Friday, 15 January 2010

Fight or Flight: When Velo Loves the City, But the City Does Not Love the Velo

So to set the scene, picture this: Cold night, a 31 year old cyclist, thin-ish, not very tall (bike frame size xsmall), female. Helmet (that was a new year's resolution), ontop of a woolly cycling cap. Headphones in (note:volume responsibly selected!)  listening to Ms Lisa Hannigan singing so her mind relaxes after a full  day's work (falling in potholes and almost getting clipped by a crazy taxi driver)! There is a nice stretch to pick up speed (New Road, right next to Shoreditch Park, yes London, UK).  It is 7:30pm.

so yes, this is where the story begins, I am there picking up speed, when *shazam* this snow ball flies right infront of me within an inch from my icy nose. it forces me to pedal right to avoid being hit and i manage to slow my wild with energy bike. I look left and i see a bunch of teenagers holding a second snow ball. That's when i have quite a few thoughts in my head - if this was a less busy-with-traffic road, if i was not pedalling fast, if they did not throw the snow ball that hard, i would have probably laughed it off and even joined them! But the reality, i was tired, i had a zillion "almost got killed" moments and their goddamn snow ball almost got me pedalling right through a bus!

So, i start shouting (with my newly developed east-end accent, after practicing the famous "Get out of my pub" line) "oi, are you trying to kill me?"  The kids, are standing there around 40 metres away, staring.  I gesture "come over here" and i start walking towards them while at the same time i think "gawd i hope i don't end up being robbed". I feel my body becoming taller and taller - i am full of adrenaline after a 40 minute city ride. The kids start walking the opposite direction, showing that they are in no mood for a fight but i am determined to have a chat with them. But they start running. I stay there for a bit watching them disappear into the night... Part of me thinking "oh well, this suits me well" part of me thinking, "we have enough to deal with on the roads"...

My daily commute of 7 miles to work (and 7 miles back plus more miles when i am being the NHS superhero), on the bike can result to an average of 6 near misses or incidents! this is just ridiculous but London can be a very non-bicycle friendly city! Taxi drivers, paedestrians not looking when they cross, paedestrians in cycling lanes, bus drivers not looking, cars doing rapid turns, lorries, potholes, ice,  car doors and now chavsters armed with snow balls! This is enough! Today London, i hate you, and reminisce of Paris and Amsterdam. Why can't you be a little bit like them?

Tomorrow, i may love you again.... A ride to the Tate?