Four wheels good, two wheels very bad in­deed

Dunedin has been awash with rage of late. Is the cause despotic world lead­ers, cli­mate change or un­nec­es­sary hu­man suf­fer­ing? No, it is not. As David Loughrey dis­cov­ers, it is all the fault of cy­clists.


DUNEDIN awoke in a lather. The city rolled over in a bind of knot­ted sheets, sweaty and con­fused.

It opened its crusty eyes, the pupils di­lated and whites a red­dened mess of hem­or­rhaged cap­il­lar­ies.

There was some­thing the mat­ter. From deep within a pit of barely re­pressed and fren­zied emo­tion it be­gan to boil and seethe.

There was some­thing dark in­side, and if it was left un­ex­pressed it would most surely blow.

It was rage; a rage so white­hot and pure it could al­most take form and con­sume the re­gion.

And there could be just one rea­son; cy­clists and their in­fer­nal cy­cle­ways. This is how it hap­pens.

You’re on the way to work.

On the ra­dio the voice of the news­reader drifts in and out of your con­scious­ness as you drive to­wards the city with the other com­muters on a spring morn­ing.

There are sto­ries about the gov­ern­ment, about petrol prices, about the weather.

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump is cel­e­brat­ing.

He calls sex as­sault claims made against new Supreme Court Jus­tice Brett Ka­vanaugh a hoax, all made up.

Mr Ka­vanaugh swears an oath at the White House, and Trump hails it a ‘‘momentous’’ oc­ca­sion.

In Brazil a far right politi­cian with a long his­tory of of­fen­sive re­marks about women, blacks and gays does very well in an elec­tion.

You feel calm.

You ad­just your glasses and start think­ing about the day ahead, you sweep around the cor­ner on to State High­way 1 and then you see it; a cy­cle lane.

It has green bits and con­crete bar­ri­ers be­tween cy­clists and cars with natty lit­tle de­signs on them and, damn it, the road isn’t quite as wide as it used to be and there aren’t as many parks and there’s one cy­clist not us­ing the cy­cle lane and when you get near them you have to slow down for up to two sec­onds be­fore you can pass and a right­eous and pas­sion­ate fury be­gins to rise within you.

Your legs be­gin to twitch un­con­trol­lably and one of your eyes starts blink­ing of its own ac­cord and your teeth grind to­gether so hard they chip and crack and im­po­tent tears of rage in­vade your eye­balls.

Cy­clists have ru­ined your day.

You get closer to town.

Some­one on the news starts bang­ing on about the lat­est In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change re­port.

The re­port is un­equiv­o­cal; the cli­mate is chang­ing now.

The changes are al­ready af­fect­ing hu­man well­be­ing through ex­treme weather events and sea level rise, and there are likely to be more far­reach­ing losses af­fect­ing coral reefs and Arc­tic sea ice.

Per­haps 10 mil­lion peo­ple will be af­fected by sea level rise alone and an­other 420 mil­lion by heat stress be­cause of fos­sil fuel emis­sions in the at­mos­phere.

Noth­ing to worry about.

You be­gin to re­lax again.

Then you see a cy­clist on the cy­cle­way.

Cy­clists are so ar­ro­gant, ex­pect­ing their own lane.

You don’t ex­pect a spe­cial lane for your car, there just is one, that is the nat­u­ral or­der of things.

It doesn’t cost a thing.

But you per­son­ally have paid thou­sands of dol­lars for these cy­cle­ways through your taxes or rates or some­thing be­cause the gov­ern­ment or the coun­cil or some­one, you are not re­ally sure who, forces you to.

It’s like they are try­ing to dis­cour­age the use of cars and make cy­cling more at­trac­tive and less dan­ger­ous.

Why would they do that?!

The whole thing is in­ex­pli­ca­ble, and your hand be­gins to shake and your eyes cloud over as the rage takes you again, trans­port­ing you to a parox­ysm of foul tem­per that threat­ens to in­habit your whole be­ing and tear your frag­ile psy­che limb from limb.

Cy­clists have ru­ined your week.

You try to pull over to the side of the road to catch your breath, psy­cho­log­i­cally speak­ing, but there is a cy­cle­way there, and you have to wait be­tween two and three sec­onds be­fore you find a spot to park.

You are in a state of twisted nearin­san­ity.

You try to calm down and force your­self to indulge in a lit­tle in­tro­spec­tion.

The anger has be­come all­con­sum­ing. You can no longer func­tion, no longer speak to your fam­ily and friends with­out yelling at them.

Could this some­how be some­thing to do with your own in­abil­ity to con­trol your emo­tions?

Could it be a re­sponse to some pain or trauma in your life you have been un­able to deal with, for which you lack the skills to cope?

Could your anger be a sub­sti­tute emo­tion you use to stop your­self feel­ing pain, be­cause for some rea­son it feels bet­ter to be an­gry than it does to be in pain?

Is this whole thing you have with cy­clists merely a dis­trac­tion from the real­i­ties about your­self you are un­will­ing to deal with?

Is it a smoke­screen for your feel­ings of vul­ner­a­bil­ity that pro­vides you with a sense of right­eous­ness and mo­ral su­pe­ri­or­ity that is some­how com­fort­ing?

Life is com­plex and con­fus­ing, para­dox­i­cal and fright­en­ing, in so many ways un­know­able and ul­ti­mately fa­tal.

Maybe that has some­thing to do with it.

You see a cy­clist, and you be­gin to cry; great wrench­ing sobs wrack your body and dou­ble you over on to the steer­ing wheel as ev­ery re­pressed feel­ing rips blood­ied and vi­cious to the sur­face.

And it be­comes clear.

Your prob­lems are noth­ing to do with some name­less in­ter­nal malaise.

It’s cy­clists and cy­cle­ways.

They have ru­ined your life.

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