Riding around London is the source of a lot of joy along with a lot of anger at many things that are largely outside of our control. Whilst taking part in protest rides, writing to your MP and supporting cycling organisations are all a good idea, sometimes you just need to let go of the things that cause you stress in order to remember the real joys of cycling.
1. Give up on being angry at pedestrians: It’s as inevitable as a puncture on a rainy day. Pedestrians will randomly walk in to your path. You have two options. You can either get annoyed that people don’t look before crossing or you can slow down and pedal around them. One of those two will cause a lot less road rage.
2. Give up on being angry about cars not giving you enough room: Yesterday a taxi overtook me in the bus lane within such a small distance that I could have reached inside the window. I caught myself shouting at the driver. In the end this didn’t serve a much larger purpose than making my blood boil. I’d be better off putting my energy in to pushing for cycling being made a bigger part of the driving test or for more cycle lanes to be installed in London.
3. Give up on the helmet debate: One thing I avoid doing at all costs is getting in to an angry debate about whether you should wear a helmet or not. I find that most people have fairly embedded views on this and arguing with them mostly seems to just further embed them in to their own opinions. As humans we are not wired to prove ourselves wrong. Instead, I give up on the need to always be right.
4. Give up on getting frustrated by cyclists going through red lights: Whilst you are stood patiently waiting for a traffic light you notice two or three cyclists ignore the light and pedal straight through. It’s an easy one to complain about but it just seems to stress you out.
5. Give up on worrying about cyclists drafting you: Riding across Waterloo Bridge I caught a cyclist nearing my rear wheel. They were obviously in full Tour de France mode and wanting to save some energy whilst riding across the bridge. Some people get quite annoyed about that as it can be dangerous if you come to a sudden halt. I could have given evil stares but it’s far simpler to just get on with my cycling.
6. Give up on worrying about shoaling: Being shoaled is when another, slower cyclist overtakes you as you wait at the traffic light and you know that when the lights turn green you are going to have to manoeuvre around them. This happens surprisingly frequently and it’s one that for some strange reason seems to really bug me. However, I know I’d arrive at my destination a lot more relaxed if I just ignore it.
7. Give up on being annoyed when a Brompton overtakes you: Something that always puts a smile on my face is when a Brompton overtakes me. For some reason it always seems like an insult to be overtaken by something with such small wheels. Yet, as I find myself here writing about it, I can’t help thinking how silly that is! What does it matter if someone on a Brompton has overtaken me?
My favourite example of taking the approach of not letting it bother me came from a recent ride around Oxford Circus. As I waited at the traffic light, a car pulled up next to me and the passenger lowered his window. I prepared myself to be amused. The passenger shouted out: “Oy! Gay!”.
I’d spent a good part of my life in an English school playground so I knew how this worked but I couldn’t help but feel the urge to play along. I turned round, smiled and said “yeah?” The passenger and driver burst out in fits of laughter. Sensing that I had reached the limit of their creative plan to keep themselves entertained at the traffic light I pushed for clarification: “So, because I’m riding a bike I’m a homosexual?” The reply summed up the intelligence of the argument: “Yeah, innit”.
As cyclists we are faced with hundreds of little decisions like this every day. We can either choose to be rattled or worry about more important things.
What approach do you most often take?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.