The downside of cycling

I have a love/hate relationship with cycling.

Don’t get me wrong – There are times during my daily commute when I really enjoy it. When the sun is shining, my legs feel strong and I’m cruising along at a decent speed, it’s wonderful. Especially with the views we get here in Surrey – beautiful.

But then there are the days when the wind picks up, the rain kicks in, and my legs just aren’t feeling it. And it’s not just about the weather, or how happy my legs are feeling – it’s the people.

I always thought it was just cars that would cause problems. And it’s true that they do – they cut me up on roundabouts, pull out in front of me at side roads and junctions (sometimes causing me to brake so hard my back tyre comes up off the ground), and overtake me in all directions, often causing me to slam on my brakes in the middle of a busy junction/roundabout. Not fun.

I was cycling along a main road this morning; the lanes were wide enough for cars to pass me with no hassle, not having to change direction in the slightest; and I was close to the curb, not doing anything out of the ordinary. Everything was going fine, until suddenly some random guy leans out of his car as he passes me and yells at me ‘RIDE ON THE PAVEMENT!!!’

Firstly, this scared the crap out of me, given it was a 50mph road and I was heading downhill, concentrating on avoiding potholes, drains, and trying to manage the wobbling of my bike caused by the turbulence of passing cars.

Secondly, has that guy not read a sentence of the Highway Code in his entire life? It’s ILLEGAL to cycle on the pavement, and completely LEGAL for me to cycle on a road with that speed limit.

I got to work, and as I approached the car park out front (there’s a 2-lane turning to get in and out), another guy was stood on one corner, with his dog (attached by an extendable lead) on the far corner. Both lanes were blocked, with the lead about a foot off the ground. I stopped, looked at him (expecting him to take a few steps towards his dog to let me pass, as any normal person would) and he glared at me! I tilted my bike handles towards the turn, moved forwards a little (thinking he might just not have realised I wanted to turn in) and he took a step AWAY from his dog, still scowling. I then went to cycle around him (despite there only being about a foot of space behind him) and he didn’t move an inch, still giving me an angry look.

I really don’t understand people sometimes.

Thing is, it’s not just the roads that are a problem for cyclists – it’s the bike paths, too! Since moving, I have to cycle a mile along the river path before getting to the main road, and at the time I leave it’s pretty busy with commuters and school kids. It’s designed for both pedestrians and cyclists to use, but it’s quite narrow and the edges are fairly bumpy (meaning I can’t move very close to the edge on the outside – which is the side they usually make me cycle. I then get a confused look when I slow right down to go past them – good fun).

People often walk two or 3 abreast, and I don’t mind that – nothing against it. But the amount of times they hear my bell, turn back to see me, and carry on walking – whaaat? My bike is definitely wider than a couple-inch gap!

Then there’s the other kind of person – the ones that hear my bell, move to one side, and when I politely thank them they glare and grumble.

Dude, I know it’s early, and you’re heading to work. I get that this might not put you in the best of moods. Or you might be walking home after a long, stressful day. But is a quick ‘you’re welcome’, ‘no worries’ or a little smile too much to ask?

I really want to love cycling. It’s a great sport, and a fantastic transport option. But I just feel like everyone hates cyclists! On the roads, on the paths .. We can’t seem to catch a break.

Maybe I should run to work instead ..

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