When cycling, you are an easy target and there are few, if any, effective responses.
On Sunday, my partner and I were returning home from a long(ish) cycle ride. We were significantly less than a mile from home and I was pedalling almost unconsciously and thinking only of how glad I would be to get off the bicycle and have a nice, hot shower. Startled out of my reverie by a swerve from my partner amid a flurry of stones, I looked right to see a group of about 7 or so teenagers, laughing. A few of them were throwing things and I knew some projectiles were headed in my direction. Luckily for me (I guess), their aim was poor and nothing hit, but I wondered about what I would do if anything did hit. Stop? Call the police? My partner had sped off and I put my head down and chased him, thinking, “What a charming town we live in.”
Later, we compared notes. I mused about what I would have done if a stone had hit me. “I could stop and pull out my phone, call the police and report them for assault. Or anti-social behaviour.” My partner countered with a sensible, “But there are only two of us and however many of them.” I responded, “Actually, there was only me. You were almost home already. How funny would that be? I’d be dinging my bell to get your attention while trying to call the police, who probably couldn’t give a rats.”
(Dinging my bell is how I get my partner’s attention as we cycle at least 50 metres apart, because I am slow, and my voice, though loud, cannot carry that far.)
My partner laughed. “Yes. I just gave them my supercilious look,” to which I rejoined, “Ha! That’s great. I gave them my best ‘perplexed/bemused, what on earth are you doing?’ look.” He showed me his supercilious look; I showed him the face I pulled at the kids and we laughed at the idea that either of us had any effect on them at all. “With our undefeatable weapons – your superciliousness and my bemusement -, imagine how we could take on the hoodlums of our town!” My partner laughed, “Except they would not know what those words meant.”
There are lots of these groups of kids around our area. They are menacing because they are bored. My partner has had balls thrown at him. The worst I’ve had, prior to Sunday, was verbal abuse. I try to rein in my angrier thoughts and excuse their behaviour because they are victims of circumstance: disenchantment with their prospects, alienation from society, poverty. But when it directly affects me, I cannot do anything other than put my head down and cycle away from it, as fast as I can.
Another method is to befriend them. When you become a person whom they have to interract with, it is harder to do anti-social things. There are kids down the end of our street. I call them the Sandlot Kids because there’s a redhead, a fat one, a skinny one, a tall one and a girl, rather like the movie. They are younger than the hoodlums and I hope that they won’t turn into them, but I rather expect they will. One of them is my friend – when we first moved in I raced him on my bicycle after he called out as I cycled past, “Race you?” and I heartily agreed, much to his surprise. I put myself into the wrong gear and let him win, while I pedalled hard, fast and futilely. We have raced a few other times (sometimes I win) when he is out on the corner as I am turning into our street. Other times I have cycled past and called out hello. Once, I overheard someone say to him (after he called hello first and I responded), “Ooh, you love her,” and he replied affrontedly (and rather too quickly), “I DO NOT!” I have also heard him say as I cycle past, “Nah, leave her alone,” and I wonder what they would have done if I was someone else.
I don’t think I’ll be trying to befriend the older hoodlums, though. At least, not by offering to race them.