Diary of a New Cyclist Part 6 — An Open Letter to the Drivers Who Put Me in Danger Today
Hey, it’s me.
Do you remember?
Maybe you don’t.
I’m the girl you overtook so closely in Wimbledon that I could have tapped on your window if I was brave enough to let go of my handlebars.
I’m the girl you veered into the kerb as you rushed to overtake me on that roundabout in Balham.
And the one you sped up to overtake in Earlsfield, only to slam on the brakes at the red light a moment later.
I was coming home with my boyfriend, you see. We’d been out in Cannizaro Park with his sister, niece and baby nephew — celebrating my birthday under autumnal foliage. We should feel elated right now, buoyed by spending time in nature with children still young enough to openly delight in its magic. But instead I’m shaken and he’s forlorn — imaginging what might have happened if I’d been just a little bit less prepared for your carelessness.
I don’t know why you did it.
It certainly didn’t get you there any faster. I saw you again at the traffic lights just up the road, and again ten minutes later. Your recklessness on the road saved you no time — but it very easily could have taken all my time away from me.
Maybe it’s because you just don’t know anyone like me. Maybe no one in your family or your friendship circle is a “cyclist”. Maybe you don’t have a daughter who cycles to work, or a partner who uses their bike to nip to the shop, or even a neighbour who rides up the local hill to get their exercise. Maybe that’s what makes it easier for you to disregard my safety, to put my life at risk without regret or apology.
Or maybe it’s because you’re in a hurry. Maybe it’s because someone you love is in trouble and your need to be by their side is blinding you to all the other loved ones in your path.
Or maybe you’re just angry. Maybe you’ve had another shitty day in a shitty week in a shitty month in a shitty life — and anyone who gets in your way, anyone who makes your life even the tiniest bit more frustrating — deserves to have feel threatened.
Perhaps you just want to feel powerful. Maybe you feel so downtrodden by every person, institution and situation in your life that when the opportunity presents itself — like when you’re in a big metal van encountering someone on a flimsy bike — you take your chance to get your own back. Perhaps you’re just abusing your power in the same way everyone in your life abuses theirs.
One thing I know is that you didn’t treat me so carelessly because you’re happy. That recklessness doesn’t come from a heart that’s overwhelmed with joy, that’s having a great day, that feels lucky to be alive. And for that, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time that you yourself have become hardened. I’m sorry that making me feel like my life is threatened is the only way you can feel in control.
But for the next time you go out for a drive, wherever it is you’re going, remember this — for every person like me you encounter on the roads, there is one less car waiting to make the green light in front of you. Every cycle lane, every low traffic neighbourhood, every 24/7 bus lane is getting another person out of their car and easing congestion in such a way that helps you get to your destination faster.
So, when you see someone cycling on the roads, maybe consider treating them with a bit more kindness? Scaring them off their bike will only slow you down.
I genuinely hope things get better for you soon — my life depends on it.