Bristol to Rode by Brompton Part I; The Agony

I’m not sure how it happened, but I ended up cycling home from Bristol on Friday. I’d taken my Brompton in as I couldn’t be bothered to drive to Bradford-on-Avon, plus I needed to be at the studio I was working at by 09:30-10:00 and the train times didn’t quite add up. I figured that if I rode to Bradford on Avon, then trained to Bristol, I could use the Brompton to ride to Old Market where the studio is. The ride to Bradford was a bit harder than I thought it would be, it’s only about 5.5 miles but the wind was against me and before nine o’clock everyone was driving stupidly fast, very close to each other and not pulling out enough when overtaking me. Rather than have to slow down, cars were attempting to slip past me while traffic was coming in the other direction. Needless to say, the drivers in the opposite lane were not liking this and beeping at the overtakees. It happened four times. Why are people in such a hurry to get to work? Are their jobs so stressful, so cut-throat that their boss will fire them if they are thirty seconds late having been ‘stuck’ behind a cyclist? And what’s with this thing of everyone just following the first person that overtakes without even looking to see if the road is clear? I’ve seen that happen a lot while I am driving. Four cars behind a lorry, the first driver checks the road, overtakes, the second follows, and then the THIRD pulls out and starts overtaking with no way of knowing if the road will be clear or even if there will be enough room in front of the lorry once the first two cars have overtaken. How does the third driver know that the first driver isn’t going to relax and ease off the pedal once they are past the lorry? I’ve watched it happened so many times, it often ends in flashing lights and beeping horns, if not from the oncoming traffic, but from the lorry that has to brake hard to let the idiot third driver in. Anyway that was happening a lot too, streams of traffic overtaking me without checking the road, sometimes on blind bends. At one point I was on a bend and heard the car behind revving up to overtake just as a truck came round the corner. I put out my right hand to tell the car to stay back and thankfully they dropped back, just in time to miss the lorry. Then with the road clear I motioned them past. They waved in acknowledgment that I had spared them from being smeared over the front of the oncoming truck.

Ahead of me in the road I could see the mangled corpse of a pheasant. The cars were all running over it, and as I got nearer I could see that the head and body where smashed into a mush, smeared over the tarmac. The wheels had missed one of the wings which, still attached to the mashed up remains of the torso, was flapping slowly back and forth in the slipstream of the passing traffic, beckoning like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick. Another car impatiently roared past me, narrowly missing my elbow.

It annoys me because it makes me feel guilty, that perhaps it’s my fault that these people just can’t wait even those twenty seconds to check the road is clear. If I wasn’t there then surely it would be okay and these drivers wouldn’t be putting their lives at risk. I have a right to be on the road (more than cars do, they are allowed on the road if they have MOT, insurance and excise duty paid) and bikes have been on the road for a generation ahead of cars, but I hate, really hate that I feel in some way responsible for putting the lives of people who can’t drive safely at risk. That’s why I just don’t like riding country B Roads anymore, it’s pure transportation to me, I just can’t get any pleasure out of it now.

I rode on, longing to get off the road and on the train, I felt thoroughly miserable.