I saw a familiar face on tonight’s cycle route home. At least I thought it was a familiar face. So the first thing I did when I got home was a google search for "Lionel Shriver" and "cycle" (because I am sad like that).
Anyway, bingo! Shriver, a London-based American-born author, is a cyclist. She penned this rather acerbic and quite depressing piece about cycling in London at about the same time I started to commute by bike. I’m glad I didn’t read her piece at the time though. Her final paragraph, addressed to all those new cyclists who were clambouring onto their bikes in the wake of 7/7 and the mayor’s concerted campaign to get Londoners cycling, is a real killer. I’m pretty sure if I read this back in the summer of 2005 I’d probably still be catching the tube day in, day out:
"Go away! We don’t need any more little friends! Don’t you believe that
guff about how cycling makes you fit; it makes you tired! The weather
is terrible! Ooh, ugh – you get dirty and sweaty, and drivers will lean
censoriously on their horns when you’re obeying all the traffic laws
just because you exist! Maybe cycling does save a whack of money, but
can any amount of cash compensate for the fact that bike helmets are so
naff? So what if a bicycle is the fastest and most reliable way of
getting around London, especially now that the whole tube system shuts
down whenever a greasy chip bag gets abandoned on a bench. Haven’t you
ever heard of being ‘fashionably late’?