I HAVE gone off cyclists.
I used to be one, and then I found cars. As a motorist I tried to treat cyclists with respect. I was horrified at the way cars screamed past cyclists with barely the thickness of a coat of paint between them, on blind bends, the crests of hills, double white lines. And if the road was too narrow to scream past them â€“ they screamed over them. I even wrote sympathetically about cyclists, and the abuse they were subjected to by motorists, in this newspaper.
I’ve changed my mind!
Since then I have become a pedestrian. No, I have not been banned from driving; I simply have no need for a car anymore. I walk to work; I walk to the shops. I walk along the Esplanade. I’m lucky to be alive.
Pedestrians are to cyclists what cyclists are to motorists. They’re in the way. They’re an obstacle â€“ but only for a moment or two; then they’re a hedge ornament.
But cyclists have changed. When I was six I was run over by a cyclist who broke my leg in three places. He was almost blind and he rode a black bicycle (I think that was the only colour they made) that weighed as much as a Sherman tank. It (the bicycle) had a basket on the front and the kind of handlebars they have on walking frames.
He was old and he wore a trilby hat, and his jacket had a garden trowel in one pocket and carrots fresh from the ground in the other. He had cycle clips round his the ankles to stop his turn-ups winding into the chain and ripping his trousers off.
He was, in those far off days, your average cyclist. But he has gone, along with the penny farthing and the velocipede.
In his place is a race of sexually repressed, frustrated wanna-be Olympic hopefuls who think cycling is an extreme sport and speed is going very fast, very close, past old people.
Well, yes, I hear you sayâ€¦ wanna-bes? Okay. Frustrated? Right!
But sexually repressed? Where did that come from?
Oh, come on! You simply don’t need to wear Lycra to ride a bicycle. Not round Townsville. And it does not need to be tight enough to embarrass even a ballet dancer in tights. And a helmet is a helmet is a helmet. It doesn’t need to look like a prop from a Star Trek set.
Nor do you need a $15,000 carbon fibre bicycle to pedal up and down The Esplanade. In fact Ñ and I am the living proof Ñ you can do a lot more damage with black, sit-up-and-beg model made of gas piping.
And shaving your legs? To reduce wind resistance? Yeahâ€¦ sure.
It’s my belief none of them have a healthy sex life; they start by acting out their fantasies in the privacy of their own homes; but no doubt their mums and dads object, so instead they dash out the door, leap on their lightweight, high-tensile, 36-geared, bicycles and drive them into submission, or old people, which ever comes first.
I remember going for cycle rides with my first girlfriend. We held hands. We admired the sky, and the landscape, and the birds. We had picnics. We had panniers on the backs of our bikes that would accommodate an entire banquet.
Now they ride like the messengers of hell are after them (and I hope they are!) and they don’t have anywhere to hide so much as an apple, except in their Lycra suits. And believe me, that is not an appleâ€¦