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09 July 2012

Silence can speak volumes

Exactly half-way round the MKAD from Khimki:
60 kms out, at 8.47—and still two DPS stations to go
On Sunday morning I had an interesting illustration of the potency of a facial expression, and how much more that can say than spoken words.
     I had decided to cycle round the MKAD. In my journeys around Moscow by bicycle I have often cycled on part of the ring-road and have thought for some time it would be worth making a full circuit, if only to say that I had “beaten the bounds” of the city.
     I waited for a weekend when I had nothing else on and the weather was right (not too much wind, not too hot and, above all, dry), and set off early (from Khimki) to avoid the mid-day heat.
     By 7 a.m. I was passing the Volokolamsk turn off, 20 kms from home, going in an anti-clockwise direction. I had chosen that way round because the wind was forecast from the south-east and I wanted to have it favourable on the later stages, when I would be tired. Also wind tends to get up during the day and the contrary wind early would, I hoped, be lighter than the fair wind later on—as turned out to be the case.
     I was in fine spirits on a beautiful, clear and still cool morning when, for the first time in five years of cycling all over the Moscow Oblast, and occasionally beyond, I saw a traffic policemen by the side of the road waving his little black and white baton at me and gesturing to pull over. I know that bicycles are not allowed on “Chausses” in Russia, but I have passed so many policemen on the MKAD over the years that I assumed it to be effectively tolerated. And what is a Chausse, anyway? Where are the signs saying cycling not permitted?
     I knew that if I stopped that would be the end of my little jaunt. I had been thinking of this for a year and actively organising it for a month or so. Damn! Damn! Damn!
     There was only one thing for it, which I have found works in many other circumstances with policemen in Russia. Act as if they do not exist. So I peddled on, right past the guy, within two feet of him, while he waved his little baton, blew his whistle, and shouted “Мужчина!” As I passed him I affected a glassy-eyed expression as if I was in some sort of athletic trance and the noise he was generating meant as little to me as the roar of a hostile crowd at Luzhniki Stadium. I wanted him to think I was mad, weird, wired, out of it, or foreign—or better still: all five. After all, what sane Russian would be out on a Sunday morning lapping the local beltway on a bike when he could be safe home in his bed snoring?
     Was my friendly traffic supervisor going to pull out his little gun and fire at me? I very much doubted it, but I put in a few random wobbles just in case he was standing behind taking aim at the disappearing cyclist. Soon I was able to swerve in front of a stationery truck and be lost to view. The next question was: would he have the energy to walk over to his car, turn the ignition key and come after me? Knowing Russia, I doubted it. Rightly so, as it happened since I was able to continue unmolested.
     Would the policeman—as he undoubtedly would have in Britain had I committed a comparable offence—radio the next DPS station on the road asking them to stop the madman on a blue bicycle who would be passing in ten minutes or so? Apparently not, since I passed three more DPS stations on the circuit and none evinced the slightest interest in my progress.
     So the expression worked—helped I am sure by the officer’s laziness. I has said nothing, just looked mad. It is too much effort to challenge that sort of thing. Who knows where it might end? 
     Using language, however well, can sometimes be less effective than not using it at all.


  1. Bicykling is prohibited on roads with two signs:
    1) магистраль - a primary route signs with green background
    2) дорога для автомобилей - like MKAD and Third transport circle.

    Cycling on MKAD is extremely dangerous. Here's a lot of mad drivers who likes to overtake using right lanes and sides of the road. Suppose that's what policemen would tell you. Anyway, he couldn't arrest or even write you a penalty.

  2. >Where are the signs saying cycling not permitted?
    Everywhere in MKAD you can see this sign: http://gost-pdd.ru/?znak=5.3
    It prohibits using something else then automobiles. And cycling there is extremely dangerous. I saw incidents with cyclist, where they have had heavy injuries made by cars.

  3. Chaussée, or better say automagistral in Russia equals to motorway in Britain or Highway in the US. It is prohibited by the road regulations to enter it on bike or any other vehicle that can't go at at least 50 km/h.
    Indeed, it is extremely dangerous to ride on such roads as MKAD and living here you should've known that as well as the fact that the police at their work mostly care for those who they can levy a fine on or to get a bribe from if they can :) That officer most probably wanted to warn you of the danger of your enterprise. I recon it wouldn't have cost you a rouble.

  4. I remember reading posts by a Russian guy in Cali, who used to take bike trips on freeways. He's no longer with us. A truck saw to that.