In pictures: Bollard collides with motor vehicle

Here on the Old Kent Road, a bollard has been involved in a collision with a motor vehicle.  It is not yet clear which party was at fault.

Bollard collides with motor vehicleBollards are fascinating creatures.  Over the course of a number of posts, I want to show you how the once humble bollard turned its back on life as an innocent east end docker,

and took up position on the front line of the War On The Motorist, multiplying, moving west, and infiltrating every part of the city.  Bollards are at right in the thick of the action, and I will explain how they represent perfectly the issues that are the centre of this dispute.

I will tell you of the history of bollards, and how the history of bollards is a history of the war; how the different varieties of bollards reflect the various major developments in the conflict; and why the true test of whether the war is over would be whether Britain could survive without its tens of millions of bollards.

I see red, I see red, I see red

Until the armistice is signed, we remain in a state of war.

Yet Sun Tzu never anticipated the advent of the motorcar, or the velocipede, as weapons of war. So we knights of the bike must invent new arts in our struggle down the road to the promised land.

Unfortunately, most of us don’t think about the tools in our arsenal until the moment of their use is upon us. And it’s no time to be clever, inventive or nuanced when you’re bathed in an adrenaline-spiked cloud of crimson mist.

Whaddawewant?

The first thing you have to ask yourself, well ahead of time, is what you want to get out of any encounter you have with a Motorist aggressor. If you’re reading this, I’ll assume that surrender is not an option. Yet neither is GBH, if we are to maintain the moral high ground. Thankfully, there are many things you can do between the two to satisfy your indignation in the face of death, and advance our cause to its inevitable victory.

Scream your head off… or mess with his mind

So a Motorized terrorist has just tried to kill you. You’ve picked yourself up and managed to catch said terrorist at the next red (assuming the arrogant @!#£ recognizes the authority of traffic lights over his God-given right to drive wherever and however he pleases). There isn’t a cop in sight but you’ve still kept it together well enough to stop yourself from putting a D-lock through the perp’s window. What next?

If you’re lucky enough that he’s rolled down his window to shout at you, no problem. We’re now in the realm of conventionally verbal jujitsu. If you want to meet him in a shrieking-match, knock yourself out. I’m certainly not going to tell you to do otherwise. It won’t change his politics, but it will let him know that we won’t be cowed.

Alternatively, you could try being cool, calm and collected. It won’t satisfy the fires of your indignation or give you a legal catharsis high. But it will almost certainly freak him out. And bystanders will be in no doubt who’s in the right.

Sadly, at least half the time neither of these is an option. As with all flavors of terrorist, most Moto-terrorists are cowards. They won’t back down, but neither will they engage beyond yelling through a closed window before staring straight ahead and praying for the lights to change.

This was my experience a couple of weeks ago after when I was almost cut down by a Motorist running a flashing yellow out of a bus lane. After lambasting me for impeding his journey to the traffic jam 20 yards further down the New Kent Road he fell into a trance like state. No amount of robust inquiry on my behalf seemed to snap him out.

Quite unsatisfying.

It can be similarly difficult to gain the attention when the aggressor is a mercenary — usually teenage boys with soul-crushing sexual inadequacies — rather than a member of the (politically motivated) Motorist militia. This seems to happen more often to my girlfriend than it does to me. I wonder why.

In any event, if you want to get a Motorist’s attention, physics is on your side.

The Thunder Clap – a.k.a. The Hand of God

As well as being a 1 tonne killing machine, a car is also a wonderfully reverberant metal drum. The cabin behaves like a resonant cavity with a frequency almost identical to the steel roof that covers it. A flat palm clapped down onto the roof produces a thunderous sonic boom that’ll make the inhabitants think the end of days has come.

It won’t hurt the car. But it will focus the attention of everyone inside.

BUT be warned, this is a provocative act!

You should only use it when there is lots of traffic (to make it difficult for the Motorist to finish the job he tried to start) and plenty of witnesses.

Actually, now that I think of it, it’s probably best not to use it at all.

I tried it one quiet Sunday morning as a family of thugs that was on their way to church. They tried to run me off the road, and as they did I just instinctively gave the roof a whack.

*BOOM!*

The car screeched to a halt in front of me and three incredibly wide men got out.

They were in no mood to talk.

Luckily for me, they had their mother in tow — a woman of similar girth and a stare that would fell a rhinoceros. Had she not had somewhere else to be, I’m sure she would have led the beating her sons and husband clearly wanted to give me. But she wasn’t going to keep God waiting for a heathen pervert like me. And her boys weren’t about to cross her. So after a few minutes of token posturing all round, she bundled them back into the car and I lived to fight another day.

But it so clearly could have gone the other way. There are some situations where you have choice between only two options: to be right or to be alive.

For other times (most other times, in fact), a better approach is a cold blooded approach — don’t get mad, get their license plate.

