In my previous blog, I considered the current seeming obsession with ‘rights’ – the right to free speech, and so on. Well here’s another: right of way. To clarify, the ever-contentious debate over vehicle / cyclist / pedestrian rights of way.
I should perhaps point out two things before I continue: first, I’m all too aware that everyone seems to believe that they have right of way wherever they may be on the highways and byways, and while I’m no fan of motorists (to put it mildly), but get rather annoyed when cyclists claim that they are legally entitled to go wherever they so wish, and equally by pedestrians who insist that the right of way is theirs, and that if they choose to walk down the middle of the road, then they should expect all traffic to stop. Second, I’m not in the habit of blogging anecdotes-cum-rants, or rantecdotes, and generally find other people’s tales of what annoyed them today quite tedious. However, this one I just couldn’t leave.
Ok, so I’m rarely in the best of humour on my way to work in the morning. Juggling multiple jobs in addition to my writing, I’m usually short on sleep, and so rather crotchety. However, I’m also fairly awake and cogent: I’m something of a morning person. I just happen to hate my job, and also get annoyed by groups of schoolchildren walking five abreast at a quarter of a mile an hour.
Cyclists, pedestrians, motorists… it makes no difference to me. Returning to the point I made in my previous blog, it’s not about ‘rights’ or even ‘responsibilities.’ My rule for living: ‘don’t be a twat.’ So when people are walking three or four abreast and I’m on my own, it’s difficult for me to reduce the space I occupy in order to make way for them. I have permanent bruises on my shoulders from almost daily pedestrian collisions, but what can I do? I can’t go less than single file.
So yesterday I was walking toward town with my wife. Our journey takes us through an underpass beneath a railway line, and the route is shared by both pedestrians and cyclists, with no marked divisions for either. Seeing an oncoming cyclist, my wife went ahead of me and we proceeded in single file and pulled in to the right. A third pedestrian remained to the right, but there was still what looked like a navigable gap in the middle.
The cyclist – a middle-aged woman – clearly thought otherwise, and without really slowing down, veered straight toward me as Mrs Nosnibor, ahead of me, rounded the corner out of the underpass. I maintained my trajectory: I didn’t really have anywhere else to go, and besides, I figured she would surely apply the breaks before she landed her front wheel between my knees. Inches away from me, I pulled away a little, but with a wall inches to my right, didn’t have much scope for evasive action. She, meanwhile, weaved to her right by a few inches and ploughed straight into my left arm. It hurt.
‘This is a cycle path, you know!’ she shouted irately.
‘It’s also a pavement!’ I retorted, similarly irate and not just a little bit shocked. Yes, I had meant footpath, but my full vocabulary often escapes me at 7.45am when I’ve just been hit by a lump of pedal-powered metal.
‘I know!’ the idiot shouted over her shoulder as she regained momentum, leaving me no opportunity for a further response. Not that I’m sure how I would have made a comeback to such an evidently nonsensical rejoinder.
Rubbing my bruised arm, jarred to the shoulder, shocked, and above all enraged, I continued on my way, ranting inchoately about the fucking bag who clearly thought she had the divine right to mow through pedestrians just because. The question is, would she have continued her collision course and berated me for failing to evaporate into the air in order to make way for her if I had been a small child or an elderly person? Of course, I don’t know, but I’d be curious to see the scenario play out again in different circumstances. One has to question the logic and mental capacity of someone who goes straight toward the largest target – the two pedestrians close together instead of the one walking alone – or, better still, the space between the two objects. Was she trying to make a point, or just a complete fuckwit? Again, I don’t know.
Believe it or not, I’m actually all in favour of cycling. It’s an economical and environmentally way of getting about, not to mention a good way of incorporating some light exercise into a person’s daily routine. So yes, I’m very much in favour of cycling. Responsible cycling that it. Wearing a helmet, high visibility clothing, lights when appropriate, riding on the road or in the cycle lane or on cycle paths rather than the pavement, and following the flow of traffic (the number of cyclists I see riding the wrong way up one way streets is just insane)… that’s responsible cycling. Oh, and not being a twat. Is that really so much to ask?
And if you’re loving my work, there’s more of the same (only different) at Christophernosnibor.co.uk