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Tuesday, September 9

Wear A Helmet

I think it's probably for the best that I wear a helmet while cycling. With the best will in the world, I can only describe my behaviour on the bicycle as that of a nutter. I get a bit reckless and consider the process of cycling through traffic as a fight which I'm not going to lose. To be honest, this is not a reasonable way to behave, since I'm only flesh and blood, and cycling is, when you think about it, not much different from going for a run among the cars, only sat down.

Anyway, I do wear a helment, which is my one concession to road safety. I don't wear reflective gear or make especial use of lights. Even my front reflector is somewhat broken, though I sought to replace it... so far unsuccessful. Last nights replacement of bicycle brakes was a bit ropey in my view, as the pads I put on seem quite different to the ones I took off, and were binding a bit, though I hope I wore off the bit of brake that was in slight contact at one end with the wheel. Perhaps I need to review that some more, though the bike stops very nicely at the moment.

This cycle-based recklessness got me into a couple of scrapes in Edinburgh. There was the day when I decided to zoom over to the Tesco in Costorphine, wondering why I felt so weak at the downhill bits, not being able to get that much speed up. It turned out, on the way back, that the landscape had been lying to me. In fact, a lot of the journey was uphill, but the road made it look like it was level or downhill a bit. It was certainly downhill on the way back. As a result, I came back at various shades of quickly.

As a cyclist, I tend to consider traffic lights to be optional. This isn't safe. At one stage, I was very confused about why I suddenly had to slam on the brakes to avoid collision with a van. I looked at the driver quizzically, rather than angrily, and he wound down his window and told me that I'd just shot a red light. This seemed a fair cop and I conceded that I had become a bit more road reckless than planned. No harm done, though.

Anyway, one of my favourite cycling mishaps (yes, you can have favourites if you get to come away unscathed) was on South Bridge in Edinburgh city centre. I was cycling from the playhouse area of town, probably in a rush as always. The buses don't always leave space to their left. Cycling, I prefer to stay moving, rather than stop and have to restart. So, if the buses are stopped, I'll go around their right and head up the road in the oncoming traffic bit of the road - bearing in mind that I'm cycle-widthed, so there's space.

In this particular instance, the traffic on the left had all stopped, as had the oncoming traffic. I knew I could risk going up the centre of the road for a few seconds, since everything would stay stopped. However, I was also out on a limb somewhat, given that, once it all started moving, I'd be in the midst of two lanes of heavy vehicles, moving in opposite directions. I had a plan, though. I would "put my foot down" as it were and get up some speed so I could then slip into any space that opened in the lefthand traffic as it started to move, which I intuited would be imminent.

As I put a bit of power into the bike, I spotted out of the corner of my eye that a pedestrian was coming across the road from behind the stopped bus on my right. I slammed on the brake. The front brake. The bike stopped and reared forward on its front wheel, the back wheel in mid-air. The pedestrian was faced with the sight of me suddenly looming over them, on a front-wheelie-ing bicycle. I kept my balance and the bike landed back on its rear wheel.

The pedestrian exclaimed something like "Oh sorry!!!". I said "What do you mean!? That was brilliant. I'm doing STUNTS now."

Good times.

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