Sifting through past writings of mine, I came across one of my earliest efforts in verse which perhaps unsurprisingly centred upon two wheels.
There are far too many stanzas and unwieldy turns of phrase for it ever to be printed without serious revision and re-writing, but its words evoke the real passion and feelings I felt at the time for what is sadly a familiar setting for any cyclist.
Over the course of some 24 stanzas The Retirement of the Red Baron (thus is this high falutin report in verse called) reminisced about my earliest ventures upon two wheels on London roads, and an incident that drove me from the roads for some three years.
It dealt with the abuse I received from a rotund man in a Jaguar who took great exception to my red steed and me. Admittedly I may have aggravated the situation by flicking a two fingered salute in acknowledgement of his excessive tooting, but his threatening manner and the way he wielded his car ensured my retirement from the road for quite a few years.
In fact, I only returned to the road and a bicycle after I had undertaken the Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) necessary for most of those who would drive a scooter or motorcycle. Before such training I had thought I knew the rules of the road, and I did, just not for two wheels.
The CBT taught me so much that was instantly applicable to cycling such as road positioning, signalling, three point checking and even where I should place my feet when stopping, that I felt a fool for my previous neglect. While I would never call for compulsory two wheel training – that would do far too much to drive people away – I do firmly believe that any instruction is invaluable and one of the best ways to ensure personal safety on the roads.
Many councils in London offer such instruction for free, and I would hope that this is true for other local government beyond the capital. While ultimately segregation might be the best solution for urban cycle safety, there can never be an excuse not to learn the rules of the road and how best to keep yourself safe – part of which as I discovered is not to provoke someone in a speeding cage of metal!
Until such a time as there is a perfect cycling solution for harmony on our roads (whatever this may be), as champions of self-propulsion we surely have a responsibility to ourselves to ensure that we are educated and aware of the dangers and how to prevent them where possible. We cannot drive the other idiot’s car but we can make sure we do not cycle without due care and attention whether intentionally or not.