I’m frustrated. Every time – every single time – I bring up cycling and cycling-related deaths the response is, in one way or another: “fucking cyclists”. Either they’re riding two abreast on a small road, or running red lights, or holding up traffic.
To the best of my knowledge, none of the eight people killed in the last few months were doing any of the above. So why did Constable Hensley feel the need to mention that “he had seen cyclists do ‘a lot of stupid things’ including going through red lights and weaving in and out of traffic.”?
When a family dies in a road accident on a slippery road at night, we don’t respond with “fucking drivers, always doing burnouts and playing their oonst oonst music”. This is because we know the majority of drivers are not boy racers.
And yet, here we are. Eight people killed, almost certainly through no fault of their own, and we’re pointing out fringe behaviour in unrelated cases. Why?
Why not focus instead on the cycling infrastructure? The inattentiveness of drivers? The lack of cyclists in general here in New Zealand, leading to an apathy toward them as road users?
We allow pedestrians the courtesy of a safe footpath, no matter how drunk, stupid or disorderly they are. We allow drivers huge expanses of road, regardless of how often they use their phone, break the speed limit, or roll through a stop sign. Why are cyclists afforded the barest tolerance, the narrowest possible space – so narrow, that a single inattentive swing of a door results in death – with the reason being that another cyclist, at some unrelated time, was an idiot?
Instead of responding with fringe behaviour by one group, respond as if it’s your mum riding that bike. Getting rear-ended at speed on a country road. Getting doored by a car and falling under a truck.
So tonight I chose to commute slightly differently.
No donning the Spiderman lycra.
Instead, trouser leg rolled up, and riding home at a more leisurely pace, whilst looking like one of those horrid bearded hipsters in tight black chinos. (Its the cycling cap under the helmet that really does it.)
But you know what? The ride was much more pleasant, I just went at my own pace, I even let people pass me, I wasn’t rushing and I got home refreshingly unstressed.
I may choose to take this slightly more European approach to riding more often.
A lot of riding up the Champs-Élysées is goose-pimple stuff. When you come on there the roar, even when you finish last in the Tour, is the same for everyone. But coming on in the yellow jersey surrounded by the guys who have put me there, with all my family there waiting for me – Well, I won’t swear but …
It’s very difficult to sum up what I’m feeling in words. The thing that’s struck me most over the last 12 hours or so is just what it means to other people around me, like my personal photographer breaking down in tears in my room, and my mechanic in tears as well: you just think hell, it’s not just me who’s gone through this, everyone else around me has lived it too.” —