Whilst on my sabbatical, I’ve taken the opportunity to make more use of my bike. I’ve stripped it down of all its gadgets and un-necessary attachments and will, in due course, give it a good clean and polish too.
But, whilst I’m not going to anywhere near the first person to point out what a raw deal cyclists have on Britain’s roads, what has surprised me is where my problems are coming from and, more importantly, that I am always to blame.
Let me start by explain my usual journey. To avoid a lot of road traffic I take a longer route to the gym (which is my usual destination), through the local park. I still have one major road to navigate but, thankfully, I miss out all roundabouts (unless I’m going to the supermarket, which I sometimes do).
The main road has a separate cycle lane at the side and the park does too. The park has a wide pavement and this has been divided into two, for pedestrians and cyclists.
On the road the problems I experience are two-fold…
- Drivers going in or out of junctions. Was nearly taken out this way twice on one journey last week. This was during a busy time of the day, which I’m now trying to avoid. In both cases, the drivers were angry at me for, I guess, being there.
- Drivers encroaching into the cycle lane. When the road bends, drivers have a tendency to drive through the cycle lane to limit how much, you know, they have to turn that tricky steering wheel. Last week a driver did this and came within centimetres of hitting me. I actually reported it to the Police but without video evidence or a third party witness (I had neither) there wasn’t much they could do.
At this point I should state that I follow the rules. I stop at red lights and indicate when turning. I’m very sure I’m not perfect but I’m doing my best.
Now, let’s talk about the park. What could go wrong? No cars and a clearly marked separate lane. Great, yeah?
No. And at the park my number one nemesis, I hate to say, is dog owners. Here’s what they do…
- Walk in the cycle lane
- Walk in the pedestrian lane but their dog wanders in the cycle lane
- They walk in the pedestrian lane and their dog walks on the grass at the side of the cycle lane. An extended lead goes between them, across the cycle lane
If I sound my bell to let people know I’m there, they get angry. Today a lady got angry, after her dog suddenly jumped in front of me, because she felt I should have sounded my bell (before it happened, because time travel is one of my superpowers).
Basically, it’s dog owners who aren’t in control of their dog.
Last week, one owner said it was my fault because I was going too fast. Their dog had wandered in front of me and I’d been able to swerve around. How was that related to speed? I missed the dog, so I’d say I wasn’t going “too fast”.
It’s not always dog owners, though. 95% of the time it is, but not always.
I’ve had one woman, chatting on her phone, wandering in the cycle lane coming towards me. She took exception to me shaking my head gently in a disappointed way as I had to cycle around her.
The worst one was last week where a jogger was running in the centre of the cycle lane. He was coming towards me, but no end of bell ringing made him realise that he should may be move to the side. I went around him and, as I did, I politely commented that he was in the cycle lane. Literally that – “that’s a cycle lane”, were my exact words. He went bat shit crazy. Swearing and threatening, he tried running after me initially. He said he’d track me down. So far he hasn’t but it was a turning point – in the post, I have a helmet camera coming. It doesn’t stop these incidents but, at least, I’ll have them recorded, which should give me a little bit confidence out there.
It’s genuinely crazy trying to navigate what is just a 10 minute journey (well, 10 minutes each way) and not a single day goes by without an incident of some kind.
But the one thing I have learnt above all – it’s always my fault, apparently.