I am definitely not the sportiest person in the world. Ever since I first came to the University of Stirling I have been constantly surrounded by amazing athletes subtly reminding me that I should spend less time on the sofa and more time in the gym.
However, I do like to cycle. Road cycling has given me an escape that I thought I could never get from a sport – it keeps me fit, it’s fun and it grants me a sense of freedom that I can only get when whizzing down a hill at thirty miles an hour. Recently though I have begun to feel more unsafe on the roads.
At first it was just the occasional car overtaking too close, or a random blast of the horn. Now every time I go out on my bike I expect some form of abuse from a driver. It may be intimidating and nasty, but it’s also scary – when a bike and a car collide, it’s going to be the cyclist that is worst off.
These days more and more stories about cyclists being killed by drivers appear on my news feed. This problem hit the national news when Carol Boardman, mother of Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman, was killed in a bicycle collision in July. She was an experienced cyclist who competed in her youth – if even she isn’t safe from careless drivers, then what chance do the rest of us have?
Of course, the majority of drivers are safe, courteous and friendly. But it’s the alarming incidents like these that stick out. In the five years I have been cycling I have been shouted and sworn at, sprayed deliberately by windscreen wipers, and have had cars overtake me mere centimetres from my elbow. However, I’m lucky compared to some – I’ve never actually been hit or injured while on my bike. But every time I cycle I’m aware I could be next.
Cycling has grown massively in popularity over the past few years, and this is set to continue thanks to Great Britain’s success in competitions such as the Olympics and Le Tour de France. But with more cyclists on the road, collisions become more likely. Even professional cyclists aren’t immune – one of Britain’s most famous cyclists, Bradley Wiggins, was injured after being hit by a car whilst out training in 2012. So with more people cycling and accidents seemingly on the up, what can we do to prevent more injuries and deaths?
As a cyclist and a driver, I am lucky enough to have been on both sides of the equation. I know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of some serious road rage, and I try to bear this in mind when I come across cyclists while driving. As long as drivers are patient, and allow plenty of time, space and courtesy whenever they come across a cyclist, there should be no problem on either side. But cyclists need to be considerate too – of both other road users and the law. Running red lights and skipping queues not only angers everyone else, but also makes an accident more likely to happen.
Everyone should have the right to safe and comfortable travel on our roads, whether you’re a cyclist, motorcyclist, horse rider, pedestrian or driver. Cyclists are a vulnerable road user, and so need to be treated as such. I know that we may be slow, inconvenient, and perhaps infuriating at times, but it’s just one of these things you need to put up with when driving on the roads. It’s true that not all cyclists are perfect, and not all drivers are bad. But if everyone was just a little more patient and forgiving, then our roads would be safer and friendlier for everyone.