Tuesday, 15 December 2009

easy journeys to Planet Stupid

I never really thought of myself as a cycling activist, mostly because I'm not a cycling activist. On the other hand, the simple act of cycling is apt to radicalise the most moderate of people, as it puts you on the receiving end of some pretty stupid and/or aggressive behaviour from drivers. And, of course, some folk seem to find the mere existence of cycling offensive, perhaps because it doesn't buy into the whole package of values and assumptions that go with car kultur ...

Be that as it may... the comments section on any newspaper website is the natural habitat for any amount of rich and strange pondlife, but I was compelled to put my wellies on and wade in last week over on the Bristol Evening Post's internet site. The Evening Post seems to have decided that a pro-car, anti-bike stance is where it ought to be, and so its stories tend to follow that bias. Hence last week's Your (sic) dangerous, rude and need educating, Bristol cyclists told, followed by a piece by Mike Ford, Even blind people can see how badly cyclists behave.

It all starts here:

Blind and partially sighted residents have called for the safety of pedestrians to be given high priority as the city plans to spend millions on projects as part of the Cycling City initiative.

They have told their MPs that near-misses have left many not confident about going out and they fear the city's status as the country's first cycling hub will only add to the problems.

..and by the time it gets into Mike Ford's hands, it has become this:

It's not my style to make or condone sweeping, generalising statements like this; but when even blind people can see how badly cyclists behave, surely it's time for cyclists to hold their hands up and admit maybe they need to change their attitudes?
Now, personally speaking, I get really annoyed by people who cycle on pavements too. But then, I have about as much in common with them as I have with the spoddy young man with the spiky gelled hair who rorted past me in his car, dangerously fast, and with that farty noise that tells you that he's spent loadsa money on an exhaust pipe that sounds aggressive, over in Clifton the other day. I have no particular desire to change my attitude to either; they're all idiots.

Maybe I should take direct action against them? I did step in once to prevent a couple of drongos from stealing something off a bike outside the University. It was definitely a high-adrenaline activity, and not one of the many people who passed us during this confrontation stopped to offer help. Still, as a goodwill gesture, I promise to stop and Have A Word with the next pavement cyclist I meet, if Bedminster Bigmouth will undertake do the same with antisocial drivers, whether they be the ones who park dangerously outside schools or on pavements, run red lights, or do any of the many things that drivers do and shouldn't; though obviously he might have a problem catching them, in which case he could always ask for some help from that mighty defender of motorists' freedom, the Association of British Drivers, which is apparently one bloke with a Fiat Panda. I think we could respect such a public-spirited gesture from these vociferous fellows putting their money where their big mouths are...

Here's a small taster of the quality of debate...

..and then there was this 'contribution' from Owen...

..."Very odd," I thought, coming as it did directly after my post. And then, shortly after, this...

Note the clever use of brackets there. "(S)he". By the way, if you were in any doubt, the incident described by Owen on Whiteladies Road was presumably a made-up story so that he could introduce the Little Britain reference.

Some people are transsexual. Get over it.


  1. Please tell me you clicked on the report abuse link? Twice...

  2. Just the once, for the second comment, which was removed. I prefer to keep the trogs out in the open and let them be seen for what they are... I had thought of responding to it by saying something along the lines of "say what you have to say and shut up, but remember that you are legally responsible for what you write..."

  3. ...and, of course, in the spirit of open-ness, I should welcome 'Owen' to comment here on why he (if he it is) chooses to disrespect my identity. Are you there, Owen?

  4. Wow, I thought I was reading another cosy pro-cycling article I could nod and agree with, and I end up seeing the kind of nastiness you get exposed to.

    > "the comments section on any newspaper website is the natural habitat for any amount of rich and strange pondlife, but I was compelled to put my wellies on and wade in last week over on the Bristol Evening Post's internet site."

    Great turn of phrase, but it isn't funny really. I just avoid the BEP comments 1) I don't have the time, and 2) they make depressing reading, as the extracts you've posted show.

  5. Yuck and double-yuck. I'm glad you give better than you get though, Dru!

  6. There are some nice people in Bristol by the sound of it.

  7. Yep....

    that's the trouble when dealing with brain-dead morons. One needs to have a bath afterwards.

    Nowadays i tend to just let them get on with it, unless something is so criminal that it needs reporting.

    Do you know that sad person, Dru?


  8. There's more to this than just bikes - an uneasyness that comes from using a car when you know you could walk, ride a bike (too dangerous) or take a bus. Having said that, perhaps there should be some kind of training for cyclists who don't posses a driving licence.

