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The Chase

So, it’s 4.26 on a April Friday afternoon, it had been a reasonably busy day, I’d done about 30 jobs that day. A call comes in on the two way radio “Falcon zero two call base, Falcon zero two”. “zero two”, I responded. “Go to the Scotsman to get the 4.30 mat bag”. “Rog”. Back then, around 1990, all the cycle couriers in Glasgow used to hang around at Blythswood Square in the centre of Glasgow. If you’re going to be riding a push bike all day then you always want to start from the best location and seeing as how Blythswood Square was effectively the top of Glasgow city centre it was ideal, wherever you went, it was downhill. The Scotsman’s offices at that time were halfway down West George Street, one of the main hills running down beside the Square, so it was a literally a 10 second journey if you caught the traffic lights.

The Scotsman is a large Scottish newspaper that used to have a fixed contract with the courier company I worked for. The contract involved picking up the “mat bag” (I still to this day don’t know why it was called that, but anyway…) and take it to Queen Street train station to put it on train to Edinburgh. The train was at 4.30. I had the mat bag on board, it was 4.28 and Queen Street station was 400 yards away – downhill with a tricky chicane near the end. I used to ride a beat up Peugot Etoile racing bike that was too small for me. I had long hair in a pony tail and I wore a tee shirt and lycra cycling shorts and the biggest goddamn pair of cheap mirror cycling shades you’ve ever seen- the epitome of the “cool” courier. I feel it’s necessary to set the scene for what’s about to happen, remember it’s last thing on Friday night, lots of traffic and I’m a cycle courier in a big hurry. I was giving it everything I had, probably doing about 35, 40 miles an hour, slowing briefly for traffic lights, green or otherwise. I skip a red light on West Nile Street (which bisects West George Street) when I hear someone shout “CYCLIST!!”, I look around and see two mounted police looking at me from West Nile Street. As I look round they shout “STOP!”, so I did what any self respecting courier would do, I flipped it up a gear and went for it.

What happened next, I will never forget, I’m going around the tricky chicane and all I could hear was “clippety clop” – they were coming after me, on horseback, two of them. I pedalled harder, weaving in and out of the Friday traffic at high speed to avoid them. Just before Queen Street station was a little side road which led to an alleyway, I headed for that to try and lose them. I’ve never seen pedestrians scatter so quick as I hurtled at breakneck speed towards the alley, I came through on to Buchanan Street to find that they’d split up and one was heading towards me. I cycled past him back on to West George Street and up to Queen Street station via a ramp for the disabled, then across the platform and got the mat bag to Margaret on the train as the doors were closing!! The next day, a car pulls up beside me and a guy leans out and says: “You’re the one the mounties were chasing!”.
“Yeah” I said cautiously.
“Thought so, recognised the sunglasses, me and my mates were up on the scaffolding cheering you on!”.

It was about a week later when one of the cops notorious for pulling up couriers at George Square (just beside Queen Street Station) came over to me while I was having lunch. “I believe it was you being pursued by the mounted unit last week”. I looked up at him, he was probably around 50, we’d exchanged words before for me cycling on George Square. “Naw, I was on holiday last week”. “No, it was definitely you, I recognise the sunglasses”. For £6, these sunglasses got me into an awful lot of trouble. At that time, I was only 19 and naïve in dealing with the police. “You’d better come with me so I can take your particulars”, he said. AND I WENT – WHAT AN EEJIT!! By going I’d just admitted my guilt. After I’d given all my details to the George Square cop, I had to go the and see the mounties at a separate office whose first words were (smiling) “I can’t believe you’re still wearing these sunglasses”. I’m sure they enjoyed the chase as much as I did. In the end they came out with a list of charges which would have resulted in a maximum £850 fine (a LOT of money for me at that time) and 3 penalty points on the driving license I didn’t yet have. They had things on it like failing to stop for a red light, reckless cycling in 9 different streets, you get the idea. I ended up going to court, and my lawyer had asked me to bring in my provisional driving licence in case I was to get points on it. I actually genuinely forgot my licence that day, but my lawyer managed to get me off with a £30 fine. I’ve seen the same Mountie a few times over the years, and we still say “hi” to each other.
All content (c) 2008-2012 Mark Gallagher