This morning I posted a Facebook status after a somewhat eventful commute to work on the road bike.
I post a lot of cycling related things on Facebook; considering I spend an average of 15 hours a week on the bike, it’s not uncommon for seemingly eventful things occur. Combine the types of riding I do, put bluntly: shit happens! I ride and race mountain bikes, crashes occur; I ride some fairly rough terrain inhabited by many of Australia’s native animals; I got bitten by a snake.
I also ride a road bike. This doesn’t mean I ride on the road in front of cars sipping a latte while slowing down traffic. I weigh 76kg, ride an 11kg aluminium frame bike while wearing lycra, a lightweight but extremely strong helmet and I stick to cycle paths and cycle lanes adjacent to the lanes motor vehicles drive in. Yet I am often a target for bottles being thrown at my head, being spat on, car doors being opened on me and simply abused for riding a bike.
I’ll stay away from the “you don’t pay rego argument”… No fuck it! I own a car with a turbo I pay shit-loads in registration and insurance, I pay my taxes, I insure my bikes, I also pay a yearly registration to ride my mountain bike in competitive races… Holy shit – I pay fucking rego for a bike!
I also pay a higher private health fund premium to cover potential injuries whilst riding and most importantly I help reduce carbon emissions and road congestion. Plus in NO STATE IN AUSTRALIA does motor vehicle registration directly fund road works or road safety programs so doubly go fuck yourself with those arguments.
There are three reasons why I ride a bike:
1) I enjoy it
2) I don’t want to be a thirty-something fat slob whose weight roughly equals the height in cm minus age in years equation (HTcm – AGEyrs = FAT+UNHEALTHY)
3) I live with a depressive disorder and cycling helps curb the dramatic highs and devastating lows that impact my life and lives of the people around me
When I ride a mountain bike, I am extremely focused yet very relaxed. It’s quite easy to be spinning a pair of aching legs, sweating dripping down my face and I’m still smiling ear to ear. It’s a Zen-like experience a lot of the time; riding, friends and Flow.
When I’m on a road bike it’s a very different experience. I like to road ride alone; I don’t enjoy riding with others. Because of this you won’t find me in a bunch holding up traffic by taking up an entire road lane. There is also another side to my road riding persona; I am extremely reactive to my environment. If mountain biking is the good side of my riding, road riding is the dark side.
People with depressive disorders aren’t always sad, sitting in a dark room and crying. Sometimes we are aggressive, violent and act out without warning. When a cyclist rides on the road, albeit in a cycling lane, we are extremely vulnerable. Simply put, I weigh less than 90kg with bike, a car weighs ten times that and is often travelling two to three times faster than my average commuting speed of 32km/hr. If a motor vehicle hits me at speed I’ll either be seriously injured or killed.
When I ride on the road I am hyper-vigilant, I am constantly looking around and trying to anticipate what vehicles are going to do. In Canberra the most popular sport for motor vehicles is running red lights. Seriously it’s appalling how often this happens; and it’s not just cars there are a lot of trucks that do it, particularly early in the morning. It’s also very common for vehicles to either not see or ignore cyclists. It’s a daily event having a car pull over into the cycle lane to drop off a passenger or answer a phone; and more often than not they don’t use indicators either.
When I encounter this I get angry. Sometimes the driver will see me shaking my head at them, a few choice words or a one, maybe two finger salute as I ride past. Sometimes a driver will completely ignore the road rules and directly endanger my life. When this occurs I will act aggressively to the driver and vehicle. I have slammed my fist on windows, I have squirted water through windows and this morning I punched and broke a mirror on a taxi.
A few minutes before this event I had a car cut me off and clip me on the hip with the side mirror. We were both travelling at a low-speed so it was a light slap and I highly doubt the driver was aware of it happening.
Not five minutes later I rounded the corner into London Circuit from Northbourne Avenue and stayed in the green painted cycle lane. From behind me a taxi sped past my right side, swerved into the cycle lane and came to a complete stop. I had to death-grip both brakes and came to a screeching halt inches from smashing into the taxi’s boot. Already annoyed about being clipped by a mirror, I rolled next to the cab and proceeded to punch the side mirror until it was attached to the car only by the internal electrical wires.
Did I over react? Yes. Am I sorry? No. This is a ‘professional’ driver that completely ignored the road rules and put my safety as risk. I don’t really care about his mirror, I don’t really care that he had a passenger in the back seat, I don’t really care that I dropped both the F and C-bombs at a high a rate and volume. At the end of the day if I was complacent I would have crashed into the back of his taxi and ended up with serious injuries.
Yes some cyclists ride erratically and disobey the road rules. This annoys me as well; but in comparison to the amount of motor vehicles that do the same it’s an inconsequential number. I know this post is a fairly long rant about me justifying my actions; but at the end of the day if a motor vehicle hits a cyclist it’s not just a faceless entity that is left bleeding, broken or dead on the asphalt; it is someone’s Mother, Father, Sister, Brother, Husband, Wife, Son, Daughter or Friend.