In a striking advance towards utopian socialism, the Conservatives are about to give everybody £50 to get their bikes fixed.
Whatever you may think of Boris Johnson he did once ride a bicycle, and that’s the only plausible explanation of the latest Government lunacy. In a striking advance towards utopian socialism, the Conservatives are about to give everybody £50 to get their bikes fixed.
How to spend it? If you’re a regular cyclist, you’ll be happy to go into your local shop and say “do what you can for £50” knowing that bike mechanics like things to work and want to give you the best possible value for your hard unearned cash. The money is not really for you though. It’s supposed to encourage all those people, who’ve allowed their machines to decay unused in the back garden, to clean them up and become part of the new micro-mobility revolution.
“The scheme will be open to anyone who has an unused cycle in need of attention. The aim is to help them get it back on the road by providing £50 toward the cost of a service and repair, up to two cycles per household.”
Perhaps it will work? In the spirit of “go to work, don’t go to work” people are being told not to use public transport, and while the polls suggest that many people want to ride their bikes more, the same data suggests that just as many intend to drive more. The latter is – of course – unsustainable. There will have to be some kind of restriction, but given peoples unwillingness to change their lifestyle, this may come with a severe political backlash.
I welcome the initiatives idealistic spirit but, for retailers, it may turn out to be a mixed blessing. At the moment we already have too much to do. Capacity is finite, especially in competent bike mechanics. There’s the problem of “bicycle shaped objects” and the shutdown has inspired much optimism among hoarders of corroded metal. A back of the envelope calculation suggests the money is worth £10,000 for every bike shop in the country, but will it be £10,000 of extra business or just extra bureaucracy and lots of unfixable bikes?
Regular riders will be cheered and encouraged by this unexpected gift. Get online now, tell your friends, your mum, your work colleagues! Share the joy!
Its a learning process and you will emerge as a Better Human Being. Also your bike will work better.
A guest-post from a veteran London dealer, selling and fixing bikes in the time of coronavirus.
The shelves are getting empty. Outside there is a queue of docile pedestrians waiting to see if the next van will bring any bicycles. It is promised to arrive “within hours”. Indoors, teams of perspiring mechanics spend as much of their time as possible battling a mountain of repairs and as little time as possible dealing with rambling pointless telephone calls, searching the internet for basic essentials, moving piles of rubbish around, and listening to people’s theories about their punctures. Meanwhile the pile of bikes waiting for currently unobtainable parts is darkening the room and blocking access to vital parts of the building.
There are experienced cyclists wanting their bikes completely restored, who become emotional with gratitude when you return their rejuvenated machine. The inexperienced want to spend a lot of time telling you that their bike will definitely not be expensive to repair because basically there’s nothing wrong with it. They tell you it was working fine until it suddenly went wrong. Or it’s hardly been used. They call their friend who’s an expert to ask them what to do. They suggest glue. They look at their phones. They ask you how much it would be if the shop down the road did it? They tell you its only for riding to work. Giving them information doesn’t seem to help, they’re waiting for you to tell them what they want to hear.
Luckily the power relationships have changed. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed? You can wait, or you can walk. This is the cost. Now please don’t mess up the job by antagonising your mechanic. Listen to what she says. Acquiesce gracefully. Its a learning process and you will emerge as a Better Human Being. Also your bike will work better.
In this brave new world having a skill that people depend on has turned you into a deal-maker, an agenda-setter. The servants are temporarily the masters while the masters are locked behind their laptops waiting for that delivery. We know it won’t last long, but one day we’ll look back and remember the moment it became clear who the truly vulnerable are.