This morning, not unexpectedly, we have some of the media focusing on the Tour de France. That’s good. It’s one of the world’s toughest endurance events, it’s coming to Britain for the first time for seven years which is excellent and it’s got bikes in it which is even better. It’s nice to see the media concentrating on a sport that we’re actually quite good at for once rather than football.
What’s vaguely disconcerting is how the media then associate a hugely challenging feat of athleticism that places some of the world’s fittest sportspeople on some eye-wateringly expensive bikes followed by a multi-million pound circus, with the lady who cycles from her house down to the supermarket so she can put her eight hours in on the till.
The BBC run such an article this morning. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise to me to be honest. I used to regard the BBC as a omnipotent impartial reporter of events but in recent months I’ve become largely alarmed about their posture on all sorts of news stories, but that’s another discussion. Anyway, here’s the article.
Now the sentiment of the title is a good one. While Britain is comparatively, right at the top of the safety tables for road use, any cyclist in Britain will tell you the reality is it’s still rather an unpleasant experience due to the quite frankly, bizarre opposition to cyclists from so many of Britains drivers who seem to regard their roads as their personal domain where they should be able to sit in queues unbothered by cyclists. Britain has for the most part, achieved high levels of cycling safety not by making the roads safe but by forcing cyclists off the roads, but again, that’s another discussion.
My main gripe comes from the sort of nonsense spouted in those first three sentences.
“Half of British adults believe their local roads are too dangerous to cycle on, a BBC poll has suggested.
But cycling campaigner Martin Lucas-Smith said “people felt unsafe to cycle” in many UK places.”
Roads too dangerous. Yep.
Tour de France? What?
People feel unsafe? Yep?
What the hell is that middle sentence doing there? We’re talking about roads being too unsafe to cycle on but then there’s this completely out of context statement about a race in the middle…
The article continues in this vein with discussions about our roads and what would encourage people to cycle (all good stuff), interspersed with pictures of road racing and quotes from such illustrious road safety campaigners as…. Ed Clancy…?
NO! Stop this idiocy. if you want to put people off cycling, talk about road racing at the same time you’re talking about safety. I no more believe the Tour encourages a long term growth in cycling than I believe more people drive because they watch Lewis Hamilton on TV or more people go rowing because the boat race is on.
Cycling commuting is not a sport, it’s a utilitarian activity and should be promoted as such. Aligning commuting with whipcord thin athletes in lycra with veins bulging in their legs is not going to encourage people to go cycle commuting. Worse yet, it will discourage many more than it attracts because the vast majority of people who might consider riding to work or the shops on their bike will be put off by the perceived expectation that you need to be lean, fit and fast, riding a 5 grand bike and plastered in logos.
Likewise while I appreciate sports people are only trying to help, they often appear (or are manufactured to appear), to put their carbon clad foot in their mouth which just makes things worse. I’d much rather see Lewis Hamilton encouraging people to cycle or even…lets not choke, Clarkson, than a track and road rider who anyone outside keen cycling sporting circles will not of heard from before.
Lets stop this nonsense. The message about improving the safety on our roads is a good one and should be pursued but it should be accompanied by references to old people and children riding bikes in complete safety, not by people who can notch up 50mph on the flat.