In the last few days, my son has acquired a Brompton, which for the uninitiated is a fold up bike so he can commute to work. He’s dead chuffed, mostly because he sourced it at a discount (his mother’s genes).
I’m rather pleased as well, since for 30 of my 35 years working in the City I commuted by bike. I loved the freedom it allowed me from the tyranny of the train timetable. I felt healthy, even if I ingested a sack load of particulates following buses as they ground their way towards the Elephant & Castle. I knew how long my journey would take me since bikes have a way of inveigling themselves to the front of any traffic queue (it’s not the cyclist, you understand).
But I did have a few… Hmm, countless disasters.
The white van who mistook me for a bollard and pulled out in front of me. The bike was totalled and I surpassed my personal best in the airborne (hard landing) category of man powered flying.
The DHL delivery van driver who 24 hours after I replaced the totalled bike above opened his door to create an informal slalom and rendered my brand new machine a piece of performance art (as well as reducing my suit trousers to something out of the Walking Dead wardrobe).
The flash flood that filled the dip under a railway bridge on the way home and into which I ploughed mistaking the likely depth. As I surfaced, spluttering and initially grateful of the cushioned landing the water gave me I was somewhat perturbed to see a buoyant turd float past.
The pedestrian who surprised me by stepping off the pavement in front of me. My initial delight in the efficacy of my brakes and the speed of my application was tempered by the despair as my back wheel caught up belatedly with the rest of us and tipped me slowly and if I say so myself rather delicately onto the road in front of said pedestrian. As I looked up, expecting contrition or at least concern, I was greeted by a moue of distaste and a rather unnecessary ‘plonker’ as the unscathed drongoid went about his day.
The unexpected dump of snow that cleared the road of traffic and allowed me the delight of uninterrupted roads on my way home. I learnt long ago that if you cycle reasonably quickly and make wide turns, cycling on packed snow is both possible and a pleasure. I relearned equally fast that stopping is something of a lottery as I ploughed into a roundabout and had to dig me and my machine out of a municipal display of daffodils.
The formula one start line that are the traffic lights at the gyratory system at Elephant & Castle. Some are terrified by the snarling lines of cars and vans, buses and taxis that jostle here, waiting for the lights to change as a precursor to unleashing the dogs of war. I was inured to such worries. I would wend my way to the front and set off before the lights went amber when I saw the corresponding lights turn to red. Ahead of the pack and in my little lane I felt pretty secure and smug. That is until the day my chain slipped as I pressed the accelerator, aka the pedals and wrapped my goolies around the handlebar. While I subsided to the pavement, trying to take the positives out of my self inflicted castration – no expensive vasectomy, then – the multitude of motorised morons peeped and tooted their support for a fellow commuter.
I wish none of these for my lad. I’m sure he’ll have enough of his own to recount. Looking back I just grateful I can still walk though my soprano singing is nothing short of appalling…