Madness on two wheels

By admin
11 September 2013

Make way, make way - our roads are choked with humourless but ultimately doomed cyclists

THIS is how I see it, my post-apocalyptic scenario: in the future, when archaeologists poking about the ruins of our civilisation with trowels and small brushes find the stretchy Lycra padded shorts and the helmets straight out of the Alien movies, they’ll pause in bewilderment and ask themselves, “What the hell? Is this how the end came?”

The bicycle menace is an ugly business. Unlike readily identifiable targets – hippies, let’s say, who claim they converse with whales, or Western Province rugby supporters – one cannot easily poke fun at the cyclist. One never knows who among us has been touched by the madness. There are commissioning editors, for example, who’ve taken the gravest exception to suggestions that here truly is a threat to society in need of readers’ attention. “Nonsense!” they’d shriek. “What could possibly be so unhealthy about bicycles?” Then, as if they’d eaten the whole umbrage pie, they’d declare their interests in a pious albeit wounded tone, “I’ll have you know that I happen to ride a bike. In fact, I even cycle to work . . .”

And yes, they have a point. Bicycles are not per se bad things. I like to think of them straddled by lissom, golden-limbed women in wide-brimmed hats slowly trundling down country lanes. But these bicycles aren’t the fashionable carbon fibre and titanium jobs found in the advertisements for protein and vitamin supplements. No, these are authentic bicycles, made of steel with enormous handlebars and tennis balls jammed in the springs under a leather seat. There’d be a bottle of wine, a baguette and cheese in the basket in front. Proper food. Not sugar water in a plastic bottle.

You see this sort of bicycle all over Amsterdam and Copenhagen and other European cities where the motorcar appears to be in retreat. The people riding them aren’t stuffed in spandex either, but wear regular clothes, sometimes with a peg on one trouser leg. It’s very civilised and good for the planet and the reason for this is that those cities are all quite flat.

By and large, our cities and towns aren’t very flat. I live in a low-key, out-of-the-way place in the Western Cape that minds its own business and thinks of itself as quite removed from the problems of an all-too baffling world. But here the hills think of themselves as mountains. On most days, our roads are choked with grunting alpha types wobbling about on two very expensive wheels. They struggle up and down the place, puce-faced and swearing at motorists.

That’s the other thing about a not-very flat environment: we’ll be hanging on to our motorcars for a bit, if it’s all the same to you. Ditto the trucks bringing stuff to our shops. And taxis and buses. It’s a lot of traffic. Add to this the unhinged factor – those grown men, for example, who have yet to say goodbye to adolescence and must amuse themselves by hurtling down the steepest roads on skateboards, or a stray shopping trolley – and you understand accidents will happen.

When, tragically, there are fatalities, talk radio goes into meltdown with bluster as cyclists and motorists accuse one another of inconsiderate and selfish behaviour. One common theme is that everyone will be charged with murder. Even if they’re dead. The authorities then threaten legislation requiring all other road users to keep several metres away from cyclists at all times. Soon it will be mandatory to first obtain written permission from cyclists to use the road, and there will be laws forcing us to pull off into the ditch whenever they’re about.

All in vain, of course. The modern bicycle saddle damages reproductive organs. The rider is rendered irreparably sterile by simply mounting a bike and therefore incapable of breeding. No law can change that. And thus they’ll disappear, peddling slowly off to extinction.

- By Andrew Donaldson

Picture: Rex Boggs - Flickr

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