I was trawling around yesterday on the TfL website looking for clues to the mystery of the Great Underground Chocolate Machine Mystery (everybody’s got to have a hobby, after all). I didn’t find any answers but I did find out lots of interesting information such as the fact that my old friend the North London Line will be taken over by Transport for London who are planning to run better trains and more frequent services – not exactly the world’s most challenging set of targets but welcome news for the poor sods who still have to use it – as long as they can hang on until 2007.
But that wasn’t what I wanted to write about today. I wanted to write about the great pigeon menace. Also buried in the TfL news section was a report on road deaths with the good news that ‘deaths and serious injuries’ of cyclists (along with all other categories of ‘deaths and serious injuires’) fell in the first six months of 2005. Hoorah. Digging a little deeper into the fine print I discovered that while serious injuries fell (and you can get the full story here if you’re as sad an individual as I am) deaths of cyclists rose by 175% from 4 to 11, which explains the strange lumping together of deaths with serious injuries – there’s quite a difference to the individual concerned, I think you’ll agree. Now there could be many reasons for this rise, none of which the report goes into, such as more cyclists on the road, or more motorists making sure to reverse back over any seriously injured cyclists that they do hit to finish them off, but one factor which I bet nobody’s taken into account is the rise (or lack of rise) of the pedestrian pigeon.
Pigeons in London, who presumably have their own pigeon targets for reduced CO2 emissions and reductions in airborne-related accidents, are now almost entirely ground-based birds. They reserve flying for emergency situations and for the rest of the time get around on foot (or feet if they’re lucky enough to have two), occasionally the getting on the District line at Earl’s Court for longer journeys. This means that they are continually walking under the wheels of my bike, realising it’s an emergency, attempting to take off at the last minute, and threatening to end up flying right up into my bike.Now car drivers can just drive over them, but cyclists risk a face full of pigeon – not the most delicious of prospects – so I find myself actually stopping for the stupid birds or cycling round them as they potter about in the middle of the road wondering which bit of vomit to eat next. This has got to be a traffic hazard. Either we teach the little buggers the green cross code, or I’m going to have to get a sticker for the back of my bag: ‘I brake for vermin’.
As for the other feathered peril we’re all supposed to be panicking, or not panicking (I have lost track of which) about – there was no sign of it in St. James’s Park this weekend. People may be shunning chicken and eggs and stockpiling Tamiflu, but they’re still letting their toddlers feed the ducks. When starving Pochards march on Parliament to demand the resumption of bread supplies, we’ll know the stiff upper British lip has wobbled at last.