“Cycling is a natural choice”

It would be unfair to single out for particular criticism any one of the MLAs who participated in the photo-opportunity at Stormont today [Not even the Transport Minister? – Ed] although, over at his blog, Mark Devenport points out that things did not occur quite as pre-reported. But just keep an eye out to see how many of those present today are cycling up the hill to Stormont tomorrow.. and the next day.. [But it’s for charidee! – Ed] And I’ll add a clearer image when I find one. New image, left to right – Conor Murphy, Catriona Ruane and Ian Paisley Jnr.

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  • Baudrillard

    A grumpy Suzanne Breen on Talkback today suggested that it was wishful thinking for motorists to give up their BMWs for BMXs. Especially after last week’s awful weather.

    Wishful thinking?

    Driving your SUV through last week’s floods and then congratulating yourself for your four wheel drive and not have to get wet is probably wishful thinking of the highest order.

    Car usage = CO2 = climate change = North Down sea front homes under two metres of water.

    Good to see cycling promoted in any shape or form – it may yet save our collective bacon.

  • I wish people wouldn’t try and sell cycling on the basis of it being morally better and bringing some intangible benefit to the environment.

    I cycle to work because it’s quicker than public transport, cheaper than driving and more fun than either. I can’t stand environmentalists. I am a proud eco-sceptic. I cycle because it’s in my interests (fun being a legitimate interest), not “Gaia’s”.

    Unfortunately, the eco-luvvies will do more harm than good by giving cycling the image of being a slightly hair-shirt activity done by PETA-supporting, organic yoghurt munching, sandal-wearing weirdos.

    Oh, if it’s raining wear a hat and a raincoat.

  • willis

    I think you’d better get used to it Sammy. I do mostly agree with you. I prefer cycling to all other ways to get to/from work. It’s normally even faster than driving for my commute. However it will take a lot more than Ian Og freeweeling past Catriona to convince me that a single one of them wants to make the life of cyclists better.

  • Animus

    If people are put off by eco-luvvies, that’s just a paltry excuse Sammy. Are people put off SUVs because they are driven by wankers? Unpleasant people promote things all the time (Christopher Hitchens – atheism, Ian P – religion) which only keep away people too thick to make up their own minds.

    I also cycle to work, because I like the convenience of it, but I do wish it would catch on a bit more here. If nothing else, more cyclists would cut down on the hideous traffic congestion, but many people won’t even consider car-sharing, so I don’t have high hopes. I really don’t care what gets people more interested in cycling, as long as they do it. If you have to put up with a few eco-luvvies, so be it.

  • Pete Baker

    New image added.

    Bleaching of your memory of this image will be available later.

  • Cruimh

    Horrible – you have a lot to answer for Mr Baker.

  • Are people put off SUVs because they are driven by wankers?

    No, but they should be! 😉

    Seriously, this is actively counterproductive. People are more likely to act in their own self-interests than that abstract interests. Unfortunately, I think cycling will only take off when traffic in Belfast gets worse and worse.

    And the pathetic attempts at building cycle lanes, with a handful of exceptions, are worse than useless. The place to start is with useful by-passes/throughpasses of difficult intersections. Routes that go nowhere, to nowhere, via nowhere and are interrupted anywhere you might actually be intimidated by the road traffic are only useful for a bureaucrat wanting to tick a box. Can someone please, please, tell me what useful function the cycle lane on High Street in Belfast serves other than to make it six times more dangerous than just cycling in the normal traffic lane?

    The net effect of official cycle policy in NI (and the Republic*) is to make cycling seem difficult, dangerous, in need of special treatment and only taken up by weirdos. Where the reality is that cycling is efficient, cheap, fun and you can do it on ordinary roads (most drivers, oddly, don’t actually want to kill cyclists). And if you’re doing less than 5 miles or so, you can do it in your ordinary work clothes.

    In fact, it’s the most fun half-an-hour you’ll spend all day apart from maybe having sex!

    * Dublin’s abominable cycle lane ‘network’ has to be ridden on to be believed, and I think it’s now against the law in the South not to use available cycle lanes, no matter how ill-kept, dirty, useless or themselves contradicting of the law they are.

  • Cruimh

    Sorry Sammy – we seem fated to disagree on just about everything. Cyclists are as irritating as orangemen, Hari Krishnas and APNI types.

    They want to use the roads ? Fine – tax them, make them have MOTs and compulsory insurance.
    And birch any of them caught without lights after dark or any caught on pavements.

  • Turgon

    Can I start a rant about a small minority of drivers in Belfast.
    I used to cycle till a move made that impratical.

