I remember being accused of basing my views on emotion not reason, science and fact when I first began green campaigning 25 years ago. I always thought the opposite was true. Its now more evident than ever that the emotional reaction is actually from those denying the problems we face and resisting change for the better. Just take a look at this extraordinary and extremely unreasonable letter in todays local paper about Bristol winning money for investing in cycling. I've reproduced it here in full (with further reaction to it from me below it) because I think it makes the case for cycling very well indeed. After all, irrational, emotive vitriol is not going to solve our transport problems is it - though that is what Jamie Caddick's letter is full of:
As if any further proof were needed that the Government and local council have well and truly lost the plot, the announcement that those evil-doing two-wheeled terrorists of the modern world - cyclists - are to get a big fat government grant finally seals the deal ("£11.4 million to create first Cycling City", Post, June 19.In a world where it's commonplace and de rigueur to shower the unworthy and pitiful with handouts, benefits, rewards and incentives in a vain and futile attempt to appease and silence the minorities, this barmy cycling scheme is a step too far.And it's one that will further create division, resentment and anger among those of us whose lives are already blighted by this wannabe- superior, duplicitous, irritating, dangerous, sanctimonious and arrogant crowd.£22 million is a lot of cash - cash that could be pumped into schools (already struggling for funds and under the threat of closure), hospitals (already struggling for funds and under the threat of closure), local post offices, community schemes and elderly care homes (already struggling for ... see the pattern here?).And yet a gaggle of self-serving, do-gooder politicians have the temerity, conceitedness and ignorance to pile cash on one of the greatest scourges of contemporary Britain like it's going out of fashion.What's becoming more and more clear is that the more bothersome, annoying and unsavoury you are (individual or group), the greater your rights and the more important and unquestionable your demand to fleece the taxpayer.So, we'll get more cycle lanes (read as more road works and disruption), more initiatives and more cycle training to get us out of our cars and on to our bikes.The council is even planning "Bikeability" schemes in schools - which sounds more like indoctrination to me, soiling children's innocent brains to cultivate its own cycling clone army.I can see the training itinerary now: day one - Lycra and helmet awareness; day two - rudeness and inconsiderateness made a fine art.(And how it could ever be considered a good idea to encourage these mealy-mouthed morons is another topic altogether.)The whole scheme is a farce - a naive, over-simplistic, ludicrously out of touch and inconceivably unrealistic gimmick.We'll have councillors waxing lyrical about how fantastic it all is and how it's another step towards becoming more eco-friendly, sustainable and green and how their long-dreamt, misty-eyed fantasy of every Bristolian donning fluorescent Lycra, wearing silly helmets, ringing stupid bells and knocking innocent pedestrians off their feet may now become a reality.And make no mistake, cyclists are criminals.Let me remind you, it's still illegal to cycle on pavements, run red lights, ride the wrong way down a one way street, whizz through pedestrian crossings (when pedestrians are actually crossing them) and hop from road to pavement with reckless abandon and the attention span of an amoeba.And yet they're not treated as criminals - rather, they're elevated as warriors fighting against an irresponsible and polluted world, two-wheeled titans of a healthy and eco-conscious crusade and martyrs of an ethical and planet- saving battle that will one day have us all reading The Guardian and recycling our potato peelings.Rubbish. They're law-breaking lunatics masking their own inconsiderate egos under the pretence of doing something right-on and commendable.And I only need witness the number of people hit, nearly hit, inconvenienced and harassed by these cycling psychopaths on my daily walk to work to know this as fact.That's no inconvenient truth.It won't ease congestion, it won't reduce pollution, it won't make the city a safer place to live ("cyclists" and "safety" being something of a mind-bending contradiction) and it certainly won't boost Bristol's profile on the global stage as a tough, robust and competitive city.We'll be seen as a bunch of wimps on two wheels and be laughed off the stage to the holler of boos and hisses.So cyclists will carry on being annoying ("don't tar us all with the same brush ???", "I'm not damaging the ozone layer ???", "I'm having lentils and tofu for tea ???"), councillors on the board of Fatuous and Phoney Statistics in the Cuckoo-land of Sustainable Stupidity will carry on being deluded and pedestrians and motorists will carry on hating their guts.I feel the disapproving public's full wrath has yet to hit its critical meltdown.In the meantime - and from a pedestrian's point of view - let me remind you there's nothing attractive (especially after a full English breakfast) about seeing an elephantine derriere zooming past you at 8.30 on a Monday morning.And that's more than enough to put me off ever becoming a cyclist.
Your letter ('Not all Bristolians want to become a cycling city', Bristol Evening Post Soapbox, 24 June) is very far from a genuine argument Jamie Caddick, to say the least. There is extraordinary accusation, name-calling, stereotyping, vitriol, cynicism, insult, exaggeration and ignorance aplenty. I wonder if your letter is more likely to be persuade people that actually the money for cycling is pretty reasonable such is your ranting onslaught. Its surely hard to argue that investment in non-motorised transport is wasted in these times of soaring petrol/diesel prices, severely congested roads, massive parking problems and obesity-related ill-health? Dont the most vulnerable in our society, the very young, those with health problems and the elderly, suffer most from the air pollution caused by cars and lorries? OK, contrary to council claims this investment wont be a magic bullet that solves all our transport problems - they too are exaggerating about what this money can achieve (see here for further comments) and have yet to do the hard work of using the money in the most appropriate ways in practice. However, it is a step in the right direction and I think most people prepared to look at transport issues and budgeting in the round agree.