When we returned to Ireland after 14 years on the road, we knew we were going to live in an old farmhouse out near the airport. The Boy was committed to an 8km cycle across country to school and I was a long way from work. Accordingly we bought shiny new roadbikes in England. Mine was sleek shocking pink with six gears - enough but not fashion-accessory excessive. For the next six and a bit years I did a round trip of 25km every working day which amounted to more or less a single circumference of the world. I built up a lot of experience cycling in traffic - I never cycled on the sidewalk - and I treated myself as just another vehicle. You have to keep up with the traffic: if you drive too defensively you go slow, if you go slow you wobble; if you wobble you're unstable; if you're unstable you're under the bus.
Having the bike in town was handy because I could use it to go shopping or to the post-office (we used to send letters in those days). One morning I'd been on such an errand and was waiting to turn right across the traffic opposite my office on Westland Row. As I waited, I saw a car come round the corner by the pub about 100m away. So I waited some more, until I realised that the driver was no longer looking at me or the road but down into the passenger footwell; she was also drifting inexorably towards the white-line. At some time during the 7 seconds (50km/h is about 14m/s) since I first saw her, I decided to get out of the way. A hot-pink road-bike doing 40km/h is a beautifully responsive machine; but stationary it is just an obstacle, and as I tried to get my right leg over the saddle and out of the way the close encounter occurred. Her wing chipped a bit out of my too-slow right shin, but I recovered by driving my handle-bar and fist through her windscreen, she retaliated by turning my front wheel into a pretzel and I finally span out of the way with the grace of a toreador on my remaining foot. We'd both taken a pounding but I think she won on points. She didn't seem as happy about it as Katie Taylor, though.
After dragging the wreck of my beautiful bike off the roadway, I went back to her car where I found her, with the door open and half out of the driver's seat, shaking. Ever the gent, I handed her out of the car and across the road where we sat on the stoop of one of the houses opposite. Then I saw a bus coming round the same corner and hobbled back across the road to shift her car onto the sidewalk. It was less than a minute since the crash. As our heart-rates recovered, she said that she was running late to make a train from Amiens St and, when her mobile phone rang, she thought she had to answer it. Poor girl, she was desperate shook . . . and she missed her train.
Werner Herzog has just made a 30min documentary "From one second to the next" or "It can wait" - he doesn't seem to know what to call it - which you can catch on youtube. It's about people who kill and maim other people because they txt while driving. WTF? I can barely txt when I'm sitting in a chair with really good lighting and a nice cup of tea.
I was just recently ranting about the statistics of drunk driving and how best to reduce accidental road deaths. I thought then that the facts should speak for themselves and that being hectored about them by Gaye Byrne was rather going to promote road rage. The Irish Road Safety Authority did sponsor some very graphic advertisements for the telly a few years ago: "in 40 seconds young Sean is going to kill his girl-friend" says the voice over a happy video of four friends driving along in the sunshine. Shocking, yes, but I'm not sure how effective they were.
Roger "Sneak Previews" Ebert, the late great film critic who died this April, said Herzog "has never created a single film that is compromised, shameful, made for pragmatic reasons or uninteresting." Take it from Roger that Herzog makes compelling films. If you've seen the sequel to pretty much aNNy film in preference to watching Aguirre Wrath of God for the first time you have wasted two hours of your life. So It Can Wait should not be put on the long finger. Especially if you multi-task while driving.
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