Cycling week

There were some good rides and there were some bad rides.

Monday

Rode to work. Friends, this was a bad ride.

Raroa Rd was busy, with a lot of traffic coming down as I was climbing up. A 4WD came up behind me, got very close, and started revving. I got nervous and thought I’d better take the centre of the lane to stop it from trying to overtake and potentially squashing me. This made the 4WD angry and the revving increased and seemed to get even closer, so I made the ‘Wait’ sign, as in held my hand palm out behind me. Later I wondered if maybe the driver had misinterpreted me; maybe they thought I was saying, ‘Go on ahead’? But I was out in the middle of the lane on a narrow road and there was traffic on the other side; it would make no sense to say ‘Go on ahead’. After a few moments the traffic cleared, so I pulled over to the left. It was a blind corner but I was getting freaked out about the closeness of the 4WD, which then shot past, fast and insanely close, and then I saw it was also towing a long, high trailer, which rocketed past a few inches away, so I decided now was the time to scream my lungs out.

A few weeks ago I saw a comment on a ‘Bad driving’ thread on the Cycle Wellington FB page. The comment was a complaint about a cyclist who yelled and cursed at a driver who’d cut them off or something, and the commenter had thought the cyclist responded badly. The cyclist should’ve been more constructive, they thought. The word ‘constructive’ has really stuck in my head. Imagine being able to control yourself to such a degree that you remained measured, thoughtful, constructive at all times, even when you might be grievously injured or killed in that moment. This is probably something that the most enlightened Buddhist monks are able to do. But for the rest of us, it’s a strange sort of fantasy about human behaviour.

I used to feel bad about screaming or swearing at drivers who nearly knock me off but somehow, over the years, I’ve given that up, and I no longer feel bad. It would be nice to be the bigger person in these scenarios. But the fact is, I am not. I am the smaller person, in all senses.

The ride home was also unenjoyable – it’s just the time of year; people are on edge, seething with a special festive rage – but it was less bad than the ride in.

Tuesday

I have recovered. Regenerated like a sea sponge. Today’s rides were good rides! It rained on the way home.

There’s something I want to say about rain. The best kind of rain to ride in is light but splotchy. It falls straight down, not sideways. This doesn’t make sense really, but the words ‘gravel rain’ always come into my head, because it’s the kind of rain where you can smell the road and the stones on the road. It’s usually those few moments when the rain is just starting up and is still deciding what it wants to do. Or, no – it knows exactly what it is going to do, but it’s just giving you a few minutes of grace. The rain saw you riding along and was like, ‘Just so you know … I am here. But you carry on.’ So, gravel rain. On the ride home it rained like this for about five minutes, and then it changed to a steady, grinding rain – let’s call this SUV rain – which isn’t as good to ride in.

Wednesday

No commute to work today as the work year is technically over, but this afternoon I had to ride into town. This was a bad ride.

I was riding up Taranaki, towards Jessie St, when a massive black VW ute with the number plate 4XBOYS suddenly accelerated with a roar and overtook me really close. Not for the first time this week, I screamed in shock. He would’ve hit me if I’d moved slightly to the right. The whole thing felt weird – properly intimidating, and I wondered if I’d somehow done something earlier, along jammed-up Ghuznee St, that had annoyed this driver. I had ridden past the long line of traffic to the front of the queue; maybe that had done it.

I caught up with the ute on Jessie St, where it was waiting at the intersection. This is where I did something stupid. I pulled up beside the VW and knocked on the window. The thought was: I wanted to ask whether the driver realised they had passed me so closely. It was a stupid impulse – never confront! never escalate! – but I couldn’t let it go. I genuinely wanted to know if they had seen me.

The driver was a little man with a cap on. He looked straight ahead, ignoring me. I politely knocked on the window again, because I am an idiot. Then the man looked at me with this horrible look of disgust on his face. I think this told me that yes, he had seen me and yes, he had meant to pass me that closely. So I shook my head and rode off. I felt really awful.

Then I rode home and filed a community roadwatch report, since I remembered his ridiculous numberplate.

Thursday

I needed to ride to Newtown today, so I was nerdishly excited to try out the new cycle lane along Adelaide Rd.

Near Memorial Park I bumped into my friend Rachel, who I think reads this blog. Somehow we got on to talking about falling over. Anyway, hello Rachel!

The new cycle lane is excellent. I felt so relaxed riding along it that it felt like a whole new road. I had to turn right onto Rintoul at the lights, but managed to go fast enough to get out ahead of the traffic, flailing my arm.

The new lane back towards the Basin felt kind of weirdly narrow, like being on a fast treadmill where you’re scared your legs are going to go off the edges, but, you know, we take what we can get.

On the way back towards Highbury I got this notion to ride up to ye old golf ball. I got to the top of Brooklyn Hill before realising my legs were literally mashed potato and I just could not do more hills today. Turned down Ohiro, zoomed along Tanera and down Mortimer and Durham, then up again to Highbury. Lay on floor.

Friday

Two good short rides today. The first was into town to meet my best friend to go to the pub. This is one of the best rides you can do and I recommend doing it at least once a week. We went around some shops first and I wondered how much time I have spent in my life locking and then unlocking my bike – trying to find a good pole or bike stand, searching for my lock or searching for my key, clipping or unclipping my pannier, digging around in the dark hell of the pannier, sometimes getting myself into a rage when I cannot find what I need. Apparently we spend one third of our lives asleep. I spend one of the other thirds locking and unlocking my bike.

Rode home in early evening. A really good ride, post-rain. Everything rinsed clean. Went up the Terrace and Kelburn Pde as I felt like some steeper hills, and the roads were calm. Front light conked out once again.

Christmas gift guide for cyclists in your life

A good front light.

A good rear light.

About ashleighlou

Person, usually on bike
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3 Responses to Cycling week

  1. readwrite75 says:

    Ashleigh, have you ever thought about riding a stallion around town? Say it with me: Stallion. It sure would make an impression. Get you up those slopes. And those fuckers in their 4WDs wouldn’t know what to think

    Like

  2. Sabine says:

    Today was the day I returned the bike I had on loan for my four weeks of Wellington. I found that shouting Oi! at the top of my lungs did a good job both for me and various drivers and the occasional pedestrian. I also had the experience of trying out that ridiculous bicycle path along Adelaide Street (jeez, tight fir, seriously?) and whoever decided on the bicycle lanes – for lack of a better word – along the state highways, could we meet and talk?
    I enjoyed it all immensely though. I will miss Wellington for another year. Stay safe and don’t give an inch, we own the roads as much as anybody who uses them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. readwrite75 says:

    Some people get a new bike for Xmas. Did you get yours taken away, Ashleigh?

    Liked by 1 person

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