    Within the space of about three months the following two events happened to me. I was cycling through Belfast and turning across lanes. Because I was in the middle of the lane to avoid being stuck on the outside in the next lane: a bloke in a car started honking the horn. He then (admittedly very gently) rammed my back tyre which was to say the least a bit disconcerting.

    On a seperate occassion I was cycling along when a large Mercedes started pulling out and I clipped his tyre with my pedal. He persued me, drove the car at me and then grabbed my mobile phone when I threatened to ring the police.

    I would suggest cycling round Belfast is not for the feint hearted unless you cycle on the pavements which is of course illegal and dangerous to pedesterians.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I used to cycle into work until recently. Out here in Whiteabbey there’s a very handy coastal path that goes right down to Duncrue, and it’s fairly easy from there to the city centre. It is regularly swept and kept free of rubbish and debris, unlike many other lanes (such as the pointless one going past the back of the Royal Mail building in Belfast) which are never swept and are strewn with broken glass and loose gravel.

    The trouble with Belfast is that there aren’t many routes like this – to go out of the city centre in most directions, you’re going uphill. And if you’re doing it on big heavy mountain bikes like our cuddly Executive ministers – heavy bikes which are engineered for toughness over terrain and not for road use – it’s going to take a lot more effort and will take you longer. If you’re going to commute, get yourself a good road bike!

    Cruimh: I think it’s pretty daft to suggest that cyclists should be taxed. A bit like taxing pedestrians really. Cyclists do not cause wear on the road surface in the way that cars do, they don’t create hidden costs such as pollution, and (hopefully) by having a slightly healthier approach to commuting they get sick less often. A tax on bicycles might be justified if there were to be a good, segregated infrastructure provided for this purpose around the country in the same way they provide motorways for other vehicles which are taxed.

    If more people cycled, there would be less road rage, less dangerous driving, less death. If you want to talk about the enforcement of laws relating to the road, motorists get away with a slap on the wrists for the most serious of offences – driving without insurance, dangerous driving, etc. That said, I would agree with law enforcement being used against cyclists who are causing danger by not using lights or cycling on the footpath. That said, if anyone dies as the result of a cyclist not using lights, it’s going to be himself.

  • Cruimh

    “Cruimh: I think it’s pretty daft to suggest that cyclists should be taxed.”

    Why ?

    They use the roads, they should pay.
    And the bicycles should be regularly inspected.

    “That said, if anyone dies as the result of a cyclist not using lights, it’s going to be himself. ”

    Not necessarily – I nearly totalled myself avoiding one of the wretches. It’s an instinct to swerve and avoid them.

  • They use the roads, they should pay.

    What wear and tear does a bike cause to the road as opposed to a car? Stupid point, which Stalin has already dealt with.

    As for the danger argument – how many people are killed and injured by motor vehicles every year? How many by bikes? I rest my case.

  • Cruimh

    “What wear and tear does a bike cause to the road as opposed to a car? Stupid point, which Stalin has already dealt with. ”

    No he didn’t Sammy. The motorist isn’t taxed purely to cover the wear and tear on the roads – most of the tax goes elsewhere. Only a small percentage of the various taxes is actually spent on maintenance.

    And even if we take the argument that cyclists cause LESS damage, then as they cause SOME damage, they should also contribute.

    Cyclists are freeloaders.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    While we’re at it, let’s tax pedestrians. Strutting about like they own the bloody pavements.

  • willis

    Why not a cycle tax? £20 a year. But on the basis that cyclists get a proper cycle lane network as extensive as the road network or get to use the road network as equals.

    Better still a congestion charge

    If you have been to the area around the University of London you will get some idea how it could be done.

  • Cruimh

    Gonzo – pavements don’t grow on trees – we already do pay for them through our taxes.

    In Germany the police do spot checks for roadworthiness on bicycles. Fair play for motorists!

  • Baudrillard

    The state subsidy for motorists is unbelievable. Road building and maintenance runs to billions each year. And then there’s all the free car parking for government (and local government) employees.

    When you consider that 40% of households in Belfast do not have access to a car (last Census) – then you have to question priorities.

    Belfast is reasonably compact, parking is at a premium and car ownership is low anyway. We should really be encouraging the city towards cycling as a serious alternative.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Cruimh:

    No he didn’t Sammy. The motorist isn’t taxed purely to cover the wear and tear on the roads – most of the tax goes elsewhere. Only a small percentage of the various taxes is actually spent on maintenance.

    What percentage would that be ? Let’s see the numbers.

    I’d be very surprised indeed if the revenue collected through fuel duty and vehicle excise duty covered the cost of road maintenance, traffic watch, road traffic policing, safety campaigns, etc. I doubt there is a consistent set of figures that shows this which is why I doubt your claim.

