Wednesday, 5 April 2017

the golden rule

What would be the best advice to offer someone who was cycling in Hong Kong for the first time? I’ve only ever cycled in places where road traffic keeps to the left—England, Australia, New Zealand—but Hong Kong also conforms to this system, so I should be able to provide a few useful pointers. However, apart from requiring you to keep left, cycling in Hong Kong is nothing like cycling anywhere else I’ve cycled. It may even be unique in the type of hazards encountered, from having to react to people who cycle on the wrong side of the road, without being remotely aware that they’re doing something wrong, to people who simply don’t look where they’re going anyway.

Consequently, I came up with what I call ‘the golden rule’ for cycling in Hong Kong. It’s something that you ignore at your peril, as I’ve found out myself on a few occasions. Last year, for example, I hit a pedestrian. I was on a dedicated cycle track at the time, while he was walking along the left-hand side of the track with his back to me. I identified him immediately as a potential hazard, so I rang my bell to alert him to my presence. He turned to look, and this is where I made my mistake: I assumed that he wouldn’t now do what he actually did do. Just as I was about to pass him, he turned abruptly right into my path—without looking—and I had no chance to take avoiding action.

I had violated the golden rule, which is easy to remember and would have kept me out of harm’s way in this instance:
Expect anything, from anywhere, at any time.
When I first came up with this principle, I wanted to find a photograph that captured its spirit both accurately and succinctly. The following photo is taken from my account of a bike ride that we refer to as ‘the long and winding road’, which links together a series of narrow paths west of Fanling.

As you can see, it isn’t possible to see too far ahead as you hit the footbridge, but one day I’d just cleared the bridge when I came face to face with this:

A herd of goats is almost as far from being expected as it’s possible to be, which I think makes it a perfect illustration of the golden rule.

A few weeks ago, I was out on the long and winding road, and as I was cycling along, I started to think about the golden rule and how the photo I’d taken of the goats was the perfect illustration of the rule. I was approaching the narrow alleyway between houses shown in the next photo:

I always slow down sharply here, because I’ve no idea what may lie around the corner, which can just be made out at the end of the alley and which comes about 20 metres before the footbridge. On this occasion, this is what lay around the corner:

Coincidence, or what?


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