James Daley: 'Another cyclist raced up alongside me and started hurling abuse
Saturday 29 November 2008
A few weeks ago, I found myself championing the idea of bike-thief vigilantism – after my friend Jamie managed to find the teenager who stole his bicycle, punch him and reclaim his wheels.
This week, however, I'd like to qualify my endorsement of have-a-go heroes. While I still think it's OK to thump someone who steals your property, it's really not OK to attack someone for breaking a traffic law. Which is what happened to me last week.
I was travelling down the Thames Embankment on my way to work, when I noticed that another cyclist had raced up alongside, and was hurling abuse at me.
At first, I couldn't make out what he was saying because a) I was listening to my iPod and b) he was so out of breath that most of his words were completely indecipherable.
But as he started to get his breath back, I worked out that he was incensed that I'd jumped a red light about half a mile back, and he'd been chasing me ever since. "You give us all a f***ing bad name, man. You're a f***ing disgrace, man." You get the idea.
I was primed to throw him back a sarcastic comment, when it occurred to me that he was about twice my size – and looked angry enough to throw a punch. So I pretended I still couldn't hear him and took off.
When I thought about it later, however, it struck me as very strange that his main problem with my red-light jumping was that it might damage the reputation of the entire cycling community, and perhaps, by association, his reputation too. Why is it that cyclists, quite unlike users of other forms of transport, talk about themselves like they're part of one big happy family?
As I suggested last week, cyclists are about as diverse a bunch as you'll find – bonded only by the fact we occasionally favour the same mode of transport. Hardly much of a basis for making new friends. The stocky bloke who started effing and blinding at me for jumping a light is certainly no part of any family I count myself a part of.
Sure, cyclists need to stand together in the fight for better infrastructure and more sensible traffic rules, but there's still plenty of room for us to also have differing opinions.
I'm passionate about cycling and I'm proud that I've made it a central part of my life. But I'm definitely not defined by it.
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