Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Altercation with a van - driver suddenly goes mute

I had a bit of a tricky situation on my way home yesterday. There's a bit of road - for those of you who may know London a bit - which comes down past the Brunswick Centre in Russell Square - it's called Bernard Street. To get into Grenville Street at the bottom, you have to go right, which is normally fine. But another road filters into Grenville Street too from the opposite direction. Now in theory this is fine too because the traffic coming the other way has a give-way dotted line - so you have the priority from Bernard Street.

Van rude

Anyway, I was doing my stuff, when I saw a green van taking the other road. Somehow I could sense that the driver was not paying any attention to traffic coming from the other direction and I immediately suspected he would not give way. Sure enough, totally ignoring the give way markings and not even noticing that there was a cyclist coming into the same road with the right of way, he ploughed on.

Right to silence?

Luckily I'd slowed down enough to avoid a collision. I fear that a less savvy cyclist might have been hit. Anyway, he had his window open, so I asked him if he'd seen the give way markings. Silence, staring straight ahead. I asked again. Silence. It was almost comical, but infuriating. I suppose he was so used to "bloody cyclists" berating him or "getting in the way" that he simply didn't care. Another more sinister explanation, which I only thought of later, was that he was completely stoned and didn't really know what he was doing. He looked the type.

Anyway, I had to cycle off, muttering about how dangerous he was.

Vicious circle

Just another motorist/cyclist contretemps in London - there are probably hundreds every day. Maybe he's learnt something. Maybe not. I have. Look upon cars or vans with the utmost suspicion - it's highly likely they won't do what they're meant to do.  Sadly, as my wife pointed out last night, the same could be said of a large number of cyclists, so this vicious circle is likely to continue. What do we need everyone? Karma, that's right!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Would you stop to help someone whose bike has a puncture? A London bicycling insight ...

I'm back. Forgive the blog silence but I've spent the last few weeks looking after my lovely kids rather than scything my way through London's mean streets. And for the record, it was a superb time though I am now far more tired than I've been in years and I've got a terrible cold I can't shake off. I never normally get them. Is there a connection between cycling inactivity and sickness? Yes.

Blob of jelly

Anyway, I was determined to get back on the LCM (London Commuting Machine for those new to the blog) this morning. The three weeks of inactivity certainly took their toll. I was like a blob of jelly on a bike and found it quite difficult to steer properly. I was (yet again) wearing too many clothes and started boiling pretty quickly. I found myself not really being bothered about overtaking anyone (normally I'm tediously but secretly competitive), and this pretty much applied to pedestrians.

The puncture moment

To add to the general indignity, after only 5 minutes or so along the canal, I felt the familiar sensation of the front wheel becoming unresponsive when steering and a quick look down revealed just what I suspected - the tyre was flat.

Always carry one of these!
I parked up on the grass beside the canal and started fixing it, pleased that at least I'd got the right tools. As I worked, I realised that I was feeling pretty relaxed, not caring much about how quickly I did it. And I started wondering, casually, if any other cyclists would stop to ask if I was OK or if I needed a hand.

The kind Brompton man

I would add that I probably looked at least half confident in what I was doing, so there was probably no need. But towards the end, a lovely guy on a Brompton slowed down and asked very nicely if I had everything - I told him I was fine, but thanks - and he cycled off. It made me feel great and brought a smile to my face. Then I realised I was being eaten alive by some really horrid bugs - possibly mosquitoes - and rushed to get through the job and the hell out of there. Guess that slow moving canal water, grassy verges and a sweating cyclist mean paradise for blood-sucking creatures.

Anyway - thought du jour, as they say - is this: even if someone looks like they know what they're doing, it can make all the difference to stop and ask if someone's OK if they're by the road or river with the old bike upside down. Spread that karma now, you know it makes sense.