Town mouse on the new bicycles in London

Oh dear, back in London, another summer gone, and already a townscape that seemed so unfamiliar when first re-encountered has become as wallpaper. Take the Boris bikes. Pavements sprouted stands earlier this year, but the bicycles themselves arrived when we were away. Already, the sight of Londoners pedalling off on these sturdy vehicles is commonplace.

Naturally, the boys are impatient to have a go, and despite my general prohibition on their cycling in London, I couldn’t help looking out for a stand as we shopped for school stationery. We were disappointed.

As yet, only members of a kind of club can get hold of a machine. We watched with envy as cannier folk launched themselves into the traffic (none, I noticed, with a helmet). It’s for the best, perhaps.

We cycle around Thanet, on proper tracks, comforting ourselves-having heard an item on Radio 4’s More or Less that if cycling is slightly more hazardous than driving in the UK, it is far safer than driving in France (one in 23,000 cyclists dies in Britain, one in 10,000 motorists in France).

Even in the capital, the death rate for cyclists hasn’t changed, despite cyclist numbers having doubled. This gives little reassurance to parents of boys: the group most likely to die cycling is young males.