The day I give up riding a bicycle just got a little bit closer.

I have a confession to make.

Everything I have written on this site about how wonderful riding a bicycle is, how easy and empowering it is…it’s all just been one big lie. It all seemed a good idea at the time. “Aspiration” is how I liked to think of it, phrase it. I realise now that the lie has gotten so big and complex that even I have started to believe it.

I thought I was doing myself and others a favour. What a quaint concept. It all began years ago, when I stopped riding like a warrior, like a two-wheeled motor vehicle. I learned to chose my routes carefully. I took the slow, indirect routes in order to avoid ‘space conflict’ with the more powerful, dominant road users. I deferred to these faster, dominant road users when it felt necessary to do so.

I’m now reassessing my options. It may be to find employment that is on a bus route, and reduce my riding to endless loops around the local park on weekends. Resort to ‘A to A’ cycling. Tie my bicycle to the back of the car and go somewhere that is car-free.

My faith in humanity has dipped. I feared for my life today. Actually. The motorist saw an obstacle on the road that was impeding her progress to the child care centre. I saw my life flashing before my eyes. I wasn’t doing anything different than what I have done everyday, for the last 10 years.

I was on a ‘designated’ cycle route. It’s a ‘rat-run’. Actually. It runs parallel to 8 fucking lanes of motorway. This is a story that, for the first time, have kept from my loved ones. I don’t want them to worry about me. I will just let slip one day that I have taken a new job…a change is as good as a break. You know.

If you see the driver of the Blue Toyota DNU62, tell her I’m doing ok. I’m just in the process of making some life changes.

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22 comments

  1. Don’t let them win!

    I think we’ve all had close encounters that have left us wondering if it’s worth it. I certainly have had a number that I daren’t mention to the family.

    If it was serious enough it may be worth reporting to the police, otherwise ring or email the child care centre and highlight the incident. They may request parents to be more responsible and caring. They may do bugger all, but they are more likely to be understanding? If it’s in the same authority as you live then raise it with your local councillor and ask them to pass on to relevant councilors for action.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I know the feeling. I have slowed down due to age reducing my strength and stamina. As a result I get more fast passes, which certainly feel unsafe and very unpleasant. What doesn’t help is that some of these are from overtaking cyclists.

    But they are not half so bad as those from undertaking cyclists – quite possibly literally, as I have occasionally been set off balance by an overtaking rider, and falling towards the kerb is one thing, falling away from it into the path of motor vehicles is quite another.

    I now tend to avoid a number of central London roads which I used to travel with at least equanimity. It has restricted my use of a bicycle, though not yet to the point that I can’t use one at all.

    However, I should also say that I have been knocked off my bike four times by cars or taxis, and only suffered any real injury once, on the last such occasion. Research published today by Rachel Aldred (Guardian blog) indicates that in London, cyclists experience close passes at a rate of one per week, but reported injuries to commuter cyclists occur at a rate of one every 20 years.

    Also, what we fear the most is not necessarily what we should be worried about. Again, the statistics for KSIs in London suggest that it is the slowest moving vehicles which are the most lethal – big construction HGVs turning corners. They may be doing 3-4 mph at the time but their momentum is such that once under them there is absolutely no chance. And yet many cyclists – I am no better than others – blithely pass on their nearsides into the most dangerous place of all for a cyclist.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I hope writing this post has helped you… Reading your posts has been very encouraging, for the short time I’ve been following you. Your name, ‘wheeled pedestrian’ is very creative, and so very apt to describe cyclists.
    I commuted to work last Monday for the first time – the public holiday; I knew it would be quiet and a good time to test the route without all the pressure of peak hour traffic (cars and other riders). That went well, but when I casually mentioned it the following day, a person at work – a sort of motherly lady who I would normally say had my best interests at heart – suggested that next time I should try Punt Rd instead of St Kilda Rd as it would be much more direct.
    Now I’m not sure how familiar you are with Melbourne’s inner south-eastern suburbs, but (along with being factually incorrect) the suggestion to abandon a route that has a fairly clearly marked bike lane for one that has no bike lane and shocking traffic conditions at any time of the day (not to mention extra hills) was completely ridiculous.
    My point in relating this is: people who don’t cycle don’t give adequate consideration to non-motorists. Without experiencing firsthand what it’s like as a cyclist in traffic (busy or not) you just don’t get it. The person at work didn’t even think about the bike lane issue. She was a bit insulted when I called her idea crazy and said I’d be risking life and limb. But most people only repeat what they know.
    I’ve read too many ‘cyclist killed’ stories lately and I’ve only been following cycling news for the last three or so months. How many wake-up calls do we need to prove that society is pretty screwed up when parents get behind the wheel and can’t be mindful of anything – or anybody – else except their own schedule, and lookout if you get in the way. When will we learn how to slow down, be considerate, and stop running each other down?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I have had 3 very close calls over time and this is why I now do more pavement cycling on fast roads than I ever did. But the way I look at it now, is that will all the publicity nowadays of segregated cycling and of needing cleaner air and health benefits of cycling, things aren’t going to get worse than they are now.

    I think our roads now are as bad as they can ever get and will and can only get better eventually. I say eventually although I can’t see in the cycling life time I have left they will get much better as I am heading fast to 70 now. But I reckon that in 20 years time we wont recognise our roads.

