Tag Archives: pelican crossing

A Waiting Story: the cyclist, the pelican crossing and me.

I was waiting to cross the road at the pelican. It was rush hour and the traffic flow was steady and self important. Moments went by which felt like minutes turning to hours.

But in an instant the waves of traffic part and there’s a clear path across the pelican and I see a way across.

I look right, left and right again. Miraculously there’s no one on the road at all. Apart from a dot on the horizon to my right. I blink and it’s gotten larger. I blink again and i can make out the form of a solitary cyclist, head down, pedalling furiously. He or she won’t have seen me so I think do I stay or do I go? Just walk across the empty road? I hesitate and oscillate. Stay go stay go stay go? I press the button on the crossing pole and wait for the red stationery man to the green walking man. The lights stays red for me, green for the cyclist.

The rules of the road mean that the cyclist has right of way and I have the duty to stay put until the lights change.

The racing bike is now less than hundred metres away and the cyclist has now looked up and must be aware of our impending rendezvous. He or she has stopped pedalling momentarily, they must be sizing up the encounter.

The lights change – green to yellow to red for the bike, red to green for me.

We know what’s expected of us – I can walk safe in the knowledge that I have rights of passage; the cyclist can stop, safe in the knowledge that they can proceed following the letter and spirit of the law.

I start to cross but the cyclist isn’t slowing down. I look at them: their head is back down and they’re peddling furiously again. I stand still, mid road staring at the red mountain bike complete with two black panniers that is bearing down on me. I wait momentarily, my light is still green, the beeps are still beeping, the cyclist is still pedalling, their light is still red, they should be slowing down, they should be stopping, I should not be facing an imminent collision with a cyclist in a black Lycra suit on a red mountain bike, carrying black panniers, water bottle at the front. I continue to stand stock still. They continue to pedal.

The next sound of beeping is in the hospital by my hospital bed. I’m on a heart monitor, drip in one arm, plaster on the other. My legs are strung upon some kind of pulley system and flower vases flank my bed with tens of cards by their sides.

I find out later that whilst I was stood staring at the cyclist, a car coming the other way had veered across the road, knocked me over and driven off. The cyclist – God bless them – had phoned for the ambulance , picked up the pieces, got me into hospital, phoned my nearest and dearest and ensured that the police were fully informed of that mornings events. I used to curse cyclists who didn’t play the rules of the game of the road – but today, I thanked this one for saving my life – even though it did look like they were going to mow me over in the process.

The transgressive knowledge of the cyclist: who the f#!? do they think they are? Number 3 in an the series: Knowledge, traffic and arts based research.

Whilst the knowledge of the taxi driver is in a state of crisis, and the knowledge capacities of the bus driver under-exploited, the knowledge of the cyclist is both stable and fulfilled. Stable  in the sense that they know how to get where they want to go (ie sit on saddle and peddle like crazy) and fulfilled in that there are unlikely to be any surprise passengers on the bicycle, hiding in the pannier bags ready to spring a few narrative surprises…

The cyclist knowledge is also trangressive and reflective of some problematic identity resolutions. One minute they are a law abiding traveller on the nation’s roads, the next they have become pedestrians on wheels, oblivious to the demands made by red traffic lights or pelican crossings. This transgressive performativity (identity is not who you are, it’s what you do) may provide them with additional epidemiological insights, but it also causes wider concerns amongst fellow travellers. ‘who the f#!#do they think they are?’ being a common rhetorical question posed by car drivers, relatively ignorant of the knowledge capacities of the cyclist when witnessing their delight in swopping identities.

This is the cyclist’s dilemma.  Their transgressive capabilities, whilst providing them with new insights into contemporary travelling insights is generated at a price: existential questions of who do they fundamentally think they are.

Arts based researchers would help them resolve these questions through the suitable application of a course of graffiti, bricolage and spoke-art. The nation’s roads would become safer as a result.

More travel knowledge here.