Saturday, 13 August 2011


I'm going to steer clear of the moral arguments around the riots. As you will be well aware, by now every right-wing zealot has been calling for all sorts of draconian, stupid and impractical measures, while many have to their shame called for soldiers on the streets, as well as the use of rubber bullets. On the opposite end of the scale there are left-wing nutters that claim the rioters simply needed to be shown acceptance, love and understanding.
As per usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Still, few people seem to have actually realised how much cycling has helped the rioters. By several accounts, they had "scouts" who would zip off in all directions, looking to outmanoeuvre the police. These scouts would re-direct rioters once an area they deemed to be "safe" was found, and the police discovered they couldn't keep up with their fast-moving targets.

They weren't particularly high-tech, and the bulk of the communications seems to have been rioters shouting information at other rioters, though of course text messaging, Blackberries and Twitter all played a part.

As I'm typing this, I can already hear you say "But how is this of any relevance to me, save to to point out that all cyclists must be anarchists?"
Well, for starters, most cyclists were as shocked and outraged by the riots as you were, and most certainly are not anarchists.
But more importantly, surely by now it is obvious: the rioters on bicycles proved that they could move swiftly from one point to the next, almost regardless of obstacles.

This can be you, zipping off to your next destination! Just think about your commute, or that regular trip to the shops to buy only a few items. How much faster these trips could be, even if you cycled slow enough to avoid being sweat drenched. When roads are clogged up with angry, red-faced car occupants all around, you can simply zip through and get to your destination on time.

Here's a challenge: next time you drive anywhere, take a stopwatch, and time how long it takes you to find parking. Nothing else - just time it takes to find parking, park up and (where applicable) pay for parking, as well as the time it takes to leave the parking, until you're back on the road. Do that for a month, then tell me you aren't shocked by how much time you waste.

If you cycled instead, you will often get to your destination quicker, in terms of travel time alone, before we look at the time it takes to find parking. You'd be fitter and healthier, too, plus it is FAR more fun to cycle!

You're an intelligent person. You know the score. You are fully aware that you probably need to get more exercise, and you know that on average cyclists live longer. You know cycling is cheaper, too.

Yet you've always tried to tell yourself that cycling isn't actually faster. Where cyclists tried to offer evidence to the contrary, you may have dismissed it as such cyclists being biased.

So let the rioters prove it to you then. They weren't cycling advocates - they simply used bicycles because bicycles offered the quickest way to get around. Proof complete, wouldn't you say?