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Daily Mail stages another London commuter race - and bashes cyclists again

The cyclist didn't come first for once ... but apparently number of people pedalling and infrastructure are to blame for slowness of other modes...

For the second time in 18 months, the Daily Mail has staged a commuter race across London, and as before the result is an article that reinforces prejudices against those who choose to get around on two wheels – although unusually for this type of challenges, for once the cyclist didn’t win.

The latest piece was penned by Sarah Rainey, who took part in the race from Victoria Coach Station to Jermyn Street – a straight-line distance of just one mile – as a pedestrian, the other participants using a motorbike, car, bus and, of course, a bicycle.

> 10 of the most hysterical anti-cycling Daily Mail headlines

The article notes that London “is the world’s most congested city,” with factors behind that including “a proliferation of roadworks — construction here has increased by 362 per cent since 2012 — as well as a rise in the number of vans (online shopping and supermarket deliveries) and widespread Uber use.”

However, it’s clear to see where the Daily Mail believes most of the blame should lie, with the article stating:

But cycle lanes, built across the capital as part of a £913 million ‘cycle superhighway’ scheme, remain motorists’ biggest bugbear, with many complaining about ‘Lycra louts’ clogging up a city that wasn’t designed for bikes.

It’s an argument repeated nationwide, with Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham also boasting millions of pounds’ worth of cycle lanes.

With less than a third of rush-hour journeys carried out on two wheels, has a small but vocal group hijacked major infrastructure?

That “small but vocal group,” as the Mail puts it, accounts for 1 in 3 rush hour journeys in Zone 1 – indeed, it was recently revealed that bikes are now the most common vehicle type in the Square Mile of the City of London.

> Bikes now most common vehicle type in City of London rush hour

But according to the Mail, “For those who rely on public transport to get around — the elderly, disabled and those who can’t afford a car” cycling infrastructure is “wreaking havoc on their daily commute.”

Meanwhile, “with so many alternative ways of getting around, driving is reserved for those who don’t have a choice — such as the elderly or disabled, or those who do it for a living,” drive in Central London.

In the nice, shiny Range Rovers, BMWs and other high-end marques that abound in the capital presumably.

.Participants could choose their own routes, and each of the four not relying on pedal power highlighted cyclists as something that impeded their journey.

The motorcyclist who arrived first at Jermyn Street, his time of 7 minutes 15 seconds beating the cyclist by just 8 seconds, said: “Bus lanes are confusing for motorcyclists. There are some you can use and others you can’t — the rules don’t seem clear.

“Generally speaking, I hate buses. They’re normally half-empty, they stop too often and they block the roads.

“I’m not a fan of cyclists, either. They pull up in front of you at traffic lights and then can’t get away fast enough. I find it very frustrating and unsafe.”

Of course, one reason cyclists end up ahead of motor vehicles at traffic lights is that Advanced Stop Lines permit them to do so, although that does not discourage riders of scooters or motorbikes from being there, too. And increasingly, cyclists benefit from early-start traffic lights which enable them to move off well before the motorised traffic.

In second place, just 8 seconds behind was the cyclist, who said: “I got caught at several sets of traffic lights and ended up beside the car challenger, so I knew I was making slow progress.”

A particularly disappointing result for the Mail, presumably, given that it highlighted that critics of cyclists emphasise their disregard for the law.

Cyclist Dan said: “Rather than face gridlock on The Mall, I took the cycle lane through Green Park” – one, it should be noted, that being off-road takes no space away from motor traffic. “Though it was swarming, this bought me crucial time and I crossed the finish eight seconds after the motorbike.

“If I’d pedalled a tiny bit faster, I could’ve won,” he added.

Third home was the article’s author in 16 minutes 58 seconds, despite claiming that “on The Mall, I was nearly run over by a gaggle of cyclists who whizzed through a red light without a backward glance,” something she said cost her “five minutes recovering from the shock.”

She certainly seemed composed though in a photograph accompanying the article snapped as she stood in the middle of the very same street without a cyclist in sight. Perhaps it was taken afterwards?

Fourth was the motorist, clocking an improbable 17 minutes 41 seconds, given that 10 minutes of which was apparently spent looking for a parking space.

He complained that “London is becoming impossible for motorists” because “roads that used to flow freely have been narrowed so much by cycle lanes that there’s always solid traffic” – even though none are directly on the route he took.

“I felt like my car was surrounded by a swarm of cyclists, cutting me up at every corner. You can’t take your eyes off the road for a second, even to check the sat nav,” he added – not that you should take your eyes of the road while driving, anyway.

The final participant to arrive was the bus passenger in 18 minutes 20 seconds, who said: “I’m not surprised I came last,” she said. “But it does seem unfair that bus routes are clogged with cyclists — they should stick to their own lanes.”

Something that’s difficult to do when there aren’t any on the route in question.

So, blocking the road ahead of motorcyclists at traffic lights, almost mowing down people on foot, swarming around cars and using bus lanes instead of cycle lanes that aren’t there in the first place. It doesn’t seem that cyclists can do much right … well, in the Daily Mail’s eyes, anyway.

You could be forgiven for wondering if BBC broadcaster and daily cycle commuter Jeremy Vine had actually read the article in question when he tweeted this earlier today.

The last time the Mail conducted a similar exercise, in October 2016, the disdain for cycling was rather less thinly veiled – the article appeared under the heading, Cycle Lane Lunacy.

> Daily Mail stages race to highlight “cycle lane lunacy” – and proves bikes are quicker than cars in cities

On that occasion, it held commuter races in Bristol, Manchester and London – and in the capital, on a longer route that time of 4.25 miles from the Tower of London to Tate Britain, most of it on the segregated East-West Cycle Superhighway, the cyclist of course won.

And as we pointed out in our coverage of that article, cyclists have been winning these challenges (at least when there's not a motorcyclist involved) for years, and well before decent infrastructure came along.

Perhaps riding a bike is just a quick and efficient way of getting round?

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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