I drove to work today. Just couldn't bring myself to get on the bike. Let me explain ...
Yesterday morning I had a supervised physio session in the gym at 7:45am followed by a doctors appointment at 10am. I decided to ride to my gym session wearing my gym clothes and joggers instead of the usual lycra and bike shoes. In the back of my mind I was thinking that motorists would give me more room if I wore normal clothes instead of lycra. I decided to leave all my technology at home (i.e., camera, lights, garmin). I must admit that the looseness of the gym shorts made the ride a pleasant experience with a nice cool breezy feeling down there. So, for the first time in a very long while, I'm not checking my speed on the garmin and I don't have my cameras running. I'm actually enjoying myself and I'm taking things slow and easy...
That is, until some MM decides to buzz me. This car came flying past me so close that I was buffeted by the breeze. I'm almost certain that I felt the wing mirror touch the hairs on my right arm (but that could've just been the rush of wind from the bow wave). I was utterly terrified and I started to panic and hug the gutter. There were other cars behind me and I found myself doing constant head checks with a strong sense of fear and panic rising in me. I swear I had goose bumps all over me and I felt like all the blood had drained from my face.
After that lot of cars had passed me, I rolled along slowly and kept a constant eye out behind me. When the next lot of cars approached, I pulled right over to the gutter, stopped and waited for them all to pass me. When I got moving again, I was still panicking. I got to the hill at Dutton Park and I heard a truck behind me at a point where there were parked cars on the side of the road. I turned to look and I may have yelped out an expletive as I came to a sudden stop behind the parked cars. I waited again for the cars to move off and I continued up the hill. The cars were all waiting at the top of the hill, so I slowly moved between them to get into the right hand lane as I needed to turn right onto Boggo Rd further ahead.
The lights went green and I moved off in the right hand lane. One woman came too close when passing me and I screamed (purely out of fear). She just stared at me incredulously in her rearview mirror. My god, I was a mess at this point. The rest of my ride was in bike lanes and I felt much safer. It was a real struggle to work up the courage for the return trip.
I just cannot comprehend what is going through people's heads when they buzz a cyclist. I'm just a bloke who wants to get somewhere. Why the hell should I have to be subjected to this dangerous and menacing behaviour? I love riding my bike 99% of the time, but these dangerous idiots are making it very difficult for me. I don't know how much more my psyche can take.
Breathe ... calm down ... That's better.
As I was finishing my ride into the gym yesterday morning, I came to a realisation. I think that my pre-ride ritual of 1) getting dressed in lycra, 2) setting up my cameras, and 3) turning my lights on has helped me to get into the right headspace for riding on the roads. Without these little rituals, I feel so much more vulnerable and unprepared. It's like these things give me the mental strength to face my fears on the road. Without them, I can't cope with my fears.
Before my crash last year a close pass would have angered me. I may have even griped about it to friends or colleagues at work ... but, it would not have occupied my thoughts for very long. Now, however, I have very little tolerance for close passes. They freak me out and they occupy my thoughts for an inordinate amount of time, making it difficult for me to focus on my work or my family or anything. It is such a messed up experience.