Men Make For Thick-Skinned Cyclists

There’s a reason that fewer women than men seem to ride their bikes in the UK. As explained in Beauty & The Bike , it’s the infrastructure – we’re expected to just mix in with the traffic, and it often just doesn’t feel safe, whatever the official statistics say.

Warning: sweeping generalisations ahead.

The thing is, men have an inbuilt "advantage" in such situations – full of testosterone, we seem predisposed to assert ourselves & if necessary seek confrontation. Women on the other hand take a more sensible, pragmatic approach to the whole thing, and are more likely to weigh up the risks with a cool and rational head. When faced with the prospect of dealing with the UK’s idiot drivers, they’re more likely to decide that it’s a fight just not worth it – driving is the safer option.

I experienced this with Daughter at the weekend. We were riding on the tandem back from Tynemouth along the sea front. Approaching the roundabout at the Park Hotel , and intending to take the second exit, we took the primary postion in the right hand lane, alongside another bike. As we pulled onto the roundabout, and past the first exit, a silver 4×4 was pulling alongside us on the left – the driver was trying to undertake us on a roundabout. To his right, the driver had me, while the other cyclist was now in front of him.

Without thinking, I just shouted the ever-useful, "Oi!", and gave the pedals a bit more oomph to get us in front of this eejit. As we left the roundabout, we were alongside the other cyclist, and in good humour, I joked about the cheek of some drivers. He agreed that they seem to find new ways of stupid driving every day. And we carried on our way home.

It was just one of those incidents that gets my eyebrows riased, and a couple of shakes of the head before it’s forgotten.

The thing is, when we got home, Daughter was pretty upset – not at the stoopid behaviour of the driver, but at the fact that I’d shouted at them. This had raised her antennae to danger, and the possibility of some sort of conflict comming our way.

I hadn’t seen it that way – maybe with the Ironman training at the moment I’m so pumped on adrenaline & endorphins that my capacity for rational thought is impaired – but to my mind, it’d been more of an

"Oi! We’re right here next to you"

rather than an

"Oi! Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough".

So I explained this to Daughter, and how we weren’t in any real danger, and how it was a really good example of why you always need to keep aware of everything around you when you ride on the road – effectively doing the thinking for the drivers.

The trouble is, as long as this kind of vigilence is needed, we’re never going to persuade the majority of the population – those who aren’t macho adrenaline junkies – that riding a bike for everyday transport is a perfectly sensible and normal thing to do.

We can provide all the BikeAbility training, hi-viz vests, helmets and maps of "safe" cycle routes in the world. But when it comes down to it, really,

It’s about the infrastructure, stupid.

If you get to talk to anyone expecting your vote in the next week or so, make sure you tell them that.

Posted in 'A'-List Blogs, Assassination Attempts, Bike Culture, Cullercoats, Cycle Infrastructure, Family, IronMan?, North Tyneside, Road Safety
12 comments on “Men Make For Thick-Skinned Cyclists
  1. MarkA says:

    Bravo, Karl, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Events like these which upset your daughter are the very reason most people don’t ride. Not because they can’t, but because they have literally been scared off the roads. A very sad state of affairs indeed.

  2. John the Monkey says:

    “It’s about the infrastructure stupid”

    Or is it about the idiotic, cut off from the world attitude of some drivers?

  3. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by KarlOnSea: New bicycle blog post: Men Make For Thick-Skinned Cyclists:

  4. Tim Beadle says:

    Amen to that. Daughter no. 1 is taking her first baby steps (pedals?) towards stabiliser-less riding, which then raises the prospect that, one day, she’ll be riding on the road. This fills me with a certain amount of fear because, as you say, statistics don’t tell the whole story; Freewheeler’s “exposure to risk” comes into play.

    Having said that, I regularly see a (presumably) brother and sister (aged about 13 and 8 at a guess) cycling in Bath when I’m driving to work. I don’t think “get off the road you fools!”, but rather “well done you!”.

    I am a little conflicted…

  5. Tim Beadle says:

    “Don’t make the mistake of thinking that subjective safety is a concern only for inexperienced cyclists. No-one suffers from cycling being pleasant.”
    — David Hembrow

  6. Karl On Sea says:

    Maybe I’m getting to this sort of thinking:

    “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

  7. Tim, thanks for quoting me (the rest of it can be found here). I think it’s important. Too many existing cyclists are thick skinned just as Karl says. I was, for many years. It was having my own children to look after which made me start thinking about this. It made me realize that the risks I’d take for myself were not the same risks I wanted my children to take.

    It really is not a bad thing that cycling is more pleasant over here. It makes things possible that otherwise are not. Not only is it good for the girls, but also I cycle further, faster and more often than I did in the UK.

  8. Interesting..I guess that’s how I would have felt too…just let it go but I was riding on Sunday and it was raining and a car came super close, unnecessarily, and honked and I yelled back “it’s my road too!” so maybe medium confrontational!

  9. townmouse says:

    I find ‘hey’ is a bit less confrontational than ‘oi’. Although, in the circumstances you describe I suspect my actual response would have been unprintable.

    Don’t underestimate the embarrassment factor in keeping women from cycling. Not all of them, obviously, but there’s a huge minority of women and girls who just think bikes are a bit odd and dorky and they wouldn’t be seen dead on one. I don’t suppose the hi-vis and the helmets help that…

  10. mtbman1 says:

    I didn’t ride for many years because of cars and dogs. Now, dogs don’t seem to be much of a problem and as for the cars, I just try to be aware (paranoid).

    I usually just shake my head at the stupidity (usually passing too fast, too close) but for the really blockheaded moves I have been known to shout.

  11. […] suddenly half the drivers in the village seemed to be unusually dozy. Then I got home and found Karl On Sea has been having the same problems. Perhaps it’s European Bad Driving day. Or volcano ash. Possibly related posts: […]

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