Reading this article on the venerable Bike Snob’s blog got me thinking about how we’re treated when we’re cyclists. (I say, “when we’re cyclists” because many of us consider ourselves cyclists and forget that we’re often also car drivers — cough — or pedestrians.)
I have to say I have a disdain for road rules when I’m on my fixie. Many of them are positively dangerous to us fixie fans (and the other detritus of cyclists too). I’m quite comfortable sneaking through a pedestrian crossing against the red. I can do it safely, at walking pace, and I can get up to 200 metres of gloriously empty road to myself before the cars catch me and begin once again to endanger my wellbeing. That drivers would cry foul over such a safe and innocent (and necessary) act goes to show how frustrated and anxious they are about being stuck in a 1 tonne beast doing 100 metre sprints between red lights and other traffic jams.
The fix is on for fixies and we’re hated on the road. We represent a level of freedom that makes car drivers’ ulcers glow red. Enforcing irrelevant rules is a way to bring us down to their level. If possible they’d have us indicating left and right, even indicating a stop signal. How the hell you’re meant to stop and turn safely with one hand all the time waving about is beyond me but the rules are there. It’s the sole reason why brakes in Europe and Aus tend to be on the opposite side, so we can safely brake while giving the requisite indication.
|The stop signal.|
I sometimes indicate out of courtesy (say a driver is waiting to turn and I can indicate to him that I’m turning also and he needn’t wait for me) but apart from that they can all go to buggery on the signal front. It’s not like 1 car out of 100 is going to care anyway.
Fix is on for bells and whistles
Until moving to the Gold Coast I never actually used bike paths. They had a few of them in Melbourne but they were indirect, poorly finished and used by other cyclist. Some people just aren’t fit for cycling and these are the people who tend to populate bike paths. When a friend of mine broke his collarbone in a head-to-head with another cyclist this just confirmed to me that I belonged on the road.
The bike paths on the Gold Coast tend to go where I want to be and they’re wide and fast. The only problem is they tend to choke with ambling pedestrians who think it’s okay to go out into the world without their head switched on. I’ve tried various ways to tackling them, from tinking my bell furiously and repeatedly over the course of 100s of metres as I approach them, to a polite “Excuse me”, to just whisking by when it’s safe to do so. No-one method keeps everyone happy.
The average pedestrian has his head to far up his arse that even the most prolific use of the bell can at times go unnoticed.
If you roll up behind someone on your fixie and say, “Excuse me,” in your nicest voice (just like your mum taught you) you’ll find people will jump with surprise and (sometimes…it’s happened to me) tell you to use the fucking bell.
My preferred method is to slip past without warning. I still use the bell to scatter large crowds but otherwise I drive on by. I’ve been yelled at for doing all the right things so when someone is startled by my stealthy ride-by I can only chuckle maliciously as they curse me.
Bells are law!
Get out of here, bells are law? It’s only in my dotage that I’ve even allowed one on my bike. They’re great for scattering the crowds and otherwise I’d probably not have one. But they are law.
When a mate of mine informed me that police in Brisbane were pulling over cyclists and fining them for not having a bell I laughed in his face and told him he was deluded. There’s not a single moron in the world who’d do that. Then I googled it, and found that such morons can and do exist.
The laws of the state say something along the lines of: a bicycle must be equipped with an appropriate warning device. That this device is not already the cyclist is not implicit in the law but obviously the interpretation of the Queensland police ruled out this possibility. Yelling, “Ding ding ding,” is not appropriate, nor is “Hey moron, dual use path, wake up!”
Presumably, if you could record yourself and have it play back at the touch of a button, this would constitute an appropriate warning device.
I’ve stopped using crossings on my bike. For instance, when I come out of Macintosh Island park and the bike path leads me directly to and then across and crossing, I tend to avoid it. I probably even break the laws by riding down the wrong side of the road or along the footpath until I can get a break in traffic. Why? Because I’ve been abused so many times for using crossings on my bike. It’s unhealthy to chase down car drivers in a fit of rage, as might happen when some moron abuses you from the safety of his/her car, so I avoid confrontation. My wife was once abused with, “Poofter wanker fucking wanker poofter,” for making a car stop at a crossing. She had a bald head at the time due to some chemotherapy. I guess that explains the whole poofter wanker bit.
So after 30 years of getting about on bikes of all types and being abused for doing the right thing and abused for doing the wrong thing I find it expedient to do the wrong thing more often that not. At least when I’m abused for doing the wrong thing I can chuckle it off, rather than have my head boil, my eyes go misty red and feel that need so deeply to kill or be killed…in the name of justice you understand.
Fix this fixie flawed law
One thing I love about fixie culture is it tends to be a lot less respectful than the mainstream of commuting cycling. Most commuters are slow, boring, overtly law-abiding…in short if they were gazelles they’d be cut from the herd and eaten by a leopard.
As fixies it’s our duty to show the middle finger to really dumb-arse laws and the pressures of frustrated car drivers. It’d be stupid to deliberately break laws just out of spite but certainly no dumber than enforcing a stringent interpretation of “appropriate warning devices”. In my weaker moments I kinda get a kick out of startling the thumb in bumb mind in neutral pedestrians on bike tracks. I’d hate to spoil all that fun with a bell.