Breaking the rules

It comes as something of a disappointment that in a blog which is ultimately about finding one’s freedom I’m having to talk about rules.  As I alluded to in a previous post, this year’s Tour de france sparked a debate about the unwritten rules of cycling, nicely encapsulated by this Australian blog.  Some people believe rules are there to be broken.  Sadly I can’t agree in the case I’m about to recount. And it is the written rules which have been broken and yesterday it was with almost catastrophic consequences.

On my return leg from work Tuesday I was almost taken out by a multi-person vehicle (MPV).  It was driven by someone who I can only imagine was a parent given that the back seat had 2 children’s booster seats in it.  As I cycled down hill along a wide road I approached a double junction which sits on a bit of a blind bend.  On the clear side of the road I could see the MPV approach the give way junction to my right.  As I got nearer I realised that the driver had merely slowed and was then proceeding to cross the carriageway on which I was and where I had right of way. She didn’t stop. She carried on, by which point I was on the junction. The next moments are a bit of a blur as the car and I were on collision course and I don’t know how I am here to tell the tale.

Needless to say I was not happy. Livid is perhaps a good description.  What I did next is part comic and part regrettable.  I ran across to the MPV in my cycling shoes – anybody who wears cleats will know what a challenge this is and how comic it can look – shouting at the driver.  I regret now that my language was choice and slightly rare.  The driver however told me there was no need to swear to which I replied, something along the lines of, “but why? you put my dear life in danger”. Or words to that effect. I apologise but I was in shock.

I think we both had a shock from incident.  She was apologetic, I was angry but happy to be alive.  What is highlighted was the problem of the rush that everyone seems to be in these days.  I’ve mentioned this in the blog already yet this is one of those times when the consequences of rush could literally have been fatal.  All it would have taken was for the driver to stop and give way, look carefully and check that nobody – car, cyclist or otherwise – was in danger of being hit.

Now I realise that Tuesday was a pure accident, the process of the rushes of modern life. But the reason I say the driver was obviously a parent relates back to a story earlier this month about a couple who were berated for letting their children cycle to school alone, prompting a great cartoon in the Telegraph. People seem all too ready to keep their kids safe from the actions of others, and they drive kids around because the roads are too dangerous. Yet they miss the paradox of that equation: by doing so, they create more risk and feel rushed into fitting more into an already packed day.

I’m still a bit shaken by it all. I’m not going to commute next week by bike. I’l get the miles in somehow. But what irks me most is seeing even more blatantly poor driving all the time. I just wish people would take more care.

No before I go any further and suffer the rath of the daily mail reading, car loving mass of cyclist haters who will jump on this as their opportunity to defend the car, I am not condoning the behaviour of some cyclists who are inconsiderate in the way they cycle and in some cases blatantly break the rules of the road.  But following the incident I tweeted the following:

Would motorists please remember that stopping and looking are not an optional at a Give Way junction. That could have been my life you took!

Its interesting the responses I received – most of which were sympathetic and shared similar stories (showing who I follow and who follows me on Twitter I suppose).  But via Facebook I received an interesting response from my friend Jim:

Ooh. Let’s start a 10 top tips for motorists when encountering cyclists. I’ve got number 2 from this morning: indicating to your fellow drivers that you are going to pull out to give the cyclist room doesn’t actually count UNLESS YOU PULL OUT AND GIVE THE CYCLIST THE ROOM!

So this is the challenge which I open to you.  What are the other eight rules that we should include in our explicit and written rule book?


Turning point?

It’s that day of the year again where everything seems to start to turn.  The summer holiday is behind us again this year and the nights are getting longer.  But why today? It’s the last day of the 2010 Tour de France.  It seems to take this increasingly familiar pattern each year since I refound a love of cycling.  The season starts with old favourites but now with the global spread of the sport new exotic races which start earlier and earlier each year.  Then the spring classics which I’m sure were earlier when I was younger but maybe its the more clement weather that is foxing my memories (Yet another outcome of climate change?!).  And then we’re into May.  Summer is building up, you can feel it around the corner.  We are at full tilt on the allotment and Mrs AB is usually enquiring about a bit of time away.  June arrives, summer is well and truly here.  Just around the corner is the goal of the entire year for a cycling fan.

