Friday, June 19, 2015

Cycling commuters, a rant in a minor key

We recently took part in a Mannheim ADFC tour. The ADFC is a German cycling club - similar to the CTC or the League of American Bicyclists, campaigning for better cycle facilities and organising tours of various difficulty. Our tour was on a Wednesday morning, so the majority of the riders were old fogeys, like us. We had four e-bikes amongst the dozen or so riders. It was fine day and it was good cycling through the centres of Mannheim and Ludwigshafen through heavy traffic. There were no problems motorists driving both cars and heavy trucks treated us with respect. We cycled north along a series of lakes and arrived at our destination an Italian restaurant at a tennis club. Lunch was taken and enjoyed. In many ways Italian restaurants in Germany offer the best of both worlds: good Italian food and German beer. What could be better? Well fed and replete, at peace with the world, we cycled round the edge of Frankenthal and swung south along cycle paths next to the B9 federal road into Ludwigshafen. At the start we cycled parallel to the B9. We could hear it but it was two or three hundred metres away. As we approached the dreaming spires of the BASF plant, we found ourselves on a narrow cyclepath almost rubbing elbows with 18 wheeler trucks. We still had no problems. We nipped through Ludwigshafen's centre like a hot knife through butter and climbed up the approach road to the Konrad Adenauer Bridge. There were roadworks for the fossil-fuelled on the bridge, so we passed them on the cycleway, feeling to be not only on the high moral ground, but on a more sensible means of transport. The group split up in Mannheim and we followed a series of cyclepaths along the Neckar, through a Schrebergarten (allotments) and through a former US Army residential area until we reached a cycle path along the edge of the Viernheim Forest adjacent to a busy road, but separated from the road by a thick hedge. The path is narrow and bushy and shortly after crossing the border from Mannheim the path gyrates a little swings left and right over a hummock. It is place we take care, because cyclists can come the other way. We were pleasantly gruntled. We were almost at the end of our first tour of the season, had cycled 60km in good weather, seen a few mates, heard the odd joke and eaten garlicky spaghetti, then this idiot  on a mountain bike dressed in gear more suitable for a downhill race in the Alps or a bank job with face mask shot up behind us, realised that the road narrowed, because of the aforementioned 'S'-bend, braked hard and very noisily, swerved round us out into the possible path of anyone coming the other way, pushing us towards the hedge, almost giving me a heart attack and accelerated away to cries of "Idiot" from my Mrs. I have no objection to getting a move on, but at the same time it is necessary to cycle taking account of the road conditions. We were definitely disgruntled. Under German Law cyclists should have a bell on their bikes and even if the idiot had taken his bell off his velocipede he still had a voice unless his face mask made conversation impossible. I wonder what he will do do with the microsecond he saves, write the doctoral thesis hat will deliver a cure for the common cold or a solution for world peace. Typical that the only impolite expletive-deleted idiot we met on this very pleasant day was from the ranks of the cyclists, our people. 

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