Columnist Catriona Stewart reflects on a shocking news story in Glasgow this week. Writing for our sister title The Herald, she asks: is cycling worth taking the risk?

THE young woman killed on Glasgow's Pollokshaws Road on Wednesday brings the number of cyclists killed on Scotland's roads this year to four.

When I began cycling to work, I quickly learned we are a tight-knit community. Ask any cyclist for advice and you’ll receive more than you bargained for.

I was in Queens Park, near Pollokshaws Road, when I heard about the crash and it was on my route. I was heading back down to my local bike repair shop on the same street to collect my bike.

I blurted out the news to the others in the shop. “Did you hear? A cyclist, a woman, has been killed, just along the road?”

I must have sounded more shaken than I’d realised as the shop owner phoned me later that afternoon and asked if I was alright. Cyclist solidarity.

That close-knit community is feeling real shock and pain this week. Anyone on a bike is one of our own. It could have been any one of us.

This afternoon, the Glasgow cycling community is asked to gather at the junction where the incident happened for a two-minute silence.

I imagine many will turn out, from respect for the victim and her family and out of a need to do something proactive following an appalling shock.

I love cycling and I feel immeasurably better when I’m commuting by bike to my office. For the past six weeks I haven’t been able to do that and today will be my first cycle in to the city centre in that time.

Am I anxious? Yes. Should I be? That’s a complicated question to answer.

Cycling on Britain’s roads is relatively safe. Statistically, you’re much more likely to be killed as a pedestrian.

Statistics are difficult to keep at the forefront of your mind when faced with driver aggression while you’re on a pedal cycle.

When being tailgated by someone honking their horn. When the aforementioned close pass is by a bus with a large wing mirror skimming just inches past your head.

Women are known to cycle less assertively than men and to take up less space on the road. I’m definitely guilty of cautiously slowing down when it would be better for me to press on.

I know that I should move out from the kerb and take up my position in the lane but I don’t want to be in the way, my natural instinct is not to be a nuisance.

Part of the problem is that, while around 80 per cent of cyclists also drive, myself included, far fewer drivers cycle.

This means that riding two abreast - which is perfectly allowed - can cause conniptions in drivers behind you who don’t realise we’re entitled to do so.

Cycling out in a lane can cause aggression from drivers who want you to be out of their way.

So many drivers I see in Glasgow stop in the bike box, the properly named advanced stop lines. I doubt many of them know that the Highway Code specifies drivers must stop at the first white line on the road and so by crossing this, they risk three penalty points and a fine.

Or maybe they know and don’t care, knowing also that the police are highly unlikely to challenge them.

In turn, cyclists risk a fine for riding on the pavement. I’ve spoken to a chief inspector about this who said he’d lambasted a new PC for coming back to the station for having fined a cyclist on the pavement.

Sometimes it’s just safer to take a shortcut across a pavement. Sometimes it is safer to go through a red light and move ahead of busy traffic. Of course, it’s technically wrong but you have prioritise your own safety and if more drivers understood this, perhaps there would be less anger.

Everyone is competing for space and sometimes you have to do what you can to feel safe.

It feels often that you are cycling on a war footing, getting around the city.

Glasgow, where the city council wants to improve its environmental credentials and boost health, is investing money in its cycle infrastructure but, while things are moving in the right direction, there are huge gaps.

It helps to have city councillors, such as Anna Richardson and Jon Molyneux, who are also committed cyclists and understand the issues first hand.

However, design improvements for areas such as the west end’s Byres Road, came only because of committed campaigning by GoBike, the Strathclyde Cycle Campaign, rather than first class first proposals being put forward by the council.

The city is littered with dreadful cycle lanes that are perpetually covered by parked cars, rendering them pointless.

Others are used as useful drop off and pick up points for lazy motorists. Behind the St Enoch Centre there’s always someone parked in the cycle lane. This cycle route runs contraflow to the traffic, so to get past the parked cars you have to pull out into oncoming traffic, in what is a busy bus route.

While the new South City Way, running from Queens Park to the Merchant City is a huge improvement on what was there before, there are still dangerous design flaws that must be addressed.

So improvements are being made but much work is still to be done.

Online, the blame game started almost immediately. Much sympathy for the young women who was killed but followed by comments blaming cyclists for accidents.

One wrote cyclists have “no incentive for road safety.” Ridiculous. Our incentive is to stay alive.

I love cycling but I would hesitate to recommend it to friends in good conscience.

I feel stressed worrying about my friends who cycle. Do I feel that way about myself? Of course not, because we all feel invincible, don’t we?

We aren’t, however, and we never will be. Accidents will always happen but there is so much more to be tackled before cyclists are as safe as they can be.

This article originally appeared on our sister site The Herald here