Car News: Bloody Cyclists

A weekly guide to all that’s rotten about car ownership, plus some good bits


Cyclists keep calling for greater infrastructure, but who’s paying for it?

The end of the combustion engine?

I think we are in a second golden age of the automobile. But this time around we might not be dominated by Big Business Petroleum that cramped new forms of propulsion. For decades big oil companies had a stranglehold on innovation. The combustion engine, it could be argued, reached its apogee by the mid sixties, bar electronic ignition.

Car enthusiasts who follow this site and my occasional articles on car trends, electric cars, car design, and skulduggery in the industry, know I prefer we all drive small cars in cities. If seats were limited to two, one behind the other, cars could be skinny as hell, freeing up our over-crowded roads.

I acknowledge people are getting fatter, some so fat they have their own postcode. Seats have to be wider than in the past, cars bigger, but what a waste of space.

Now that a lot of cities are anti-car, or like Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, reducing speeds to the strolling pace of 20 mph, we might as well restrict our big engine lumps to long distance travel and use a small or micro car for daily trips. Or we could try a bicycle. Why not? The Chinese managed to run a nation using bicycles and a slow pace of life.


My beloved Raleigh bike – same model, with the status rear pouch

Some of my best friends are cyclists

Allow me to get a few things out of the way before the screaming cycle lobby appear to accuse me of being a fascist, Dr Crippen, or a shill for Exxon Corporation.

If I have any physical strength it was exercised to Olympian perfection on a bicycle, a maroon 21 inch Raleigh Tourer 3-Speed, to be exact. You sat bolt upright on it like a tractor driver, or riding a horse, not head down over racing handlebars like today’s ass-in-the-air Lycra addicts. I cycled everywhere. I lived roughly where I live now on the Firth of Forth side of town, and that meant a lot of uphill legwork, often with a full shopping bag on each handle. (Shopping was called messages in those days.)

I was never the sporty type, but getting in and out of Edinburgh produced the figure and speed of Icarus on two wheels. When I was a student earning holiday money as a catwalk model lustful women made a grab for my legs. They couldn’t get enough of them. Yes, I owe a lot to Raleigh. (Clears throat and shuffles feet.) I loved that bike as I do my cars, and looked after it just as well.

All that happened in the days when cars were fewer, slower and less intimidating. There was lots of space on the roads. I didn’t need a cycling lane, a helmet, and elbow and knee pads. The only extras bought were a front and back light, a small leather pouch that hung from the rear of the seat – a real status symbol to hold a wheel spanner, a tube of tyre seal, some penny Dainties or fruit gums for energy, and a pair of cycling clips. I did without regulatory cycle clips. I was still in short pants.


Time to make comprehensive insurance cover mandatory!

That was then, this is now

You defy death every minute cycling on roads. Drivers blind you in their headlights, soak you in rain spray, choke you in diesel fumes, cut across your path, open their door on you as you try to pass them, squeeze you towards the kerb and a head-over-heels tumble, or get out of their car in homicidal fury and punch your lights out. That’s if you are not crippled when your cycle tyre gets trapped in a tram rail.

I would not resort to a bicycle in today’s winner take all traffic, unless it was an electric one. You might as well go swimming in the local docks for all the good cycling brings to your health and well-being. And that brings me to my next grumble.

Cyclists emulate bad driving all the time. The code of the gentleman and lady cyclist was tossed away with the propelling pencil and the car phone the size and weight of a brick.

Anybody any age can hop on a bicycle without knowing a thing about the Highway Code. There is no cycle test. You can gain a cycling proficiency certificate, but who does?

Cyclists cross junctions against red lights, cycle down pavements at pedestrians and mothers pushing prams, reject lights in the dark, wear black so you can’t see them in the rain, fly down the inside of you so you cannot detect their approach, don’t look behind them when overtaking parked vehicles, hitch to the back of lorries, forget to signal, ride two abreast, chain their cycles to ornamental railings and to lampposts at crossings for the blind seeming to assume they are the only road user. As I said, like car drivers they are self-centred, preoccupied, and anarchic.


Very nice, but the sun doesn’t shine out of a cyclist’s ass

Cycles are aesthetically pleasing, cyclists less so

As a small car owner, the sort that was designed to get through narrow gaps and not clog up the streets, I am restricted to a single lane. I am hemmed in because my council has, quite fairly, screwed up road aesthetics with special red lanes for cyclists, and horrible pseudo sculptures directing them to cycle only alleyways and paths. Bicycle parking frames and cycle hire stands are appearing all over cities. Improvements designed to encourage more cyclists to use the road cost a great deal of funding.

I pay an annual tax, a vehicle excise tax, (VED) that goes to the UK Treasury, though it’s no longer used specifically for the upkeep of road surfaces. I also pay insurance, by law. If I damage another car or injure driver or passenger they will be compensated. I also pay an annual tax to have my car MOT’d, ensuring its road worthiness and emission friendly. Cyclist pay nothing, yet drivers pay local taxes to install dedicated cycle lanes. If one scrapes my car en passant I cannot claim for repair. There is no exchange of insurance company names. He has no insurance.

Here are my 10 proposals for cyclists that should be mandatory by law.

  1. Create a Cycle Licencing Department, (CLD) to register owners and makes.
  2. All cycles should be registered like cars, a number stamped on the frame.
  3. Sale of cycles between owners should be recorded by the CLD.
  4. Pay an annual road levy no matter how much or how little they use roads.
  5. Carry mandatory insurance (a) to compensate damage to vehicles, (b) injury to pedestrians, and (c) repair to their cycle in the event of accident or theft.
  6. Make mandatory the wearing of helmets and hi-rez jackets.
  7. Make mandatory illumination front and rear light at all times, day and night.
  8. Ban use of trailers carrying young children behind their cycle.
  9. Be fined for speeding, or cycling under the influence of drink or drugs.
  10. Be fined for cycle aggression, having a cyclist’s ego like a raging tooth.


As I said earlier, it will not matter to the cycling super lobbyists that I make plain I have no argument with cyclists. I am not inviting a punch up. For the most part, cyclists feel freedom of choice means freedom from taxation and responsibility.

But co-existence is getting more difficult by the hour as cyclists multiply like flies and motorists are corralled. The car owner is getting frozen out of everywhere, micro car ownership makes no difference.

For lots of good reasons we can’t all be cyclists, or take three buses to work. We can’t encourage motorists who want to own the road, or cyclists for that matter. That isn’t a realistic proposition. It isn’t a matter of them or us. It’s a matter of good solutions.


The latest gadget for cyclists, a Garmin Edge 705 for the cyclist who has everything


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39 Responses to Car News: Bloody Cyclists

  1. Hugh Wallace says:

    You might be interested to know that 9 & 10 on your list already exist in road traffic law, though perhaps not worded quite the same way. I believe one of the offences is for ‘furious cycling’…

  2. Grouse Beater says:

    I like ‘wanton furious cycling’. 🙂 Wanton sounds like a place in China. Of the list, how many cyclists bother?

  3. Hugh Wallace says:

    “Wanton & furious cycling”, to be precise.

  4. John Dickson says:

    If they get banned for the last one there won’t be many cyclists

  5. Grouse Beater says:

    Some car drivers will welcome that! 🙂

  6. free scot says:

    Hallo Grouse Beater, thank you.

    As what I hope cyclists see as a careful and considerate driver, (who would also love to ride a bike again if I could find a comfortable style!) I agree.

    It can’t be right that anyone taking a vehicle onto the roads does not have a proven knowledge and understanding of the Highway Code or any means by which they can be held accountable for their behaviour and a means to cover damage or injury.

    Your 10 Proposals for Cyclists would be every bit as much for the benefit of cyclists as for other road users.

    I am totaly aware of my responsibility to get by a cyclist safely and without causing alarm. But cyclists have a responsibilty to themselves, drivers and pedestrians too.

    Stradling a two wheeled vehicle does not endow cyclists with exemption from rules of safety or from courtesy.

    At the very least, lights and visable clothing folks! It’s not rocket science!!

    Stay safe, be kind =)


  7. Grouse Beater says:

    Many thanks for your thoughtful contribution, Ghillie! 🙂

  8. Bob Cooper says:

    I’ll be one of those bloody cyclists then 🙂

    I commute to ma work on a bike, I don’t hate motorists – I avoid them. I cycle in the dark morning and night – with enough lights and high vis. to make a christmas tree blush. It’s cheaper than driving or bussing it. Never seen any of these black clad suicidal ‘ninja’ cyclists in inverness – must be an edinburgh thing.

