Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Class War

Contrary to what you might think, and despite my reputation as a crusty old curmudgeon. I am a live-and-let-live sort of person. Well, I am live-and-let-live with the exception of those walking along the towpath on the dog poo delivery service.  Also not forgetting the fly tippers and the jobsworth IWA "you can't moor here brigade". Also, just so that they don't feel left out, I should also include the water point and elsan hoggers. I also in all fairness give exception to those squat gnome like, maggot drowning, litter spreaders. I should also like to  include the boating naysayers, bull-shitters and members of the towpath Taliban. Just in the interests of fair balance.

Today, its the turn of those cretins oft referred to as the "lycra loons" mounted on those newfangled velocipedes. All taking part in what has seemingly become the towpath velodrome. For years in our generation of bike clip wearers, we had the "cycling proficiency course" with a certificate and a nice enamelled badge at the end. A course that we ran in schools to try to turn unruly little ruffians like you and me, into gentle cycling folk. 

Whatever happened to the good old Sturmey Archer, chain guards, mud guards and comfortable sprung seats. Today, its designer lycra skin-tight suits, plastic crash hats, high-speed, off-road, light-weight, light-flashing, bell-less go anywhere machines. The only proficiency they gained today is in ignoring pedestrians and shouting "coming through". And that's just the little ones on their tricycles. CaRT's educashun seemingly did not work and so I propose to go back a few years to identify alternative methods of enforcement that does not include mantraps and piano wire. Though in all fairness mantraps and piano wire do have their uses.

No, lets go back to a more genteel, stiff little fingered, tea drinking time. A time before hob-nobs were biscuits, a time when a cake was smothered in full fat cream and jam. When hats were oft doffed to ladies of a certain class. And thrown into the ring with ladies of a different class.  A time when people cycled out together of a Sunday and children ran and played with the latest hoops that were all the rage. Lets get some etiquette back into cycling.

Whoops - hold on a moment. What's this etiquette I hear you say? Let me whisper into your shell like ear - according to the Daily Torygraph "Debrett's, the modern authority on etiquette and taste, has launched a Code of Conduct for Commuters to remind cyclists that pedestrians always have right of way." Huh! When did  Debrett's go modern, this is the best kept secret since pointed little pinkies were in vogue?

The Torygraph says: 'British Waterways, [who they?] who maintain the nation's canals, have approached the high-society experts after receiving complaints from irate pedestrians who claimed that speeding cyclists refuse to slow down as they commute to work causing crashes and collisions by the previously peaceful canals.'

Now Debrett's, the modern authority on cycling, class, etiquette and good taste, has launched a Code of Conduct for Commuters to remind cyclists that pedestrians always have right of way. They also hope to encourage walkers to be mindful of other users to avoid incidents of towpath rage. In a nod to old-fashioned values the code suggests that all towpath users "Should be considerate to each other". The guide also adds: "A smile and a 'thank you' is courteous if someone has let you pass."
It advises cyclists to warn walkers of their approach by using "two tings" of their bicycle bell. It also suggests that those on foot listen out and are ready to move aside to allow bikes to pass. In addition to offering advice on how towpath users treat each other Debrett's also demands that people never drop litter and that dog walkers always clean up after their pet.

Jo Bryant, an etiquette expert from Debrett's, said: "The towpaths are a lovely escape from the hustle and bustle of the roads and pavements of the city. They should be a more tranquil and relaxing place to travel along. But it seems that some people are forgetting their manners and speeding past other people, or refusing to move out of the way. Here at Debrett's we hope that these top tips will be a gentle reminder to towpath users, and encourage a return to more polite and amicable behaviour along waterways."
Debrett's also suggests that at busy times neither cyclists nor pedestrians should wear earphones which might prevent them from hearing the presence of others. The code warns cyclists that they may have to dismount while going under narrow bridges if someone is already travelling the other way. In London one accident hot spot is the Regent’s Canal, a route joining East London and the city which is very heavily used by cyclists and walkers particularly at peak times in the early morning and evening.
A spokesman for British Waterways said: "We have seen a huge increase in recent years in the number of people using canals as a means to get to work There was a big spike following the 7/7 bombing in London when people were looking for a different way to travel. As a result we have more people using the canals than ever before. Britain has more than 2,200 miles of canals with the largest concentration found in London, Manchester and Birmingham. Britain's canals are used by over 13 million people each year for walking, cycling, angling and boating."

So there you have it, Debrett's apparently have a cycling code of conduct. That's all the problems sorted then! When pigs fly....

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