Saturday, March 07, 2015

Cyclists in sects

I am not the only person to have noticed the ability of cyclists to form sects. At the top of the tree there are the road men and women who ride very fast on tyres (tires) the width of razor blades and ignore all other cyclists. They are rather like the Lowells in Boston who only talk to God, as the poet put it.
There is also a group of cyclists are probably extreme members of  the High Moral Ground group (HMG). The HMG are the moral preachers of the cycling world. It is their right to cycle on four lane highways and they will do so at risk of life and limb because they are producing less carbon dioxide that the fossil fuelled in their steel overcoats. The world would be a better place if we all cycled. They are right, but… They also suffer from too much zeal and have been known to suggest to fellow members of cycle clubs that using a motor car or a taxi from time to time is reason enough to leave the club. They will jump red lights and ride the wrong way along cycleways and one way streets. It is, in their opinion, the duty of motorists to watch out for them rather than the other way round, even though the other road users may well include drivers existing on a few hours sleep a day,  planning their supermarket shopping list for the golden wedding party on Saturday or working out how to tell the boss what to do with his job. Personally we cycle with the belief that all other road users, pedestrians included, are out to kill us. It has kept us alive so far.
The HMG have been around for some time. During WWII there were no street lights in Britain and motors had just slits on their headlamps to let a minimal amount of light out. British bicycles had by law to have a broad white stripe down the rear of the mudguard (fender) to aid visibility in the blackout organised to stop German bombers aiming at concentrations of moving lights and bombing towns and cities. Most British bikes at that time had mudguards, as it was at that time, unlike now, not fashionable to wet oneself through with dirty road surface  water, which is what happens if you cycle without mudguards in the rain. Many cyclists and cycling organisations argued against this sensible move to increase visibility: the white patch on the mudguard, on the grounds that it was the duty of motorists to watch watch out for cyclists.
These extreme proponents of the HMG  dress in black or dark clothing, do not have lights of any kind, cycle up to and across across zebra crossings without observing the traffic and jump red lights, both pedestrian and traffic lights. My feeling is that these characters are the modern day equivalent  of the Shakers in 19th century USA. This was religious group who made superb furniture, had at least one pleasant hymn and lived celibate lives. So the movement died out when it could not recruit new members. I don't know whether the HMG lead celibate lives, but they are certainly running the risk daily of cutting their numbers drastically.

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