Visit Today!!!

Ignorance... continued

to stay in that most exclusive of clubs, boasting lifetime solo-membership to the “Club of Me”? Would they rather be another anonymous commuter, albeit one on a bike, instead of actually being perceived as a pesky ‘”cyclist”? Do they feel embarrassed getting caught on such cheap, simple, economic and efficient transportation? If that’s the case then I pity the poor, ignorant fools. Short of strapping on a pair of wings surely the humble bicycle is the most glorious, beautiful and liberating tool of conveyance ever born of man’s ingenuity. In fact the bicycle might just as well be a pair of wings with a wheel at each end. Have I said too much, gone a little too far? No I don’t think so. In fact I haven’t the words to go nearly far enough in praise of my all-time favourite vehicle of choice.

Is every metropolis the same I wonder? Don’t speak till you’re spoken to and only if you really, really have to. Never initiate conversations with strangers, don’t say “hello” or make eye contact – if I can’t see them then they can’t see me - just look at the floor and never mind the weirdo. That may be the ticket on London pavements, trains, buses and underground trains but I’d imagined city bike etiquette to be more polite, even welcoming. There was a faint possibility my route took me through the capital’s most miserable streets. I should’ve dug out my old London Cycle Guides and checked the key for a clue – “Grey: streets recommended for miserable git cyclists and ignoramus wheelers.”

Eventually I became tired of contemplating the mystery and the mantra withered on my lips. I no longer bid each passing rider “Hello” or even ring my bell anymore. In the end those habitual and apparently disagreeable signs of civility were beaten out of me. You can only be ignored or looked at like some kind of pervert simply for attempting to exchange one-word pleasantries so many times. I’m sure they all had their reasons and who knows some might’ve even been valid but for the most part I doubt it. Whatever, it’s not nice to be blatantly and regularly disregarded so on the whole I just stopped trying. Mutual respect isn’t a one-way street.

In spite of experience and better judgement I still estimate a rider’s potential responsiveness on occasion. I can’t honestly say there’s any criteria, more of a feeling really. If it feels positive then I might venture a risky “Hello?” otherwise a more cautious and barely perceptible wave of the hand. Likewise pulling up at the lights, if there’s already a rider there or I’m there and they pull up, should we happen to accidentally make eye contact I’ll offer a nod, maybe even hazard a verbal exchange. Whether the greeted hear it, see it or actively choose not to register it, that’s their choice, I’m not too bothered anymore, the ball’s in their court, they can hit a return or let my throwaway greeting drop to the gutter.
Social interaction may appear irksome for some and I’ll admit my social skills could probably use a little fine-tuning but I listened when my Mother told me, “Manners cost nothing.”

However, it isn’t all dumb, blank faces staring back at me, to every Ying there is a Yang and there are plenty of riders happy to chew the fat (even with me). Yes there are many bright souls among us and many of them even ride bikes, amongst other things. I count myself lucky to have met a few. Then there’s the ever expanding web and forum communities happy to offer advice, encouragement and empathy, with the odd side-salad of contradiction and vitriol too but all in some way setting the world to rights whilst striving for a more bike-friendly planet. There I go again overstating the case for the defence but I happen to believe that scores of those same e-cyclists, in the real world, would spare a fellow rider the time of day. I’m glad to report there are a few regulars on my roads that brave the prospect of contact. When I see them it’s a welcome diversion and though we may slow down for a chat they always speed my journey. Even more prized is the nod, smile or hearty “Hello!” offered by the complete stranger. Like warm sun on my face those moments are a bona fide highlight of my weekday travels. Yes it feels pretty damn good to behold another “weirdo,” another keeper of the faith pedalling into distant territory.

So, it’s not just me then?