Muse on Cycle-Commuting

I cycle to school everyday, living 11 miles away this means I clock up a good 110 miles a week. I absolutely love it. Deciding to commute via cycling was one of the best decisions I think I have ever made. Yes it means braving wind, rain, sleet and snow on regular occasions however I find that when cycling I am happy; it is the best thing to start the day doing. It’s my morning ritual, other people may have a double shot of coffee, read the paper, I cycle. It never ceases to put me in a good mood and it definitely gets me up in the morning.

It’s hard to describe the anticipation of each morning each one is totally different, presenting its own challenges. However every time, I try and beat my PB of 31minutes. My cycle in the mornings is on quite a popular route into Manchester; I often find enjoyment racing other cyclists and having a quick chat during pauses at red lights. The feel good factor that you get afterwards stays with you throughout the whole day; endorphins pumping around your body which is now wide awake thanks to the crisp morning air.

As you may not have gathered already, I really enjoy cycling being part of my day. However it is not without its challenges. You have to be constantly alert because of the huge amount of cars on the road; it is a very dangerous time to cycle. Why should it be dangerous? I think that if you are caring about your body, the environment and easing congestion on the roads, by cycling instead of driving, then you shouldn’t have to put up with silly drivers cutting you up, ignoring you and giving you no room. It has become all to frequent in my cycling experiences that cyclists are increasingly receiving more abuse from drivers on the roads. Is it always really necessary?  Sure sometimes there is the odd cyclist that runs a red light stupidly however rather than hurl abuse when passing slow down and talk, we are all humans, there is no need to hurl profanities back and forth. What really upsets and angers me is when cars deliberately try to unnerve cyclists, shouting from windows and cutting them up, swerving around in front causing the cyclist to constantly be on the brakes. Yes all these have happened to me when I was cycling completely considerately. When I cycle I don’t ask that every car gives loads of room, never overtakes, but just think don’t be silly and don’t over take just for the sake of it!

I think road cycling definitely needs more education in the UK for drivers and cyclists. There needs to be clearer rules about right of way in the Highway Code and this needs to be known by both motorists and cyclists. I think an appreciation of cycling -which is what the ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme tried to accomplish- is needed. Cycling needs to become a more preferred mode of transport. I think the UK needs to understand how great it is and that it is a useful form of transport rather than purely a leisure activity. The more people cycling, the more cyclists on the roads, so the more drivers will become used to dealing with cyclists, so greater understanding will occur. That is what I think is needed to combat this current state of hate towards it.

It was only last week when the face of British Cycling, 7 time Olympic medallist and Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins along with his coach Shane Sutton were knocked of their bikes. What is the UK coming to when even sporting champions are falling victim of the road and motorists? Last year the figure for cycling injuries and fatalities on the road rose by 23% this is shocking and clearly needs to be addressed because somewhere something is getting totally overlooked and the good, green, healthy cyclists’ lives are being put in the balance. Only two days ago when cycling to school myself I was knocked of my bike by a woman in a posh red Mercedes sports car. I was cycling on the inside next to the pavement when she suddenly slammed on her brakes and turned inwards, where I was cycling. Luckily I wasn’t injured too much as I wasn’t going too fast. However if I had been going just a bit faster I could’ve been killed! The first words the woman shouted to me when she wound down her window -yes she didn’t even get out to check I was okay- were “you better not have scratched my car”. Not once did she ask how I was, to self absorbed in shifting the blame, when she clearly just didn’t check her mirrors. With a slight wheel wobble I carried on the last five minutes to school mulling over what she had said. It made me think how selfish she was and how when me, a child, was lying on the floor neither she nor anybody else in cars offered any assistance. Where has this hatred of cyclists come from? What happened to sharing the love? Why can we all just get along happily? Or is that just too much to ask from society?

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8 responses to “Muse on Cycle-Commuting

  1. I find it difficult to balance the whole cycle commuting vs. road safety issue. I think that as a cyclist you can only prevent any accidents to the best of your ability by adjusting your route, wearing a helmet and lights appropriately and general common sense. However the unpredictable factor of who happens to be driving near you can’t really be helped. I’ve found that being a keen cycle commuter has made me much more careful and respectful as a driver as you hear of accidents happening so regularly now. In my opinion, most cyclists have good general safety and rules of the road and it is often the driver attitudes that need to change (such as in your unfortunate story of the typical sporty Mercedes driver) and cause the accidents. It is all very good promoting cycling safety but the ultimate deciding factor are the motor vehicle drivers (93 deaths out of this year’s 106 toll count were as a result of collisions with motor vehicles). I think that there needs to be a way to educate the general public about the importance of observing cyclists right of the road to reduce these devastating figures otherwise I feel that the popularity of cycle commuting may decline out of fear of self injury.

    References and Related Articles:
    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/article3313260.ece records the number of deaths in the UK so far in 2012 as 106 cyclists

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/road-safety/8989366/Graphic-Londons-cycle-accident-black-spots-mapped.html
    shows London’s ‘black spots’ and has some useful data on the type of vehicles involved in collisions

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/dec/15/cycling-bike-accidents-study
    An article from December 2009 discussing the causes of rising cycling casualties/fatalities – though it is from a few years ago I still find it very relevant

    http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety/
    The Times ‘Cycle Safety’ Homepage

    • Yeah I agree with you, being a new driver myself in my learning I was given very little instruction on how to deal with cyclists on the road and I think that needs to be addressed somewhat. I try to wear as much fleurescent material and lights as possible but these only go so far if someone is just asleep at the wheel, not paying attention. I agree also that the general public needs educating; I think that would go far, as cycle commuting is something the government should be promoting not deterring. The government claims it has set aside £30m for improving bicycle safety at road junctions, however this boils down to a mere £64000 per local council which is far too small to deal with even one major junction. The UK spend £1 per person per year on cycling infrastructure, compared to £25 in the Netherlands, this shows how change is needed and more money needs to be invested in cycling, improving health, reducing deaths and lowering carbon emmisions.

  2. Wow £1 per person per year is really nothing on cycling infrastructure, if only we weren’t so bankrupt! Thanks for the other interesting points.

  3. I agree that the education of cyclist and drivers should be emphasizes. I was only cycling for a week before I got hit by a car. I was lucky and only suffered minor injuries but still. It was a clear, straight road! From then on I have been way more aware of what is around me. I still haven’t been able to ride in heavy trafficed areas! Things need to be changed in order to provide a safer riding environment!

    • Hi Katie, thanks for following my blog. Yeah investment is needed so cycling can be a safe mode of transport for people to use everyday. You can send your MP an email here http://bit.ly/XZTDx4 asking them to sign EDM 679 (http://bit.ly/Q1wPeg) which I’m not sure how much of it will come to fluition but the ideas presented by it are good, at least the government is aware of the problem.

  4. Pingback: La Perouse ride – dodging cars « Something for Pok·

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