The Cycle-Deities

Trip Start Sep 08, 2010
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Flag of Japan  , Kinki,
Saturday, October 23, 2010

Japan has certainly got one thing right - CYCLISTS RULE! Here they are elevated to the status of a sacred breed - on a par with the deer in Nara - and can do no wrong. They are free to cycle on the roads or the pavements as they chose, and swerve from one to the other as they see fit. On the pavements, pedestrians must be on constant vigil to relinquish their occupied space to an approaching cyclist who may wish to bless it for a while with his presence. On the roads, all other vehicles no matter how big or important must instantly concede right of way to the dawdling deity who on arriving at a set of red traffic lights can weave with free abandon Butch Cassidy style, legs outstretched, from road to pavement, only to dance back on to the road along a zebra crossing, up on to the pavement on the other side before continuing his journey along the empty stretch of road on the other side of the lights. All this without a disgruntled driver honking his horn or waving his fist, without a pedestrian with a run-over foot shouting abuse.
A cyclist can pedal up the wrong side of the road, holding an umbrella in one hand, and oncoming cars will subordinately swerve to give her plenty of room. A cyclist can, it goes without saying, cycle the wrong way up a one way street. A cyclist can bomb along the pavement and straight over the junction of a side street without slowing or checking for vehicles. Cars approaching a major road or wishing to turn into the minor one will always stop and look for a passing cycle-deity before continuing with their maneuvre. I began to follow suit and approached side streets without twitching the brakes or ringing my bell and I once had a white van man forcefully brake when he saw me coming, reverse a little to allow me passage, and then bow his head deeply from within his cab as I nonchalantly ignored him. This place is heavenly.
For a cycle-deity, the traffic lights to which the mortals are impelled to adhere are something of a game. It is almost an act of teasing provocation for a cyclist to actually stop at a set of red lights - as if to mock the laws of nature to which all others are tied and from which they have been freed. Within this well ordered, highly structured & efficient society the cyclists know that they have been ordained free & chaotic reign. We are gods and goddesses on two wheels and we choose to accept the grovelling praise of the pedestrian, the abundant oblations of the car drivers with an noncommittal turning of our head or a faintly exasperated ring of our bell for we know this is how we deserve to be worshipped, not only here but in all the countries of this world.

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