According to the Guardian today a man driving a black BMW ran down and killed two cyclists. He had to be cut out his car. One of the dead men was Kris Jarvis. According to the Guardian again, a friend of his said this:
“Kris always said he’d die on his bike, such was his love for cycling! None of his loving family or friends could ever imagine that this would be the way he would’ve expected it to happen. Such was his love for cycling.”
Really? Did he? Did he seriously really?
I can’t imagine anyone at all, ever, saying ‘such was his love for cycling.’ It’s the kind of phrase you only ever see written down and even then in one of those sports books with lots of pictures, remaindered from £25 to £1.99 in a shop piled high with travel games and maps of Basingstoke, next to a kebab shop in a rainy suburb somewhere off the north end of the A3.
Even Martin Amis must have blushed when he wrote much the same stuff as a parody about darts in London Fields. But the stupid doesn’t stop there.
He always said he’d die on his bike. No-one could have thought he’d expect it to happen. Well, yes actually. That’s exactly what he did. If the family friend meant ‘he can’t have expected to be killed by a selfish maniac in a car,’ then the family friend can’t have cycled much in the UK.
We have a culture here which is based on selfishness. It would be easy to just say ‘Thatcher’ in the manner of a 1980s alternative comedian and leave it at that, but I don’t know if the attitude pre-dated her. Films such as I’m Alright Jack suggest it did and that she simply tapped into a particularly British vein of homicidal conceit.
But evil dead politicians aside, anyone who cycles regularly in Britain knows perfectly well that there are car drivers who feel for their own reasons that Thatcher’s Great Car Economy would be better off with no bicycles around at all, and certainly none in front of their great car. It’s the reason it’s safer to cycle in the middle of the lane rather than at the side. They might still try to ride you down or crowd you deliberately into the side of the road for daring to be in their sacred way, but they aren’t going to be able to pretend they didn’t see you, or it was an accident, or they didn’t quite realise how close they were when they rode you into the verge.
Sometimes it’s still going to happen. Nobody who cycles thinks it can’t.