It's spring and they are back, or have been back for a while – the urban cattle and bike-riders. The former are clogging the sidewalks again, shambling along in small bunches, wandering into traffic, gathering in pedestrian bottleneck and making them worse, or creating bottlenecks where there were none before.
The bike-riders are out in great numbers, often a danger to the urban cattle (they swerve around them), to other pedestrians (zooming by at high speed, no warning) and to themselves (few helmets, bells, reflectors or lights after dark)
Don't get me wrong, I understand the need to ride a bike – it is cheaper than public transport, much cheaper than driving, good for physical fitness, the (urban) environment, etc.etc. All that is correct and I have friends and workmates who ride bikes. But I also see bike-riders in Riga as a hazard. There is no bike-riding culture, one could almost say that Latvia lacks both the infrastructure (bike paths) and the level of civilization to have the same level of urban biking as in Copehagen or Stockholm. Maybe in 25 or 50 years, but not now.
As for urban cattle, they are everywhere, almost a universal phenomenon. There were some in London, shambling along as one tries to purposefully go somewhere. In Stockholm, as I may have written before, the local urban cattle specialize in what I call “ stand and stare” – gathering where others want to pass and simply staring into space or at some signage that normal, conscious people can read in seconds and move on. Tourists are often behaviorally indistinguishable from the local urban cattle, but then again, being a tourist is being – urban cattle in foreign city, moving about in small herds, aimlessly, though not always wandering into traffic or boorishly blocking the movement of those walking with purpose as the local cattle do.
I bear no ill will toward bike-riders as a whole, though I sometimes wish a evil fate on those who narrowly miss me at high speed. There is no reason to zoom down a sidewalk at 40 Kph. However, it seems few urban riders are injured or worse. Most fatal bike accidents occur in the countryside, it seems – shitfaced motorist takes out equally shit-face bike rider, riding as if in the middle of a wartime blackout (no lights, no reflectors, no helmet).
So one faces another summer of trying to walk from point A to point B, getting past or through clumps of urban cattle heading for a point best designated by an imaginary number, and glancing over one's shoulder to see if any bikes are swooping down. Enjoy, I suppose...