    1. Most folk cycling already own cars – so are already paying road tax. (which isn’t reserved for roads)
    2. For folk who can’t afford gyms it’s cheaper and better at getting and staying healthy.
    3. Road infrastructure is expensive – councils can’t afford to keep building roads for the motorists – for all we pay in tax – it doesn’t cover the costs (even if it was ring-fenced).
    4. Less carbon/ fossil fuel is burnt in cycling (manufacture) – the full cost of motoring and climate change would include repairing the environmental damage.
    5. Bawbags cycle – and they drive. Mebbe the problem isn’t push bikes?
    6. A bike weighs ~10-20kgs and is lucky to get to 30mph – a car ~ 1800kg and routinely goes 70mph. Wee question – which one – if crashed is likely to kill the driver and the person they hit?
    7. I like your wee list – it’s similar to the Danes – but I would add one – 11. Strict liability for motorists – that is they need to prove that they were not at fault when they kill or injure another road user (pedestrian / cyclists). Same as the law in the Netherlands and Denmark.

    Click to access sct05174402361.pdf

    The man o’ independent mind, he looks and laughs at a’ that….

  9. It’s an interesting list. I don’t currently have a car though I’m hoping to be given an old one by a friend before long which means I largely rely on my bike for getting to work. I work as a bus driver these days so I see the ‘road wars’ up close and personal on a daily basis from both sides.

    The problems we have in the UK are down to a number of factors; the Anglo-American culture of ‘the car is king’, lousy cycling infrastructure provided with minimal effort or indeed thought and the FUJIA mindset imprinted on all by the nihilistic cult of Neoliberalism. I personally do my best to avoid other road traffic by using back streets and fortunately much of my route to work involves shared paths where I keep my speed down and use my warning bell, generally unheard above the traffic noise of the adjoining main road and the noise from the earphones that appear to be worn by most pedestrians – don’t get me fucking started on cyclists who wear them on the road!

    I’ll admit that I do use pavements on occasion for the simple practical reason that there are pinch points in some local roads where all using the road would mean is impeding the traffic. As the point I speak of is on one of my bus routes, I understand exactly how little room there is here as there are no safe overtaking points or indeed space given the volume of traffic.

    I use the bike for other purposes too but to be honest I really don’t relish the health benefits of gulping down lungfulls of particulates so I tend to go out of town for that.

    What I do implore of cyclists though is please wear something I can see from a bus cab, especially at night and don’t pass me on the inside ffs.

    Cyclists are a mixed bunch; most are generally good, but you do get the alpha male types who think their commute is the Giro d’Italia. The cycling equivalent of the Audi driver.

    Then there are the chaotic ‘blokes on bikes’; geezer in a black hoodie, no lights, no fucking road sense, appears from nowhere, Ninja style diagonally across a box junction and nearly bowling some old bloke walking his staffie when he launches himself onto the opposite pavement!

    I’d be a hypocrite if I advocated for helmets; I’m inconsistent in my own wearing of one though I do tend to use it if I head out on a leisure ride.

    Insurance and registration. Unless there are schemes in Europe that have been shown to work then I can’t see this getting much headway. Pretty unenforceable in my opinion and you just know that in the UK it would merely be used to fleece already skint people of more money. I have a very jaundiced view of insurance companies after being left high and dry by my house insurers a couple of years back. As far as tramlines are concerned, that’s down to a lack of awareness on the part of cyclists. I think Darwin’s law applies there. It doesn’t seem to happen in continental Europe-I asked my tram driving friend in Leipzig about this and he states it’s not a known problem to his colleagues.

  10. Marconatrix says:

    Grouse, you must be living on a different planet from me. Probably one of those motorists who think cyclists are no wider than a sheet of paper? You’re concerned that you might suffer the odd scratch to your beloved conveyance, whereas we cyclists dice with death and injury every time you pass us. Seems if you can’t physically knock us off the road, or at least scare us shitless, then you’re intent on strangling us in extra costs and legislation. Would you have me walk miles with my messages on roads with no footpath? At least on a bike I’m exposed for less time, seeing as the routes home are mostly downhill.

  11. Grouse Beater says:

    Bob – I’m grateful for your reference to the Danish attitude to cyclists. I dithered over adding links, but you’ve provided the antidote to my laziness.

  12. Grouse Beater says:

    Marco – that’s why I’d never use a cycle in today’s traffic, the roads are far too crowded. And then there’s the weather.

