I went out on my bike today for the first time in absolutely ages. I have been having one or two issues with my right hip and it is actually flexible at the moment and so I took the chance to get out on the road for a quick spin before I set to work this morning.
And I was really enjoying myself right up to the moment about a mile away from home when a young gentleman who was the passenger in a works van decided to give me some… “encouragement” as I rode along.
You can see from this screen grab the gestures he was making to me – as he shouted his “encouragement”… Making a whipping gesture with his arm as he shouted some words of… “encouragement”…
I am used to hearing people (men) in cars shout abuse at me, and to a certain extent I just brush it off. I don’t need to be told that I have a fat a**e, I know already thank you. And no, I don’t really need to be told I look like an elephant in a circus, I have heard it before. And no, thank you, I don’t want to be “encouraged” by any passing motorist to ride my bike any quicker, or that I need to lose weight, or any of the other hundreds of comments I have received over the years whilst I’ve been cycling.
But for some reason, this young man really upset me today.
His shouting actually made me jump, which is an unpleasant experience at the best of times, but when I was enjoying the fresh air and the sense of freedom being on my bike gave me – especially after being cooped up with a dodgy hip for so long – it really annoyed and upset me.
Fortunately, I did get the chance to tell him how much he’d upset me because literally 50 metres up the road were some traffic lights, and the van had to stop at them.
As I rode up the side of the van, the window was hastily put up, and this is what I saw when I drew level with it.
Not so brave now, my “encourager” had slid down in his seat, pulled his hat over his face, and had covered that up with his hand so I couldn’t see him. Too late mate, you’re on camera from the time you were “encouraging” me to go faster, with your imaginary riding crop and your whipping gestures and your shouts as you passed me, and I can see you hiding because you are embarrassed about what you just did to me.
I have got the details of this man’s employer (how could I not, it was plastered all over the side and back of the vehicle) and I’m in two minds to report him for this. But I’m not sure what good it would do to be honest. Will it change his behaviour? I doubt it. He was obviously brave enough to do this and as distasteful as it may be, no real harm was done. But then again, if he is capable of doing this to me, a stranger, what is he like in private, to the women and girls in his life? Is he as “encouraging” to them as he was to me, or does he reserve this special kind of “encouragement” to strangers, with whom he has no further interaction (unless they catch up with him at the next set of traffic lights)?
Will it lose him his job? I wouldn’t want that at all. What he did was immature and childish, but it wouldn’t warrant him losing his job. And so what would I gain by reporting him? Nothing. I can see from his reaction when I drew level with him that he was embarrassed to be caught and challenged (yes, I did shout at him through the window, and no, I didn’t swear or call him names. I just asked him would he do the same to his sister or his mum), and that’s enough for me.
But this incident just goes to show what it can be like being a cyclist on the roads today. It’s one of the reasons why I got my helmet-cam in the first place. I was so sick of motorists shouting abuse at me or cutting me up at junctions and things that I wanted to record my rides to capture some of the sort of things I put up with just to get some exercise.
I’m not alone, and it angers me that abuse like this from people such as him today is enough to put many people off cycling, especially on roads and around the towns and cities. Cycling is a really environmentally friendly way of travelling, it’s great cardio exercise, and it is really inexpensive and within the reach of most people who want to try it. But when people like this man give “advice” and “encouragement” from the cab of a dirty, diesel-powered works van, it’s easy to see why a lot of people won’t give cycling a go these days.
I didn’t want this to turn into a moan, so I’m sorry if it came across like that, but this incident has really got under my skin today. Uncalled for, unnecessary and unkind, and it nearly undid the good feeling I’d built up on my ride up to that point.
I do mean “nearly”, but in the end I came home feeling really pleased with myself. I cycled 7.5 miles in just under 45 minutes at an average speed of just over 10 miles an hour and a top speed of 24 miles an hour on the home stretch. And my hip was only mildly screaming by the time I got home, so I’m counting it as a win.
So the moral of the story is, if you want to shout “encouragement” at a fat bird on a bike like me, don’t. Just don’t.