Cyclists Dismount

Residents of Cambridge will have noticed the signs on various bridges over the river Cam encouraging cyclists to get off and walk.

Dismount - Mantegna, Parnassus

Dismount – Mantegna, Parnassus

I say ‘encouraging’, but the signs have the grammatical bearing of commands. Get off and push, they seem to say, or expect the crushing weight of the law to descend on you.

And if not the law, then pedestrian disapproval. It used to be that people would express disapproval of minor civil infractions with a bit of tutting, perhaps a word is disapprobation, but I read that some upright-minded individuals have now taken to policing the bridges (in particular, that leading between Stourbridge Common and the Green Man pub) by barring the way of cyclists and forcing them, if not to dismount, then to wobble to a stop.

Cyclists make people angry. A friend of mine once spent twenty¬†minutes he won’t get back arguing with a fellow who, it turned out, was pathologically (and perhaps severely autistically) opposed to the idea of anyone breaking any rule ever. My friend had just run a red light on a pedestrian crossing, where there were no pedestrians and no cars present. He tried to explain that the individual citizen might on occasion take the interpretation of the law into his or her own hands, without much damage to society accruing.

This seems to me a reasonable, if admittedly liberal, approach to navigating civil society, but not, unfortunately, to the trolls on the bridge. A pity, then, for them, that the blue Cyclists Dismount signs have no force of law behind them whatsoever, but are merely recommendations from the council. But this is no more than a confusing detail in the never-ending war between cyclists and pedestrians and motorists. A battle line, after all, is a battle line.