known as Curtis Ways (named for the head of what was then the County Council in charge of roads in Cambridgeshire who famously stated that the County could not go 'all the way' for cycling at the Catholic Church Junction); this became synonymous with wasted money, with councillors angrily cutting budgets in response to the widely predicted failures of these schemes. 

Ironically, although we said these changes would fail to increase the number of cyclists, and while we complained at the misappropriation of cycling funds for them, their failure was used as evidence that the whole idea of cycling facility investment was a waste. The failure of bad schemes was proof that good schemes couldn't work - and yes, it does take an unwholesomely stupid set of councillors to come to that decision. This was the era of the Tories running scared of UKIP.

As a result funds dried up by 2020; not just in Cambridge, but across most of the UK. While numbers of cyclists remained buoyant in London and Cambridge a little longer than elsewhere, we've been in a slow decline ever since.

Looking overseas, in stark contrast with the UK we see that the Netherlands and Denmark in particular, through continued investment in cycling, have remained among the healthiest, slimmest nations in the developed world while our former obesity 'epidemic' became the 'health crisis' we see now. We're living shorter, less healthy lives than our parents - with obesity due to inactivity linking in with the harm caused by ever worse smog around our cities killing more now than even smoking did in the 20th century. 

So where are we now? We're suffering the result of generations of failure - we still know what needs to be done but we're fighting an ever harder battle against a population for whom active travel is no longer even a thing. We're now battling against a population whose parents and grandparents simply didn't walk or cycle - even the bad cycle lanes we had have mostly reverted to car parking because even our police forces don't want to enforce parking, its too unpopular with people who only see the world through their windscreens.

The solution? Sadly most have voted with their feet. Or, rather, their ever more obese arses - cycling is now a niche activity even in Cambridge, policed by angry motorists who are willing to enforce their hate on us at every opportunity, a practice effectively condoned by police inactivity. As our climate tumbles out of control, token efforts of cyclists to do the right thing are viewed with even more hostility by a populace in denial of the harm they're doing to themselves, each other, and the world about them.

Where next? God only know.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

A Tale of Two (or Three, or Four) Assaults. As reported by Cambridge News

Oh, Cambridge News, you never really fail to get cycling stories wrong do you?

Yesterdays report about an 'Angry Pensioner' who assaulted a cyclist by emptying dog shit over him is a great example. Lets break the article down - I've been dropping sections into Word to do some word counts.

The article starts with what happened - 108 words. Simple to describe, it is unambiguously an assault, and the facts are summarised from what the magistrate would have heard.

Then we've got what the court decided - 27 words. Again, not a lot to say here - pay for dry cleaning and given a conditional discharge. Go away and don't do it again!

We then get a comment from the victim - 155 words or so summarising who he is and what he said. Nothing particularly contentious, it turns out having dog poo tipped on him in a scenario where there's nothing he can reasonably do in response other than phone the police is really rather distressing so he'd like that not to happen. I can't find anything in that to take issue with - I'm sure everyone would agree with him.

Then we get to the biggest part of the article - following a sentence that slips in the fact that its a shared use path so the cyclist had every right to be there - we get 198 words of mitigation or, as it really reads, feeble excuses from the person who committed the crime. So thats more of a platform for the perpetrator than for the victim, in fact the assaulter gets more than the victim and the magistrate combined. And she's given the last word too, saying its ridiculous that this went to court (taking it to 228 words for 'her side'). 

It is unquestionably the case that Cambridge News has provided a platform for this criminal. The story is overwhelmingly biased towards this persons justifications for her illegal act.

Now lets compare this with how the same rag covers other assaults - ignoring for the moment sexual assaults such as this where no platform is provided for the criminal - if I put 'guilty assault' in to the search box at CN I find that the next report of a court case I find gives no space for mitigation from the guilty party.

The bottom line here is that if you assault a cyclist in Cambridge, and lets be very clear throwing dog excreta on someone is as hazardous as it is unpleasant, Cambridge News will provide a platform for you to explain why you've done so. You'll get the opportunity to justify yourself to the public, with equal prominence to the victim of your crime. The News will do this out of the mistaken view that you need to 'balance' the view of a criminal with that of a victim if, and only if, that victim is a cyclist. Because they won't do that for other assaults.

Cambridge News hates cyclists. Sometimes I don't even think they know they're doing it - but no one 'balances' reports of racist assaults by reporting crass justification for the crimes. Thankfully no one any longer reports rapists saying in court that she was 'asking for it' as if that explains anything. But cyclists? Apparently assaulting us is different.

