Les bicyclettes de Londres

Thursday 27th October

Ah, I remember eet well, as Maurice Chevalier might have said.  Les bicyclettes de Belsize was a lovely little film about ironically enough, bicycles in Belsize Park; I cannot really remember the film at all, except that it was very very French, I have used it only as an introduction to my subject for today, the cyclists of London.

If only they were as romantic as the film portrayed them, idly drifting by in the sunny traffic free roads of North-West London.  No, the reality is somewhat different; what was once a leisurely pastime has now become a thriving bustling new industry with whole superstores dedicated to the cyclist’s needs; where once tucking your trousers in your socks and donning a cloth cap sufficed as adequate clothing for the amateur cyclist, now they are lycra-clad from head to toe in figure hugging day-glo specialised clothing, with ultra slim carbon fibre highly expensive bikes to match.  And cycling now is serious business; no longer a bike for life that your father may well have ridden before you, with its Sturmey Archer 3 speed gear lever and uncomfortable bone hard saddle, today’s bicycles are super-fast and become old-fashioned and need changing almost as often as laptops do.  All very well, you may say, and I am not at all opposed to progress, I just cannot bear the behaviour of this new breed of cycle enthusiasts.

They seem to think that the normal rules just do not apply to them; red lights simply being an opportunity to make up some ground on the faster moving traffic ahead, and woe-betide you, if as a humble pedestrian, you happen to get in the way of a cyclist.  I have been sworn at, swerved past and actually clattered into, by these self absorbed maniacs, who seem to think that not only the roads but even the pavements are there for their own exclusive use.  Anyone who foolishly thinks that a pedestrian crossing was created for enabling them to cross the road, and that traffic should and of course will stop to allow you to do so is very much mistaken; if a cyclist happens to be coming up fast on the blind side, you had better hang onto your heart and hope for the best as the last thing they will consider is stopping for you, let alone slowing down to give you time to cross.

I had a bike as a young teenager, a pink Raleigh, with a big white pannier on the front and a wide comfy white sprung saddle, on which I would meander up to the high street shops, or leisurely spin my way through the many nearby parks, but in my wildest dreams riding a cycle on today’s busy roads would never feature.  So I am more than happy to leave this pastime to the young and energetic, I just wish they would leave me some space on the pavement at least, let alone the roads.