My name is John. I'm a bicycle lover. And I've a confession to make: I simply cannot stand other cyclists.
That might sound like a bizarre declaration, especially as we cyclists often like to stand together through thick and thin. We tend to be regarded as the lowest form of life among all other road users, you see – hence the us-against-them mentality. But count me out.
My prejudice stems from the legions of reckless, downright dangerous pedallers out there. These are people who have no problem cycling on footpaths and the wrong way up single-lane streets.
They break red lights at every opportunity and weave in and out of traffic lanes without so much as a backwards glance, never mind a hand signal. They seem to purposely wear dark clothes when night falls and don't appear to have discovered that bicycles also take lights. And some of them seem to be blissfully unaware of the existence of the bicycle helmet.
It's people like that – and I see them every day, all of the time – who give the rest of us a bad name.
Last week, it was reported that the number of cyclist fatalities in the UK rose by 9pc on last year. It may not be a popular thing to say, but there's a good chance that a significant proportion of them were responsible for their own deaths. How many of the (admittedly low) number of bicycle-related fatalities in this country over the past few years could have been prevented if cyclists had been wearing helmets, or hi-vis jackets, or had observed the road signs that all motorists are obliged to heed?
I wasn't always a paragon of virtue on two wheels. I shudder to think of the near-escape I had a few years back when, despite being several sheets to the wind, I attempted to cycle home and almost wound up at the bottom of the Grand Canal. And I wasn't always as puritanical about the need to wear a helmet.
But as I've got older, I've realised just how vulnerable we cyclists are. We don't have crumple zones or airbags to protect us. We always come off second best in a collision with even the most innocuous vehicles.
And it's for this very reason that we need to give serious thought to our own safety – because cycling can be a marvellous, cheap and healthy way to get about.
All bike owners should wear helmets and hi-vis jackets – even the fashion- and hair-conscious among us. Yes, we may look ridiculous, but at least we can be seen be seen; and if cleverly designed, moulded plastic can come between our skulls and an unforgiving concrete surface, well surely it's something we should put up with. A decent pair of front and back lights also helps get us noticed and lights our way at night. The days of me gingerly feeling my way home by moonlight are a distant memory.
Besides a working knowledge of the rules of the road, it's a very good idea not to distract yourself when cycling. So those big, over-ear headphones should be dispensed with, texting when pedalling is normally a hazardous pursuit and the none-too-clever trick of cycling without touching the handlebars is impressing no one.