The morning had started out promisingly enough. Not too chilly, with a gentle breeze and even a few glimpses of sunshine. A pleasant day for cycling. But by mid-afternoon the clouds had rolled in, and come the ride home I was being pelted with rain and buffeted by massive gusts of wind.
As I pedalled along, rain trickling down my cheeks and sodden trousers sticking to my thighs, I couldn’t help but think to myself…god, I’ve missed this.
You may well be starting to question my sanity right now. And perhaps you’d be right – after all, there’s a reason why umbrellas and waterproofs were invented. No-one actually enjoys getting soaked.
No-one, that is, except for a cyclist who’s been forced onto public transport for a week.
It wasn’t that bad at the beginning. On Monday, in fact, I was perfectly happy to be squashed onto an overcrowded train with hundreds of other commuters. My legs were thankful for the rest – and even if they hadn’t been, the roads were so treacherous I couldn’t have contemplated cycling at all. I still saw a few hardy souls out on two wheels, though, but I had no desire to join them.
On Tuesday I was still in the thrall of public transport. I’d bought a weekly travelcard and I was still marvelling at how I could hop on one bus, travel just a few stops, jump off and get on another one – all at no extra cost. Even so, every now and again I’d catch myself looking wistfully down from my seat on the top deck, envying the cyclists I saw whizzing past.
By Wednesday those wistful glances had turned into outright longing. I was getting impatient at every set of traffic lights, willing the bus to somehow squeeze past the line of traffic and through the lights before they turned red. All the while I was thinking, if I was on my bike right now I could have cruised to the front and I’d be well past this junction by now.
Come Thursday, that impatience had turned to irritation. A combination of road works to repair a burst water main, a delivery lorry blocking one lane and a bus stuck while trying to turn a corner meant that the traffic near work was snarled up in all directions. If I’d been on my bike this wouldn’t have been a problem – but on a bus all I could do was sit there, grit my teeth and wait it out.
(When it came to home time I couldn’t bear the thought of a repeat performance, so I walked the one and a half miles to the station instead. It was the best I’d felt all week.)
By Friday I was a twitching, nervous wreck. That same overcrowded train I’d been happy to catch on Monday suddenly seemed overwhelming and claustrophobic.
As I looked around at my fellow commuters, absorbed in their phones, headphones, papers or books, or just staring into space, I found myself wondering, how do people cope with this everyday? Doesn’t it drive them mad? Every person who pushed past me to get off, every bag jabbed into my side, every snatch of music or phone call I could hear…all of it felt like an intrusion too far into my personal space. I desperately needed to get back on my bike and out onto the road.
And so that’s what I did on Monday, and every day since then. Because if there’s one thing I learned during my week on public transport, it’s that I am a cycling addict and I need to have my fix.