As you know, for 5 years now I have ridden a bike to and from work. This activity and perspective has seen many changes over time. It’s not for everyone I guess. It’s probably just me.
As mentioned before, generally I have moved from a driverly, ‘get there’ quickest, arterial-route, cyclist-culture mode, to a more pedestrian, ‘person on a bike’, safer, relaxed, more enjoyable mode.
I currently travel 9 miles twice a day. The route is 95% off main roads, 75% off roads, 62% separate cycleway, meaning the trip is often a 45 minute tonic before and after work. I tracked it recently, just for the record; 96 miles a week.
Locally, we suffer a lack of funds (or perhaps lack of political clout/will?) to invest in proper infrastructure for people on bikes. Outside of London, planners and budgeters seem not to grasp that provision of proper infrastructure will generate more bike use which in turn sees a healthier, happier population, a more vibrant community, a healthier local economy, personal savings… #yawn, it’s all been said before – the stats are all available.
In Leicester, authorities say it’s a Cycle City. Yes, there’s a lot of ambition and you can see their actions plans here: Cycle City.
- Deliver a 10% modal share of traffic cycling to the city centre and double everyday cycling numbers by 2018!
- Develop an infrastructure network of high capacity, quality cycle tracks along main road corridors…
- There has been refurbishments, traffic calming, access for cyclists, improvment to NCN cycle routes…
This is all great. Well done LCC, but…
For all the good plans, I don’t understand why obvious routes, like the 1940s cycle paths alongside Melton Road near Rushey Mead, are left in such an embarrassing state, year on year. They could be a jewel in the city’s Cycle City proclamation.
To encourage people to get on bikes, and suggest they use facilities in this state is embarrassing. It’s all very well having a back-slapping Sunday Sky Ride, festival days, Critical Mass fun and frolics, but when that sees no real change in basic provision it’s perhaps almost pointless.
Specific replies to my enquiries about the Melton Road section mentioned above are disappointing.
Leicester City Council’s Highways Managment considers there to be “no self-evident actionable defects here as per our Intervention Levels for highway maintenance.”
Leicester’s Planning, Development & Transportation Cycling Coordinator says it’s “not a current high priority for the city.” and “not a Highway Maintenance high priority either”. They say the City Council is committed to developing the wider cycling network and hope for “additional resources and support for improvement”. They say their immediate priority is “for improved links between the Pedestrian Zone & Belgrave Circle as identified by the City Council with widespread stakeholders support in the adopted Cycle City Action Plan”.
Leicester’s Mayor says “I cycled them recently … they do need some TLC”. I say “Yes please Mr Mayor…”
I guess it’s not covered in their “Radial Corridor Improvements”, under their “forward planning for 2014”.
Over the last 5 years, the state of the route has seen little TLC. My bike had suffered broken spokes, pedals, spindles etc all due in part to the state of the surface. If the equivalent surface was found on a road it would be near not fit for purpose. As I say, an embarrassing option to proffer to new bicyclers.
That all said, riding a bike can still be a tonic. Now riding off road, in a more pedestrian non-sweat-inducing manner, I am able again to have the radio in one ear and the world in the other. The ‘world in the one ear’ being the brightest birdsong, the greetings from the regular dog walkers and fellow bikeists, the passing early risers, vibrant street life, all not encountered via car. My radio ear usually has an energising Radio 3’s Breakfast Show during the inward trip, my return trip is sometimes sans-radio but often a frivolous Radio 6’s Steve Lamacq show on the return.
Like the idea of ‘riding a bike’ 5 years ago, the thought of ‘listening to Radio 3′ was laughably preposterous. But, give stuff a chance and you might see through the assumptions and preconceived pre-judice.
Often, it’s simply a nice accompaniment for the journey, but occasionally we’re served new-to-me treats.
This morning as I cycled into the elements I was lulled by Grace Williams’ ‘Calm sea in Summer’ from her collection of ‘Sea Sketches’… Wow. Sensations of the sea, memories from Cornwall to Greece were momentarily transported to rural Leicestershire.
As I cycled through the meadow near Belgrave Hall, Ian Skelly offered a haunting ‘The Call Of Wisdom’ by Will Todd… Again wow… #bigsigh.
Ain’t music brilliant?
Ain’t riding a bike brilliant?
I hesitate to say, when Radio 6 played the Beachboys’ ‘Wouldn’t it be Nice’ as I pedaled through the park, the heady mix of memories, air, endorphins, people laughing and commun-ity, can not be matched by a polished, pine-fresh, personalised, petrol-guzzling, procession in a prestigious safety-cage.
But perhaps that’s just me.