Locking my bike up in the car park the other day, I noticed a car arriving, which contained one of my colleagues. "I didn't know you drove in, " I said. "Yes," he replied. "It's quick and comfortable." His journey is only 5 miles or so, and he's in an area served by a direct tube journey.
I don't really understand this "comfort" idea, to be honest. I don't really like being in boxes. We're not on this earth for long, and after that time is over, we spend plenty of time in a box. I don't actively seek discomfort, and I'm not above leaving the bike at home if it's absolutely pouring down with rain. There's not much better than a bike ride on a sunny day, but there is also something invigorating about a crisp frosty morning, and there's nothing to make you appreciate home comforts more than being out in the rain and the cold.
But each to his own, I suppose. My friend likes the inside of a car, and he is not breaking any laws by choosing to drive in, as long as he pays his congestion charge.
However, it did occur to me that TfL will place a much higher value on his journey than on mine. TfL prioritize the speed and safety of his journey over mine. But without good reason. We are both professional people, working in the same commercial organization. And it so happens that while I actually create products, his job is to minimize the tax the company pays. He doesn't create anything, and he doesn't make the company more efficient. He doesn't even reduce costs, if you consider the whole economy, because tax is a zero-sum game. The government need to raise a given amount in tax every year from all sources, so every £1 he saves us in tax will need to be paid by some other business or individual who can't afford to employ someone like him to avoid it.
Now I don't bear my colleague any resentment because of his job. He's like a traffic warden or an estate agent. People wish they didn't exist, but they perform a function that is necessitated by the way the world is. Our competitors employ tax people, so we have to, otherwise we'd go out of business. But it remains a fact that tax people make a net zero contribution to the economy. It also remains a fact that they are paid a lot of money - witness the fact that my friend can afford a fancy car and the £9/day congestion charge. And because - and only because - he drives a car, and I ride a bike, TfL values his journey above mine.
Compared to a motor journey, my cycle commute is far less damaging to the environment, far less dangerous to other people, far less wasteful of roadspace, and imposes far fewer costs on the taxpayer. The purpose of my journey is to get to a job - same as someone commuting in a car, or by taxi, or for that matter someone going to a job in a van. Now, it could be argued that a plumber a builder can't get to a job without a van, so their journey is truly necessary. But TfL lumps all motor journeys together - whether or not they are necessary, whether or not a viable public transport alternative exists, and regardless of value - and puts the safety, speed and convenience of every one of these journeys above anyone on a bike. That cannot be right.