Yesterday at approximately 7.43am I picked a fight* with a terrifying man on a bicycle. He was one of those stocky types, stubbly, about my age, who looks like they spend their Friday nights in Wetherspoons with a copy of the Daily Mail under one arm, ranting to anyone who will listen about YOUTHS.
I was innocently walking the dog along the pavement next to a busy main road. It was a normal sort of pavement i.e. just the right size for a woman and her golden retriever, and we were doing very nicely thank you very much. About 100 metres away I saw the man, cycling towards me, on the pavement.
I saw him see me, he saw me see him see me. He did not slow down.
There was not going to be room for us to pass without one of use making a move to accommodate the other and I was FUCKED if that someone was going to be me.
(For context, I had had a difficult night sleeping on the sofa whilst holding hands with the dog, who was asleep on the floor, too sad to be alone because she’d been to the vets to have her toenails trimmed. Also I am a 44 year old woman and I am easily fucked off.)
The man on the bike kept coming. I stopped and stood still, staring him down.
At this point he looked frankly surprised, like he had imagined that as soon as I saw he was a MAN, I would understand that meant he had right of way and would immediately throw myself and the dog over the wall and into a bush in deference to his clear superiority. He was even more surprised when, as he drew close to me, I threw up one arm, (I have a frozen shoulder), and shouted, in despair, as though he was the 79th pavement cycler I had met that morning, ‘THIS IS A PAVEMENT!’
He stopped, leaning to put a foot on the ground, ready to launch his defence.
Had I ever tried cycling on this road, he asked me, going on to detail the numerous pot holes, blind corners and the sheer volume of traffic that meant it was impossible for him to do so. ‘You’re allowed to cycle on the pavement if you don’t feel save,’ he said aggressively, waggling a finger.
(I wondered if I was allowed to kick a bike out from underneath someone if *I* didn’t feel safe. I suspect not.)
I was taken aback. I was fairly sure this was a bullshit rule he had just made up, but he said it so confidently that I hesitated for a split second to get my bearings and he took the opportunity to cycle off, along the pavement naturally, tutting and shaking his head.
I thought of many clever and amusing things I wanted to say back to him as soon as he’d left, such as ‘perhaps you’d feel safer if you wore a HELMET’ and ‘get in the fucking bin you absolute dickweed’, but it was too late. My only consolation was that the man in his early twenties, who had been cycling on the pavement behind him, had at least had the decency to dismount and push his bike past me, head hung low in terror and shame. (I imagine.)
‘Thank you,’ I said to him with as much authority as I could muster. He scurried past in silence.
I Googled the legalities when I got home and of course it is ALWAYS ILLEGAL to cycle on the pavement unless it’s a bike lane. Ha!
I’m not saying I would go as far as to prosecute a child, but a full grown man, riding at speed towards a nice woman and her beloved pet, thinking he has the right to be there, to simply barge his way along the pavement and through life in general just because he’s a man and looks like he might be the sort of kick a dog – I would happily see him serving a life sentence.
*This may have been a slight exaggeration.