Oil and water. Light and dark. Good and evil. Mac and PC. Politics and truth. These are just a few of the immutable opposites that define our lives and influence our opinions and social behavior. But few are so rooted in mutual alienation and hatred as ‘cyclists and cars’.
Get in a car and every cyclist is a wobbling, arrogant roadblock making you miss that beckoning green light, left turn arrow, doctor’s appointment, business meeting or the last slot in the traffic jam the other side of the intersection.
They force you to slow to a bicycholic crawl on YOUR ‘built for cars’ road – gifting you the red light as they blithely sail through without ever looking behind at the apoplectic mayhem they are causing. And how can something just six inches wide with tyres like a rubber band and a stupid blinking red light take up a whole lane! I mean, you expect eighteen-wheel giant trucks to take up a lane – but not some left-wing outdoor exercise bike ridden by an idiot. And why, if they are a legitimate ‘vehicle’ sharing our road, do they flagrantly disobey road rules and traffic signs at will – driving unregistered, uninsured and everywhere you want to go! Oh, and here’s the clincher: if the traffic gets a bit heavy, or god forbids - stop, they simply ride up onto the pavement! Can I do that in my car? I can see it now … “Sorry officer, I didn’t like the look of all that nasty traffic and wanted to whip up the front and nick through this big intersection before the lights turned green – that’s OK isn’t it?”
I’ve never been to jail but, I know how to get there.
Cyclists. What’s there to like?
Then I did a funny thing. I pulled down my rusting bike from the garage wall, paid more than it was worth to get the various parts moving again, and after brushing the dead spiders from my this grey thing that appeared to be my helmet, wobbled out onto the footpath. Well, that was no fun. Like an untamed three year old, I wanted to go on the road! Go fast. Change gears (all 21 of them - probably all at once too, if I could). Turn left (and right) at traffic lights. Go to the shops. Exercising my body and my rights. Doing my thing for GreenPeace, God and country. So, apart from the fact that my ‘going round and round’ leg muscles had atrophied to the size of a dried up string bean, I discovered another brain-snappingly crucial thing. All car drivers are utter bastards!
I had hardly reached ‘left lever gear 1 and right lever number 3 thingy’ when a late-model silver blur tried to weld me to the nearest parked car (also silver). A succession of flashing fenders, all tyre noise, wind and implied violence hurled by, each one inching closer to my poor exposed body. This was accompanied by what seemed like deliberate swerving and the sound of horns, gnashed teeth and partial expletives lost to the ether by the doppler effect. I’d hardly done a hundred metres. I clung on tighter and gritted my teeth. ‘You’re lucky I’m cringing in the kerb and not lording it in the centre lane at six kilometres per hour,’ I mentally shouted at them. This was dangerous. I had visions of orthopedic surgeons tut-tutting at the foot of my hospital bed as they tried to work out where all the splintered bits came from. But despite the wheezing, I wasn’t quite dead yet.
And then I saw the culprits, up ahead stuck at the lights. So I did what any decent, self-respecting human being would do in that circumstance – I wobbled passed them, gasping for breath, right through the intersection, against the lights. Sure, I nearly got cleaned up by the through traffic - but it was worth it! If I’d felt confident enough, I would have taken my right hand off the handle bar and pumped the air.
Stick that up your exhaust pipe, car drivers!
Before long, I meet my other nemesis – a hill (I’d forgotten about them). Eighteen thousand downshifts later, my legs are a blur of frenzied activity and I seem to be bouncing up and down on the seat while moving slower than a glacier – all the time gasping for air. What’s worse, the traffic behind is closing fast, I can feel them jockeying for position. Lining me up for the coup de grace. Fortunately I am saved by the next set of lights - “Oh sweet God, a glorious red light!” I stagger to a halt in the left lane, blood pumping, legs like half set jelly. A coma would have seemed like fun. And then it happened. “Oh No! A green arrow!” Turning left ... uphill ... foot on the wrong pedal. Sound of car hooting (fortunately two or three back). ‘Look, I’m not a bloody Ferrari, look at my skinny legs and this incline!’ More impatient toots. ‘Who do you think I am, Harry Bloody Potter!’ At that precise moment my ‘Happy Golden Mayflower’ precision Chinese gears give an almighty crunch and various bits fall off. I stagger into the gutter straddling the footpath as the cars thunder past. I am met with a stream of invective aimed at my stupidity, parentage, mother and sanity, followed by the eternally eloquent ‘Dickhead!”
So the next time you get into the bicycle vs car emotional debate, pause for a while and consider that the majority of bicycle riders also drive a car. And if more car drivers rode bikes, there’d be less people yelling at me at the green arrow. So why not just try to be considerate to each other, no matter how many wheels we have, and temper our hatred. We’ll save that for the bloody pedestrians!