Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Boris and Cycling

Hey Mister Johnson,

You know how you said you would improve the lot for the cyclist all those months ago while you were campaigning to become our Mayor ?

All that stuff about trebling the level of cycling as a proportion of all journeys made, introducing an even bigger "Velib"-style bike rental system in London.

There was that article where you hoped for cyclists to become ubiquitous in nature, around the streets of London.

And what about all that you said when you went to Redbridge and opened the new Cycling Centre (aka Hog Hill) ?

So, what have you done for cycling lately Boris ?

Well, there was that footage of you jumping red lights and scooting along the pavement, plus various pictures of you talking on your mobile phone while riding.

Ok, so you wrote your little A-Z guide to cycling. It may not have actually increased cycle usage, but admittedly it was a good read.

But what about the funding, the improved cycle lanes ? And what were you thinking when you decided to allow motorcyclists to join us in the bus lanes ? Is that what you call safer cycling ??

Well, you've been Mayor for 6 months now, and really we aint seen much improvement round here.

Ok, so Mr Livingstone didn't quite achieve the targets that he'd set out for cyclists either, and we never ever saw him on a bike. But then that may actually make his foibles more forgiveable.

So are we gonna get, yet again one of those typical political cycles (excuse the pun) ? The caravan passes with all it's publicity, you sprint around the circuit with campaign promises, freewheel across the finish line, hands in the air for the electoral victory salute - but just as the real work begins the wheels begin to wobble all over the place and we end up somewhere else - oh dear!

Well, you're only 6 months into the job. You have got 3 and a half years left. Who knows, you might deliver your promise.

So, while we wait for the promises to be delivered we'll read your A-Z of cycling. (We may have to read it more than a few times I suspect !)

"FOR the busy mayor of a capital city, a bicycle is an indispensable tool of survival. I can get from Holborn to City Hall in 11 minutes. No single piece of technology – not even the mobile phone – is so vital. So here is my list of do’s and don'ts of cycling in London.
A is for abuse, which you must, frankly, learn to accept. You will get it from people driving lorries, cars, rubbish vans or any other type of four-wheeled vehicle. B is for bollocks, which is the most vigorous rejoinder you are permitted, preferably under your breath. You may, at a pinch, mutter “belt up”. C is for crash helmet: I urge you to wear one – I don’t myself. D is for death: Every successfully completed bicycle journey should be counted a triumph over this. E if for exertion, endorphins and ecstasy: The first produces the next, which produces the next, as you whiz through London's lovely streets and look at the play of light through the plane trees, and you inhale the open air, and you think of the poor souls stuck in the taxis, the cars, the buses and, God help them, the Tube. F is for freedom: With no other means of transport, except possibly skiing, can you determine so exactly the path you intend to follow and arrive there so quickly.
G is for gears: I have never seen the point of the very high gears. Why sit and pump like a maniac when it is so much easier to stand up and grunt?
Once, my bike was nicked, but because my children had been fiddling with the gears I was easily able to overtake the thief on foot. H is for handlebars:The key thing about handlebars is not to shoot over them. I is for indicate: Something that I suggest you do. J is for jelly: This is what you become, psychologically and physically, if you forget to indicate, shoot over the handlebars and bite the asphalt of Trafalgar Square. K is for klaxon: Mine fell off, and I don’t really recommend them. Time spent parping a horn or ringing a bell would be better employed braking, weaving or possibly just screaming. L is for lights: You gotta have ’em – by law. Also, they will greatly reduce your chances – at night – of being squashed by a lorry. M is for mudguards I suggest you get some, as otherwise you’ll find that road spray will produce some embarrassing and wholly ambiguous trouser stains, even when it isn’t actually raining. N is for no-hands What I like to do at night, down a deserted street in Islington, when I have had a couple of pints and am feeling moderately invincible. O is for oil What you get all over your hands after executing the manoeuvres above, coming a cropper and being forced to spend ages putting the chain back on.

P is for phone I see no reason why you should not treat your bike like an office. Provided you hug the kerb, you should be entitled to make phone calls. It is probably safer to use a hands-free gizmo, but to all those who want to ban the use of mobiles on bikes, I say this: there are plenty of one-armed people in the world. Are we so cruel as to forbid them from using a bicycle? We are not. What is a mobile phone-user but a cyclist who has, effectively, only one arm? I rest my case. P is for pavement This you should only mount in the most extreme circumstances (for example, if you are driven off the road by one of my predecessor’s demented new single-decker buses, so long that they can’t turn corners). Q is for queue As in queues of cars, throbbing, panting, waiting. Tee-hee. R is for Ridgeback This is the make of my bike. S is for saddle I have had five bikes stolen in four years, which is a pretty devastating comment on law and order. But the most traumatic moment was discovering someone had taken my saddle. Why? To what perverted end? T is for thieves Who are everywhere and who will be tackled with sharia ruthlessness when the Tories come to power. V is for V-sign Permitted, but only under the grossest provocation.
W is for women cyclists Who are indistinguishable, in manners and morals, from male cyclists. Some are charming and “After you, Claude”. Some are extremely aggressive and judgmental. Y is for yellow light
And the ancient dilemma: when you spot one of these 20 yards out, do you give it some welly and scoot across just before the first motorbike can knock you over? Or do you play safe, rest your left foot on the kerb and have a breather?
Z is for zoom Which is what you had better do if you decide to go for it, and I cannot, in all conscience, recommend that you do. Be safe, my friends."
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