Online cycling magazine

Main menu: Home | Tour de France | UK cycling | Harrogate cycling | Hedge-blog

sample header image

Hedge-blog: Robert Goodwill and the 'Lycra mob'

16th January 2014

Bike with basket

Minister at the Department for Transport with responsibility for cycling Robert Goodwill has given us the benefit of his wisdom on the subject of Lycra and baskets.

According to the Guardian's Bike Blog, he wants to encourage more everyday cyclists. So far, so uncontroversial. But he was quoted as saying:

'As I turn left onto Millbank and the other lights change there's just a pack, a peleton of Lycra that comes whizzing past. I can see that the basket-on-the-handlebars type cyclist is possibly as intimidated by the Lycra mob as they are by the cars and trucks.'

The minister then told an anecdote about going to a cycle fair. 'They had everything - titanium, carbon fibre, you name it. I wanted to buy a pair of cycle clips and when I asked at these stands they looked at me like I was some kind of dinosaur. I want to go back to the sort of basket on the handlebars and cycle clips, the idea that you can make a short journey on a bicycle.'

These are ridiculous things to say. 

There is no evidence that people with baskets on their handlebars are put off cycling by people wearing Lycra or riding carbon fibre bikes. It isn't logical. If cyclists are hit and killed or injured, it's by motor vehicles, not by other cyclists. It is not the minister's job to rate the desirability of different cyclists according to the bike they are riding or the clothes they are wearing. He should represent all cyclists. Using perjorative terms like 'Lycra mob' is inaccurate and idiotic, and amounts to demonising people. The cyclists he encounters in London are individuals who have made a choice about what to wear, which they are perfectly entitled to do. You have to wonder if he is just upset at being overtaken. 

If a transport minister is going to judge people according to what they wear or ride, what next? Is the Education Secretary going to come out against geography teachers who wear leather patches on the elbows of their jackets (the elbow patch mob)? They're really intimidating to non-patch wearers. Is the minister responsible for fishing going to tell us that fishermen catching sardines are laudable, but the mackerel mob are frightening them off?

The other aspect of it is the sheer vanity of this politician, using an interview with a national newspaper as a platform to moan that he couldn't buy cycle clips at a cycle fair. He was trying to buy them in the wrong place, and he should get over it. A politician's role is to serve the public, and he should not use his position to air personal grievances. The world doesn't revolve around politicians.

Anyone who is genuinely passionate about cycling wants to see more of all types of cyclist, including utility cyclists. The dispiriting thing about Goodwill's interview is that it is an exercise in distraction. Encouraging more utility cyclists can be done - how to do it is not a new area that researchers are just beginning to explore. We know exactly how to do it. You spend money on cycling infrastructure, to make it safe, convenient, and pleasant for people to use their bikes, and they will. It's got nothing to do with imaginary Lycra mobs.

Instead of demonising people, Mr Goodwill, get on with your job, and build us some decent cycle infrastructure. 

Hedgehog Cycling logo

Comment Form is loading comments...