  13. daibhidhdeux says:

    Ah, come to Japan, all ye fundamentalist cyclists for you’ll love the sheer kamikaze anarchy of it all upto and including pedestrians maimed and killed by nutters pedaling like mad fcuks everywhere without lights, bells, helmets, or high viz kit. Blythely unaware and not giving a tinker’s curse as they fly about like the Divine Wind.

    I’d bar the lot of you – cyclists, motor cyclists, and car drivers – in the inner cities, period.

    PS Am a proud pedestrian.

  14. Not a fan of wheels then… 😂😂😂

  15. Grouse Beater says:


  16. 1-3 Why? Just to discourage cycling?
    4. Why? Cycling does no damage to roads or the environment.
    5. Fair enough.
    6. There’s no evidence that helmet wearing reduces injury rates. Research indicates drivers give non-wearers more space. Hi-viz – aye, ok.
    7. Already the law in hours of darkness.
    8. See 5.
    9-10. See Hugh Wallace comment.

    I’d propose a better way to address these issues would be to separate cyclists as much as possible from other traffic, as is done in many cities around the world.

  17. Hello Grouse Beater,

    I love your writing and forward your blog often.

    This is an interesting one though as I don’t agree with some of your thinking here . Normally I’m right with you.

    I , like maxstafford60093, am a bus driver and cyclist. and also have a jaundiced opinion of insurance companies. I’m with him on this one.

    Also Andrew Haddow makes a valid point about helmets. Here’s an interesting link regarding them being a legal requirement in Australia for decades.

    All the best for 2018 and keep up the good work. The Indy movement can succeed with people of your caliber fighting for the cause.

  18. Grouse Beater says:

    Thank you for the kind things you have had to say, Scott. On the cyclic issue; I penned some lines partly because I’m looking for guidance, but one has to lay down a template for discussion in order to attract other solutions. Anyhow, hope to see you back here again. Slainte!

  19. Well, you certainly got your discussion, Gb. A good, thought provoking piece as always.

    I’ll always champion the bike myself; I’ve ridden for 43 years as a casual rider mostly but I believe that zee desperately need separate cycling infrastructure, done properly.

    Also, in an independent Scotland I think we should re-think the training of ALL road users with a very heavy emphasis on road craft and consideration of other users.

    There’s a lot for a new Transport Scotland to get its teeth into once they begin to accept that Transport is about much more than cars
    Fortunately, a lot of this awareness of roadcraft etc can begin to be instilled from early school age. One generation should begin to make a real difference in how our roads operate.

  20. broadbield says:

    Sorry, but I can’t find anything positive in your piece, unlike most of your essays on Scotland. You might like to look at (formerly CTC), if you haven’t already as they have lots of briefing stuff etc.

    An indy Scotland will need a transport plan, in which cycling and walking – for leisure and commuting and shopping – should be central. We need to change the attitude that driving is the be-all, that people can drive (and park) when they like, how they like and to wherever they like, even if it’s 100yds down the road to get their fags, irrespective of the harm that’s done to the rest of society by pollution, collisions, infrastructure damage on existing and new roads, and reclaim the streets for pedestrians and cyclists.

    Also central should be public transport – cheap, (free even), reliable, comfortable and reaching every part of the community. Instead “public” transport has been handed over to the carpetbaggers who tax the rest of us for its use through high prices and subsidies.

    We also need better infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists (including for leisure) and public transport and this would be a massive investment project which would create jobs as well as producing an enormous public benefit. There would also be huge health benefits from a more active life style.

    (How do we pay for it? An independent Scotland with its own currency can create the money to do so. See Richard Murphy’s blog on MMT.)

  21. Grouse Beater says:

    People cannot ‘park how they like when they like’. They get fined. A local calls the police, a parking attendant, or vandalises the car.

  22. Come to Carlisle and be enlightened, Gb… 😉

  23. Grouse Beater says:

    I’m too scared, Max. 🙂

  24. I can say quite honestly that the single most thing that adds difficulty to my job is parked cars – ‘parking’ in fact isn’t the most appropriate word for the kind of random dumping that exists.

    Today, an excessive proportion of vehicles are like pumped-up dodgems of ridiculous width. A residential area designed on the 1920s is utterly unable to accommodate traffic and car ownership levels of the early 21st century. Even 1960s estates are barely able to cope now. One of the worst things is now the increasing numbers of trades vans that their drivers bring home.

