Let me just start by saying that Sir Chris Hoy is, of course, a jolly fine chap.
Our most successful Olympian, a hero of the velodrome, with thighs that can quite probably snap a walnut, he is a worthy spokesman for the cycling fraternity and a man whose opinions we should all respect.
Yesterday he was reported to have declared an interest in becoming Britain’s cycling champion, saying he’d like to see our fine nation become like others where “cycling is a way of life”.
As someone who often gets on her bike, of course I applaud his enthusiasm for the two-wheeled mode of travel. But I fear he’s been inhaling too much puncture repair glue if he believes this oddball land of hills and busy roads, winding lanes and angry road users can ever hope to compare itself to those where cycling really is second nature. Pedal on Sir Chris. Pedal on . . .
A few weeks back I stepped off a train in the pretty Dutch town of Leiden, where bikes rule and cars are rarely-seen objects that putt-putt along, driven by nice people who don’t turn into Beelzebub when stuck behind by a puffed-out person wearing Lycra on two wheels.
At the train station there was a multi-storey bike park crammed with thousands of bikes. Absolutely everyone was on a bike – elderly men, ageing women, little kids, young women with shopping piled high in handlebar baskets, smart office workers, and all sorts in between.
They owned the road in a manner that, let’s face it, could never, ever happen here. And I’ll tell you why.
It wasn’t just the infrastructure, the huge dual carriageway-style cycle lanes and the gloriously flat expanse of land that made cycling effortless and which, realistically could never be replicated in a hilly city of crammed roads and too much traffic.
No, it was the whole psyche of a nation, one that genuinely didn’t see any point in getting in a car unless they really had to go a long way very quickly and that actually – and get this because it’s really quite important – respected each other.
Here, approach a roundabout on a bike and there’s every chance you won’t survive to reach your planned exit. Some geezer in an Audi will rev up, toot their horn, overtake and cut in front, mouth going like the clappers, hands flicking the V sign. Over there, I watched amazed as motorists actually slowed down, stopping to let cyclists through and almost tipping their hat in a friendly ‘Off you go, cyclist person and have a lovely day’ manner that I can’t believe would ever happen here.
And just as motorists here go slightly insane once they slide behind the wheel of their vehicle, too many of our cyclists seem to think they have super-human powers that enable them to be seen in the dark or bounce off cars rather than fall under the wheels. They cycle like idiots then moan when a motorist dares to suggest they may die horribly unless they’re more careful.
News today that police pulled up cyclists who travelled the wrong way up a city lane may help placate some motorists who rage at the brazen manner in which some on two wheels merrily flout the rules. But it’s hardly going to bring about the enormous change in attitudes that will really make the roads safer for everyone.
Huhne goes extra miley
Disgraced politician Chris Huhne seems to have adopted the Miley Cyrus “say anything, do anything to keep me in the news” approach. Let’s hope he avoids the plastic bikini and foam finger . . .
Bellany given a great send-off
Along with his brilliance, artist John Bellany obviously came with a few minus points. “He was a great man, but not perfect, not a saint,” said friend Sandy Moffat in his eulogy.
I liked that his funeral at
St Giles’ Cathedral on Tuesday reflected his complexities, from his passion and his joie de vivre to those flaws and foibles. My favourite recollection came from son Jonathan, who painted his own glorious picture of his father as “the life and soul, a fantastic artist and the best father I could ever dream of having”.
That sounds to me like a pretty decent epitaph.
Taking on the fates can be fun
ACCORDING to writer Lemony Snicket, “Fate is like a restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.”
Take Saturday, when I was dragged to MCM Scotland Comic Con in Glasgow, not entirely sure what it was, wary it would cost me money.
One of the joys of having children is that they take you places you’d never otherwise go. And, surrounded by oddballs in comic-character outfits, it turned out to be good fun.
Fate serves up lots that at first may not seem to our taste. The trick, I suppose, is to learn to embrace it.
Comic Con’s back next September. So plenty of time to dye my hair black, lose four stones and embrace my inner Wonder Woman.
All in the game for councillor
I AM trying desperately to be outraged at Councillor Jeremy Balfour, who was caught playing solitaire on his (publicly funded) iPad during a council meeting.
But hands up who hasn’t found their attention straying during a mind-numbing meeting?
I’m more shocked that anyone still plays solitaire. Get with it man. Download Minecraft before you lose all respect forever.