The Ugly, The Bad & The Good
That David Hembrow’s got me thinking again. He lives just across the sea from me in what looks like Cycling Utopia. I don’t mean that in a sarcastic way either - from the saddle I sit on, the Netherlands, and specifically Assen, look like The Real Deal.
Anyway, he posted some photos and a video over the last week about the cycling infrastructure they have. And it got me thinking about what we have here in Tyneside. The whole philosophy where he lives seems to be built on the premise of “let’s make it easy to cycle. Easier in fact than driving a car. And let’s remove all the petty energy-sapping stop-starts that plague other countries”.
So they have things like traffic lights that are bike friendly, and actually stop the traffic before you get to a junction. Or handily-positioned buttons to stop the traffic to let you pass. Oh, and things like noise barriers to keep you shielded from the God-awful din of motorised transport.
Not to be outdone, I shot a little film of my ride in from Whitley Bay to Walker Riverside, with a camera strapped to the front forks of my Sturdy Commuting Bike. I’ve got a regular client there, and do this 17 mile round-trip 2-3 times a week. I’ve called the film The Ugly, The Bad and The Good, after the three different types of infrastructure I use on the way there:
- The Ugly is the space I have to share with deadline-obsessed, mobile phone-using, armour-plated motorists. The potential for it to get ugly here is BIG.
- The Bad is the ‘cycle path’ (Ha!) that runs parallel to the A1058 Coast Road. It’s narrow (~2m once the vegetation’s been trimmed back), bi-directional, used by pedestrians who’re nicely insulated from reality by their iPods, and has a surface that in places would have made an ideal test bed for the Citroën 2CV’s egg-carrying capabilities. Oh, and at every slip-road onto, or off the 3-lane dual carriageway, you have to perform a bloody awful dog-leg turn, taking your life in your hands as you cross in front of cars who have priority and are doing something at or above 70mph. This has been my experience of cycle paths for most of my life in England, and so it’s little wonder that I am a vehicular cyclist.
- The Good is a section of the Route 72 of the National Cycle Network that runs past Wallsend, between the Swan Hunter [ex-]shipyard, and the Roman fort at Segedunum. I only started using this because I’d got fed up with the construction work & associated traffic lights on the road running parallel to it. But now I’ve had a taste of the Good Stuff - what riding a bike could be like everywhere, and I want MORE. I only have two gripes about it (there’s no pleasing some people):
- Firstly, it could be straighter in sections
- Secondly, if I find out whoever owns the obviously huge dog that craps all over the middle of the path, I swear there’ll be murder done. Probably with a U-lock. Seriously, there’s absolutely no way I’d ride down here on a bike without mudguards, as I just know that sooner or later I’m going to ride right through a pile. Ewwww!
Anyway, here’s the vid. It’s five minutes long, so I’ve put some music on to keep you entertained. I hope you like it:
We’ve obviously got a long way to go yet before we reach The Promised Land:
We will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall our swords sleep in our hands
‘Til we have built Jerusalem Houten / Assen / Amsterdam / Copenhagen / Anywhere that’s properly bike-friendly
In England’s green and pleasant land