I HOPE you’re not cycling as you read this.
If so, I must warn you that you’re playing with fire, my friend.
This newspaper, full of colourful photos, together with this profoundly moving column, is a deadly combination. You will be seduced to the point of total distraction, whereupon you will, surely, fall off your bike.
I know what I’m talking about because I am, amongst other things, an unsafe cyclist. I have fallen off my bike for all sorts of reasons.
One time because I was looking at a crow, trying to figure out what he was thinking, once because I was trying to pull up my tights and twice because I was putting on liquid eyeliner and couldn’t get the flick right.
I get distracted really easily, you see, so I need to focus and pedal. No earphones, no guessing at crows, no make-up applications, especially not in London traffic.
I have many dreams, some are big (find and physically capture the Northern lights, learn my phone number off by heart) and some are small (become a safe cyclist). Recently, I have set my heart on that small dream, and taken steps to achieve it.
In March, my brother brought my bike from Ireland in a van, travelling through the night with it. He is a kind man, my brother, but it was too cold to cycle. I sighed crossly as I set his cornflakes in front of him, as a thank-you.
When he left, I locked the bike outside my flat. For two long, icy months it stood there, rusting and seizing, teaching me a well-deserved lesson about looking after my things.
When the sun began to shine I went to reclaim it, but it sulkily refused to budge. I had to take it slow, show it a nice time in the bike repair place, and promise to treat it right in future before it would work again.
Then, last week, I booked myself in for a ‘Cycle Safe’ class, organised free of charge by my local council.
If you think I’m just a lonely, broke émigré trying anything just to get some human contact, you’ve got the wrong idea. Just last week a girl mistook me for her friend and said hello in a genuinely friendly way.
Also, once I found 50p on the floor of my flat, so… Anyway, I met a cycling instructor in a park close to my house. She told me almost immediately to tie my lace in case it got tangled up in my chain, so I knew she was a good one.
Then she told me about tightening the gear cables (frequently and lightly) and how to stop quickly without flying over the handlebars (stiffen your arms).
I was living the dream of being a safe cyclist at last! Suddenly, just as I practised swerving with confidence, my chain snapped.
The lesson terminated and I walked home, pushing my bike unhappily, a tiny dream on hold once more.