Free at last

The Covent Garden One, last week

And so it ended: not with a bang, but with a whimper. I got a phone call on Friday afternoon from the deeply apologetic owner of the bike locked to mine. She’d been on holiday for the past week, and hadn’t realised what she’d done. I arranged to meet her the following day to reclaim my bike and that was that.

It’s a shame, really, as I was kind of looking forward to having to use brute force to liberate my bike. Or, to be more precise, getting someone else to use brute force. One of a number of suggestions I had for how I could get my bike back was to ask the fire service. I quite liked the idea of playing the damsel in distress and fluttering my eyelashes at a fireman. Sadly, it wasn’t to be.

So. I have my bike back. All’s well that ends well, right?

Err…maybe not. Because I keep thinking I shouldn’t have left it so long. I’m well aware that pretty much anyone else in the same situation wouldn’t have had the patience to wait a week. Was I just being too nice about the whole thing?

Some people clearly seem to think so. I posted a question on a cycling forum to ask what I could do to get my bike back. The response was pretty unequivocal – break the lock. Most people were amazed I hadn’t already done so. One person said I’d been ‘insanely patient’. Another asked if I was planning to service their bike too.

I don’t know. It seems to me that breaking a lock – particularly a heavy duty one – is not as simple as some people would make out. Even if bolt cutters (as was suggested by a few people) were theoretically capable of cutting the lock, could I do it? I am, after all, a 55 kilo weakling. I struggle to pump up a tyre to the right pressure, or to undo a bolt that someone else has tightened. I seriously doubt I’d be able to apply the necessary pressure to cut through a cable lock. Of course if I had a boyfriend to do it for me, or if my flatmate’s boyfriend hadn’t been on holiday, it would have been a different matter, but I don’t and he was.

And then there’s the fact that I am, by nature, something of a goodie-two-shoes. I never even got a detention when I was at school. I simply don’t like the idea of getting into trouble. It’s not just the punishment that deters me – it’s the fact of knowing that I’ve done something wrong (see, told you I’m a goodie-two-shoes!). So before I could even contemplate breaking the lock I had to be absolutely certain I was in the right.

I started to get an inkling I was from the replies to my question on the cycling forum. Even the police, when I asked them, suggested breaking the lock. Finally I consulted a lawyer – otherwise known as my friend Mark – who suggested that I would have a good defence if I were to be caught (but that his professional body would probably take a less favourable view of his involvement if he were to be found holding the tools).

I like to think I was sufficiently convinced to have been willing to have a go at breaking the lock myself, had the aforementioned damsel-in-distress routine not succeeded. Happily, though, I didn’t need to – which means I’ll never know for definite if I would actually have done it.

Whatever you think of my inaction over the bike, I’m not a total pushover. I asked for, and got, the money for my week’s travel card from the other bike owner. The reactions I’ve had to that have varied, too, from, ‘Good on you!’ to, ‘That’s the least she should have given you!’ It had never occurred to me to ask for anything more. My aforementioned legal adviser suggested I could have asked for damages, but I would probably have had to wait two years for it to go through the courts.

Anyway. I have my bike back, and I have my money back, and as far as I’m concerned that’s all that matters. All is well that ends well.


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