Cycle Nazis

BY MARK WELSH

Freedom. Though I was far too young to grasp the concept, that’s exactly what my first bike represented. Shorn, eventually, of stabilisers, those first few tentative pushes on the pedals of my tiny Raleigh opened up a whole new world. Endless possibility awaited, mine to discover as I managed those first few wobbly yards alone. The mysteries beyond the end of the road lay at last within my reach.

I’ve never been without a bicycle, an inherently sensible form of short-range transport. Nipping into town is often quicker by bike. Traffic jams cause few difficulties, there is never a struggle to park, it’s healthy and for those like me, infected with irreversible impecuniosity, it’s an incredibly cheap way of getting briskly from A to B.

With our nation’s roads (and arteries) becoming ever-more congested, riding bicycles should really make us feel quite good about ourselves. Sadly for me the opposite is true. In fact, if I’m being honest, I’m starting to feel a little bit ashamed. And the reason for this change of heart? The reason, I’m afraid, is Cyclists.

The rampant growth of cycling as a national pastime over the last decade or so is hardly news; bicycles are pretty much everywhere. This really shouldn’t be a problem. And it wouldn’t be. If not, that is, for the actions of a determined militant minority. The bellicose extremists who have ruined it for us all.

Let me give you an example.

The other day I heard a BBC radio phone-in. Unbelievably, Cyclists were calling in to defend their use of music-playing headphones whilst riding on the road. Now I’m no Chris Froome, but I’ve always found the ability to hear what’s going on around me helpful while riding bicycles. One learns to almost ‘read’ what is going on behind by tuning in to subtle nuances in traffic noise.

You’re pretty vulnerable on a bike; why not give yourself every possible chance? So I tweeted my thoughts on the matter.

I should have known better.

An angry mob descended. Displaying classic whataboutism, the majority of my interlocutors were keen to point out the failings of the motorist. Bizarrely, my ability as a car driver (not bike rider) was criticised and I was sent a picture of a badly-parked van(!). I was presented with a study from Australia proving that people in cars can’t hear as much as Cyclists wearing iPods. Or something.

One of the many dreary YouTube Cyclist “stars” checked in (I don’t recall his name, Two-wheeled Timmy – something like that. Timmy spends his days hurtling through the capital’s traffic with cameras stuck to his head, filming the mistakes of others). Yet another, a master outrage baiter, asked me whether I thought deaf people should be allowed to drive. One individual, clearly frothing at the mouth, spent a couple of days arguing with anyone who had the audacity to agree with me.

An idle glance through some of their Twitter profiles was telling. So many of them proudly fly the flag for a plethora of right-on ists-du-jour, identifying themselves as activist, atheist, environmentalist etc. All of the current shouty causes were represented.

When did this happen? When were these belligerent beetle-headed bullies – The Cyclists – appointed to speak for everyone who happens to ride a bicycle? They certainly don’t speak for me. They and their aggressive manner have set us apart. They have made the rest of the road-using public hate us.

Much damage has been done, but I’m going to try to make myself stand out, show that we’re not all the same as this hectoring, self-righteous bunch of weapons-grade chumps. It is perfectly possible for us to all share the road safely, simply by showing each other a little respect. Just like we always used to.

I’m going to be courteous to my fellow road users. I won’t career recklessly through the traffic, refusing to slow in case I jeopardise a Strava PB (aka time trialling on the public highway). I will stop at red lights. I’ll allow pedestrians time to cross without forcing my way arrogantly past. If I find myself holding up cars in a narrow country lane, I’ll pull over and let them pass. Why not? I’m not going to make someone wait just because it’s my right?

At night I’ll make sure I can be seen. And I’ll do it without strapping something akin to a Boeing 747’s landing light to my head and aiming it at oncoming vehicles.

I’m not going to dress like a road warrior. I don’t need headgear resembling something conjured from the mind of HR Giger after a particularly mushroom-heavy weekend, just for bimbling down to the Post Office. Helmets are a personal choice. I’m going to exercise mine. Likewise hi-vis gear. It really isn’t necessary to don the  George Osborne get-up if all I’m doing is wheezing through the woods.

