Running the Gauntlet (or my cycling obsession part deux)

LeftLion 45 cover. Psychadelic Illustration of a woman dreaming by Cameron Mcbain

(Writers note: To fans of the blog, you will have noticed that I reused a gag from the first cycle obsession post. This is because that article was never published. Please find it in your heart to forgive me.)

If you’ve never done any cycle commuting in this country, let me tell you, it’s an absolute delight. Cycle commuting is such an enjoyable and rewarding experience. By the time I’ve arrived at work, I am so invigorated and ready to take on the challenges of the day, I can hardly keep myself from jumping up and shouting: Come on world, show me what you got!

The main reason for my upbeat attitude toward cycle commuting is the courteousness and understanding afforded me by the drivers in this country. They have a total and complete grasp of the fact that my only protection out there is a brain bucket made of plastic and hard foam whilst they themselves are encased in a half-ton of steel. The gap they create for me as they go past is so large and comfortable to the point of being embarrassing. I feel like a great Wooly Mammoth with all the space I take up, but the drivers don’t see it that way at all; they are only too happy to share the road with me. For you see, these people understand that if I wasn’t on my bike, I would be in my car further clogging up the roads. It’s all British drivers can do to stop themselves from rolling the window down and thanking me personally for my selflessness. I can see it in their eyes.

The mannerly and orderly way of British driving is eclipsed only by the mannerly and orderly way of British parking. A British driver would never DREAM of pulling over to snag a parking spot in front of their local Post Office without looking. No, they understand that killing someone is slightly worse than having to wait the extra twenty seconds it takes to let the cyclist go past first. The considerate practice of leaving the cycle lanes free and clear truly is an example for other drivers of the world to follow.

And the indicating! The timely and, frankly, persistent indicating makes every night ride a spectacle to behold. It’s like cycling through some sort of flashing amber wonderland or sparkly advert for Ferraro Rocher. Drivers, with all this indicating, you’re really spoiling us.

When I first started cycle commuting, I didn’t get the whole cyclist versus driver thing. I felt like I would be the one to bridge the divide between drivers and cyclists. Tutting other cyclists who ran red lights, stopping for cars at unmarked intersections (No, after you mate, please) and wearing baggy shorts to shield the drivers from my gyrating Johnson.

It didn’t last. Getting consistently honked, shouted and smashed into by the motoring public has changed my mind somewhat. As a result, I’ve sacked off the baggy shorts and now make a habit of pouring myself into a pair of lycra shorts three sizes too small just out of spite. Get an eyeful of those badboys, you lazy, inconsiderate, car-driving bastards.

Drawing of cars, bikes and blood by Rob White.

Let’s just get one thing straight before I continue. There is no, I repeat, NO such thing as road tax. Road maintenance is taken care of through the collection of council tax and other taxes. That little disc on your windshield has nothing to do with maintaining roads and it hasn’t done since 1937. That disc acts as proof that you’ve paid Vehicle Excise Duty and that fee exists mainly to combat CO2 emissions. Vehicle Excise Duty does not apply to us because (unless of course one has had a bacon and egg sandwich for breakfast) bicycles are zero-emission. It is why zero-emission cars are also exempt. Surely, a person who’s paid real money for a car called “Leaf” deserves a bollocking more than I do. Go shout at them, why don’t you. It always seems to be some fat idiot in an R reg mondeo who shouts “Pay road tax or get off the road!” at me. Considering my bicycle is worth more than your car, mate, I would suggest I currently pay MORE “road” tax than you do, so zip it.

The number and array of dozy, selfish drivers out there is staggering. Minicabs, British Gas trucks, white vans and busses make my daily commute a gauntlet of death, but there is one group of drivers who put them all to shame. The most aggressive, most unaware, shoutiest and all around most awful people without question are Mums on the school run.

I have been knocked off my bike three times. And all three times it has been a hurried mum on the school run who has turned into the cycle lane without looking or indicating. I put this down to two things:

  1. Mums are always running late for things.
  2. Mums’ priorities are hopelessly out of whack.

Dearest mums, I know you think the planet will stop rotating if you don’t get your angel to his classes/sports match/scouts troupe on time, but let me be the first to tell you it really doesn’t matter at all. Your child’s very existence has no bearing anywhere at anytime on anything or anyone. On the list of “Most Important Things In The World”, your child getting to school on time ranks somewhere below “a hobo’s nail fungus” and “a gnat’s fart”. No amount of heavy-footed cyclist killing will make him love you. I can say with absolute conviction that the spoiled little nazi is entirely unimpressed by your efforts to get him to things on time. Chances are he’ll wind up shlepping fries at McDonalds or strung out on crack in a ditch somewhere despite your best efforts, so take it down a notch, will ya?

I know cyclists are not entirely blameless in this war. There are hundreds of helmetless cyclists out there with Morrissey haircuts and oversized designer eyewear who pass drivers on the wrong side, blaze through intersections without looking, scrape car doors with their pedals and who do more than their own fair share of shouting and V flicking. These people are called fixie riders. By all means run these people down, just don’t take your fury out on the rest of us. I thank you.

2 thoughts on “Running the Gauntlet (or my cycling obsession part deux)

  1. Craig Pay

    There’s at least one other side to this: walkers. They hate drivers and cyclists alike (with the feeling being mutual I guess). They hate drivers for parking where they shouldn’t, driving too fast or too close, running red lights; they hate cyclists for not using a bell, riding on the footpath instead of the road, not slowing down when they pass by.

    These little cliques hate anyone who isn’t one of their own. Ironic, given that so many of the drivers are also cyclists or walkers (or both). But we all seem to change allegiance rather quickly as we step out from our cars to don our walking boots or…how do you put on those skimpy shorts? With a spray can? I’ve always wondered.

    Then we have lorry drivers, motorcyclists, taxi drivers…

  2. Guy

    Having recently moved to London I’m experimenting (in the manner of a confused teenager) with cycling and trying the hire-able ones (colloquially “Borris bikes”). First time on one and I have to say… Good God! That’s terrifying!

    Have since invested in a decent helmet, but think a giant michelin man type costume might be more appropriate.

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