Against my better judgement, I’ve just read an especially feeble-minded piece of trolling by the Metro writer, Yvette Caster.

It’s so daft I should have ignored it, I know. But I couldn’t let it lie. Just in case there’s anyone daft enough to take anything Caster says seriously, here’s an off-the-cuff rebuttal of her ill-conceived bile. Her words are in blue, mine are in red. (Before you read on, yes, I do know that people who drive and people who ride bikes are often the same people.)

There’s a two-wheeled menace terrorising our already crowded roads – say it with me – ‘the cyclist’.

‘Our already crowded roads’? What do you think they’re crowded with, Yvette? With cars. The more people who opt for bikes instead, the less crowded the roads become. ‘Menace’? Cars kills thousands around the world every year directly, and many more through air pollution and illnesses linked to inactivity. Cycling (instead of driving) on the other hand, makes the air cleaner, the streets safer and the population healthier. It means less pressure on the NHS. It means a more productive workforce (cyclists, being healthier, take fewer sick days). It makes our roads less crowded. It makes life more pleasant for everyone.

The menace on our roads is not cyclists.

He, and, yes, it is almost always a he, some balding MAMIL (Middle-aged Man In Lycra) sweating away, holding up traffic, causing accidents and generally being a total liability on the modern highway.

Cyclists come from all genders. As for holding up traffic (1) bicycles are traffic and (2)look at ‘rush’ hour. Look at all the traffic jams you see in every town and city everywhere. These are caused by motor vehicles getting in each others’ way because there are too many of them. Who’s holding up traffic? Cars are.

And the ‘liability on the modern highway’ is not cyclists, it’s motorised traffic (see above). It’s complacent motorists lurching around in huge metal boxes, speeding, using their phones,  polluting the air, killing thousands of people a year. That’s what I call a liability. Not a man silently gliding past on a bicycle. Or a woman for that matter.

It’s hard to know where to begin when listing all that’s wrong with bikes, cycling and the fact they’re even allowed on a quiet lane let along a busy London road, because there’s so many things, paired with the fact surely anyone with half a brain can see they’re absurd.

But let’s try.

If we set aside, for a moment, the danger they pose both to what roads are for – cars – …

The danger they pose? Negligible, compared to the danger motor traffic poses. And anyway, roads are not ‘for’ cars. Roads are for all road users. They should be safe for everyone. They’re paid for from general taxation, meaning we all have a right to use them whether we’re in a daft, outmoded, gas-guzzling pollution-box or not. In fact, only cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders actually have a straightforward and irrefutable right to use the roads. Motor vehicles are there by license only. Roads as we know them were lobbied for – and paid for – by cycling organisations (don’t believe me? Read the full story). Roads were not built for cars. 

…and what the pavements are for – walkers,

Most pavements are for ‘walkers’, it’s true. But many are designated ‘shared spaces’ for use by people on bikes too. And every day I see hundreds of cars parked on pavements. They can only have got there by driving there. In my city at least, the evidence is all around us that cars routinely stray onto pavements.

…there’s first the visuals. They look ridiculous. Nobody looks good riding a bicycle.

There’s a reason James Bond drives an Aston Martin and Knight Rider has KITT while bikes are for the likes of Benny Hill and Granville – they are the transport of clowns, buffoons and Boris Johnson.

Really? Lots of very bright and frequently stylish people choose to get about on two wheels. Just as a ferinstance, clowns and buffoons including Vivienne Westwood, Audrey Hepburn, Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein, Angelina Jolie, Ewan McGregor, Hugh Jackman and George Clooney, all ride (or have ridden) bikes – this is not an exhaustive list. 

Exercising on them leaves you with a Peter Crouch physique – seriously unenviable.

Really? Not in my experience. And not exercising is far worse.  Anyway, Peter Crouch is  actually in pretty good shape. Do a Google image search – even the Daily Mail’s got pictures of him showing off his six pack as he cavorts poolside with his ‘petite model girlfriend Abbey Clancy’.

Plus, a bike’s construction is frankly some kind of highly suspicious witchcraft – how do they even stay up at all?

You really aren’t very bright, are you? If you really need it explaining, the answer’s on Wikipedia.

Then there’s the Lycra. The ugly, lurid, Lycra of the man on the train stinking the place out with his bike sweat.

Only a tiny percentage of cyclists wear Lycra. And they stink a lot less than rush-hour pollution does. Pollution that poisons us all, by the way. However sweaty a cyclist may get, it’s not going to poison thousands of people every day of the year.