The extremists won’t like this one bit, but then extremists never do when individuals express freedom of choice, do they? And freedom, remember, was why I started cycling. It’s time for the ordinary, decent people on bicycles – by far the majority – to start to rebuild some bridges.

It’s time to be cyclists, not Cyclists.

Mark Welsh is a Country Squire Guest Writer.

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12 thoughts on “Cycle Nazis

  1. The BMA stated the health benefits outweigh the risks of cycling by ten-to-one, that’s why you can’t name any of these surgeons.

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  2. Sadly this whole discussion rather shows what a nasty little nation we are becoming where everyone feels they have a right to have a go at everyone else and not take any responsibility for how their actions may affect others.

    Mark is quite right to point out that a bit of courtesy is what is lacking but I fear he may unintentionally be helping to fuel the antagonism that undoubtedly exists between “drivers” and “cyclists” and is constantly fuelled by the media who love to stoke confrontation. That’s the trouble when you put labels on groups, you create others that other others can have a go at. One of the comments highlights this with the incorrect claim that these “cyclists” probably can’t afford a car. Well actually they can and most likely do own a car as the typical person cycling is above average income and their other vehicle is a car. This also rather scuppers calls that people using bikes should pay “road tax”. They most likely already do and in choosing to use a bike instead of their car are effectively offering a subsidy by putting less strain on the road environment.

    I’m a northerner who does quite a lot of riding in London and I can’t help but notice how the London bike riding culture mirrors the London driving culture – aggressive, impatient etc. I nearly always overtake the drivers who have tried really hard to overtake me, often with a ridiculously silly manoeuvre. I have also felt drivers willing me to carry on when I have stopped at red lights. But my mantra is that I should not be a hazard to other road users, particularly less confident bike riders and pedestrians – oh and I don’t use weapons grade lights that blind everyone in my path either. In short the road environment is like a food chain with HGVs at the top working down through to pedestrians at the bottom. Real road safety and pleasant travelling environment is created when everyone in that food chain understands that is their responsibility to never endanger those lower down the chain.

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  3. Great idea IF you can see the driver behind his extra dark tinted windows. Re the main subject, its really sad too many people have become VERY selfish and have lost the ability to behave considerately to their fellow humans in any context. The vile responses that spit out bile and hatred confirm this.

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  4. Will never forget that gorgeous long haired blonde in green lycra pedalling through Grasse; also will never forget gang of “Chav style” reckless cyclists who encountered myself and my even bigger old rugby pal, also a lock forward, walking side by side on pavement and found that even an elderly 34 stone combo could still wreak havoc. Seriously though, if frail person or vulnerable adult or child had encountered these wannabe Wiggins, could have been fatal or serious injury suffered.

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  5. Mark Welsh is the victim of these “cycle nazis”? Some people disagreed with Maek Welsh on Twitter, so Mark thinks he is like the Jewish murdered, raped and tortured victims of the nazis? You are a disgusting, depraved human being Mark Welsh.

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  6. If there are going to be laws banning the burkha can we have laws banning men over aged 40 wearing Lycra on bicycles. I’ve been stuck behind these two-wheel Tims before and the sight is more than unpleasant. Wretched a couple of times. Get a gym bike and a VR headset.

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  7. I see war has begun and it’s not even breakfast time! These cycling militants are beyond weird. Few of them can afford a car.

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  8. Very well said.

    I often shake my head when I come across those manic cyclists with a go-pro camera fetish and a penchant for acting like a total clown on the road in order to generate a few hits on their youtube channel. More often than not their claims of, “The driver pulled across my path without even noticing me.” are more accurately described as, “I deliberately refused to take avoiding action in order to run into the car”.

    When I was still a biker, both pedal and four stroke engine powered, I gave myself every possible chance to stay alive and number one on that list is to assume, always, that no-one else will see me when I’m coming up to junctions. That meant even if I was on the main route at a T-junction, slowing and making eye contact with the drivers sat at the junction. If you see their eyes, then failing a complete brain fade on their part, they should not pull out on you.

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