Its taken a month, but I have finally completed my exhaustive analysis of everything wrong with cycling. After hills, sweating, roads and punctures, all that remains is my very least favourite thing about cycling: Cars.
Risk is an interesting phenomenom in our society. On the one hand, environmental health can shut you down if you make a sandwich without washing lettuce; on the other, there’s no legal barrier to sitting on a flimsy metal frame with half inch wheels, doing 30 mph on uneven tarmac as lorries overtake you at 70, with a feeble layer of polystyrene as your sole protection.
When doing 13 mph down my road, I’m not too worried about lorries, but I am very concerned about the lady in the Corsa who hasn’t looked in her wingmirror, and is about to open her door. Or the chap who overtook me on a high street, then turned left, causing me to crash into the side of his car. And I say I’m not too worried about lorries, but I don’t love it when they force you off the road into a ditch and you lose a front tooth.
The root of the problem is that cars are large, fast vehicles with limited visibility, often driven by impatient people. As a cyclist, its easy to despise the more obnoxious drivers, and paint them all with the same brush. Certainly, the operator of the car that hooted me last month whilst I was traversing a free flowing, highly dangerous roundabout fully deserves a slap.
However, we do need a little perspective; after all, many of us cyclists are drivers at other times, and all of us know how easy it is to forget to look in the mirrors before turning left, how easy it is to miss the cyclist hidden behind a truck, or in line with the sun.
Last week I pulled out at a cross roads after very carefully trying to assess if there was a bike coming down the hill. Despite my best efforts, there was a cyclist, who I very nearly brained. Whilst his not wearing a helmet implies there was little brain to risk, the point remains: cyclists are vulnerable, and, ultimately, feeling vulnerable is not the same as having fun.
I actually tried to come up with a realistic solution to the problem here.
The biggest issue is that not only are bikes very vulnerable, they are also vastly in the minority. Multiple studies show that the more people there are walking and cycling, the safer it becomes. In Amsterdam, you are twice as likely to be murdered as killed cycling. Overall, in Denmark and Holland, countries with much higher rates of cycling, you are three times less likely to die when riding.
So, the best way to make the roads less dangerous, less terrifying and thus less offputting to cyclists is to get more of us out there. Which probably means I should write a 5 things I love about cycling series…