30 Days of Biking #8 – on Drivers as Bladders

First proper commute to work since The Scary Fall went OK, though strong winds made it harder and scarier than strictly necessary.

On the way home, I started a different way than usual (presumed shorter and lighter on traffic and lights), which I didn’t like as it began with an uphill. I finished the usual way, complete with white van zooming past me a cat’s whisker close on that last bit of 30 MPH non-motorway road before the M32 that so many drivers seem to think is the M32. Tricky surface too, with long, deep potholes at the edge, so there is essentially no stress-free position to be in.

The pavement along it is shared, but I don’t like using it. It’s complicated and risky to get onto and off it – in fact my first ever bike tumble as an adult was there, and like The Scary One, involved a low bit of pavement, but somehow speed appears to have made it less damaging). There are pedestrians to work around (who by and large don’t know what a shared pavement is – I know I didn’t before I started cycling) and a petrol station’s entrance and exit to negotiate. It also looks very slippery when it rains.

Bad drivers, bad roads and bad infrastructure (numbers 1-3 on the Guardian’s top 10 things that put people off cycling) are not major concerns of mine. I’m generally OK with taking the urban environment as it comes, and find most drivers well-behaved (as I’ve always been myself when I drive) most of the time. However, this particular bit of my commute is quite annoying. It’s a short but inexplicable no-bike-land between a lovely cycle lane and a great cycle path, on a major gateway between the centre and its periphery.

There are of course other routes, but they all have their own perils. I prefer to avoid:

  • Narrow roads (awkward when cars are coming the other way), especially when they have…
  • Parked cars along both side. I have seen cyclists thrown off their bikes by opening car doors several times. The first time – long before I got a bike myself – was enough to make this the number one danger of cycling in the city as far as I’m concerned. I always aim to give parked cars as wide a berth as I can, and if forced to get nearer, go slow and scrutinise the inside of each car as I approach for potential careless occupants.
  • Congested areas with no filtering space. The main point of cycling for me is to move faster than if I was driving, bussing or walking. I ♥ filtering.

So I guess I’ll keep battling it out with drivers acting like a stoic bladder suddenly finding itself near the loo (6 months of religiously drinking two litres of water a day can do that to you).


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