It's funny how, as one species on one planet, we're keen to segregate. We now have seemingly limitless criteria at our disposal to create increasingly arbitrary factions to either define ourselves or denigrate others. I've never been much of a patriot because, frankly... I don't get it.
I don't understand how the geographical location in which your mother shat you into existence has any bearing on anything, especially in this modern world of immigration and emigration. I like England a lot. I like its history and architecture and culture and humour. I feel privileged to live here but I can't translate my residence here into any kind of meaningful vitriol with which I could claim superiority over somebody shat out 300 miles to the south of here.
Religion I understand slightly better. I can take pride in my family - my tribe - I can be protective of them and proud of our history of resourcefulness and stamina. Proud to partake in the traditions. It's nice. I kind of get that. Not enough to kill somebody, though, I should say. I'll sing a song and eat a bagel. I've even been known to hoof my way through Hava Nagila but, I don't know, I principally just view myself as a human.
Of all the divisions people have created, be it race, political stance, sexual orientation, favourite type of music or sports team followed, the stupidest one makes me angry on two levels - firstly it's a stupid way to define yourself and secondly I've found myself not only accepting them as a minority on their own basis but hating them. Yes, I have finally found a minority I can hate. I can indulge in prejudice on sight, I can do whatever is within my legal arsenal to make their existence harder and I can rant on the internet about how they should be treated.
They have achieved what every other minority has failed to do - they have incurred my wrath.
Cyclists. Bloody, fucking cyclists. I hate them.
Of course I don't. They're not a real minority, despite the swell of groups, protests and YouTube videos of them supposedly being oppressed by the police. They're just people. And I like people. Generally. I don't dislike people based on what they are or represent, I dislike them on an individual basis for the things they do. So, genuinely, I don't dislike cyclists as a group and I don't dislike somebody for simply riding a bike.
I dislike the middle-aged woman I saw cycling on the pavement the other day who rounded a corner too fast and almost knocked an old codger over. I dislike the student-looking fella I saw the other day who was riding, also on the pavement with his earphones in and his hands tucked deep into his coat pocket. I dislike the several people I see on bikes every day who just zip though red traffic lights and over zebra crossings. I actually hate the stealthy young man who appeared as if by magic in my headlight beam, half a foot in front of me on an un-lit country road on which I was legally driving at 50 mph. He had no lights and was seemingly swaddled in black.
As either a pedestrian or a driver, I live in fear of cyclists. On foot, you never know when a bike will be tearing along the pavement and clip you, you never know what traffic signals they'll choose to respect. As a driver, you're constantly aware that you're a split second away from turning some idiot into a smear on the road through no fault of your own, but a combination of their recklessness and the sheer force of physics which dictates a two-tonne hunk of high speed metal will always win in a battle against a balloon filled with offal.
Yet, the cyclist is indulged. The chameleon of the transport infrastructure leaping, as they see fit between road and pavement, answerable to the laws of neither. If a pedestrian walked along the middle of the road or a driver cruised along on the pavement, they'd be very swiftly stopped yet the cyclist goes generally unchallenged on each.
If a driver set off on a night time journey with no headlights, intoxicated or without the use of their hands, the driver would be swiftly, and rightly, arrested. There's also a bizarre lack of regulation. Whereas you have to be 17 to get a driving licence, there's no problem with nine- or 10-year-olds being allowed to weave in and out of moving traffic. Compounding all of this, there seems to be a steady rise in the assertion of cyclists' rights and fair treatment.
Where do they belong? Certainly not on the pavement. Possibly on the road but the concessions made to them so far seem ridiculous. Those tiny, unprotected cycle lanes which seem to start and stop at the whim of whoever. The very notion of putting a cycle lane next to the pavement where not only is it legal for a car to park in it but it also forces the cyclists to overtake slow moving traffic on the inside is insane. How are there not more accidents?
So, the problems as I see them are firstly that there is not an adequate place to accommodate cyclists on the road and secondly that there is a culture of reckless cycling which goes, on the whole, unchecked and unpunished.
I think it's time cyclists were registered and taxed. I don't see how health or environmental benefits can outweigh the obvious needs for both.
You register them because people in charge of potentially lethal machines should be identifiable and understand that they will be held accountable for what might seem like petty transgressions but are in fact life preserving measures. Why shouldn't cyclists be prosecuted for putting people at risk? My pet belief in this area is that anyone caught cycling with their hands in their pockets should be banned from bikes and forced to ride a unicycle so they will forevermore look as much like a twat as they behave.
In a society so obsessed with law enforcement, why do we foster this strange blindspot for people who choose to whizz around unprotected, unhelmeted and untouchable? Local councils have, for a while now, enjoyed increased revenues from the hyper-punitive use of speed cameras and parking officials. Why not tap these other road users and by doing so force them into a similar begrudging but demonstrably safer respect for the rules? By fixing number plates to bikes, you'd also cut down on bike theft as they'd be easily identifiable by the public and cctv.
You tax them because people should be taxed for services they use. Drivers pay a lot of road tax for the privilege of road use. Even more in congestion charge areas. If road tax were payable by cyclists, you could raise enough revenue to create a safe, logical space for them. Real cycle lanes, safe from bad drivers.
I don't understand this weird acceptance we as a society offer to the use of the two-wheeled vehicle, I don't understand how they're allowed to operate in a generally lawless fashion. I don't understand how we continue to allow them to put themselves and others at risk.
And I still don't understand why I'm referring to them as a them. They're all just people on bikes - some of them, the majority of them, law-abiding and sensible but surely those decent cyclists deserve to be protected and served better and, in so doing, everyone would benefit.