‘Stick to the left you stupid b***h’ – the realities of cycling in Dublin
‘We’re people with families, friends and jobs we’re trying to get to safely. But we become targets on two wheels’
Would you rather get hit by a car while cycling or have motorists shout abuse at you as you ride past?
It sounds like one of those questions you ask someone you’re dating to get to know them better.
You expect the answer to be ‘being shouted at’ because surely it’s scarier to feel your body collide with a car than to receive a verbal lashing you could easily brush off?
As a woman who cycles into work every day and as one who has experienced both, I can honestly say, the verbal abuse I’ve received was scarier than the time a driver mistakenly drove her car into me.
I was travelling straight, cycling to uni. The motorist came down the hill opposite and turned across my path, hitting the side of my tyre, causing me to roll up onto the bonnet, my helmet colliding with her windscreen.
She then braked and I rolled off. Remarkably, due to the reasonable speed at which she was turning (and a lot of luck), my injuries were minor – bruising, a badly broken bike and helmet.
While I was in the right, the event happened so quickly there was no time to feel anything other than grateful that I hadn’t been seriously hurt.
The incidents of verbal abuse, however, stay with me. Imagine you are occupying the right-turning lane and two cars come up behind.
You know as soon as those lights go, you’ll be pedalling as fast as you can up the hill, staying to the right because you’re turning right into a driveway in a matter of metres.
You know this is legal, but the drivers who pull up behind you don’t. In the 45 seconds it takes to stand up and push your way towards your driveway, where you wait for the traffic to clear, indicate and turn in, you are beeped at repeatedly.
Then the danger escalates. As you enter the driveway of your apartment block the cars pull in behind you their windows down.
You are screamed by the first one “stick to the left you stupid bitch” and given the finger by the second.
You are shaking as you scream back at them: “I’m allowed to occupy the lane!”
But they drive off, leaving you with a flood of adrenalin that takes half an hour to subside.
Verbal lashings happen frequently, always when I’m following the road rules.
It’s as if the moment I sit on my bike I cease being a person and instead become a target for drivers’ frustrations.
At the same time, I’m already cycling with hyper vigilance, aware that at any moment a pedestrian might step out onto the bike path or a motorist might break the road rules in an attempt to get to their destination quicker. It happens in some form or another on every ride.
These realities of cycling in Dublin don’t put me off, however.
The benefits far outweigh the negatives but they do make me appeal for awareness.
I would rather neither a threat to my life nor verbal lashings. I would rather be seen and respected.
We can all do our part.
Instead of giving into road rage, if motorists could remember that by cycling instead of driving, congestion is eased.
Sure it may take time before you can overtake (one metre in speed zones of 50kmh or 1.5m in zones above 50kmh), or turn left or right at an intersection.
But these short decelerations pale in comparison with the delays that are caused by more cars on the road.
Similarly, when we are cycling it is our responsibility to look out for pedestrians and our fellow cyclists.
The goal is simple: recognise that every road user is human and likely to make mistakes.
Look out for them as you would your own children and treat everyone with respect.
We are not busy bees breaking rules to annoy motorists.
We are people who have families, friends and jobs that we’re trying to get to safely.