I’d rather jump in front of a bus than a London cyclist. Don’t get me wrong. I love cycling. The environmental benefits are conclusive. But you won’t see me wheeling around with Boris in this slick city of DayGlo lycra bandits.
Last year, I was assaulted by a cyclist. Not some Hackney hoodwink trying to pilfer my phone, but a 40-something, well-spoken man, outside a gastro pub in Islington. I saw him coming. I crossed in front of him, thinking I would make it. As I stepped onto the pavement, he punctured my back with his fist: a full on punch at (I’m guessing) 30mph.
Why? I’m not sure. Maybe someone crossing the road in a residential area surprised him. Maybe I cut it a bit fine. But I’m pretty sure pummeling a woman half his size, with no chance of self-defence, was fairly disproportionate. Then he yelled ‘idiot’. In that mannered voice, which on brighter days he probably uses to handle derivative assets.
Islington police were brilliant, and sought out the CCTV – but he sped off, fast, and it’s quite hard to tell the back of one flaring neon jacket from another. (But in case you’re reading this, dear assaulter, the police have the incident on record. Remember? Outside the Pig & Butcher? And if you try this trick again, I hope they catch up with you – but you better hope I don’t.)
London cyclists are a different breed. They’re not like the ambling, rambling countryside types who care more about the view than overtaking you. Who practice for fitness and do their bit to unspoil landscapes by leaving the car at home. Who value the freedom and adventure of being wheel-deep in nature.
No, in the city, something darker takes over. When I used to commute by bike, the biggest threat wasn’t lorries, or taxis, or buses. It was other cyclists. They will cut you up with inches to spare, elbow their way into first place, yell abuse at perceived perpetrators (and believe me, you won’t find a bigger persecution complex than on a London cyclist). But more often than not, they fail to look at their own behaviour.
I can see how it happens, sort of. When you’re caught up in the flow, trying to get somewhere, pushing the clock; you enter a slipstream of single-mindedness. Other cyclists (literally) blur into the background, pedalling propels you, constant advancement is the priority. Rat race. Run.
But London cyclists, tell me something (and bear in mind, I’m one of you): when did it all get so serious?