On Monday the 6th cyclist has been killed by a lorry in just 13 days and another cyclist has been severely injured in Camden. This really does raise the question whether cycling in London can be seen as a health benefit.
Since February I have been a cyclist myself. It took me 6 years to dare the London traffic madness, but being from Germany I have never had the guts to ride on the left, always being worried I might look the wrong way when turning into a road. BUT, as many of you probably don’t know, each London council offers FREE cycle training to encourage safe cycling! The training really helped me how to behave in traffic, especially on busy roads.
So off I went to brave the streets of London, equipped with my 1954 vintage Palm Beach bike (yes, I did get it checked to make sure it’s safe for being on the road), and most importantly a helmet and a Hi Vis cycling jacket (of course lights for when it’s dark too!). Although still a bit scared at the beginning, my confidence grew day by day and it’s just incredible what one has to experience on your daily commute to work.
No doubt that all these recent deaths are tragic, but sometimes I’m really not surprised that this happens when you see how some cyclists are out and about. I often can’t believe my eyes, when I see cyclists without a helmet, no hi vis jacket and no lights … when it’s dark!! Several times I’ve also seen an elderly woman riding her bike at a snail’s pace with 10 inch stilettos, and of course no helmet. Not to mention the cyclists that ride like they are being haunted by swarm of wasps. Jumping red lights, squeezing through cars and of course next to lorries… but why? Oh, and did I mention the cyclists that wear huge headphones?
Having said that, the behaviour I have seen from pedestrians and cars makes me want to pull my hair out too! A few months after I started cycling, I had my first accident when a girl stepped into the cycling lane (one of the few and badly maintained) without looking in the right direction. Fortunately nothing serious happened, but I knocked her down to the ground, left her with a few scrapes and me with a little shock. It really does make you aware how quickly an accident can happen.
Just recently a car driver must have thought, I have got the bigger vehicle, I have got the prerogative, no matter what road marks! Luckily I wasn’t too quick, but when I indicated with my arms what he’s doing in the middle of two cycling lanes he pulled the window down asking me what my problem is! I better leave out the words that followed, but I simply couldn’t hold back after being told to shut up and accused of being the one that has to wait on a cycling lane.
It sounds like a lot of negativity here, but despite all this, I still do love cycling! Being in my last year at Uni, I’m über busy with coursework, spending my evenings studying and the weekends stuck at my desk nearly all day. Therefore cycling to work is my daily exercise which helps me balance out this enforced inactivity. On top of this, it does save me a lot of money – win win!