Twice in only about 12 hours, I encountered bicyclists who--had they been more competent--might have qualified as trainee clowns for the next circus that comes to town. Unfortunately, both had an audience of only me, but I tried to make up for the lack of numbers by my enthusiasm.
Last night, a 20-something bicyclist riding 15 or 20 meters ahead of me was busily engaged in a conversation on his cell phone as he pedaled along. He was, predictably, weaving a bit, so I kept well back on the narrow road, waiting for a wider, safer place to pass him. This gave me a good view of his unintentional acrobatic act.
Apparently he didn't see the line of meter-high plastic poles set fence-like around a roadside safety zone. At first, briefly, I thought he might be intending to do a slalom among the poles, but I should have known better. Oblivious, he rode right into the poles, getting tangled up among them while still pedaling furiously. His attention finally switched from his phone to his bicycle and the road, around the time that the bike went down and he went over the handlebars and into the rest of the line of semi-flexible posts, cell phone still clutched tightly in his hand, mouth agape in surprise.
I stopped next to him as he tried to disentangle himself from the bent but springy posts and his tangled bicycle.
"Are you OK?" I asked.
"Yes," he answered, "I guess so."
"That's too bad," I said, "because I was hoping you'd been damaged enough to learn a lesson from this." As I rode off he still didn't seem to understand how he'd gotten into his predicament. Maybe next time he'll drive off a cliff and do the human gene pool a favor.
Not too many hours later, as I was riding down a major thoroughfare to my office, another 20-ish bicyclist sped through a red light and right in front of my motorcycle. I barely managed to swerve, avoid him, and stop. He lost control of his bicycle and fell down with it tangled up with his legs. I suppose he was surprised to see this big, bearded foreigner on a big black motorcycle appear magically in front of him...at least, I imagine it must have seemed that way to him, since he hadn't looked either way as he went to cross the intersection, and presumably either didn't see or else ignored the traffic signals, too.
I helped him up (not gently, but firmly...very firmly) and off to the side of the road; he wasn't hurt but was rather disoriented.
"What happened?" he asked.
"You stupidly went through a red light, and if I hadn't swerved around you I would have hit you. You seem to have lost control and fallen with your bicycle. You're lucky I didn't run you over. You're also lucky that my motorbike isn't damaged, because if it had been, I would have put you in the hospital, and it wouldn't have been an accident." I'm afraid that my tone was probably pretty vicious. My facial expression probably wasn't really encouraging and kindly, either.
"I'm sorry," he said, "I'll be more careful in the future and stop at red lights."
"Please don't do that," I said, as I got on my bike to ride away. "By all means run through another red light very soon, but please do it in front of a big truck, or better still an express train."
The memory of the look on his face kept me happy for the rest of the morning.
Home Truths column for August
2 weeks ago