I got a heavy parcel this morning. Inside a black presentation box was a trophy, held in place with black ribbon.
It was a ruddy nice trophy. Glass, and laser-etched with my name.
In Mountain Biking UK’s 20th anniversary edition I was named one of the first recipients of the MBUK Hall of Fame awards, alongside 19 other names, big stars such as Steve Peat, John Tomac, Gary Fisher, Mike Sinyard and Jason McRoy.
MBUK editor Tym Manley said I was “one of the great communicators of British mountain biking.”
Entry into the Hall of Fame is a huge honour and the glass trophy is a wonderfully weighty reminder of my 22 years in cycle journalism. Thanks Tym, MBUK and Future Publishing.
“Carlton has been promoting the sport since 1986 when he took to the deserts and howling wastes of the world as a baby-faced adventurer…He was the co-manager of the first ever British mountain bike team which competed in the World Championships in Avoriaz, France, in 1987, and has recently pushed on in new media as a baby-faced – if greying – video blogger.”
Poets, presidents, prime ministers and prime-time newscasters have said great things about cycling. Here’s a sprinkling of bicycle-related quotes…
“Riding bicycles will not only benefit the individual doing it, but the world at large.” Udo E. Simonis, Emeritus Professor of Environmental Policy at the Science Centre, Berlin, 15th January 2010
“Truly, the bicycle is the most influential piece of product design ever.” Hugh Pearman, Design Week, 12 June 2008
“Cycling has encountered more enemies than any other form of exercise.” 19th-century author Louis Baudry de Saunier
“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.” Sherlock Holmes author, Arthur Conan Doyle, Scientific American, 1896
“Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of a bike ride.” John F. Kennedy
“Ever see Audrey Hepburn on a bicycle? No, me neither. Catherine Deneuve? Nope. The very notion of either of them, surely two of the most elegant women the world has ever known, getting into the gear and clambering on board a bike is a full-frontal assault on beauty.” Roslyn Dee, columnist, Irish Daily Mail, February 2nd 2008
“Nothing compares to getting your heart rate up to 170-something, riding hard for an hour-twenty, getting off and not hurting, as opposed to 24 minutes of running, at the end of which I hurt. When you ride a bike and you get your heart rate up and you’re out, after 30 or 40 minutes your mind tends to expand; it tends to relax.” [Former] President George ‘Dubya’ Bush, May 2004
“When you ride hard on a mountain bike, sometimes you fall, otherwise you’re not riding hard.” Former US president George ‘Dubya’ Bush, July 2005, following a crash into a bike cop at the G8 summit, Gleneagles, Scotland
“[Commuting by bicycle is] an absolutely essential part of my day. It’s mind-clearing, invigorating. I get to go out and pedal through the countryside in the early morning hours, and see life come back and rejuvenate every day as the sun is coming out.” James L. Jones, former US Supreme Allied Commander Europe, Barack Obama’s former national security advisor
“Cycling is possibly the greatest and most pleasurable form of transport ever invented. Its like walking only with one-tenth of the effort. Ride through a city and you can understand its geography in a way that no motorist, contained by one-way signs and traffic jams, will ever be able to. You can whiz from one side to the other in minutes. You can overtake £250,000 sports cars that are going nowhere fast. You can park pretty much anywhere. It truly is one of the greatest feelings of freedom once can have in a metropolitan environment. It’s amazing you can feel this free in a modern city.” Daniel Pemberton, The Book of Idle Pleasures
“Meet the future; the future mode of transportation for this weary Western world. Now I’m not gonna make a lot of extravagant claims for this little machine. Sure, it’ll change your whole life for the better, but that’s all.” Bicycle salesman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969
“The finest mode of transport known to man.” TV boffin and folder enthusiast Adam Hart-Davis on the bicycle. Source: numerous.
Ned Flanders: “You were bicycling two abreast?” Homer Simpson: “I wish. We were bicycling to a lake.” The Simpsons, ‘Dangerous Curves’ (Episode 2005), first broadcast, November 10th 2008
“An engineer designing from scratch could hardly concoct a better device to unclog modern roads – cheap, nonpolluting, small and silent…” Rick Smith, International Herald Tribune, May 2006
“I want to die at a hundred years old with an American flag on my back and the star of Texas on my helmet, after screaming down an Alpine descent on a bicycle at 75 miles per hour. I want to cross one last finish line as my stud wife and my ten children applaud, and then I want to lie down in a field of those famous French sunflowers and gracefully expire, the perfect contradiction to my once anticipated poignant early demise.” Lance Armstrong, ‘It’s Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life’, 2001
“I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning wheel we must all earn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair. That which made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life — it was the hardihood of spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had failed. And so I found high moral uses in the bicycle and can commend it as a teacher without pulpit or creed. She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life. Frances E. Willard, ‘How I Learned To Ride The Bicycle’, 1895
“If I come back from a ride That Way I have to go along That Road…but the surface is rough pocked blacktop, pothole scabs…Thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, kerthunk, thunk, thunk, thunk. Thunk. Which after 4 hours in the saddle is rather weary. But somewhere between the last time and the now that stretch of road has all been mended. Beautiful smooth brand new fast deep thick black tarmac. No more thunk, thunk, thunk, thunk, kerthunk, thunk, but shoosh. Just Shooooooooooooooooooooooosh.” Jo Burt, Road.cc, January 2011
“I used to work in a bank when I was younger and to me it doesn’t matter whether it’s raining or the sun is shining or whatever: as long as I’m riding a bike I know I’m the luckiest guy in the world.” Pro racer Mark Cavendish, after the second of his four stage wins in the 2008 Tour de France.
“Riding a bike is everything to a cyclist. The friendship and camaraderie you have with other cyclists …to a cyclist, it was the be-all and end-all of your life.” Tommy Godwin, double bronze medal winner in the 1,000m time trial and the team pursuit in the 1948 Olympics in London.
“It’s a risky business being a cyclist in the UK, there are a lot of people who really dislike us. It’s the Jeremy Clarkson influence – we’re hated on the roads. We just hope people realise we are just flesh and bones on two wheels.” Victoria Pendleton, gold medal winner in the women’s sprint at the Beijing Olympics, 2008.
“If I killed someone with a hammer, would anyone think forbidding me from hammering was sufficient punishment?” @LouiseJJohnson on Twitter, 15th November 2011.
“It will be only a step from this for [motorists] to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads their contributions have created.” Winston Churchill on his opposition to ‘road tax’, quoted in Plowden, William (1971). The Motor Car And Politics 1896–1970. London: The Bodley Head. ISBN 0370003934. More info at iPayRoadTax.com.
“At that age, it’s one of the worse things in the world to wake up and not see your bike where you left it.” Hip-hop star 50 Cent, real name Curtis Jackson, on the theft of his childhood bike
“People love cycling but hate cyclists.” Peter Zanzottera, senior consultant at transport consultancy Steer Davies Gleave, to Scottish Parliament’s Transport Committee, November 24th 2009
“There is something about the miscreant cyclist that seems to get people more exercised than they are about the misbehaving motorist…When people get into cars, their metal encasement turns them into robots in our minds, and we’re grateful to them for any act of courtesy. We’re grateful that they don’t deliberately kill children, then laugh a rasping, metallic laugh…[Cyclists] are more civic-minded than anyone else travelling in any other manner, bar by foot. If they do run into someone, they at least (like the bee) do their victim the favour of hurting themselves in the process, which is why, if you had any sense, you’d save your hatred for the motorist, who (like the wasp) injures without care.” Zoe Williams, The Guardian, 4th February 2006
“The cyclist is a man half made of flesh and half of steel that only our century of science and iron could have spawned.” 19th-century author Louis Baudry de Saunier
“The place of cycling in our society is set to grow, and I am committed to doing everything possible to encourage that.” Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, June 26th 2008
“Cycling to work is an important issue for business – the more who do it, the more our communities will support it. Healthy and green, cycling is worthy of the support of every business in the land.” Sir Digby Jones, former director general of the Confederation for British Industry, February 2006
“[On] Valentine’s Day, I’ll present my beloved with a shiny bauble I bought from our favorite store. Next I’ll take my honey out for a sunset cruise, maybe to the spot where we first got acquainted. Later, back home, I’ll give my baby a bath. Then I’ll gently dry my sweetie and turn out the lights…I’m talking, of course, about my bike…I humbly submit that my bike and I make a better team than most relationships I’ve seen…Your bicycle invigorates you, strengthens you, relaxes you, lets you vent your frustrations without interrupting, nodding off or making judgments. Your bicycle helps you meet other people. Your bicycle always goes where you want to go. And if you buy your bicycle a box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day, you get to eat them all.” Scott Martin, roadbikerider.com
“To possess a bicycle is to be able first to look at it, then to touch it. But touching is revealing as insufficient; what is necessary is to be able to get on the bicycle and take a ride. But this gratuitous ride is likewise insufficient; it would be necessary to use the bicycle to go on some errands…Finally, as one could foresee, handing over a bank note is enough to make a bicycle belong to me, but my entire life is needed to realize this possession.” “Being and nothingness: an essay on phenomenological ontology”? By Jean-Paul Sartre
“Devised almost 200 years ago by a practical German baron, the bicycle has evolved into an urban staple. Beloved of children, prized by inner-city commuters, it can be a lifesaver when summer smog chokes the nation.” ‘Globe and Mail’, Canada, 6th June 2006.
