Thursday, 17 September 2009

Oh James, what were you thinking..

OK, I'll admit it to the entire world (or at least the small handful of people reading this blog): I don't like ponces. There! I said it and there's no going back!

Want to seea prime example of a ponce? Go look at James Martin, supposedly a celebrity chef and car enthusiast.

In case you were wondering what I have against ponces, this is not easily explained. I don't like posers, and I don't like elitists and I CERTAINLY don't like those that value a person's worth by their bank balance.
I suppose I'm doomed to a lifetime of internal struggle, trying to make peace between my capitalist head and my communist heart. Ponces wouldn't make good communists.

So James Martin wrote a stupid article about using a Tesla electric supercar to run a bunch of cyclists off the road, and in doing so incurred the wrath of thousands of cyclists. And yes, I'm one of those cyclists that despise him for is words and shameful attitude.

But there's a bigger issue at stake here, something I've yet to see any evidence of in the Twitter storm that's erupted around his comments. We pat ourselves on the back for claiming the lane, we may even participate in a critical mass ride, but we are as activists mostly ineffective.

An organisation that is supposed to be our champion, Sustrans, is actually a secretive, autocratic and self-serving law onto itself, unanswerable to anybody.

Now contrast this to black and ethnic minority activist groups, as well as gay rights activist groups and it becomes immediately apparent how far we as cyclists have to go.

Tell a racist joke or make a homophobic remark and most people, myself included, will challenge you, simply because we know it is wrong, even if it didn't create an immediate physical risk to the victims' lives.

Brag in a national newspaper about running cyclists off the road and many people snicker and laugh and even congratulate you.
For what it is worth I think the event never actually happened, but that doesn't change a thing. In a way it is similar to somebody robbing a bank with a realistic looking toy gun and then is done for armed robbery - it is about the perception from the victims' perspective. In this case all cyclists are victims.

The common sense advice on most cycling sites is to NOT challenge people's behaviour, presumably for fear of escalating the matter.

My advice is to challenge EVERY such incident relentlessly, which is why EVERY cyclist in the nation ought to make a complaint to the press complaints commission, to the Daily Mail and to the BBC about Jame Martin's appalling comments. Even if the Mail on Sunday removed the bit about running cyclists off the road, it remains an article dripping with hatred.

In that article, substitute the word cyclist with black or gay, then imagine the uproar it would have caused.

Then get off your rear end and DO something about it!

Write to your MP and demand that they act to improve things for cyclists. Write to your local councillor  with the same demand. In all cases, publish their responses online. Make them accountable for their actions.

Write to your local police force's representative and ask for details of what they are doing to educate their officers to become more cyclist-friendl, and again publish all replis online.

Challenge every instance of behaviour that is anti-cycling, but don't be aggressive. Aggression belongs to idiots like James Martin.

If you really want to, sign up for "I stop at all the red lights cos I'm super-duper good" campaigns, but be warned that in doing so you may just inadvertantly be saying that all those car drivers were right and that you were wrong.

If we do this, if we ALL do this, then in time we will change people's attitudes towards cyclists and cycling.

And if you don't believe me, just look back at how things have changed for smoking over the past ten years. People didn't believe smoking would be banned in pubs, either.