We’ve all seen it… Lately, as I approach a red light or a zebra crossing, I can often see it in their eyes… Granny Fear! Somewhere between terror and a sort of inner rage, their eyes pierce into me as I approach. Pleading and intense that look leaves me in no doubt about the low expectations of my behavior. I have been more and more aware of this over the last few years.
I am a middle-aged man on an upright bike in ordinary clothes. I don’t ride fast and I always stop at lights, crossings or whatever. I don’t see the benefit of rushing, as I am already on one of the speediest methods of transit in the city. In any case, I can’t really hurry or I might miss a pie shop.
It’s obvious that they think I am not going to stop… or worse. There is a sense that I am some sort of threat.
Now, I am not a threatening looking person so I must infer that it is my use of a bike that is causing this. I am well aware that the behavior of some riders leaves a lot to be desired but in my experience they are in the minority. Where there is inconsiderate riding, I often think that it’s good that the person involved isn’t driving a car. Some people are just very selfish and uncaring about others, sadly.
What drives me mad is that we all get tarred with the same brush. There is clearly a feeling amongst some people, particularly the elderly, that cycling is threatening in some way. Where riders have to share space with pedestrians there are often complaints. This has been the case with the closure of the Thames Path to cyclists. More on that here.
Constant negative stereotyping in the media serves to reinforce the notion that riding a bike is somehow deviant or odd. People’s perceptions become somewhat warped. The proof of this could be seen in the glaring eyes of the lady who used the pedestrian crossing in front of me this morning. A look more at home in a rough pub then in a genteel shopping street. I almost said something but a cry of “Oi! Why are you screwing me out?!” probably wouldn’t have helped and I don’t think she would have got the joke. She actually looked as if she wanted to deck me, despite the fact that I had cruised to a gentle stop for her to cross. You don’t have to say, “thank you” just don’t touch my face!
A common complaint at residents forums from elderly attendees is pavement cycling. There is clearly a real concern here. Untill the local council provides something meaningful in the form of decent infrastructure, people WILL ride on the pavements. Leaving us all in a rising tide of Granny Fear. It’ no good for anyone. Cycle training is going to help some people onto the road but it’s not going to be right for everyone. We need a road system that does more than just tolerate cyclists and pedestrians in deference to people in cars. It’s a way off….
So, till then, let’s be nice for folks on foot and stop so they can cross the road. Stay off the pavements too. Grannies, cut me some slack please. We are lovely really, despite riding bikes. Let’s all be nice to each other and end the scourge of Granny Fear.
P.S. Have you experienced GF? Please tell us about it in the comments.