“Few articles ever used by man have created so great a revolution in social conditions as the bicycle.” US Census Report, 1900
“17 years ago, I arrived at CNN with a suitcase, with my bicycle, and with about 100 dollars.” Christiane Amanpour, CNN
“Five years from now, if I’m in Texas and there is a local mountain bike race, will I go down and do it? Probably. That’s just simply as a fan and somebody who does cycling for fitness. I’m committed to the bike for life!” Lance Armstrong, 18th April 2005, the day he announced he was retiring.
“One of the things that I wound up loving about being involved with a bike racer was learning how to bike and how that really creates solitary time for you to reflect on things and nobody can get a hold of you.” Sheryl Crow, talking about her [ex]-life with Lance Armstrong, cyclingnews.com, July 13th 2005
“[Jeremy Clarkson] always moans on about drivers being attacked. We should be hounding them even more – cars have no place in an urban environment.” John Grimshaw, founder and chief engineer, Sustrans, ‘The Guardian’, June 8th 2005.
“I want to ride my bicycle bicycle bicycle; I want to ride my bicycle; I want to ride my bike; I want to ride my bicycle; I want to ride it where I like…; I don’t believe in Peter Pan, Frankenstein or Superman; All I wanna do is bicycle, bicycle, bicycle…” Freddie Mercury, Queen, 1978
“I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometre. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. It was not – not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But, then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And, a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts. And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with, and it’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.” Steve Jobs, Apple (1955-2011)
“Bicycling…is the nearest approximation I know to the flight of birds. The airplane simply carries a man on its back like an obedient Pegasus; it gives him no wings of his own. There are movements on a bicycle corresponding to almost all the variations in the flight of the larger birds. Plunging free downhill is like a hawk stooping. On the level stretches you may pedal with a steady rhythm like a heron flapping; or you may, like an accipitrine hawk, alternate rapid pedaling with gliding. If you want to test the force and direction of the wind, there is no better way than to circle, banked inward, like a turkey vulture. When you have the wind against you, headway is best made by yawing or wavering, like a crow flying upwind. I have climbed a steep hill by circling or spiraling, rising each time on the upturn with the momentum of the downturn, like any soaring bird. I have shot in and out of stalled traffic like a goshawk through the woods.” Birdwatching author Louis J Halle ‘Spring in Washington’, 1947/1957
“I thought of that while riding my bike.” Albert Einstein, on the theory of relativity
(Einstein was way ahead of his time. He even helped create the science of sports underwear. Sorta. His first ever published paper was ‘Folgerungen aus den Capillaritätserscheinungen’, Annalen der Physik, 1901. OK, ‘Conclusions from the capillarity phenomena’ wasn’t about Helly Hansen LIFA or Patagonia’s Capilene but it was all about wicking, which is how man-made baselayers shift sweat from skin).
“I’ll tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammelled womanhood.” Susan B. Anthony, 1896
“Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man’s metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.
“Bicycles are not only thermodynamically efficient, they are also cheap. The cost of public utilities needed to facilitate bicycle traffic versus the price of an infrastructure tailored to high speeds is proportionately even less than the price differential of the vehicles used in the two systems. In the bicycle system, engineered roads are necessary only at certain points of dense traffic, and people who live far from the surfaced path are not thereby automatically isolated as they would be if they depended on cars or trains. The bicycle has extended man’s radius without shunting him onto roads he cannot walk. Where he cannot ride his bike, he can usually push it.
