Professor Joe Goldblatt
During the national lock down resulting from the Covid – 19 pandemic I saw many more bicycles zooming by my front door. I also noted how the City of Edinburgh Council was rapidly adding more dedicated bike lanes to our city streets. Each day I would sit in my lawn chair and wave to the cyclists whilst also envying their sense of freedom and the benefits they were receiving from this healthy exercise. It was at this time I began to hatch a plan to join them.
My quest to become a cyclist began with conducting searches on various on line web sites for an adult tricycle. I decided to expand to three wheels versus the traditional two to provide me with greater stability. I also occasionally poked my head into local cycling shops to inquire about how I could purchase an adult tricycle. Each time I told the cycle shop owners about my enthusiasm for cycling they smiled until I mentioned the third wheel and it turned out that when it came to adult tricycling there was a distinct bias toward two wheels.
After several weeks of searching I found a bright yellow tricycle and it was located only a few miles from my home. I contacted the owner and he agreed to show me his trike. I hired a taxi and explained to the driver that we would be potentially collecting an adult tricycle and to my delight, he warmed to my adventure.
Upon meeting the owner of the bright yellow tricycle he explained that it was previously owned by his adult son who is disabled and it was used for local nieghbourhood joy rides. He then invited me to try the trike and I found that despite the pouring rain, I could easily manage to pedal into my tricycling future. We quickly agreed upon a price and with the help of the taxi driver I loaded the trike into his vehicle and asked him to stop at a local cycle shop so that I could pick up a lock and a cover to protect my new / old tricycle from theft and our Scottish weather. As I walked into the shop I was thinking about how much I wanted to invest in my lock while secretly laughing about who would want to steal and potentially fence an adult yellow tricycle?
The bike shop assistant said that bike theft is a huge problem in Edinburgh and that I needed the strongest of all possible locks that was obviously named for marketing purposes as the “Kryptonite” lock. I was surprised to discover that this Superman strength lock cost half the entire price of my recently purchased tricycle.
Once I had collected my super lock and protective covering the taxi driver dropped me at my home and I secured my tricycle to the bike rack in front of my home. I then carefully covered my new transport and began to dream of one day soon going for a spin through the beautiful large park near our home that is known as the Meadows.
The following day, the sun partially appeared briefly in the sky and I decided to take my maiden voyage. All went well until I needed to make a sharp right turn and learned that tricycles require a wider turning radius. I suddenly flipped over and landed upon the pavement with a loud crash. The bright yellow tricycle was now on top of me and though somewhat dazed and blushing with embarrassment, I managed to slowly come to my senses and upright my vehicle. Undaunted, I slowly remounted my machine and continued to more carefully make my way to the Meadows.
The Meadows is the perfect cycling course as the paths are flat, straight and well marked. As I tricycled along I soon realised I was driving more than a transportation device. The hundreds of happy faces that greeted me immediately made me realise I was now the captain of a genuine smile making machine.
A few days later I found a small silver horn with a black rubber bulb that when squeezed honked loudly and I quickly attached this to my tricycle. I also invited my wee dog CoCo to join me as my CoCo – pilot while riding securely and comfortably in the basket behind my seat. Each day CoCo and I travelled through the Meadows we made more and more friends.
One way I greeted other skateboarders and cyclists as well as a few runners and asked “Want to Race?” Most just ignored me and a few giggled or laughed out loud. One or two said politely “No thank you.”
However, one morning as I paused at a traffic light I noticed there was a young Muslim woman wearing a colourful hijab and burka. I smiled down at her from atop my bright yellow tricycle and asked if she would like to race. To my surprise and delight she immediately responded while assuming a proper runner’s stance, looked me in the eye and said firmly “Let’s go!”
When the light changed we were off and we raced to the entrance of the Meadows. It was a tie. Despite her long gown and my very slow tricycle. we both gave our best efforts and had fun in the process. I then thanked her for the race and encouraged her to keep practicing and suggested that we might meet and race again upon a new day. She then reached over to gently stroke my CoCo – pilot and we continued our gentle cruising through the Meadows.
I am delighted that our city has embraced the recreational and environmental benefits of cycling. I am also happy that thanks to my bright yellow tricycle CoCo and I may encourage a few more smiles during this otherwise sad time in the lives of many of our fellow citizens.
If you are of a certain age and fancy joining the many new younger cyclists in our city I encourage you to consider starting, albeit more slowly and modestly, with three wheels. After all, often it is the third wheel that has the added the unexpected benefit of producing smiles for myself and others as I tricycle through our inspiring city. And who knows, you and I might just one day race through the Meadows. If you hear my honking horn you may just wish to move over or join me in the next joy ride.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Queen Margaret Uiversity and with his dog CoCo drives a bright yellow tricycle. You may find him regularly in the Meadows experiencing The True Joy of Life. To purchase his memoir of the same title visit www.joegoldblatt.scot