Alert readers may have noticed I’m not posting so much about the cycle ride to Battersea any more. The truth is that although I’m still pedalling down to Vauxhall every day, I haven’t tackled the longer ride for weeks. The reason is simple – it frightens me. I realised this only gradually when I found that every morning there was yet another good reason why I couldn’t do the longer ride – I was recovering from a cold, I had to be in early that day, tomorrow would be a better option, etc. etc. And the thing that frightens me most are the roundabouts where I’ve basically had one too many episodes of the old vehicle pulling out into the road without either seeing or caring about the bike that’s in their way story. I may joke about it, but when it happens it’s terrifying and one of these days I feel sure either my luck or my legs will run out and I won’t be able to get out of the way.

I’m pretty sure it’s not me. I cycle in the midst of the traffic, not scuttling round the outside in the gutter. I have lights, and my reflective jacket and I signal my intentions as clearly as I can. But there are still simply too many drivers out there who just do not look for the bike. And I don’t intend to be the one that teaches them to do so the hard (or soft and squishy, depending on which bit of me they hit) way.

I’ve recently discovered the jealousy-inducing Copenhagen Girls on Bikes (put it away, boys, they’re real girls, not scantily clad Scandinavian fantasies). It has a deceptively simple formula – pictures of stylishly clad women cycling to work or school or home – interspersed with the odd bit of cycle advocacy. And it was only after checking it out for a week or two that I realised what was missing in the pictures. There are no helmets here, and no high-visibility jackets, no obvious safety gear at all even when cycling with kids in tow. Just people on bikes dressed in exactly the same way as people off bikes. Because any driver in Copenhagen is likely to be a cyclist too. And anyone claiming not to have seen the bike would surely get laughed out of court, for the cyclists there are everywhere.

I know what the answer is, here in London. We all have to get on and stay on our bikes. Not just in the summer months or during a tube strike, but until bikes are built into the consciousness of everyone on the road, not just the lycra clad. But I’m not sure I’m prepared to be quite out there at the bleeding edge just yet. Maybe when it’s lighter again, maybe when it isn’t raining all the bloody time, maybe if I move to Copenhagen. But for now I’m sticking to the back roads and the short route and the trains. I feel as though I’ve somehow failed. But I also feel relieved to be alive.


10 responses to “Frit

  1. The only cyclists who wear helmets in The Netherlands are kids or people with some sort of disability. I think it has to do with the the fact that there are so many cycle paths/lanes over here and the fact that if there is an accident between a cyclist and some other sort of vehicle, then the law heavily favours the cyclist – you just feel very safe in traffic here – other vehicles just give you a lot of room and generally stop for you.

    If the UK/London was really serious about getting people out of their cars and onto bikes, then there would be lots of cycle lanes – included many physically seperated from the other traffic – being built and the law changed so that cyclists are favoured when there is any sort of accident.

  2. Unfortunately most of the lanes built are of the ‘crap cycle lane’ sort – sending you straight into the side of a bus stop. And as for favouring the cyclist, here if a cyclist is killed or injured in an accident and wasn’ t wearing a helmet or a hi-vis jacket (neither of which are compulsory, remember) then they are considered to be contributory to the accident and they or their families receive reduced compensation, even if the car driver was clearly at fault.

  3. Maybe this would encourage you back on to your bike đŸ™‚

  4. Hee hee – but there’s not enough room for the toast rack, tea pot and strainer and jam. What sort of breakfast do these people have?

  5. You’ve certainly not failed, but being eminently sensible! Too many drivers fail to concentrate on the world outside their vehicles hence cyclists and pedestrians are at risk. At this time of year with dark mornings and evenings, and often adverse weather, it becomes even more problematic and risky.
    I believe that you’ve definitely done the right thing!

  6. The problem is, the only way to make cycling safe is if there are more of us. Still, I’ll continue to fight the good fight on zebra crossings …

  7. Pingback: Closet Cyclist « Disgruntled Commuter

  8. “The problem is, the only way to make cycling safe is if there are more of us.”

    More cyclists on roads, and more people demanding better facilities for cyclists.There are certainly enough of us now to bring this to the wider attention of politicians.

    Your decision is quite sensible given the current conditions. It’s not safe, and the infrastructure is not forgiving to mistakes by deadly vehicles and other vulnerable roads users.

  9. I should point out this post was written a while back … more cyclists now, although I’m not sure it really has made things much safer

  10. It’s probably been said before, but I’ll say it again anyway – cyclists don’t need helmets. There are more than enough helmets about already, driving cars and vans.

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