“The bicycle also uses little space. Eighteen bikes can be parked in the place of one car, thirty of them can move along in the space devoured by a single automobile. It takes three lanes of a given size to move 40,000 people across a bridge in one hour by using automated trains, four to move them on buses, twelve to move them in their cars, and only two lanes for them to pedal across on bicycles. Of all these vehicles, only the bicycle really allows people to go from door to door without walking. The cyclist can reach new destinations of his choice without his tool creating new locations from which he is barred.
“Bicycles let people move with greater speed without taking up significant amounts of scarce space, energy, or time. They can spend fewer hours on each mile and still travel more miles in a year. They can get the benefit of technological breakthroughs without putting undue claims on the schedules, energy, or space of others. They become masters of their own movements without blocking those of their fellows. Their new tool creates only those demands which it can also satisfy. Every increase in motorized speed creates new demands on space and time. The use of the bicycle is self-limiting. It allows people to create a new relationship between their life-space and their life-time, between their territory and the pulse of their being, without destroying their inherited balance. The advantages of modern self-powered traffic are obvious, and ignored.” Ivan Illich, Toward a History of Needs, 1978
“You always know when you’re going to arrive. If you go by car, you don’t. Apart from anything else, I prefer cycling. It puts you in a good mood, I find.” Playwright Alan Bennett, Boston Globe, June 2006
“The more I’ve been mountain biking, the more I see myself as a female. In letting your femininity go to become a mountain biker, you actually find it more.” Niki Gudex, ‘FHM magazine’, February 2005
“To me the bicycle is in many ways a more satisfactory invention than the automobile. It is consonant with the independence of man because it works under his own power entirely. There is no combustion of some petroleum product..to set the pedals going. Purely mechanical instruments like watches and bicycles are to be preferred to engines that depend on the purchase of power from foreign sources….The price of power is enslavement.” Birdwatching author Louis J Halle ‘Spring in Washington’, 1947/1957
“Drivers wish for better roads and less congestion, but are unprepared to make personal sacrifices by reducing the amount they use their car in order to achieve this outcome.” ‘Counting the Cost, Cutting Congestion’, RAC Foundation, 2004
“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.” Iris Murdoch, ‘The Red and the Green’
“The bicycle was a perfect way of getting a lot of fresh air. We noticed that it was an anti-stress sport because it concentrated totally on the bicycle. When you ride a bicycle, you don’t think about the new album, about how we are going to launch it. We realised that during three or four hours on the bicycle, we were discussing things like, ‘Oh, you have new brakes’, ‘Oh, where did you get your handlebars?’, ‘Is the saddle well adjusted?’, or ‘What about the pedals?’, things that were only connected with cycling.” Maxime Schmitt, Kraftwerk friend and collaborator, ‘Kraftwerk: Man, Machine, Music’ (SAF Publishing, 2001)
‘A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, “Why are you riding your bicycles?”
The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!” The teacher praised the first student. “You are a smart boy! When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over like I do.”
The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path!” The teacher commended the second student, “Your eyes are open, and you see the world.”
The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant nam myoho renge kyo.” The teacher gave his praise to the third student, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”
The fourth student replied, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings.” The teacher was pleased and said to the fourth student, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”
The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.” The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, “I am your student.”’ Zen proverb
“When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.” Elizabeth West, ‘Hovel in the Hills’
“The bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine.” John Howard
“When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.” Emo Philips
“A bicycle does get you there and more And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun.” Bill Emerson
“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” H.G. Wells
Note: this quote, used on a gazillion email signatures and topping a ton of articles about cycling, may not be from the pen or the lips of H.G. Wells. Many are those who have tried to find the original source; all have so far failed.
