Britain is “perhaps the most anti-cycling country in Europe”, says Ed West on Substack. Pedal-pushers like me are “seen as aggressive, arrogant and smug – even, shudder, left-wing”. But in the late 19th century, bikes were a “truly revolutionary form of transport”: they liberated women, helped working people get around, and “hugely expanded the dating market” in rural areas. Since then, like many peasant pursuits, cycling has become a “bourgeoise hobby” typically practised by men obsessed with craft beer. Famous cyclists include the broadcaster Jeremy Vine, whose social media complaints about drivers are so off-putting that he must be “some sort of agent provocateur of the motor industry”.
It’s a shame, because cycling is good for you and society in general. The Netherlands, where almost everyone cycles, has the most physically active people in Europe, and the happiest adolescents. People claim that cyclists’ paradises like Amsterdam and Copenhagen are naturally more suited for bikes than London, but they both used to be incredibly car-choked before authorities moved towards a different model. London itself had segregated cycling lanes as far back as 1934, but they were removed in the 1950s when car “mania” struck. There is no non-smug way of putting this, but “life is so much better on two wheels”.