Can You See Us Now?

August 1, 2015

‘My Dad says we’re safer in a big group like this because this way the drivers can see us’, remarked one of the younger participants on our latest family ride this afternoon. And it’s true that we should have been hard to overlook: seventeen of us, with ride leader and tail-end Charlie resplendent in hi vis, several little girls on equally bright and eye catching pink bikes, and everyone else possessing the normal human attribute of not being completely transparent – except, that is, when one dons, or rather mounts, the magic cloak of invisibility that is the humble bicycle.

For yes, bright and many and non-see-through as we were, we still had to perform a couple of emergency stops as first a van driver pulled out right in front of us without so much as turning his head, and then a woman started backing out of her drive, a manouevre that would have been safer had she not been completely hidden from us – as we were hidden from her – by a dense hedge.

Fortunately we were travelling at about eight miles an hour and my spidey senses are well honed and there was no real risk that I couldn’t stop my charges before anything happened except to my blood pressure (and, in fairness, to the drivers’ adrenaline levels once they looked round and finally noticed us). The ride we were doing today is a good one – it feels like a stretch for the families because we get out of the edge of town and into the countryside, and there’s a stone circle to explore when we get there.* On the whole the route is fine, as we stick to some (fairly rubbish) shared use pavements) for about 75% of the way and the rest of the roads are pretty quiet. But it only takes one or two dopey drivers to turn a pleasant, relaxing ride out into a heart-in-mouth moment. Next week, we’ll be back along the nice safe railway path for most of the ride, and I shall be the happier for it.

12 Apostles

If you look carefully, you will see a child on every stone. And you will have done better than some drivers…

*In classic Bigtownshire style (motto of the tourist board: Shh, nobody knows we’re here), this sits entirely unheralded in a field apart from one small fingerpost sign all but hidden by the overgrown hedge. It’s only the biggest stone circle in mainland Scotland, after all, nothing to make a huge fuss about.

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S.M.I.D.S.Y*

February 23, 2009

I encountered this (sadly non-mythical) beast for the first time in ages the other day. I was returning triumphant with the paper, sailing down a nice long straightish hill, when I noticed a small truck in one of the tracks meeting the road. I started to slow down, thinking the driver would pull out in front of me but he didn’t move, and I assumed he had stopped there for lunch and resumed pedalling. Slow cycling’s all very well, but sometimes you like to have a bit of momentum to get you up the next hill. So when he did pull out, just as I reached the track, I was going considerably faster than him and had to jam on the brakes to avoid ending up as part of his load. Clearly my bicycle-generated magical cloak of invisibility is still going strong, despite being practically the only moving thing for miles around.

It was all the more annoying because the other two drivers I encountered had treated me with almost exaggerated courtesy, hanging behind my shoulder until the road widened, and then passing me slowly and steadily, leaving me as much room as they could without scraping their wing mirrors off on the opposite dyke. I’ve realised now where this behaviour comes from: this is the correct way to pass someone who is riding a horse, a far more common sight around here than a cyclist.

Maybe that’s what we’ve been doing wrong all these years: if all cyclists stood six feet high at the shoulder, weighed 500kg, wore iron shoes and could kick out your windscreen when startled, we’d all get treated with the a bit more respect…

*Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You