“The bicycle is just as good company as most husbands and, when it gets old and shabby, a woman can dispose of it and get a new one without shocking the entire community.” Ann Strong, Minneapolis Tribune, 1895
“I took care of my wheel as one would look after a Rolls Royce. If it needed repairs I always brought it to the same shop on Myrtle Avenue run by a negro named Ed Perry. He handled the bike with kid gloves, you might say. He would always see to it that neither front nor back wheel wobbled. Often he would do a job for me without pay, because, as he put it, he never saw a man so in love with his bike as I was.” Henry Miller, ‘My Bike and Other Friends’
“I won’t pretend I’ve read much Heidegger (or any, in fact), but I’d like to think Martin had just spent a happy half-hour in Freiburg’s bike shop when he was struck by “the thinginess of things”. There it is, a cornucopia of exquisitely machined alloys, lustrous carbon-fibre frames, and innumerable form-fitting garments in hi-tech fabrics. Things don’t much thingier than this.” Matt Seaton, ‘The Guardian, ‘September 14th 2005
“The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.” Sloan Wilson
“The bicycle is already a musical instrument on its own. The noise of the bicycle chain, the pedal and gear mechanism, for example, the breathing of the cyclist, we have incorporated all this in the Kraftwerk sound…When your bike functions best, you don’t hear it – it’s silent, there’s no cracking, just shhhh – you’re gliding. It’s the same when you’re in good shape and your in form and you’re riding your bike, you hear nothing – maybe just a little bit of breath.” Maxime Schmitt, Kraftwerk friend and collaborator, ‘Kraftwerk: Man, Machine, Music’ (SAF Publishing, 2001)
“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” Ernest Hemingway
“When Cameron’s Conservatives come to power it will be a golden age for cyclists and an Elysium of cycle lanes, bike racks, and sharia law for bike thieves. And I hope that cycling in London will become almost Chinese in its ubiquity.” Boris Johnson, The Guardian, March 18, 2006
“Newspapers are unable, seemingly, to discriminate between a bicycle accident and the collapse of civilisation.” George Bernard Shaw
“If you brake, you don’t win.” Former racer Mario Cipollini
“Our bikes are top and can certainly stand alongside the other brands. But in cycling it is not like in the Formula 1, where the car makes the difference.” Eddy Merckx on the November 2009 deal to equip Quickstep team with his bikes
“How about if we all just try to follow these very simple Rules of the Road? Drive like the person ahead on the bike is your son/daughter. Ride like the cars are ambulances carrying your loved ones to the emergency room. This should cover everything, unless you are complete sociopath.” Letter to VeloNews from David Desautels, Fort Bragg, California
“[A bicycle is] an unparalled merger of a toy, a utilitarian vehicle, and sporting equipment. The bicycle can be used in so many ways, and approaches perfection in each use. For instance, the bicycle is the most efficient machine ever created: Converting calories into gas, a bicycle gets the equivalent of three thousand miles per gallon. A person pedalling a bike uses energy more efficiently than a gazelle or an eagle. And a trinagle-framed bicycles can easily carry ten times its own weight – a capacity no automobile, airplane or bridge can match.” Bill Strickland
“The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind.” William Saroyan, ‘The Noiseless Tenor’
“A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” Irina Dunn, 1970
“I live and breathe bike transportation. Does that make me a granola-crunching, world-saving utopian? Actually, my riding has a lot to do with what’s good for me. Riding makes me healthy. It saves me time. It makes me feel good and gives me energy to do more in life. Of course, getting around by bike is a green thing to do. And altruism does have its rewards. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind saving the world. Makes one want to crunch some granola.” US bike builder Joe Breeze, VeloNews, 2005
“I’m a cyclist not simply in the sense that I ride a bike, but in the sense that some people are socialists or Christian fundamentalists or ethical realists – that is, cycling is my ideology, a system of thought based on purity and economy of motion, kindness to the environment and drop handlebars, and I want to convert others.” Journalist Robert Hanks, The Independent, 15th August 2005
“Bicycles are almost as good as guitars for meeting girls.” Bob Weir, Grateful Dead
“A bicycle is a bit like a guitar in that they are both inert objects that only come alive and flourish when put in contact with a human being. Both have the ability to concentrate the mind. Just as when you are performing, you tend to lose yourself when you are on the bike. For those precious hours that you are in the saddle, nothing else matters except the bike and the road ahead.” Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp, The Ride Journal, issue 3, November 2009
