The taxi-driver’s fury is obvious but he restrains himself admirably. He just clicks his tongue and furiously taps at the taxi-driver-touch-screen-thing on his dashboard. It happens again half a mile later and the latest infringement ellicits nothing more than a barely audible tail-end “…ck’s sake”.
It’s a cyclist. In this case he has attempted to overtake a slowly moving bus and is now perilously waggling in between the bus and a line of cars. Drivers on both sides flinch as they proceed – like a man pushing a shopping trolley through a crèche.
While all of this is going on, I shrink into the back seat of the taxi. I have been that cyclist.
There are times which perfectly embody the line from the Scots poet Robbie Burns “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us/To see oursels as ithers see us.”
Being in the back of a taxi watching your fellow cyclists is one of those times.
Whisper it low –we cyclists can be arseholes. Not all of us, all of the time – but most of us some of the time. Yes so are some drivers but ‘four-wheels bad, two-wheels good’ doesn’t tell the whole story. We cyclists need to take a look at ourselves too. And I’m not just talking about the admiring glance at our reflection in a shop window to see how fast we’re whizzing.
There are a number of reasons for our occasional bad behaviour. One is purely physical – with the endorphins running through our veins we are actually sort of high. We wouldn’t fail a breathalyser but we feel a cloak of invincibility. Also as the vulnerable minority, expecting to be cut off, beeped, splashed and harried by military-industrial complex in their ‘cars’, we are ready to get angry. Finally as free spirits watching everyone else trapped in cars made by ‘The Man’, we feel ourselves to be intrinsically better people. Add all of those thing up and the arsehole potential is high.
National Bike-Week is underway so while you are getting where you want to go in a good mood, on time and a little smugly; consider doing the following things to contribute to better relations with the Evil Motor People.
- They’re called Traffic Lights. I’m sorry but we’ll just have to obey the lights. I know, I know. It’s a pain and most of the time it’s probably fine to trickle through but every driver who sees us crash the lights hates our ilk a little more.
- Let them out. You see a driver struggling to get out of a side-road. There is a gap in the traffic occupied only by you. But you don’t want to give up your precious kinetic energy so you toil past and the driver’s chance is gone. Don’t be a bicycle-spanner. Let them out.
- Give a signal now and then – not the Italian hand under chin or the single digit signal, some gesture with your hands indicating what you are about to do. Just to let the rest of the road know what you are up to – a little clue.
- Remember you are on a bike. So mind yourself.
This article was first published in the Irish Examiner on June 17th, 2013