Taking advantage of the sunshine and not having to do the childminder run, I cycled to work. It's a fair distance, which is why I don't do this on ordinary days. Half way, while passing the Royal Burgh of Rutherglen (which is a bit of an overstatement at the best of times), a beer bellied man shouts at me:
"Get on your bike! hahaha".
My reaction? Inwardly fuming, outwardly ignoring. Very tempted to retort something along the lines that it would do his belly some good if indeed he got on his bike now and again.
The worrying bit is that this is not an unusual occurence. I've blogged about it before. Hubby the other day was actually pushed off his bike by a pedestrian at rush hour (no car passing fortunately) and, miracle, the police were just there to see it. I simply don't quite get why people feel the urge to attack cyclists who don't cause noise or CO2 polution, who don't kill and keep healthy, thus saving the tax payer lots of dosh.
However, there's a difference in the abuse I receive very regularly. I rarely get pushed off my bike, but I hear the exact same sentence quoted above a lot, with ridiculing laughter added to this. (Mind you I also get swear word abuse from car drivers in rush hour fury, possibly fuelled by jealousy that I'm moving when they're not). What is there to ridicule? So I investigated and my current field research result (cough cough, I asked my fellow cycling colleagues) tells me that this kind of abuse is directed from man to cycling lady. Which to me means it's sexist.
If you look at cycling patterns and indeed, barriers to cycling in Glasgow, it will strike you that there aren't many female cyclists. There are more female cyclists than there used to be, but we are still very much in the minority. Ask the ladies why they don't cycle and you get these answers: they don't feel safe because they have to share a lane with buses and taxis, or even the general traffic. They haven't the confidence to cycle in city traffic. The weather. Having to maintain a bike and deal with punctures and not having the knowledge how to do this.
So if a woman overcomes all of this and spites the Glasgow rain, maybe just having gathered all her confidence in braving the roads, the last she needs is this kind of abuse.
But how to react? I hate to just let it pass. Yet I'm lost as to a strategy that will work. I could confront and retort the abuse: "You fat ignorant bastard, the last laugh will be on me when you die of heart failure in 5 years time". I could lecture him about the joys of cycling and get to work late. I could carry a bucket of water just in case and pour it right over his head.
Somehow, I haven't found the proper approach for converting the hopeless in the space of one sentence uttered in passing?