I have completed my month-long pledge to cycle to work every day in June, with a couple of necessary exceptions for torrential downpours, extreme drunkenness, and the necessary transport of large objects by tram. Here’s what I learned...
1. I love my bike. It was given to me for free and it rattles a bit and occasionally things fall off it and I have to replace them so it’s becoming like the philosopher’s typewriter but it’s sturdy and sound and nobody wants to steal it because it looks like trash, and I love it.
2. Cycling every day does wonders for your legs and your bum and in a lot less time than you think. I suddenly look okay in Speedos.
3. You will get your ‘To Do’ list done a whole lot faster if you do it on a bike.
4. Taxi drivers are far and away your biggest enemy. They have appalling road manners, especially, but not exclusively, towards cyclists. I have seen them pull extremely dangerous stunts on the road that are blatantly designed to teach some poor cyclist a lesson. This obviously doesn’t apply to all cabbies, but I recommend approaching all of them with caution. If you hear someone revving unnecessarily at your heels, chances are it’s a cabbie.
5. Grease up. Lots of bike oil makes your life a lot easier.
6. Sharing road space with end-to-end double-decker buses is frightening and unhealthy and no fun at all. Skipping the odd red light when there are no pedestrians in either direction to get yourself free from bus lane congestion is a reasonable survival tactic and collecting £30 fines for such misdemeanours to ‘improve’ cycling provision is counter-productive.
7. With much respect, the high-vis-in-broad-daylight brigade aren’t the final word in cycling in Manchester. The shirtless scallies in the parks and on the pavements, the older women with crazy long flowing skirts and baskets full of junk ... they are cyclists too.
8. Panniers are brilliant. Mine are racing green and you can get nearly all of your groceries (beer) in them.
9. Bicycle Boutique is a god-send.
10. Everyone looks at least ten per cent hotter on a bike.