Wheels. I love them. Since I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by anything with four tyres and an internal-combustion engine. I remember the quirks and personalities of every car that my family had: from the chocolate brown Alfetta and its fruity exhaust note, to my mother’s dainty yellow Fiat 124 and later the light-blue Mazda 323 that was handed down to become my first car.
As is the case with any developing obsession, a little research into the history of the automobile was required to fully understand and appreciate the current generation of cars. To that end, I have owned a series of classic cars, from a 1966 Merc 230 S “Fintail” to a ‘68 Sunbeam Alpine and a ’70 Ford Fairmont GT.
These days, of course, the CAR team and I are fortunate enough to drive and evaluate all the new models that are launched in the market.
In recent years – in an attempt to keep fit and healthy – I’ve widened my love of wheels to include bicycles. And that gives me an interesting perspective on the increasingly worrying – and often tragic – conflict between cyclists and motorists that plays out on our roads.
This is not an argument in favour of cyclists, trust me – I’ve seen many cyclists behave in dangerous and shameful manners. Their actions embarrass me to be one. And let me tell you, it takes a lot to embarrass a 40-something guy who’s prepared to be out in public wearing tight-fitting lycra.
I’ve seen them impede the flow of traffic by riding two or even three abreast. I have also witnessed those cyclists swear profusely at motorists who dare to hoot at them in reaction to the riders’ selfish behaviour. These spandex-clad monkeys have even sworn at me when I’m driving. And I’m one of them.
That said, I’ve also had pretty scary experiences on a road bike. And they’ve come courtesy of a cross section of South African road users who have cut me off or driven so closely past me that I’ve had to stop and wait for my adrenaline-spiked heartrate to calm down.
I humbly ask both sides, on two wheels and four, to pause and dwell upon their actions. Slow down a little – both in your km/h and verbal abuse. Let’s give one another metaphorical and physical space. Enjoy the highways and byways in peace, harmony and safety.
Yours in tolerance,