Critical me arse

The subject at hand
To cycle or not to cycle


I’m a pedestrian who cycles a bike and occasionally gets into a car, on the passenger side (the cause of confusion more than once).

As a pedestrian I will not stand at a red light and wait while the street remains empty of cars and other motorised transport, though I must say that I don’t usually step out in front of cyclists either. I will wait for the green man if there is a risk to my well-being but I’m not about to be that overly cautious type who denies themselves the ability to discern between what is or is not potentially dangerous.

When it comes to being a cyclist I appreciate it when a pedestrian realises the red cycle lane and tries their best to stay on their side but where a cycle lane passes through a junction such as at Budagyöngye, the cycle lane mingling with the bus stop area and the entrance to shopping centre, I’m also tolerant of the absent-mindedness of pedestrians or for that matter their sheer dogged determination to catch that bus. As I move through this part slowly I never have to practise wild, evasive manoeuvres as I have sometimes seen done by other cyclists. However, the fact that some pedestrians never get out of the way is rather an inconvenience and, well, rude.

Never having being a motorist; I flirted with the option at one time, but this was mainly confined to back roads around the city of Cork, deserted as they were, and as I have never had the inconvenience of ‘stepping out’ pedestrians and ‘dodging and weaving’ cyclists, I cannot say but as to my experiences watching others and being in the car with some of the greatest offenders when it comes to highway fascism.

In Budapest motorists rule which has led to movements like Critical Mass being set up with the intention to try to extend the awareness of a cyclist’s right to the road, at least a small part of it. Successfully executed in their mobilisation they have managed to turn the streets of Budapest, once a death trap into something akin to a promise of safety. There are still places where the cyclists have to decide between life and haste. The Chain Bridge (Lánchíd) comes to mind.

The measure of their achievements is most noted in the emergence of a greater number of cycle paths around the city which is all very well and good till the conflict begins to shift towards the two groups who should be united, the pedestrians and the cyclists. You see not only do motorists treat all and sundry with contempt but so too does the hierarchy appear between cyclists and pedestrians. Too often I have heard the warning ting-a-ling on the pavement where no cycle path is drawn and while I consider it polite to move aside, an insistent ringer is most deserving of all available expletives, and where both those on foot and on bike have to contend for a tiny patch, e.g. along certain parts of the bank walk between Margaret’s Bridge (Margit Híd) and the Chain Bridge, it becomes abundantly clear which group considers itself the superior.

This, I have seen boil over into assaults, physical or verbal, and I have been witness more than once to a cyclist being seized, handlebars first, and getting an almighty dressing down from a disgruntled pedestrian. The worst case was when a hulk of a man held a girl up who had been merrily ringing her way along a pavement near the Varosmajor, and not on the cycle path side. She had, at time of accostation, been attempting to squeeze her bike between the wall of a building and a parked car (note the car was on the pavement and had graciously allowed enough space for a slightly built man to pass through at a struggle) and had thought to remove the man mountain from her path, he half wedged, half wriggling already between said obstacles. With her ring-a-ding-dinging his anger was forthcoming!

Do I propose a solution? Not really, other than a modicum of respect all round. As for the big man he could probably do with a chill pill; the girl on the other hand I’d prescribe a reality check. I, for now, have had my say. I do bid you all adieu. Safe travelling!




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