Cycling Suffragettes!

Bikergirls

Victorian Biker Girls (Sophie Bryant not shown)

In the long and arduous fight for womens rights the simple act of owning a bicycle was considred radical in Victorian times.  One of the first women in the United Kingdom to own a bicycle was the Dublin born Sophie Bryant.  Born Sophie Willock, a native of Sandymount, February 15th 1850.

At the age of 19, living in London, she married Dr William Hicks Bryant, a man 10 years her senior, who died within a year of the marriage.  Thus liberated as a respectable widow with the ability to make her own decisions she went completely off the rails.  Stark staring feminist mad.

Apart from buying a bicycle she also became a teacher. When the University of London opened its doors to women she became one of the first women to be awarded a first class degree.  As a mathematician she earned her doctorate of science and became only the third woman to be elected to the London Mathematical Society.

When Trinity College Dublin opened its doors to women they marked the occasion by awarding Bryant the first honorary degree given to a woman.

She wanted votes for women, but said that first women should be educated.  She devoted much of her life to that cause and the institutions founded and managed by her made an enormous contribution to that end.

She died doing what she loved, in Chamonix in the French Alps, climbing mountains at the age of 72.

Zermatt To The Matterhorn; by Thomas Hardy

Thirty-two years since, up against the sun,
seven shapes, thin atomies to lower sight,
labouringly leapt and gained thy gabled height,
and four lives paid for what the seven had won.

They were the first by whom the deed was done,
and when I look at thee, my mind takes flight
to that day’s tragic feat of manly might,
as though, till then, of history thou hadst none.

Yet ages ere men topped thee, late and soon
thou watch’dst each night the planets lift and lower;
thou gleam’dst to Joshua’s pausing sun and moon,
and brav’dst the tokening sky when Caesar’s power
approached its bloody end: yea, saw’st that Noon
when darkness filled the earth till the ninth hour.

Biker Gang

Cyclists

When you drive you drive alone.  When you ride you are part of a tribe.

As I cycled through Dublin earlier this week I observed something profoundly interesting.

A lady on a bicycle had an accident.  She caused the accident in fact.  She broke a red light and cycled into a taxi that was turning right.  She hit the front of his car from the side, tumbled over the bonnet and landed hard on the road.

At this point I hopped off my bike, placed it against a lamp post and ran over to see if she was hurt.  She was fine, just a little shocked.

Then I looked around and realised that five or six other cyclists had done the same as me.  She was surrounded by a lycra clad, high viz vest and bicycle helmet gang.  The driver of the taxi stepped out of his car.  Although he was totally in the right he was visibly nervous of the situation.  He was in the right but alone.  She was blatantly in the wrong, but she had a gang.

Other drivers did not get out of their vehicles to support him.  They were frustrated at the stoppage.  They just wanted the accident cleared so they could get to work.  One driver even began to honk his horn.

This little moment highlighted for me the key difference between cyclists and drivers.

Cyclists are engaged in the real world.  We are in constant danger from drivers and we can’t rely on the drivers to look out for our safety.  Our lives are in our hands.  As a result we are wide awake to our environment.  We are not enclosed from the world, we are out in the open.  We can make an easy transition from cyclist to pedestrian and back again.

If something happens nearby the cyclist is part of it.  If someone falls over they may check to see if they are OK.

Drivers are enclosed in a glass and metal box.  They are in their own private world.  They look at our world through a window.  They see it but are not part of it.  They are physically and psychologically disengaged from the reality of life outside.  They are possibly elsewhere, on a phone call, or listening to the radio.

If someone falls nearby they observe it as though they are watching it on TV.  It is not a part of their reality.  Besides, it is a lot of trouble for a driver to disengage from the vehicle, to become a pedestrian, to walk over to the person who fell, and to see if they are OK.  And if they do that the other drivers will get frustrated with you leaving your vehicle.  They will honk at you to get moving again.

It is easier to sit in your vehicle and wait for some passing pedestrian or cyclist to check out the situation.

When a driver has an accident the other drivers nearby do not empathise with the driver.  They do not get out of their cars and stand around in a group, unless it is a particularly unusual situation.  in the normal day to day world of fender-benders you stay in your car and wait it out.

If a cyclist is in an accident the situation is very different.  Other cyclists seem to appear from nowhere.  They come in droves.  They are like white blood cells racing to a point of injury in the body.  Before you know what has happened there is a gang of yellow, pink and orange people in strange space-age outfits.  They identify with each other.  They are a flock, a band, a gang.

What is true for cyclists is doubly true for bikers, and may explain a lot about why biker gangs seem so threatening.

Life should not be a journey to the grave

with the intention of arriving safely

in a pretty and well preserved body,

but rather to skid in broadside

in a cloud of smoke,

thoroughly used up,

totally worn out,

and loudly proclaiming

“Wow! What a Ride!

Hunter S. Thompson

The Cycle of Life

bike-rain1

Took on a new contract last week, and found myself back to commuting on my bicycle.  January in Dublin is not the loveliest time of the year for spinning the pedals.  We are going through a cold and wet snap of weather with cold rain and hard sleet.

That aside, it is great to be back on the bike.  It gives me a great sense of freedom.  When you cycle to work you get a workout in the morning and the evening, so you don’t need to go to artificial environments like Gyms to get exercise.

It has been three years since I did a cycle commute and the break has robbed me of a lot of fitness.  The first two days were torture.  I thought I would have a heart attack.  It’s amazing how quickly you get out of condition if you are not taking regular vigorous exercise.

Today, Saturday, I can feel the pleasant sensation of hard muscles tightening in my thighs.  My cycle yesterday was a vast improvement on the first two days.  I begin to feel in control again.

Going Down Hill on a Bicycle: A Boy’s Song; by Henry Charles Beeching

With lifted feet, hands still,
I am poised, and down the hill
Dart, with heedful mind;
The air goes by in a wind.

Swifter and yet more swift,
Till the heart with a mighty lift
Makes the lungs laugh, the throat cry:—
“O bird, see; see, bird, I fly.

“Is this, is this your joy?
O bird, then I, though a boy,
For a golden moment share
Your feathery life in air!”

Say, heart, is there aught like this
In a world that is full of bliss?
‘Tis more than skating, bound
Steel-shod to the level ground.

Speed slackens now, I float
Awhile in my airy boat;
Till, when the wheels scarce crawl,
My feet to the treadles fall.

Alas, that the longest hill
Must end in a vale; but still,
Who climbs with toil, wheresoe’er,
Shall find wings waiting there.