A melodramatic title, maybe, but as someone who recently decided to dust down my 30 year old bicycle and start to cycle to work, on most mornings and evenings it really feels like this.
I cycle from Mosshead Road (opposite the Allander) to Summerston – a round trip every day of around 8 miles. This trip has ensured I don’t add to the global warming that is changing our weather; I don’t add to the wear and tear of the road; I don’t add to the incredible traffic problem Bearsden has during rush hour and I am feeling healthier – so, hopefully, reducing my use of our NHS which is feeling the pressure of a Tory Westminster Government and the dreadful health problems associated with Scotland.
All very positive and I would hope, all reasons East Dunbartonshire and Glasgow tax payers should be very happy about.
Since taking up cycling to work, I have been shocked on a number of issues. As I write this, I see Bradley Wiggins and Shane Sutton, both cycling heroes of the Summer Olympics, have been injured in accidents involving traffic. Nearly every day I have near misses.
The first issue I have been shocked by is the attitude of drivers to cyclists. Cyclists are, by many people I have spoken to over the past few months, seen as an inconvenience and more. Speaking to work colleagues and friends, who rush to say their attitudes don’t of course include me, I have heard the kind of vitriol poured on cyclists I have heard in my past poured on “the other,” the scapegoat, in society. I am originally from Northern Ireland and have seen the result of this kind of thinking. I have made my home in Scotland now for twenty years, but, and again this might seem melodramatic, but some road users seem to think that cyclist road injuries or deaths are the fault of the flesh and bone balanced on two thin wheels keeping them back from arriving at their destination by at most, a couple of minutes. I am incredulous at the amount of drivers who will take chances, at speed, to overtake me and have knocked a few windows of cars stopped at traffic lights and asked drivers why they want to kill me.
Sorry doesn’t do it. Where is the legal protection for cyclists from the “it’s only a cyclist” attitude?
I feel this attitude to cyclists goes further than road users. I have spoken to people who have said that they can’t understand why cyclists “choose when to ride on the Milngavie Cycle path.” They can’t understand why we cyclists don’t stay safe on the orange asphalt. Well, drivers, let me tell you. I don’t call that strip a cycle path, I call it a psycho-path. For some reason, the attitude of the planners when creating this nod to cyclists was the same as those drivers who see cyclists as a sub-species. The asphalt, first of all, has been laid down with huge bumps between each “section.” Second of all, it swerves OVER manholes with the associated cracks and pits in the road around them, and the side of the road seems to be where all of the recent digging by the council/ utilities companies took place, leaving HUGE pits and holes. If I was to cycle into these holes I would be over the handlebars of my road touring bike. The road between Canniesburn Toll and Maryhill is even more of a death trap with holes and cracks and traffic that seems to be racing each other between roundabouts and traffic jams.
To finish, I want to make a few pleas. Drivers, as a cyclist I want you to know two things. One, I am not in competition with you. You will win every time with your ton and a half metal shell and 30mph plus speeds. And secondly, if you see me ahead and I am in the middle of a traffic lane, there is a reason. I don’t want to fall down a hole. East Dunbartonshire and Glasgow Council, my plea to you is to ask cyclists to help you with your road and cycle path design. Both health and carbon emissions are helped by those of us who brave the roads on our lightweight tubes on thin tyres and sustainable muscle power. In Germany, every new road is designed with cyclists in mind. Every new road has a cycle path that keeps cyclists away from speeding hunks of metal. If Glasgow and the surrounding areas are to become some sort of cycling capital in 2014 with the Commonwealth Games bringing cycling talent from around the world to our streets and new velodrome, then real changes must be made.
Please stop trying to kill me.