She used to think cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans were on the same side, but it’s war for Sarah Caden if they threaten her child

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Life - - FIRST PERSON TOP FIVE -

I’m think­ing of get­ting a bi­cy­cle hel­met. One for me and one for the three-year-old. Not that we cy­cle. We walk. But one of th­ese morn­ings, af­ter many close shaves, the cy­clists will get us. And if she or is sent fly­ing into the air by a metal ma­chine mov­ing at high speed, we will need all the pro­tec­tion we can get. I might get a loud­hailer, too. Just one for me, for now, but if this con­tin­ues, the lit­tle girl is get­ting one, too.

Ev­ery day, af­ter walk­ing the older daugh­ter to school, I push the younger one in her buggy to creche, cross­ing three per­ilous Dublin-city junc­tions. They’re not per­ilous in them­selves. Each has a pedes­trian-cross­ing func­tion and she pushes the but­tons and I ex­plain to her that we can’t go un­til the green man comes. And then he comes and we go and, oh, so does ev­ery­one on a bike. From four di­rec­tions at two of the cross­ings and from six di­rec­tions at one of them.

Be­cause there’s a cy­cle lane at the last junc­tion and no mat­ter what that green man says to the pedes­tri­ans, and no mat­ter what the signs in the cy­cle lane say to the cy­clists about yield­ing to the pedes­tri­ans, they don’t. Not only do they not stop, but they don’t even slow down. Add to that the fact that some cy­clists don’t like to be re­stricted by the nanny-state cy­cle lane, so they per­sist in cy­cling on the road. And they don’t stop or slow down, ei­ther. So as we cross — yes, dear, the green man means go, re­ally fast and with fear in your heart — I am look­ing out for four lanes of cy­clists, all of whom, it seems, are out to get us. And, one morn­ing re­cently, they al­most did.

We stepped, cau­tiously as ever, into the cy­cle lane and a speed­ing two-wheeled ve­hi­cle came, as they say, out of nowhere. He was go­ing very fast, fly­ing past the pack of other ap­proach­ing cy­clists, and he al­most hit us. When we get the green man, you see, the cy­clists get a flash­ing yel­low bike, which means ‘yield to pedes­tri­ans’, and in case that’s not clear to them, there are large signs along the lanes, spelling this out. I was pre­pared, as I am most morn­ings, to roar at the pack if they got too close. This has an ef­fect on about half of them, I find. You can see it in their eyes, be­cause their eyes are near enough to see. About half are just swept up in the group men­tal­ity of mov­ing for­ward with­out slow­ing, obliv­i­ous to traf­fic lights or hu­man ob­sta­cles. The other half just don’t care. Though their ma­chine may be more en­vi­ron­men­tally sound than a huge sports car, their mind­set is ex­actly that of a big, ob­nox­ious bully driv­ing a big, ob­nox­ious sports car. And such a mas­ter of the twowheeled universe came out of nowhere and forced us to re­treat into the cy­cle lane go­ing the other di­rec­tion, where another cy­clist ig­nor­ing the traf­fic light nearly ploughed into us. Oh, and the orig­i­nal guy kept go­ing, ob­vi­ously.

In my naivete, once upon a time, I imag­ined that cy­clists and pedes­tri­ans were on the same side. As a kid, I cy­cled to school, and loved it. As a young adult, I cy­cled all over the city, un­til I got the fear af­ter hear­ing about one too many bike-ver­sus-mo­tor-ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent and gave it up. I didn’t be­come a mo­torist un­til I was in my 30s and, at heart, I al­ways fan­cied my­self as on the side of the cy­clist. Un­til, as a pedes­trian, sur­vival in­stinct forced me to ac­cept that the only side the cy­clist is on is their own. As it stands, they have a po­ten­tially lethal metal ma­chine, high speed and whizzy cy­cle lanes on their side. While it might seem that I have only the im­po­tent green man on my side, the cy­clists un­der­es­ti­mate the Mother-Bear pro­tec­tive in­stincts that come into play when one’s small child is threat­ened.

Ev­ery morn­ing, the wheeled-along child and I face a range of in­evitable con­fronta­tions. The best-case sce­nario is that, as I cross, a pack of cy­clists will pedal to­wards us in tiny, threat­en­ing move­ments, im­pa­tiently will­ing us out of the way. I cross slowly in this in­stance, al­low­ing them to creep close as I stare them down and mut­ter at them.

The next best case is that they cy­cle on through the light with­out drop­ping speed. In this in­stance, I get out of their way, but shout­ing loudly about it be­ing my turn and how I’ve waited and so should they. OK, I’ve roared that I’ll knock them off their bike a cou­ple of times. Worst case is that they come at high speed, fly­ing at me and my child as though we are nui­sance to be oblit­er­ated, and if they’re not care­ful, I could start fight­ing back. For now, how­ever, I’m the mad, roar­ing woman, my shred of faith in hu­man de­cency keep­ing me from buy­ing the hel­mets just yet. Maybe I’ll in­vest in the loud­hailer first.

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