It’s not motorists who are a cyclist’s worst enemy – it’s their own kind, argues David Millward.
By David Millward
Published: 1:03PM GMT 10 Dec 2009
I am loathe to dissent from my urbane and distinguished colleague Andrew Gilligan, but his description of cyclists as “freedom fighters” is rather worrying.
After years as a motorist and pedestrian, I decided to see how the world looked on two wheels. I did this for a number of reasons. As the paper’s Transport Editor, I had become aware of the horrifying toll of cyclists being injured or killed – and the debate the latest figures triggered.
It would be fair to say that this debate is completely polarised, with cyclists blaming motorists and vice versa. So I felt it was only fair that I set aside my prejudices and experienced London on a bike. I also want to lose some weight, being rather lardier than I was when I did the marathon some years ago.
To my surprise, I have found that I rather enjoy it. Even if the lard doesn’t melt away, my spirits have soared. My wife, who originally greeted the prospect of my cycling in town with about the same enthusiasm as when, several years ago, I suggested I volunteer to report from Iraq, says I am more cheerful and within weeks my posture has improved.
Bu the bad news is that it has not made me more tolerant of the majority of my fellow cyclists.
When I stop at a traffic light, I feel like something out of a Bateman cartoon as I watch everyone else pedal on regardless. The only person who has come near to knocking me off the bike has been another cyclist. Cabbies and other motorists have been a model of good manners.
But then I do obey the laws of the road. I make eye contact at junctions with drivers so they know where I am. I even stop at pedestrian crossings, unlike the clown who nearly sent me flying when I was walking to Stamford Bridge the other night. He seemed to object to my reminder that he had jumped a light – albeit in language which is best described as industrial.
Doubtless he sees himself as a planet-saving freedom fighter, exempt from the rules which apply to everyone who uses the road.
But the serious point is that our safety is dependent on everyone behaving in a reasonably predictable manner. My real fear is that it is not the “freedom fighters” that will get knocked off their bike by a resentful motorist. It will be me.