Tag Archives: road rage

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 knowledge of the car driver: Number 5 in an the series: Knowledge, traffic and arts based research.

The knowledge of the car driver is perhaps the most complete form of knowledge available to us in both the private and public spheres of knowledge. He (for the car driver is always male, the form has not yet found a way of accommodating female insights into how to navigate oneself around the world) knows how to use Satnav, A – Z or his own innate capabilities in recognising how the world roads systems should connect up; how to surround himself with the perfect soundtrack which mirrors how his own internal emotional turmoil connects to his public confidence in the morals of the highway code; and  how his mpg will accurately predict his eta. On a good day, the drivers knowledge is both organic and inorganic,  both evolved and constructed: man and machine are perfectly melded. On a bad day, you find yourself on the M25.

Arts based research has a particularly effective role to play if the driver finds himself on the Moebius Loop that is the modern outer city motorway. Poetry, site specific installations and bricolage can be bought into play on the car dashboard, creating new interpretations on ancient themes of mans inhumanity to man, the place of God in a Godless society and the existence of the Devil. The only risk to the driver is that by becoming so immersed in the knowledge that this research generates, they miss the turning for the Dartford Tunnel and are doomed to repeat their journey for a further 120 miles.

More travel knowledge here.