Idiot Magnet

After three days away, doing a lot of walking / standing, you can understand why ‘serious’ cyclists try to minimise using their legs to do anything else: getting back on a bike really makes them protest.

It felt like I was wearing an idiot magnet today. Nothing happened – the idiocy had no consequences – but it is vaguely depressing to witness so much human stupidity operating at such a mundane level.

First up, a middle-aged female horse rider, meandering down a winding single-car-width country lane in the middle of the road. I came across her as I came around a bend. If I’d been just a quick-ish car – I wouldn’t have had to have been a speeding fool – I’d have hit her. As it was even on a bike I had to brake, and I was going slow into a headwind. Her response: absolutely nothing – a blank stare.

Second, another twisty lane and there’s father, mother, one child and two off-the-lead dogs, walking with their backs to me, taking up the width of the whole road. I called out “morning” and they responded with a panic, trying to gather up the dogs which wouldn’t come when called, holding the child back into the hedge totally unnecessarily given the width of a bike and, on the mother’s part, apologising. The child looked embarrassed at having the parents it has; the father just looked … I don’t know really. As if I was somehow in the wrong? As if he just didn’t understand? Again, they were just an accident waiting to happen.

Third: nearly home and riding through town, turning off a main road into a one-way street with a corner shop on the corner, funnily enough. Woman and child come out of shop, woman in front, and just start crossing the road that I’m turning into without so much as a nano-second’s look around. There are cars all around, any one of which could be turning in. I call out; they both freeze and look at me with a kind of dull incomprehension which was actually quite worrying. If I’d been a car, they’d have been bouncing on my bonnet and there’d have been nothing I could have done about it – they really would have stepped out into my path.

After the third one I found myself thinking about media coverage of accidents. I would wager a fair sum that if the accidents I’m saying could easily have happened actually had occurred, the victims would be getting the rose-tinted treatment in tomorrow’s papers. A horse and rider out for a tranquil walk down the lanes, mown down just like that. The horse would surely have been put down too. A family out for an innocent Sunday walk that ended in the tragic death of child and her pet dog. A mother and child, just coming back from a simple trip to the shops but now never to return home again.

In all three cases, it would be the driver that merited the sympathy. It’s hard to keep in mind that all media reporting is suspect; I don’t know how to maintain that kind of personal vigilence against being fooled.