    PS my bother used to be engaged to a girl whose mother was accidentely knocked over and killed by children on bikes.

  9. Erm, seems like a nice person that Own... **shakes head**

  10. Same here re not thinking of myself as a cycling activist, yet it seems by the simple action of choosing to cycle to work I have transformed into some kind of two-wheeled-Swampy in the eyes of car drivers.

    The Posts' comments section are a particularly wretched hive of idiocy, even in comparison to many of the nationals. I saw Owen's ad hom attack and reported it as abuse as well.

    I try not to look, let alone reply, but every now and again my indignation gets the better of me and I can't ignore something particularly hateful - such as the other day when regular commentators there were trolling and teasing kids who were posting to say how sad they were that a mate had died after a car-crash.

    I know it's not going to get me anywhere, as many of the regulars at the EP are so devoid of self-awareness that they can barely see themselves in the mirror, but some things I just can't let pass without a response, y'know?

  11. How very shallow .. the gene pool is in Bristol. I think the BEP comments are a very cunning satirical pastiche. Just not very funny. Mick Ford is employed by them as some sort of badger baiter or crowd teaser. As for young Owen, he seems to be a bit insecure about something in his own life. And he is surely a he!

  12. V sensible, Tom. I think I'll give the EP comments a miss in future; it's not so much 'hearts and minds' as a bunch of shoutiness.

    Thank you, Charlie!

    I suppose there are crap people everywhere, Graham... I like Bristol though.

    No idea, Chrissie. They seem to know a little about me. But I'm not going to worry about it. If they can't say stuff to your face, they're not worth the bother.

    I agree that some cyclists could really do with some training, Anji.For their own safety as much as anyone else's. Watching someone swing out to turn right without indicating or even a rear observation is positively scare-making.

    I do know, Ben. Same here. And thank you for reporting it!

    Bread and circuses, eh, Liz?

  13. Thank you so much for writing this piece. I saw the BEP article and wanted to comment, but too distracted...

    Anyway, well put.

    Also, just got to take the opportunity to add my disdain for the way ThisIsBristol runs it's "comments" on features. In my view it is an unacceptable forum for people to demean and bully - I've seen some dreadful stuff on there, and in some Bristol communities I think it threatens to exacerbate, dare I say it, hatred and real physical harm between people.

    I know what hyperbole is and I don't think I'm using it.

    The BEP should be ashamed, and one day may be penalised - hopefully before someone is hurt.

  14. Vik got knocked off her bike last week by a bloke opening his door without looking. The bloke was gutted and admitted he just hadn't looked - she was lit up & sensible, as always - but she's left with dislocated knee & is in a lot of pain.

    The thing is, when I tell people, there are really strange reactions. Cyclists will naturally relate their own near misses, or how it's s/th they really worry about. But drivers almost immediately tell me about some cyclist that's ridden without lights etc.

    It's a really strange thing - the equivalent, I guess would be when someone tells me they've been burgled, I tell them how I walked past a house with the window left open where I could've reached in and grabbed a tv etc. I don't get it - some people are arseholes, but why the suggestion Vik somehow brought it upon herself?

    What I think is that drivers immediately think about how it could've been them - how they are sometimes too busy etc, and they could've been responsible for Vik's accident - and so they respond by becoming incredibly defensive.

    It's mad - like you, I have nothing in common with the pavement cyclists, in the same way that I automatically assume people I know who drive aren't speeders/drink drivers/driving without insurance etc - but people think they can dismiss Vik's pain (& possible long-term complications) because sometimes other people are stupid. It's making me furious

  15. Thanks, Mike. It is a bit of a worry, posting on a local newspaper, even in a big city. A friend had a letter published in the EP back in the 80s and ended up getting some rather unpleasant hate mail. Hopefully, the EP website is a sufficient safety valve for people to vent their toxic feelings without resorting to action in the real world. But you never know, do you?

    That's awful, K. Give Vik my regards, please. I agree with you. Some people are only too quick to blame the victim. It's happened to me in a couple of circumstances, last of which was getting knocked off my bike. It would have been nice if there had been at least one other cyclist there too. Once, long ago, I came off my motorbike when an oncoming car turned right, across the front of me. It was outside a bikers' pub. They all piled out and practically clamoured to act as witnesses...

  16. You know, your comment about cars driving closer to you when you wear protective gear is spot on. There was a study done that featured in the Guardian a while back. It found that it is absolutely true that cars drive closer to cyclists wearing helmets than those who don't. It's toward the end of this article: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2008/aug/11/healthandwellbeing.transport

  17. Thank you for that link, NiaB. It's sort of reassuring when there turns out to be a foundation to one's suspicions.