I’m one of those #bastardcyclists.

So I’ve been cycling for just over a year now and I’ve it’s difficult to decide whether the pros outweigh the cons. I haven’t blogged about the ups and downs as much as I expected to, partly because its more effective when you have a helmet cam to be interesting and really illustrate the point. Perhaps that’ll come this year after my most recent encounters. I’m not the most eloquent of writers, so please bear with me…

Pros:
– I’ve lost weight.
– I’m a heck of a lot fitter.
– I’ve saved, on average, probably about £70-100 a month compared to getting a travel card meaning my overdraft has recovered from my student years.
– I’ve enjoyed the pleasure of greeting other cyclists on lovely Sunday rides through the countryside.
– I’ve been able to enjoy quality time with my boyfriend going cycling in Scotland and around London
– I’m raising money for charity in June with a 60 mile bike ride around Kent (see here).
– My knees feel stronger and less likely to dislocate when crouching.
– I sleep better with daily exercise.

Cons:
– I’ve nearly been hit on too many occasions to count
– The disgusting attitude a lot of drivers have towards cyclists diminishes any confidence about myself I’ve gained from all of the above pros.

I doubt many, if any, people will read this who should read it, but there are some things I feel like I need to declare. These are the things I wish I could say to every driver who passes too close, stops in bike boxes, swears at me, cuts me up or almost drives into me…

I use my bike to cycle to work and to cycle for pleasure. I would definitely distinguish the two as different because I rarely enjoy a commute. I see a lot of tweets (predominantly through @cyclehatred) from people claiming cyclists should be hit/killed/driven off the road because they take up too much room, swerve around pot holes or are slightly too slow for their liking. But how much does a cyclist actually slow you down? 10 seconds? You’re wishing somebody dead or seriously injured because you’re slowed down by a minute amount of time instead of being able to sit bumper to bumper with the car in front? Are your actions attempted murder?

Well that person on that bike isn’t just a cyclist. I’m a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a cousin, a girlfriend, a friend, a work colleague. I’m a medical lab assistant, a freelance theatre technician and an occasional box office supervisor. I like to read factual historical books, classic novels and popular science books. I like to watch crime dramas (so long as the forensics isn’t terrible), rom coms and historical films. I love an evening of comedy and my favourite comedians are Tim Minchin, David O’Doherty, Greg Davies and Sarah Millican. I travel to Scotland a good few times a year to see my boyfriend and his family, and travel to Kent to see my own. I’ve just started renting my first non-student flat by myself and I love it, I’ve finally found somewhere which feels like home. So you’re not just knocking down some “cunt on a bike” but you’re knocking down my entire life. After my accident four weeks ago my mother got *that* phone call from the police. Thankfully only a “your daughter’s been involved in an RTC” call and not a “your daughter’s dead” call but it’s safe to say the phone call she did receive was not one she ever wants to have again. What if you received that phone call about your daughter, son, father, mother, sister, brother, boyfriend, girlfriend or friend? And the reason? Because a driver didn’t want to wait 10 seconds to let your loved one get past a pot hole, a bus, a junction. Does that really justify your actions? How would you feel if you had to stand up in a court room and face my family and friends and tell them you killed their daughter because you were impatient? But don’t worry, chances are you’d only get a fine or a ban from driving with the current trend in sentences.

This culture of dehumanising people on bikes goes hand in hand with the misunderstanding about road tax; another frequent statement made by those retweeted by @cyclehatred. There’s been enough correcting about this in the past couple of days since Emma Way knocked down a cyclist and bragged about it on Twitter, justifying her hit and run actions on #bastardcylists by paying road tax. Road tax doesn’t exist, you pay for your emissions and the roads are maintained from general taxation. End of. Your road tax argument just illustrated your attitude towards cyclists in general and, in my opinion, makes you extremely dangerous to be on that road you claim to pay for.

My confidence in cycling has actually reduced since getting back on the bike after the car collision and a subsequent bike collision. I always knew I wasn’t invincible and I don’t think I ever took risks, but now the proximity a car has with me when overtaking, or how other bike sit worryingly close to my wheel really terrifies me. That hot stinging feeling of panic hits me every time.

I’m not naive in this, I know some cyclists are terrible. Red light jumpers still anger me just as much as they did in day 1 of commuting. There have been occasions when I would have been safer if I’d jumped a red light and got ahead of the traffic behind me, but it’s still the law. I fail to see a real justification for this argument because, apart from being illegal, it really makes the atmosphere for all cyclists on the road extremely aggressive. I know some people claim the only do it when the circumstances are right and it is safer to do so than sit with the traffic, but 90% of the time I see people jumping reds it cannot be put into this category. It’s pure impatience and perhaps egotism. You jump it “because you can”. I do shout after cyclists who jump them without a real safety reason, and I won’t stop this.

So next time you get angry at a person on a bike taking up a couple of seconds of your day, decide whether you want to bring down someone’s life when you collide with them and make it to work 10 seconds earlier.

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