[A hyperlapse of my ride home from work on my Brompton. Made taping an iPod Touch to the handlebars of my bike]
It’s a relatively common thing to categorise cyclists into different “tribes.” But after many years cycling, including cycling as part of my regular commute for the last few years, I’ve decided that people are less members of particular “tribes” than they share common traits with one another.
I’ve tried (not altogether seriously) to identify some of those traits among those you see cycling in the rush hour, and present this as a scholarly work, and a not at all derogatory look at my fellow cyclists.
I should also note that I fall into several of these camps.
Nobody is perfect:
The Roller – the person who rolls very casually past a line of waiting cyclists and straight out across a red light seemingly without a care in the world. They’re not going fast. They’re just rolling.
The Jaunty Helmet – Without getting into the rights and wrongs of helmets, one thing I do know is that if you’re going to wear one, you need to wear it properly, otherwise it’s no more useful than any other hat. I’m talking about people – and they tend to women – who wear the helmet way back with the peak somewhere on the crown of their head. That helmet simply isn’t going to protect you properly.
The Track Starter – A bit like the kid who walked to school and didn’t want to stand on the cracks in the pavement, this is the man (and it is a man) who doesn’t want to put his feet down anywhere along his commute. He might do a very good trackstand at the traffic lights, but more annoyingly, he slows right down on cycle paths when coming towards a red light so as to maintain some momentum – but not too much. In turn he prevents others from getting to the advance stop line for cyclists behind him.
The Wannabe Pro – There really is no need for full team strip to get to work. As a rule, you won’t see anyone other than school kids wearing their Chelsea or Arsenal kits on the school bus.
The Darkness – Come on. It really isn’t hard to put a couple of LEDs on your bike if you’re cycling after dark.
The Suicidal – Why are you going up the inside of a bus or van that is indicating left? You do know that’s how most cycling accidents happen?
The Low Rider – I don’t mean the cool kids who mosey around on their unique steeds. I’m talking about people who don’t seem to realise that it’s easier and more comfortable if you raise the saddle a bit.
The Queue Jumper – There’s a line of cyclists waiting in a cycling lane at a stop sign, and along comes this guy (or gal) and just spins along to the front – cycling in the opposite cycle lane to do so. Because they’re more important than you. Get it? They need to be somewhere while you don’t.
The Queue Jumper Who Is Slow – It’s one thing if you’re Speedy Gonzalez and you’re just trying to get past a group of slow commuters. But if you’re one of the slower commuters, why are you queue jumping? We’re British. We’re supposed to do queues properly.
The Speedy Folder – Just because I’m on a Brompton, it doesn’t mean that I can’t cycle faster than you.
The No-Signaler – It’s not just cars that need to know you’re turning left or right. Your fellow cyclists tend to find it handy, because it indicates you’re going to slow down and manoeuvre out.
The Light Jumper – Yes, yes. I know. Sometimes you do know that pedestrians find it intimidating if there’s a bike speeding by as they look at the Green Man.
The Campanologist – A bell is a necessary accessory for city centre riding. Indeed something with a bit more welly might sometimes be desireable. But these folk love their bells so much they ring them all the time. If they see a pedestrian so much as look towards the road, they ring. If they overtake, they ring. If you are more than 5 nano-seconds slow getting away from a traffic light, they ring. And then they ring some more.
The Salmon – Going upstream. Yes, there should be more roads with two-way access for cyclists. The City of London has made great strides in this. But it’s still reckless – not just for cars, but other cyclists and pedestrians.
The Lighthouse – I get it. You do need to be seen after dark. But that industrial strength strobe you’ve affixed to the front of your bike is actually causing me temporary blindness. See also people who’s stroboscopic lights induce epilepsy in photo-sensitive individuals within a half-mile radius.
The First-Timer – Usually to be spotted sometime around the hottest day of the year. See also every other category.
The High-Vizzer – I must have missed the memo that said every cyclist on the planet must now wear the same garb as workers on building sites. Everyone wears high-viz now – lines of schoolkids on days out, drivers, and mostly cyclists. The problem I have with them is that it becomes assumed it’s essential to wear them. Check out the Netherlands. They don’t wear them. To my mind, if we’re going to suggest cyclists wear them (and on big schemes like the excellent Freewheel and Sky Rides, these vests get handed out a lot), then we should also be spray painting every car on the road in a dayglow colour.
The Weaver – To be fair, just about the only way to get around many central London roads.
The Undertaker – I’m about to turn left, but someone has decided it’s a good time to undertake me. Smart!
The Videographer – Has cameras all over his bike and helmet. I’m not saying he wants to get a viral YouTube hit based around some appalling piece of driving, but if there is some, he’s got it from several angles!
The Conversationalist – Seriously. We’re still commuting. The rules are – no talking.
The Good Lifer – Cycling is a way of life. I’m just dropping the kids off to school in my cargo bike first thing. Then it’s off to the organic food store to pick up some groceries.
The Builder’s Bum – You probably want to rethink your cycling attire, especially for those behind you. This doesn’t just apply to men either…
The Shifter – Why shouldn’t I use my Brompton to transport me, a duvet and a couple of new pillows from John Lewis to home?
The Florist – I want to make a statement with my bicycle. And that statement is flowers!
The Carbonista – I did 30 laps of Richmond Park on this beauty before I headed into town for work.
The Too Cool For School – Look at me. Now look at yourself. We are not the same.
The Lost Boys (and Girls) – Quite possibly on a Boris Bike or similar, and almost certainly a tourist. They just want to find the nearest dock to Covent Garden piazza. Those maps that started appearing alongside bike hire docks a couple of years ago really are very useful.
The Interloper – Probably not riding a bicycle at all. But they’re using the bike lane for their scooter, or electric thingy that behaves a bit like a Segway. They’re usually going slower than everyone else.
The Chicken Player – There’s loads of room for me to overtake without hitting an oncoming cyclist – it’s just that everyone else needs to slow down to avoid a collision!
The Corner Cutter – Turning left at the lights, but bored of waiting for them to turn green? Just hop up onto the kurb, down the other side, and away you go. Watch out for pedestrians!
The Professional – Not Body and Doyle haring up in Ford Capri Mark III, but the last bastions of the cycle courier. To be honest, they tend to be flying around in the middle of day rather than joining the ranks of the 9-5ers.
As I say, these are just a few of the traits you will find. There are many many others…