cycle commuting

When I started to regularly cycle commute in London I was scared. Every time I got on my bike I would have an underlying fear that would get better and worse at various points of the trip.

This horse drawn carriage totally cut me off!

This horse drawn carriage totally cut me off!

When I’m scared I get angry. It’s an easy reaction. I get angry at the people and situations making me scared. Each commute I would get mad at cars that were passing me too close, or pedestrians who would step out without looking. I am good at looking ahead and seeing potentially bad situations (thank you decades of snowboarding and avoiding trees and cliffs) so most often I’d see the dangerous situation, avoid it but still get mad at the person who caused it.

I was scared because it felt like every time I got on my bike people were trying to kill me. It’s a bit sad when day after day cars speed past you too close on the right only to stop and do a quick left turn right in front of you. It’s hard not to take it personally that the person driving the big metal box doesn’t care about you. I also wanted to hold my ground. Yes! I am cycling. Yes! I am a woman, this is my space and I should get to cycle safely so I am not going to let you get away with this! Getting angry just fed the fear more, confirming that there were situations to be scared of. It wasn’t a nice feedback loop.

My thunder thigh tights always cheer me up.

My thunder thigh tights always cheer me up.

The fear and anger translated off the bike too. I spent a good amount of time feeling a bit off, a bit sad even though everything else was great in my life. It was even hard to pinpoint the cause to cycling because I enjoyed cycling to and from work, the freedom, the extra time, the money I was saving, and the lack of time on a stinky bus.

Last night I was cycling home and realised the fear and anger are gone. Somewhere along the way of regularly commuting things became fun and not scary. Cruising up, down and around the streets of London felt effortless and fun. Like my own private amusement park ride.  Turning right at the intersection at Grey’s Inn Road and Theobalds road between lorries, buses and speeding cars isn’t suddenly safe, but gone is the fear and in its place is a quiet confidence and happiness.

An example of the look you will get if you turn left in front of me.

An example of the look you will get if you turn left in front of me.

I read somewhere that a positive, happy reaction to anger is more effective than an angry one. So when that driver flips you off, saying “OK well, our opinions differ but have a nice day.” Will not only stay with them the rest of the day but also it’s harder for the other person to escalate their anger and usually ends the situation. I still have the same amount of drivers cutting me off and save for a few cutting eye looks (can’t take all the reaction out of me) I don’t get angry. I don’t feel like I’m giving up or letting them get away without punishment, it’s just not my immediate reaction to get mad any more.

I’m reading What Goes Around: A London Cycle Couriers Story and that might be influencing my feelings of commuting. Having a bit of the flow of a cycle courier and seeing the city in a new way is exciting. I guess I’m just trying to say that if you are a new cyclist and scared don’t get mad at yourself for being angry. Being aware of the fear and the anger is what helped me get over it and build some confidence and happiness on my bike.

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4 thoughts on “cycle commuting

  1. Tess @ FitBits

    Ahhh glad you’ve found the love. I’ve cycle commuted for all of my adult life, and have ridden the roads since primary school when my Dad made me do a cycling proficiency test and took me out on the road every weekend to cycle behind him. It’s a real life skill to have – and patience is a virtue. If you cycle like you would drive, i.e. wait at the lights, give way when necessary, be courteous and NEVER go up the inside of a lorry/bus/van, it’s a breeze. 🙂

    Reply
  2. adarling575

    I love cycling in London – way better than the tube – but do get angry! The most at pedestrians who walk straight into cycle lines without looking – this is by far the way I come nearest to a crash most often (if that makes sense!!). I’ve found I store up stories from my commute to tell my boyfriend when I get home – but by the time I arrive, get in the door, catch my breath… I’ve forgotten all of it, as well as any of the work stress I was carrying when I got on my bike. It’s great!

    Reply
    1. lauraestewart Post author

      I totally agree on the pedestrian-danger. My only accident has been with a pedestrian who walked out without looking. I hit him pretty hard and his phone smashed. He apologised and the police happened to be driving by and offered to arrest him for stupidity 😉 such an idiot and good things were not worse!

      Reply
  3. MrsB | Mind over Matter

    I cycled to work in Canberra every day for 6 years, 10km each way. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now I’ve lived in London for 10 years and I’ve never ever cycled to work. It’s 17km one way, it’s really crowded and polluted the route I’d have to take (Tootings, Clapham, Balham – following the Northern Line route). My husband does it a few times a week but even though he’s really cautious and aware and not a jerk (i.e. obeys traffic rules), he’s still been through a car window once and has an arm that’s still full of glass 😐

    Reply

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