Monday 24 April 2017

Katy McGuinness: 'Cycling would be such fun - but as a mum it's not worth the risk'

'Ever since I was the victim of cycle rage on holiday on the Ile de Re 10 years ago, I have done my best to avoid getting on my bike. Or any bike, for that matter'
'Ever since I was the victim of cycle rage on holiday on the Ile de Re 10 years ago, I have done my best to avoid getting on my bike. Or any bike, for that matter'

Katy McGuinness

A few people have helpfully pointed out the city bike rank at the end of the street that we're moving to. "Oh look," they say, "you'll be able to cycle everywhere. Won't that be fantastic?"

Well, yes. And, er, no.

Ever since I was the victim of cycle rage on holiday on the Ile de Re 10 years ago, I have done my best to avoid getting on my bike. Or any bike, for that matter. There I was, cycling along happily on one of the island's dedicated two-lane cycle-paths, minding my own business and wondering how much longer it would be before we arrived at our lunchtime oyster shack for a feed of huitres and Picpoul de Pinet, when disaster struck.

I wasn't going fast enough, you see, and a Frenchman, perhaps with anger-management issues, had had enough of my dawdling. He moved out to overtake me, spotted another fast-moving cyclist coming in the opposite direction and cut across me, sending me inelegantly head over handlebars into the ditch.

It was a full five minutes before my husband realised that I had disappeared and came back to look for me - otherwise, I might have died in the ditch because nobody else bothered to stop and see if I was okay. (Bitter, moi?) The damage to my dignity was immense and the bruising hideous, but there were no bones broken.

Since then, I've been on a bike only once - an electric number on The Greenway in Co Mayo, where a day in the saddle thankfully passed without incident. It's an excursion for scaredy cats like me that I can recommend highly.

Many women say that they become risk-averse when they have children. Certainly, I was a braver person before I became a mother. I did ride horses for a while afterwards but I had lost my nerve and it was a relief finally to stop.

I have passed on this aversion to physical risk to my children. We are not what you would call an outdoors family. We don't hike mountains or abseil for fun. We don't jump out of planes for charity (we'd prefer to bake cakes or pack bags) or participate in Tough Mudders or To Hell and Backs.

Of course, I wanted my children to learn to ride bicycles and was happy for them to career around parks and country pathways where there were no cars when they were small. But that's where it ended. There was no question of any of them ever taking their bikes out onto an actual road and using them as a mode of getting from A to B.

I don't think that's going to change when we move into the new house. We've all watched too many episodes of 24 Hours in A&E by now to think that getting on a bike and taking off into the traffic could ever be a good idea. Grazed knees are one thing, but the vulnerability of the cyclist in a city that has to be one of the most cycle-unfriendly in the world is quite another.

Sunday Independent

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