First please understand that I am not Jeremy Clarkson and I am not a total killjoy and I am in fact a cyclist myself. ‘Am’ may be a slight inaccuracy given that I had my bike stolen two years ago and have been borrowing my sister’s ever since. But I did used to cycle everywhere back in Old Home Town, and I come from a family of People Who Cycle. My grandfather used to race, I believe. So I’m definitely qualified to have this rant. Obviously.
Anyway, there are a lot of people out there who just shouldn’t be allowed to ride bikes. Ever. At all. Anywhere. At least not without reading this handy little list of Things You Bloomin’ Well Ought To Know first. So – here it is.
- A basic, boring point, that I wish I could say I think all cyclists in Britain already know. You cycle on the left-hand side of the left-hand lane on the road. Not in the middle of the lane, certainly not in the middle of the road, no – you cycle exactly a foot from the kerb if not less. If you don’t have the control over your bike to stick to this, go and practice in your local supermarket car park in the dead of night. Or a school playground. Or your local park. When no-one else is about and assuming that you’re lucky enough to live near a park in which you probably won’t get knifed or mugged whilst trying to do this.
- Stick your left arm out when you want to go left and your right arm out when you want to go right. Technically you should also flap your right arm about when you’re slowing down to a stop but no-one does this so you’ll probably just confuse people. You should also indicate when you’re pulling in and pulling out too, just like you would in a car.
- This one is so insanely obvious that I could cry. Yes, you’re making me cry. You do not have wing-mirrors, OK? So you’re less reliant on visual cues than most other road-users. You’re also bloody vulnerable. So WEARING EARPHONES IS KILL-ME-NOW LEVELS OF STUPID. Okay? Do I need to go into this in more detail?
- On the wing-mirror thing – look over your shoulder. Seriously. Whenever you do anything. As if you were in a car. Remember?
- Technically it’s illegal to ride on the pavement. If you’re a total idiot, though, I think most people are probably happier if you stick to the pavement on big roads at busy times – as long as there are absolutely no pedestrians or plenty of room to ride round them. If there isn’t room to ride round get off the bike. You’re too stupid to deserve to ride it anyway and it’s best for all of us otherwise I might just lose it and beat you to death with my shoe. You’ll have to wait while I take it off though.
- The legal position on lights is that you have them full-on when you’re riding in the dark, and flashing while you’re walking your bike along. You have to have a white front light and a red back light. You should not ride with flashing lights, this is just stupid, people will have no idea that you’re on the road and actually cycling at a decent pace.
- Bags on handlebars really aren’t terribly clever. I have learnt this from personal experience. Handbags over the back or shoulder aren’t great either. Really your options are to get a basket or panniers or leave your possessions behind or wear a rucksack because otherwise the off-balance weight and swinging of the bag will, someday, pull you off your bike, or get caught in the spokes or something. Not ideal.
- If you are sharing space with pedestrians – there are, after all, plenty of shared pedestrian/cyclist paths – get, and use, a bell.
- Please use your brain, idiot. If you have one of those New Cameregg child-trailers that basically turns your bike into a mini-rickshaw (personally I think these are daft, I mean, at what point is it a good idea to put your toddlers a foot above the ground, on the road, with nothing more than a tent and a large flag to warn other people of their presence? You wouldn’t put your kid’s play-tent up in the middle of the road, would you – so how is it suddenly a good idea just because it has wheels?) then please remember it is not a fucking snow plough and don’t use it on narrow pedestrian/cycle routes. The whirring of your wheels really isn’t sufficient warning to me that I’m just about to get swept off my feet and knocked into the brambles and to be honest I don’t really want you to use your bell in order to warn me that this is about to happen so that I can voluntarily hurl myself into the brambles instead. So. Baby-trailers. Not a good plan on the roads for the sake of your children; not a good idea on the pavements for the sake of everyone else in the entire world.
- If, as a cyclist, you’re not sure how to negotiate a big junction or a roundabout or something, get off and walk. Seriously. It might just save my blood pressure if I don’t have to stand on the pavement and watch you improvise your way around the junction, narrowly avoiding death and causing thirty cases of road rage along the way.
I think that’s probably about it. I would like to point out that I have witnessed examples of all the above today (or at the very least, this week) on my walk home from work. I didn’t actually end up in the brambles, if only because Mr New Cameregg Trailer Guy just happened to cycle past me on a bit of the path which was mercifully surrounded by green and verdant lawns. I had to do some fairly nifty diving to avoid him, though. And no, I didn’t get a word of apology. After all, Mr NCTG was being super-environmentally-virtuous and we mere mortals, just walking, which somehow doesn’t have the same environmental caché, these days, does it?
Sorry, chaps. I mean, I’m all in favour of cycling. I think it’s a quick, enjoyable and environmentally sound way to travel whilst getting fit and seeing some nice scenery (if you’re lucky enough to live or work or socialise somewhere pretty) but I do think there are ways of doing it, and ways of doing it seriously wrong. And I know I’m not perfect as a cyclist I’m sure – I can be overconfident, I almost certainly ought to wear a helmet, and I have a terrible habit of ending up trying to cycle in inappropriate shoes or skirts and therefore concentrating more on not flashing approaching drivers than I am concentrating on the serious business of Neither Dying Nor Killing Anyone. But at least I know what I’m doing and now – with my handy guide – so do you.
*Nern is a family in-joke. It seemed appropriate here and is roughly equivalent to total and utter retard, without any of the non-PC connotations of that word, being as how my mother made it up one day under no provocation whatsoever.