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A blight upon the Earth

I trust it would not be wholly outrageous if I was to posit that I am no more and no less than an ordinary human being in that I probably harbour a range of subconscious prejudices against all manner of things and people in addition to those I openly admit.

In which context let me proclaim that my subject today – my hatred of cyclists – comes straight from the latter category. I positively boast about it.

Let me be fair – I have nothing against the machine itself, whether it has been made for a small child and has stabilizers jutting out diagonally from the back wheel – or has been made for adults with either one or two back wheels (the latter traditionally described as ‘a tricycle’); or indeed is one of those old-fashioned ‘sit up and beg’ ones with a wickerwork basket on the front; a fibreglass racing model; a BMX version; or even one of those new-fangled variety, such as a neighbour of my father’s possesses, which has some sort of electric motor attached to the back wheel which – after he’s made a token effort to turn the wheels over once or twice by pedalling with his legs, presumably to ‘wake’ it up –  then takes over, leaving him just to sit on it with a smug, supercilious expression on his dial as he proceeds along the road, especially if he’s going uphill … that is, of course, unless he forgot to ‘charge’ it up overnight.

Apart from Mike, the last individual mentioned, of whom I can forgive almost anything because he’s in his mid-eighties, a lifelong friend, has just had a pacemaker fitted and (best of all) is effortlessly outrageously funny – or that should be better expressed as ‘both funny and outrageous’(?) – it is the sort of people who ride bicycles that I hate.

Sadly, thanks to a combination of [and I’m not going into some sort of ‘fair/balanced’ debate about this because as far as I’m concerned the scientific facts are indisputable because David Attenborough says so] climate change, population growth, the detrimental effects of carbon monoxide (and other evil fumes harmful to human health) and 21st Century political correctness, cycling is now encouraged.

However, as a group, those who have taken it up with zeal and self-righteousness are insufferable to the rest of us who are overwhelmingly either drivers and/or pedestrians.

Last weekend I had two representative experiences.

It’s hard enough these days anyway being a driver because there are so many motor vehicles in the world, but there’s nothing more calculated to induce involuntary road rage than the experience of being stuck behind a bicycle on an ordinary two-way highway when there’s insufficient width to overtake without risking a head-on collision with fellow motorists coming the other way.

The inevitable result is a ludicrously-long tail-back of vehicles restricted to proceeding at 15 mph or less (at the election of a lone cyclist) queuing in vain to overtake him or her.

On Saturday afternoon I was on my mile-long walk to my health club which towards the end involves a 600 yard hike up a seriously-steep hill. I was therefore in a perfect position to witness an extreme example of the problem, which began at the bottom of said climb when I drew level with a gentleman of about my own age who was undertaking the ascent on a bicycle.

He wasn’t a complete old buffer – he was clad in lycra and aboard what looked to me like a classic modern bicycle costing I should estimate at least £400 and possibly twice that. I’d hazard a guess that he took his cycling hobby reasonably seriously.

Nevertheless, over the next eight to ten minutes, on foot, I was able to keep either alongside him or (more often) anything up to 25 metres behind him as we made our assaults on the mountain top.

My point is that, all the while, not only were he and I proceeding at a maximum speed of 3 to 4mph, but so was a quarter-of-a-mile tailback of motor vehicles, involuntarily stuck behind my bicycled companion and simultaneously unable to overtake because there was a similar queue descending from the summit on the other side of the road on their way down to the three-way set of traffic lights at the bottom of the hill.

I really felt for them.

My other main cycling bug-bears are (1) those who – despite supposedly being required to proceed along the roads of the United Kingdom – instead opt to ride along pavements and other avenues intended exclusively for pedestrians; and (2)  those who, in their arrogance and lack of public-spiritedness, deliberately ignore traffic lights.

The recent example of the latter I experienced occurred on Sunday.

I had been dispatched on an errand to go into town for a small but vital food shop.

Approaching the main high street is a descent to a corner attended by a set of traffic lights where three roads converge. The sun being out, there was a healthy-sized throng of punters perambulating about.

I walked to said traffic lights via the left side of the road and then waited to cross in order to continue (as a preference) along the right hand side of the high street when I reached it.

Finally, the traffic lights turned red and – after a short pause – the pedestrian lights also turned green to indicate that it was safe for we waiting pedestrians to cross the road.

Only it wasn’t.

I set off to do just that and had almost reached the island in the middle of the traffic light set-up when I was in a collision with a cyclist aged about twenty.

Or almost was, but for the lightning reflexes I had retained from my youthful sporting career and near-SAS standard military training which allowed me to avoid the worst of the impact – leaving me to take a violent ‘brush’ of my jacketed right shoulder as the offender sped by.

Said cyclist, and a companion perhaps some twenty metres behind, had evidently been descending the hill almost in the middle of the road at a speed anywhere up to 15 or 20mph and had deliberately ‘shot’ the red light just for the hell of it.

I state that because – as he went by – he let out a loud expression of glee at his own daring.

I stood stock still and shouted “What the hell are you doing?”, thankfully simultaneously suppressing the string of Anglo Saxon expletives that had instantly sprung to my mind, this in deference to other pedestrians around, most especially those accompanied by small infants.

At which point Cyclist 2 also flew (without saying anything) via the tiny gap that still existed between where I was standing and the safety of the traffic island. I was rendered totally speechless.

Later, back home and reviewing the incident, I realised that – at the moment of impact with Cyclist 1 – besides my instinctive ‘awareness’ and defensive ‘pull back’ as he came speeding past – I had also experienced had a de facto fraction of a moment when I might easily (and involuntarily or not) used my right shoulder and arm physically to ‘push’ him away as he did.

At the speed he was going, had I done that, he might well have lost stability and been propelled off his bike, quite possibly to injure himself badly by hitting the ground and/or even one of the concrete mini-islands within the large triangular traffic island to his right.

On Sunday afternoon I formed the view – which I still hold today – that a law should be urgently passed by our esteemed Houses of Parliament to decree, had Cyclist 1 ended up sprawled across the traffic island either severely-brain-injured and/or even dead in such circumstances, that any pedestrian in my position who might then subsequently be accused of anything from ABH (‘actual bodily harm’) right up to murder should have an inalienable and absolute defence of justifiable homicide.

About William Byford

A partner in an international firm of loss adjusters, William is a keen blogger and member of the internet community. More Posts