The Chain Of Life

I gave my bike a little dose of love yesterday. A good dose of lube, a bit of a wash down and de-rust, a fresh tube on the back tyre. The poor old thing gets dreadfully neglected for the amount of abuse it gets, and it’s quarterly wash and brush up is quite literally the least that I can do*.

I try not to make it look too shiny though. I lock up at Reading Station when I’m at work, and a bit of protective colouration goes a long way to making sure that the thieves keep their mitts off my wheels. Hence, although I often swoon over the gorgeous machines at AW Cycles on the Henley Road, I know in my heart that I couldn’t use them. I’m not a competitive or leisure cyclist. My four-year-old Ridgeback Motion is a mode of transport, simple as that.

You notice things on a bike that simply pass most other people by. The state of the roads, for example. Last year’s brutal cold snap took place not long after a fairly major resurfacing project in Reading – a surface that simply hasn’t held up. The side roads, in particular are drastically potholed and cracked. My Ridgy has no suspension. You feel everything. I bounce around on the saddle so much that it makes the bell on my handlebar ring*.

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Our friend here is not in the bike lane. For obvious reasons.

Which wouldn’t be so much of a problem if we had a decent and consistent cycle lane policy. The bike lanes around here are badly-thought out, and have a tendency to merge you into traffic or simply disappear just when you least expect it. Or, in the case of the lanes around the Vastern Road rail bridge, they abruptly cut off with whacking great stop signs. Pedestrians grumble about cyclists on the pavement – in this case I simply have no option.

Ah, pedestrians. They walk in your bike lane. They wander out in front of you. They run out in front of you. They never look where they’re going. I’ve noticed this more and more over the past couple of years. I suspect, with absolutely no evidence whatsoever, that it’s connected to the fact that so many people are plugged into iPods and other devices when they’re out and about. With a soundtrack in your head, you become invulnerable.

They’ll still look out for cars. The mass displacement of half a ton of steel bering down on you must trigger some latent impulse to at least look around before you step out on to the road. If you’re on a bike, you’ve got no chance. If they’re texting while they’re walking, the temptation would be to plow into them anyway. I know riders that do that just to prove a point.

The problem is that when I’m off my bike, I’m guilty of exactly the same crimes that I’ve just bitched about. I dreamily amble around, letting stories and characters flit through my head, barely hearing the scream of brakes and curses from behind me. In Amsterdam, a true cyclists city, TLC and I both nearly ended up in someone’s front forks. I really thought I knew better, but it seems that as soon as I’m off the saddle, my spatial awareness goes to pot. I’m as bad as everyone else, bitching at cyclists on the pavement when I’m on foot, at pedestrians in my way when I’m on two wheels.

Some things never change. Pedestrians hate cyclists. Cyclists hate drivers. Drivers hate cyclists. Cyclists hate pedestrians. The chain of life continues, unending as the loop round my deraillieurs.

*The more waggish members of the Readership who might postulate that I’m not talking about my bicycle here are filthy minded reprobates – and that’s probably why you’re here. Fair do’s. Carry on.

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Rob

Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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