09 September 2008

Squirrels and other sneaky little creatures of the road

Today, just as I was labouring to overtake a chavified cyclist, a squirrel stepped on to the road in front of me. It stopped when it sensed I was coming, then darted - not to safety, but further into my path. Don't cry, it was a near miss and neither little squirrel nor yours trully suffered any misfortune. I was left wondering how can an animal with such good reputation be in fact so dumb. Also, I marvelled at how quickly my brain had been able to assess the threat, calculate the possible damage for two or three possible courses of action, and made the optimum decision - to run over the bugger unless it moved ("grey squirrels are not scarce; I am... mmm"). It did moved, and all ends well.

Yesterday I saw another unusually dumb creature on the road. This time, it was a cyclist. Clad in bright yellow helmet (Ok, it's a free country), baggy, oversized jean shorts .... and enormous wellington boots (now, hang on a minute!). Really. I can't imagine a worst way to cycle, unless you are rushing to help people in a mildly flooded area (perhaps he was!). But what irked me the most was that this chap gladly overtook me on my left, at a busy junction - there I was, heeding every seasoned cyclist's advice about positioning yourself well away from the kerb, and this kerbil-gerbil here thought 'oh well' and slipped through!.

And to crown the evening, just then another bloke did it again. This one was dressed incongrously in posh trousers and shirt, with a laptop-type briefcase slung at the back, riding an old racer on too high a gear (ah, newbie) - but, of course, youth made up for his foolishness and he sped ahead of me all the same. Again, he did so on the inside - eventhough I spotted him and tried to close in on to the kerb to let him do it the right way, he wouldn't. Only when I opened up to stop at a traffic light, he took his chances - he was never going to stop at red - and he was off.

Moral of the story? Cyclists, we are our worst enemies, and most of us don't know it. We want to 'encourage' people to cycle more (or so say the self-proclaimed campaigners) but lack both the moral leadership (of good example) and the empathy with our 'target audience' and so achieve very little. Just like squirrels stashing nuts away.

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