Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cycle To Work? I'd Actually Like To Live, Thanks.

This morning, as I crossed the busy Strand on my way to work, a cyclist furiously cycled past me, keeping pace with a builder's truck, all the while shouting invectives through the truck's window.  I was too far to hear what was being said, but I'm sure, without a doubt, the driver was at fault.

See, in my opinion, one shouldn't cycle in London unless one has a death wish.  And that person certainly isn't me.  I'd estimate about 40% of my colleagues cycle to work - maybe more, maybe less, but I'd say quite a large bunch.  And why wouldn't they?  It saves a LOT of money (travel to and from work costs me approximately £80 a month alone), is a great way to sneak in some exercise and is better for the environment - not to mention, you get to know London roads and routes really well. 

So with all these benefits, you'd think I'd be jumping on the bandwagon.  But not in London.  Not with the narrow roads, crazy drivers, and bendy buses (which measure about 60 feet in length).  No, thank you.  And almost all cyclists I know have been either knocked off their bikes by an errant driver or suffered a fall.  "Ohmygod, what did you do?" I asked my colleague, who had been sent flying through the air that very same morning by a car that rammed into the side of her when the driver failed to look both ways before turning.  "Well, there was one lady who was really nice and offered to call an ambulance because, well, I kind of flew off my bike, and landed on my hip, but I was too embarrassed.  So then she stayed with me and was really nice about it all.  It sucked though 'cause I had a 10 o'clock meeting here, but luckily I made it in time," she explained, shrugging.  She limped off as I stared after in disbelief.  A few weeks later, she was back on her bike and cycling to work again.  Something like that would probably put me off for life.

Of course, drivers are not always in the wrong.  I love it when cyclists speed through pedestrian crosswalks or red lights as if they don't apply to them.  Hello, if you're going to cycle on the ROAD, then maybe obey traffic laws as they apply to YOU?  Or the cyclists who are too trendy or cool to wear helmets.  You know, the ladies who think they're in the middle of the countryside, with their curls blowing in their hair and the Ray-Bans plus a baguette and some celery stalks tucked in their front wicker basket.  I resist sounding like my mother, but it isn't going to look so cool when your head is split open like a ripe summer's melon in the middle of Oxford Street (and before you say, "Who's stupid enough to cycle down Oxford Street?"  Uh, a lot of people). 

And yes, I know, there are "safer" routes where you can avoid busy intersections, etc. but no, the thought of weaving my way through any traffic and avoiding danger i.e. death, gives me sweaty palms.  Ultimately, I think in order to cycle safely, you've got to be experienced, confident and aware of the traffic rules - seeing as how I'm none of the above, I don't think I'll be cycling in the city for a while, unless it's in the confines of a park.  Tru dat. 

Photo source


  1. Ok, so I can't comment on London specifically but I think biking in traffic and in a city is just something you have to get used to. So like 2 years ago when I first moved to Chicago I bought a bike that I thought was crazy expensive (in reality it is one of the cheapest bikes you can find, apparently as a "grown up" bikes are expensive). So I was determined to bike around the whole freakin' city and more importantly biking to work. (Because you know I paid all this money for this stupid bike in the name of exercise and being efficient with my time, I'd damn well better use it.) Which was terrifying. But after like the first 3 times cycling through downtown you kinda get used to it. And you grow a lot bolder as you keep going. Just um, don't forget your helmet. And seriously following the traffic laws are a good thing (even though I have been known to occasionally blow through a stop sign or red light when I really shouldn't).

    Then again maybe London is a totally different ball of wax cause you know, I'd never bike in Boston or New York. Chicago just seems more manageable... maybe it's just cause I live here.

  2. That's good to know, Rhea. I actually haven't been on a bike since I was 14 so I'd probably need a good month cycling around non-busy streets, parks, etc. until I felt comfortable enough to enter into combat with cars. But good to know you've had good cycling experiences!


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