Recently the Economist held a conference on the theme “Creating tomorrow’s liveable cities”, at which the keynote was Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. I heard an extract on the Bike Show and decided to write a response.
After his address Mr Pickles was asked a question, by Bike Blogger Mark Ames, about the his recent declaration that the so-called war on motorists was over. His response was “Don’t be such a puritan. Not all of us can pedal up and down in rubber knickers you know …”, which struck me at the time as bizarre, and on reflection I think it’s an absolute inversion of reality.
I think lots of people who don’t cycle think that because cycling is so healthy for the body and for the environment it must be a miserable experience. That’s just not true. When you have developed a little confidence cycling is joyful and liberating. Cycling immerses you in the environment, it enables you to experience the city you live in or to escape it using just the power of your muscles. It is fast enough to get you where you need to go but slow enough to enjoy the trip.
There is nothing puritanical about cycling. The poor motorists, however – voluntarily trapped in boxes with no means of escape, bound up in pursuit of a dream of unlimited freedom that will never happen in their lifetimes, forced into ever increasing tithes and facing financial ruin – now those are puritans. If you want daily hardship with no prospect of relief drive a car. If you’d prefer to transcend the traffic and have a little fun on your journey then get on your bike.