CYCLIST. The very word makes motorists cringe. We all know that they rant and rave against us. They think the roads are only for them. They are entitled to every bit of tarmac. They sprawl us all over YouTube when we look at them the wrong way. We are all a pack of blood-thirsty murderers out to kill as many of them as we possibly can. We deliberately knock them off their $10,000 bicycles, and drive away laughing loudly. We are allies with Adolf Hitler and Kim Jong-un.
And naturally, admitting to being one on a petrol-head's internet forum, of all places, provokes the same reaction as I imagine uttering ‘bacon’ in the perimeters of the Dome of the Rock might. So I won’t. I will just say that I have recently bought a brand-new pushbike and I ride it often.
But before you mow me down anyway, what choice do I have?
I have a part-time job as a relief janitor at a local school which is about 7km from my house. And despite the fact that I love cars and write about them, I haven’t actually finished learning to drive yet, so travelling by car is unfortunately out of the question. As is walking. The average walking pace is about 4-5km/h, so a rough calculation suggests it would take me approximately 1.4 hours to walk 7km. By that time, I expect I would be dead. And even if I did manage to survive the long walk there, my shift finishes at about 5:30pm, when it is dark, so I would almost certainly be mugged, stabbed, and robbed in an underpass on the long walk back. I would be dead.
This leaves two choices: catching a bus, which is about as appealing, or riding a pushbike, which I’ll admit is marginally worse.
To be honest, it’s not all that dismal. In fact, when you’re cruising down a long, gentle hill in top gear on a warm day with the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair, it’s properly enjoyable. It’s just not like that very often. More often than not, it involves pounding up a hill on a wet, miserable day with your nose running and your fingers falling off and your cold, mud-flicked bottom being unsympathetically assaulted by the telegraphed proportions of pot holes and twigs. In a word, torture. In fact, in my experience as merely ‘someone who rides a bike’, I think I may have discovered why cyclists are as full of rage and contention and anger as they are. I may have found the recipe.
Firstly, you must understand that cycling is embraced with open arms by the government. The government praises them and caters for their every whim and want wherever and whenever they can. They are heralded as the paragon of public transport, and the private vehicle is to be brushed under the legal carpet as unenlightened, unhealthy, and unnecessary. According to the government, we should all throw away our Toyota Corollas and Ford Kugas and all invest in bicycles. This will keep cars solely as a refuge for the old and disabled, which will, they wisely claim with knowing, nodding heads, eliminate congestion and green-house gases, not to mention speeding. All this explains why cyclists grow those enormous puffy heads and that chronic sneering arrogance.
And then there are the hardships and the difficulties, the struggles and the niggles. The motorist, obviously, is at the top of this list, permanently, no matter what they have done. They are always at fault, and any perceived stupidity on the part of the cyclist is passed off as an innocent, even commendable manoeuvre.
Then there is the condition of the bike paths. And I will admit that this point is, most of the time, truly genuine. Many times, when a bike seat has just been roughly shoved where my liver should be, I wonder if ‘people who ride bikes’ are actually considered real human beings with feelings. And I’ll keep justifying myself here by saying that this was part of the reason I bought a new bike. The only form of suspension on my old one was a thin piece of skin between the hard plastic seat and my coccyx bone. Needless to say, at the end of any biking excursion, my bottom was a sort of topographical map of the exact route. The legend was something like, “the bluer, the bigger the bump”. I made sure my new bike had suspension.
But then again, all this doesn’t really matter to the cyclist. They insist on riding on the road, even if there does happen to be a perfectly good, billiard-smooth bike path running alongside. And in this setting, the only real causes for at least some form of complaint are the motorist, obviously, followed by broken glass and hills. The smashed remains of some motorist’s VB or Scotch spells peril for the ultra-thin, ultra-smooth tyres of the cyclist’s multi-thousand-dollar racing bicycle, so he must learn to swerve to avoid them. This constant impulsive swerving action thus becomes an inbuilt characteristic. Like a terminal, reoccurring seizure, if you like.
The hills also turn out to be more of a component in the making of a cyclist than you might think. More specifically, that force of the universe known as gravity, which practically translates rather simply to the fact that what is a long downhill slope one way will be an even longer uphill slope the other way. And so just as the cyclist is enjoying an effortless cruise down a hill, his joy is quickly quenched by the thought that he will have to ride up this same hill on the way back. This leads to depression, and a suicidal temperament. The latter often shows.
Then there is the rain, the wet, and the mud. This doesn’t concern me of course, as my bicycle is sensible and fairly ordinary and capable of getting more than a little damp. But a cyclist absolutely does not want his carbon-fibre racing bicycle to go out in the rain, a weather condition which would spell disaster for all its remaining metal bits. It would rust and rot and fall apart.
This means that on rainy days, the cyclist must become a motorist. He must drive his car to work. And any cyclist on that day is therefore seen as an idiot.
That wouldn’t be me, of course; I’m just ‘someone who rides a bike’.
Photo Credit: billbonebikelaw.com