Hey you lot. You, angry car drivers. Seriously. You over there. You seem up tight. Get yourselves over here, let’s share some love.
Now – hang on, get in a little closer – now, what’s the problem? Come on, you can tell me. What can possibly be getting your knickers in such a twist that you have to shout at me and swerve at me and wave your fists at me and beep your beepy car horn things at me whilst i’m riding my bicycle along the road?
I think I know what it is, but it just seems so silly that, well, I don’t really want to believe it. I’ll, well, okay, I’ll lay it out and maybe you can let me know if I’m on the right track. No need to speak, just give me a nod, okay? Okay. Here we go.
I think you might be annoyed that I’m riding my bike on the same road as you. Specifically, I think the thing that’s annoying you is the idea that I might be slowing you up somehow. Is that right? Just give me a little signal if it’s right. Okay, got you.
Really, it’s nothing to worry about. Don’t sweat it, you silly old sausages! You, you over there, the woman in the little red car that went past me on the Pinhoe Road in Exeter this evening, while we were both on our way down to Broadclyst. Come over here, let me stroke your hair and make you feel a little bit better about the world.
You see, here’s the silly thing. I know that it seemed to take you a couple of seconds to find a chance to pull into the other lane and go past me, and I know from the shouting you did that this annoyed you, but really, what did you lose? There was another car, probably a blue car, just 30 yards in front of us both, pootling along at the speed limit. We both saw it. So, the sum total impact of my pedalling presence was a couple of seconds’ delay before you were able to accelerate up to the bumper of the car in front.
Now, I can see how that would be a big deal for you. It taking two seconds more before you can start following the car in front, which is no farther ahead or behind of where it was always going to be. No. No, actually, I’m sorry, I’m afraid I really can’t. Look at me for a second. I know it’s a little embarassing, this human contact, but don’t worry, you’re amongst friends here. So look at me.
I didn’t really delay your journey in any conceivable way, did I? Take a breath now.
I never really do, do I?
So why then do you find this scenario so worrisome that you feel compelled to wind down your window and shout something that sounded like ‘… use it!’ at me? It worries me and it clearly worries you. Stress isn’t good for your big old heart you know?
What’s that? The cycle lane?
Ah, the cycle lane. I know, I know. You have a bit of a thing about the cycle lane, particularly down on that stretch of road where cyclists are allowed to ride on the nice wide pavement. Let’s see if I can help you with that. Come on, listen up and together we can turn that frown upside down!
Now, you know that when I’m on my bike I don’t have to use the cycle lane if I don’t want to, don’t you? I know you know that. Just as an aside here, cycle lanes can be a real pain to use. They’re often scattered with debris that will shred my tyres. Also with cars. Now, I know you seem to think that cars and bikes shouldn’t be in the same places, but judging by the way some of the other naughty car drivers park in cycle lanes, swerve in and out of them and open their doors across them, they all seem much more relaxed about shared space, which is nice, isn’t it?
As for those times when the pavement is designated as usable by cyclists, well… I just feel a little bit icky about it. You see, I’m moving along at something between 15 and 20 miles per hour when I’m on that road, mainly because I’m quite keen to get home. And although I’m soft and squishy and loveable, when I’m on my bike, I’m also partly made of spinning metal teeth. And that pavement is also used by people walking. I don’t really want to be riding my bike past them. It’s a bit tricky and if I made a mistake then I could catch one of them and my bike could actually hurt them quite a bit and – no no, don’t cry – but that would be sad, wouldn’t it?
I know I could ride a little more slowly but, like you, I’m in a bit of a hurry, and, whaddya know, there’s a nice wide road with a much better surface and no kerbs to go down and up every 20 yards right here. So, y’know, I usually prefer to just use that. Because it’s better. Because I’m allowed to. And yes, silly, of course I appreciate your clever irony in suggesting I squeeze onto a carriageway with pedestrians who will delay my journey, because I know how happily you accept having your journey delayed by me. Cheeky!
So, in order to get to where I need to get to a little more quickly, and wishing to present less of a risk to the other people who are using the roads and paths with me, I choose to ride on the main carriageway. Put another way, I choose to put myself at greater risk, at least partly to reduce the danger I might pose to others. Now, I realise that this might put you at a slightly greater risk when you drive your little car up near me. We’ve already discussed the risk that you might be a couple of seconds late catching up to the car in front, but there’s also the risk that we might collide. Hey! Why the sad face? Come on gloomychops, there’s nothing for you to worry about, truly. All those stories you must imagine you read about on your Car Drivers Facebook groups where poor unassuming car drivers are killed outright when a bicycle hits their big metal sides at 12 miles per hour can seem very scary for you I know, but trust me, they’re mostly not true. That story only works the other way around.
And yes, I know that sometimes if can be a little difficult for you to wait, to resist pushing down on the accelerator to get past me, until you’re 100% sure that the road is clear of oncoming traffic. Sometimes – it’s okay, you can admit it – you even misjudge it and have to pull back in the avoid a collision! They say a problem shared is a problem halved, so here’s another little secret for you: sometimes when you do that, you knock us cyclists off our bikes and into hedges, just like on a sitcom! Or lampposts. Or other cars.
Don’t worry though, if you ever do get it really wrong because you can’t wait a couple more seconds for a properly clear road, then your head-on-collision won’t just kill you and the other driver, it’ll most likely take me out as well. And some pedestrians. So you’ll have some company. We’re all in it together.
A couple more things, now we’re finally talking – come over here, let’s get physical – we really are in this together you know. It seems sometimes like you think that cyclists become cyclists as some sort of protest against you and your car drivingness. Seriously, it’s not you, it’s us! Some of us ride bikes because we can’t afford to drive cars. Or we’re not old enough yet. Some of us ride bikes because it’s good exercise. Lots of us ride bikes because it’s lots of fun. Finally, and here’s a big secret that will blow your freaking m-i-n-d: most cyclists are actually car drivers too. I know! We’re not just like you, we are you! Sort of.
Come to think of it, don’t you have a bike? And don’t you ride it once in a while? Fun isn’t it? I hope no-one shouts at you while you do it, because, well, it’s less fun when that happens.
One last thing, now we’re snuggled up together. I hate to raise it, but we both know I have to.
The lycra. What is it about the lyrca with you? I know from the way you shout and the things you shout that you find the sight of me in stretchy, skin-tight, black fabric unusually… exciting, but come on, do yourself a favour. There are places you can go to explore that side of you. Clubs you can visit where they’ll help you work it out. There’s, y’know, the internet? You’ll be happier if you can just come to terms with it and be yourself. Just saying.
Okay, that’s me. Are we cool now? Can we huggle please?
And no, no thanks, not one of those huggles you sometimes try to give me while you’re driving please. It’s nice when you zoom by in your car and you or your passenger tries to reach out of your window and grab me when I’m on my bike. I’m all for a bit of contact and affection, a friendly squeeze, but seriously, that could also kill me. There’s a time and a place for huggles.
And that time is now.
How about it?