The history of the relationship of the London Olympics to cycling has had many chapters, each individually saying so much about the British relationship to the bike, each succeeding the last with the inevitability of epic tragedy, like something made-up, so artistically, tragically perfect has been the symmetry of dramatic construction, running from the early official claims about how the Olympics were to be actually built around "active travel" including cycling, through all the broken promises and failure to deliver even the slightest attempt at cycling infrastructure to the venues, while a mass of pro-bike promotion flooded out of TfL; through all the protests by LCC that the road network being constructed around the Olympics was unsafe for cyclists, totally ignored by TfL and the ODA; through the death of two cyclists on the main recommended route to the Olympic Park at Bow roundabout last year under the wheels of lorries in near-identical incidents entirely attributable to the bad design of the Cycle Superhighway; through TfL's half-baked efforts to correct that design; through the closing of the one safe route near the Olympic Park, the Lea towpath, on "security" grounds, forcing all cyclists in the area onto lethal road systems; through the implementation of the Olympic Route Network, entirely ignoring, of course, the safety and comfort of cyclists; through the opening ceremony of the Games themselves, which featured winged bikes, while outside the stadium the police treated the Critical Mass riders, people just out for a bike ride, like criminals, kettling and arresting them, then holding 182 of them overnight before releasing all but three of them without charge; through the triumphs of Britain's cycling medal-winners on the track and in the road races; through the death, on the night of geatest triumph – the gold won by Bradley Wiggins in the Men's Time Trial – of cyclist Dan Harris under the wheels of an Olympic bus right outside the park, at a place where LCC had condemned the road design; through the (later retracted) suggestion by Bradley Wiggins, when asked about that tragedy in a way he perhaps was not prepared for, that a solution to cycle safety issues in the UK might be compulsory helmets (despite the fact that Harris was crushed bodily, like so many other cyclists, under the wheels of a turning heavy vehicle, and that a helmet would have been of no help), to today, Friday 10 August, when cyclists plan a mass ride and vigil to commemorate the death of Dan Harris, and the Mayor, Boris Johnson, plans some new announcement on a "cycling legacy".*
A summary of all this might be to say that though we in the UK have started now to treat our cycling sportsmen and sportswomen as heroes, our public authorities still treat those who try to get around on a bike like dirt. It's a weird juxtaposition, and one that, through its sheer existence, shows the folly of trying to equate popularity of high-level cycle sport with the dedication of political and public respect and resources to transport cycling. It shows rather that this contrast can exist, and maybe even the more we elevate sports cycling as the image of the way bikes are used in this country, the more we depress and crush the simple concept of the easy mode of transport for anyone. I'm not certain of this idea, but I throw it into the philosophising as a suggestion worth of consideration. For throughout this whole saga everyday cyclists and their organised representatives have been ignored, patronised, conned, insulted, fobbed-off, and treated as a minor irritant, not really cared about at all, by the ODA, LOCOG, the Olympic boroughs, the government, the cycling Mayor, and Transport for London, while these all claimed to espouse some kind of "cycling revolution" or "renaissance" that was nebulously linked to sporty cycling.
The vigil for the death of Dan Harris will begin with a ride from the National Theatre (where Critical Mass gathers, though this is not a Critical Mass event) setting off at 6:30pm. The vigil itself will be quiet and dignified gathering at the crash site, at the Lea Interchange on the north perimeter of the Olympic Park, from 7:30 to 8:30pm.
There has been some controversy arising out of the fact that the family of Dan Harris have reportedly said that they do not wish his death to be used for "political purposes". But it should be apparent from what I have written above that his death was not an isolated and random event, it was part of a whole history and scenario which is deeply political. Perhaps the family do not yet appreciate this. Every cyclist death on road systems where cyclists' interests have not been taken in the slightest way into account is a political issue. It was totally right for LCC, as a cyclists' representative body, to refer to the death of Mr Harris in its press release and public statements about the need for safe junction designs for cyclists in London. It is their job to try to prevent such tragedies recurring, therefore they need to describe what has actually happened, in a specific case where representations were made about a dangerous road design that was not fixed, where a predictable death subsequently occurred (exactly as at Bow roundabout). To make the points they have to refer to the specific case. This is an entirely defensible and moral thing for them to do, indeed not to do so would be immoral.
There is a tradition in the UK of road deaths being swept under the carpet as "accidents" that "should not be used for political purposes". The results are injustice, and more deaths. Bereaved families have to greave, but the rest of us should take action.
*Update: this announcement was merely of another Skyride-type event for next Summer, not of anything worthy the epithet "legacy". Utterly pathetic, but no surprise.