With anger, that is. The city has been paralysed by a giant agitprop exercise, the three-day cycling extravaganza RideLondon.
This is yet another instalment in the propaganda campaign that may be less sinister than the Nuremberg rallies of yore, but is as shrill and persistent. The aim is to elevate cycling to a high moral plateau, a sort of ersatz sainthood.
To that end, 100 miles of London roads, along with 10 bridges, have been closed to normal traffic, stranding millions of Londoners and reserving the thoroughfares for 100,000 participants in yet another pagan rite of modernity.
Now if anyone wishes to join the human herd shilling for locomotion assisted by two wheels rather than two legs or six cylinders, then by all means he should be free to do so. Collective passions aren’t always attractive, but they may be indulged, provided – and this is a critical proviso – this isn’t done at other people’s expense.
Some causes may justify making thousands, probably millions, of people prisoners in their own homes, but cycling isn’t one of them. Those who want to parade their social conscience should do so in the country, where they’d cause less disruption to normal life.
Yet when modernity gets on its high horse, or in this case bike, reason need not apply. Thus cycling has claimed something to which it isn’t entitled: moral ascendancy.
It has taken a place next to wind farms, solar panels, public foreplay with trees and hoodies, not smoking, not driving after a pint, not using private medicine and other merit badges of PC modernity.
Overnight a Londoner riding a bike to work stopped being a miser willing to risk his life to save a few pennies, or else a health freak prepared to die for stronger leg muscles, or perhaps an impatient chap outracing a bus in rush-hour traffic. He’s now a secular saint doing his bit for environmental and personal health.
Whenever their PC button is pushed, our brainwashed masses respond with a surfeit of enthusiasm and a shortfall of reason. Thus it never occurs to them that cycling offers no environmental benefits over public transport: those trains and buses are going to run anyway, so what’s a few passengers more or less? Of course, if most people cycled to work there would be fewer buses and trains, but even cycling fanatics don’t claim such a development is likely.
Also, the ubiquitous bicycle lanes in our streets suffocate traffic, thereby increasing air pollution considerably more than replacing a few of those bikes with cars would do.
The health benefits of cycling in cities must be juxtaposed with the thousands of accidents involving cyclists every year, hundreds of them fatal. It’s not for nothing that the staff of London’s St Thomas’ Hospital refer to cyclists as ‘organ donors’.
We should acknowledge an obvious fact: our major cities aren’t designed for cycling. London isn’t Amsterdam, where traffic crawls along the canals at a snail’s pace.
We have more drivers, more opportunity to drive at the speed limit and more lorries whose drivers are often unsighted. Hence the only way to reduce the number of cycling deaths is to reduce the number of cyclists. Instead the government is doing all it can to pushbike more people in harm’s way.
Cyclists contribute nothing to the upkeep of the roads they use. They don’t have their bicycles registered and insured. (The insurance premiums would be prohibitive, what with cycling presenting a higher actuarial risk than driving. It’s not just cyclists themselves who are at risk, but also drivers who often have to swerve to avoid adding another pair of kidneys to the St Thomas’s organ bank.)
Cyclists get away with disobeying traffic rules. How many times have you had to jump out of a cyclist’s way on a pedestrian crossing? How many of them have you seen running a red light or going hell for leather on a pavement?
Also, any London driver knows that the need to watch out for cyclists popping up all over the place is stressful, and stress is known to increase the number of accidents. Yet no matter how egregiously a cyclist flouts the rules of the road, any collision between him and a car is automatically treated as the driver’s fault.
A driver is an offence to PC sensibility, whereas a cyclist is a boost to it. That’s why the government, enthusiastically abetted by our subversive mayor, is driving sensible Londoners to apoplexy by granting freedom of the city to an infuriating pagan rite.
The claim is that this annual event has contributed £82 million to London’s economy over the last four years. Even if true, which I doubt, this isn’t a sufficient excuse.
Modernity in general is obsessed with arithmetic, which has replaced theology, ethics and philosophy as the key determinant of public life.
Our government is chosen by the arithmetic of elections and governs by the arithmetic of focus groups. Success in life is measured in arithmetic terms, with a property speculator seen as more successful than a brilliant theologian. Quality of life is measured arithmetically. The number of computers per household is seen as an important factor, while the quality of the books in the same house isn’t.
How do you measure the impotent rage of millions of Londoners against a few million pounds here and there? Especially considering that the amount mentioned is trivial in a city whose annual budget is £16 billion, much of which is wasted on hare-brained schemes and general incompetence?
Does anyone realise what an affront to freedom this spectacle is? No, of course not. Freedom has no arithmetic equivalent, which means it has no value.