In north London, I find a road with its own inferiority complex
Week Monday 28th June — Friday 2nd July 2021
Of the four core functions in cycling training (observation, position, communication and priority), both position and priority are the harder for adult learners to take in. We’re so used to giving way to motor vehicles that any attempt to reclaim our right on the road is seen as a threat.
When I explain to trainees that the primary position, i.e., riding in the middle of their lane, away from parked car doors, is one of the ways to keep safe and visible, they look at me as if I’m crazy. Yet, how are we to challenge motorists’ hegemony if we don’t start by reclaiming our roads?
It’s the same reaction I get when I tell them that as soon as they begin their cycle journey they become road-users. That means that should traffic appear all of a sudden, coming from the opposite direction, the cyclist still has priority. And yet, time and time again, I see the same response. Trainee pulls over (not even pulls in on the visibility line, but disappears completely from the traffic flow) to give way to, most of the time, a car.
Methinks we need an updated version of Midnight Cowboy’s Ratso’s famous “I’m walking here! I’m walking here!”, but with the word “cycling” instead.
We’ll leave the bonnet-banging out, though.
Other than London and Havana, I’ve never lived in another capital. It follows, then, that I could be biased in favour of my adopted city. Although I know that most metropolises have well-established immigrant communities with their own network of restaurants offering authentic cuisine, I doubt that they have the same multicultural mix we have on a stretch of road like Green Lanes, for instance. Vietnamese, Turkish and Italian (to name but three countries) eateries vie for the visitor’s attention. You only get a real sense of how diverse this city when you walk or cycle past these restaurants and you get hit by the smells emanating from them.
“This is where you’ll be based for this week. This is Year 6’s self-contained area where we encourage their independence.” These are the words you don’t want to hear when you first turn up for your new school assignment on a damp Monday morning.
Last time I was in this school was almost twenty years ago. So much has changed. For instance, they certainly didn’t have a self-contained area for any year group back then.
I left my lunch in the fridge reluctantly. It was all right in the end, though. My only gripe was that the chairs were child-designed. There’s not much joy in (almost) crouching down on a plastic seat after cycling around a school on nearby roads with a mixed-ability group of riders.
During training today I became distracted by a half dozen swifts flying over us. Pirouetting around like little kites in the sky. Luckily, the kids didn’t catch me looking up. There’d have been a lot of explaining to do.
Salisbury Road in Wood Green is a rare street. It looks and feels like a major road, and yet there are give way lines at every junction with other roads, turning it into a minor or side road.
Something Salisbury might want to bring up with its therapist one day.