A couple of weeks ago I was drinking juice in CycleLab when a nice young man came in, introduced himself, and started talking about my blog. I’d never met him before, but he’d recognized my bike locked up outside.

I don’t really mind things like this.

Last summer a motorbike courier in a loading bay said “Hello Esmerelda!” (let’s pretend my real name is Esmerelda). I didn’t recognize him, but assumed he must work for my company. (My photo had been up on a noticeboard as ‘courier of the month’ fairly recently, so most of my colleagues knew what I look like, even if we hadn’t been formally introduced.) But further conversation revealed that we’d never met, and he’d never worked for Pink. I didn’t dare ask how he knew my name. Could it be that motorbike couriers make it their business to know the names of all the female cycle couriers? After all, we are pretty scarce, and very visible. And we have a reputation for being attractive.

This I find slightly creepy.

Yesterday I had an unpleasant and fairly frightening encounter with a cabbie on Charlotte Street (I’ve reported it to the police, so am not giving too many details). And this afternoon, the same cabbie (on foot this time) accosted me as I was locking my bike up on Montagu Place, and continued the altercation.

Luckily he walked away once he felt he’d made his point. I was terrified, and trembling even more violently than I had been after our first encounter. In fact, I thought I was about to burst into tears, which almost never happens. So I did something I’ve never before resorted to at work. I phoned my mum.

This helped immensely. She listened, made all the right noises, and expressed her outrage at ‘the way people will behave when they’re safely in their metal boxes’. But that wasn’t quite it. It wasn’t that the cabbie had threatened me with his car, or even anything he’d said. It was that he’d spotted me again in the street within 24 hours. You assume that won’t happen, in one of the biggest cities in the world.

I usually forget how visible – and therefore vulnerable – I am. I have had cabbies shout “if I see you again I’ll f___ing kill you!”, and let it go over my head, assuming that, in such a massive metropolis, they’ll never see me again, and wouldn’t remember me if they did. I’ve never seen the same cabbie twice – but then, you don’t really notice what people look like when they’re in cars. And cars all look the same. (So do most cabbies, come to think of it.) A female cycle courier is a different matter entirely. We stand out, and there’s not much we can do about it.

You know the worst thing?

This is what I see as I leave the house every morning.

Yes, I even live next door to a cabbie.


6 Responses to “Visibility”

  1. zero Says:

    The other day I took a mini cab to a DJ gig and a black cab back. Both drivers recognised me from the street. Luckily, both were friendly and chatty, but it did bring home to me quite strongly the same thought…

  2. Ric Says:

    That cab looks like it’s ineptly hiding to spy on you 🙂

  3. Kirk Says:

    Most times when someone yells threats at you, they forget about it after someone else pisses them off. This one cabbie you talk about has me worried a little might I suggest having one of your tougher friends stay with you. Take care.

  4. Cudzoziemiec Says:

    Most cabbies (and drivers generally) who shout at you are not actually nasty people, I reckon, they just have a stressful job which puts them constantly in a situation where people think it’s ok to take offence at things they would ignore elsewhere and to take risks – to themselves and others – that they would normally steer clear of. The same situation that you work in. Add to that the other stresses that happen in anyone’s life, and you have a recipe for rage. However, this one may well have been an exception. Hard to say.

    As to him seeing you again – I don’t think that’s so odd. It’s logical that cabbies and couriers hang around similar places. Normally the two don’t have much incentive to recognise each other. On this occasion you both, unfortunately, did. I hope the police reach an acceptable conclusion.

  5. Tim Says:

    No, cabbies try to kill messengers.. or at least they do me. I was intentionally knocked off my bike by one on Cannon Street because he took exception to me trying to access the ASL (which he was fully occupying). He edged forward, closing off the gap and trapping me between the central reservation and his cab, the light changed to amber and he accelerated, catching me with his wing mirror and causing me to (luckily) fall against a bollard. He then accused me of cutting him up (on a pushbike at a red light – whatever!). Yesterday a cabbie undertook me whilst I was in the right hand side of the right of the two LEFT hand turning lanes that take you from Victoria Street onto Vauxhall Bridge Road (I wanted Wilton Road, hence my right-handed positioning). He zoomed up on my left and cut straight across forcing me to practically u-turn right to avoid him ploughing into me. I carried on then noticed he’d stopped to pick up a fare so i went after him. His reason? He wanted to get into the bus lane on Victoria Street! 95 percent of cabbies are scum. Seriously. I have a really strong dislike for cabbies and two out of the three accidents involving motorised vehicles I’ve had have been taxis. /rant

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