Sunday, 8 April 2012

The British Cyclist

You are lucky when you spot the British Cyclist. It is a lifeform that has developed an extraordinary array in plumage and stunningly colourful displays of resilience and inventiveness. It is part of British Society - though not British Culture - and within that the smallest fraction by far in the Transport category. It is unusual and surprising in many ways. For one, it enlists the help of a wheeled instrument called the Cycle which allows it to travel by a self-propelling motion.

Numerous sub-species exist with differing plumage, travelling behaviour and making use of varying kinds of Cycles. There is a multitude of different steering and propelling mechanism, in varying shapes and sizes. The British Cyclist may also put ornaments on its instrument (such as baskets, panniers, trailers and seat arrangements to name a few common ones). These are typically for hauling goods or carrying its offspring.
This great variety confuses the British Society and results in regular displacement activity such as On-looking (otherwise rare in British Society) and Uneasy Giggles. Calls of "Get off the road" and "Get off the pavement" have also been observed. These territorial calls not only highlight the squeezed nature of its habitat but can also be used to alert you that a British Cyclist is in the vicinity for your close inspection. Other signs of the presence of a British Cyclist are the chirpy calls of "Pay road tax" and "Where's your helmet". Both are linked to the mystification and anxiety of British Society around the British Cyclist, its sub-culture, activities and legal status.

Jesmond Park West
Urban obstacle course for using 'bunny hopping' skill
A certain skill and cunning is involved in being a British Cyclist. Various technical terminology has been employed to describe its activities. These activities are so specific to the species that the confines of this article prevent a more detailed description; suffice it to say it can be seen bunny hopping (obstacle courses of the urban environment), RLJ-ing, sitting in ASLs (if it can sense one, manages to access it and finds it unoccupied), 'Taking the Lane' (more detailed description below) and getting left-hooked and doored (by the British Motorist).

It's possibly worth noting here that the British Cyclist is partial to keeping moving due to its personal investment in the energy of the propelling motion. At the times of Rush Hour and School Run, when the British Motorist stands still, the British Cyclist can usually be seen to make good progress (albeit in a generally smoggy environment owing to the British Motorists non-self propelling nature).

Combined with a constant squeeze on habitat and little habitat creation planned for the future, it's red-listed on the British Government's Modal Split table (a participation and popularity index of all Transport species). Once abundant, its numbers plummeted in the 50s and 60s and have stubbornly remained very low over the recent decades, possibly due to counteractive conservation methods. There's much that could be done for the protection of the species. But it's so neglected now that conservation efforts simply rely on sharing and good will for its continued existence.

Jesmond Park West
Unreliable patchy habitat
Its designated habitat is patchy, small and constantly under threat which may go some way towards explaining its somewhat nervous disposition. It has to remain vigilant and is on a constant look-out: when sharing with the British Motorist it's obliged to adhere to the Rules of  the Road (not to be confused with the Highway Code) which demand alertness and displays of strength and stamina at all times.

The unreliable extent of its habitat has most certainly contributed to the evolution of its familiar Sense of Righteousness (not to be confused of the Sense of Entitlement by the more dominant British Motorist) and its typical displays of Irony and Sarcasm. It is probably the most sarcastic species in British Transport with various calls of Irony and Sarcasm (too various to list here), but definitively equalling if not exceeding the Public Transport species' typical "No bus, then three at once".

Wheely nice legs.
Confrontational 'Take the Lane'
For good territorial behaviour and in absence of any habitat of its own, the already nervous British Cyclist is advised to 'Take the Lane'. Newcomers to the species are specifically trained by the British Government and its Allied Authorities in this activity. The British Motorist is prone however to show territorial aggression to anyone using this technique, which works in its favour: only the hardiest British Cyclist can 'Take the Irony', with many simply blending back into the ranks of the British Motorist. Conservation Groups of the British Cyclist are thought to consist of those who manage to 'Take the Irony' (or possibly choose to ignore or overlook it, or may have grown immune to it).

Reliant on a confrontational survival mechanism putting it into head-on conflict with the dominant species of the British Motorist, it is not surprising that male numbers in the British Cyclist are considerably higher than female ones. The British Cyclist therefore heavily relies on cross-breeding with other Transport species and its offspring may never grow up to be British Cyclist.

Sometimes the British Cyclist takes to the Pavement in an attempt to advance its travels beyond its own patchy habitat, but runs into problems there, as this habitat clearly belongs to the British Pedestrian.

The British Government can only create habitat for the British Cyclist where there remains sufficient space for the British Motorist to continue its well-established fast business and its shell-discarding ritual.

Jesmond Park West
Habitat invasion
In a conciliatory gesture the British Government (in conjunction with its Allied Authorities) can partition off a narrow bit of the British Motorists habitat: this setting-aside of habitat is called Cycle Lane. Due to British Motorist territorial nature, large swathes of Cycle Lane habitat have already been reclaimed by annexation: indiscriminate shell-discarding is taking place in the Cycle Lane habitat routinely. Sometimes a preventative measure has been tried. This involves painting long thin strips of yellow colour along the Kerb, but may in advance involve years of lobbying by the British Cyclist eroding its otherwise excellent life expectancy.

Another Government-led habitat creation scheme is called ASL. Its high aim of being a habitat solely designated for the British Cyclist, is somewhat lessened by the complexity of its operation and bizarrely it's for the stationary British Cyclist only. For it to function it also crucially relies on the cooperation of the somewhat dominant British Motorist. The ASL habitat works well if the British Cyclist can locate one (a sixth-sense tracing instinct is required), or once located can find access into the habitat space. Upon entering the ASL habitat, the British Cyclist may then find the habitat occupied by a British Motorist. This habitat invasion, specially after an exhausting search and execution of a tricky access manoeuvre, can trigger a Sense of Righteousness. Loud remarks of Irony and Sarcasm may also be heard then. Obscene gesturing and uttering of expletives can occur, though this may be linked to the higher levels of adrenaline so common in Active Transport species.

Another habitat creation scheme is called Cycle Path, though this is largely uncommon in Britain for 1) it being expensive per person (due to the very low numbers of the British Cyclist) and 2) it falling within the British Motorist's highly-protected territory of fast roads and busy roundabout, which are also the Deadly Battlegrounds for the British Cyclist. Irony and Sarcasm, as well as species exodus result, in turn resulting in Irony and Sarcasm.

Last but not least, there is Shared Space, which is the least well comprehended habitat creation scheme. On this rare occasion the British Government has expressed mistrust in the British Motorist to act in an acceptable sharing manner. This mistrust however works in favour of the British Motorist and Shared Space habitat, common in the Land of Hope and Glory, is rarely created.

Calls from British Society to the British Cyclist to be more visible have little to do with British Society caring for its well-being. In another familiar befriending gesture the British Motorist is eager to identify itself as a "keen cyclist itself" but a look at the numbers does not support this claim. Overall the British Motorist remains the main predator of the British Cyclist, killing about two a week, and maiming many more.

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