It is first of advent! 🎄 🎉
That means it’s only 4 weeks ’til Christmas and it is officially time to start celebrating with no guilt or shame! Whoop-whoop!
Before we get to the celebrating part I have something on my mind, haunting me already quite a while now. Something that really bothers me. So, when else to talk about those things but Christmas time when people are (at least seem to be) in a good mood and willing to cooperate.
The other day I was cycling home from work and for the 4th or 5th time almost got hit by a car. Why? How? What? I was cycling on a cyclist lane and wanted to turn right. Before a turn i always check behind me to make sure the way is free. I lifted up my right hand as a sign as well to really make sure everyone behind me can see my turn. 2 years of living in UK has taught me to always check twice. So now with my right hand up I decided to check again behind me if I am free to take the turn right. As I was turning my head and ready to start taking the right turn a car overtook me from the RIGHT side. Yes! People really do that. Although I had my hand up, I was already in the middle of the road ready to turn, a car behind me could not wait 5 seconds and overtook me from the right side, exactly where I was about to turn. If I would have not checked twice he would have deffinitely hit me. Fortunately, this time I was lucky and patient enough to save my ass.
Then another evening I was cycling on the cycle lane while a bus was trying to overtake me. Which I don’t mind, obviously. What I do mind is cars, buses taking over cyclist right before a crossroad, bus stop or a turn. Why? Because right after overtaking me, they need to push the brakes and stop. I have to now stop right behind them as they occupy the cyclist lane and most of the road. Even though I can see them stoping I never know if the cars behind me can see that and do not try to suddenly drive into me or overtake us both. So here I am squeezed behind 2 vehicles, I cannot see anything behind the bus to prevent a hit and therefore need to wait behind it. Anyone who spends more than 10-15 minutes in traffic daily knows that no one, and I mean NO ONE, will take that time to wait behind you.
It rains a lot in Manchester. And by a lot I mean A LOT. Despite the rain I still prefer to cycle to work as it is literally 2x faster than taking a bus. And as you can probably sense from the previous 2 paragraphs I am not really into driving in here either. One night when coming back from work, cycling my ass off in the rain I had to face the humanity failing again. I always rather cycle on the footpath or cycle lane instead of the main road. The drivers here do not care about the cyclist, passengers or other drivers and therefore it is always safer this way. Some claim you can get a fine for cycling on the footpath but I would rather pay the fine that get into an accident. So, there I was cycling in the rain, hoping to get home soon AND safe. On Talbot road there is always huge mud puddles when it’s raining. You would expect a city like Manchester to have a decent drainage system but no. So in order not to get covered by mud COMPLETELY I had to either hop on the footpath or turn on the road. As there are edging everywhere I cannot really hop over it, especially when it’s wet and slippery. So, as always I checked the road before even deciding what to do. There was no one coming for another 300m. So I decided to turn on the main road until the mud puddle ends. As it was a BIG ONE it took a little while to overtake. Now guess what the cars did when reaching behind me. Yeah, they started horning at me. Are you kidding? Are you blind? I am in the damn rain. Do you want me to go swimming with the bike or what? They do not have an extra 10sec to wait until I can turn back on the cycle lane, they need to let you know you are slowing them down for 10sec. Disappointing. Is that really how we see each other? An obstacle? An unconvenience? Even when you sit in your warm, dry car you cannot take that time to be a HUMAN.
I see patients after car accidents every single day. And 9/10 times it is because someone did not pay attention in the traffic. Either talking, texting, calling, changing songs. How many people need to suffer in pain, even get killed for us to take that extra time for each other, give way even if you don’t have to, let someone take a safe turn and not rush them. Those people I described are not just English, just foreigners, someone you don’t know. It is me, it’s you, your neighbour, your uncle and his best friend. It is US. Instead of pointing fingers, let’s just make a change starting with ourselves. Yes, we have rules in the traffic and sometimes slowing someone down can be dangerous as well. But I am not talking about motorways or highways here. I am talking about city traffic. All this is preventable if everyone pays attention. It is a lot easier and safer to be prepared, be patient, be ready than just follow the rules, your eyes closed, braking at the very last minute, hit someone or make someone loose the control over the vehicle when trying to avoid the impact and situation YOU caused.
I am not trying to put the blame on just drivers. I can see passengers walking around their eyes in the phone, earphones on, rolling around in their own bubble all the time. Crossing the streets without even checking what’s going on, stepping on the road or cycle lanes without paying attention, stoping in the middle of the street without realising they block the whole way. Can we just please either leave those damn earphones home or put the volume on a level that if someone behind you addresses you or tries to get your attention it is POSSIBLE. I cannot even count all those times when as a cyclist I have almost hit a passenger when they think they are the kings and they can just either run across the street with red light, stop in the middle of the road, let their dog on a lead occupy the whole road, keep their nose in the phone while crossing streets or simply do not respond to the bell, your voice or anything. To be honest I don’t understand this earphone trend. Why people need to have them on max volume 24/7. Can we at least be a little bit interactive when in traffic. Again, it’s only for everyone’s safety.
And last but not least cyclists. They are not the angels either. Especially on roads with no cycle lanes I can see a lot how they are driving between cars, overtake them from the wrong side, think that traffic lights do not apply to them. Again if the driver cannot see you, the accidents are easy to happen. As a cyclist I always try to keep as close to the left side of the road as possible so all anxious and impatient drivers can pass. But I have seen impatient and anxious cyclists as well. They tend to cycle on the right side of the road so when a car wants to make a right turn and they do not look in the side mirror they cut the way of the cyclist. The only accident I have been here was with another cyclist. I was standing in the middle of the road trying to make a right turn. I held my hand up, as always. I saw a truck taking off 100m from me so I decided to take the turn before him. As I was pushing off and getting ready to turn another cyclist came from nowhere and cut my way. As I didn’t have a high speed I managed to brake but he didn’t. He drove right into me. Fortunately with a low speed as he managed to brake. He flew over his bike right in front of me. Apparently he did not see me standing in the middle of the road and didn’t pay attention when suddenly rushing behind the truck. In that case I took the full blame as by the rules he was in right. Could it have been avoided? 100%. Instead of going full speed between cars with limited view, slow down and be prepared that there might be a passenger, cyclist or another car behind the truck in the blind corner.
I admit I have made mistakes in traffic as well. But as I have been a cyclist, a passenger and a driver, I believe I can understand all 3 parties. I’m calling everyone up, cyclists, passengers and drivers to pay more attention to each other, take time to really see and listen to each other, be humans. We want to get home as soon as possible but most importantly we want to GET HOME SAFE. Let’s give everyone a chance to celebrate Christmas!
Happy first advent!