Wednesday, 13 May 2009

republic of bikeland

The City of Bristol woke up one morning a while back to find that it had become a Cycling City. The sun shone brightly and on College Green the happy citizenry came together for "bike related fun", involving, as it does, face painting and lashings of Vimto, crisps and those funny little sausages on sticks. We all then linked arms and joined the Mayor, resplendent in his (or her) chains of office, in a lively bout of Community Singing to herald in the new Golden Age and....


So anyway I was cycling down Whiteladies Road yesterday and, as is so often the case, the cars elbowed their way past me only to slow immediately into the semi-gridlock that you always get around the Clifton Down area.

I moved out to occupy a safe zone and, as the cars ahead slowed further, I swung out to the right and overtook them.

I was passing a well-dressed young woman in a little car and was a little put out to hear her shriek "Fucking bike!" (her window was open, and she was a bit loud you know). I wasn't sure if she was talking on her mobile or just raging to herself, but the former seemed likelier.

Not a nice thing to say about my lovely bicycle, I thought. Unless what she said was actually "Fucking dyke!" which case, well....

So I gave her the finger and a big smile, and swung off up Cotham Hill, where I had business at the Post Office. After signalling, of course. Toujours la politesse.

There do seem to be some unhappy motorists around. Over at Bristol Traffic, another cyclist describes a bit of a barney with a White Van Man who seemed to think that driving something potentially lethal gives you right of way. Not that he'd be the first motorist to think that...

Here's a funny story from the archives: August 2006, in fact

I'm cycling up the Cheltenham Road. There's a lorry parked on the cycle lane. A bus passes me and stops level with the lorry, impeding my progress. There are road works ahead.The lights are on red.

I wait. A shower of white gravel falls on and round me.

I look round. There are four chavs in the car behind me.

I look away. The same thing happens again.

This happens a few times. Finally I see the bloke in the back behind the driver doing the throwing.

The lights change, and we move off. I swing out wide to stop them trying to get past until we're past the narrow bit of the roadworks. I then move closer to the pavement, and allow them to pass.

As they draw level, I brake hard in anticipation of something happening. The spit that they gob at me passes ahead of me. They drive on, laughing.

Further along, they've stopped at another set of lights. The one who'd done the throwing has his head leaning out of the window. He's looking ahead. Obviously he thinks I'm history.

I swing into the middle of the road and speed up. As the lights change I reach him. I smack him round the back of the head, hard.

He squeals like a piglet.

I dive through the oncoming traffic, as the shouts of abuse come at me, and disappear down a side road. They're stuck in the forward-moving traffic, and can't pursue even if they wanted to.

Five minutes later, I'm shaking.

O well, maybe they've learned not to mess with stroppy bluestockings on bicycles.


  1. This is where I came in and I still admire your courage. We have a 'journée sans voitures'in September, but unfortunately bikers skate boarders etc. seem to take to the pavements too

    BTW, I have my first spotted (ahem) case of Chicken pox. Unfortunately I dont see how it will fit into the Bristol, Dublin, somewhere-in-the-south-of-England triangle. An Indian student in La Rochelle, I observed him for two hours, he's past the itchy stage

  2. O lor', I forgot that I'd already posted that story a year ago. Must be losing my mind. I'm pretty sure that Richard hasen't been infecting La Rochelle, though. Which reminds me, I was going to ask if you'd read his short story "How To Stop Your Mothe In Law From Drowning", which appeared in Granta and is set in your part of France I think

  3. Yes it was, in fact I was talking to someone from the village he mentioned this morning. Strangely enough her daughter was killed by a lorry about twenty years ago this week...