The first junction on my London commute is not an easy one – it’s a stop line, downhill onto a main road with a zebra crossing on the right and a bus stop on the left. Some mornings I am bright, with-it and can spot a marginal gap and whiz straight over. Some mornings, like today, I am tired and dopey and need to wait for both lanes to be clear to avoid becoming roadkill. This means that the cars behind me, who like to bully their way across the first lane and then mow down any pedestrians on the crossing, get impatient.
So this morning, I’m waiting for my opportunity, and the driver of the car behind starts to honk his horn at me. I give him the universal hand signal. He gets out of the car, walks up to me and spits in my face, shouting “learn some manners.”
Which would be ironic, if it wasn’t quite so disgusting.
There are three morals from this story.
The first is, always ride with your visor down.
The second is, don’t reciprocate when faced with aggro – David Hough is absolutely clear on this in Proficient Motorcycling, a book I like a lot, and to which I should clearly pay more attention.
And the third is that, thanks to a very kind and concerned man who let me use his bathroom to clean up, I may no longer covered in someone else’s saliva but the man who thinks it is OK to gob on lady bikers (or, indeed, bikers in general) is still a tosser.
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Some commutes are about elegance and grace. Sometimes getting to work and not being dead seems reward enough. This is not a healthy place to be! but it’s where my head was as I passed Kings Cross this morning – it’s what happens when the phone starts ringing at 7 am and I end up with a very very small window of opportunity to get to Central London before an immovable deadline. I hate riding to a time limit, it makes me nervous and it makes me gamble on amber and attempt to stare down London Buses’ finest as we both lay claim to the same 6 foot of tarmac. If Boris wants to start slowly on his bus lane pledge, I nominate the Euston Road as his first target – being able to slide past the gridlock from Grays Inn Road to the left turn opposite Euston station would transform my stress levels. My usual beat down through Holborn to the Aldwych, thanks to roadworks and “improvements,” has been transformed from a broad and sweepy boulevard to a nightmare. So at Tavistock Square I took a gamble, took a right, and ended up bouncing over the cobbles round Covent Garden, which made me laugh because it feels like I’m riding somewhere I shouldn’t be. (And it’s the nearest Ruby’s going to get to off-road riding this week.) The cobbles shook off the bad mood and I parked up (small miracle in its own right!) with 10 minutes to spare. Thus proving that riding a bike is good for your mental health. I think.
I have many weaknesses, chief among them the inability to resist temptation. This morning, on the way to work, I was failing to resist the temptation to devote the part of my brain left over from plotting the likely trajectory of the catering van, the black cab, the bus and the cyclist at the lights, and counting down from red to rednamber so I could stuff them all up the outside on the green (I’m sure there’s a technical term for it..) to mentally taunting the fumbling filtering of a Fazer in my mirrors. He was either travelling with the Range Rover in front of him, or was so interested in reading an article in The Economist over the passenger’s shoulder that he couldn’t bring himself to overtake despite numerous opportunities. I carried on carving up the early-morning traffic, using the Lane of Least Resistance, and my newly-acquired No-foot-down Ninja Traffic Light Balancing technique, and in the end he did catch up. I was a bit surprised to note his muffs and his courier vest.
Either I woke up this morning with a death wish, or I’m better at the rat race than I used to be…
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Are you the Londoner’s Foe,
With the strike you’re leading?
Commuting’s too traumatic
With a back tyre non-pneumatic,
So from this bus I’m pleading
For a tyre that’s inflatable
And a pay deal more negotiable 🙂
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Washing the bike after our monsoon endeavours, I realised that the chain was baggier than an old lady’s underpants, and would probably ping off the sprox if I didn’t get it sorted before heading to Scotland for a few landmarks more. Adjusting the chain is one of those jobs that I know how to do in theory but don’t dare take my spanners to, on the grounds that if I get it wrong my back wheel will fall off. I developed a cunning plan that made it essential for me to ride to work before stopping at Metropolis on the way home for them to do my dirty work.
Riding to work means it’s time to play the parking lottery – made more hazardous by the decision of a film crew to set up on the spaces I had in mind for trying first, but my third-choice spot came good with a broad sweep of tarmac sullied only by two scooters. Within 30 seconds a horde of suit-clad scooterdrones appeared like wasps round pimms to fence me in on all sides – for once my timing was perfect!
Sadly riding home was not perfect, I hate it when I ride like a muppet. 10 years of practice and I’m still emergency braking to avoid the back of the cement lorry, bullseyeing every pothole and rolling off the throttle mid-bend. I thought experience was meant to bring expertise 😦
At least the chain was smooth.
Sign the petition!
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to open all bus lanes to motorbikes across the UK now and stop messing about. More details
Submitted by Gary Stephenson – Deadline to sign up by: 11 April 2007 – Signatures: 490″
Only one million, seven hundred and ninety nine thousand, five hundred and ten to go before we get our own “thanks but no thanks” reply from Tony!
Three cheers to the commuter braving Picadilly Circus on a Ducati ST-4 this morning – looks like a banana, sounds like a heartbeat.
Almost made me decide to start work at 8.00am so that I could find somewhere to leave the bike – Does it say “SCOOTER PARKING”? ! No it doesn’t