Jamie and his bicycle were hell on wheels

22nd April 2016 at 00:00

I examine my newly acquired bruise in detail. It is livid and so am I. “Of course I’m angry!” I tell my wife. “It was like being a traffic policeman assigned to the busiest intersection in Mumbai during the Ganesh festival. Believe me, there are only so many things you can do with a teacher’s whistle and creating order out of traffic chaos is not one of them.”

I breathe deeply, roll my trouser leg down and reflect on the fact that I’m lucky to be alive. An hour ago, my existence appeared under threat when I found myself at the mercy of a swarm of lunatic gadabouts. They came at me from all directions: the recklessly speeding and the carelessly ambling; the violently aggressive and the dangerously dithering. I blew my Acme Thunderer until I became light-headed, but nobody took any notice.

This nightmare situation was not envisaged when, in a moment of inspired genius (bordering on insanity), Miss Spry came up with an idea for an after-school cycle, scoot and skate session. At first, only the positives were considered. Think how it will promote healthy outdoor exercise! Imagine how it will defeat the impending obesity crisis! Contemplate how it might help to keep death off the road! Yeah, by confining it to our school playground.

Anyway, before you could say multi-vehicle pile-up, the wheels were put in motion. A risk assessment was hastily drawn up and detailed plans were in place. In the interests of safety, we decided that one section of the playground would be allocated to bicycles; another to other modes of transport, including scooters, skateboards, rollerblades and trainers with ball bearings in them. A third section would be coned off for the nervous and tentative (aka potential roadkill).

Outside the school gates (hidden among parents), a flock of personal injury lawyers gathered for the feast. They were clearly aware of two factors that our risk assessment had overlooked. First, the maximum length of time that a child on wheels is able to put safety instructions ahead of the lure of open tarmac is less than three minutes. Second, no separate provision had been put in place for Jamie. Jamie’s bike is too big for him. It used to be his dad’s and he’s not scheduled to grow into it until 2022. Other risk factors connected with the machine included an absence of brakes, two flat tyres and handlebars not aligned with the direction of travel. It was a playground accident waiting to happen and, once Jamie got in the saddle (almost), we knew that the waiting was nearly over.

Like the first bumblebee of spring that defies logic in order to perform feats of aerobatic wonder, Jamie took to the playground on two wheels. It was a wobbly and possibly (given the proximity of crossbar and groin) painful start.

But once he got going and began to feel the wind in his face there was literally no stopping him. Boundaries were ignored, walls were blundered into and all intelligent life forms veered out of his way.

Unfortunately, my reactions are not what they once were.

Steve Eddison teaches at Arbourthorne Community Primary School in Sheffield

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