Cyclists rise up, and a jackass backs down

Funny what some people think is funny.

A few years back, I helped introduce the world’s coolest car to the world. I’d been hired to write the marketing materials for the official introduction of the Tesla Roadster — the world’s first all-electric, high performance sports car, capable of doing 0 – 60 in under 4 seconds. Without burning a single drop of gas.

Though it inspired intense auto-lust, I remember thinking at the time that this car could be a nightmare for cyclists. Its virtually silent operation meant that a rider might never hear it coming until it was too late — something anyone who has ever been startled to find a Prius rolling up next to you can attest.

But I never occurred to me that some jerk would do something like that on purpose.

This last Sunday, though, British celebrity chef James Martin wrote about his recent Tesla test drive in London’s Daily Mail newspaper. Rather than just discuss the many attributes of the car, he focused on his hatred of cyclists.

And admitted — no, make that bragged — about intentionally harassing riders:

…But whenever I drive to London, dutifully paying my £8 for the privilege (on top of my road tax, petrol tax, parking and all the other rip-offs), without fail a cyclist will rap on my window and make some holier-than-thou comment, before zooming off_ through a red light where he knows I can’t get him.

God, I hate those cyclists. Every last herbal tea-drinking, Harriet Harman-voting one of them. That’s one of the reasons I live in the countryside, where birds tweet, horses roam, pigs grunt and Lycra-clad buttocks are miles away. But recently, there’s been a disturbing development.

Each Saturday, a big black truck appears at the bottom of my road, with bikes stuck to the roof and rear. Out of it step a bunch of City-boy ponces in fluorescent Spider-Man outfits, shades, bum bags and stupid cleated shoes, who then pedal around our narrow lanes four abreast with their private parts alarmingly apparent. Do they enjoy it? They never smile. I’m sure they just come here to wind me up…

Almost inexplicably, he actually devotes the next several paragraphs to discussing the car before returning to the subject closest to his heart:

…But I don’t care about any of that, and here’s why. Twenty minutes into my test drive I pulled round a leafy bend, enjoying the birdsong – and spotted those damned Spider-Man cyclists. Knowing they wouldn’t hear me coming, I stepped on the gas, waited until the split second before I overtook them, then gave them an almighty blast on the horn at the exact same time I passed them at speed.

The look of sheer terror as they tottered into the hedge was the best thing I’ve ever seen in my rear-view mirror. I think this could be the car for me.

You can probably imagine the reception it received in the cycling community. In fact, I had to add an extra sentence here just to include just a handful of the links — including the obligatory James Martin Hates Cyclists page on Facebook.

Even professional cyclists Bradley Wiggins and Robbie McEwan got in on the cyber beat down (these are Twitter feeds, so you may have to scroll down), while Lance tweeted back his two cents worth:

@lancearmstrong maybe you can tweet out for a group ride around where this idiot lives. http://tinyurl.com/mp62jd

The Daily Mail resonded by bravely cutting off the overwhelmingly negative comments, and removing the last few paragraphs where Martin bragged about his harassment.

And this morning, Martin blamed his comments on a misguided attempt at humor:

Regarding the The Tesla Roadster Article…

May I take this opportunity to apologize for any offence I have caused through the article in last weekend’s Mail on Sunday. It was never my intention to offend the many cyclists who share our roads across the country. What was intended to be a humorous piece was clearly misjudged. Further more I do not condone any form of reckless driving.

Once again, I am sincerely sorry for any upset caused in relation to this article.

James Martin

Evidently, he thought that he and the riders he terrorized would share a good laugh about it at the local pub afterwards.

Of course, the real problem isn’t some over-privileged Brit twit.

It’s that this sort of attitude is all too common on both sides of the Atlantic. And some people think they have the right to risk the lives of others simply because they don’t like us.

But it’s all in fun.

Right?

………..

