James Daley: Cyclotherapy
Thursday 31 January 2008
In the past few years, I've started to become the kind of cyclist I really hate – unnecessarily aggressive, often discourteous to my fellow bikers and, I'm ashamed to say, an occasional danger. If I were to stand trial for my crimes, however, I'd make the point that I'm never completely in control of my faculties at such moments.
Although I'd like to think I'm a relatively mild-mannered and polite person in my daily life, put me on two wheels on my way to work and I often turn into a maniac, ready to kick any vehicle that cuts me up, shout at any pedestrian who doesn't pay enough attention when crossing the road and desperate to race every other cyclist.
My commute home on Tuesday night was the perfect example. Eager to get home, I was pumping down Cable Street in east London as fast as I could, zipping past every cycling commuter in sight. But the Cable Street cycle path is narrow and, as I pulled out to overtake someone, I could see another bike coming towards me. Rather than do the sensible thing – pull back and wait for the oncoming bike to pass – I decided there was just enough time to pass the bike in front.
There wasn't. The oncoming cyclist smashed into my right arm with some force, before veering into the third biker, who was propelled out of his saddle and into the road.
When I got back to the scene to ask if the other two were OK, the cyclist I'd collided with was apologising profusely to the third man – who looked to have come off worst. I mumbled my own apologies and snuck away, knowing that the whole incident wouldn't have happened if I had just had some patience and waited.
I've written before on the Cyclotherapy blog (www.independent.co.uk/blogs) about the "red mist" – the adrenalin-fuelled insanity that too often takes control of cyclists when they're pounding around town. Just as footballers and rugby players may start brawling after they've been running around a pitch for an hour, I'm sure that most cyclists are much more likely to be aggressive when they're physically stretching themselves. That's all very well if you're whizzing round a velodrome, but not if you're out on the streets of a city. This time, I'm lucky to have only a nasty bruise to show for my stupidity. But it could have been worse – especially if there had been any motor traffic coming down Cable Street at the time.
I'm making an effort to moderate my behaviour, but it's hard to fight against such a strong chemical reaction. My commute is my workout. The problem is, the harder I work, the more likely I seem to be to turn into my evil twin. Cyclists have always been rather good at finding drugs to enhance their performance – I wonder if they could develop one to tame those of us who find ourselves occasionally blinded by the red mist.
Read the Cyclotherapy blog at independent.co.uk/cyclotherapy
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