21 May 2007

Reflexes, reactions

I was coming up Cheetham Hill from Manchester, on Bury Old Rd, the long stretch after The Fort and before Broughton. The road there seems to plateau after going up hill for a mile or so, and one gathers speed quickly before coming to the next slope. Right in the middle there's a pedestrian crossing at the traffic light. I won't mention the number of times that light has gone red when the pedestrians in question had already crossed. We've all done it, it's life, etc.

But this time, there were pedestrians who seemed to be waiting for the light to change. Motor traffic had come to a standstill... but I was doing fine, had my eye on the traffic light (my motorist bad habits linger on) and did not slow down. Then, all of a sudden, the woman who had been waiting for the lights to change, decided that if cars weren't moving she could just jump on to the road.

Then I made my near-fatal mistake: I yelled. No swearwords or angry words, just an instinctive cry of anger and panic. The woman's reaction was to turn her face towards me, open her eyes in frightened disbelief... and then she takes a step back. Which put her right on my path. Now I really had to slam on the breaks - front first, as my spiritual guru Sheldon Brown suggests.

To my credit - having through lack of foresight contributed to this incident - I managed to stop without either hitting the pedestrian or going over the handlebars. The woman was very apologetic. I wish I had had enough breath left to be polite and tell her not to worry. The irony is that, if I'd not yelled, she would have walked on, like ships in the night oblivious to me - and I probably wouldn't have had to stop in such a hurry. So there's a learning point then...

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