The Blog

I Want to Be Loved, Not Loathed

Earlier this year, TFL ran a high profile advertising campaign with the concept of 'Share the Road'. Out of interest, how's that working out for you? Because it sure as heck isn't working out where I'm concerned.

For what I am (and what I am needs no excuses), I've been the subject of hate, vitriol and unnecessary macho male aggression. I've suffered from discrimination. I've had fists waived at me, been glared at, screamed at and called all the names under the sun - nice language lady. I've also found myself harassed, spat at, physically threatened, intimidated, knocked down and left battered, bruised, bloodied, shaking and traumatised. Only last Thursday, someone even wound down the window of their BMW and threw a half smoked cigarette at me. Charming!

Yet I'm hardly unique. There are millions like me in the UK. We currently account for 8% of the population.

Yes, I am out and proud to be a... cyclist. Not a bicyclist, I hasten to add. Unlike the twice a week, fair weather types, I'm on my chain-driven trusty steed seven days a week, 365 days a year. And nothing or no one is going to stop me, change me, force me onto public transport, make me walk (let's face it, if God had meant us to walk, he wouldn't have given us feet to pedal with) or worse still, get me into a car.

In spite of everything, I frequently risk life and limb as I weave my way perilously through the busy streets that make up central London.

On my numerous daily journeys, I am shown no courtesy or consideration. Barely a soul smiles and stops to let me squeeze by. I am seldom, if ever, given the right of way. However, I am habitually carved up, careered into and hooted at; repeatedly for no discernible reason apart from the effrontery that I apparently show by happening to be on the same piece of tarmac at the same instant as a host of other road users.

Earlier this year, TFL ran a high profile advertising campaign with the concept of 'Share the Road'. Out of interest, how's that working out for you? Because it sure as heck isn't working out where I'm concerned.

Hauliers would no sooner share their bacon roll with me, bus drivers would no sooner share their cup of tea with me - not unless they'd done something unmentionable in it first - and taxi drivers would no sooner share their views with me. Actually, that's not quite fair. Taxi drivers would probably share their fair-minded, tolerant and liberal opinions with absolutely anyone, up to and including serial killers. "You'll never guess who I once had in the back of my cab? Only that Harold Shipman. Lovely man".

Half the time, I'm completely invisible. It's as if I'm sitting astride the two wheel equivalent of the car from Die Another Day. Motorists don't register me. They pull out without looking, fling open the doors of their parked vehicles at precisely the same moment as I'm passing and turn left into me at junctions as I'm going straight ahead. The last of these is why a great many of my fellow cyclists come a cropper.

Perhaps I should dress more flamboyantly? Possibly something in neon UV hot pink Lycra? And forget about a helmet, which incidentally I don't wear anyway. (The debate continues as to their effectiveness as a means of saving lives).

Frankly, I'd be better off putting on a Las Vegas showgirl feather headdress, the sort created for Cher's 2008 - 2011 Caesar's Palace residency. Or if that's a tad too ostentatious; the one worn by Felipe Rose, better known as the Indian from Village People, would suffice. As I 'Go West' along the Holborn Viaduct, where life is far from peaceful and there isn't a great deal of open air, I would then stand a vague chance of being noticed and remaining unharmed.

The problem is that people just don't seem to concentrate when they drive and if they do, it's more likely to be on the latest call, text or email coming through on their smartphone.

Mirrors, of course, should help them see you heading up behind or by the side, but not when the mirrors in question - rear view and wing - are being used to check that their lipstick is on straight or their mascara isn't smudged. Those white van drivers have a lot to answer for.

I'd like to be able to report that pedestrians are more concerned and thoughtful, but alas I can't. They step off the kerb with the abandon of a lemming leaping off a cliff.

To the woman in the Salvation Army uniform who I nearly ran into recently, I'd like to point out that it wasn't the man upstairs who saved you, it was me, the agnostic on the blue single speed, who luckily managed to brake in the nick of time. By the way, a quick 'thank you' would have been nice. Maybe she thought i'd get my reward in heaven, which if things become much worse might be a destination I arrive at sooner than I want.

Increasingly, everything and everyone is conspiring against the poor cyclist and at a time when there are more people than ever before turning to the humble pushbike as a means of getting from A to B. No wonder I see red. Or not, as numerous policemen never cease to stop reminding me.

Ok, I admit it, sometimes I'm my own worst enemy and my behaviour may not exactly support my constant whinging. But so what if I occasionally jump lights, zoom along pavements and don't always stop at zebra crossings? More often than not, it's for my own safety. And, well, if the odd chubster can't get out of the way quick enough, then arguably they too should hop on a cycle and lose a bit of weight.

In my defence, at least I don't put my make up on and answer my mobile when I'm in the saddle.

Hold on, who's that ringing? Could be important. Excuse me while I get it.