Near-death experience

I’ve had many, many near-misses with vehicles in my time as a cyclist. It’s not surprising given the number of hours and miles I’ve put in on the road: the laws of probability must be upheld. Still, it’s been a while since the last really close call, so this afternoon’s little encounter was unsettling, to say the least. It wasn’t even some teenage hot-shot in a dented, souped-up hatchback just after the pubs have closed, either; it was a bloke in his fifties, driving a mid-range, late-model VW Golf, at 3.45 on a Sunday afternoon. You see many cars with a ‘Baby on Board’ sticker in the rear windscreen: I’ve often thought I should have a cycling jersey emblazoned with ‘Wife and Child at Home’. Sadly, such is the hatred – in some cases literally murderous – many British motorists harbour against cyclists, it wouldn’t change anything – indeed, it would  probably make me even more of a target. As you know, I normally write about the joys of riding a bike: today, I have to consider its dark side.  That’s art, I guess.

NEAR MISS

This is the part
They don’t mention
When they tell you how good
Cycling is for you:

The part when
My innocent Sunday-afternoon spin
Is shattered
By his engine’s downshift-strangled howl:

In my hundredth-of-a-second reflex-look-back
He’s on my wheel, like a wave
Ready to roll right over me
Without breaking.

Clear road ahead
But he stays inside the white line:
Making it clear I should not be here.
My elbow fills the hole his door-mirror makes in the air.

Cutting back in
Inside his own length, taillights on my front tyre:
A last hot blast of fumes and spite
Spat in my face, and gone

Leaving me to ride
The last mile home
Shaking, raging, too angry to be happy
Just to be alive this time.