I got an email the other day from a friend and neighbour. Although parking in Adelaide is cheap and plentiful compared to many other cities, she has decided that $250 a month is getting ridiculous and she is instead going to ride a bike to work each day.
It seems the fact that I ride a bike to work makes me something of an expert. My friend knows nothing about the garbage I write in this blog - which is probably a good thing.
Anyway, she asked what in my cycling experience is the safest route to take. She also said she was contemplating taking out life insurance. I found that remark quite interesting and telling. Despite so many educational campaigns about sharing the road and how a metre matters; despite 20 years of mandatory helmet laws and how we are told they save lives, her attitude is clearly that riding a bike is so dangerous that it justifies life insurance if you do not have it already.
That is not the first time I have heard such a view expressed. It is a serious problem and shows that riding a bike has completely the wrong image in this country. We are clearly doing something wrong. I cannot believe that her attitude is a one-off. In fact, from talking to other people, I know it is not. Something different from education campaigns and helmet laws is required.
It will be interesting to see how long my friend keeps at it. I explained the safest route I know - which is the one I take. It involves little bits of riding on the pavement at the end of dead-end roads and to get across very busy junctions. By recommending that, I appreciate I have set back the cause of cycling again. After all, we know from comments to the newspaper that thousands of people are nearly killed every year because of crazed cyclists speeding past them at lethal speeds on the pavement. Also, as we know, cyclists need to earn respect from motorists by obeying the rules. Once that happens, as if by magic, suddenly motorists will stop pulling out in front of you when you have right of way and will give you plenty of space as they overtake you (after slowing down of course). Because of me, it probably won't happen tomorrow.
Sorry about that.
When I responded, I recommended that my friend not bother with lycra but just ride in her normal clothes. After all, I said, plenty of people already do, you can ride in heels and while pregnant. She responded saying that she had bought a comfy bike with mudguards, a chain guard, etc and that she would be wearing suits and heels.
My brainwashing has paid off.