Some days I think that Vauxhall Cross is going to be the death of me. Other days, I know it will.
This morning, Tuesday being the new Monday what with bank holidays and all, I was running a bit late gathering my staff pass, phone, keys, wallet, Oyster, bike bag, lock, bike jacket and lunch from the various places they had been hidden over the weekend (for after all, what else is there to do on a wet bank holiday weekend but play Hunt the Staff Pass with your nearest and dearest?). Some furious pedalling on my part and some sluggish response on my bike’s part got me to the junction with a little time in hand but I realised as soon as I’d got there that I’d missed the one sweet spot in the crossing that allows a pedestrian to get across in one cycle of the lights. That meant waiting through two complete cycles just to cross – and the second set of lights takes ages to change. Things have evolved into whole new life forms just waiting for the lights at Vauxhall Cross.
There were two things I could do. The first was to wait for the first green man, and then nip across the second crossing before the lights changed (Maddeningly, the two lights just miss even though the first light is pedestrian controlled and moving it forward by half a minute would make them connect). This is sometimes worth a shot if you’re quick on the grounds that most drivers won’t usually run over a pedestrian from a standing start but this morning the white vans were three abreast and their drivers had a collective glint in their eye that could have been homicidal frenzy or could just have been the sun shining directly into their cabs – either way I didn’t risk it. The alternative was to wait for the gap in the traffic that always occurs half way through the cycle – whether due to a mistimed light further up or a butterfly flapping its wings in the Amazon, I’m not entirely sure – and leg it across three lanes.
The mature, sensible grown-up part of me – the part that got me briefly made into a prefect when I was 18 – knows that this is a bad idea. I’ve seen enough drivers come screaming through that gap at sixty miles per hour to know that missing a train isn’t such a big deal compared with, say, six months in traction. The rest of me – the part that will get me made into an organ donor if I don’t wise up – had already decided to take the risk and was half way across. I keep vowing to myself I won’t do that again, usually about two-thirds of the way across with a Porsche on my tail. I also know that the next time I have to weigh up missing my train against possible death and dismemberment, the train will win every time. Still, at least I don’t smoke, keep fit and drink only in moderation. When the Porsche does get me, I’ll be worth something to someone for spares… Liver, anyone?