cycling provides me with an almost infinite supply of positive feelings, ranging from the rush of endorphins after a savage time trial, to the serene calm embodied by a ride with friends in beautiful scenery. today i encountered the sublime and solipsistic wondrousness of cycling; riding across the hills through the cold and still dawn, along quiet hedgerow-flanked roads, with the dawn chorus beginning to chime. it was amazing.
riding home, and feeling heavy-legged and tired, i opted to go through the centre of Bristol. in hindsight, this was my first error. Park Street at 5.30pm is a war zone, full of beleaguered and weary citizens, trudging home from a day at the frontline spent eking out a living in these epochal times of penury and fiscal disaster. it was also a cycling disaster zone. rarely have i seen so many terrifying examples of the cyclist’s craft. suffice to say, the spectre of an imminent death surely stalks the nodders who recklessly jumped lights and forwent such advantageous ideas as ‘lane discipline’, or ‘primary position’. as usual, when faced with a total meltdown of common sense from all around, i took to cycling ultra-cautiously, stopping at every red and holding still in a line of traffic rather than filtering to the front. this seemed to amplify the carnage around.
some time last week i opted to ride an additional 20 miles rather than head down through park street. i should have done the same today. the icing on the cake occurred near bedminster, when a total chopper on a kona road bike nearly knocked me off by undertaking at a roundabout. i said, in shock, ‘Come on’. he then tried to take me down from the bike at the lights, before stopping in the road and threatening to smash my face in. to be fair, he did ask if i wanted my face smashed in, so i said ‘No’. he then rode off, mouthing obscenities. he had a lot to be angry about, his face was distorted and phenomenally ugly, he legs bowed and gangly and his speech both clipped and essentially illiterate. which made it all the more surprising that he was riding a vaguely decent bike – a Kona jake – with a working red light.
it’s the first bit of road rage i’ve been on the receiving end for a while, since the bus driver for Blue Iris coaches stopped his bus on the a38 to remonstrate with me for being on a bike. i reported him to the police and after getting short shrift from the bus company took the unusual step of boarding his coach when he came to my workplace later that day to pick up a group on an excursion. I pointed out that he’d nearly cost his firm a lucrative 2 year contract. revenge is a dish best served cold.
It’s worth remembering at times like these, that this chap is the same motherfucker who shouts at you from a car; or is that precise asshole in a train carriage, drunk and aggressively berating either other people or the ticket collector. he’s the ranty, shouty, arrogant man, and the bike just happens to be something he was on at the time. but it’s hard to have perspective when someone has threatened to beat the shit out of you. in fact, i’m not even that angry at him, just a bit freaked out. i mean, he probably goes home and beats the wife – it’s the same point on the moral compass as threatening a complete stranger.
what i’m more angry about is the deranged riding of so many people on bikes who seem to have absolutely no idea of the tenuousness of their grasp on life. it’s horrifying. often they’re fully dressed in all the accoutrements of the safer rider, the hi-viz jacket, lights everywhere, the works, and yet everything they do on the bike undermines that sense of safety.
i’ll ride tomorrow, i’ll avoid park street, and not fall into the trap of riding down it again. i’ll continue to stay positive, and i’ll try to remember my golden rule which i sometimes, and always against my better judgement forget, which is to stay quiet and disengaged from all the carnage around, and under no circumstances gesture, shout or say anything, because if that person in the car/on the bike doesn’t seem bothered by driving within one millimetre of your person, they are almost certainly not that bothered by going a millimetre closer, or stopping, or whatever.
as for the nodders; god help them.