Four wheels bad ... two wheels good

IssueOctober 2006
Comment by Jeff Cloves

Phil Reardon (PN obit July/August) was a gem of a bloke “very much in the William Morris News From Nowhere tradition” as Howard Clark put it and his wonderfully inventive tract on re-cycling cycles is still my constant companion.

Here in Stroud, the founders of Bicycology shyly admit to having never heard of Phil or his great work but they are clearly his philosophical descendants. By osmosis, or otherwise, their excellent guide has been compiled with the same wit and flair that Phil showed all those years ago.

Love your bike

Unfortunately, you can now pay as much as #3000 for a bike designed to sit alongside your Porsche car and your Harley Davidson motorbike, in a garage the size of a house.

The technical complexities of such bikes demand a degree in engineering to understand and maintain, and are a far cry from Phil's espousal of the sensible, simple and intimate. His insistence that “bikes really don't need a lot of maintenance, but minor problems do have a way of turning into major ones if not attended to - a well-put-together, well tended bike is a real friend”, is echoed by the Bicycologists.

The founders of Bicycology, James and Imogen, are peace activists and anti-globalisation campaigners from Stroud and had an excellent stall at our recent free fringe festival. They, like Phil, are champions of re-cycling but their Guide to Bicycology (Imogen did the excellent drawings) is also a statement of their wider beliefs. What makes it particularly endearing is its plain speech and its wit. Thus: “The following definition (taken from Pedals' Fictionary) should give the reader some insight into the field we shall be exploring. However, as will be noted, there is some disagreement and debate concerning whether Bicycology is an Art or a Science, or indeed whether it is either. It is worth pointing out that most Bicycologists have tired of this debate, preferring to get on their bikes and ride.”

Spanners in the wheels

I am a member of the Stroud Valleys Cycle Campaign and our newsletter, Uphill, has this quotation on its masthead: “Every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the human race”. It's from HG Wells - author of The War of the Worlds amongst other books.

The trouble is, that as our own capitalist wars of the world rage, fewer and fewer people are riding bikes. India and China have turned against bikes and increasingly worship the car - the Indian government is proposing banning inner-city cycle rickshaws in Mumbai - and at home, outside London at least, bicycle journeys are stagnating when not falling.

Cycles of change

Years ago, my friend Mike Bartholomew had a wonderful idea for a Bicycle Aldermaston - why trudge when you can ride a bike was his idea - and it would have had a symbolic impact too. Cycling was intimately involved with the birth of the feminist movement (see HG Wells's wonderful novel Wheels of Chance) and socialism (the Clarion Cycling Club).

Despite BSA making folding bikes for paratroopers in WW2 I've always thought of bikes as essentially pacific. War is motorised, but I started my own cycling life in a sidecar attached to my mum and dad's tandem. Now, here I am writing for PN. I rest my case.

Topics: Transport
See more of: Jeff Cloves