And because that is the case (and I’ve had a beer and a week of cycling in the city again), I’ve begun to compile a list. A list of the most dangerous creatures out there!
Let’s be honest. Alien robots don’t even appear on the list. They are completely harmless compared to the rest.
5) Commuting cyclists
These are your friends. They know what you are going through, they know the bad spots on the road and they bring sensible gear. Their bikes are likely equipped with a pannier or they are wearing a backpack of work clothes. They will have lights and ride on the right side of the bikepath. They might have dorky reflective elements or helmet mirrors, but they are still aware and awake.
Sporty cyclists also fall in this group. Sure, a peloton of road racers will appear odd, but they know what they are doing and will clear the area quickly. Same for a dirt covered mountain biker near the forest – she’ll just have bounced over deadly tree-roots and rocks at breakneck speed. Not worried there.
4) Lorries, Busses, Trams
These are the lowest on the list. Sure, if you actually crash into one of those, you’re likely going to end up dead, but the odds are surprisingly low. In all cases I’ve seen lately, crashes have been caused by the cyclist riding into the blind spot, then trying to go while the big metal object was doing a turn.
These things are also piloted by professionals. It’s their job to do this all day, they have probably dodged more cyclists in their professional career than you have met and thus they are usually quite harmless.
Cars in rush hour behave much like lorries, really. They go reasonably fast towards a destination they have headed for about a million times. They know the path, know the potholes and probably also know the spots where cyclists cross into their way.
If the driver hasn’t had his coffee yet, you might get honked at, but at least they are reasonably awake and if angry, the adrenaline will help them avoid cyclists on time.
Cars are several stages more dangerous in the evening rush hour than they are in the mornings. In the mornings people are mentally stable, refreshed, possibly tired and angry at having to go to work. In the evenings people are unhinged by their jobs demands, tired, caffeinated and angry at anything blocking their straight path home. Mostly other cars, but cyclists weaving past only remind them of how stupid a car is in rush hour.
2) Recreational cyclists
Ah. Now we’re getting into dangerous territory. These are the people who are on their bike for fun (have you seen a kid on a BMX bike lately?), occasionally or for short distances only.
They are the ones most likely to behave like bike salmon (against the stream and all), bike ninja (I shall remain hidden in the dark) or just plains stupid. Go slowly on a busy bikepath for no reason? Come barging out of a flowerbed on a moutain bike? Spill tins of food from a badly secured plastic bag balanced on the handlebars?
Go on, spill those tomatoes all over the road while you struggle onto the platforms in your high heels. And then ride the wrong direction down a path. You know you want to.
This cannot be overstated. Pedestrians are out to kill you. No other group in traffic can manage the moves they do – nothing else has as little momentum to give them predictability.
Of course pedestrians walk in the middle of the path, so cyclists can choose to overtake in the shrubbery on the right or the mud on the left.
And they do not think of lighting themselves. Whereas everyone else has an interest in seeing where they are going, pedestrians move so slow they are fine on a moonlit night. Which, of course, makes them a tad harder to spot.
This is how they don’t actually look. The reflective bands at the bottom of the trousers give this photo away as staged. No normal pedestrian looks like this.
And we all know pedestrians don’t slap their forehead. They just turn around and walk in the opposite direction. Or better yet – at a slight angle, just to make it even harder to pass them
Now there is, of course, the option to use the bell from a safe distance to alert the pedestrian to your proximity.
It never works.
On a single pedestrian it will invariably lead to them moving towards the path you intended to take.
On a pair, it will lead to them scattering, blocking the largest amount of space on the path.
On a larger group, some of them will notice, alert the others by tugging on their clothing or speaking really loudly (thus obscuring your bell), then resulting in all of them turning to face the bell. As pedestrians can only turn around on the spot with the intent to kill a cyclist – and this group actually wants to help you – they will do this in small semi-circular movement patterns… at random… all over the path.
Nothing is as dangerous as a pedestrian.
Oh well.. there is. It’s a pedestrian with a dog.
If you are lucky, you’ll meet them in the daylight. They are still insane, follow all the rules of pedestrians with the added bonus of stringing several meters of cord between themselves and a bored wolf-descendent.
If you are really unlucky, you meet them in the dark. Walking on the left of the bikepath. In dark clothing. With no reflective elements whatsoever. And on the right, halfway into the forest, with the leash wrapped around a tree trunk is a black haired dog, the size of a small cow. And the leash spans across the path and is black. Because it looks more stylish that way.
Those are the days I just throw my hands in front of my face and shout “Let go now” while barreling into the line. If I’m lucky, I’ll just get whipped by a plastic leash holder.