I rode my bicycle today. Now, many of you will not be at all surprised at that fact given that I am quite keen on doing so. Today, however, there were a couple of notable differences.
Firstly, I was riding on the road on my mountain bike. Well, I say mountain bike, 15 years ago when I bought it, it was certainly classed as a mountain bike but your average spotty teenager will now look at and go "Pfffft, you call that a mountain bike?" Well, let me tell you young trendy person, it may have smooth(ish) tyres and no suspension but this used to win proper mountain bike races, you know the sorts where you have to pedal not just point the shiny suspension downhill and it is still (more or less) original and still going strong and probably weighs half as much as your £70 Asda super special that you can't put together properly.
Second piece of unusualness is that I was riding at night. I recently bit the bullet and bought a set of LED lights, the rear is capable of many a pretty Knight Rider formation (although I prefer the solid 'on' option), the front light more akin to a white (with a hint of blue) laser that will burn your retinas out if you look in to it for more than a second or so.
Thirdly, and most surprisingly and, indeed the main thrust of today's blog, is that I decided to take a very leisurly bimble and use the cycle paths and other assorted shared facilities that Gloucestershire County Council have kindly provided. Sit comfortably and allow me to regale you with three incidents in the space of no more than a mile that must convince you that such facilities are truly a crap idea.
First, I cross Eastern Avenue, an urban dual carriageway with a toucan crossing (so named because two can cross, I kid you not) that is, of course, designed for cyclists and pedestrians alike. Reaching the other side, I join a shared use path as indicated by a sign a bit like this. I also join a young woman complete with a hoard of about 40 kids. I don't have a bell (I'm far too much of a rebel) so I give a polite "Excuse me".
"You shouldn't be on the fookin' path"
"Excuse me, but you will find this is a shared path"
"Yerbut you're still on the path"
"The shared pedestrian and cycle path. There's a clue in the name there"
"Well just be more fookin' careful in future"
"Trust me, in future, if the circumstances dictate, I shall show all necessary care. Good day."
A few hundred metres further on and the shared facility changes to the type where there is a line down the middle doing a jolly poor job of segregating cyclists and pedestrians. I encounter two older ladies walking the same way as I am travelling, not proper old but definitely older than me. I, good, law abiding fellow I am, am cycling on the designated cycling half of path as is one of the aforementioned ladies, her companion on the pedestrian bit. I'm not particularly perturbed by this but, in the absence of a bell, give another jolly "'scuse me" on my approach. Initially, no response. A good 20 metres away, I give another call "'scuse please". At which point, right hand lady turns to see me, grabs her comanions arm and, quite theatrically, drags her out of my way apologising profusely. Dragged lady, places hand to heart saying "Goodness, I wasn't expecting anyone on a bike." Not vindictive, so gave a cheery wave, and bit my lip "shouldn't walk on the bloody cycle path then" stayed under my breath.
Finally, I come towards the point where I need to cross the road again. There is one car on a kilometre stretch of road approaching from the direction of the far carriageway. I choose a point to cross where there is a small traffic island and stop on it, half way across the road waiting for the aforementioned car to pass. But no. The dick stops the car right alongside the island, impeding my progress, to enable the kiddy in the passenger seat to alight. Which he did in a painfully slow manner. Heaven forbid any kids should have to walk any further than necessary.
So what have I learnt today?
Well, nothing if truth be told. It has, however, reinforced my firmly held belief that the only place to cycle is the road. And I may by a bell. Or an airhorn.
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