Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Segregated Cyclepaths and me.

I Think I had better start this post with a disclaimer:

"I am 100% in support of segregated cycle pathways - I have no doubt that it will increase the number of everyday cyclists and offer safer routes for a majority of cyclists - at a personal level though, I have a different opinion (runs and ducks for cover).

As mentioned above - and I will say it again (just in case some readers were perplexed and enraged when they read it, and didn't fully take it in). This post is about my own personal views on segregated cycleways and how they may be better for the general good of cycling but PERSONALLY they may not be for me.

It is fairly clear, to even the less than perceptive reader of this Blog, that I am a MAMIL - I like to ride as fast as my tired and aged body will carry me, I have to travel a reasonable distance to and from work (24 miles) and I am inherently idle and therefore like to get up as late as possible - this means I am always racing against the clock to get to the office on time or home to meet my loving family.

I have very little experience of cycle paths - only those in Lewisham - come to think of it, I can't imagine many UK cyclists having much experience on segregated cycle paths! My experience in Lewisham (my bete noir) is of a cycle path infested with people who seem incapable of walking on the pedestrian part of the pavement (even though it is far more luxuriously paved). I have change the use of this cycle path from one of risk free and joyful cycling, to it being a mid-point breather, this is because I can go no more than 10mph due to people wandering out around in front of me for most of its length. I have no desire to damage a pedestrian and more importantly (given they are people are probably from Lewisham) myself.

I have seen pictures of those wonderful segregated lanes in utopia (better known to most people as Denmark and the Netherlands) with a large number of people happily pootling their sensible bikes along safe and friendly paths, it is without question the way cycling should be - enjoyable and safe. But it just isn't what I want! Yes I want the safety, but I don't want the gentle ride into work. I guess, I don't ride for the need to get from A to B in a practical way. I ride for exercise, I like going fast and I like feeling tired at the end. No this does not mean I take stupid risks and break laws, it means that I like the exercise (in fact it is the only regular exercise I get).

If someone like me wants to ride on these utopian paths, I would not be welcome - I would add speed and risk to other uses, in a place where risk should not be. So what would the other option be - well the same as it is now, the roads. Only this time there would be less cyclists and far more angry drivers wondering why I am blocking "their road" when there is a perfectly accessible cycle path. But if I am cycling 25 - 30 mph on the road I will be within the law, whereas on a  cycle path I am sure I will breaking some new man made speed limit.

It occurred to me yesterday as I drove to the airport at 1am. that there is an ton of pointless man made traffic controlling measures (yes fine during the day when there is lots of traffic) but as I sat there at the 15th set of red lights waiting for no traffic to pass from the other direction before being able to set off again, and seeing someone, coming from the other direction, get flashed by one of the 40 or so traffic cameras en route (the road was dry and totally empty) it occurred to me just how much those in control, feel the need to control every facet of our lives - long gone is the belief that people can act sensibly depending on the situation. Sadly this is probably true given the idiocy of 50% of people - but it is still sad and limiting.

Cycle pathways I am sure, will be the same. As time passes, more rules will inevitably follow, if you want to ride on the cycle path I foresee a 10 to 15 mph speed limit being one of the first things to be implemented. No doubt we will get policemen, looking to make up their pension fund, hiding behind bushes with speed cameras and helmet avoidance awareness pamphlets.  While health and safety is laudable, it will remove one of the most important elements that cycling offer me and others like me - freedom.

Edit: For reasons of fairness and because I have no axe to grind on any subject (I'll leave that to others) I feel I should link this article HERE - which basically says all I have written above is wrong (it is not written with reference to my humble Blog post though). But I would like to point out that judging by the videos posted as evidence, the writer has a very different view of what constitutes "fast cycling" than I have.

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