Indicative of the traffic insanity that is the London arterial road system, my commute passes 22 lights in a total of 4.1 miles – four of which could be labelled tricky. Especially when clipped in trackstanding generally starts wobbly and finishes either in intense humiliation or death by bus crushing.
So you have to use some of the cruder arts of cycling; learn the phasing, be able to spring like a madman or roll like a snail, scout alternate routes and failing all that, cheat. It’s akin to crafting a maximum break in snooker – except for dressing up like Victorian butlers, the use of a table and any balls, unless you’re including the spheroids of steel required for this maximum effort. 22 lights breaks down nicely into 15 reds, and seven colours.
Foul shots include running reds, using cars as rests and any dabs at all, even if it was only you who saw it. Like a 147, you’re always it planning it but you mustn’t think to hard about it because that way lies failure by performance anxiety. First tough lights looking good, sprint over the Marylebone road, skip through the next two sets and then a quick double off the cushion to avoid a long red at Edgeware road. This leaves a tricky shot that is the shoot into Hyde Park Corner, traffic solid from the right, so slow weave into the left lane and commit to a death or glory to be positioned for the next light. This nearly ends in a t-bone from a desperate Merc gambling on amber.
I acknowledge the internal applause as the break nudges over a 100 but the most difficult part of the break is still to come. A slow filter gains me a green onto Constitution Hill and a split decision – but a good one – to take easy brown over a difficult black bumps me through a slippy dirt track to miss being held up outside Queenies. I’m disappointed not to try out my trick shot to beat the next long hold but another green sees me heading for the crux – Trafalgar square.
I’ve looked at this from all sides of the table and there are no easy pots. Not enough room to circle, off camber makes even the good trackstanders struggle, basically it’s down to luck. And today I was lucky, if narrowly avoiding being stomped by a big ref bus can ever be counted as lucky. Still I had slipped up his inside – so to speak – to avoid the indeterminable pedestrian lights outside charring cross.
My reward was a veldt of green awaiting my charging steed. Onto the colours now and the first three dispatched with a sprint as they made to change. Last tough shot coming up over Waterloo Bridge. Deft, tight filter – oh I so wanted to unclip as I ducked under a mirror between bar wide lorries – put me in perfect position to dispatch the light and I’m away around Aldwych heading for a simple blue-pink-black of three fast lights.
The first two were green, the last may not have been even as I lined it up to punch it into the bottom pocket.; I was ready to jump off the bike, hug random passers by and claim the £1.47 first prize I’d awarded myself. Unfortunately even the most colour blind may have noticed the colour of that light was not a combination of red and yellow, more red and yellow.
In my defense, I never saw it, as far as I was concerned, it was black.