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Cycling Me Up The Wall!

Cycling is easily my favourite mode of transport. It’s clean, it’s healthy, it’s convenient and it’s also free! Well, apart from the actual purchase of the bike itself and maintenance of course, but… you know what I mean.

When I first came to Japan and lived in Okayama, I had a tiny ‘kei car’ that I used to get to and from the five schools that I worked at throughout the week, and it was really the only and best way of getting around out in the Japanese countryside. Since moving to Aichi prefecture, however, my old company took the car away from me and I settled with a bike instead of taking the train every day.

This is the kind of car I had. I was even able to stuff it to the brim with all of my belongings when I moved Okayama to Aichi. It was very impressive, I have to say!

Moving closer into the city with my new job, I lived close enough just to walk in every day but after moving a few times again after that, I decided to purchase myself a fairly nice road bike to get around on. Despite tumbling a few times, tearing my clothes and damaging my leg (it’s OK now), it is still my preferred way to get around town. That, however, does not come without its drawbacks and those little annoyances which I just cannot seem to get over and those which I want to share with you today.

As a way for me to let off a little steam, I want to give you a list of things that just drives – sorry – cycles me crazy! While the examples I’m going to give are based on my experience of Japan and mostly Japanese drivers, pedestrians and cyclists, I’m sure it must be the same the world over. There are many sensible people out there, but the following are what I see on a daily basis and cause me to a wee bit mad now and again.

  1. The Phonewalkers
*Causes massive car accident* ‘I didn’t see anything officer!’

When having to cycle on the pavement (which is more often than not, especially downtown) one of the most frustrating things is seeing someone who is walking towards you while looking at their phone and not paying any attention to their surroundings. It’s even worse when they have headphones in and probably can’t hear a thing around them either! I’ll admit, I often slow down and ebb towards them and move at the last minute, just to test them and give them a little fright. Petty, perhaps, but lesson learned, I hope.

2.The Street Smokers

Ah… The lovely outdoor fresh air!

This applies to pedestrians and cyclists, but is worse when you have someone cycling in front of you puffing away who you can’t overtake. It’s usually an old geezer slowly pedalling down the street as he goes puff puff puff on his fag, spewing smoke into the air around him straight into my face. I want to breathe some fresh air as I get a bit of exercise in, not inhale the excesses of a cancer stick, thank you.

3. The Piddly Peddlers

Oh, God. Finally.

Slow cyclists are in general are frustrating. I like to think I keep at a steady pace while moving around town and can understand the need to not cycle too fast. But often you find cyclists peddling away at a snail’s pace, usually in the middle of the street so you can’t pass them. I don’t want to ring my bell and look obnoxious, especially when there isn’t that much space to get around. I’m more likely just to carry on slowly until we get to a crossing that I can use to overtake.

4. The Queue Jumpers

Just imagine they’re all on bikes.

God I hate these people. I stop at (what I think is) a reasonable distance from a crossing to allow pedestrians and cyclists to pass through, not for some arsehole to cycle past me and stop right in front of me at the crossing on his or her shitty little ‘mamachari’ (a basic, cheaper and slower bicycle) only to block up the entire way through. Having cyclists do this is bad enough, but pedestrians?! Come on, you know I’m just going to overtake you as soon as that light turns green (assuming you’re not just going to ignore the traffic light and cross anyway) and all you’re doing is getting in the way. Can’t you just stand behind me and wait for me to go? Is it that hard to understand? Oh, excuse me. You were glued to your phone and probably just didn’t see me, huh? My apologies.

5. The Cycle Lane Leachers

Ugh. You just don’t know how often I have to do this.

Do you know that colourful blue or red strip on the side of a road? Oh, you do? Why, yes it is a cycling lane! That’s why it also an image of a bike painted on it too! So why do you keep stopping your damn car on it?? Yes, I’m looking at you, taxi drivers. You’re the worst. The passengers are just as bad. They’re either stood in the cycle lane flailing their hand around like an idiot, or will suddenly walk out into the cycle lane without looking only for me to frantically ring my bell and slam on the brakes.

6. The Speedy Bois

Sorry Mum, I’ll call you back in a minute.

I know I complained about slow cyclists up there, but the fast ones are not just frustrating but incredibly dangerous. I can’t count the number of times I’ve approached a corner and then suddenly a bike will just veer around the bend at top speed with complete disregard for the pedestrians and other cyclists. Couple this with someone who at the same time has got one eye fixed to their phone, not really paying attention to the road and with absolutely no intention of slowing down and it’s just an accident waiting to happen.

7. The Frantic Fleers

An average commute to work.

I’ve now got into the habit of going down to nearly as low a gear as I can when I approach a red light. Why, I hear you ask. Well, let me tell you. Sometimes I feel a little victorious when there isn’t enough space for one of the Queue Jumpers to come in and stop right in front of me, but as soon as the light turns green, they’re off! They pedal away in whatever low gear their bike peaks at and quickly swerve around me to get ahead. Meanwhile, I’ve stopped in a higher gear than I should have and take a bit more effort to speed up, allowing them to get ahead only for me to have to overtake them a few seconds later, one circulation to their five. Just calm down, guys. You don’t have to put that much effort into it! Honestly, when there’s a whole group of them, it feels like a game of Mario Kart.

8. The One-Way Lookers

Oh bugger. Sorry, mate. I didn’t see you there.

Similar to pedestrians who are latched onto their phones, car drivers are just as guilty of not paying attention, particularly when one-way streets are involved. I’m cycling in the cycling lane and approaching a zebra crossing and I can see a car coming from the right who can only turn left onto a one-way street. I’ve learnt enough to slow down and be extra careful now, as more often than not, a driver will come out right to the edge of the street covering the entire zebra crossing and only looking right to check for oncoming traffic, completely disregarding the massive ‘STOP!’ (止まれ!) pasted on the road and causing a near-collision with a cyclist. More than once I have nearly crashed into a car this way and if ever a car stops on a zebra crossing I will, without fail, give them a good old glare as I cycle past them. Sometimes a middle finger if I’m feeling up to it. Pedestrians are equally as guilty of this as they cross a street only looking one way (or at their phone) expecting traffic to only come from one direction and relying on their ears alone to spot an oncoming vehicle.

9. The Side-by-Siders

All right, girls? Want to go out and take up the entire pavement to slightly inconvenience Jeremy? Let’s go!

I get it. You’re going to school with your friends and you want to have a little chat as you go. This one is a very minor complaint to the others, as usually a group of cyclists who are cycling side-by-side will at least try to make some space for someone to get through, whether from the front or behind, but I just think in general people should refrain from doing it in the first place. I don’t want to be a party-pooper here, but it’d be nice, just saying!

10. The No-Handlers

Ya, I’m just off back to Starbucks actually. Excuse me, excuse me!

Just stop. All right, I understand you think you look really cool because you can somehow magically control your bicycle with your mind! You wouldn’t do that with your car, would you? You probably would actually, but it’s just silly and dangerous. I’ve even seen people cycling with no hands and using both hands to text on their phone! I just cannot fathom what goes through these people’s minds. One day it’ll be a car.

In all seriousness though, I’m only highlighting these particular types to show how dangerous they can be. I consider myself a safe driver and cyclist and a relatively calm person, but as soon as I get into a car or onto my bike I’m a changed man. I am moaning and I don’t think I can mask that in anyway successfully, but we all need a good moan now and again, don’t we? Well, now that I’ve got all of that off my chest and down on paper, I will go off and try and enjoy my weekend peacefully and I hope you do too!


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