Vilification for votes

duncan gay

If you’re Dutch and want my sympathy because Geert Wilders has a voice in your parliament, or American and expect me to feel sorry for you about Donald Trump, I’m sorry, where I live we have one of these populist conservatives actually going around making laws. (If Wilders or Trump ever get to that stage, then sure, you’re the worse off.) What kind of laws has Duncan Gay introduced? Just some some of the world’s most punitive (and thankfully futile) laws to hurt cycling. Why? For the same reason Wilders and Trump would do the same. Because vilification wins votes. Heil Hitler.

The great asymmetry between conservative and “progressive” politicians, is the conservatives can vilify our rites as people who did well at school (the rite of cycling for instance) and in so doing win the praises and votes of the dunces, but if a forward thinking politician were to do the same (vilify driving for instance) they would lose our loyal support. Our polite dinner conversations would turn to the needs of the dunces and the unnecessary harshness of our (former) fav poli.

How I would love if smart people stopped thinking they were Jesus and went totally badass. The politicians we would choose to represent us would take a leaf from Duncan Gay and introduce laws dreamed up at the pub with their mates. Make people carry ID cards if they have excessive body sway. Require dumb people to leave a metre when passing smart people, even when both are just walking. Fine them for reckless thinking. We need to send a message to progressive politicians that we don’t want to play fair. We want to stoop to the conservatives’ level.

Those of us living where I do also need to think through our responses to these new laws. Here are some scenarios and ways to respond.

You’re asked to produce a photo ID. Unlike a driver being random breath tested, you don’t have to show it if the police officer doesn’t believe you have broken a law. Ask what law they believe you have broken, and upon what evidence that belief might be based. If it is merely empirical observation then by casting Cartesian doubt (haven’t your senses deceived you before?) you should be able to distract them while you reach your hand into the back of your pants. As they pull out their gun (your Cartesian logic will have convinced them you’re dangerous) remove your hand and pass it under your nose with a look of revulsion. “I am sorry, I usually keep it, um… within me, because I’m so often using my bike to go to the pool. Oh that’s right, now I remember, I’ve left my ID up my mate’s arse from when we went swimming this morning.”


Fines may be increasing for not wearing a helmet bur our old excuses will be just as good. Say you have a letter somewhere at home that your dermatologist gave you when you were diagnosed with skin cancer (quivery voice), which is why you were wearing a sun hat, until it blew off. If you have ran a red light say you were waiting for ages but the sensor didn’t respond to the weight of your bike.

When having subjective charges levelled against you, like “dangerous riding” (whatever that is), it is better not to talk down to a police officer with your I’m-mortgage-free-and-I’ve-got-a-PhD calm. You have met that one in one hundred police officer with a chip on their shoulder, an astronomical mortgage and a photo of every restaurant meal they have paid for in defiance of the financial hole they have worked themselves into. I’m sorry but in this very rare and unlikely situation you should speak, or try to speak, in the language of that group who police spend most of their time with, and who bring out their own grace and pity:


  1. Amy says:

    If you’re taking the intellectual high ground, please change ‘rites’ to ‘rights’, unless you actually mean that cycling is a traditional ritual.

    • Steven says:

      I did mean “rite”, though you’re right in assuming I can’t spell — intellectuals quite often can’t.

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