|"Doctor, I'm not a happy bunny"|
I recently gave a talk about cycling and what the Newcastle Cycling Campaign is doing. I said "You can relax. We are not here to talk you into cycling. We understand why people don't cycle. So, with us it's all about the space. We want more cycle space so that people are given a real choice."
One woman's reaction was this "I am so glad to hear this. I always thought there was something wrong with me. I am too scared to cycle."
And then there's this woman we met when the Newcastle Cycling Campaign was gathering comments about the 'Summer of Cycling'.
She - a regular bike commuter - felt it must be her fault that cycling didn't feel safe. It prompted her to take up the council's offer of free adult cycle training. She said this afterwards "I think the training was sensible, and I can understand the view that by delivering training you either increase numbers on the roads or give those that also use cars a better understanding of what it’s like to be a cyclist in traffic."
"But it’s a shame that the whole focus is about keeping yourself safe, rather than riding technique or any of the nicer things that I was able to consider when I rode my route with dedicated cycling space.
She concluded with this.
"I still get scared on a regular basis on my way to work, and based on the training that’s not because I’m doing anything wrong." Source http://newcycling.org/news/20121021/summer-cycling-storyline
In infrastructure meetings (there have been a lot recently in Newcastle thanks to the Campaign there), I still cringe every time I hear this bird's familiar mating call "I am a keen cyclist" - typically followed by "I don't mind cycling there [ie 30mph double-lane fast heavy traffic]". Their patronising arrogance and sheer selfishness thereby hindering better cycle provision for others.
We ought to start listening to these brave "fearful" women voicing their concerns. Whether they are using a bicycle or not doesn't matter. And by all means, men too - though the 'admitting-to-fear' threshold may be higher with them.
So I say "Hello, my name is Katja. And I have been cycling for nearly 40 years, and I am full of fear cycling in Newcastle. Every day."