It’s been a long time since I updated this blog, but I should get more time now I have a new job with more regular hours. I thought I’d give a quick update on my cycling and provide a bit of an insight into what it’s like to commute into Central London. There are plenty of personal accounts of London cycling, one more won’t do any harm.
I lived in Hackney when I began this blog and started to cycle to work in Kensington which was about 7 miles each way. Nice and easy, but took a while because of the copious number of traffic lights going through the busiest parts of London. I quickly got used to the distance and the inclines, and I was cutting down my time to about 45-50 minutes. I then moved out to Harrow which is a hell of a lot further to Kensington than Hackney was. Almost double, in fact, but my time is only 5 minutes longer! But I was up for the challenge and quite enjoyed the lack of traffic lights stopping all the time. (I still stop at a red light.)
It got quite exhausting doing 12 miles to work and 12 miles home again every day, and for the first couple of months I was lucky enough to have my boyfriend living with me who was happy to provide dinner and support when I got in to recover. Now he’s gone back to Uni in Scotland, it’s become that little bit harder. I am adapting although this does take the form of rubbish food for a quick hit of calories/carbs/sugar. I’m aiming for this bad habit to change once I start my new job and have more time.
I do shift work at multiple jobs which can range anywhere between 9-1, 9-5, 10-2, 10-6, 1-5, 1-9, 9am-11pm, 9-6 etc etc which isn’t always giving me the time to eat at regular intervals or at a good time to eat enough a little while before I get back on the bike to get home. Once I do regular 9-5s, I can get into a better routine to change this. I’m thinking of investing in buying energy bars in bulk to give me that boost to get home at the end of the day. Thoughts?
So I was doing the Harrow-Kensington ride on my hybrid initially and the behaviour of drivers was different on my A404 route in compared to the through-central route. The roads are at times wider so cars gave me more room which was quite pleasant. To make the commute easier, I recently bought a road bike and carried my bag on my back. My hybrid had a basket on the front which meant I could just pop my handbag with a change of clothes into it and off I went. The only thing which changed was the bike and where I carried my bag but I noticed a dramatic change in the attitude of drivers towards me. I don’t think I changed my cycling style or my attitude towards other road users but cars were driving extremely close to me, cutting me up, telling me to get out of the way – just generally driving very dangerously around me. I’ve had more near misses on my road bike in a month than I had on my hybrid in 4 months.
I like to think of myself as a considerate cyclist: I stop at red lights, I let cars out of junctions if there’s traffic behind me and I’m holding them up a little, I don’t squeeze past cars to get to the front of a queue unless there is a very clear passage to do so, I signal to drivers who are hovering behind me if I’m happy for them to squeeze by me because I’m ready and aware of them. So the only change really has been my appearance. Today I read an article in the Psychologist (here) which identifies these change in attitudes and it makes complete sense. I went from a vulnerable looking lady with her handbag in a basket to a confident looking road cyclist. I should be able to handle near misses, huh?
I find it frustrating to say the least, and I know expressing my fear in the form of shouting when I’m nearly hit isn’t the safest way to deal with it. All my near misses have been when I’ve been going in a straight line and cars are cutting across me from impatience or lack of observation. I suppose the positive is that I’ve become extra aware of what’s going on around me and looking much further ahead up the road.
I think my message to drivers who see cyclists as an inconvenience is: I’m just trying to get to work without spending a significant portion of my income. Please be patient and considerate. If you hit me then you’ll only be able to tell my family and friends you did so because you didn’t want to wait 5 more seconds for me to get out of your way. Cyclists are not trying to be a deliberate inconvenience.