Class Monitor: the cyclists

There is a hush outside the bar.

A car idles, a small child plays in a doorway as his mother talks quietly into her mobile, an elderly woman makes slow progress with a shopping basket.

In the car, the only one parked on the small Soho side street, a younger woman checks her make-up in the rear-view mirror. Technically the car shouldn't be parked where it is, but she is completely involved in applying her lipstick and unaware, I'd guess, of the strictures of Westminster City Council parking regulations. Enjoying the scene and the unusual presence of the sun, I push my beer glass across the table, stretch my legs and relax. A mistake.

The cyclists come silently but with force. Two men in their early thirties, squeezed into garish Lycra bodysuits, descend on the street at speed. They are both cycling on the pavement, and if not actively looking for victims, they are certainly ready to take on all comers.

The first comer is the old lady, who says "Ooh" when the leading cyclist clips her arm. I just get my feet back in as the second cyclist - sending the child scurrying for safety - cuts diagonally across the pavement and on to the road, where he stops, slams his fist on the roof of the car, and bellows "Bike lane, you cunt" through the window.

The first cyclist has cleared the old woman now and stops to watch his colleague continue his assault. Inside the car, the woman looks very scared. The interior serves as an echo chamber and the assailant - enjoying the satisfying boom he is making - continues to slam his fist down on the car roof.

The woman's face wobbles and her body shakes, her lipstick now smudged beyond the line of her lips.

Momentarily I consider throwing my glass at him, but there is at least three-quarters of a pint in there and the authorities have arrived in the shape of an amiable-looking police community support officer in blue serge uniform, flat black shoes and peaked cap.

Tubby and smiling, the officer makes a stark juxtaposition with the cyclists, both of whom display the developed muscle that comes with peddling through small children and bellowing at frightened women five days a week.

There is a pause, broken only by sobs as the child hides behind his mother. "Ah," says the officer, reaching to open a flap in his jacket. "We shouldn't really cycle on the pavement, should we?" He gets a notebook out and continues, "Can I have your names and addresses, please?"

The second cyclist considers this and then says, "Fuck off." The first cyclist spits on the pavement next to the officer's shoes. As the officer looks
down at the sputum, the two cyclists leave the scene, peddling out of the side street and into the main thoroughfare, where they join the stream of other cyclists who course and snarl across the city.

Michael Hodges writes the Class Monitor column for the New Statesman. He was named columnist of the year at the 2008 Magazine Design and Journalism Awards for his contributions to Time Out.