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PETER HITCHENS: I’m a cyclist, but I can’t stand it… and I now fully expect one of these hunched idiots, dressed as a bug in Lycra, to kill me one day
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PETER HITCHENS: I’m a cyclist, but I can’t stand it… and I now fully expect one of these hunched idiots, dressed as a bug in Lycra, to kill me one day

I’m a cyclist and I can’t stand cyclists. I fear them, and I am often moved to anger by the way they behave, although I must emphasize that I am not perfect myself.

With red fog, I hate the cyclists I see driving quickly over zebra crossings or through red lights every day. I sometimes chase them and catch them to give them an idea – beeping as I do so – and point out that it is entirely possible to drive fast without running a red light, otherwise I wouldn’t have passed them.

I now actually expect to be killed by another cyclist, because for years I believed the final blow would be delivered by a Porsche driver or a huge truck.

Now I’m afraid of one of these crooked idiots, dressed as an insect in comically tight, lurid garb, with a Styrofoam shell on his crazy head and funny colored sunglasses, maybe also masked.

He will overtake me on the inside and carelessly push me under a bus coming behind us. I take great precautions against this, but these idiots remain silent and come out of nowhere, like Nazi Messerschmitt pilots in the Battle of Britain. One lapse in concentration and I’m lying under number 27, while the idiot responsible disappears into the distance, listening to dub rap on his earphones.

PETER HITCHENS: I’m a cyclist, but I can’t stand it… and I now fully expect one of these hunched idiots, dressed as a bug in Lycra, to kill me one day

I’m a cyclist and I can’t stand cyclists. I fear them, and I am often moved to anger by the way they behave, although I must emphasize that I am not perfect myself

I think there should be a school or club that teaches these people this, as I am so often caught up inside.

Too many two-wheeled warriors are not only stupid, but now drive way too fast and think too highly of themselves. I can think of no other explanation for the recent terrible event in London’s Regent’s Park, where early on a Saturday morning a phalanx of cyclists zoomed past at probably almost 50 km/h.

One of them hit 81-year-old Hilda Griffiths, who was crossing the road to a pedestrian island with her dog. It took her two months to die, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume her death was caused by the accident.

The speed limit for cars on that road is 32 km/h. But it doesn’t apply to push bikes for several perfectly sensible reasons. One of them is that they don’t have speedometers. The other is that when speed limits were introduced, push bikes were made of steel and were usually ridden upright by women and men, in normal clothing, at a speed of not much more than 15 km/h.

The man who hit her, Brian Fitzgerald, was not prosecuted because he had not committed a crime. Mrs Griffiths’ son, Gerald, says his mother was killed by a ‘bicycle culture’ and this had me nodding heartily in agreement.

Cyclists, once the abused third-class citizens of the road, have now become as arrogant and overbearing as the worst drivers.

It used to be the other way around. Until recently, there was an anti-cycling culture. When I started cycling to and from work in London in the 1970s, the capital’s roads were a battlefield where the rare cyclist was treated as a pariah and a nuisance by almost everyone else.

As for clothing, the insect gear, as worn by famous cyclists such as radio and TV presenter Jeremy Vine, was unknown

As for clothing, the insect gear, as worn by famous cyclists such as radio and TV presenter Jeremy Vine, was unknown

You were scolded for being there, maybe ten times a day. There were no cycle lanes, no advanced stop lines at traffic lights. Bicycles themselves were generally much heavier than they are today.

Their dim lights were stolen within seconds if you left them on the machine. Their accelerations were often minimal and tended to stick; or they were operated with clumsy levers that you could not adjust without taking one hand off the handlebars.

The brakes were incredibly poor and almost useless in the wet. Flat tires were incessant because modern defense technology had not yet provided Kevlar to strengthen our tires. All the motor vehicles passed you at a distance of about eight inches, as if trying to make a point.

It was a battle and I never recovered from it, instinctively assuming that all motor vehicles were dangerous enemies every time I set out. To this day, this deep instinct sometimes causes me to rudely reject attempts by drivers to give way to me at intersections. I’m fighting it, but it’s probably kept me safe for years, and it’s hard to give it up now.

I remember being almost brought to tears during a cycling holiday in France in the 1980s as French drivers circled me as if I were a truck. The one person who almost threw me into a ditch in Normandy had GB plates on his car.

One of them hit 81-year-old Hilda Griffiths, who was crossing the road to a pedestrian island with her dog.

One of them hit 81-year-old Hilda Griffiths, who was crossing the road to a pedestrian island with her dog.

The paths in the major royal parks were forbidden to us. What is now one of the main cycle paths in central London, where cyclists can ride through the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, was at the time only open to cars belonging to members of the Royal Family.

I was sternly informed about this by the police when I tried to pioneer this sensible route forty years ago.

As for clothing, insect gear, as worn by famous cyclists such as radio and TV presenter Jeremy Vine, was unknown. I think this is important because this special, streamlined clothing, which makes the wearer anonymous and overconfident, plays a major role in making cyclists ride too fast. And once speed becomes your goal, pedestrian crossings become a major nuisance.

Colleagues scoff or make fun of my bikes. I remember a terribly tall writer of very conservative editorials telling me that it was just not mature to get around town on a bike. I would have to take a taxi like everyone else.

I have seen this attitude disappear almost completely as more and more people have seen the benefits of a mode of transportation that is quiet, clean and healthy. But unfortunately it didn’t stop there.

So it saddens me to think of that other famous case of this kind, which has still not really been dealt with by Parliament. Back In 2016, mother-of-two Kim Briggs was killed by a cyclist as she crossed the road in central London.

The bicycle was used illegally because it had no front brake. The rider, Charlie Alliston, was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted of a Victorian offense designed to deal with people who rode horses carelessly and caused bodily harm by ‘wantonly or furious riding or racing’. Alliston was jailed for 18 months.

Mrs Briggs’ widower, Matt, has responded very strongly and rightly by campaigning for a new offense of causing death or serious injury by dangerous or careless cycling.

Since his wife’s death, almost £6 billion has been spent on cycling infrastructure – the cycling lobby’s answer to the problem. But such a law does not yet exist.

This failure has convinced Mr Briggs that the government fears cyclical pressure groups. Maybe. I suspect it’s laziness and a general desire to look green at all costs.

But it’s going to get worse, and if my fellow cyclists don’t want to end up like those of North Korea, forced to wear license plates and be registered, they need to realize how angry they are making the rest of us, and even some of their fellow riders.