One of the great things about cycling is you are much more connected to your surroundings. I think I first realized this many years ago after I’d been cycling a lot more then I had to drive somewhere. I was in my car heading back in towards a rather awkward junction in Streatham in the pissing rain in the dark. I felt as if I was blind!
Suddenly I had these pillars blocking blocking parts of my view. The small piece of window I could see of was frantically being cleaned by my wipers and I couldn’t hear a damn thing! It was then that I think I realized how much I rely on ALL my senses whilst travelling by bike, even in the pouring rain I’m much more aware of what is happening around me then in the car. I feel disconnected from the road in there. But when I’m on my bike I feel very much part of the traffic, I can hear it breathe around me and have nothing obstructing my view.
Another great advantage of not being hived off in a little metal box is that it’s much easier to interact with your environment and other road users. I know you can sort of do this in a car (heck you have enough time whilst sitting in queues to look around) but I’m talking about those “moments” when you make a brief connection with another human being.
One of these happened was earlier this week as I was heading up the ramp from Wandsworth r/b towards Tooting. It’s not a long hill but you certainly feel it and I was slogging away up it and sensed another rider behind me. He swung out to the right side and I hugged the left. I looked over and we exchanged a knowing smile 🙂 He then commented “Windy today” and we both just smiled and dug a little deeper to keep up…….also earlier in the ride I’d had a chat with another cyclist who asked had I heard her swore (as if I’d care, I could make a sailor turn red with my mouth……) it turned out some kids at the bus stop thought it would be funny to “pretend” to push their friend into the road in front of her. Hilarious I’m sure if the cyclist had fallen off, I’m sure they wouldn’t be laughing when the police arrive however.
Then the following morning as I was heading up Queenstown Road towards Battersea and I arrived at a set of traffic lights. Stopped alongside me was a chap with a kiddy trailer on his bike. I smiled as I love seeing people using bikes to transport kids! As the lights go green the young boy in the back yells “Go Daddy!” and promptly kicks the rear wheel 🙂 All meant very kindly but I couldn’t help but smile at this funny and wonderful little moment, I’m hoping the helmet cam caught it so I can post it up!
That evening I was doing my usual job of not racing along The Embankment when a rider (who I had already overtaken previously) came past drafting a scooter! Now this is basically like a red rag to a bull for me! I set about chasing him down and once he’d lost his wind block he slowed up a bit. We then managed to form a small peloton of 4 as the 2 of us caught another couple of riders. Once the traffic snarled up he hopped onto the pavement and slowed up ALOT. I carried on down the road and again gave him a glance and we exhanged a knowing smile. Although we didn’t acknowledge it earlier we both did now 🙂 One of the tennants of Silly Commuter Racing is not showing any signs of actually being in a race….something we both clearly missed as we responded quite clearly to each others accelerations 🙂 I then had a bit of a filtering fubar and got hemmed in behind some vehicles before Battersea Bridge. The cheeky sod only rides past on the pavement and says “Your stuck now!” before dropping off the pavement at the front of the queue just as the lights go green. I didn’t see him again after that, the traffic was fairly heavy and he was far enough ahead for me to lose sight of him. Damn shame…..
I guess what I’m trying to say really is humans are social animals. Cycling gives me a chance to connect with and interact with other riders that driving doesn’t. I think it’s the happy endorphins that are released during exercise that sparks it off as if you tried to stick up a conversation with a stranger on public transport you’d probably be seen as a mental case! Not that those who are listening to their iPods and have their heads buried in a smartphone would know about that. They don’t know what their missing 🙂