Friday, November 10, 2006

Where in the world am I? (11)

I am in a country where bicycle lights are unknown.

I have even heard it suggested that they are illegal here (on the Procrustean principle that it would be unegalitarian to afford a higher chance of avoiding death on the roads only to the affluent?).

Bicycle helmets are likewise unknown. This means that even quite low-speed collisions are apt to result in skull-contents being spilled on the sidewalk. I have personally witnessed this three times; and I'm sure it is a daily occurrence in the big cities. I will not ride a bicycle here.

Of course, it is not only the cyclists who are endangered by this unaccountable lack of even the most basic safety equipment. It is the large numbers of unlit bicycles - rather than the psychotic, incompetent car drivers - which is, I'm sure, responsible for the majority of pedestrian casualties on the streets here. The danger is particularly acute at this time of year as the evenings rapidly colonize the afternoon: in the half-light of dusk, these bicycles become 'cloaked', completely invisible.

Not only invisible, but inaudible too. In the good old, bad old days, bicycles were all so cheap and shoddily-made that you could hear them coming a long way off; each had its own 'sonic fingerprint', a distinctive collection of rusty wheezes, clinks, and rattles. As society becomes more affluent, so the bicycles are becoming more stylish and sophisticated..... more silent, more deadly.

I know that somewhere out there is a bicycle with my name on it....

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