Why don't cyclists drive instead?
“Do you have a driving licence?”
"Do you have a driving licence?" The driver of the Fiat Punto had taken exception to the fact I had been in front of him at traffic lights, on a bicycle. When he overtook me he asked why I'd blocked him at the lights, and then came out with the driving licence question. We didn't get into a long conversation (ironically, by slowing to berate me he was blocking all the cars behind him) but, wild stab in the dark here, he probably assumed that my sole means of transport is my bicycle and that a cyclist couldn't possibly be a motorist as well.
Cyclists get this barb thrown at them a lot. It's a wide-of-the-mark assumption. According to the National Travel Survey, 83 percent of cyclists own cars, which is a percentage point higher than the number of non-cyclists who own cars. That's worth restating: an adult cyclist is more likely to own a motor vehicle than the average person in the street.
Many of the people seen on bikes in this country are not doing so out of economic necessity or out of some inability to pass a driving test, they're riding bicycles because they enjoy it, either recreationally or for day-to-day transport, or often both.
When was the last time you deliberately took the long and tortuous way home from work just to enjoy the drive? Cyclists – like those who run or walk to work – often add scenic loops for the sheer pleasure of travelling under one's own steam. Back at home their depreciating cars are parked up, going nowhere much of the time. These parked cars are ready for long journeys, or picking up granny and the kids, or collecting five bags of compost from the garden centre. Just because somebody is on a bike doesn't mean that's their only available transport option.
Edmund King, president of the AA, often likes to point out that the "two tribes" mentality is corrosive. He cycles and he drives: “Because I work for the UK's leading motoring organisation, some people assume I must drive everywhere. I don't. Like many other drivers, I weigh up the options and take the best mode of transport for a particular journey." Sir Chris Hoy has retired from cycling and taken to racing a Nissan GT-R NISMO GT3 but he still also cycles around his home city of Edinburgh, on errands no longer for Olympic training. Cyclists and motorists are not from different planets. “Them and us,” in reality, doesn't exist.