Heading back through Nearest Village this morning on my way back from fetching the paper I came across two cyclists looking at a map and naturally I stopped to ask them if they needed any help. They were looking for our local landmark, a place which is reasonably well-known but entirely unsignposted (most of the summer is spent directing lost drivers to it, often after they have gone spectacularly wrong in their search for it – this is no doubt a cunning ruse on the part of Bigtownshire Tourist Board to make sure the visitors discover just how friendly the natives really are). Once I’d cycled down with them to show them the turnoff, we stopped to chat and I discovered to my amazement that they live in Groningen in the Netherlands which, to those wierd people who don’t spend their entire life reading bike blogs on the internet, is one of the holy cities of bike infrastructure, as written about in the gospel according to St. David on a daily basis.
After I’d finished apologising to them for the state of our own roads, and any near misses, SMIDSYs, honkings and the general hair-raisingness that cycling on UK roads – even rural Scottish ones – must entail after riding on proper civilised bike paths, they laughed and pointed out that they’d cycled all over the world so were used to it. They were then charmingly polite about cycling in Scotland (including the weather, which is how I know they were just being kind) but did say rather sadly that they didn’t see too many people on bikes. I left them heading off for some art (and hill) appreciation, while I cycled home, glad to have been of some assistance.
I did wonder what made them want to take their holidays cycling here when they could be somewhere far more civilised, not to mention flatter (although hills, of course, go down as well as up). And then it struck me that it was probably akin to those more adventurous tours you can take when you’re bored of life and fancy a bit of adrenaline, like walking safaris through lion country, extreme sports or being the first tourists into Kabul. Do you find pedalling sedately along on your nice wide cycle path while chatting to your pals is getting the tiniest bit dull? Come bike the UK where you too can dice with death along our A-roads, dodge left-turning lorries and feel the buzz of accelerating round a monster roundabout while 4×4 drivers text their mates just inches from your wheel! You’ll never feel more alive!
That’s got to be a goer as a campaign, right? And certainly better than the current local tourist board slogan which, as far as anyone can tell, is ‘Shh! Nobody Knows we’re Here!’