This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
The head of London's largest taxi drivers' association has compared the cyclists of London to Islamist terror cell, ISIS. And not, like… he didn't just turn round in his cab and say this to a bewildered tourist who was being taken to Trafalgar Square via Surbiton. He said this on the radio. While people were listening.
Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association (LTDA) general secretary Steve McNamara yesterday told LBC Radio: "These people, the zealots of the cycling world, are unbelievable. We have had cyber attacks on our websites. They are all over us like a cheap suit on Twitter and social media. We have had physical threats of violence. You name it, we have had it. It's absolutely unreal.
"The loonies out there in the cycling world, they're almost the sort of ISIS of London. Their views and their politics—if you are not with them, and we are with the majority of it, then nothing is too bad for you. These people are unreal."
"Almost a sort of ISIS of London". Let's unpack that statement, shall we? Because ISIS are a terror cell renowned for beheading journalists, crucifying children, burning captured pilots alive, and, as reported earlier this week, throwing a blindfolded gay man off a roof and stoning him to death when he miraculously survived. Whereas London cyclists are just a load of accountants called Graham who wear too-tight Lycra and think a lot about getting calf tattoos. I'm trying, Steve McNamara, I'm really trying mate, but I'm not seeing a natural connection here. On one hand, you've got ISIS, a radical Islamist group wreaking havoc across swathes of Syria and Iraq. On the other hand, you've got a group of people who just don't wanna get run over on their way to work each morning.
The current cabbie vs. cyclists beef—or the current flare-up of it, anyway, because cabbies and cyclists have been locked in a shout-through-rolled-down-windows war since time immemorial, since humans were nothing but amoebas floating in the sea, when the mountains were wrought and dinosaurs stalked the earth—follows the approval of two plans to build a sort of cyclist superhighway running through the centre of London, one from Barking to Acton, and one from King's Cross to Elephant & Castle. Sounds like a good idea, doesn't it? More cyclists on the road. Fewer cars. Healthier nation. Loads of people shouting at each other about left turns and saying, "I've got a fucking headcam, mate, this is going on YouTube!"
Not if you're a cabbie, it doesn't. It took about, ooh, one-and-a-half minutes between Transport for London (TfL) approving the proposed segregated-lane plans this week and the LTDA—as well as London First, London Travelwatch, City of London, and the Canary Wharf Group—to voice their concerns and threaten legal action. Only a couple of hours on from that, and the concept of cycling had morphed into a sort of rogue terror cell, where Lycra-clad cyclists patrol the streets, aggressively consuming sachets of energy gel, holding their HUMP backpacks aloft in the air, the falling-water sound of a million spokey-dokeys riding in unison acting as a sort of war cry to send people fleeing up the nearest flight of stairs to escape the wrath of the bikes.
Standard reporter Ross Lydall managed to catch up with McNamara after his radio interview, and he cited death threats made to him and members of his organization by cyclists as the reason for his comments. But, like: he didn't exactly retract them.
"Perhaps I would accept that was a bit strong," he said. "It was a live interview. I have had death threats. They say, 'I hope people you know die screaming of cancer.' I'm convinced that if 99 per cent of cyclists knew some of the stuff we had received after expressing legitimate concerns, they would be horrified.
"I'm not going to be intimidated. I don't take them seriously. We have not reported anything to the police because I don't think there is anything in them. I think it's just a few loonies, but they really have got a sort of religious zeal.
"Perhaps that was a bit strong [to compare them to ISIS] but I can't think of a single other movement in the world at the moment that behaves in such a vitriolic and aggressive manner." Well, neither can I, Steve, to be honest. I think the current axis of evil goes: IS, cyclists in London, Khorasan, Al Qaeda.
But cabbies have had a bad time of it lately, according to cabbies. Last June, a heated conflict with Uber came to a head when hundreds of drivers locked up traffic in central London in protest. The number of cyclists have grown over the last ten years, from 2.3 percent of Londoners getting in the fucking way all the time to 3.9. Plus people are way less likely to listen to them ramble on about immigration any more now they've all got iPhones to look at. Please, spare a thought for your cabbie next time you stiff them on a tip. They are warriors fighting a holy war.
Follow Joel Golby on Twitter.