Saturday, 16 June 2012

Punks on Bikes

BBC4 has been broadcasting a whole series of programmes around the theme of Punk Britannia. Interviews with ageing Punks telling their stories of their youth, miserable financial times, dull factory jobs and expensive dull stadium rock. Their elders had created a world that forgot about the youth and what came about was an new generation of DIY garage band musicians doing their own thing, exiting, different and sticking two fingers up to anything that went before them. It was a scene that connected with so many of that generation.

The same day I watched that documentary I had been reading one of those Daily Mailesque Cambridge News articles. Cyclists told: Obey the law if you want to blame motorists.

Cambridge News quote Councillor Nick Clarke:
“We have a powerful cycling lobby in Cambridge, which is quite right, but I want to see that lobby turn its attention to its own members as well because I personally see numerous cases of cyclists going through red lights, not having lights on at night, and not having appropriate clothing to make themselves visible. 
“That shouldn’t detract from the responsibility of car drivers but if I was out on a pushbike I would assume responsibility to protect myself, and the flagrant abuse of traffic regulations at the moment is not helping this.”
It's a common complaint. Cyclists are stereotyped as a bunch of unlit red-light jumping law breakers. There is some truth in that, but he was addressing the Cambridge Cycle Campaign. It's a group of well-to-do people trying to affect change in our city design to help cyclists ride safely.

Councillor Clarke spectacularly misses the point. Nobody denies that there are cyclists breaking rules, but they are not going to be the sort of folk who join the Cycle Campaign.

It is far more likely that the law breaking cyclists are acting like the Punks of the 70's.

The last generation have created car culture in our cities which was fine while people aspired to own cars. But now, high youth unemployment and the expense of owning a car, and communicating by text or internet means that many youths cannot or do not want to have a car or are locked out of car ownership. Some are taking to bicycles.

The current rules of the road have been created around cars and even though you see pictures of bicycles in the highway code, mob rules are that bicycles should not be on the roads. Policing of those rules is now virtually unenforced except for speed cameras and ANPR and the cyclist is on the back foot for safety.

If there is one thing that a generation have learned from their parents, its a get-away-with-it culture on the roads. And that's exactly what some do. A red light is an inconvenience, why stop if you can safely make it across? It slows you down. Why have lights if there are street lights, and you can see where you're going, and they'd only get stolen anyway. It's not because they are immoral, the car rules just don't fit with cycles. Why use the road or inadequate bike lane if you can stay safe on the path, council's will happily chuck up some signs on pavements and call it a cyclepath anyway.

Us older folk, the waged, the sensible, have lost the anger of youth and are generally law abiding trying to change the system, but youth don't change systems - they are becoming disaffected. The establishment like Councillor Nick Clarke are the old guard, they don't apply, he doesn't connect and he won't change a thing. To youth, change happens with your own decisions now. They are sensible enough to not chuck themselves under cars. They have worked out how to live alongside the car rules, dodge round them. We've made cycling complicated and too difficult. Youth have found their own way to survive and its two fingers to anyone who tells them to comply with those pointless car rules.

Make cycling easy, safe, and secure their property and they will comply, until then they are uncontrollable.


  1. Ive only taken up Cycle riding to work over the last couple of months, I,m enjoying the early morning sprints from Cottenham to the city, But already i have noticed how fast cars are going, I didn't really pay attention driving my car before, Its a real eye opener for me, glad i have found this site, thank you.

  2. Well done for taking the plunge. I too love my bike ride to work, always arriving feeling awake and fresh ready for the day.

    Your right, the traffic is fast and suddenly speed limits make a whole lot more sense when you become a vulnerable road user.

    The worst parts of the commute into the city are Histon Road in Cottenham, that really needs an extension to the cycle path. The next section is Histon Road in Cambridge (Kings's Hedges to Gilbert Roads) mainly due to buses. I now use the parallel route:

    King's Hedges Road, Arbury Road, Mere and Carlton Ways, Gilbert Road, Milton Road, Victoria Ave.

    See area on OpenCycleMap


  3. I think i have maybe turned into a moaning old fool, But on second thought, the path between Cottenham and Histon does need a sweep there is glass on there, I rang south cambs they said what path?, i explained several times, they said we will have a look, well that's just what they have done by the looks of it lol

  4. Don't worry, you've got a lot more moaning to do to get into the premier league :-) You had lucky timing, loads of people have been moaning about Cottenham Skips for years!