Category Archives: Blog

Jeremy Vine, Our Cycle Saviour

So the recent Jeremy Vine Cycling Fiasco has garnered much attention. Here are some thoughts of a long-time cyclist.

 

I am a grizzled cycling veteran

I have cycled for about 10 years now. It is my major mode of transport and I think of myself as a pretty good cyclist. I try to make myself as visible as possible, I wear a hi-vis jacket, I have lights on my bike when it’s dark, I wear a helmet, I use hand signals. I have my cycling proficiency badge. I do this because I know that cyclists just don’t really pop up on many drivers’ radars and I really just don’t want to die. I feel dying might be shit.

But Jeremy Vine’s experience is nothing new. Sadly, it happens all too often. Allow me to take a navel-gazing look down memory lane. A couple of years ago I was cycling along a busy main road, in the cycle lane (which was in dire need of some TLC) over in the gutter (which was filled with broken glass, because they all are) and a car came roaring passed me on the right hand side.

All of a sudden, it turned left onto a side street right in front of me. I didn’t see if the driver signalled or not.

The only reason I am still here and able to write this was I slammed my brakes on as hard as I could just in time. The reason I was able to do that was that I saw the car overtake me and thought ‘I wonder if this car’s going to overtake me and turn left like an absolute- Shit they have!’

I hit into the back of the car, nearly-but-not-quite sending me up and over the handlebars. The driver got out of their car and shouted “I’m fucking turning here! Look out you cunt!” and was generally pretty obnoxious.

I came back with a Jeremy Vine-level shit retort of “Oh, um, look out for cyclists!” and went on my way.

 

But why is this?

I think many drivers don’t cycle, because why would they? They have nice air-conditioned, water-proof cars with suspension that can go above 15mph. They have crumple-zones and air bags, cup-holders, radios. Seriously, WHY WOULD YOU CYCLE!? It’s shit.

It isn’t, it’s great, but still.

So I reckon many drivers just don’t understand what it’s like to be a cyclist. It can be very difficult and dangerous cycling in busy cities, you have to avoid pedestrians nipping across the street, busses pulling in and out, car doors opening, ruddy great big pot holes, broken glass, uneven road surfaces, you name it! All the while trying to negotiate hundreds of cars driven by drivers of differing skill level.

A lot of the time, drivers do things to cyclists that you just would NOT do if the bike was replaced with a car. Overtaking, in particular. If a car was driving at about 10mph because the traffic light up ahead was red, there’s no way you would overtake them. But if there’s a cyclist, fair game! If a car was signalling to pull out in order to overtake a bus, there wouldn’t be any question about putting on a burst of speed to overtake them! If Jeremy Vine had been driving a car rather than his bike, that situation just would not have happened.

 

Is there a war on the streets?

No. But there is a very big ‘us and them’ distinction. Drivers hate cyclists because they scoot up to lights and weave between traffic. There’s a feeling of “I pay road tax, I passed a test to be allowed onto the road. I have more right to be on the road than cyclists.” and cyclists, understandably, are scared for their lives some of the time, so there is anger towards drivers.

There are bad cyclists (going through red lights, dark clothes, no hand signals, weaving through traffic left and right so that they change which mirror they can be seen in, simply can’t control their bike very well) and there are bad drivers (overtaking and turning left, cramping cyclists for room, flat out abuse, needlessly overtaking). And there isn’t very much discussion between the two about how we should be behaving on the road. Jeremy Vine cycling and getting into an argument doesn’t advance the discussion.

He was cycling in the middle of the road (which he is allowed to do!). The driver got angry at a cyclist in the middle of the road (understandably, he’s in the middle of the bloody road. He should try to be as far over the left as is safe to do so). They have a big argument and Jeremy then STOPPED HIS BIKE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD! Then he came back with one of those verbal ripostes the British are so famous for:

“Actually, I think you’ll find that I should allow the width of a car door to facilitate my safe bicycling. I think you’ll find that what you’ve just said could be legally defined as ‘Assault’ please don’t do it again. Or if you do, I shall have to ring my legally-required bell at you, my dear fellow!”

Jeremy Vine, 2016

All Jeremy Vine has done is to reinforce the idea that drivers are uber-aggressive arse holes with an unquenchable lust for the blood of cyclists, and that cyclists are shit at using the road and generally all-round tossers. I feel bad for ol’ Jeremy Vine for having a nasty experience as a cyclist, but he’s not helping the discussion.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog

How to Structure Nice Words Good – YPIA Blog

The cool people over at YPIA have published my article about story structure.

Give them a look and a like over at:

http://www.ypia.co.uk/posts/how-to-write-nice-words-good-the-importance-of-structure

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog

EU Leave Referendum – The Aftermath

So Leave happened.

And there’s a lot of Leave-bashing going on and it is not funny. Countless pro-Remain people are saying that Leave voters (for whatever reason) are racist or stupid or have been duped. There are many reasons why some people don’t like an un-wieldy, bureaucratic, non-British body which has regulatory power over the UK. And if we ignore these people, or deride them, we aren’t solving the problem.

Just take a look at social media. Actually, don’t. You won’t come back. I’ll briefly summarise much of the Remain social media rhetoric:

Vote Remain on Thursday, vote Leave of Friday. Tee-hee!

The Leave voters think you need to use a pen, instead of a pencil! Ho ho!

Look at how silly the pro-Remain politicians are! Boris Johnson’s hair! Nigel Farage’s clothes! Chortle chortle!

Now look passed the jokes.

Most of them are insulting to – let us not forget – more than 50% of the British public. There is a lot of anger and fear out there and people are angry about real things. Wages haven’t improved for some groups in decades. House-buying is difficult for the young; a problem that doesn’t just frustrate Millenials, but their parents who want their kids to be able to get out of their house. School class sizes are high. And NHS waiting times are rocketing.

‘But if we leave the EU, the economy will collapse!’ we all chimed.

Have you ever been to Darwen? Have you been to Redcar? Have you visited Grimsby? When did you last go to Hartlepool? These places haven’t seen investment or attention in decades. Their economy collapsed years ago.

And I’m sure that some people in those areas point the finger at EU migration for these problems. Immigrant workers tend to be employed, so they ‘take’ jobs. They tend to live in houses, so they ‘take’ homes. They have children who go to school, so they ‘take’ places. And if they get sick, these immigrants go to hospital.

The Leave campaign whipped up this underlying fear and anger; admittedly, with dodgy figures and bombastic rhetoric. But despite being debunked and derided at every turn, the Leave bandwagon has kept rolling. Despite being told to stop harping on about £350M, they did. People are still clamouring for ‘sovereignty’ – whatever that means – and that Brussels bureaucrats shouldn’t have regulatory powers on our jam jars.

And instead of soothing that anger and allaying those fears, we laugh at them. We deride their intelligence and call them racist. The feeling in London is one of disbelief that non-London, non-university-educated, non-flat white drinkers voted to Leave.

‘How could they Leave? Everyone I know is pro-EU, so I don’t understand how so many voted Leave. Stupid racists!’

That is exactly the attitude that Leave voted against. And I realise that I am exactly the sort of person they voted against. Flat whites are delicious. But I don’t want to insult Leave-voters, or ridicule them, or question their intelligence. They’re angry. Really angry.

And that anger isn’t going to go away just because you’ve made a derisive joke about how stupid more than 17 million people are.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Blog