Wednesday, 10 December 2008

As-Salamu Alaykum...

... and let me be upon Peace! What am I on about? I have a new bike, check out its name:

It's beautiful and was a real bargain. It's very fun to commute on and has got even better with the addition of slightly longer forks and brilliant Shimano hydraulic discs. We had a little accident on the way to work yesterday when the ice got us, but we only received minor injuries: mine will heal (though my hips are currently different shapes!) and the bike's were superficial.

I love my new Peace! Now it just needs a name...

Here's where I work!
My cosy and almost tidy workbench. Hey, I know where everything is!

Happy birthyday Dad!

Shalom aleichem!

Getting Even!

(This article was originally published on Saturday, 1 November 2008 but later removed for editing. It is republished here.)

As you may have seen in previous posts in this blog I consider cars (including vans, stupid 4x4s, trucks, etc.) to be a bit of a problem on our roads. They're big and dangerous and, most worryingly, encourage endangering behaviour. Every time I go out on my bike I am endangered at least once (and I do mean at the very least). What really gets to me is that I am a human being and the person in the car is a human being. We have the same rights to the road and to safety but because they have protection and power and because it's not illegal to poo all over cyclists, they can behave exactly as they like and can do so with complete impunity.

But what if they couldn't?

What if they couldn't just do whatever the heck they wanted?

What if there were consequences to dangerously bad driving?

What if when they, for example, drove aggressively and needlessly close past a cyclist they were punched in the guts or kicked in the nuts?

I've thought about this a lot and I can't think of any other solution to the problem. People are so wrapped up in their little world where it's essential to drive a car and driving is cool and a sign of success and cars are the only road users with any rights and cyclists should definitely not be in their fat and lazy way that there will never be a change. The way the road system works discriminates against cyclists due to the prevalent polarized viewpoint: foot ways are for pedestrians and carriageways are for cars. Since cycling on foot ways is illegal (and dangerous and very slow) bikes have to use the carriageways. BUT, are the twerps in their cars willing to share the carriageway??!???!??

Well, most of the time, yes they are and hoorah for most people. BUT, like a lot of things, the minority spoil it for everyone else. This minority lack two very basic functions, the first of which is patience. How the heck can anyone drive in London (or urban area of your choice) and not have massive patience? There's shedloads of traffic lights, rubbishly designed junctions, random roadworks, crateresque potholes, infinite tailbacks and so much, just sooooooooooooo-bleedin'-much bad and illegal parking (though that's a very big subject for another time perhaps). If you haven't got patience then you're boned, you'd think.

So why the heck am I so often the victim of impatient people? Why do people regularly seek to overtake me dangerously and aggressively? If they waited for a few flipping seconds they could overtake safely. But no. No, that would mean a delay. Like it would be the only delay they suffered on that journey. Yeah, here's me on my bike delaying you, there's you driving like a idiot past me and here's me laughing as you, less than a hundred metres later, have to stop at the tail end of a traffic jam. Well done. Sure I like a laugh at a fat moron in a SUV as much as the next guy, but I'd rather the idiot hadn't just endangered my ass.

It's like people have to overtake cyclists as soon as physically possible: that someone on a bike isn't a fellow road user, just an inconvenience that has to be gotten past sharpish. No matter that that someone on a bike is a fellow human being and worthy of the same patience a driver would have to express if, say, a car driver in front of them slowed down. No, because that someone on a bike is easy to overtake dangerously and has no comeback whatsoever no matter how rubbish your driving, "Why not? Let's speed past their slow ass at several times their speed and scare the willies out of them. Yeah! I'm such a big man sat here in my air-conditioned mid-life-crisis-mobile! Woo!"

Oh yeah, right, the second lacking basic function: knowing when not to show off. It's quite simple.
When to show off: when you can do something cool that others perhaps can't do so well and would like to aspire to doing as well as you.
When not to show off: accelerating your car dangerously past a cyclist.
Let me make this really, really simple: any silly fool can press the pedal on the right and make their car rev loudly and go a bit faster and then immediately have to brake for the traffic jam you could see was up ahead. You're not special. No one wants to be you. You're a loser who, when out of their magic box of infernally combusting tricks, has no power what so ever.

Unfortunately for me on my bike, they do have, when in their cars, the power to endanger me and get away with it. This is the injustice I am seeking to redress. Sure I can shout and swear and ring my little fricking bell, but that solves nothing. The show-off plonker just keeps on going, no lesson learnt.

Well turnips to 'em, I want some retribution. I don't think people who behave like that (and I hesitate to call them people) should continue to live in impunity. Hence the gut-punching and nut-kicking.

Yeah, I guess it's quite gruesome and do these people really deserve to be injured and all that, but how else are cyclists to get retribution?

Right, time for a conclusion, that'll certainly contain ideas not presented in the main body of the article. Pro. Anyway:

I am sick of being treated as less than human on the roads simply because I drive a bicycle rather than a car. There is no way of redressing this balance as driver training and the law will not change. Why not? Because not enough people die as a result of it. These drivers who drive in this way will forever continue their impatient aggression and we cyclists will forever have to suffer in the rubbish hand they see fit to deal us. If these car drivers continue to act as if they believe cyclists should not be on the road, I will continue to pray for a trigger at my finger, or else some way of making them realise what they're doing.
Have a nice day, y'all!

Update: Why do drivers drive with impunity? Well, that's actually fairly obvious. Despite the thousands of people who are killed in collisions every year, many, many more vehicle occupants are saved by the devices put in place to protect their pansy bodies: air bags, side impact bars, crumple zones, seat belts and of course, the bloody great metal cage they hurtle along in. They don't have to drive carefully as they're immune and unconnected from the outside world.
As a cyclist I have no choice other than to drive safely: any collision be it my fault or someone else's is going to result in me coming off worse. What if drivers had to go around with as much care as a cyclist?

I reckon for drivers to drive with the neccessary care they need to have LESS protection. For a start let's make all cars roofless and windowless so the driver can't hide behind their stupid tinted glass after committing an act of inconsiderate driving. Then let's get rid of the driver's seat belt and airbag. In fact, let's make it so if a car is involved in a collision the driver gets slapped across the face with a comedy robotic gloved hand.

You might think this is a bit harsh as some 'accidents' are not that drivers fault, but it all comes down to requiring EVERYONE to drive more slowly, safely and attentively. Drivers are all too often filled with a sense of invincibility and that's when they drive like morons. If there were actually consequences to driving like a twat they'd act more like humans towards other humans, cos, basically, that's what we all are and should treat each other as such.

Ahhh, the calm conclusion that returns me to my state of 'zen' after an uncharacteristic expression of violent feelings. Serenity and peace.