Today I spotted a old Italian guy riding a mountain bike crossing onto the footpath in Sydney Road in Brunswick. Round belly, checked shirt tucked into suit pants, ultra-clean joggers. I asked to take his photo but he didn’t feel comfortable. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to objectify him just because he exemplified my romantic vision of the ordinary cyclist. He did look fantastic though; his face was glowing with health.
He launched into a heavily accented story about a car running a red light at an intersection. As his light went green, he noticed it nudging forward and pushed his bike pointedly to get them to stop. The driver just ignored him and barged through. Now he’s a bit scared to ride on this road, he explained. I wasn’t sure why he was telling this story, but now realise he was making his excuses for riding on the footpath.
I asked him how long he’d been riding a bike.
Since I was 10, he said. Now I’m 71! He seemed pretty proud of this.
Do you drive a car ?
He then told me a story about how his friend, a taxi driver, got three tickets, even though he was a really good good driver [this struck me as strange]. One day his friend picked up a rich Egyptian family from the airport. It was the 50s, and they were fleeing from conflict. A bus ran into their car and everyone perished: a child, a father, and a wife (he listed in that order). And his friend, too (he made a cutting motion with his hand) . So you can be as good a driver as you want, he explained. It was the bus! The next thing he said I didn’t understand at all due to his accent, except the last few words: license* to kill.
I watched him as he rode off along the footpath, dinging his bell at some pedestrians to ask them to move aside.
*I’m sorry, I can never remember the difference between licence and license. I need a rule of thumb. Anyone?