So there I was, cycling along an English country road, slowly, weighed down with panniers. Aware of the growing impatience of the drivers behind me, and knowing most of them operate with a very short fuse, I sometimes politely pull over onto the verge, if there is one, on very narrow roads, and let them pass without having to cross the centre white line. This behaviour of mine is probably beyond what is required by the school of safe cycling, but sometimes it gets me a hoot and a thumbs up from truck drivers, and I quite like that (let’s not delve into the psychology of this). Sometimes, though, I am not in the mood and couldn’t be arsed.
On this occasion the sun was shining (well, the sun always shines… thats what it does, but in England it is often invisible) and I was exhilarated being on my bike, smelling the scents, hearing the birds, feeling the wind on my face, etc. I became aware of a car behind me slowing down to my speed and sitting there in second gear. There was no oncoming traffic so I couldn’t understand why it didn’t overtake. If I had been in South Africa I would have begun to get dark thoughts, senses alert to the possibility of an imminent crime. But this was Blighty, so more likely a super-cautious road-hazard in the shape of a bad driver. Glancing over my shoulder I could see a woman with a child in the passenger seat. There was a narrow verge ahead of me so I pulled over, more to get her out of my hair than anything else. Then the weirdest thing happened: she drove past me, looked at me, and slowly shook her head from side to side wearing a withering look. Flashback to high school and my Latin teacher. Motionless, I stared after her trying to fathom what had just happened. I thought I was being part of the solution, not part of the problem. In fact, I felt quite hurt at being so unappreciated!
A few miles further on, after turning this incident over and over in my mind, it dawned on me what had happened: Cyclists are not wanted on English roads. To non-cycling drivers we are the scourge of the earth, sent up from hell to prey on motorists who just want to get where they are going in the shortest possible time, preferably with no obstacles. Her nasty look clearly said “you should be ashamed of yourself, riding a bike on the road, and wearing that get-up too!” (think mohawk wig helmet in rainbow colours, designed by my gorgeously creative cyclist sweetheart). Silly count…ry bumpkin. Get a life! Imagine if I had told her I was vegan. Then she would really have hated me! But that’s another story.