Some thoughts on psychology from the seat of a recumbent bike

· life ·

In Britain, where they are relatively rare, recumbent bikes attract a certain amount of attention. This, I think, puts me in a good position to comment on the psychology of groups and social behaviour. People on their own very rarely shout anything out, or if they do, it tends to be friendly and positive. Groups of people are a different matter, with groups of young men or boys being the most likely to voice their opinion on my choice of transport — loudly and at length.

This morning, I got stuck on a red traffic light with a group of 10-12 year-old boys waiting just beside me for the pedestrian lights to go green. I braced myself. They started talking as if I was deaf (or inside a car with the windows rolled up), even though I was barely a metre away from them. Their topic of discussion centred around whether the exposed chain ring of my bike (sticking out the front on my bike, of course, since I'm in a feet-forwards position) would be able to cut an unlucky pedestrian in half. Dissenting voices countered with the suggestion that the pedals would probably beat you to death before the chain ring cut you in half. I kept my own counsel (arguments with young boys can only end in "Well, you smell!"), but thought "I'll cut you in half in a minute if you don't stop yakking." Boys are so obsessed with death and destruction, aren't they? They were so engrossed in this topic that I had to remind them that the pedestrian lights had turned green and they could cross.

The other species of commenter is the white van man (for non-UK readers, the van is white, but the man isn't necessarily so). Again, I was stuck at the traffic lights alongside a white van. I waited for the side-splittingly hilarious comments, but nothing came. Finally, the lights went green and van man yelled what sounded like "Whuurghh!" and roared off. What courage! He must have been so worried that I might haul all 5 foot 2 inches of my frame off my bike and beat my tiny fists against the dented, rusty metal of his van, that he saved up his yell for his departure.