Spin Doctor: Why do cyclists often get given a bad ride in London?

Something’s on the rise in London. I’m not talking about new buildings over the capital’s skyline, eighties quiffs over foreheads in Shoreditch, or the price of a travelcard (again). And I’m not just talking about the number of cyclists on the city’s roads. For sure, there are more and more of them: you’ll often see them streaming along cyclepaths in Bloomsbury, tinkling their way past canal boats near Angel Islington, and crisscrossing down backstreets like shiny coins dropping through a fairground machine.

No, all of this cycling indicates a rise in something much more special. I’d call it a rising sense of freedom. It’s the kind of freedom that makes you feel like a swashbuckling hero or a trailblazing heroine. Simply by the power of your own wheels and wits you can traverse the wildness of London, slipping down fascinating byways or coasting through open spaces while the rest of the city sweats it out in cars and on public transport. You can go wherever you like, whenever you like, whatever way you like. Cycling is the A to Z, not the A to B; the road movie, not the roadblock; the freewheeler, not the free Metro. Once you’ve tasted this kind of freedom it’s hard to go back to the so-called ‘convenience’ of London’s overloaded transport system.

Yet there’s commonly so much negativity about cyclists. Don’t cyclists worsen congestion? Aren't they a hazard to pedestrians and themselves? Don’t they ignore the Highway Code? And aren’t they a little bit self-righteous? The lesser known truth is that these are all myths. Cyclists alleviate congestion, far from causing it. Cyclists are far, far less likely to endanger a pedestrian than cars or buses are (and, indeed, it’s no more dangerous to be a cyclist than a pedestrian). Cyclists are nearly always considerate, law-abiding road users who care about their city just as much as their freedom to explore it. And – before you say it – cyclists are certainly no more self-righteous than a horn-blasting driver or an elbowing commuter.

So what’s the real cause of cycling’s image problem? I can’t help wondering whether it’s the very same thing that makes cycling so enjoyable. Maybe it’s the cyclist’s freedom that gets up people’s noses: an exhilarated grin that appears more like a smirk to people who are ‘stuck’ in a trundling metal box. These are the frustrated people I had in mind when I decided to create Cycle Lifestyle magazine. I’d like to show more Londoners a way out of the box. To show that cycling is a great option for more people than realise it. That miles are just minutes when you’re on a bike. That cycling is fun, easy, free, quick and healthy. That the weather’s no worse when you’re on a bike than it is when you’re on your feet. That cycling is for anyone who wants to experience more of their city.

What do you think is the cause of cycling's image problem?

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