    I am obviously trying to be optimistic here but at the same time I do truly believe that one day we will catch up with the famous cycling countries.

    Just don’t let the buggers grind you down before then.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I feel your pain as I have been there. But I have to ask, if a car mounted a curb and almost ran you over would you give up walking? If we all give up we all end up back in some form of personal people mover (or a four door wheel chair) and then what. Yes you life is precious and you love you family too much expose them to risk from you but, even if you are not a wheeled pedestrian, is there any less risk?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Yes, we’ve all been there many times and it’s awful. So sorry. The only thing to do is turn the terrible feelings of vulnerability and powerlessness in the face of such bullies into action that will hasten the day when we win. You already make a great contribution. Creative ideas that perhaps address the child care centre as a new audience might go a long way. Second to that is singing (or whistling) while riding which in my experience wards off evil. When it’s been really bad I’ve been very lucky to have a friend ride with me, every day to and from work, for six months until I regained my confidence. Now I work every day to improve cycling conditions knowing that it has been those evil drivers who provide me with added motivation. Wishing you success in triumphing over evil and also a good buddy to ride with. Fiona (Sydney)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Keep your pecker up Mark! I gave a car door a big kick the other day and the driver some serious verbal, when I caught up with it at the lights after it had nearly sent me into the gutter and over a kerb. She was totally oblivious to what had happened, still with her ear phones in and busy texting whilst at the lights (I’m sure she was reading a text when she nearly hit me).
    As Justin said, if a car side swiped your car when you were driving, would you stop driving? And if we all stopped cycling and walking, then what would the world be like.
    Having said that, there is a lot to be said for working as close to home as you can. Even for time management.

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    1. Hi Russell, I hear what you are saying. For a start, it was hellish scary. But what made it worse was the drivers blatant disregard for my life. I ride as though I’m invisible. I do my utmost to keep myself out of harms way. But you can’t protect yourself from people who have no empathy for other road users. I see it when I’m in my car. I feel a bit more protected in this situation (justified? not sure)

      Liked by 1 person

  8. For me, It’s less the physical danger and more that I dislike how misanthropic it makes me. Most trips provide muttiple items of evidence that the general rules human beings follow are ‘might is right’ or ‘its fine if I can get away with it’.

    Cycling on UK roads is like reading the comments on Daily Mail articles – I find it’s just kind of dispiriting.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Pete, Well said. That describes how I feel. And I think that is an issue that needs to be dealt with specifically. Cycle lanes are all good and will do wonders to boost cycling numbers. But there is a real need for some social engineering in order to build a strong ‘social contract’. Just because it’s not tangible, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. The road culture as it exists is hostile. This needs to be addressed too.
    I wrote about that topic here…. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11297453

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  10. Don’t give up Mark. I’m not telling you because I need to argue the merits, but because we all need encouragement to persevere at times. After a lifetime of riding every weekday, I stopped riding for nearly four years after moving out west, telling myself Gt North Road was too brutal to deal with. I finally realised how unhappy and unhealthy I was becoming. Even if the incident makes you dispirited now, keep going and avoid the lost years that I experienced. Don’t let dodgy auckland drivers rob you if your joy. After all, you’re still here.

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  11. I hope you are feeling better after this event now and have had some time to reflect on it. With the current focus on cycles paths I think that the situation will slowly improve and it will help to provide a great alternative to the roads for all types of riders and encourage more people onto bikes.

    I watched the Armstrong Lie last night and one thing Lance mentioned was the joy and freedom kids experienced when they first learned to ride. My daughter wants to ride her bike with me every weekend and its great to see the pleasure she gets from it. I hope you continue to be a cycling voice, for the current and future generations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kieran, thanks for the words of support and encouragement. While I am fine physically, my faith in human nature has taken a battering. My inspiration for riding a bicycle in adulthood was also inspired by my childhood memories. I love it that my own children will happily ride their bicycle when circumstances allow. And that’s the thing, it’s about increasing opportunities for everyone to feel comfortable to ride a bicycle more often.

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  12. I was deliberately run over by a road rager, one year ago today. I am now extremely choosy about where I will cycle and try to keep my contact with traffic to a minimum. I ride illegally on the pavement frequently (but safely and considerately folks, don’t start frothing).
    I used to ride with my child, it was our main form of transport, but no longer. I go by bus if he’s with me,
    Whilst it may seem that my reluctance to ride on the road is a victory for my assailant and for the cyclist haters everywhere, it’s actually made me more determined to agitate for the changes that we so desperately need to make our roads safer for vulnerable road users.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I think there is a middle path between “riding like a warrior” and “riding as though I’m invisible.” There are times to assume the warrior pose — like when I had to cross three lanes of traffic including one leading to a highway onramp this morning to get to the left turn lane. And then there are times to assume the invisible pose — like when there is an obviously agitated, distracted or intoxicated driver and the best bet is to just get off the road until they’re gone. I personally have been enjoying my commute much more since getting an electric bike. Going at a speed closer to that of traffic gives you more control over interactions, and the boost of power at an intersection greatly reduces stress. Plus taking “the long way” is less taxing on those days when you really do just want to get where you’re going.

    Liked by 1 person

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