There’s a bit of road on my route to the station, a short stretch of narrow one-way street. Down one side, there is an even shorter stretch – we’re talking yards here – where parking is permitted and when it is full, which is most of the time, the road is even narrower.
I hate this bit. It is so narrow that when I am cycling down it the width of my handlebars, plus the width of the parked car, plus the width of the car that is (always) trying to pass me adds up to the entire width of the road. I am one wobble away from a nasty accident. And the passing car, of course, slows down as it passes to get through the narrow gap between cyclist and pavement so the hair’s-breadth moment seems to last for ever. I’m not, generally, a wobbly cyclist, but there’s nothing like having two wing mirrors mere centimetres on either side of you to induce a bit of a tremor. Especially given the state of London’s roads.
It’s always a car that overtakes. White van men are much maligned in this in my experience – generally they can see that, with a few yards to go until the parked cars end and the road widens, it’s much more fun to sit on the cyclist’s tail gunning their engines than it is to try and squeeeeeeze through the gap. It’s Mondeo man who has to, has to, has to, overtake, shaving those vital few seconds off his very important journey. The wider the car, the more self-important the driver, and the more likely they are to slide up beside me and bully me over to the side of the road.
‘Cyclists need three feet’ the saying goes, and I always thought this was referring to the space we needed rather than a limb requirement but now I’m not so sure. Maybe it’s that we do need three actual feet – two for the pedalling, and one – shod in a steel toe cap or maybe a stiletto – to fend off the bloody cars.
I’m off tomorrow, for a week. Rather than leave you all bereft, I’ve put together a sort of edited highlights page – the least bad bits of 2005 – for your amusement. Have a look and see if you agree with the other half …