Your duty to ride slow in front of blue collar workers in cars

The year is 1946. My grandfather is waiting with 20 or more of his workmates, all riding bikes, to board the ferry, to cross the harbour, to go to work at the steelworks. They are all waiting because their managers, who they call “the staff”, are allowed to board first in their cars. Though there are only 5 of these “staffers”, they take up almost all the space on the ferry. The ferry could be a small boat, but for these staff and their cars.

The ferry does not have a roof, because the staff will be dry in their cars if it rains. Each drop of rain in my grandfather’s blue collar will ram home his lower status. So if he makes it back alive from the war, and the war machine has turned to making cars now as quickly as it made bombs before, what will my grandfather do? I’m guessing he’ll buy a car and stop cycling.

That is why, if you are a manager, if you wear a suit, if people below you view you with derision and envy… that is why you should see it as your duty to not only cycle to work, but to cycle to work in ways that slow the working class down in their cars. As a person of status, you should go first on your bike, just as men of status formerly went first in their cars. Your mission is to make those below you on the social ladder, see cycling as a rung they should climb.
Thanks Gusto, for your work in the archives finding photos like this one, of the ferry in our humble city of Newcastle, back when bicycle transport was the dominant mode—in terms of volume, not status. Today driving has volume, and cycling has status.


  1. Wilma says:

    Hi Steven, I enjoyed your post about slowing down in front of cars, driven by blue collar workers, although I really don’t think it will help promote the cause of making cycling more acceptable and desirable. I’d rather show people in cars that cycling is efficient and fun, which I try to do by following the rules and smiling at travelers I meet in intersections, whatever their mode of transport.
    I hope you get a bakfiets. Please note that it is not a bakfiet. The singular does end with an “s.” Bak means box, and fiets means bicycle. If there are two of them, there are bakfietsen. Please fix your biography and you will make us Dutch folks happy!

    • Steven says:

      Hi Wilma, it’s so nice to have a comment from someone other than luke or lukas or luke or lukas (as much as I welcome those luke and lukus’s comments).
      Well I must tell you I am already a proud owner of a bakfiets, and know about the s at the end now, because the word bakfiets is routed onto the box, and there is only one box. Still, I would have said bakfietss had I bought another, before learning the plural version from you.
      So, to my bio to fix it!!
      Nice meeting you, and your pleasant demeanour 🙂

  2. Lucy says:

    Dear Steven,
    Lucy here! (hehehe) Regarding class warfare and bicycles: I am fairly certain that Denmark and the Netherlands (other than for their respective royal families) would consider themselves as equal opportunity and class-less societies (definitely not to be misunderstood as without class!). The thinking in these countries would be more along the lines of riding a bike to avoid awakening the wrath of society and provoking the felling of one as a tall poppy (and of course, knowing that riding a bike is good for body, soul and country, and above else cheap, cheerful and chic)
    In Australia, I would only dare holding up the Holdens driven by the Hi-Vis collared on my pushy, when wearing a lady-suit with short skirt and stilettos, as I would, because my name is Lucy (hehehe), and that would possibly result in the Hi-Vis collared wanting to join me, but maybe not necessarily riding a bike.
    Otherwise, I think the focus should be on students of all ages and young people and linked to Higher Education and First Homebuyer payments: If you own a car, you clearly don’t need either. The bike would become very popular very quickly and would be seen as the good protestant misers’ horse that it is in Norther Europe.
    Lucy (hehehe)

    • Luke says:

      Steven, Luke here. We’re just trying to make it easier for you to remember names. Like when I recently visited Milan, my hostess managed to arrange a meal out where all her friends were all called Francesco or Francesca. Made life very easy, with the added bonus that the F’as outnumbered the F’os. Or where I once worked – all four security guards were called Ron (apart from the one who wasn’t, but he accepted the inevitable name change with good grace).
      Randomly, we have had the coldest, wettest summer ever, but ever since Bradley Wiggins won, the sun has shone. No one is giving him any credit for this.

      • Steven says:

        You know that lead out Professor Wiggins gave my son Mark, coming into the last turn of the tour, almost gave me a heart attack. I can’t believe someone else didn’t roll over my boy for the win. On reflection, your Wiggly wobbly wiggins boy from whom the sun shines, put a lot of pressure on my boy Mark to deliver. But then I guess they knew what they were doing. What a nail biter though! So don’t worry, we’re as ecstatic here about native English speakers ruling God’s own sport as you are! Can you somehow arrange to have your family exchange Anglicanism for cycling as the commonwealth’s official religion?

  3. Luke says:

    Speaking as a Papist, it seems to that Anglicans can believe (or not) in pretty much anything (or nothing). As I’ve got older and wiser, I’ve realised that’s a plus – they can just not go cycling on a Sunday morning instead of not going to church, without the need for any doctrinal changes.

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