Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bloody Cyclists

As is probably happening the world over, the Christmas/office party season is upon us. Just when I seemed to settle for working days I find myself staying out longer to cover the night work. These last few weeks have seen me putting in some 12 to 14 hour shifts hence the lack of posts. I have literally been getting in and dropping straight in to bed, falling asleep in about 5 minutes and waking up in what seems like a few minutes without even having had a dream, that can’t be healthy but the bills have to be paid somehow.

As I think I’ve mentioned before, working during the day finds me sitting on ranks that I’d never use at night. A few favorites are the rank at the London Eye on the South Bank which has provided me with a steady supply of work whenever I’m in that area.

The London Eye

Another favourite is the Waitrose rank in Marylebone High Street. This particular area has many well known people living nearby and BBC London radio is also just a few seconds away from the rank so one can see a constant passing of well known faces walking past and even taking cabs from the rank. I spotted Ally McCoist, ex-footballer for Glasgow Rangers and team captain on the BBC’s A Question of Sport walk past me the other day closely followed by Andy Townsend, another ex-footballer and soccer pundit. He asked me for directions to Marylebone Station and when I told him it was a “slap from here” he decided to jump in and be driven there. We were there in minutes so there wasn’t any time to strike up a conversation, not that I would have instigated a chat with a celebrity as I get quite squeamish at the thought of it.

The downside of days is the traffic. Yesterday the Victoria area was in total gridlock and I had various passengers get in whilst I was stuck in traffic only to get out a few minutes later when they realized they weren’t going anywhere. After about the fourth set of passengers had gotten out I decided that drastic action was needed in respect of my positioning. I turned off Victoria Street and went down the side of Westminster Cathedral only to get caught in a fresh gridlock in Francis Street. A man asked me to take him to Paddington and I made sure I primed him up by telling him it was going to be a heavy journey. He said that “it beats walking” and would leave it up to me to make the right choices. I duly obliged by taking a seriously longer route which avoided the troubled areas and added three or four pounds to the fare. He was pleased, I got more money and everyone was happy.

Depending on where you are in the world you may or may not have heard of the tornado that cut it’s way through the Kensal Rise area of London yesterday (Thursday). About a hundred homes were affected mainly with roofs being ripped off but some were seriously damaged with walls collapsing exposing rooms to the elements. Apparently we have 40 to 50 tornadoes a year in the UK but the only time you sit up and take notice is when one passes through your neighborhood. I drive my daughter to school through the affected streets every morning so I count my self as lucky not to have been caught up in it just an hour or two earlier. The streets in that area are still closed off as we speak as engineers assess the building for safety. Some will have to be pulled down altogether. Many families are sheltering in the British Legion hall a few hundred yards from where I live and will probably be homeless for Christmas. I wonder if their home insurance covered Acts of God?

I nearly flattened a woman cyclist yesterday. I was in Knightsbridge heading towards The Old Bailey with two lawyer types onboard. As I pulled away from the lights on to Hyde Park Corner she came out of the park and cut across me. I swerved out of the way almost colliding with another cab on my right and managed to pull away. The next lights were on red so I stopped and contemplated the near-miss, mentally storing it in the appropriate section of my brain with all of the others I’ve had in my 24 yeas as a driver. Bang bang bang on my window. It’s the lady cyclist, and she’s not a happy bunny. I partially lower my electric window. “Didn’t you see me, you almost killed me” she started screaming at me. “You’re dangerous” she continued, and then turned to my two bewildered passengers and repeated “he’s dangerous, I’d be careful or even take another cab” My turn. “I’ll tell you what I saw shall I? I saw a stupid bitch come flying out of the park, cut across me without as much as a signal. It’s a wonder you’re still alive. Have you got a death wish or something?” She couldn’t answer that, the lights changed and off I went catching a glimpse of her in the door mirror giving me a hand signal. When are cyclists going to realize that most motorists don’t care for their antics and that they can get seriously hurt or worse if they don’t have their wits about them? They should ban all cyclists from the roads in my opinion as they never abide by the rules; well 99% of them don’t anyway.


Loui said...

Flippin' cyclists....they think their bell is a magic wand don't they!

J xx

wil said...

Working nights I have a problem with both cyclists and skateboarders. Black clothing, no lights or reflectors, total disregard of traffic laws. For them, the difference between life and death had often come down to just nano-seconds.

Anonymous said...

The difference is that if a cyclist rides without consideration then the cyclist gets killed but if the motorist does then the cyclist gets killed.
When London has a proper infrastructure that prioritises cyclists and public transport (including taxis) the nthings will work OK - go to Hamburg or Copenhagen to see how it's done.
But yes we all need to wear reflective yellow clothing and have at least 2 sets of lights. As a motorist and cyslist I see it from both sides, but it's hardly surprising that cyclists break the rules if the roads are so motor dominated.
I live in Manchester where its is a little quieter - I was thinking of bringing my bike down to London when I visit my daughter but there really are no serious facilities so I'll stick to the bus.

jo said...

Never mind cyclists and motorists - what about the humble pedestrian. You step out of your house to be knocked down, on the pavement by a cyclist - who thinks that they also have the right of way on the pavements. Yet I also agree that sometimes motorists do not give cyclists enough space, but come on cyclists - we are not mind readers!!

Anonymous said...

i no the metre goes faster at night but working wise what is the difference between night shift and day shift. Is it possible to make the same money during the day as ou do at nights

James said...

Speaking as a cyclist who has ridden quite frequently on the pavement -though always with due regard for the safety of pedestrians- all I can say is that we are taking our lives into our very hands by even getting on the damn thing within a mile of anything with an engine; who's going to come off worse if we do get hit by a car, even through our own negligence? I've done some fairly risky things on a bike in my time -cutting up an HGV and cycling home whilst well over the drink-driving limit to name but two- but at no point have I ever endangered anyone's life except my own, which is more than I can say for the driver who once deliberately swerved at me.

Coby said...

The Tour de France starts in London next year, you'd best prepare. ; )