I first wrote this piece in 2002. It is still true. It is both the selfish thoughtlessness of many cyclists and the boorish hostility of motorists that is the direct link to the yet un-won war against fascism.
The greatest struggle of the last century was against Fascism. But, we have forgotten what this struggle was about. It was not a war against foreign nations and evil rulers. Fascism is incipient in our own society too. I am not writing about right-wing racist hooliganism (although that is part of it). I am writing about that tendency in all of us to say that the rules that apply to others do not apply to me; I only obey the laws that suit me; I am above the law.
What does this have to do with cycling? I cycle to and from work five days a week in Oxford. It is warfare on the streets. The contempt with which motorists treat cyclists is frightening — and life threatening. But, in some part, cyclists are to blame. Red lights? Not for me. One way street? Not for me. Lighting up time? Not for me. Pavement? I'll have that. The contempt with which cyclists treat the rules of the road leads to the contempt with which motorists treat cyclists.
It is both the selfish thoughtlessness of many cyclists and the boorish hostility of motorists that is the direct link to the yet un-won war against fascism. Because fascism is the ultimate political manifestation of selfish thoughtlessness and boorish hostility. Fascism arogates to itself both the "right" to make the law and then the "privilege" to apply the law selectively with respect to one's own self interest and relative political power.
The rules of the road are quite clear with respect to cycles. The rules of the road require us all to forgo a small part of our self interest in order to protect ourselves and our fellow travellers: on foot, two wheels or four. Run a red light? Ride the wrong way up a one way street on the pavement? No lights? Twenty mile speed limit? Park on the double yellows? Those rules don't apply to me.
That's fascism and that is what we still have to fight against.