Gertrude’s Diary #135 – I Will Never Surrender

The ACT Government is investigating possibilities for an improved sustainable transport network. At present they are proposing new cycle and pedestrian routes through the major centres, as well as upgrades to existing facilities. If you want to have a say about what they’re planning to do, then you better be quick, because submissions close today. Here’s the link if you’re interested.

In case you don’t ride yourself, here’s a little explanation of just one of the daily dilemmas that I face as a cyclist.

Footpath vs Road: I like footpaths, they’re well away from cars, and I’m always happy to get out of the way for pedestrians. Dogs on leads can be a bit of problem if they’re an annoying, bounce-in-front-of-you breed, but generally pedestrians are relaxed people, not averse to smiling and saying hello. The problem with footpaths is that they often lead to pedestrian crossings, and that’s where things get tricky. I know that technically I am supposed to dismount and walk across every time, and as a rule I always do this when I’m riding with Wildflower, same as I always wear a helmet when I’m with her. (Just trying to be a good, hypocritical parent.)

But what if you arrive at a crossing and there are no cars near? Do you think, “I’ll just whiz across on my bike and those cars that are coming won’t even need to slow down.”? Or do you decide to get off your bike and then walk across, allowing the huge lumps of metal to loom menacingly at you before stopping impatiently to wait for you to cross? Walking gives one the air of righteousness that comes with behaving according to the letter of the law, but on the other hand I’ve done exactly that and narrowly missed being run down by an oblivious driver. But try the first option and you are likely to be yelled at. “It’s a pedestrian crossing you know!” this bloke yelled as he passed us, a good 10 metres from the crossing. Okay Mr Stupid Green Coloured Shiny New Ford Station Wagon. Next time I’ll get off my bike and make you wait for me. Happy now?

As a cyclist I’ve experienced the whole panopoly of interactions with thoughtless motorists. I’ve been abused, run off the road, walked into, splashed with dirty water, sprayed with soft drink, and now, this week, assaulted.

On Tuesday evening I was riding home from a friend’s place. It was a beautiful time of day, with the sun very low in the west, golden light suffusing everything and a glorious spread of colour through the clouds on the horizon. I was feeling pleased to be on my bike, able to enjoy it all, rather than in a car, closed off from the sunset and engaged primarily in the task of not smashing into another car.

I was nearly home, riding up the hill along Wakefield Avenue between O’Connell and Ebden Street, when some young blokes drove up alongside me very close. They were moving at a fair clip so I had only just become aware of their presence when one of them reached out of the rear window and clobbered me in the back of the head.

I didn’t fall off my bike, but it hurt and was a horrible shock. Several days later my neck is still quite sore, and I now feel even more wary and distrustful of cars than I did before.

And all because I had the audacity to be there; because I was vulnerable; because I didn’t want to be inside a car. The police who came to have a chat with me doubt that they’ll be able to pin it on anyone. I only got a partial number plate, and I couldn’t identify the make of the car. People who I’ve told have asked me if I did anything to provoke it, because of course cyclists are famously known as trouble-making militants.

I think this means war.

Declaration #329 in Gertrude’s Manifesto; young people shall not be permitted to get a license unless they have attained the following qualifications in addition to passing their driver’s license test.

a: they have achieved an acceptable score in a standard IQ test, and;
b: they have been thoroughly psychoanalysed and undergone therapy to rectify any anti-social tendencies.

OR

c: they’ve been castrated.

OR

d: they’ve turned 30.

Who am I kidding?  There will be no cars at all in Gertrude Land!

2 Responses to “Gertrude’s Diary #135 – I Will Never Surrender”

  1. You’ve got my vote, can I come and live in Gertrude Land? Second time I’ve heard a story this week of random boons smacking bike riders as they drive past.

    My favourite payback is just to be there, rolling along all the stationary sardine tins lining up at the lights, especially on Northbourne around 830 am enjoying the sunshine and being in the world.

  2. you can absolutely come to Gertrude Land qedqed. In fact, you can be the minister in charge of letting all the car-tyres down.