Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Sharing the Road

This is a post about cycling.  Before you groan ("another leftie-green-antiTopGear-twatty eejit") I would like to say, in my defence, that although I cycle quite a bit, I also drive lots too.

So that makes me balanced.

Which is good, if you're on a bike.

Any road up, a quick potted history of my dorky love of cycling.  I wasn't always a fan - by jove, no - but three years ago, a friend and I decided that we would cycle 120 miles over two days for a local cancer charity.  This sounds like no biggie - I mean Eddie Izzard ran 43 marathons in 56 days, so cycling 60 miles a day for just two days?  Pah!  C'est rien!

Well, to us, mums of small children who were a bit blobby of bum who and couldn't plan a route to Homebase and back - it was like specking out the ascent up the Western Reach of Kilimanjaro.  Hard.

Cut a long story short; we were shit at first but then we got quite good.  We live in a city surrounded by hills, which we convinced ourselves was a GOOD THING, as when we eventually climbed our first hill without stopping/swearing/suffering something life-threatening, we felt like Queens of the World.  And in fact, when we came back down the hill, the wind in our hair, (and freezing our hands which were glued to our brakes) we let out teenage whoops and put our legs out, parading our lycra gussets for all to see.

It was magic.

I loved cycling with my mate.  We weren't the fastest.  We didn't peddle the hardest.  When it rained, we generally stopped, found cover, and ate cake.

And after our big 120 mile ride, we carried on cycling, every week.  We would plan a route of around 20 miles - country lanes and tracks and tow paths and some main roads - and it would feel like our adventure.  I would complain about my then husband and she would listen patiently.  She would beat me up hills and I would beat her down them again.  She could run on empty and I would have to constantly eat.  We never fell off when we were together.

We still occasionally cycle but my single-mumness has made it difficult to spend a whole morning out.  I miss it.  Apart from anything, my bum is now HUGE.

So, hoping I haven't gone on about it too much, I love cycling.  Makes you feel alive, keeps you fit, can be very sociable, gives you challenges and thrills and potentially, if you're using it to travel from A to B, keeps your car off the road.

Which brings me a bit closer to the point of this post.

A fellow blogger wrote a post recently about how cyclists are frequently seen by drivers as 'rats of the road'.  Cycling without helmets, running red lights, gesticulating at drivers.  Generally behaving like arses.  My Physio said that, as she was driving past a cyclist on a country road, he put his foot out and kicked her car.  'What were you driving?' I asked.  A Landrover.  'So.' I said. 'You overtook this guy in your huge 4x4 on a country road, close enough for him to touch your car with his foot?'  'Yes', she said, 'And I pulled up and said, "What's the problem?  Nobody died!"'

I didn't know how to react to this.  She is a nice person.  A woman of some medical prowess.  And yet she thought that the cyclist was an unreasonable shit.  In my mind, he was probably just frightened that she was going to kill him.

I was overtaken by an articulated lorry on an A road with a 30mph limit.  The driver got too close to me (I could have kicked it easily had I not thought I was about to die) and I literally got blown off my bike as it passed.  The driver wasn't even aware of what he'd done.

What I'd really like to promote is an ethos of Sharing The Road.  Did you know that cyclists paved the way for modern roads?  Car drivers assume that the roads were built for them, but it was actually cyclists who first lobbied for flat roads 100 years ago.  (Fabulous article about this in The Guardian here.)  I would like motorists to slow down when they see a cyclist, don't rush to overtake, give them plenty of room.  Show them a little respect - it's sodding hard work riding a bike and scary too.  As a car driver, you might get fed up when you're stuck behind a cyclist slowly plodding up a hill, but think how she or he feels.  Thigh burn, lungs on fire, and worst of all - the knowledge that a huge queue of impatient drivers is building up behind you.

There are some idiotic cyclists around but I'm afraid that it's the car drivers who need to take the moral high ground on this one.  Because it's the cyclists who are the vulnerable ones, the ones at risk.

I read this recently, about Emma Way, a driver who had just been found guilty of failing to stop after a collision and failing to report an accident.  Soon after the accident, she tweeted: “Definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier,” she wrote cheerily. “I have right of way – he doesn’t even pay road tax!”

Absolutely unbelievable.

So as car drivers, let's stop believing that we own the road, because we don't.  We share it.   And as cyclists, let's keep ourselves as safe as we can by high vizzing to the max, lighting up like Blackpool Tower at night and not being afraid to cycling in the middle of our lane.  Especially you, ladies, as apparently it is us who feel most intimated by car drivers on the road.

But the more people who cycle, the safer it will become.

Cyclists, be brave.  Car drivers, be nice.  Don't squabble.  Share the road.






4 comments:

  1. Great post Lottie. I used to cycle quite a bit - my Dad was a prolific cyclist and used to cycle into central London daily when he worked (from the South West outskirts). I got my husband to buy me a bicycle for my birthday last summer and so far I have had a chance to use it once. With him working shifts, shit weather and just being too knackered for anything even remotely resembling exercise its been a bit of a non-starter. I'm dropping a day of work from April though so I'm hoping to get out and about a bit then. It would be great to have a friend to go out cycling with. I think i would be scared on the roads nowadays - especially because my new bike seems so high up - I have to fall sideways to get a foot on the ground but I take it this is the way its supposed to be... pissy drivers don''t help matters...

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    1. Good luck with the cycling. My advice would be to start local on quiet roads, then slowly graduate up to the main roads. Don't feel like you have to hug the gutter either - keep a way out into the road so that motorists don't feel like they can squeeze past you. I have a theory that female cyclists are safer than male cyclists as a) female drivers notice you because they're looking at the size of your bum, comparing it to theirs, and b) male drivers notice you because they're just looking at your bum! (My bum is huge, btw.)

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  2. Hello? Who is this? Sorry I was redirected here. I would like to complain about the stitching on my twin gusseted cycling undercrackers. This is Amazon isn't it?

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    1. Yes Kenny, this is Amazon. Pay me £120 and I will send you some new gusseted cycling undercrackers. Please.

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