Saturday, 24 August 2013

Let’s Just Shoot All The Cyclists

I’m beginning to see the sense of it. As a cyclist, I mean. After all, I’m nothing but a drain on local resources, a constant thorn in the side of customer service departments. How is Willard told to deal with Kurtz in Apocalyse Now? With extreme prejudice? Well, I feel like Kurtz, muttering ‘the horror, the horror’ here amid the brutes. I’ve clearly gone rogue, off reservation, or, if you prefer, quite quite mad. I’ve lost all rational sense having gorged myself on a diet of existential cycling philosophy and the foolish belief that we were born free to choose how best to live our lives.

Even if you’re a cyclist, you must see that there is a hard-knuckled truth to my words so open your mind and let them in. Society carries on not through the rational will of individuals but because the great barrelling mass of the majority is steeped in some husky pheromone and brazenly ruts behind council refuse bins when dim on Bacardi and sad dreams. Evolution happily coincides with the squirting dash of sperm towards eggs. It’s no more profound than that and for every conscientious couple concerned about world population there are a thousand drunken pricks with immortality on their tips.

Yet all societies eventually neutralise their radical elements. I’m now beginning to see that we cyclists are more radical than most. We try to present a better vision of the world, of communities, and of towns. Yet we’re also immensely disposable since we lack the genetic code for survival. We’re like the dodo birds so friendly to sailors that they never learned to run away even as they were having their necks wrung. Cyclists have a naïve quality. We put ourselves in harm’s way, laying our necks before the heavy vulcanised tread of wiser souls protected by air bags and 4x4 traction. What benefits do consideration, moderation and environmentalism provide for the species other than to weaken it and turn us all into Guardian readers? So I say again, they should just shoot the cyclists. We’re an evolutionary dead end.

Cycling is for dreamers and who needs dreamers in a world of bankers and rat-tailed business suits? Being a cyclist is for another me in another lifetime. It’s of that same mad idealism that made me think I might make it as a writer, humourist, or cartoonist whilst living in small town England. Dream followed dream and now look at me. Tesco’s customer complaints department already treat me like the horsemeat they deny exists in their burgers. Shoot the cyclist. Some hot fragment of lead placed at considerable speed into my ear would solve quite a few problems. After all, I don’t conform to the identikit picture of the British working male that these companies encourage in order to exploit. To do that, I would need to impregnate at least 2.4 women, buy myself an old arse rattler of a car, and then do the shopping once a month at Tesco whilst sucking on a Mayfair king size or packing the Bud.

Yesterday highlighted how selfish I am by continuing to dream. It was one of those mornings at Tesco when my bike got in people’s way. I would have gone to shop elsewhere but there was no alternative but to endure their bike racks. It was also a Friday which meant the town was busy and the bike racks full.

Well, I say ‘full’ but there was one space and I bet you can’t spot it…


This photo illustrates why we cyclists are an extravagance and why Tesco are right to hate us. Here is a perfect example of a cyclist demanding too much. The room taken up by that bike might have held another trolley, pram, baby, mother, other woman, and another oddly angled youth. Just ignore that sign saying ‘bicycle parking’ above their heads. That’s just a little in-joke between Tesco staff. This is actually an example of high level ergonomics and how to maximise space in a dwindling world. This is people folding done the Japanese way. The message is a simple one: let’s just shoot the cyclists…

But even as I type that, I finally feel my sarcasm running dry. I’m left only frustration and a shrug of the shoulders... These are dog-eat-dog days requiring snarling teeth not smiles.

Yesterday showed me that I’m fighting a pointless battle. Tesco have still haven’t adequately replied to my complaint. It’s now over a week since the polite email from ‘Alex’ the Customer Service Manager and, as is shown in the above picture, the situation hasn’t changed. I’m tempted to write again but I’m deciding whether I should give up or open a second front in this attritional war.

A second front, you ask?

It was almost predictable that as soon as I ask for more cycle stands in one part of town that my local council should rip out the bike stands in one of the few places where they were providing a good service.

Bike stands! I can’t believe my life has come down to something as meaningless as these hoops of metal in the ground. Yet here I am thinking of petitioning my local council leader, Barrie Grunewald.


Since he took office in a local government coup earlier this year, I’ve been impressed by Barrie and his ability to grab a headline. He plays labyrinthine politics like some Greek sandal slapper on the trail of the Minotaur threatening to cut council budgets for the third year in a row. Believe me when I say that this man is marked for the national stage. In ten years, look for him on the back benches, quickly shuffling his way to the front. Government posts. Minister for God knows what. Perhaps party leader, Prime Minister, and the world… He also looks like the kind of forward thinking folder snapper who can explain local cycle policy without looking at his notes. To be fair, I can also do that without notes but only because St Helens Council has what appears to be a simple cycling policy:

Let’s just shoot all the cyclists...

Barrie will probably say that he doesn’t make every decision but I bet he knows which pencil chewer in St Helens Council decided to remove these bike stands.

BikestandFor the last few years, we had two bike stands at the ends of a small street running through our town. They appeared one day as part of a town upgrade and proved very handy if you were going into one of the nearby banks, shops, or opticians. I went there yesterday expecting to leave my bike at the same stand I use three or four times a week. Only I discovered the stand gone. Another stand down the road had also been ripped out. There are now three stands around the corner at the end of the street. I guess it’s a provision of sorts and I also guess that I’m just being lazy. I’ll just have to leave my bike there and walk back to whatever shops I need...

Except, isn’t this another example of the mentality that councils have towards cyclists? Isn’t this the same begrudging nod we always get? Somebody in the last five minutes of a long dull town planning meeting has said:

‘But what about the cyclists?’

And somebody else has tutted, chewed the end of their propelling pencil and then scratched their oversized car-friendly behind.

‘Oh,’ they’ve said, ‘we’ll give them some stands out of the way somewhere so they can’t complain.’

Except I can complain and I do complain. Why did the council take one step back after making a good step forward? Cycle stands aren’t like car parks. You don’t centralise them. You spread them out to aid mobility and increase access to different parts of town. And what harm was there in having bike stands outside shops? That’s just good planning. One small hint of civilisation in this rabbit hutch town.

Of course, they’ll say it’s the cuts. They’ll say that the council once had money to spend on painting bicycles on pavements and putting up cycle racks. They’ll say that austerity has now bitten so hard that they’ve been forced to spend yet more money ripping out the bike stands and building a large and frankly pointless flower bed further up the road. They’ll say the town has been improved.

Except it makes no sense to me. Enlightened thinking has gone back to inside-the-box thinking.

Perhaps I’ll write to Barrie and ask him to explain. Or perhaps I’ll just ask him to shoot me. One way or the other, at least he’ll have put me out of my misery.

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