Grooh

I’ve long been a proponent of the theory that regularly cycling – indeed regularly getting drenched and frozen on a bike – does wonders for the old immune system. This is partly borne out by the fact that since I’ve moved up here and regularly got drenched and frozen on the bike, I’ve barely had a cold, or at least not one that’s got beyond a day or so. So when the neighbour – as thanks for looking after his cat – brought back a stinking cold from Australia, the other half duly succumbed but I wasn’t worried. I even nobly headed out for the paper on some pretty ropey days to save the other half the drive and to top up my immune system in case it needed it. The problem was, having begun to believe my own propaganda, I’d mistaken ‘less liable to getting colds’ for ‘my superpower is not catching cold’. And yep. The day before I’m due to be in London for high-powered ambassadorial meetings I have come down with what promises to be a stinker…

I’m not going to let it stop me, though. I’ve spent the last year, one way or another, trying to make the case for decent cycling infrastructure in this country. Far too often, it feels like the very people who should be helping are the ones that hold us back. Never mind the Mr. Toads who hate cyclists – or the hardened vehicular cyclists who feel comfortable mixing with fast traffic and can’t see why everybody else should do so too – they were never going to support us in the first place. No, the real grief seems to come from the people who are nominally supportive of the idea of proper cycle infrastructure but who always seem to come up with a reason why it won’t work here and we should stop wasting everybody’s time asking for it. And the one that comes up time and time again is the ‘crap cycle lane’ argument. You know the one. Because half the time the facilities that get put in for cyclists are derisory, baffling, and occasionally downright dangerous then, so the argument goes, if you ask for cycling infrastructure – particularly separate cycle tracks as they have in the Netherlands – then you’ll just get more of the same. And worse – you’ll be MADE to cycle in them. Ergo, safest not to ask for anything at all and just keep on taking the lane, accelerating up to 20mph to get round multi-lane roundabouts, dicing with lorries 20cm from your wheel – and occasionally taking a cycle tour to the Netherlands to enjoy their superior cycling facilities with your family (who won’t cycle in the UK, for some reason, even though statistically it’s extremely safe) while reminding yourself why it is that such things would not work in the UK due to the fact that we’ve got different laws of physics from those crazy Dutch people.

Oh no, wait, hang on…

What’s really different here from the Netherlands is not the laws of physics but a failure of the imagination. We look at the crap we’ve got and we can’t imagine any different. We look at the amazing facilities the Dutch have and we can’t imagine how we would ever get there given the complete lack of will to create that sort of thing in the UK, and so we give up. We fight our inch-by-inch battles for an ASL here or a bit of shared path there or half a foot wider lanes along the potholed margins of our roads until we’ve forgotten we ever had a vision of something that wasn’t just not crap, but was actually a bit fantastic. And when somebody else comes along, all starry eyed and excited about their holiday in Amsterdam we snarl at them and remind them that it’s never going to happen here and besides who wants to cycle on those lousy Dutch bike lanes with their horrible smooth surfaces and their over-generous width when we’ve got the thrills and spills of a potholed roundabout to tackle…

What we’re trying to do this weekend is to close the gap between the UK reality and the vision that we want to achieve. We’re not trying to change the laws of physics – but we are trying to chip away at the laws of human nature. Which might be a lot harder, but it’s worth a shot. I’m looking forward to it, cold and all. I’m just sorry in advance that I’m going to give everyone my lurgy.

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13 Responses to Grooh

  1. Kim says:

    Man up woman, oh hang on that doesn’t quite work…

  2. disgruntled says:

    I think I’m supposed to ‘HTFU’.

  3. commuterjohn says:

    Well, I’ve had one for a week now and It’s kept me off the bike for four days now, that only happens every few years so your in good company!

  4. WOL says:

    Sending you *moral support.* Nothing would ever get done without people like you getting out and whacking the beast to get it to move in better directions.

  5. My cycling-induced cold resistance is always let down by my other travel mode – public transport. Sniff, sniff….

  6. Ragged Thread Cartographer says:

    Can you smell the cheese? I wish you well, and I wish you the best of British ! in every positive sense that is. x

  7. Nick says:

    I wish you good luck with this. From my perch in NL I can tell you that, when you win, for sure the fight will have been worth it.

  8. scsmith4 says:

    I’m going to nick a container of anti-germ wipes from work and wrap you up in them. I’m far too busy to risk getting anything from you this weekend.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Good Luck, I just watched the video with the lorry, even though you know something is going to happen it is still a shock when it does.
    Thank you for tell us about the cheese, I must get some of that.
    John

  10. [...] Great post about cycling infrastructure – We’re not trying to change the laws of physics [...]

  11. welshcyclist says:

    This time of recession is the one to get the infrastructure going, never mind the £billions it would cost to get from London to Birmingham a whole 30 minutes earlier? What is the point? Building cycle lanes around the country for much less cost will provide much needed jobs, and get this country cycling, healthier and much nicer, because it is a fact we cyclists are nice, isn’t it? I agree with you my cycling has improved my immune system also.

  12. […] and join us. I don’t think anyone who reads this blog regularly needs to be told about the benefits of active travel, the joys (and occasional non-joys) of cycling, the difficulty we face trying to find safe routes […]

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