The process of cycling in a large city can have many effect upon the battered psyche of a hapless commuter such as myself. Sure, the continual threat of collision with some deranged van driver, or a catastrophic cut-in from some ditsy fool piloting an inappropriately large hulk of 4×4, does tend to kick your kindly attitudes far into the land of go-fuck-yourself. Any and all personal cultivation you may flatter yourself to have attained gets left behind quicker than a Liberal democrat election policy. Perhaps, this is only indicative of the continual affront to ones sensibilities by the seemingly limitless indifference the driving public has to your personal welfare? Or, you’d like to think, a natural reaction to immersion in the hostile and pitiless arena of madness and stupidity that is our streets?
Well, having endured such and such for the past five years, and having babbled, screamed and ranted my way through encyclopaedic volumes of insults towards my fellow road users, I have come to the overdue conclusion that it is most probably I who needs an attitude adjustment. Yes I admit it; me + bicycle + London streets = loony waiting for a place to land.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not absolving the ceaseless parade of nutters (drivers, motorcyclists and yes, other cyclists), of their ubiquitous lack of talent, rather I am suggesting an attempt at modifying my expectations in the interests of safeguarding my own wellbeing and/ or life.
Like most people I tend to judge others by myself, expecting them to display – more or less – the same behaviour in the common situations that require adherence to an appropriate social convention; you know, like driving. Therefore, as I don’t routinely race up to junctions as fast as I possibly can before screeching to a hair-raising last minute stop, run red lights on pedestrian crossings, pull out without looking or simply stop in the middle of road, I’ve always been disappointed to find others indulging in these acts. In reality though, these cunnings stunts are so pervasive that I’m forced to consider the fact that I’ve made all the wrong assumptions. Other people aren’t like me.
In order to counter all the wrong headedness and naivety I’ve been labouring under come rain or shine these last few years, I’ve assessed my fellow road users to fall in to three distinct camps:
The not-quite-here (70% of road users)
They’ve passed their tests, they can switch gears, more or less, but they’re not really too bothered about what’s going on outside the confines of their chic steel box when there’s good music and Yakult to be had inside. They’ll drive along happily unaware of any such thing as a negative outcome. After all, Cause and Effect are just things you find in books about physics or something. You can spot the cyclist version of these easily too: women usually appear in blowy dresses when the sun shines riding bikes Miss Marple would consider old fashioned, the men prefer bikes with tiny wheels that they can also use to piss off hapless train users already starved of space.
Anyone who delivers pizza on a moped.
The actively murderous (10%)
Some van drivers, most black cabbies, city executives.
They hate cyclists in every way, especially ideologically. What you’re doing on that two wheeled machine is an offense to everything they believe in. Too consumed to understand that every bike on the road is one less minute stuck in stationary traffic, they just want to eradicate your kind. Now.
Everyone else (20%)
Yes, in contradiction of what I’ve been muttering about even I must concede that some people quietly, and for the most part, competently just get on with it. These people are the reason the system keeps going. They can be generous, courteous and refreshingly nice. Unlike me. But I’m trying.
This may seem distasteful, and of course cynical, but I believe it to be a useful mechanism for keeping your marbles from rolling whilst using London’s roads. Of course, I don’t really think that everyone’s some kind of arsehole to be labelled in this way. Indeed it would be deemed anti-social if I was to try and use it at, oh I don’t know, a party. Besides, you need a far wider set of categories to label all the arseholes in the world.