UPDATE: I don't want to labour the point, but some of the things being left in the comments section are just astonishing. Copied two here straight from above linked story from Cambridge News.
My daughter who is 9 was told by this woman "to watch out next time" as she was passing her on this path. If you actually go there you'll see no one whizzing round on their bikes, kids from the local school use it very respectively and mums/dads are usually not far back. This woman has been throwing sticks, shouting abuse etc... for far too long. If she doesn't like cyclist why is she always out with her dog when it's school run time. She abuses people then keeps quiet for a while and comes back and do it again. This article is so one sided it's painful maybe the journo should speak to the community involved. Telling your kids to stay clear of this mad woman just because they are on bikes shouldn't happen.

My childrens (twin boys) first experience of this woman's unstable mental health was when they were 7 years old, when she verbally assaulted them as they were very courteously cycling past her, I was with them (they are now nearly 13). Since then there have been many other instances, including Ms Currall stepping in front of one of them whilst he was ON THE CYCLE LANE, cycling down the bridge on Shelford Road, Trumpington, fortunately my son was alert enough to swerve to avoid collision, again I witnessed this myself. The residents of Trumpington have been putting up with this behaviour for a long time. Most children who take that route to school are told to avoid her. This is also not the first time she has physically assaulted someone. She has gone too far! It surprised us all that she had a bag of dog poo with her because again for years she has been seen to leave her dogs poo on the pavements. This is not about bullying a pensioner.

UPDATE 2: Another brand new article about a cyclist (actually a pedestrian pushing a bike) assaulted. This time THE ENTIRE STORY is about 'mitigation', i.e. the story is all about the pathetic excuse given for an outright assault. This cyclist hating chip-wrapper just doesn't let up; it rains more shit down on us than the above mentioned pensioner ever will.

UPDATE 3: Cambridge News didn't even search through their own files, or so it seems. The chap found guilty in Update 2 (the story which really only covers his excuses) appears top be currently banned from driving due to having been found over the limit, having previously been banned for drink driving. And rather than mention this is a person with a simply disgraceful record on our roads, the 'News' merely chose to detail his excuses for why he got out of a car and assaulted a cyclist.

Sunday 10 November 2013

Motorist and Cyclist Crackdowns - Compare and Contrast Coverage in Cambridge News

Sometimes its possible to see how Cambridge News troll for hate against cyclists with great clarity by comparing how they treat near identical stories involving cyclists and motorists. And we have recently had perhaps the most obvious example we could wish for.

On the 7th of November there was a simple, matter of fact report covering 727 motorists stopped by police for a range of offences. I should think its quite hard to stop a car, its slow, it takes space and time, and you just can't always tell whether someone is breaking the law by using a mobile phone as they flash past at 50mph. Not that any of this is reflected in the story - we've got the number who were stopped, a statement from plod saying they do this, and thats about it. No discussion of whether people were made safer through this, no random opinions from people who want to express a view, its a simple statement of fact.

But lets compare that with another story on the 8th of November relating to yet another crackdown on 'danger' cyclists. I won't go in to how counterproductive or pointless this exercise is - how 70% of cyclist injuries are caused entirely by motorists and a mere 2% by cyclists without lights - thats been covered here and in countless other places before. What I want to look at here is how the two stories are covered.

So £1500 worth of fines were handed out to cyclists according to the story. That'd be 30 fines of £50 each, with another 10 cyclists being talked to. So rather trivial compared with the 727 motorists caught above - who at £50 a shot would have paid out more than £36000 of course (not in the headline - and it would have been a heck of a lot more than that too). 

But apparently lots more ('scores') of cyclists could have been caught but for the time it took to deal with each one - no doubt true. Interesting that same point wasn't made for stopping motorists, stopping each of which takes much longer than stopping cyclists. So if scores of cyclists were missed, obviously hundreds of motorists were missed.

I note that we've also got quite a lot of coverage of excuses given by cyclists in this story for not having lights - like they've been stolen or the rider has been surprised by how quickly it has got dark (both entirely credible in the first couple of weeks after the clocks have changed in a town where even things bolted to your bike can get nicked). And these credible reasons are set up for us to mock - the only reason for this being that they're stated by cyclists. But the best line, from a special, is this one:
“It is very frustrating. People also think a light on their bag is enough, but it must be on the frame of the bike.”
So the police are being sent out to stop cyclists with perfectly visible lights displayed in a slightly erroneous way. And thats something that the article leaves entirely unchallenged - its supportive of spending police time on dealing with riders whose lights are entirely visible, who are not demonstrably endangering themselves or anyone else. It doesn't even question this.

