Sometimes the most childish things are the most satisfying. I fully appreciate it’s childish (probably & dangerous too) to race a Porsche 911, Aston Martin or if I’m lucky a Lamborghini into the City! (Nb. I’m racing on a bicycle).
Despite the massive mismatch in horsepower I rate my chances from the Chelsea area (where the majority of supercars magically appear), through the rush hour traffic to the tunnel underneath Blackfriars rail station.
The unofficial finish line is the tunnel. The sole reason for the race is to listen to the Supercar’s engine roar raucously, boom and ricochet of the tunnel walls. The loser screaming like a baby. The City Boys driving their toys to their desks are guaranteed to floor it in the tunnel. So childish. Today it’s a Ferrari 458, my all time favourite was a Ford GT – it sounded like the end of the world.
Am I saying bikes and cars can mix? Unfortunately not.
In Richmond Park it’s great to see multiple leisure pursuits mixing, sharing the same space: cyclists, runners, skaters, ramblers, photographers, nature spotters, horse riders. Except the cyclists and motorists (and on the roads outside the park it’s worse, tempers boiling over, frequently).
Car ownership in the UK is like gun ownership in the US. They’re killing us but we see it as our constitutional right. We’re not willing to give them up as our cars are more than just transport. They’re our conduit of self-expression – the car I drive says something about me:
I’m big, fast, safe, flash, utilitarian, alternative, cool, tatty, dad, dangerous.
Cars represent freedom, independence and sanctuary. And they’re dry.
Building more cycle lanes alone isn’t going to get more people cycling. However safe, environmental, fun, convenient, healthy. A car is always drier, warmer, easier. I love cycling, I’m a cyclist, I want more people to enjoy cycling but when it’s cold, wet, dark outside I’ll drive rather than cycle.
Yes I’m a driver as well as a cyclist, (I also walk a bit and catch a train). Yes I do pay road tax. No I don’t get a carbon rebate for annually clocking up more miles on the bike than in the car (Road tax is flat rated however many miles you do/don’t do).
Car v bicycle will continue to rage until we find a compelling mutually inclusive car/bicycle problem to solve.
Have we even agreed on the problem we’re trying to solve?
Reduce pollution? Reduce road deaths? Speed up journeys? Increase mobility? Encourage exercise? Any of those sound good? Speeding up journeys will probably have most universal appeal (fortunately the other benefits will follow).
A solution needs drivers to want to become cyclists thus creating the hybrid: driver-cyclist-public transport user. Which in my experience is a better all round, more reasonable, more accepting and generally happier human.
For any (expensive) redesign to be successful we need parents (let’s be honest I mean Mums) to feel safe enough to embrace cycling. When I see a Mum riding a [dutch bike] with her happy looking kids my initial smile (they always make you smile) is replaced by fear for their safety and respiratory health on the local roads where idling cars belch out fumes.
Mini-Hollands are on the right (cycle) path. By redesigning local transport infrastructure to make cycling easier and safer would cut out short driving miles which would mean less local traffic on trunk roads.
It would also create more pleasant and environmentally healthy town centres / urban districts. I’m convinced that cycling can solve the majority of the World’s problems!
(And get everyone moving quicker from A to B. Except on Motorways, that’s for Google to solve).
Image Credit: Flickr
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