There’s been so much press recently about the dangers of London cycling. Many years ago, in my twenties, I cycled everywhere in London. I covered about a hundred miles a week. I must have been very fit but I’m just amazed I never had an accident.
I worked off Oxford Circus and lived in Holland Park. The ride down Oxford Street and Bayswater Road was, apart from being dangerous, polluted and filthy. I would wash my face and blow my nose after a journey and the result was disgusting.
Oxford Street was pretty terrifying. Taxis would cut me up or make sudden and unsignalled u-turns – when I threw an arm up in anger they’d just swear at me. Once, I even banged on a taxi roof – he went beserk, threatened to drive me off the road. Actually, I was angry a lot of the time on my bike in those days. When I was annoyed about something in conversation, I’d throw my arm up in the air – it became a nervous tic. Friends thought it was very strange until I explained I was a cyclist.
Once when I was going down Oxford Street, someone opened a taxi window and spat out – I was in the firing line. Another time, a smoker chucked his lit cigarette out of their car window and it went straight down my cleavage…
One thing that always worried me were the car headrests (they had just become a standard feature) because it was impossible to tell whether there was a driver in the car. Opening car doors without looking behind was, and still is, very common. And if you give them a wide berth, cars hoot because they think you are hogging the road.
The one thing that was hugely irritating was the fact that I was cycling up the Bayswater Road when I could have been in the adjacent Kensington Gardens. But there wasn’t a cycling lane.
There still isn’t a cycling lane on the north side of Kensington Gardens, just one down the Broad Walk which takes you south. Now I don’t cycle up Bayswater Road. I take the tube. I’d be a lot fitter if I did but it all feels horribly dangerous.
I simply don’t understand this. It would cost next to nothing to mark out more cycle routes in parks and they could be done immediately.