The anger directed towards cyclists is ridiculous when so many of us ride bicycles

Updated: 15/06/2024


Nothing grinds the gears of the suburban middle classes more than a road closure for a cycling event. When that event is the seventh annual two-day Ride London and claims to be “the single largest cycling event in the world”, with over 100,000 participants and almost as many, I’m guessing, closed roads – well, you can see where this is going. And no, this is not an anti-cyclist rant.

With much of central London closed off on Saturday and vast swathes of south west London and Surrey a similar no-go on Sunday, the angry NIMBY brigade are spluttering into their Waze GPS app as on no other weekend of the year. Even though the closures are well-publicised in advance, some people still get really, really cross about the disruption. But then, some people get really, really cross about cycling in general, which is curious as most of us are cyclists, drivers and local residents in turn during our lives.

It’s so odd as to provoke a class-action existential crisis. The inexorable rise in cycling, as both leisure activity and daily commute is surely to be encouraged and applauded for all kinds of health, pollution, congestion and economic reasons. We should celebrate that the Box Hill climb, key to both Ride London Surrey and the 2012 Olympic course, has become the “single most popular climb in the world”. Anything that inspires a “party atmosphere in Dorking” is surely to be lauded? Those 100,000 riders are not Chris Froome, but your uncle, aunt, cousin, mum.

Why do people (who sometimes cycle) hate cyclists?

Why this polarising ambivalence? Many road-raging drivers occasionally don the Lycra-helmet combo, and a good proportion of MAMILs (middle-aged men in Lycra) sometimes get behind the wheel. Why do they / we morph into Mr Angry of Purley? I blame the lurid Lycra itself. Cyclists become “other” once they don the garish, overly-tight costume, complete with expensive cycling shoes and a Go-Pro fixed to the helmet. That be-goggled cyclist astride his beloved blue Giant is no longer lovely Uncle Jimmy, but a virtue-signaling alien: a loathsome Mighty Morphin Power Ranger.

If we all tootled around as before Team Sky, with trouser clips, a hi-viz waistcoat and a squeaky bike in need of oiling instead of a £5K Pinarello, the rage would dissipate. That all those proto-Bradley Wiggins have made such an effort to look ridiculous drives motorists mad even before the first jumped red light. Bumbling Boris Johnson would never have been PM if he wore head-to-toe Rapha. It’s why I can’t join that peloton. Oh, plus the fact I had yet another chained-up bike stolen in broad daylight last week. But, that’s another column!

Twitter: @stefanohat

This post first appeared here

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