cycling: the healthy mode of transport

Revenge is a dish best served cold.*

Yeah, right. So last night, coming home from teaching a really good workshop on rhyme, I was walking along the road by Seven Sisters station when a guy came up behind me at speed on his bike and knocked me down. YES. I even have a bruise on the back of my leg where he rammed into me, the arsehole. Riding on the pavement. I was sent flying – I’ve bashed up my left knee for the third time in under a year, and today I ache all over from where I tensed up every muscle in my body to brace for the fall. DAMN it.

I mean really. The poet is not immune to indignities upon his physical being. No. As one has found. In good news though there were several people on hand, including a girl who had seen him coming and jumped aside, otherwise he’d have hit her. I didn’t see him because I was walking away from the bus stop and he rammed into me from behind. Not a reflective yellow cyclist type, who I do also dislike intensely for their prissy, self-important, bell-ringing ways – just one of those guys in Nike jackets or whatever who always ride on the pavement. It took two very kind guys to pull me up, I wasn’t sure I could even stand – one by each arm – but I did, and got home with a slight hobble.

The other good news is that when I put on my tights they had a hole in the heel – I thought, hm, shall I put on a better pair and sew this hole up, or shall I just wear them? Being frugal, you see. Not working. But I thought the hole would last, and it wouldn’t show under my boots, so I didn’t change the tights. Hurrah! Imagine how much MORE pissed off I’d have been if I’d put on a brand-new pair of £6 tights to go out in and then had them raked full of holes by an arsehole on a bike.

I’m not mincing my words because that’s what he IS. He stopped; looked a bit perplexed; mumbled sorry or something while I hurled invective at him; and rode off before I was even upright. I’d be saying bloody Hackney if it hadn’t happened in Haringey. It’s just LIKE Hackney though.

Anyway, to say today has been a slow day would be more than accurate; I find that being pushed to the ground by something at speed is a rather different matter from, say, the episode of the cheap slippy grey plastic pound-shop welcome mat on the pavement outside the bakery door, where one  at least fell with only one’s own velocity. Even when I broke my foot running for the 277 all those years ago it was only my own weight.

Almost everyone I know hates cyclists with a passion. There are good reasons for that. Even the ones with fancy clothes and helmets, who ride in the road, run red lights while you’re crossing the street, swear at you while they sail by, histrionically swerving as if you make you personally responsible for their death if they smash into the side of a lorry while they’re looking at you. I used to walk home along the canal, years ago, and they’d come up from behind with their PRING! PRING! PRING! racing past, all LOOK HOW HEALTHY AND SUPERIOR WE ARE, forcing everyone else off the path… I used to jump a mile every time. And you’d be forced up onto the muddy bank orwhatever, and I used to think, it is only a matter of time before I see them knock someone into the canal.

And yet we are all supposed to LOVE them.

Why? WHY??

Oh and then someone inevitably says, “You know what you need? You should be a BIKE,” as if hoiking a ton of metal up and down three flights of stairs twice a day,  and having it in your bedroom doorway the whole time, is really going to improve your life. You’ll have one set of clothes for work, you’ll ge tin, you’ll be all hot and sweaty and need a shower, then if you want to go out after work what do you do? Show up in your torn tights, or try to get away with lycra, nylon and jeggings? Can you imagine. Renée Zellwegger isn’t in it. And THEN you have the ordeal of the stairways. I think there’s a reason the pernicious things appeal to young, testosterone-fuelled blokes, and it’s why they ride them like no one else exists. I bet their girlfriends wash the lycra, too.

Anyway it’s a good thing I didn’t get a good look at that guy’s face, because I really feel like hitting him.

* This is apparently in Edmonton. Why oh why couldn’t it have been in Seven Sisters?


Filed under Life, London

10 responses to “cycling: the healthy mode of transport

  1. I’m a middle-aged old fart whose testosterone levels have always been modest, I never jump red lights or ride on pedestrian-only paths, and I make regular use of a ping-bell that a charming young man on the Regent’s Canal remarked the other week has a “lovely gentle sound”. I also wash my own lycra.

    I reckon cycling (and running) has saved my life. No longer am I a constantly sick, borderline obese, drink-sodden, grumpy old hack. Today I am just a grumpy old hack. A definite improvement.

  2. Tacitus

    Some catchy cyclist bait you got there, mam.

  3. “the pernicious things appeal to young, testosterone-fuelled blokes”

    Have you heard that cycling’s supposed to be bad for a chap’s, well, health in certain respects?

