Does your grandad cycle?
Here’s the image my grandad has of cyclists: A bunch of lycra wearers, who ride two abreast, that avoid paying road tax and go on cycling holidays in France.
Running London Cyclist, we’re bound to come to blows at times.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my grandad. He’s offered to help me out when I needed funding for an idea I had for London Cyclist, he’s always happy to chat and he’s always offering me a lift when I visit Birmingham. All in all – full points for a grandad!
However, things can get a little heated at the dining room table at Christmas.
I always find myself trying to hold back, so that it doesn’t turn in to an argument.
“Cyclists don’t pay road tax”
Road tax was abolished 76 years ago. Winston Churchill was the first to start the process of abolishing it. Car tax is based on CO2 emissions, so even if cyclists had to pay a fee it would be £0. Plus, the local councils pays for many of the roads, so in fact we are all paying for the roads.
“Cyclists ride two abreast”
I’m a driver as well as a cyclist and that can be annoying. Fortunately, most cyclists know when to switch to single file to allow cars to overtake.
“Cyclists are a bunch of Lycra wearers”
Most cyclists actually cycle in their everyday clothes. I don’t wear Lycra unless I’m heading off on a particularly long bike ride.
“They go on cycling holidays in France”
Lots of people go on holiday in France. They just happen to be on a bike!
I usually find more sympathy with my grandma. I’ll turn to her and bring back happy memories created by bicycles. I’ll ask: Didn’t you ride a bike?
Her eyes light up and she recalls the time when she was a dancer and would ride her bike everywhere.
I always hope this will be enough to win over my grandad.
In reality, I don’t mind in the slightest that my grandad holds these views. What worries me is that he represents a larger section of society that don’t “get” cycling.
It’s this big group of society that politicians resist upsetting. However, without stirring a few feathers, there can be no progress.
Yet, there’s no need to stir feathers, as long as you carefully select your message.
At the start, I’d talk to my grandad about how much I enjoy cycling, the environmental benefits and the need for more money to be spent on bike lanes for cyclists.
The mention of more money, road space being reallocated to cyclists and environmental benefits, was enough for him to huff, dismiss his grandson and get back to enjoying his roast dinner on a hot plate.
Instead, I should have focused my message on the benefits to people, not cyclists.
Indeed, this is the new tactic by London mayor Boris Johnson.
The message he’s now spreading is that more cyclists mean less cars in front of you in traffic. More cyclists mean less tax, thanks to the health improvements mixed with a reduction in pollution and therefore less of a burden on the NHS.
This is the language cycling bloggers have more widely adopted in the past two years.
The new message is that this isn’t about cyclists, it’s about everyone.
If I can convert my grandad, I can convert anyone!
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.