Flying Pigeon will be participating in this Friday’s Park(ing) Day LA. San Diego’s bike kitchen takes its services out to the community. A Tennessee driver calls for better education on cycling laws and testing for cyclists, while a Columbia MO writer correctly explains the correct way to control an intersection. And while we’re in the area, the Tour of Missouri concludes another successful year with a cloudy future. Traffic guru Tom Vanderbilt visits America’s biking haven. Let’s Go Ride A Bike presents a series on vintage fashion and cycling, for all you stylish riders. Reuters features a press release about the new DC Bike Station; the company behind it is headquartered right here in Long Beach (hint, hint, Mr. Mayor). Seoul gets serious about cycling infrastructure. Ottawa responds to a rash of cycling accidents by ticketing riders and handing out bells. Finally, a Boston cyclist defuses a dangerous situation with an angry motorist with an unexpected, and surprisingly effective, technique. And yes, I am taking notes…

10 comments

  1. dottie says:

    I know there are crazies out there behind the wheel, but what’s really scary is that they feel it’s perfectly appropriate to share their insanity with the world as a joke. I’m glad the cycling community was able to hit back with the help of the internet.

    Also, thanks for highlighting our vintage series :)

    • bikinginla says:

      You’re quite welcome. I must confess, my only style decision is which spandex jersey to throw on. But I certainly admire your style, and there’s no arguing with the results, as your photos show.

      By the way, I’ve added a link to your blog over there ——————>
      And I only link to blogs I enjoy reading.

  2. disgruntled says:

    I’d like to apologise, on behalf of my nation, for this idiot. For some context, the Daily Mail is well-known for being a complete rag and should really not be taken seriously.

    That said, perhaps we should start a campaign for all electric cars to compulsorily be fitted with bells – maybe sleigh bells? That would add some jollity to our streets.

    • bikinginla says:

      Now that’s a great idea! Just imagine how festive it would sound when they run us off the road…

      And no need to apologise — or apologize as we spell it over here, for reasons that will forever escape me. We’ve been exporting idiots for years.

  3. woc says:

    I’m a cyclist too, and I hate the snotty lycra clad froufrous on their too expensive carbon bikes riding 3 abreast on narrow windy mountain roads almost as much as I hate the car drivers who think they own the road. I feel this article has been blown a little out of proportion.

    • bikinginla says:

      I have to disagree with you; I don’t think it’s possible to blow something like this out of proportion. Too many motorists don’t realize — or don’t care — that honking like that can startle a cyclist, resulting in a risk of serious injury. To brag or make a joke out of something like that only encourages others to try it.

      And have you ever considered that those cyclists you hate may be riding two and three abreast because it’s too dangerous for drivers to pass within the lane at that point — which many drivers will attempt to do if they think they can? It’s possible they’re just trying to control the road, for everyone’s safety.

      Stereotyping anyone — drivers, “snotty lycra clad froufrous” or anyone else — is a dangerous thing. We’re all just people, trying to get home to our families safely. The world might be a better place if we’d all try to remember that.

  4. TheTricksterNZ says:

    Just a little note:

    Unless London just got far sunnier and drier and days that get beyond 20 deg celcius, I think you may have the wrong ocean ;)

    “It’s that this sort of attitude is all too common on both sides of the Pacific.”

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks for the catch — I’ve fixed it now that you’ve mentioned it, but I can’t believe I did that. Well, actually, I can, unfortunately.

  5. AW says:

    Anytime you put your lycra clad body onto a bike on a mountain road you are inherently exposing yourself to risk. While I agree drivers honking as a joke is not okay, honking to alert your presence certainly is. Especially, if you are riding multiple bikers abreast on a road. Just in case you forgot you do not make decisions for others nor do you “control the road”, don’t be those snobby biker guys, let drivers by if they want by. Bikers DO NOT OWN THE ROADS, no one does, yet they act like they do more than other drivers (and they are protected with a steel cage). Use your brain, if you want to cycle on a windy mountain road be ready for danger and take precautions, don’t ride abreast.

    • bikinginla says:

      Actually, AW, cyclists accept an inherent risk when we ride anywhere. Statistically, riding on the sidewalk in town is far more dangerous than riding on any mountain roadway.

      Honking to alert a cyclist to your presence is seldom, if ever, necessary. Trust me, we know you’re there. While we’re well aware that neither we, nor anyone else, owns the road, we also know that our safety requires us to control the road in certain situations to prevent drivers from passing when there’s not room to do it safely. We don’t do it because we’re “snobby biker guys,” we do it because it’s often the safest thing to do.

      A good cyclist will let you know he’s aware of your presence, and allow you to pass as soon as it’s safe. Of course, not everyone is a good cyclist, just as not everyone is a good driver. While I understand your frustration, all it takes is a cool head and a little patience to ensure that everyone gets home safely — yourself included.

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