“I relax by taking my bicycle apart and putting it back together again.” Michelle Pfeiffer
“People like to travel: that is why the grass is greener over the fence. We are walkers – our natural means of travel is to put one foot in front of the other. The bicycle seduces our basic nature by making walking exciting. It lets us take 10-foot strides at 160 paces a minute. That’s 20 miles an hour, instead of 4 or 5… It is not only how fast you go – cars are faster and jet planes faster still. But jet-plane travel is frustrating boredom – at least the car gives the pictorial illusion of travel. Cycling does it all – you have the complete satisfaction of arriving because your mind has chosen the path and steered you over it; your eyes have seen it; your muscles have felt it; your breathing, circulatory and digestive systems have all done their natural functions better than ever, and every part of your being knows you have traveled and arrived.” John Forester,’Effective Cycling’
“In the past two decades, thousands of miles of trails have been paved in the United States, but many of them look as if they were designed by someone who’d never ridden a bike. By consulting more with the people who do a lot of travelling under their own power, transportation planners ought to be able to come up with imaginative schemes for making roads, paths and sidewalks more usable to them, and maybe help cut down a bit on our reliance on the automobile.” Trouble on the Trail, Washington Post op-ed, May 18th, 1993
“In politics, one can learn some things from cycling, such as how to have character and courage. Sometimes in politics there isn’t enough of those things.” Guy Verhofstadt, Prime Minister of Belgium, 2004
“Whoever invented the bicycle deserves the thanks of humanity.” Lord Charles Beresford
“Marriage is a wonderful invention; but then again, so is a bicycle repair kit.” Billy Connolly
“My wife…thinks cycling is great way to spend time as a family while burning a few calories. For her, the family ride is quality time. Then again, she does not have the trailer with 50 or so stuffed animals and the 2-year-old singing “Old McDonald” attached to her bike as we climb what must be Mont Ventoux. Hmm … now that I think about it, cycling is the best way to burn a bazillion calories and hang with the family.” US bike shop owner John Kibodeaux, VeloNews, 2005
“I live on a bicycle…I live in central London, probably 90 percent of my travel is done on a bicycle. I love bicycles.” Film director Guy Ritchie, former hubby of Madonna, telling Jeremy Clarkson about his fleet of expensive vehicles but admitting he prefers to cycle.
“[Cycling] is easily the quickest way around central London, faster than bus, Tube or taxi. You can predict precisely how long every journey will take, regardless of traffic jams, Tube strikes or leaves on the line. It provides excellent exercise. It does not pollute the atmosphere. It does not clog up the streets.” Newscaster Jeremy Paxman
“My whole day is built around meetings that can be achieved around bike rides. My contract actually offers me a free car from my home to my office and back, but I suppose I am addicted to cycling.” Newscaster Jon Snow
“In the context of the great debates about identity politics – are you gay or straight, nationalist or republican, British or English and so on – I would ask, “Do you ride a bike?” I love everything about the machine – the sensation of the tyres on the road, the mobility – and I love the fact that you have this intimate relationship with the elements, and the landscape.” Beatrix Campbell
“Cyclists…are the gods of the road.” Actor, Nigel Havers, ‘The Daily Mail’, 13th June 2006
“Highway engineers are responsible for the nation’s obesity. They’re obsessed with roads that just encourage a sedentary lifestyle…The police want us in cars because they say there is less chance of being mugged, but if you encourage more people on to the streets, either walking or cycling, they will be safer.” John Grimshaw, founder and chief engineer, Sustrans, ‘The Guardian’, June 8th 2005.
“MOTORISTS: Cyclists are not another species – most of them drive cars at least some of the time – and they’re not, by and large, wilfully stupid or reckless. But they experience the roads differently from you…So be patient. After all, it’s not as if getting rid of cyclists is a realistic option now – there are too many of them, and the numbers are growing all the time. And a few years down the line, as petrol gets more expensive, you might well end up as one of them yourself.” Robert Hanks, ‘The Independent’, 12th June 2006
“Selection of the bicycle for the present was obvious since both politicians are cyclists,” said a press release.
“We are sure that the new bike will serve President George W. Bush well, our only hope is that he will take some time and ride his new bike while in Slovenia and experience it from behind the handlebar.”
No, not Barack Obama (pictured) or Hillary Clinton. Bicycle Rider is by Eugene McCarthy (1916-2005), a US Senator from Minnesota. In the 1960s he five times sought the Democratic nomination for US president, but failed at each attempt.
