As regular readers will be aware, I’m a man who likes to cycle.
As you might imagine, this minor obsession with life on two wheels causes me to come into regular contact with lots of other cyclists, and so quite naturally I am sympathetic to cyclists as a breed. If you spend time wandering around the more ‘ranty’ parts of the internet you will find that not everyone feels this way.
Type “cyclists are…” into Google, and you get this:
So, OK, clearly the second most popular result is friendly – it brings up dozens of regional tourist boards from across the UK – but the other three give an indication of the (more polite) accusations levelled at the humble cyclist (although quite why you would need a poster exclaiming that cyclists are untrustworthy, I’m not sure).
I happen to believe that, actually, take any group of people and stick a label on them, and you’ll find that human nature will kick in; some will be funny, some will be clever, some tolerant, some less so, some angry, some calm, some annoying…
You get my point.
Plenty of cyclists behave well and considerately, some don’t. The same applies to motorists, or hang gliders, or teenagers, or middle aged men, or deep sea divers, or bloggers…
I suppose this uber-rational take on things doesn’t create headlines or promote impassioned debate, and the fact is, people love to have an opinion and argue it. And the result? You type “cyclists are…” into Google and find yourself wading knee deep through (mainly) knee jerk opinion.
I recently took my two boys (aged 4, and 18 months old) to one of those farms here in the UK that have diversified well beyond actual farming, and seem to make the majority of their money from their ‘play barn’; basically a soft play area for kids containing slides, climbs, drops, nets…etc.
Attached to most of these play-barns will be a café too: this one was called ‘Wellies’.
So there we were, the two boys and I, in the café and hungry from an hour of solid play, only to find out that the supply and demand of high-chairs had gone beyond tipping point. Lunchtime at a play barn is always a tricky time to be looking for a high-chair; the boys got increasing hungry as I desperately tried to locate one.
Job done, eventually, I sat the boys down and strapped the younger one in, and we looked at the menu and made our choice. I turned to order at the counter…at the exact moment that a group of 15 cyclists formed a not-so-orderly queue for their mid-ride coffee and flap-jack.
“Uh-oh” I thought, and the boys looked at me as if to say, “we’re hungry…off you go”.
So I found myself standing fifteen people back in the queue, quietly seething as I watched them all pay one-by-one, of course, spending a frankly ridiculous amount of time remembering their table numbers, comparing what each other was having, and ferreting around for change in their jersey pockets.
Meanwhile, I was desperately trying to keep one eye on my boys, who were sitting at our table at the other side of the café and struggling to contain their monstrous play-barn related appetites.
If I’d been one of the cyclists, would I have noticed the dad with an anxious eye on his kids and a desperate need to order food NOW(!), and let him to the front of the queue?
Probably not; they all looked a bit glassy eyed and hypoglycaemic to me, and oblivious to my drama.
Afterwards, of course, when the three of us were well fed and watered I had no trouble in realising that it might just as easily have been a group of pensioners on a day trip, the staff from a local factory on their lunch hour, or fifteen dads queuing up to feed their hungry kids; the fact that they were cyclists is neither here nor there.
But it was a little insight into how these irrational prejudices can form.
Incidentally, expanding on the idea of consulting Google for prevailing opinion, type in “pensioners are…” and you get: