Cycling without a License 

Cycling without a License

As a cyclist on Harare's streets, I harbour no illusions about my position in the food chain. Which is maybe slightly above bottom feeders. Maybe. Slightly.

In traffic, I don't contest the patchy, potholed pavement. I shunt myself onto the shoulder, be it rugged, teeth jarringly cratered, sandy speckled with shards of broken glass, or slick with mud. I don't overtake my fellow cyclists when cars are approaching in my lane. I know they'll resent swerving around us two abreast and hoot ferociously. I don't assume that a car will yield to me at a give way, or that one won't ignore me as I cross an intersection and cut me off.

In this land of cars, we cyclists have no rights.

But in exchange for my rights, I do take certain privileges to be mine. I've been known to turn left on red when the coast is clear. I treat myself as a pedestrian when there are pedestrian-only robots for school children. I use alleys and paths that are blocked off from cars.

In some ways, I admit to a perverse pleasure in my status outside the system. I don't pay for fuel or public transport. I don't have to queue for a lift, or a petrol coupon or for the petrol itself. I don't have to get my vehicle inspected, and I don't get stopped at roadblocks.

Or I didn't used to. Last week a police officer stopped me at a road block and wanted to see my cycle license. I stared at him blankly. Apparently, I'm supposed to have gone to the city registry building and bought a registration for my bicycle. I was so genuinely in the dark about this fact that he officer let me off with a warning. I don't know that I'll be able to plead ignorance as convincingly the next time around. But I'm certainly not going to pay any licensing free to the illegal Harare City Commission for the privilege of moving about as a rights-less cyclist on these streets.

I wonder what the penalty is for operating a bicycle without a license.

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