lycra louts

I just learned this new expression for describing “rogue cyclists” who flout the rules of the road. It’s employed in serious articles in British newspapers, as I’ve discovered, and these louts seem to be considered a widespread menace in London. Saying it out loud still makes me laugh, but I’m glad we don’t seem to have an equivalent expression in Boston (or have I just missed it?).

“Lycra lout” behavior includes running red lights, biking on sidewalks, and biking the wrong way down one-way streets. This makes me wonder why there isn’t a similar outrage in this country (or at least this city) over cyclists who disobey traffic laws. There are certainly people who will be happy to tell you about all the “crazy bikers” they’ve witnessed from their car, but overall it seems like there’s no real expectation that those on bikes will obey traffic rules. Bostonians who tell these stories seem more amused than furious, unlike their counterparts in the British press.

Apparently fines for bicycle violations in London may be raised from £30 to £100, as £30 was considered too lenient. This is far higher than the $20 fine in Cambridge for bicycle violations, and I have yet to actually see anyone in Cambridge being stopped on their bicycle. In fact, a Boston traffic cop once laughed at me when I stopped at a red light. When I was in London in 2007, I once saw a cyclist chastised by a cop just for stopping in front of a “stop here” line at a red light, rather than behind it.

I’ve always been an advocate for vehicular cycling, but I often feel alone when others on bikes fly past me at red lights.

Now I wonder if the British are just generally more angered by rule-breaking than we are, or if these low expectations mean that cyclists are still too small a minority to be considered any real threat. Should I long for an American campaign against lycra louts, to prove that we’re capable of making an impact on the local psyche? Or is this just another indication that nothing good can come of wearing lycra?

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