Let me just start by saying I'm not a real schizophrenic...and neither am I! Ha ha - great start!
God they are like marmite aren't they? You either hate them or love them. Usually, unless you are one, it's hate of course (as they break through red lights and zebra crossings narrowly avoiding pregnant women and Cruft's dogs and your wing mirrors). It's easy to hate someone who cycles, not only because they usually wear stupid clothing but also because (in London) they frequently go faster than cars and buses. No one is immune! Oh but when it is lashing rain, how smug we feel trapped in our metal polluting little cocoons with D'Angelo blasting out the stereo and some yogic breathing dissolving the overall stress of the commute.
Now this is where the schizophrenia comes in. I am both a driver and a cyclist (although not a skin-tight leotard wearing one), so I'm very much on the fence when it comes to this debate. I don't own a car, but when i borrow my sisters I find it both liberating, expensive and frustrating all in equal measure, especially when it comes to London and parking zones and crap White Van drivers and dickhead Volvo driving MILFs from Notting Hill or Chelsea, non-indicating bus drivers on the Uxbridge Road and dillusional mini-cabs. The only advantageous liberating thing about a car is getting it out of London on a long haul trip (well anywhere over 10 miles), but only if you have 4 of you sharing petrol and you can avoid all the traffic hotspots, caravans driving in the middle lane of the motorway and the senior Sunday drivers!
But i have to say, considering I cycle every day (taking my life into my hands) that if I had to vote for or against the mass cull of the above people I would vote definitely for. Yes, I admit when I'm driving and the lane is narrow and some cyclist creeps up my inside, avoiding my wing mirror by inches I do get annoyed. But because of my own near scrapes on the bike, I have to assume that everyone on the road is a 16 year old retarded moron (and generally they are) and have in my mind pre-emptive choices on road safety. This has made me a better driver and a more cautious cyclist - all the better I hear you cry!
It is worth pointing out at this point, that since I purchased the third part in the cyclist's trilogy of safety items - the helmet (to add to bike-lights and sexy hi-vis vest!), I have found life far more dangerous on the roads. Now I'm not saying they don't do a good job of saving head injury victims (they do and are advisable), but it is crazy how much more the average driver risks near me since I got the helmet. Before, they used to linger on my shoulder for what seemed hours as I laboured up a hill in the wrong gear, inwardly swearing and sweating out my ringpiece.
Now I have a flimsy plastic helmet, said average driver thinks it's an invincibility cloak, a magical forcefield that allows them to overtake me and take the first immediate left hand turn across my path at seemingly any speed they like without any dangers whatsoever. Or like the mini cab driver the other day, overtake far too quickly then screech to a halt about 7 inches in front of me before honking for his fat and mentally challenged ten-strong family to emerge from the hovel they call a house and slowly labour in single file into the clapped out Mitsubishi Delica with the forged MOT and emissions certificate, the wife clutching her Benefits folder like a newborn.
Granted, bikers probably bend the rules of the road a bit, but usually for the benefit of others (for example pushing an amber / red light, so that when they turn green again the first car doesn't have to wait ten seconds to get going behind the hunched exahling quasi modo ahead and thus enduring the frenzied honks of the masses). This said, if we all had to re-take our driving tests tomorrow, considering all the bad habits we've got into over the years and forgetting our natural egotism that says we are amazing, how many of us do you think would pass? I'm guessing about 40% at a push!
I'm asking for a truce. We cyclists will try not to weave in and out of slowly moving traffic as dangerously as a scooter-wielding lost Nigerian pizza delivery boy and cutting red lights for our own benefit, if you (drivers) agree that it is wrong to overtake us and then pull left into the Cycle lane crushing our needed limbs against the curb, when you have a least a metre of space on your right hand side. This would be such a better place to live if we could just admit we are all crap and stop pretending (especially on a Friday post work) that what we're rushing for is far more important than anyone else's and that no one is responsible for 'anything' - let alone there own actions!
Secondly, i would like to talk about a mother's love and the contentious issue of euthanasia. Yes, I am as you might have guessed talking about 57 year old Frances Inglis injecting her brain damaged 22 year old son Thomas with an overdose of heroin to end his 'living hell' last week. She has been given a life sentence by a judge and jury that we can only guess are not Liberal Democrat supporters! This realistically means she will be out in 9 years, 7 and a half if you take off the 423 days in which she has already been remanded in custody! I won't go into this too much, but if a loving mother (who brought her son into the world) can't take him out for reasons of compassion then how come drunk drivers who kill people don't all face life sentences too?
Guilty or not, the system is flawed, especially when you take into account that Thomas became brain-damaged after he fell from a moving ambulance taking him to hospital for a cut he suffered in a fracas in Dagenham on 7 July 2007!
So for nearly 3 years, Thomas having had life-saving surgery (during which part of his skull was removed to relieve pressure on his bruised brain and a tracheotomy so he could breathe) had to be fed via a tube into his stomach. That's not exactly a great life now is it? Although Inglis dealt with the problem in the wrong way, the system of people in uncoverable vegetative states and euthanasia must be looked at. I know what you're thinking - is Dagenham really bad enought o kill for? I just don't know!
As his guardians, Inglis and family should have a right to a say in his future if he is unable to decide for himself. Think if it was you, would you prefer your family, an NHS hospital or the government's laws to choose for you? It's not a nice choice ot make, but i would vote for option 1 as I am sure most people would. Maybe something good will come of this and as part of the organ donor card or will or something people can say that if the are unresponsive that they choose to die. Then anyone trying to kill them, mother, state or Harold Shipman, must be punished. Until the law and government start listening to its people, this won't be the last euthansia case we hear about.
And one last point before I wrap up this rant...how did Thomas fall out the ambulance in the first palce and surely (as none of us a responsible for anything) the emergency services in this case are liable in part? 'Oh no! It's all because of that Essex cyclist we had to swerve to avoid! Down with the cloven-hooved clod hopper - string him up for it..............KILL 'EM ALL!' they howl, as another full moon rises over the semi-urbane disenchanted fields of Essex.
Until next week dear reader, when I will be weighing up life in London and the South East vs life in the rest of the UK - should be a belter!