I nearly died today.
I am one of London’s many cyclists and was cruising along one of London’s many designated lanes when I was almost run down by a car turning through traffic into a road on my left.
The driver hadn’t looked where he was going and nearly went straight into me.
Fortunately, I managed to swerve out of the way – screaming like a maniac banshee on Red Bull – and avoid the front of the car by about five inches.
Not for the first time, an altercation then ensued in which both myself and the driver in question insisted the other party had been at fault. It might even have come to blows, had I not been the kind of weedy middle class type who avoids physical violence like the plague (in this case, by deftly positioning my bike in between myself and the definitely-stockier-than-me driver).
Later on, I found it difficult to understand how I could possibly have been in the wrong, since it was my right of way and I was on a cycle lane.
And regardless, since a crash for the angry, burly buffoon would’ve involved little more than scratched paintwork, whereas for me it could result in DEATH, it’s safe to say that I had a little more reason to be pissed off, no?
But my experience is not a one off. Every day cyclists are put in dangerous – even life threatening – situations by drivers on the roads of our cities, and more often than not, those very drivers place the blame squarely on the cyclists who have been hit, or crushed, or killed.
Change to the law must now be considered if we are to rightly attempt to make our cities’ roads safer for those who choose to navigate them on two wheels.
With the glory of London 2012 now just a memory, this need for lasting change has not been lost on our cycling champions.
Sprinter Mark Cavendish has recommended a European-style system where the assumption of liability is on the driver, rather than the cyclist. This would mean that in the event of a collision drivers would be required to prove their innocence, thus putting the onus on them to drive more carefully.
And our velodrome princess Victoria Pendleton has spoken out about the fact that cycle lanes are shockingly dangerous when compared to those of our European neighbours. She thinks cyclists’ right of way on cycle lanes needs more respect, and that cars should not be allowed to drive or stop in them unnecessarily.
The National Cycling Charity also makes a great case for speed limit changes and improvements in road design.
However, none of these changes are ever likely to be approved without the backing of the majority of road users. And until our cities can be transformed into two-wheeled utopian paradises, the majority is and will remain as drivers.
So what first we must first see is cyclists obeying the rules of the road.
I have no doubt that the angry driver I encountered today probably had such disdain for cyclists because he has seen – as I admit I have seen – so many of them jumping red lights and weaving dangerously on and off paved areas and so on.
So we must first consider the plight of the London driver, if we are then to understand why he harbours such anger for the beleaguered London cyclist.
Trapped perennially in his metal smog box, the big-city driver is cut off from the world with only the intermittent babble of an FM radio for company (or an iPod, I guess). He is forever languishing at the back of the unending traffic jam he has no way of cruising effortlessly to the front of.
No autumnal wind will ever float through the air holes in his polystyrene crash helmet and never is he able to enjoy the cathartic process that is pumping away the day’s frustrations through relentless rotating metal.
He is frustrated. Always. And angry. Very angry. Because cyclists appear to laugh in the face of traffic jams and are given their very own bright blue super-highways, the like of which he can only dream of sitting as he does, grey and sullen-faced, behind the arse-end of the number 345 to Peckham.
So when this impotent and frustrated figure sees the cyclist – the rolling bank holiday weekend – blatantly ignoring the red lights he so loathes, he begins to ferment inside him the type of rage and vitriol that is as toxic as it is dangerous – and is above all certain to resist any changes proposed in favour of its instigative adversary.
And it is for this reason that he – who still remains in the majority – will never agree to the required rule-changes unless a certain amount of diplomacy is deployed.
So for the sake of progress, cyclists, please stop at all red lights, try resist the temptation to ride on the pavement, and lastly, most importantly, just be nice to everyone – even those who don’t return the favour.
Because calls for change are being made. And if the anger of other road users can be placated, victory must surely be on the horizon. After all, British cyclists don’t seem to lose very often.