One of my patients who reads my blogs was asking about my piece on Identity. I had spoken of how pleased I am to be back on a bike. That being a cyclist is an important part of my identity. And I suppose I draw a distinction between being somebody who can ride a bike and somebody who enjoys all the challenges of riding.Which includes coming back from an injury. My last accident has taken me about two years to recover from psychologically. I am now back to 90% of my emotional fitness. There are times when I have to manage my anxiety very actively. If I am going down a steep hill I use my brakes more now than before my crash. But I never could simply put my feet on the handlebars and allow the bike to take me down a 1 in 3 slope.So not much has really changed. My patient’s question took me by surprise because I don’t see cycling as inherently dangerous. I have been riding for 20 years, Ten of those riding into south London twice a day.
I began trying to get to work by car and discovered how pointless it was. I sat in a traffic jam from Woolwich to Camberwell, listening to the time checks come and go on the radio and fuming at everyone and everything. When I arrived at work I had to spend another fifteen minutes driving around trying to find a parking space. I dumped the car and brought a motorbike. A small 125. I have never in my life ridden a motorbike. I had to ask a friend to ride it home for me, so little did I know. I spent some time over a weekend learning the basics. How to start. Stop. Change gear. that was it! My first proper ride was on a Monday morning riding from Woolwich to Camberwell at six in the morning. Then coming back again at three in the afternoon. This lasted until the next Friday evening. I was almost home when the car in front of me stopped unexpectedly. So did I. Via his boot! (I think I broke my collar-bone in the crash.) I sold the motor bike that weekend and soon after brought a push bike. A very useful mountain bike- a Rockhopper Comp. Thereafter I cycled into work for nearly ten years along with a posse of other riders all dodging through the traffic and swearing loudly at our common enemy the motorist. On the whole it was fun. (Perhaps a small part of the pleasure was the adrenaline rush of choosing the best route through the traffic. Of gauging if it was safe to jump these lights or not. Of trying to shave off two minutes from my previous ride time.)
That is a brief history of my cycling career. Every cyclist will recognise it. Any non cyclist will wonder if we are all quite mad-as I think my patent did. The best answer I could give him on the day of his question was “I don’t want my world to be circumscribed by fear. I do not want my world to shrink because I had a cycling accident.” I still think that is a good answer. There are many things that worry me. Computers worry me. Getting lost in strange cities worries me. The way that nursing is practiced worries me. Our blame culture worries me. But cycling? I’m King of the Road!!