Make no mistake - Cambridge 'News' isn't what it claims to be. Its not a newspaper, its not a news source - its an anti-cyclist, pro-motorist lobbying group. Occasionally its quite subtle about it, but don't lets pretend that cultivating the friendship or good will of this part of the sewer press is worth our while. It has again declared itself the enemy of cyclists in Cambridge.

Still not convinced? Well wear a helmet, they should be compulsory, the police commissioners son saw some people with poorly heads because they didn't wear helmets. No analysis, no discussion of the problem with dealing with mere anecdotal evidence... Trolling. Nothing more, nothing less.

Hey, Cambridge Cycling Campaign - we need a city wide policy for the complete alienation of this cyclist hating institution. Enough is enough - you've picked specific journalists at that paper who you won't talk t any more, but we're past that. Its policy of that paper to rain hate down on us whenever they can. We need a plan of action. Are you up for this or will you go on collaborating with your enemy?

Thursday 7 November 2013

Response to Rod Liddle 'War on Cyclists'

I thought I might end up writing a response to an article in the Spectator today, but on reflection it isn't worth it.

Its not because there aren't lots of good, solid responses out there already. There are. Its more that the article is, from beginning to end, pathetic trolling by numbers. Its a bad article, averagely written and almost entirely un-researched; if its an opinion piece then its an uneducated opinion piece.

So instead I'm going to put something far more worthwhile and relevant in this space.

Here are two chickens playing with a ball with food in it. You'll note one of them can't work out how to get grain out of the ball - she's STILL showing greater capacity for creative or original thought than Liddle.

Monday 4 November 2013

Smug? Cyclists? No. But we have every reason to be.

If you read cycling blogs you'll be aware that Kate Hoey MP has been busted for jumping red lights in her car. This in itself wouldn't be a news story for cyclists to get their teeth in to, but she's on record as having lambasted us for doing so and called for ever stiffer penalties in response. We're also accused by her of being smug, of course; ironically I could describe cyclists responses to her conviction as probably the smuggest thing I've seen from bike campaigners for many years!

But this brings us back to the whole 'smug' thing. We're often accused of this - whether its Melanie Phillips trolling for the Mail, or Brendan O'Neill wasting space that could have had real journalism in it in the Telegraph this crap is all over the place. It isn't just Kate Hoey - we are very often accused of pomposity and smugness, usually by people who will then go on to have a go at us on the grounds of how hard what we're doing looks or how dangerous it is. So we're smug about how miserable we must be. Apparently.

I don't need to refute the claim that we're smug - its nonsensical. The idea we're feeling a certain way towards motorists rather implies that why we cycle is somehow all to do with them, and this is simply untrue. Why we cycle clearly isn't why they think we cycle - we're not dealing with a fair assessment of our own emotional response to motorists. What we're seeing is a projection of how they think we can fairly and reasonably be - and resentment of that borne from basic jealousy. And as the very act of sitting on a bike makes us visibly different, its easy for them to clump is all into the same arbitrary, critical grouping.

But lets look closer still. Why are we meant to be smug?

Well, we're getting to our destinations faster than they are. We're not held up by traffic like they are. We're also getting some exercise, saving money, avoiding injuring other people, not contributing towards pollution, locking our bikes up for free, taking up less space on the road... Heck, sounds good to me! I really should be smug - I'm doing everything right. 

The truth is I don't ride for any of those reasons - I ride because its a fun and practical way to get around. I don't do so out of some feeling that it makes me comparatively better than a motorist - in fact my choice to cycle has got nothing to do with the motorists around me. It isn't about them - its got nothing to do with them. The fact that they think of me as 'smug'... How am I showing smugness towards people whose activities are nothing to do with mine?

If I am smug its because I'm engaging in an activity that doesn't make me so angry that I have to start inventing an emotional response that simply isn't there in others. When I ride past dozens of motorists, catching red eyed, resentful stares or even protracted soundings of the horn as I take a position in the advance stop box in front of the traffic, maybe I SHOULD feel smug. But I don't. 

Heck, maybe that means we really are better than them...