When I am in the car I always smile at cyclists if I catch their eye. Firstly, I’m mostly a cyclist myself and I always like to be reassured that drivers have seen me and, you know, all the better if they are cheerful about it. Secondly, I am in my car causing traffic and polluting the air and they are not.
However, I am aware that not everyone feels quite as warmly towards cyclists as I do. I hit a new low the other day. It was lunch time. I was wearing work clothes and I was pushing my bike on the pavement. The pavement was wide. The road was one way against me. Cars were parked right up to the kerb so there was no way that I could push it on the road and walk along side it.
A respectably dressed older gentleman, maybe in his late 60s, came up behind me and deliberately pushed against me and hissed, “Get off the pavement.” I have to say, I was a bit shook. He was quite angry. I mean, I feel I could have taken him, if it had come to a fight but it was so gratuitously unpleasant. I thought that he must really hate cyclists or, maybe more charitably, he was in the early stages of dementia. Although, as Mr. Waffle pointed out, if I had been a young man, he probably wouldn’t have behaved in that way.
Conor Galvin says
People can be exceedingly strange sometimes. You should have hit him with your pump. Then he would have something to crib about!
That’s just awful, Anne. What a miserable man, probably taking his own frustrations out on complete strangers.
Well, maybe, Conor, but I thought I could take him on but not entirely sure I wanted to put it to the test…
Thank you Christina, I suppose, he was miserable so the charitable thing is to ignore it and offer it up.
I walk everywhere in Brussels and my honest impression is your considered, considerate kind of cycling is not the norm here. So often I feel, in people’s minds, the driver is at the top of the hierarchy, the cyclist in the middle and the pedestrian at the bottom. It’s clearly often unsafe for cyclists on the roads, so I don’t mind them riding on pavements, but not in a way that says, “I’m faster and bigger and higher up than you, Pedestrian, so get out of the way.” Pedestrian crossings are called such for a reason – is it really so painful for these cyclists to brake or even put their foot down and stop, rather than just ringing their bell? And at traffic lights, do they really think neither of the red ones (round or human-shaped) applies to them?
I don’t the envy cyclists in Brussels, in particular the lack of infrastructure for them (isn’t it shocking, when you think about it, just how much space in cities is taken up for the exclusive or privileged use of cars?) They’re experimenting with ‘shared mobility’ spaces in Brussels a lot now – and no-one seems to know what to do in those, I know I don’t!
I have to say, I think you are probably right about the assumed hierarchy. That said, pedestrians in Dublin are far more robust than their Belgian counterparts. The Dublin pedestrian believes it is his right to wander across the road checking his phone and woe betide the driver who isn’t on high alert. When I came back from Brussels first, I nearly ran someone over due to a lack of understanding that anyone may step out on the road at any moment. On balance, I’m in favour. My sister says that urban myth has it that Dublin pedestrians know which cars have the automatic brake fixed (apparently a feature of the next generation of cars) and take particular pleasure in stepping out in front of them.
I seem always to be going to conferences about automated cars – it is one of the hot topics in the Eurosphere – but it had never occurred to me they could be a way for pedestrians (and cyclists) to ‘claim back the streets’ (using the language of one of our ex-colleagues – I’m sure you know who) – we could just put ourselves in the way and let the automatic brakes do the rest. Confession now: I never learned to ride a bike. Perhaps that explains my bitterness. Another hot Euro topic is cycling cities – so I’m constantly having presented to me this utopia I can never be part of.
I know who. I also remember your stories about your brother teaching you to cycle. I think you just needed a more sympathetic teacher.