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Not My Finest Hour

Of all the burning issues which you might think that I should really care about, it turns out that cycling is the one I’d die in a ditch for. I’m pretty surprised but as the discussion becomes more polarised, I find myself reading all kinds of things and snorting at the ignorance of people who disagree with me. I have become, perhaps annoyingly, evangelical about the joys of cycling; the exercise, the reliability, the handiness. I used to accept people parking in the cycle lanes and on the pavement as a fact of life but, increasingly, I am irritated by behaviour I used to ignore as inevitable. All this is to set the scene for the following little vignette.

One morning the boys and I were cycling to school. From our house to the nearby park, they cycled on the pavement [which is legal for children]. When we got to the short (very quiet) one way street leading to the park, there were vans blocking the pavement on either side of the road and I said to the boys to come off the pavement and cycle on the road but be very careful as it was one way against us. Out they came and a workman came across the road with a long pole which he was loading on to one of the vans and nearly took Daniel’s eye out. He immediately started shouting at me that it was a one-way street, which, of course, it was and he wasn’t checking both ways. We both got a shock although no damage was done. I was annoyed and I said, “We wouldn’t have been on the road if your vans hadn’t blocked both pavements”. We had a vigourous exchange of views for some time. When I caught up with the boys in the park, they were both a bit shocked. “Angry Mama,” said Michael, “why were you so mean to that man who was only trying to do his job?” I was a bit mortified. “How do you think I should have handled it?” I asked him. “I don’t know, I’m only 11” he said.

I spent all day thinking about it and what I should have done differently. If he had apologised, I would have immediately apologised myself but it was the fact that he was so aggressive and so self-righteous really got to me. I brought it up again at dinner. The boys had tired of the subject. “I’m reflecting on how I could have handled that better,” I said. “You’ve reflected already, now you’re dwelling,” said Dan.

I’m still dwelling. What should I have done?



6 Responses to “Not My Finest Hour”

  1. Viviane Says:

    I think you have both (the man and you) been very frightened and the fear turned into anger. But I also think that the fear had to come out some way, and now you should just be glad this is over and no one was harmed.

  2. Christina Says:

    I am not surprised you are still dwelling/reflecting. As a fellow cycle commuter, I really understand your outburst, you son was very nearly injured in an avoidable accident. You took a fright, and I guess so did the workman and fear does not always bring out the best in us. A little bit of guilt maybe also entered the equation, for both you (cycling up a one way road) and the workman (parked on the pavement). In hindsight we often would do things differently. With your experience thus expanded, maybe next time you will react differently and the workman will go that extra 50 metres and park legally. Most important thing to remember, your son is ok.
    On my way to work I am constantly cross with one driver or the other for cutting off my right of way, for opening the car door without checking behind, for stopping in the bike box in front of traffic lights or for passing too closely to me. It has been getting better here in Glasgow but by no means good.

  3. Charles Lock Says:

    I am afraid all police effort in large towns and cities in England has been taken over by anti terrorism work. Speeding is controlled by camera but dangerous driving, mundane breaking of the law such as parking on pavements, burglary etc are ignored. You see the police at large events, like the marathon, but apart from that it is distant figures in cars.

    As a result a great deal of rude and illegal behaviour proliferates, added to which you have people immigrating from different cultures with no one to explain the way we should behave. Hence you have confrontations, society is weakened , life becomes unpleasant and no one wins. Politicians do not see this because their space is protected by the police, who know a good thing when they see it. If you look at the recent attack on parliament, it was stopped because the police were there, for the general public that is a very rare event.

    So you lost your temper and the workman did as well. Speaking as an ex engineer and current cyclist, when some one does something stupid the crucial thing is not to take a shortcut to get round it because that is when something goes wrong. If you are going the wrong way up a one way street then get off the bikes walk round the obstruction and then either complain or write a polite note. Always keep an old lipstick so that the note can be written politely on th e windscreen.

  4. heather Says:

    I pretty much agree with all of the above –

  5. disgruntled Says:

    yes, your commenters are a wise bunch.

  6. belgianwaffle Says:

    Thank you all; I definitely have the best commenters.


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