Friday, 16 December 2011

The steel jacket of rudeness

Like most people I know, I have put together a route home from work that as much as possible avoids riding on main roads. It's self-preservation really. The whole "take the lane" ideology is all very well but it still doesn't guarantee you from being driven into from behind by someone who is drunk, speeding, fiddling with their radio or just scratching their balls.

Despite my best efforts, there are places when avoiding having to navigate a main road is just impossible. On those occasions when I have no choice and it is just too dangerous to ride on the road, I take the pavement. It worries me because that apparently is what upsets motorists (if you were to go by comments on some websites) and we apparently need to "earn their respect" by obeying the road rules before any money can be spent on decent infrastructure.

I ride about 25m along the pavement before I hit the junction and cross at the pedestrian lights. Then I double back about 15m before continuing on my way along the side street. The alternative, if I were to obey the rules, would be to attempt to turn right on to the main road and cross 4 lanes of fast-moving traffic.

This is the view from the crossing. It was taken early in the morning. Hence the shadows. The street I come out of is on the left just beyond the clearway sign. The road I take after crossing at the junction is on the right just next to the green truck:

In years of taking that route, I have never come across a pedestrian. Today was the very first time. I met her just as I came around the corner. I was going very slowly and could easily stop. She stopped too - abruptly. I apologised repeatedly. "That's ok", she said cheerfully. I admitted I should not have been there and explained that the road was just too busy to ride on. She said understood perfectly ("I know, it's horrendous") and we went on our way.

I have to wonder whether the reaction would have been the same from a motorist. There is something about being cocooned inside that steel and glass jacket that makes people shout and gesticulate rudely in a way that they never would if they were face to face with someone. I don't think I would have got quite as friendly a reaction if I'd been in the wrong place on the road. After all, that is not how you earn respect.

Sure enough, once I was on my way I came up to a small junction with a side road to my left and a white Commodore came charging towards the intersection stopping with its nose sticking out into my path. As is so often the case, it would have hit me had I not slowed just in case. He did wait but it was obvious that the driver was in a tearing hurry so instead of taking the next right (which was the way I was going) I waited for him to pass. Sure enough, he sped around the corner with his rear tyres smoking and then sped to the next junction 120m away at the perfect speed to clean up anyone who accidentally crossed from behind a parked car and just loudly enough to annoy every single resident on the street. He's one of the people whose respect I apparently need to earn.

He drove that way because he could. He took two side streets to get himself from one main road to another and use the neighbourhood as a thoroughfare. That is what the road layout told him was appropriate. The speed limit on the side streets was the default speed limit of 50 km/h. There was no calming and no blocked road. The entire set up sent the signal that the road was for him to speed down rather than a place where people lived.

And that is the problem.

By the way, it was a VR Commodore. Registration number WBM-240. Ride carefully.


  1. Throughout history, persecuted minorities have seldom made ground by patiently waiting to be respected by dominant groups. Hey, I just thought of 3 P's: Prosecute, Protest, and .... I won't lie; I could only think of 2 P's.

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