Classic Peddler #1

One of the things I particularly enjoy about editing Cycle Lifestyle magazine is reading Adam Copeland's column 'The Peddler' and Gareth Jenkins's column 'New Bike on The Block'. In their own different ways, these guys both crack me up with their irreverant tales of cycling in London and beyond. I thought it would be fun (and, yes, labour-saving) to ressurrect some of these old columns, for newcomers to the magazine. First up, the first ever Peddler, from way back in 2009 (the original can be read here).

The Peddler #1, by Adam Copeland

Let me start with a confession. After all, this column is all about the secret thoughts of a cyclist. Thoughts you’re free to think away from the filth and fug of public transport; thoughts that come to you as you explore the secrets of London; thoughts you have (if you happened to cycle through Peckham last Tuesday) when you see a pigeon trapped in a wig shop and wonder how easy it is to get bird poo out of a cornrow.

Anyway, that confession. Here goes: I once cycled straight into a lamp-post because I couldn’t work out the pros and cons involved in going to the left of it or going to the right of it. Neither option seemed better. The closer I got to it, the harder the debate became. In the end, I effectively crashed into my own indecision.

With that in mind, I tend to play games in my head where I force myself to make snap decisions. You have to swap bikes with one of the next three cyclists. Which will it be? You’re allowed one free house on this street. This one or that one? You have to pick a wife from the women at this bus stop. Can you avoid the one that looks alarmingly like your own mum?

In fact, there’s a whole game to be made of that particular sport. Basically it involves allocating a street at the start of your journey, then choosing a spouse from the people you see there. You’re only allowed one (that’s more of a law than a rule, really), you cannot change your mind, and you probably shouldn’t tell the lucky stranger the good news.

So that’s vaguely misogynistic indecision covered. Sadly, I recently discovered another thought I should have kept to myself. It involves rubbish, swimming trunks and fists, and it goes like this:

As I peddled past the Oval one morning, a driver overtook me in a van and threw some rubbish out of his window. All my indecision was gone: this was without doubt a Bad Thing. It was a time for action.

I cycled up to his open window, and, like the wise leader of a fierce but slightly smug army, shook my head disapprovingly. I wanted to give him a littering epiphany, to fundamentally change him from the sort of person who drops rubbish willy nilly, into the sort of person who definitely doesn’t because he will forever have flashbacks of the dreadful stare that once pierced his soul near the Oval.

Instead, he just told me to ‘clear off’ (but sexually). “What’s your problem, anyway?” he asked. Foolishly, I decided to get to the heart of the issue: “I just don’t really like it when people drop rubbish.”

This didn’t go down well. He thought for a moment, and then announced that I “look like a f*!?ing ****”. While I didn’t much care for his language, I had to admit he had a point – I was wearing swimming trunks and boots. (There were two reasons for this: 1. I thought it was going to rain but didn’t have space in my bag for extra shoes. 2. I am indeed a f*!?ing ****.)

Anyway, things were about to get worse. He had opened his door and decided he’d like to continue our conversation face to face. Using fists. I had nowhere to go. This was it. I was going to be murdered in Vauxhall, simply for being right about rubbish.

Then suddenly, I was saved – the lights changed and the traffic moved. We were off – he to rant to LBC about the cycling Stasi taking over our streets, and me to choose a stranger at a bus stop who looks like she wouldn’t mind marrying a terrified weirdo in swimming trunks.

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