Why are all the car drivers trying to kill me?

I have discovered that one of the pitfalls of cycling is that it fosters a dislike of car drivers. I can’t drive myself. I didn’t take very well to learning to drive and sort of gave up after I failed my third driving test. Because of this I’ve always been slightly impressed by people who have mastered a skill that alludes me. All that has changed since I have started cycling around North London; ‘impressed’ has turned into down right annoyed.

A car is rather big and heavy and a person on a bike small and vulnerable. One would like to assume that this would give car drivers a sense of care around cyclists. No such luck.  Instead I am finding that they opt for  horn honking, driving as close to you as possible and generally looking very put out that you should be on the road at all.

Now, I am very well aware that almost everyone in London moves about as though their journey is the most important one ever undertaken. Indeed, I am sure that sometimes I adopt this attitude myself . I can frequently be found striding about the tube, probably late for something and carrying a millions bags, and getting very irritated  with people who decide to dawdle along in front of me and then even worse stop for a nice little chat….. Luckily for the dawdlers and chatters there is very little about me that could be found intimidating however annoyed I may be.  I’m 5 foot 2 with rather cheerful looking curly hair and quite a small build; literally  no-one had ever been scared of me and I couldn’t hurt anyone even if I wanted to (I’ve been in one ‘fight’ in my life – and I ran away and hid behind someone…).

On the other hand an angry person in a car is very intimidating. More so when it is your very presence that has annoyed them. The roads near by house are often narrow and once everyone has parked their car down the side there isn’t sufficient room remaining for both a bike and a car. So sadly for the car drivers sometimes they have to wait behind a bike for a little while until they can overtake. I accept that this is probably very annoying but it can’t add more than a minute or two to their journey.  I don’t think there is any need for  a car to drive right up my arse and starting to rev his engine and then toot his horn until I pull over and let him get on with his very important business as happened to me last night. (I am at a loss to see what is that important at half 7 on a Friday but there you go).

Maybe one day I will learn to drive and then I will change my mind but right now I’m wondering what kind of person thinks it’s okay to use a big metal box and the damage it could cause to frighten and intimate someone who is in the most vulnerable position on the road.

Rant over!

Adventures in cycling

For quite some time I’ve been going on about getting a bike and then doing nothing about it. My boyfriend has recently starting cycling into work and the extra spring that’s put in his step has inspired me to finally do something about it. I’ve been saving up the money that I would normally have spent on my travel card every month while I’ve been off work so that’s given me the cash to pay for it  (I am trying not to think about the fact that I would spend the equivalent of a new bike every two months on getting to work….).

I am very excited about my bike. I’m pleased that I’ve managed to find one that is pretty enough that I like it but no so pretty that it is a thief magnet. I would loooooove to have a pretty Pashley but a) I can’t even nearly afford it and b) it would get nicked in about 5 minutes.

I haven’t really cycled since I was a teenager so I am very rusty. I needed to cycle the bike back from the shop in Stoke Newington which I was very scared about to be honest. My boyfriend kindly humored me while I checked I could actually still ride a bike and I figured out a quietish route to get me home unscathed.

I learnt a few things on my first tentative ride:

a) I am frightened of right turns
b) cars hate cyclists
c) I don’t like going very fast
d) there are about a million one way streets near my house none of which I’ve ever noticed before
e) not being able to drive means that I don’t really know the rules of the road. Although I’m sure it’s somewhere in the back of my brain from when I passed my theory test when I was 17….

however on the plus side

a) I didn’t look as stupid in a cycle helmet as I thought I would
b) I’m not as unfit as I thought
c)It is possible to cycle with my handbag
d) it’s fun

Clearly I need to put quite a bit of work in before I start zipping around central London. So, in the mean time I’m going to practice on quite roads in north london (and hope that I don’t chance upon any riots while I’m doing it….) TFL is rubbish in many ways (tube closures every five minutes, daylight robbery for a travel card…etc) but one thing they do very well is cycle maps.  They are very handily marker with quite roads, cycle paths and bits where you can’t cycle.

Armed with my map, and thinking I’d memorised the way I set off today for a little trip down to Stokey to buy some dye. My first problem came when I realised that the road I was planning to turn left onto out of my road is actually a one way street in the wrong direction, oops. Walking my bike down to the road before I could actually start cycling wasn’t the greatest start but I didn’t let it put me off. Once I got going my terrible sense of direction reared its ugly head and of course I had no idea where I was going next. However, despite lots of stops to check my map, one crossing that was too frightening to attempt and sneaky walk of the bike over the crossing I made it and I was rather proud.

The next challenge was to lock it up properly. Given that almost everyone I know who cycles in London has had a bike nicked at some point or another (one had hers nicked the day after she bought it and before she put it on her insurance….very upsetting…it was a fancy expensive triathlon bike with cleats and everything) I am naturally anxious. However I’ve got it insured and brought a massive heavy lock. For once in my life I actually read the instructions and figured out the best place to lock it. In spite of this I was surprised and relieved to find that it was still there when I got out of the shop!

I’m very excited about my cycling adventures to come and hope that I get better and more confident quickly so that I can take my bike out a little further afield.