The big infrastructure bunfight

Small groups of people seem to go in for ferocious infighting – the internal politics of amateur recorder consorts and country-dance groups is, I have been told, rather scary. When a group is small and also beleaguered the ferocity is doubled . I suspect that this is because people who are on ones own side, but with whom we disagree on some minor point, are simply more available than the true enemy. The energy that ought properly to be sent outward into the wider world seems to have no obvious clear target … but your fellow small-and-beleagured-group colleagues are right next door. It’s a variation on kick-the-cat.

There are a number of these rows simmering away in the cycle-campaigning micro-community, and of course the internet amplifies everything. Mention on a e-list that you think all those yellow-jackets and hi-viz kit look like a rather jolly uniform and you get a whirlwind of response. No, no, no, we really must not admit that some people look good in lycra. The line we simply must take is that hi-viz makes us look WEIRD. Have you got that? Oh all right then … it was only an innocent remark that I thought luminous yellow looks nice on rainy day for goodness sake. Or mention on a different e-list that, as a re-starting cyclist, you think you were better off twenty years ago without any of these cycle lanes and you discover you have accidentally pedalled into a minefield. Apparently, combatants have been at it for decades and vast grudges have had time to build up. If you want to be a proper cycling campaigner you really must pick a side on all the big points of discord so you can have some fun beating up the opposition.

So what, exactly was the minefield that I pedalled into (and rapidly out of, I might add). Dear imaginary reader, I really find it difficult to know where to start.

Let’s go back to my own cycling history, as described previously. My formative cycling experiences were in a world with no bike-specific infrastructure – not even Advanced Stop Lines. I stopped cycling and walked for a couple of decades and when I tried the bike again in the noughties there were loads more cyclists and there were all these painted cycle lanes everywhere – there were even a very few sections of physically separated bike lane. There was lots of new signage which acknowledged that cycling did in fact take place. It all looked very encouraging and I assumed it was going to make for a pleasant experience. It didn’t

And I was not alone in finding this. It turned out that there was a whole literature, on the net and in print, about the general ghastliness of cycle lanes, cycle tracks, cycle paths. They are dangerous. The best way to keep yourself safe on a bike is to be alert and assertive – plonk yourself where you can be seen, be clear in your intentions and so on – just as I had discovered for myself back in the eighties. In fact there is excellent book about this called Cyclecraft. I recommend it. It’s by a chap called John Franklin. He was at the Cyclenation conference in fact. “Ooh” I thought, “will there be a scrap?”.

To be continued … which is why comments for this one are closed.

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