So it is that each year very little gets planned in for July.  We can’t be on holiday from the first weekend until the 4th weekend of the month. Rendezvous with friends and family have to planned around key stages and/or the availability of Eurosport.  Mrs AB rarely sees me at her bedtime for almost a month as I sit glued to the 9.30 highlights on Eurosport having a long time ago given up on Phil & Paul and switching my allegiances to Dave & Sean (if you don’t understand, try it and you’ll find the coverage much easier to handle!).  Life is in suspended animation save for a bit of training.

But here we are again, the 4th weekend in July and it feels like the year has turned.  The Tour is almost over save for the soon to be expected battle of the sprinters on an avenue in Paris that will forever be Manx(?), the main battles done.  The cycling season seems to go into shut down for me. Yes there is the Vuelta Espana but it’s not been the race it was for years.  The Tour of Britain offers some local interest but it’s simply not the same as it used to be as either the Milk Race (which incidentally was in May/June) or the Kellogg’s Tour (complete with Tony the Tiger, Jimmy Saville and “Hairy” Richard Keyes). Maybe the Newport Nocturne will be on, that’s a glimmer of hope but equally it’s so autumnal.  No, summer feels like it’s about to end. I feel like this each year.

What I suppose I’m getting at is the onset of some sort of Cyclist’s SADS that mutates with my own psyche, and also a reflection on holding onto too big a dream.  Yes the Tour is over for another year but why should that matter? What I need is to put it into perspective and find another focus. Can anybody give me something to lift August and September?

Chaingate II

You can’t slow down, unless you are forced to that is.  And that’s what I didn’t mention yesterday.  Everyone knows about “chaingate” by now.  If you don’t here is a clip of what happened:

Well, that wasn’t anything like mine.  This is much more like it:

Okay, so my situation differed slightly from David Millar’s: I was at the start rather than the end of the ride and I didn’t “biff” my bike over any barriers.  Let’s focus on the positives of this: I didn’t lose my rag and certainly didn’t put an end to my costly steed but then everything is relative.  I’m now a tad lighter in the pocket as a result of the new chain but the bike is humming rather than clattering as I ride along.  And it made me slow down.  The recovery ride was taken on my town bike to get to the local bike shop.  Judging by today’s ride it seems to have worked (more of which later).

And now back to a certain bike race from France – a training session by another name!

Slow down, you’re moving too fast

This might sound a bit contradictory considering my post last week, but I’m always getting that feeling that everything is going too fast.  It’s the modern disease as we are constantly told and no matter how much I try to slow life down it carries on accelerating regardless.  So when I read an article earlier in the week in the Guardian called The Art of Slow Reading I thought I’d had a eureka moment. However, I failed in even meeting the prediction of the first paragraph – the only way I got past the fifth was by skim-reading and the promise that I’d get around to reading it later.  And here’s the paradox – later hasn’t arrived yet.  And so it is that everything becomes a rush.  Or is it?

Books are an interesting learning point for me.  Late last year my father-in-law lent me The Ghost by Robert Harris, telling me that given an interest in politics I’d enjoy it.  The book sat there for several months before I decided I had to read it before we all went on holiday together last month.  What a decision that was.  The book was fantastic – for those who’ve not read it I recommend it. The parallels with a certain British ex-PM aren’t hidden and it raises interesting geopolitical conundrums.  But best of all, I couldn’t put it down.  So much so that I started taking slower trains to work to get those few precious minutes longer with the book.  Yes I read slowly, but this time I was enjoying it.  I’d found how to slow time again.  Give me some quality reading time and I’ll take it now.

But when I am on my bike, time becomes all important again.  I’m conscious of the time available to ride, seeing each session as a moment snatched away from other chores and tasks, something to be traded off.  When I’m on the bike I’m thinking about upping that average speed, cutting time off my time for that route in pursuit of improvement.  All in all I now feel tired and even the recovery ride turns into another dash. It’s that spiral of lost time again.

So what I need to do is slow down. Treat the cycling (and most other parts of life) like a good book: slow down, immerse in the moment, revel in the quality and (you couldn’t see this coming could you) feel groovy. (I can’t believe I did that either!)  Tomorrow I start afresh.

Yet more honesty

Put simply, I didn’t train at all this weekend.  I was shattered.  But reading Bradley Wiggin’s honest reflection on his own performance put it into perspective.  Yes Brad, that is exactly how I feel at the moment too!

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