    We also have a low wage economy where young adults cannot afford to even rent a home since public housing stock was flogged off so you often have four cars to a household. Then there is the visual blight of streets cluttered with ugly, primary coloured tin.

    The situation is completely unsustainable and is entirely the fault of the Tories with their cultish pursuit of Atlantic Neoliberalism. Nobody, near power seems willing or able to stop it. A hideous mess generated by the need to stave off the collapse of an economy built on property speculation and the need to keep the US dollar afloat through demand for oil.

    As soldiers would call it; a total clusterfuck!

  25. What really drives me nuts are cyclists who will ignore a perfectly serviceable designated cycle path a yard away from the road and clog up traffic on roads its almost impossible to pass them on, such as the road from Kincardine power station to Culross which is narrow and winding and far too dangerous to pass them on, meanwhile I am stuck at the (little more than) walking pace they deem adequate for their leisure!

  26. Aye. As a cyclist myself that one hacks me off too, John, as these tools undermine the case for that nice separate infrastructure. Just displaying that lack of consideration that makes using a Road much less enjoyable.

  27. Marconatrix says:

    Here’s what this thread sounds like :
    “Four Wheels Good! Two Wheels Bad! Four Wheels Good! Two Wheels Bad! …”
    changing to :
    “Four Wheels Good! Two Wheels BETTER!!! …” 🙂

  28. Hugh Wallace says:

    Just wanted to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments posted here, even though I have very deliberately not got involved myself!😉💥😁

  29. epicyclo says:

    Just remember that every bike you see in front of you on the road is a car park space that is not going to be taken up when you get to your destination.

  30. And it is also not a bus stop blocked off so that you have to stop in the road next to the nearest safe bit of kerb so you can drop the ramp for a wheelchair/scooter using passenger, holding up other traffic in the process.

  31. broadbield says:

    Re cycle paths and not using them. It’s a bit more complex than saying cyclists should use “perfectly serviceable” paths, as often they are not serviceable. A vehicle driver expends no physical effort. A cyclist or pedestrian does. Cycle paths in Scotland are universally poorly designed, poorly constructed, poorly maintained, full of “designed” obstacles and often littered with debris. So cyclists often use the road so that they can maintain momentum and not waste physical effort. If you go to (or read about) Holland or Denmark you’ll see what can be done. Maybe if more people cycled there would be more pressure to improve things.

  32. That’s as may be but the margins of the roads themselves are similarly littered with debris, metal shards and glass. If your rider uses roads round here, he’ll soon find he’s spending a lot more energy getting his tyre on and off to repair/replace the punctured inner tube. They must be pretty poor cyclewaus if they’re worse than the road margin.
    Then there’s all the discarded McDonalds’ packaging…

  33. ellievking1 says:

    Money for roads comes out of general taxation, to which cyclists also contribute. Vehicle excise tax is tied to pollution, which is why cyclists don’t pay it. In any case, most cyclists are also car drivers and are therefore likely to be paying VET anyway.

  34. ellievking1 says:

    Ask yourself which takes up more space on a road, a car or a bike. Your response to the roads being ‘too crowded’ should quite clearly be to give up the car

  35. ellievking1 says:

    If a cyclist isn’t using the cycle lane it’s probably because it’s dangerous (e.g. full of glass/potholes/debris/parked cars, or ends abruptly etc) or inconvenient (e.g. making you give way at every side street while if you were in the main carriageway you would have priority or would make it difficult to turn right safely etc). If the lane was well designed, no cyclists would want to use the road

  36. Grouse Beater says:

    Sadly, that analysis doesn’t include insurance to cover cyclists.

  37. Grouse Beater says:

    Give up the car? (I drive a Smart car.) You mean condemn the infirm, the non-ambulant, children and the elderly to walk or cycle? Cyclists rarely manage to think through their all or nothing solutions.

  38. Grouse Beater says:

    Tough. Complain to the council, and if SNP led always do it with maximum media publicity.

  39. ellievking1 says:

    I was referring to you specifically, based on your reason for giving up cycling. Obviously I don’t think every journey can or should be made by bike, which would be, as you point out, a pretty ableist statement. Having said that, I would argue that the roads should be safe enough that children can cycle (with adult supervision, obviously)

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