    (Hello Baroqney, btw, long time no speak but I have a new blogging id – my real life one … Glad ur still going strong

  4. Simon R. Gladdish

    Dear Katy

    I’m sending you some more healing energy. I’m going to have to start charging you for it! I think you’ve already had your revenge on London cyclists. Aren’t they widely known as organ donors? No wonder they ride on the pavement.

    Best wishes from Simon

  5. I sympathise with your predicament. However, cyclists are individuals, as are drivers and walkers. I happen to be all three and it’s ironic how each of this categories informs the others. When I’m parking, I’m always careful to look behind before opening the car door. Ditto when I cycle. I always the cycling lanes. Saying that, though, London is not a very cycle-friendly city. Routes are not constant and they tend to disappear suddenly in a void probably created by the local council.

    Still, I do wish you better. And fab post, notwithstanding the understandable anger.

    Greetings from (somewhere in) London.

  6. As a sometime cyclist often targeted, advertently or in-, by fat, inattentive, testosterone-fueled, telephone-chatting, sexting, iPod-listening, snack-munching, child-admonishing, nail-buffing, or hair-teasing motorists, I am particularly sorry you were savaged by a rogue velocipedist, and I wish you a speedy recovery; but my class of attacker outnumbers yours by hundreds to one.


  7. Francis, yes I know! I am in some awe of your achievement. But you – and Richard – are very different kinds of cyclists to the one I am talking about. He was an altogether more casual kind, very common in East London, the kind who are only a “cyclist” insofar as they are “riding a bike,” and they do it on the pavement because they frankly can’t be bothered to try to navigate the traffic.

    My kid, I should say, rides on the pavement. I don’t like it. And in keeping with what the Cuban in London says – and Simon – I wouldn’t be too happy with him riding in the road, either. It’s dangerous. One friend came off over his handlebars, a friend of my bf was hit by a car and is in court this week, and another friend’s daughter’s boyfriend was killed last year and has one of those white bikes up in his memory. London is NOT bike-friendly. And Richard, most people DO drive execrably. It’s very dangerous for pedestrians, too.

    But being some 30-something dressed in dark rudeboy clothes and a hood, with no lights, barreling along the pavement on a main road at 10pm, is just being an arsehole. He had nearly ridden into another girl at the bus stop, but she saw him and jumped free. He rammed into me from the back as I was walking along, and drove off before seeing that I got up safely. People who saw him said he was going very fast.

  8. Oh and hi James!! Very nice to see you. :)

  9. I fear I’m going to have put up a brief defence, similar to A Cuban in London. For a while, as a cyclist, I got incredibly annoyed at all the cyclists jumping red lights, cycling on the pavements (especially that, and they always, like your fellow, seemed so strapping and capable), and who in general seem to think that stopping, or even slowing, is some sort of personal infringement.

    I felt generally that there were proportionally more bad cyclists than there were bad drivers.

    Then, cycling along one day, I realised that I felt uncommon safe, cars were giving me space, being considerate. What, I wondered, could be going on? Some mass conversion to an understanding of the systematic contract of shared space? A sudden

    Uh-uh. A police car was going past. People were taking care around me for fear (a completely erroneous one) that they would be marked for bad driving should they run me too close. It was not ignorance but aggression that resulted in, not the close shaves as such (you always get some who want to run you off the road), but the general swish and push. Basically, if you’re in the way, and a car needs to be somewhere

    All this, you might say, is irrelevant – and I would agree, pedestrians get a bye, on the whole – the great thing about walking is that you shouldn’t have to engage, more than is commensurate with basic locomotion, with the outside world. Head in the clouds, examining the world around, w’out a care in the world. That’s how I like to walk anyway.

    Nevertheless this moment was revelatory. It made me realise that it was not cyclists who the most to blame, nor indeed was it drivers – it was SELFISH LITEL ARSEHOLES. Yes, selfish people were to blame.

    Humankind has developed partly by devising systems in which we are able to coexist constructively. (After all, imagine the hell if all cyclists suddenly started to drive). It is a moronic disregard for what we have in common (trying to get around London in this case) that results in the accidents and belligerence, not the fact someone is on a cycle.

    And after all – Larkin? Betjeman? Eliot, W Lewis and Joyce’s bicycle trip in France? (Lewis going for an undignified burton). MR James’ long excursions on the tricycle and newly invented safety bicycle? (Once he graduated from three wheels) wherein he catalogued his churches and discovered his ghosts.

    I sympathise, believe me, but I fear the cycling diatribe as grist to the mill for those who hate the cyclist, rather than those who hate the selfish person. Which is why I felt the need to respond at such tedious length. Apologies, and best wishes.

    Stick an umbrella through the spokes next time.

    Umbrellas tho… now THERE’S a selfish pedestrian.

  10. Pingback: bad biker « Frank Spike

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