Thoughts on Falling Off a Bike

Matthew Chatfield
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By The Hampshire Ponderer Not much of a machine by modern standards; only four Sturmey-Archer gears modestly tucked away in the rear hub rather than eighteen whizzing cogs and yards of chain. In an age of petite chubby wheels and buxom tyres, these are large and thin. Modern riders accustomed to having their bums higher than their hands (while riding of course, The Ponderer doesn’t presume to contemplate bum/hand relationships at other times) would feel uncomfortable with the almost vertical riding posture required by the lofty handlebars which, and I scarcely like to mention this in an article for a sober and educative site such as Naturenet, are beyond question bent.

The Bike

Acquired in Sandown over thirty years ago from a gentleman who’d reached an age when his leg would no longer arc gracefully over the saddle when dismounting, The Bike has served The Ponderer loyally ever since and there is no suggestion that The Fall mentioned above was The Bike’s fault. Rather that The Ponderer’s graceful leg arcing capability may also now be diminished so that he pitched sideways on to a smooth section of local pavement when attempting to get off the bike. As a matter of general interest he reports the following :

  • Newton’s law of gravitation still applies in Mid Hants. A falling body accelerates at 32 feet per second squared until it hits something.
  • A friend much experienced in falling ” he’s suffered from MS for many years ” confirmed the strange phenomenon that while the body accelerates, time decelerates so that for instance while proceeding downwards at 32 feet per second squared the falling person has bags of time to think “I’m going to hit that object” before the collision actually happens.
  • Surrounding people are extremely kind and present the faller with a range of options – ranging from A & E at once, through tea with three spoons of sugar, sticking on plasters magicked from a lady’s handbag and dabs of soothing cream – which is confusing at a time when thought processes are not very clear.

During the time of recuperation The Ponderer, realising that lots of folk fall over for lots of reasons, came to wonder why more people don’t fall off bikes and concluded first, bikes are a remarkable safe means of getting around and then there are only a relatively small number of them off which to fall. Think about it. Everyone knows someone who’s been hit by a car and probably, and tragically, knows someone who has been killed by a car but the likelihood of knowing someone hurt in a bike crash (unless they’ve been hit by a car) is small. Of the two chief means of wheeled transport in general use bikes have got an awful lot to be said for them. So why not reduce the number of cars and increase the number of bikes? After all it would not only make roads safer but would make us a fitter and leaner people dealing as a by-product with childhood obesity and the school run. Riders would easily be able to stop to chat to a neighbour or post a letter without double parking or hazardous reversing, thus enhancing community solidarity. It would produce cleaner air, the Securicor Van seen this afternoon parked outside a local shop for over fifteen minutes belching out carcinogenic particles as the customers walked in and out through the exhaust would be shamed into carbon consciousness because it would be the only vehicle in a car park with a couple of hundred beautifully crafted bike racks and the rest of the space turned into a real park with flowers, trees and a small bandstand. And ” this is of course the clinching argument – it would save lots and lots of money.

A Future Tesco Car Park

A Future Tesco Car Park (Bike Racks Just Out Of Picture)

It’s unlikely to happen because in our present stage of social development we don’t like making decisions on the basis of benefits for all so much as decisions made, at least apparently, on the basis of benefits for one (i.e. me). So while the residents of Portsmouth for instance and drivers travelling to Bournemouth on the M27 know that total car gridlock is now a standard part of our way of life our response still includes spending several billions on widening the M1 so that gridlock may be experienced by more people rather than one or two millions on providing safe cycle ways so that children can bike to school. It is of course some while since wheels took over from legs as the normal means of travel, and it will take a lot of determination for us humans to celebrate our bipedalism and our bicyclism again, but it will be well worth the effort. At bottom it’s all about vision, seeing now how things might be in the future and recognising that visionaries need a place in our structures alongside managers, lawyers and computer programmers. There’s a definite unrecognised wish for visionaries around ” every other wedding, not to mention the WI and the Last Night of the Proms pay homage to one of the greatest when Jerusalem is sung with real fervour and just for a moment we salute William Blake and think “Yes, it is possible to do away with dark satanic mills, or life destroying and climate changing motorways”. Perhaps a chariot of fire isn’t the best model for a bike but visionaries operate by inviting us to see things beyond the mundane and to hope for things beyond the pragmatic. In the next round of Local Government changes let’s hope that one of the specifications will be for each Authority to establish a Department for Visionaries with a seat in the Cabinet.

The Hampshire Ponderer

Matthew Chatfield

Uncooperative crusty. Unofficial Isle of Wight cultural ambassador. Conservation, countryside and the environment, with extra stuff about spiders.

One thought on “Thoughts on Falling Off a Bike

  • 12th May, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    As I bicycle rider (and fairly frequent faller offer) I broadly agree with your sentiments. However I feel I must point out that cars have one enormous advantage over bicycles. As you will know if you’ve ever tried to have sex on a push bike.


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