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Grumpy Oldie Man, Matthew Norman, says Put the brakes on, Cycling Mikey

Blog | By Matthew Norman | Apr 22, 2024


This is absolutely the last thing a writer on nodding terms with sanity would admit to in print. If the editor has any residual professional pride, he’ll start the trenchant sacking letter on reading the next sentence.

But I cannot find the words.

I can, not to brag, find some words. However, the adequate words for a certain Mike van Erp remain beyond location.

I’ve been searching fruitlessly for them for about a month, since reading about him in the Sunday Times. Every time I think about him (and I’ve thought about little else), a peasouper of psychotic rage descends to blind whatever bit of the mind’s eye peruses the frontal lobe for mots justes.

What follows, to spell out the pre- emptive apology, is guaranteed to be even closer to unredeemed gibberish than that old mythological pal ‘the regular reader’ has been schooled to expect from this page.

What I can do is offer some dainty morsels from the article, in which a reporter tracked Cycling Mikey, as he pleases to know himself on social media, going about his business as a vigilante of His Majesty’s thoroughfares.

Now let it be stated that, in the unending battle between driver and cyclist – as asymmetric a contest as those between rifle-toting cowboys and native American archers – all my sympathies lie with the latter.

Drivers tend to be selfish, entitled horrors who merrily ignore the safety of bikers. The Daily Mail-ish, smug, middle-aged-white-male notion that speeding is a matter of personal choice, and not criminality, is an abhorrent perversion of libertarian sentiment.

Cycling on city streets is a wickedly dangerous pursuit. So I doff my cap to Cycling Mikey, and others such as Jeremy Vine, who devote themselves to shaming and facilitating the punishment of hateful drivers who put their lives in peril.

But... but... but... argh... really, I mean, really... I mean... in the name of all the saints.

Nope, can’t find them. A short break and a swig of Famous Grouse may assist.

All right then. Where Cycling Mikey loses our admiration – and I hope this once I speak for us all – is that he doesn’t content himself with going after the bad guys. He also enjoys grassing up drivers who are no threat to anyone.

Wearing a helmet with a video camera embedded, he looks through windows as he pedals up, filming anyone he catches touching their phone, and forwarding the footage to a police website.

He does this even when the driver... he does this even when... he does this... nah, I need another swig.

OK.

He does this even when that driver is stationary in a traffic jam, with handbrake on and engine off.

Technically, of course, this is a crime carrying a likely penalty of six penalty points (half a ban) and a heavy fine. Even so, and to underline a previous point, what can you say?

In the piece, Cycling Mikey relished a novel experience. ‘I haven’t yet caught a member of the emergency services,’ he said on finally breaking that regrettable duck. When an ambulance driver, stationary in a jam, checked his phone, CM sidled up to film it.

The paramedic’s admission of guilt and courteous apology cut little ice with our Nemesis. ‘I’ll be reporting him,’ he told the reporter. The outcome of another plea for clemency, from a static motorist with six points on his licence, whose livelihood would vanish if dobbed in, isn’t clear.

‘I felt his pain,’ admitted CM, ‘but nice people still end up killing and seriously injuring others.’

Indeed they do, albeit though seldom, one has to believe, when their vehicles are not in motion.

In his defence, his cyclist father was killed in Zimbabwe, albeit by the drunk driver of a moving car rather than some poor sod glancing momentarily at a message while travelling at an estimated 0.000000mph.

He is evidently a decent chap, earning a portion of his living by caring for a disabled teenage boy. The rest, presumably the bulk, comes from advertising on a bespoke YouTube channel with some 100,000 subscribers.

And, undeniably, the man is brave. As observed by one of the great poets – Lord Byron, perhaps, or possibly Homer (Simpson) – snitches get stitches. One of these days, some gridlocked nebbish facing unemployment for touching a mobile could do something truly awful to him.

Genuinely – forgive the piety – I hope not. Grief does peculiar things to people, while that portion of his hobby that punishes horrific drivers (not exclusively in black Range Rovers; other 4x4s are available), and deters others from imperilling cyclists’ lives, is noble and valuable work.

But God forbid someone caught with engine off lashes out. Presuming that at least a few of the 12 good people and true are London motorists who spend much of their miserable lives in gridlock, I am reminded of the philosopher Bernard Manning’s thought on Ken Dodd’s acquittal for tax evasion.

‘Get a bleedin’ conviction? In Liverpool, they were f****** lucky to get a jury together.’