At some previously undocumented point, cycling became my primary means of transport. Since I spend so much time commuting and so little time driving, this should be largely self evident. What’s more interesting is the way my perspective has flipped by switching from four wheels to two.
Twice this week I’ve re-aquainted myself with the joys of motorised travel and its’ not been a pleasant experience. Firstly the tetchy reunion of me and my car keys took far longer than expected as they’d virtually carbonised at the bottom of the key basket. Then in a moment of early onset Alzheimer’s I couldn’t remember how the radio worked. Or the lights. And the ventilation system was just a set of symbols I randomly prodded until the windscreen cleared.
Driving itself wasn’t too difficult except for the rapid rate of incoming stimuli queuing on my neural net. It went a bit like this: ‘Car in front is braking’, ‘Ped about to test local hospital services by ill timed sprint across the blacktop’, ‘Motorbike edging out of a side turning’ then ‘Ooooh Cyclist, poor bugger better give him loads of room’ leading to ‘aahhhh I’m on the wrong side of the road playing chicken with a cement lorry!’
It’s fair to say, I wasn’t the safest thing on the road.
But not the most dangerous either. It has been a pleasure to, wipe from my memory, the ill temperedness and wafer thin patience that defines driving near London. Once behind the wheel, it all came flooding back like a cross between a hangover movie (you know the one, you wake up with no idea how you got to bed but with total recall of the amusing incident with your boss, the photocopier and Jenny from accounts) and a copy of Rollerball, directors cut.
It’s not just the sheer volume of cars, abandoned on what must previously have been quiet residential roads, it’s the way yet more of the buggers squeeze through the gaps, or desperately push in to save ten seconds. Stress levels ratchet ever higher with each two fingered gesture and most incisive use of the word “Dickhead” when applied to a road traffic situation.
I hated it. And yet within an hour, I’d been re-absorbed into the mass hysteria that is driving in London. Assimilated, angry and animated, I raced through pedestrian crossings, idled on box crossings and – lord help me – kerb squeezed a cyclist to beat a light.
It was like taking the tube. It was the wake up call one occasionally needs to reiterate why we cycle. It may be cold, dark and sometimes dangerous but because it’s not motorised, frenzied and thoughtless, it’s the right thing to do.