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Monday, 25 May 2015

Few selfish two wheelers pedal against the rule of law

COLIN Horncastle didn’t need his stick with the horse’s head handle to find himself engulfed in leonine rage this week.

All the pugnacious councillor bunged in the ears of the equivalent of a dozen Wallace the lions were a few choice words about inconsiderate cyclists.

The squeals of outrage from the two wheelers could be heard at the top of Blackpool Tower.

I have to say that I’m with Colin on this; while the vast majority of cyclists are polite, pleasant citizens who obey the law of the land and support the rural economy, a significant minority think indecent shorts and a jazzy jumper put them above the rule of law.

I have lost count of the number of times I have been forced to step into the road to accommodate some helmeted and goggled oaf who thinks the footpath is his domain.

Equally, stop at any set of traffic lights, and the cyclist you have finally succeeded in overtaking after following him down the white line for five miles suddenly decides he’s a pedestrian, and rides through the lights on red – usually on the footpath.

Cycling schizophrenia also applies to one way streets, where the no entry sign only applies to those of us with motorised transport.

Try telling a cyclist that he can’t ride from the Market Place into Fore Street in Hexham – you take your life in your hands!

History tells us that the term road hog was devised not for inconsiderate motorists, but for the pig ignorant behaviour of early cyclists on their hobby horses, boneshakers and penny farthings.

I was frequently pulled in by the rozzers when I was a boy for riding my bike without lights, or for riding on the pavement.

Nowadays, it’s almost expected that cyclists will ride on the footpath, with extra kudos for scattering pedestrians, with the police issuing no more than a kindly, “Mind how you go”.

In my early days as a reporter, no court sheet was complete without at least a couple of cycling transgressions, when cyclists could expect to be fined £2 for riding without lights, or perhaps £3 for riding on the footpath.

They never feature on the court list now.

My father, in his dashing youth, was also once prosecuted for propelling my shrieking mother at such a lick on a tandem that he was fined a hefty £5 for the singular crime of “riding a bicycle furiously”.

Before the Courant office is besieged by Lycra louts demanding my head on a stick, I should point out that I have cycled for years, not only in this country, but also in foreign parts from Denmark to British Columbia.

I know what it’s like to be buffeted by the jetwash of cars and wagons that come too close.

A cyclist is very vulnerable, and I have twice been put in hospital after being knocked off my bike by inconsiderate car drivers.

In equal measure, I have also been subjected to vile abuse by cyclists for having the temerity to overtake their three abreast Sunday phalanx on a straight road.

The point is, there are rogue elements on two wheels as well as four, whose anti-social actions poison the well for everyone else.

I got my first two wheeler bike at the age of 11, as a reward for passing my 11 plus.

Within a week of acquiring it, I was in the A&E unit of Macclesfield Infirmary, after putting my trust in the Lord and following the local vicar out of a road junction.

I was hit by the motor bike and sidecar combination of an RAC patrolman, and caused a passing fire engine to perform an emergency stop amidst a tangle of hoses and helmets.

I remember soaring high into the air, and getting a bird’s eye view into the gardens of the posh houses at the end of the street, and thinking: “It’s really going to hurt when I come down from here – but not as much as the hammering I’m going to get from my dad for wrecking my new bike!”

I did eventually get a replacement, but came to grief on that too, coming off on a bend on a six mile descent from the Peak District to the Cheshire Plain.

No other vehicle was involved, and although I was knocked out, I was saved from serious injury by the thick mop of hair I sported at the time coming into contact with the Tarmac first.