Something's wrong

In November last year I was cycling up Leith Walk, in the green lane, when a black cab passed within inches of me, beeping his horn. I don't scare easily on my bike, but this gave me a proper fright.

I caught up with him at the next junction (as you always do with motorised vehicles in the city) banged on the window and asked the driver (without the use of a single profanity) what his problem was. He turned bright purple, got out of his cab, started shouting and swearing two inches from my face, tried twice to push me off my bike and told me I should get out of his way and cycle "in the gutter."

There was a police station right over the road, so I reported him straight away.

Six months later, the man - all of whose details I took and gave to the police at the time - still hasn't been spoken to. Due to the time it was taking, I lodged a complaint, and a senior officer visited me tonight to talk it all over. He accepted quite openly that they haven't done their job properly.

But that wasn't what surprised me.

What surprised me is that this officer is a keen cyclist himself, and spends his spare time riding the country roads around Perth. But he wouldn't for a minute consider riding in the city. He said the way people drive is awful, and he considers it far too risky - a stance re-enforced all too often by the accidents he has to deal with.

What? A police officer is too afraid to cycle on the roads of the city he works in?

I know us two-wheeled travellers like to have a moan about inconsiderate motorists, but this shows just how deeply wrong this has all become. How did we let ourselves get into a situation where people in charge of cars and taxis are allowed, through ignorance, aggression or blatant disregard, to terrorise, injure and kill their fellow citizens?

Cycling has enjoyed a huge upsurge recently, which is brilliant. Since I got back on my own bike a couple of years ago, I've realised just how few car journeys are actually necessary, how good a bike can be for your health, the amazing sense of freedom you get, and how quick it is to get around.

There's an opportunity to build this wave into something big and permanent, which benefits everyone - including those who choose to stay in their cars. But tonight I've realised something radical needs to happen first. If an obviously brave and confident person who's also a competent and experienced cyclist wouldn't consider using our city roads, what hope do we have to get the inexperienced and unconfident out there?

Somehow we've let cars take over the world, and it's shit. The balance needs to shift.

How, I don't know, but it has too.

Oh, and after the policeman left, I built a fold-away bike maintenance bracket and attached it to the ceiling of my shed. Quite pleased, I was.

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