  • Animus

    There is an amendment which will soon force UK cyclists to use any available cycle lane as well (I believe there is a petition against it as it has not been passed yet). Anyone who has used the cycle lane on Ravenhill will understand why it isn’t always possible to use the cycle lane, particularly when there are cars parked in it.

    I am a car driver and a cyclist, and I would encourage people to practice both safely – a few idiots here and there shouldn’t detract from the usefulness of cars or bikes. But a tax on cycles is slightly ridiculous. The resources allocated through the Regional Transport Plan made a mockery of improving walking and cycling facilities, and even public transport. Throwing money at the road network without examining alternative provision is like putting a plaster on a haemorrage.

    Cruimh – why not tax pushchairs too? Infants don’t pay taxes (the little freeloaders) and their pushchairs have harder tyres than bikes.

  • Cruimh

    Comrade, from 2004 :

    The Road Users’ Alliance welcomed the report.

    Director Tim Green said: “Last year £44bn was raised for the Treasury through road user taxes, yet only £5.8bn was spent on the road network.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3391353.stm

    Now, like it or not we ALL benefit and need the road system – even the smugs in cities who don’t own cars and use their bicycles. After all how do they think the groceries they buy in the shops get there ?

  • Baudrillard

    We’re in a new paradigm here Cruimh (if you’ll pardon the phrase).

    Car usage contributes substantially to global warming and left unchecked it is going to destroy the lives of your children and grandchildren.

    The floods last week may have nothing to do with global warming but they are certainly a mild foretaste of what it might be like once the sea level rises and the British maritime climate starts to change.

    We’re all still in the denial stage. It’s not a nice little question about whether it’s ethical or not to drive an SUV. Or whether you look dorkish wearing a cycle helmet.

    It’s a simple practical question about how we can save modern civilisation in the next decade or two. And weirdly, but heart-warmingly, getting on a bike will help.

  • Cruimh

    Baudrillard – let me guess – the last ice age was caused because there were too many bicyclists?

  • Baudrillard

    Faultless logic Cruimh.

    I submit to your razor-sharp reasoning and will retire from the debate a humbled but greatly enlightened man.

  • Gonzo – pavements don’t grow on trees – we already do pay for them through our taxes.

    Yes, and I pay taxes too – being a cyclist does not exempt one from paying tax…

    In Germany the police do spot checks for roadworthiness on bicycles. Fair play for motorists!

    I spent quite a large chunk of my life in Germany (probably why I’m still cycling today) and was never spot-checked once by the police despite riding some total jalopies!

    There is an amendment which will soon force UK cyclists to use any available cycle lane as well

    I wonder what they would ask Vicki McCreery about what she thought about that, if she were still alive to tell them. Vicki McCreery is dead because she was nice and middle-class and law-abiding to the point of supererogation and used a cycle lane because they painted it on the road. I ignored it and cycled in the bus lane (as I was legally entitled to do) and never had the slightest bit of bother crossing Blackfriars Bridge.

    Laws like this are proposed by people who have never been on a bicycle. They have nothing to do with improving conditions for cyclists or improving safety; they have everything to do with trying to take cyclists off the road so superannuated juveniles like Cruimh can feel better about themselves.

    The floods last week may have nothing to do with global warming

    Yep, so let’s leave them out of the conversation.

    Or whether you look dorkish wearing a cycle helmet

    If you think you look dorkish wearing a cycle helmet, don’t wear one. The evidence for the benefits of cycle helmets is contradictory, at best, no matter what websites funded by a coalition of cycle-helmet manufacturers say.

  • Cruimh
  • Pounder

    I disagree that cyclists should be taxed. However I do think that if you’re going to be using a bike for transport there should be enforced basic requirements. It is a simple matter of safety. Would you drive a car if the brakes where faulty?

    I also think that there should be something major done about the public transport system in general. While most of the Metro buses are fairly new, the troubles where good for something after all, the services provided by the drivers is shocking and a good lot of them have a terriable attitude.

  • there should be enforced basic requirements

    As people in Northern Ireland often forget, enforcing anything has a cost. Is the cost of enforcement here matched by the benefits? How many deaths (probably zero) and injuries (possibly zero, certainly very low) would it save and at what cost?

  • Oranges for Sale

    Here, did anyone hear that Ian Paisley jnr lost the first bike run and demanded another go!? lol

  • Some pretty poor gear work by them politicians.

  • The main issue with cycling should be keeping the feckers off the goddamn pavements. The Lisburn Road is shocking for that! You’re a fucking vehicle! Get on the road!