He’s most famous for his anti-Vietnam War stance but was also an author and a poet. His learning-to-ride-a-bike poem was about his daughter, Mary and is from Other Things and the Aardvark (1970).
Teeth bare to the wind
Knuckle-white grip on the handlebars
You push the pedals of no return,
Let loose new motion and speed.
The earth turns with the multiplied
Force of your wheels.
Do not look back.
Feet light on the brake
Ride the bicycle of your will
Down the spine of the world,
Ahead of your time, into life
I will not say Go Slow.
Co-incidentally, McCarthy’s attempt to win the Democratic nomination for president in 1968 was a messy affair and led to the current system of ‘superdelegates’ who, should they wish to flex their super-muscles, can ditch an unelectable presidential candidate.
On yesterday’s Spokesmen podcast I defended some of David Cameron’s ‘bike crimes’. Far from being a ‘Lycra lout’ as much of the media has painted him, Cameron DID NOT ride through a red light.
Watch the Daily Mirror’s video and you can see that Cameron rides over the white stop line as a defensive measure but doesn’t ride off until the light changes. The Daily Mirror was careful not to say Cameron rode through a red light but the rest of the media, and of course, comment posters, made no such distinction.
I’m dead against riding through red lights. It infuriates me to see it in action. The mass media likes to portray it as a national disease when, in fact, it’s more common in London than in other UK cities. (Now, riding on the pavement, that’s different, it’s common everywhere, a result of some pavements being made into bike paths so all are now fair game, especially as motorists routinely treat roads as race tracks).
When I stop at red lights in London I feel like a country bumpkin. When in Rome do as the Romans do? Not for me.
I’m therefore sympathetic to Andy Shrimpton’s Stop at Red campaign. Andy is the savvy, worldly-wise owner of Cycle Heaven, a wonderful bike shop in York. Much as I admire his campaign I think the comments he gave to the media over the CamCam episode have been wide of the mark.
Instead, I think much of what London bike shop Velorution says on the matter is noteworthy. Owner Andrea Casalotti argues that Cameron should not have apologised over his ‘bike crimes’ but should have used the opportunity to “explain that what he did was reasonable” because “if a facility puts, say, the convenience of motorists ahead of the safety of vulnerable road users, it is reasonable to disregard it.”
Perhaps the Daily Mirror could now follow ordinary folks driving and film them routinely breaching 30mph limits? Ditto for phone-driving.
We all see this road danger multiple times every day. This morning, when cycling with my kids to school, a bloke in a sports car negotiated a sharp turn on a steep hill with a cellphone clamped to his ear. It was perishing, with black ice on corners.
Sports car driver must have seen at least one of my kids cycling up the hill but didn’t think to stop his conversation. Bastard.
He was filmed breaching road traffic regs. In the video he’s shown cycling the wrong way up a one way street, using a pelican crossing when it’s on red (but there’s zero traffic coming) and taking a right turn in front of a keep left bollard. The turn is on a wide avenue with no traffic on it.
The Daily Mirror implies it caught the would-be PM going through a red light. In fact, he went ahead of the white stop line to get away from cars but did not cycle through the light. He’s clearly shown waiting until the green light before cycling in to Parliament.
Many sets of UK traffic lights have ‘advanced stop lines’ so cyclists can get in front of the motorised traffic. This set had no ASL but it’s perfectly sensible to keep out of the way of impatient motorists.
The piece is headlined: “How you can get a body like mine, by cycling-mad former Blue Peter presenter Konnie.”
Would-be suitors driving flash sports cars won’t get too far with Konnie Huq. Just weeks out of her decade-long tenure as Blue Peter’s longest-running presenter, she is enjoying a resurgent love affair – with cycling.
“I walk and cycle everywhere. It’s liberating to be a free agent.”
The gym, she says, is tedious.
“I never had time for it with Blue Peter, and I do tend to get bored. Gyms are so weird – if an alien came to our planet and saw everyone working out, they’d think, ‘What the hell is going on?’”
The piece is overwhelmingly positive about cycling, except for a snide comment from journalist Kevin Pillock.
He asked whether Ms Huq “ever commits the cyclist’s sin of running red lights?”
Since when has running red lights been a bike-only phenomenon? Plenty of motorists do it too, and with more fatal consequences.
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