Cycling city my ass.

Comments Off on Cycling city my ass.


Let’s get this straight first up. I’m a driver. Perhaps not as first and foremost as I used to be, but I’m a driver. I love driving my minor* and am going to insane and ridiculous lengths to ensure that a car built in 1969 will still be viable for the next 40 years. I’m also a motorcyclist, and loved my MZs with my heart and soul, and suspect that my Kawasaki, when I spare the cash to get her going, will be graced with my favour, and that riding will bring back that urge to grab the bike and run, far, far out into the countryside. I’m not, generally, someone who fits into specific boxes well. I drive, but I like bikes. I can be very butch, I can be fairly femme. I am all blurry and fuzzy and screw up people’s nice little boxes. I say that because whilst I still consider myself to be ‘a driver’, I am now also ‘a cyclist’.

I’m a cyclist who pulled over more than once today to enjoy just being outside on a bike.

Going home

And apparently, I’m lucky enough to live in the UK’s first “Cycling City”. I grant that I’m a relatively recent convert to the cycling cause. When I learned to drive, I promptly stopped cycling and have rarely even contemplated it as a serious means of travel since. Not helped by the fact that my old bike made my knees hurt if I even considered riding more than a few hundred yards.

But Molly, my fine new steed** is a fine bike, and whilst I haven’t steeled myself to look at the BSA 3 speed hub (because it currently works on one speed, and I fear taking it apart and it no longer working on any speed), and I have to adjust the brakes at least once a week because the tired and slightly rusty rims devour brake blocks (and occasionally give me entertaining failure to stops, like today’s where I pull hard and retardation is minimal because the adjustment was just a bit out for the amount of wear), I deeply enjoy riding.

Well. I deeply enjoy short bits of my ride.

See, Bristol is Britain’s First Cycling City.


First, is perhaps the most important word. Because Bristol, despite the great fanfare is a largely lousy place to cycle. Some bits are really nice. Some bits are a delight; the bike lane is separate from the cars, meaning that when I’m driving I don’t get pissy with cyclists, and when I’m cycling I don’t get pissy with cars. Also, I don’t have to avoid nutcases who think that cyclists are a pain in the arse, and that they should be run off the road.

It’s a win-win.

But then there’s things like cycle lanes that just stop or disappear. Cycle lanes that lead you to massive complex junctions and leave you there. Cycle lanes with trees or lampposts in them. Cycle ‘lanes’ where the road’s not really wide enough, and since they just consist of white paint, the cars pootle happily through the lanes making them pointless. Stairs. No, I’m not kidding. One cycle route has fracking stairs in it. I mean, what now? Are they unaware of the basic limitations of your standard town bikes*** – and the tradition that going down stairs on bikes is restricted to youfs in hoodies on very small BMXs?****

Also, today’s favourite, a bike lane that ends at a pedestrian crossing with no indication of where they’d like you to go afterwards.

This is the best Britain has to offer? Our finest town planners and traffic routing engineers have come up with this and this is the best? Really? Seriously?. To coin a phrase:

I know that it’s difficult. Britain is an old country, we have narrow mediaeval roads, and narrow Victorian roads, and twisty turney rolling-English-drunkard roads*****. We have an incredibly densely populated country with incredibly densely carulated roads.

But we’ve got to do better. It’s terrible. This is lethal.

When people discuss the future of transport they often talk about their pet mode of movement. The car lobby defends cars, the railway lobby defends the pathetic, sad remnants of our chaotic and confused railway system, public transport groups defend the needs of buses (which I’m led to believe do exist, contrary to my experiences of trying to catch them), and cyclist’s groups defend the cyclists.

But that isn’t going to work. We need to all work this out as one group, not all fighting our little petty battles, but instead trying to work out how we unify the whole transport system.

Because at the moment, it’s just pathetic, and it doesn’t work for anyone.

* Well, when she’s not destroyed her diff.
** For values of new including approximately 80 years old.
*** Or indeed 80 year old vintage bicycles.
**** ;)
***** The rolling English Drunkard made the Rolling English Roads, I’m led to believe.


Kate's a human mostly built out of spite and overcoming transphobia-racism-and-other-bullshit. Although increasingly right-wing bigots would say otherwise. So she's either a human or a lizard in disguise sent to destroy all of humanity. Either way, it's all good.