Said man will also inevitably block the train doors with his unroadworthy beast,

If our trains’ cycle facilities were designed properly, this wouldn’t be an issue.

or at the least stab you with the grimy edge of his clunky fold-up.

Fold-up bike stabbings? I bet they’re top of the priority list for police teams everywhere. Meanwhile, cars kill thousands every year. Day in and day out. Men, women and children. I’d rather get bumped by a Brompton than bumped by a BMW, thanks all the same.

As for the idea of getting exercise on the way to work, I like the idea in theory but I’d be arrested if I tried doing Zumba down the A1 and don’t see why bikes should be any different.

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s an obesity epidemic in the developed world. People really, really need to get more exercise any way they can. If that exercise is actually included in their commute time, then that’s a win-win for everyone. Exercise without losing work time or family time. Less traffic jams, cleaner air, less obesity, less strain on the NHS… It’s such a no-brainer you’d have to be an idiot not to understand it.

Gyms on trains would be a far better idea, but if I pitched that on Dragon’s Den they’d tell me I was out of my sodding mind.

Then there’s the appalling rudeness of so many cyclists.

Pot kettle black, madam. You’ve spent your entire article being appallingly rude about cyclists. Usually if you find a cyclist is being rude to you, it’s because you’ve just unwittingly endangered his or her life.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen Sunday cyclists, merrily riding down a windy country lane SIDE BY SIDE in a 60 zone.

Riding side by side is perfectly legal. Indeed, in many cases it’s the safest thing to do, as the government will soon be reminding our nation’s driving instructors. Check this short film to see what Chris Boardman, who probably knows a bit more about cycling than Caster does, has to say on the matter. I also take issue with ‘in a 60 zone’. A 60mph speed limit means the absolute maximum you should ever drive in that ‘zone’ is 60. It doesn’t mean the expected normal driving speed is 60. In situations where there is less than perfect visibility (e.g. winding country lanes) or where there may be other road users (e.g. walkers, cyclists or horse riders) you shouldn’t be going 60 anyway.

It’s almost as if they want to be bumped off.

You think so? These cyclists you so casually discuss killing are mums and dads, grandparents and toddlers. They’re sisters and brothers, they’re nurses and teachers and firemen and school kids. Please at least try not to bump them off. Riding two abreast they are riding legally, in a way that often makes them safer. I hope if anyone you care about ends up on the road, they don’t get ‘bumped off’ by someone like you.

Then there’s the ‘speed demons’ who don’t think the highway code applies to them, nearly mangling pedestrians who have waited patiently at crossings, with their heads down, peddling madly through red lights.

Ooh, speed demons eh? Most cyclists rarely go above 25mph. Their bikes weigh 15kg or less. By contrast, cars (when they’re not stuck in traffic jams of their own making) go very much faster than that. And they often weigh a tonne or more. And speeding is absolutely commonplace amongst drivers. Speed demons? It’s not cyclists we need to worry about here. Mangling pedestrians? Many drivers turn without indicating, they routinely break the speed limit (try driving at 70mph on a motorway and see how no-one ever overtakes you) they drive while texting, they park on the pavements, they stop in the advanced stop line boxes… The vast majority of pedestrian manglings are not caused by bicycles. 

Let’s be honest, any claims they may make about saving the environment (smug, smug, smug) are surely negated by the amount of fumes emitted by vehicles queued behind them,

Huh? (1) as you point out, the fumes are emitted by the vehicles and (2) most of the time, motor vehicles are queuing behind other motor vehicles. This is a phenomenon called ‘traffic jams’. Bikes don’t cause them, they reduce them.

desperately trying to overtake safely as they wobble about.

When overtaking you should give someone on a bike the same space as you would a car – at least a metre and a half. And you should only overtake when it’s safe to do so. There’s no need to ‘try desperately’, just drive like a grown-up. And be nice.

Don’t get me wrong, bikes are all well and good in their place but that place is the mountain bike trail, skate park or spin class.

Get off our roads, two-wheels.

Whose roads? They’re everyone’s roads. 

[PS There’s a much better Metro piece on cycling here.]

[PPS: This is the red wine-fuelled rambling of Boneshaker co-editor Mike White. Other members of the team may not share my views. Since writing this, I’ve seen a calmer, more considered response to Yvette’s piece, here.]

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