My bike rides to and from work are indulgent thinking time – they are pure revery, mostly nonsense, often about my route, elevating the slightest shop facade changes into beacons of unwelcome socio-economic change, or road alterations into council-endorsed masterplans to prevent me from arriving at work on time. My route’s idiosyncracies evolve in semi-diurnal patterns so that each morning, life feels fresh and each evening it feels like it has regressed – the Caribbean boozer on the street corner and its ever-present patrons a little more ready and raring to go at 5:30pm than at 8:15am.
But lately, in fact, most of the time I’ve cycled in London – about a year a half – I have had to factor another element into my mobile thinking time. An element of awareness, cunning and avian expertise. A parameter of skill that is centred upon safety and my deep, dark, inner prejudice.
They are everywhere and yet nowhere – my wheels hurtle towards them, screech sideways to miss their mangy feathers, they disappear in the nick of time and pop up at the at the very last nano-second. I don’t want to touch them – for both of our sakes – but they sit in my path, refuse to budge and then saunter (a sort of hyper-saunter, if possible, like running away quickly in a slow manner, akin to Usain Bolt watched in slow-mo…or is it the other way round, like Eric the Eel in fast-forward?), taking their own sweet time to move in a way that can generously be described as flaky.
I’ve heard them called sky-rats but that puts them in the league of snazzy hover-boards or x-ray glasses, which they are most definitely not. They obviously have very poor peripheral vision – like burkha-clad women or blinkered horses – and a bike, unlike a cab or a bus, just isn’t big enough or loud enough to grab their litter-pecking attention. Yet, I have never heard of a pigeon/bike collision in London. Come to think of it, the only pigeons I ever see in London are alive and well, a few sporting the truly manky one-legged look, but clearly not victims of RTAs.
I conclude, therefore, that this species of winged survivors, whilst being a general nuisance and very unpretty, is cockroachy in its evolutionary steadfastness. Or, perhaps, a) I am a supremely fast cyclist, catching pigeons unaware and representing the only challenge to them acoss the city b) pigeons are really quite good at dodging bikes, so good, in fact, that they now spice the moves up into a game of pigeon (like chicken, but more urban), c) my cycling time revery is leading to places that need never be considered – it is time to change my route or d) I am so slow on my bike, deep in thought, that I creep up quietly and practically squash the poor, harmless creatures. I am not stealthy, they are not clever and I am mistaking their inherent London born-and-bred insouciance as Darwinian cockiness.
I’ll have to ponder this on my way into work tomorrow morning.