I’ve been riding a lot to work lately. When I asked my husband to adapt my late father’s bike into an electric cycle it was with the full intention of riding to and from work each day. He is a handy sort of guy and he looked at the options, worked out what he thought might be best, ordered an electric motor kit from China and set about the job.
I am not so decrepit that I need a motor to get me places but I do live at the top of a very steep scarp: I have bicycled up it precisely once in my life. I was 12 then and I promptly fainted at the top so it doesn’t make me anxious to repeat the experience and neither do I want to push my bike up five kilometres of hill. I am aware that there are legions of taut lycra wearers who do it on the regular but I will never be one of them and I just want a helping hand at the end of a very long day.
The conversion took some months. A special frame to hold the battery and a lockable box was built. The gears were, of necessity, downsized to seven. I insisted on two mirrors. Lights, fore and aft, were made fixtures. A gel seat cover (again, my insistence) was installed. Somehow a speedometer/pedometer/measuring device thingy turned up.
And when it was all complete, I was too scared to ride it. It had a throttle hand level control for the motor and you had to switch on a lever first for the motor to even operate. I could never remember which way the throttle worked to make the engine work and I could never remember which way the lever worked to turn on the engine. All it seemed was that the operating system was contrary to my natural instincts but if I tried to go off said natural instincts I still got it wrong. Added to this was the fear of falling off as the husband had casually said that it was back heavy and if I was going up hill and got the levels wrong the front end would rear up.
We live in the fucking hills! In lots of traffic. It is very hard to practice that sort of stuff on the quiet. So, I was scared. I took it around the relatively flat block a few times but it took me months before I decided I had to suck it up and see.
So, one day, a public holiday, and supposedly very quiet, I just got on it and rode it to work. I didn’t use the motor at all. The husband was so worried about me on the road that he drove down to leave me the car and rode the bike back (he used the motor). And, ever since then, I’ve pretty much used it as much as I can.
It take me around an hour each way. The trip is 22km each way. I only use the motor on the way back and I am pedalling the whole way. The hill I have to climb on the way home is so steep that I am dripping with sweat by the time I make it back up, even with the assistance of the motor. It is exercise the whole way.
I take a change of clothes and wet wipes and makeup in a backpack, as well as my work gear. It straps onto a framework that holds the battery. It is very heavy back weight and the bike does rear up if I am not careful; it wobbles when I make hand indications. I have lights front and rear (I ride home in the dark) and I wear a fluoro vest. Only 2 km of my ride is on bike path and the rest of it is on shared road.
Quite frankly, it is nerve racking.
I do everything I can to stand out to motorists and I obey every traffic rule around and they still treat me as if they don’t see me or, even worse, as if they do see me and deliberately want to hurt me. I cycle to work with the certain knowledge that I will be hurt or killed by a driver one day if I carry on commuting this way, based on the behaviour I currently see.
And this cause conflict in me. I feel so resentful towards the motorists on the roads who behave that way to the cyclists and yet I drive professionally for my living and I loathe cyclists.
I really hate the way they take up the narrow road space, forcing me to wait until I can pull into the adjacent lane to give me a metre clearance to pass before pulling back into the left lance, only to come to a red light and have them scoot up on my left and make me do it all again.
I hate the way they dart in front of me at pedestrian crossings, simply because they can’t be bothered to wait for a light change.
I hate the way they don’t consider themselves to be bound by the road rules.
Pick a side, cyclists. And, yes, I would be happy to see cyclists have to be registered if it meant they could be fined. Very happy.