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ON YER BIKE

11-07-2007

Skateboarding? Old hat. As Lynn Hawthorne reports, the really adventurous young men in Birmingham have come up with a new way to break limbs - and not only their own.

I spent Saturday in town. It was gloriously sunny, rather warm and incredibly dry, a refreshing change from the monsoon we’ve been suffering of late.

I’d gone in for the jazz, but couldn’t really find any (what happened to all those artists performing on street corners and in odd little spaces of previous years?) and, instead, set off for a wander. I saw some odd sights.

There was the fat female family, all extremely overweight and tearing into sausage sandwiches from a Rag Market café with gusto.

One lady, resplendent in bright yellow tracksuit, had a belly so ponderous that it hung out of her t-shirt and below her crutch like a marsupial’s pouch. She then sat down and exhibited a cleavage of which your average builder would be extremely proud.

It had a disastrous effect on my consumption of lunch and everyone was being so terribly British by pretending that they hadn’t noticed, failing to make eye contact with anyone, including their conversation partner.

We moved on to the ‘beach’ alongside St. Martin’s Church.

There was a competition going on, an adult version of TV quiz Runaround (except for health & safety reasons, they ambled), where the contestants had been selected at random by tickets informing them that they were one of the ‘chosen’.

The prize was fabulous: a trip to New York, spending money, a wardrobe makeover and a magazine spread.

I looked closely at the ‘chosen ones’.

Surprise, surprise, they were all young, tall, slim and attractive, because we couldn’t have fat old birds in yellow velour cluttering up our tabloid glossies, could we?

The first question was to identify which of three male ‘celebrities’ didn’t have their own perfume range from Jean Paul Gaultier, xxxxxxx and Ricky Gervais.

The herd moved slowly towards the person wearing the ‘C’ t-shirt. I lost the will to live momentarily and moved much faster away from this spectacle of consumerism.

But, for me, the oddest sight by far was a series of grown men in three-quarter length combat trousers, hoodies and caps performing ‘stunts’ with bikes.

One was riding at speed down the slope past Borders bookstore in what could only be declared a game of human skittles.

Pushchairs, elderly people, youngsters out shopping held no fear for this particular rider as he whizzed round the bend and disappeared towards the market. He reappeared later, pushing the bike uphill, in preparation for his next attempt at a full strike.

Then in Stephenson Street, the bizarre sight of men jumping their bikes up onto the metal central reservation and down onto the other side in front of oncoming traffic greeted me.

There is, no doubt, a name for this ‘extreme sport’, but I’m too much of an old fogey to know it or be bothered to look it up. No, I’m more of a realist. These are people old enough to know better.

If they caused an accident, or found themselves under the wheels of a truck, hundreds - even thousands - of pounds of tax payers’ money would be spent on police, fire and ambulance crews fishing them out and repairing their broken bodies.

All for ‘a bit of a lark’ or for the furtherance of the ‘skilled sport.’

Rubbish! A pushbike is for getting from ‘A’ to ‘B’ or for keeping fit. If you want to be a trick cyclist, join a circus and stop interfering with the flow of traffic.

Or, better still, get a proper job - that’ll keep you off the streets!

And where were the police? Watching the teenagers hanging out on the grass outside the Cathedral, doing nobody any harm, minding their own business and absorbing the sun into their black clothing. Loads of ‘em. Police, not kids!

Don’t get me wrong, cities need characters and urban life is becoming more popular again, but I do think that some of these young men need to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask themselves what the flamin’ hell they’re playing at.

Do they ever wonder why they’re still single? Grow up!

Have seen any of the new breed of extreme cyclists in Birmingham? The Stirrer has some exclusive pictures coming shortly? Is it as bad as Lynn says? Or just a bit of harmless fun.

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