A Cycle-logical Summer
Just back from my second camping trip of the school holidays and the third this year – we’re getting close to packing everything we need first time, now. But my personal highlights of the summer have all been on two wheels. My main target was my first century ride on the Cyclone sportive – 106 miles and the equivalent climbing of riding over Mt Snowdon and Ben Nevis (give or take 50m). Then, on a whim, I entered the Great Dun Fell sportive which finished at the radar station on top of the titular mountain via the UK’s highest tarmac road. The 25-30% ramps and howling gale on this climb had me almost at a standstill at several points.
After those two brutal challenges, a ride with an old pal taking us from SW London out into Surrey on Sunday was a pleasant day out, but it was also a real eye-opener. I’m used to the almost empty roads of the North Pennines and Northumberland, so the traffic levels (powered and unpowered) were a real shock – more like a sportive than a coffee ride. Our route took in some of the most popular cycling stretches in the country (Richmond Park and Box Hill according to the the training app Strava) and the friction between the two-wheels and four was noticeable – “get a car!” was one bizarre piece of heckling, and my yell of remonstration against a Bentley driver who almost grazed my elbow was countered with an object hurled from the passenger window. Classy.
As we returned into Kingston, however, we were able to take a lovely long and interrupted car-free path along the river. Unsurprisingly, this is where we saw most families out riding. The centre of the town itself was undergoing a cycling/walking renewal with the previous slatherings of coloured road paint being upgraded with proper cycle paths, signals and signage.
I’m convinced the UK is undergoing a real transformation of attitudes to cycling, although the aggression we encountered shows there is a way to go. Here are some conclusions relevant to wider change for Sustainability:
- You can’t expect more sustainable behaviour in a system designed for business as usual;
- Use demand to indicate where you should focus your effort as the ‘bang for your buck’ is highest;
- Don’t abandon people halfway – one nightmare of cycling (or any transport) is when cycle paths/direction signs evaporate just when you need them most;
- Expect resistance, some understandable, much entirely irrational. Use the former as feedback, ignore the latter.
And lastly, get out and ride!