I’ve recently started following @cyclehatred – a (pro-cycling) Twitter account, whose owner rather bravely takes it on his / herself to retweeet spectacular examples of anti-cyclist vitriol. There’s a lot of it around, believe me.
I admit it’s pretty frightening to realise there are people out there who genuinely appear to wish me physical harm, simply because of the way I choose to get around town.
The pragmatic side of me tells me I should to dismiss these cyclist-hating tweeters as ignorant idiots who don’t deserve my attention, the sort of people who think Jeremy Kyle is quality TV, the Sunday Sport is weighty reading and a chippy tea is a healthy meal (potatoes are a vegetable, right?).
But to do that is to ignore the serious point, which is that like it or not, we do have to share the road with these people, and they really do hate us. They see us as car-hating, tree-hugging, bean-eating, lycra-wearing freaks wallowing in our carbon-neutral smug self-righteousness as we flaunt the rules of the road with abandon.
And, I have to admit, they may well have a point – many, many cyclists in this country project exactly that arrogant image. If there’s anything which gets me angrier than an idiotic driver terrifying sensible cyclists, it’s idiotic cyclists terrifying sensible drivers. Yep, we’ve all seen them; the ones who ride two abreast down busy roads, who jump red lights, who pull out of side roads without looking, who race around at night with no lights and (most infuriatingly) the ones who subscribe to the “road warrior” mentality.
These men (they are almost always men), get dressed up for a commute to work in their expensive technical gear which shouts “Look at me in my armour. I am a hard man going into battle – I am an athlete, you are merely a car bound slob”. Oh, so you’re a serious sportsman heading out on a 60 mile training ride? Wow respect to you, you’ll definitely be needing those padded Lycra shorts. Oh hang on, you’re not are you, you’re a paunchy twerp just on his way to work down the road.
Having got dressed for battle, they take the massive testosterone-fuelled chips on their shoulders out onto the roads and proceed to behave as though they have sole right of way. No-one else matters, not that elderly pedestrian you’ve just startled by skipping through the red light at a crossing, or the poor driver who starts their day terrified as you slide up on their inside as they turn left.
Is it any wonder so many drivers hate us?
I’m not for one moment defending the idiots I read on the Cycle Hatred account – in fact I throughly enjoy pointing out their laughable stupidity (One recently suggested that all cyclists should get off the roads and use the pavements. Er, say what now?) However I do think that if we cyclists managed to to put aside our “us and them” mentality when it came drivers, and thought a little bit more carefully about the image we project out there, we’d find we were treated a whole lot better.