The girl has just spent a week learning cycling proficiency at school. She now knows, for example, how to guide her bike through a line of cones. I don’t know why – there’s no call for slalom on the main arterial roads these days, although the close control can come in handy if you want to buzz a pedestrian.
Cycle-safety training is obviously a good idea although, frankly, nothing can prepare an 11-year-old for the wanton carelessness of motorists. But the lessons do strike me as somewhat outdated, teaching only such basic skills as how not to get yourself killed. That’s all well and good but so much more is demanded of the modern cyclist.
Two emotions power city cyclists: fear and anger. Cowardice cannot be taught, though many of us are blessed with it in large quantities. But a new cyclist needs the right kind of rage, and the girl seems to have emerged from her course entirely untrained in how to thump on a car’s bodywork at traffic lights and scream obscenities at a driver. You might think that this needs little training but there is a right and wrong way to do this – the latter being any way that the driver can catch up with you. It is no good yelling abuse if you will soon be cowering in fear, muttering “Sorry mate, no offence” when he draws level with you at the next lights.
Similarly, there is no point in provoking a motorist to violence if you don’t have your GoPro camera charged and filming. There are enough motorists out there ready to beat up a cyclist just for being in their way; if you are going to get a smack in the face, you need something you can put on YouTube. Many cyclists make this classic schoolboy error.
Today’s cyclist also needs advice when choosing lights for night-riding. All the major chains sell a range of lights that flash on and off with atomic intensity but care is needed: not all lights are guaranteed to blind other road users. Don’t get palmed off with the merely dazzling. Oh, and there are limits to how many lights you require. The Blackpool Illuminations do not go on tour.