It's not a headline you would expect to read in the national press, let alone twice in as many days (and as many incidents), but when the
cyclists in question were first the Tour de France winner and Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins, then head coach of the all-conquering GB
Olympic cycling team Shane Sutton, that's exactly what happened. The success of the British cycling team, mixed with an economic crisis, has
resulted in a notable uptake in both recreational and sport cycling and propelled the autobiography of sideburn-sporting Wiggins into the
With London already a city where the fortunes of the mayor are partly dependent on the success (or otherwise) of his cycling policy, and
where even prime minister David Cameron likes to show his 'modernity' with the occasional two-wheeled commute - albeit with the security cavalcade
close behind carrying his papers for the day - progress in UK cycling goes beyond the medals of the velodrome. There is a discernible change in attitude
from the motorists' lobby as well, with the president of the Automobile Association (the other AA) reminding cyclists "to be more vigilant particularly
when pulling out of entrances and turning at junctions" before calling for motorists to rethink "the 'two-tribe' mentality on the roads and co-exist in
harmony." These may only be words but they are surely a sign of the times when they come from the president of the largest car club in the country.
Unfortunately not all areas of my country come with cycle superhighways (elsewhere known as blue cycle paths) with which London is so well
endowed. On a National Cycle Route in the suburban expanse of the Black Country, which spreads out west from Birmingham over the once-green
rolling hills of the English Midlands, I encountered gates and road-crossings, large potholes and even steps. With specialist cycling infrastructure
so substandard it hardly invites people out from behind the wheel, and indeed the Black Country is a region where the car is most certainly king.
There's a difference developing even there though. Where once a kid rolled-down the window to throw something hard at my helmet whilst traversing a
round-a-bout, this summer someone opened the window of their car to congratulate me on a rather steep ascent. It seems the times are changing everywhere.
Adam Mathews, Berlin
13 November 2012
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