The pen (or camera-phone, I guess) is mightier than the sword

As well as giving Motorists an air of invincibility, a car can also give them a false feeling of anonymity. All it takes to burst it is to show them that you’ve got their number.

I discovered this while taking part in a survey of commuting times from different parts of Sydney, by various modes of transport, into the centre. I’d volunteered to spend two weeks cycling in the morning rush-hour from Manly to the CBD. (I didn’t actually live anywhere near Manly, but getting there first by harbour ferry was half the fun!)

Most of the journey was by transit lane. Sydney transit lanes are similar to London bus lanes, except they may also be used by private cars with three or more occupants, as well as buses, bikes and taxis.

One of these mornings, an indignant Motorist threatened to ram me from behind. I wasn’t in anyone’s way. It was a transit lane. I’d just passed a string of buses. And she was in the lane illegally, being the only occupant of her private car. Nonetheless, she seemed deeply offended by my presence on *her* road.

Her car never actually made contact (though it came close). But boy was she angry, blasting her horn at me for what seemed like a full minute. And then some.

She might have been in an urgent hurry and I did my best to inquire, through the windscreen, what the emergency was. But she didn’t seem able to articulate what the hurry was, beyond,

“This a transit lane! Get out of the £#$%ing transit lane you £#$%ing idiot!”

I don’t know whether it was the glory of the beautiful spring day, or the sheer absurdity of the Motorist’s blind fury, but somehow I managed to keep my cool and hold my ground in the centre of the lane until we reached the next red light.

When we did, I pulled out a pen and paper (which I’d been using to record my times to various checkpoints along the journey), bent over to get a good look at her license plate, and jotted it down.

Then I gave her a thumbs up and a big smile.

The horn stopped abruptly. She didn’t bother me after that. She remained behind me, illegally, for another kilometre or so. But the apparent urgency of her journey seemed to have abated.

Funny that!

— Ed

Ceasefire!

The new transport secretary, Philip Hammond, who enjoys driving his Jaguar and is frightened of the dangerous situations that cyclists bring upon themselves, has pledged to bring an end to the war on the Motorist.  We, the British people, welcome Mr Hammond’s position and hereby declare our willingness to enter into negotiations for a ceasefire.  Here are our demands.

  1. Stop the killings.  The occupying Motorist governments have systematically turned a blind eye to the massacre of British civilians, including countless women and children, by Motorist soldiers.  The institutions of Motorist society have handled such atrocities internally, punishing the worst war-crimes, such as the herding of pensioners onto their mandatory “Zebra crossings” before violently killing them, with symbolic non-punishments, such as the six-month suspended sentence and the £60 fine.  If the Motorist establishment expects a ceasefire, they must make the first move.
  2. End the occupation of our cities.  The Motorist government must set in motion the withdrawal of troops from our historic centres of culture, ending the destruction of British cultural heritage and the intimidatory disruption of daily civilian life and health.  The Motorist administration must arrange for the dismantling of illegal Motorist settlements in the few existing designated de-Motorised zones — the pavement, footpath, cycleway, and pedestrian shopping street.
  3. Equal treatment.  The British Citizen has subsidised the Motorist way of life (contrary to their propaganda that a mythical “Road Tax” and meagre “fuel duty” sufficiently cover the cost of their infrastructure, mitigation of their environmental destruction, lost economic productivity, and the injury, ill-health, and loss of life that they cause); the motorist has enjoyed superior publicly funded infrastructure and services at the expense of our communities and environment.  Under a ceasefire, we would therefore expect this situation to be replaced by one of equal treatment.  The Motorist government must give equal per-user street space to the non-motorist; Motorist councils and businesses must consider the safety and needs of the non-motorist, not just the convenience of Motorist troops when planning construction and maintenance projects in our streets.  While the cost of most conventional forms of travel, such as bus and rail, has consistently risen above the rate of inflation since conventional infrastructure was given away by the Motorist government to private companies with a focus on taking money rather than providing service, the Motorist government has engineered for the cost of the (still largely nationalised) Motorist way of life to fall behind inflation.  The Motorist administration must dismantle these state mechanisms for making the Motorist way of life cheaper and those for increasing the burdens on the normal citizen.
  4. Re-integration of troops.  The occupying forces must integrate into British society, including, but not limited to, adopting and being bound by the British legal system.  If the war is to end, Motorist forces will become civilians, and must therefore cease breaking civilian laws, and cease to be allowed to get away with breaking civilian laws.  Reintegration of troops into society requires that Motorist troops accept the responsibilities of civilian life and an end to their exemption from the laws that are in place to protect life and limb, and to preserve our cities and environment.

These are the initial simple demands that would allow the British people to live and work alongside the Motorists, and we hope that the Motorist generals will agree to these reasonable first steps towards dialogue and peace.  Over the coming weeks and months, this blog will track the progress of our negotiations to end this bloody war.