A few weeks ago we went to see some stand-up courtesy of Joel Sanders, aka The Angry Boater. It was funny, of course, and enjoyable in the way only 1.5 hours of niche comedy directed exclusively at your interests can be. But most of all, it made me feel better. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone.
Alone in being very, very angry.
I didn’t use to be an angry person. My angriness materialised over the past couple of years. Some might say that this coincides with moving onto a boat. Or adopting the World’s Maddest Dog.
But I, and only I (and maybe Ed), know the true root cause of my anger. That cause is: Cyclists.
Not just any cyclists. I’m talking mad, speeding, arrogant flesh bags of entitlement on two canal-side wheels. I’m talking Towpath Cyclists.
Oh Towpath Cyclists, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.
(It’s five. There are five ways).
Way 1 – I hate thee on narrow sections of towpath
Let’s get one thing straight, cyclists. Pedestrians have right of way on towpaths. Okay? It’s as simple as that. Boaters are even more important than regular pedestrians since we are HISTORIC and AN ATTRACTION and ACTUALLY PAY TOWARDS THE UPKEEP OF THE TOWPATH VIA THE LICENSES WE PAY FOR WITH OUR (possibly) HARD-EARNED BOATER MONEY.
You know where that places you in the hierarchy of towpath importance, cyclists? At least third, that’s where. And even then, canal birds are pretty important.
Unfortunately, some cyclists do not know how low down they are in the pecking order.
Some cyclists believe that pedestrians, boaters and ducks have to get out of their stupid lycra-clad way on sections of towpath where there isn’t enough room to cycle around us.
THIS IS AN ERRONEOUS BELIEF, CYCLISTS.
Case Study 1: Posh lady, Old Ford Lock, Victoria Park
Last week, Ed and I were walking Skipper back from Victoria Park. On the way back we passed Old Ford Lock. At this point on the canal, the towpath narrows as it passes between the facilities block and the lock. As we walked through this bit of towpath, a cyclist approached behind us.
Now, I have a fairly complicated set of rules a cyclist must follow in order not to anger me. One of these rules is: if the towpath isn’t wide enough, tough. Wait. If you do not wait or, worse, if you attempt to tell me to get out of the way even when there is no place for me to get out of your way in, I will do as much as possible to get in your way as I am physically able to.
That’s what happened with this particular woman who refused slow down and wait until the towpath widened and so witnessed just how much of an obstacle I can be.
When she finally was able to get round us, she turned as she cycled past and informed us “You simply MUST GET OUT OF THE WAY.”
It was okay though because, in return, I politely informed her of the actual rules of towpath cycling.
Way 2 – I hate thee in tunnels
Guess what cyclists!? Tunnels under bridges are still… you got it! STILL TOWPATH. STILL PEDESTRIAN RIGHT OF WAY.
Which means it is not okay to cycle through them at high speeds regardless of how many Carlis and their dogs are currently walking through them already.
If you cycle through a tunnel at high speed without bothering to check if I am in there already, you know what’s going to happen?
Case Study 2: Grumpy Old Scottish Man, Tunnel Underneath Mile End Road, Mile End
Earlier this week, I was walking Skipper through the short tunnel that goes under Mile End Road. When I was already halfway through the tunnel I saw a runner coming towards the entrance. That’s okay, I thought, we can Share the Space. Anyway, runners tend to be less aggressive because Skipper can catch them more easily.
However before said runner had a chance to even enter the tunnel, a cyclist swerved round him and came straight towards me at fairly high speed.
As well as making full use of my limbs to get in as much of his way as possible, I also added “There’s not really much room in here, is there? Perhaps it would have been better if you’d waited.”
To which he replied, “Well ask them to make it wider then.”
What!? What grumpy old Scottish man!? What are you talking about? Ask who to make it wider? Who do you think I am?? I am not Boris Johnson or Mrs. Canal & River Trust. I have no influence over these matters. If I did, YOU’D BE BANNED FOR A START.
Way 3 – I hate thee’s unecessary out-loud music??
People who can play music out loud in public: Buskers.
People who cannot play music out loud in public: Everyone else.
Cyclists who play outloud music while they cycle around are Bad People in the way that people who play outloud music on public transport are Bad People. No one wants to hear your music. Stop it.
Case Study 3: Unidentified cyclist, Mile End, 6am
In Mile End there is a cyclist who goes along the towpath blaring music out loud at 6am. EVERY. MORNING.
Way 4 – I hate thee cycling past dogs at high speed
I hate thee cycling at high speed on the towpath at all but most of all please do not do this past people with dogs. You have no idea whether that person’s dog is a nervous one and whether you zooming past might terrify them into dragging their poor owners into the canal.
You also have no idea whether that person’s dog might have a history of eating rabbits’ heads completely whole and whether you zooming past might make you look like a particularly big rabbit on wheels who might be super fun to chase and whose head could definitely be eaten in at least two bits if not entirely whole.
Way 5 – I hate thee’s BLOODY BELLS
My views on cyclists’ bells are also fairly complex but easy to grasp for the initiated.
They are as follows:
1-3 rings of your bell: ACCEPTABLE. I understand why you have bells, even if a lot of you don’t. Bells are for letting people know you are coming so that we don’t accidentally walk into you or so that we know you’re about to come round a corner or enter a tunnel (FYI if you get there first, I will wait for you to come through. Because that’s MANNERS).
4+ rings of your bell accompanied by “MOVE” or “GET OUT OF THE WAY” or, worse, a cheery “COMING THROUGH!”: UNACCEPTABLE. I repeat: If there’s no room. Tough. Wait. Bells are not for making people get out of your way. I do not have to get out of your way. I will not get out of your way. If you ring your bell at me four or more times I will get very much in your way.
So there you have it. Those are all the ways in which I hate thee, towpath cyclists. If you are one such offender, please learn from this. Please slow down and stop expecting people to get out of your way. Please stop playing music out loud. Please learn how to use your bells properly. Please just stop everything you’re doing and start doing everything differently. Otherwise we, the rightful towpath kings, cannot be held responsible for our actions.
DISCLAIMER: Obviously I am aware that ‘not all cyclists…’ in the same way that ‘not all men…’. So don’t worry, it’s not all of you I hate.
Just most of you.