There's a mantra that courses through Critical Mass that most people will have heard. "We are traffic!". It's a simple statement of a right to be on the road; it's a declaration of equality with the motorised boxes surrounding us; it's a means of making sure everyone knows we have a right to be there. But the problem is, I really don't think I am traffic.
Okay, I ride on the road more than on cyclepaths (that's not a difficult assumption to make of any UK cyclist who rides regularly of course); I'll assert my position when I need to; and I abide by the rules of that road for a combination of reasons comprising safety, predictability and maintaining the smug moral high ground. I do all of this, sharing the road with the cars and the buses and the taxies and the trucks that make up the traffic. So why do I not consider myself part of that daily mass? To put it bluntly, because traffic is a pain in the ar*e.
Traffic, to me, conjures up images of gridlock. Bumper to bumper morning commutes at a glacial pace. This fits in pretty well with Critical Mass, but on my morning ride to the office, I'm not traffic. I'm beating the traffic. Contradictions abound as motorists write to local newspapers complaining about being held up by bikes crawling along; by buses being given their own lanes; by new traffic lights being installed for the safety of pedestrians. Yet those same motorists are happy to waste hours per week in a queue of traffic. Because it's not the fault of the traffic. It's the fault of the bikes, buses and pedestrians. The cars have to be there, the motorists, all of them, have no choice. Ergo the person in the car in front (and in front of the car in front, and in front of the car in front of the car in front ad nauseum) is not actually holding them up.
Stationary, it appears, is an acceptable state. Slowing to 15mph for a minute while you wait for a safe place to pass someone on a bike, naturally, is not acceptable.
And yet every morning, despite being labelled as a cause of congestion and slow moving traffic, I find myself cursing the traffic ahead for slowing me down. I then sail pass a static queue, zombie-state drivers staring at the numberplate ahead while Chris Moyles invades their ears, and somehow me going past them is turned into the queue having been caused by the council being anti-car and giving in to the cycling lobby.
You know what, you can keep your traffic, I don't want to be part of it. I'm happy being separate. Being a cyclist. I most certainly am not traffic.