I won’t mince my words: cyclists who ride on the pavement are an urban blight, at least in North London. I would like to be able to walk to the shops and back without having to be aware that at any second I will be confronted by a cyclist barrelling towards me on the pavement at high speed. Every few minutes I will see a cyclist on the pavement somewhere. Every few weeks I experience what would be described in aviation circles as a ‘near miss’. I’ve given up remonstrating with them: I’ll be sixty later this year and the torrent of foul-mouthed abuse that invariably follows is surely not good for my blood pressure.
Yet what is the response when I complain about this on a ‘Comments’ thread where cycling issues are being discussed on the Guardian website? I’m told I’m having a “petty rant about a problem that does not exist”. I’m accused of making it up because I have an “anti-cycling agenda”. If the problem does not exist, why would I have an anti-cycling agenda? You don’t need to be Mr Spock to see that that is completely illogical.
There have been two high-profile incidents recently involving injury caused to pedestrians by idiots cycling at speed on the pavement. In the first incident, a 44-year-old woman in Bermondsey, South London, was scarred for life. In the second incident, a three-year-old girl was hit and dragged along the pavement in Blackpool. Only by extreme good fortune did she escape serious injury. The response of what I would term ‘cycling activists’ to these incidents is, frankly, disgraceful. See some of the comments under the two reports, but also see this response from the supposedly-responsible London Cycling Campaign. The paranoid, self-pitying headline “Pavement cycling incident sparks anti-cycling commentary in media” sets the tone for the rubbish that dismisses the Blackpool incident as ‘rare’ (which, I’m sure, will be of great comfort to the little girl) and then bangs on about how 98 percent of serious or fatal injuries to pedestrians are due to collisions with motor vehicles.
So that’s all right, then?
Another frequent comment is that you are better off being hit by a bicycle than you are by a car. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t particularly want to be hit by either. This Youtube video sums up the apparent contempt ‘cycling activists’ have for people who complain about pavement cycling. The video ends with an appeal to tackle the ‘real problem’ of bad drivers.
Time and time again, the same fallacious attitude crops up: ‘whataboutery’. Complain about dangerous cycling and the stock response is to complain about cars. It’s a very strange moral perspective to dismiss the problem of dangerous cycling because motorists cause more death and injury than do cyclists. By the same logic, we should dismiss the problem of dangerous drivers because they are responsible for fewer deaths than wars, global warming, ISIS, etc. A more sinister interpretation is that it represents a collective ultimatum: until dangerous driving are tackled, we will continue to cycle on the pavement, ignore red lights, pedestrian crossings, and indeed any rules that don’t suit us. The injuries to the woman in London and the little girl in Blackpool should be seen as collateral damage in a perceived war between cyclists and motorists. This attitude will not advance the cause of cycling one iota. For as long as it persists, it will only enhance the non-cycling world’s perception of cyclists as anti-social nuisances with a massively over-inflated sense of entitlement. In my view, it is an attitude that is about as representative of the silent majority of law-abiding cyclists as football hooligans are of the tens of thousands of genuine fans who attend matches each week. I have family and friends who cycle. Not one of them thinks this way. Cycling is a mode of transport and a recreational activity. It is not a religion and cyclists are not an ethnic minority. If ‘cycling activists’ want to be taken seriously, they need to stop trying to defend the indefensible.