Cycling London

On not sharing #spaceforcycling

My commute to work takes me via Oval and onto the new Cycle Superhighway each morning. I’ve been so pleased to see this happen and am a big supporter of the new cycle infrastructure that has been causing such chaos recently whilst it’s being installed. It’s an incredible experience to be riding to work on a segregated cycle route of a decent width and in some cases with your own set of lights that let you go before the rest of the traffic. The one towards Vauxhall, CS5, is particularly good.

With this new infrastructure comes the realisation that my commutes are probably going to be a lot slower as I’m no longer moving at the same pace (or faster) than traffic – what is often termed ‘vehicular cycling‘. I would much prefer the Dutch style of cycling in that everyone does it, everyone feels relatively safe and it’s not just for enthusiasts such as myself who are considered slightly odd for not commuting on the tube. With this comes the acceptance that to have more people cycling in London I will have to go slower, be more tolerant of other riders and generally not race along at 35-40km an hour. But you know, that’s worth it for me. I can go to Richmond Park, Regents Park, find hills all over the city for me to dress up in my spandex and raise my heart rate if I want. I’d rather London was safer so my girlfriend might consider riding again.

There was a really interesting article I found the other day via the fantastic Urbanphoto Twitter account. The summary being that most current cyclists are going to hate the future they’re all campaigning for. Again the example of our European friends is made.

Riders on dedicated bike lanes in Munich only go as fast as the slowest person in the bike lane. So we rode along pretty slowly after we got “trapped” behind the lady in pink—who wasn’t about to risk breaking a sweat in her dress—and no one had a problem with it. People just rode along behind her, letting the woman in the pink dress set the pace, and no one got aggro about it. A few riders passed her when we came to an intersection but no one shot her a dirty look or gave her any grief.

Having read this I’ve been really quite careful about passing other riders, especially on the new Cycle Superhighways. So much so that I worry about free-wheeling too much behind them with my clicky Hope hub in case it pressures someone in front too much. I do a little soft pedal until it’s safe to go by. Even when dressed in full roadie kit I’ve waited then passed when safe and avoided the temptation to be seen to be smashing it past.

With this all in mind I had an interesting experience on CS7 at Oval a few weeks ago. I was dressed in some baggy shorts, casual jacket and riding a muddy cross bike to work and was in front of people on the CS7 doing an average pace. I was riding two abreast with a friend who I had bumped into. I heard someone behind me so went to move in and let them through. Before I had a chance I heard a blowing through the mouth from him like a horse but clearly with the intention of showing his displeasure at being held up. The light 200 metres ahead was red so not much of a rush really. Besides, as soon as I realised I was holding someone up I swiftly moved over.

Passing there was another tut and he desperately raced for the lights. I then clocked the rear facing camera so gave a cheeky wave to it. We naturally caught up at the next lights and I asked him what the problem was. Then I saw the front camera. So clearly someone into cycling and wanting to make sure that anyone else doing wrong was swiftly brought to account on their YouTube channel (a wild guess at this stage) but front and rear cameras suggested this.

Further chats were had and still more justification for why he needed to get to the front and generally be a bit of an arse to other people in the cycle lane. And then the red mist took over on my part so I chased him down and got a photo of him which is when he spat at me and then gave the finger for the camera – I’ll not post the pictures. Sure, there was some provocation on my part but then at the next set of lights I spotted the Space 4 Cycling Badge proudly pinned to the bag. I asked about this but was told that I had completely misunderstood what Space 4 Cycling is for. I suggested it was so that everyone could cycling in London and feel safe. Apparently not.

I cycled off still pretty pissed off. After a while I wondered if the video might appear online. But in an interesting turn of events I actually followed (past tense) that person on Twitter. The irony being that their feed is full of pulling other people up for the quality of driving. All with videos. And a great deal of it is about cycling infrastructure and in support of it, so it seems strange that I’m in their way. Whilst this person apologised online it’s still a bad state of affairs when this happens. Interestingly he also posted up about him suffering from a case of MGIF (Must Get In Front – I had to Google it). Yet all the cycle campaigners responding to him seemed to be fully in support of his actions although without the full story.

Cycling in London is going to get more and more popular and hopefully there’ll be less people like this spoiling it for those venturing out on their bikes for the first time. I’d rather see families with children in these lanes riding slowly than overbearing helmet cammers any day of the week.