2 Sep 2013

I Have a Dream!

I have a Dream! 

Mr T poses briefly on the narrow gauge, two way, puncture magnet fiasco at Korinth back in May 2013. Having had his picture taken we both beat a hasty retreat to the relative safety of the busy roads! 

The "horse riding sand" contains countless small, sharp flints. The animals kick the sand across the narrow strip  of cycling tarmac. The designer of this system was obviously not a cyclist. The path is far too narrow for two cyclists to pass safely in either direction without great care and some skill. Pushchairs, prams, wheelchairs and tricycles become an instant obstruction and a hazard for all other users!  

One particular pedant, whom I followed agonisingly slowly for several miles, would not move from the centre of the path. People of all ages, including small children and the very elderly were literally toppling into the rough grass and onto the sand just to avoid him! After repeatedly requesting him to pull to one side I was finally able to overtake. Only to puncture almost immediately afterwards. And then again not long after that. 

I met several elderly people pushing their bikes with punctured tyres. One lady stopped quite voluntarily, as I replaced my second inner tube, to complain that she and her husband had punctured every time they used the path! One very elderly gentleman with obvious joint infirmities had walked for literally miles while pushing his small wheeled shopper bike! Imagine if it had rained while he was miles from home, now on foot in his shirt sleeves, in the full expectation of a pleasant half hour ride! 

"Nobody knows the trouble I've seen." 

The route is superbly unspoilt, travels in a very useful direction, is devoid of  selfish and impatient drivers (whose needs are always greater than ours) and the tarmac is almost perfect. Except for the flinty sand and the width of course. Closure signs were visible as I passed several path entrances on a later ride in the area. No doubt the cost of removing the sand is completely prohibitive at Danish wage rates for contractor work. 

The cycle paths I used in the UK were often surfaced with a fine white, almost sandy gravel. Which bedded down to a fairly smooth, firm and long lasting surface. Albeit with more resistance to cycling quickly and a tendency to puddle and grow weeds. The paths I used usually ran along disused railway tracks. Their width was usually sufficient for safe passing and the tyre noise usually enough to warn others (who bothered to listen) of one's approach. The sun always shone, the birds always sang and one only had to avoid the huge piles of horse and dog droppings at intervals.

Families with inattentive children and dog walkers in particular could often be a major hindrance and serious hazard to a decent riding pace. Though this would obviously depend on the amount of foot traffic at the time. Hopefully those who used the cycle paths for regular commuting gave themselves plenty of time! I cannot imagine how they'd cope if cycling numbers have increased dramatically in the decades since I last rode in Britain. 

Cyclists and any other traffic do not mix well. For some reasons planning authorities seem blind to this simple fact. They see cyclists as being about 30" wide across the shoulder and assume that twice that is all that is necessary for a two way cycling "freeway." Whereas everything from a country lane to a full blown motorway automatically allows plenty of room for everybody. Totally regardless of cost! 

Even in so-called "bike friendly" Denmark the cycle paths are often ridiculously narrow. Not to mention rough, with constantly changing cambers, hazards and obstructions. While right alongside, unhindered by cost-cutting, the equivalent of four lanes width of perfect tarmac actively encourages drivers to travel in perfect comfort at any speed of their own choosing. Speed limits in Denmark remain a standing joke with a very large majority of all drivers constantly exceeding the speed limit. 

As an example; the police set up a speed camera at a roadworks where a bridge was being repaired. The camera caught 50% of vehicles passing where the speed limit had been reset to 50kph/30mph. This was to protect the workers where the road had been narrowed by bollards. 50% of all passing drivers were speeding. I'd have expected higher figures but those few actually adhering to the speed limit were probably baulking many others. 

Isn't it long overdue that the cyclist had their own Martin Luther King?  
There have been cycling martyrs enough already.  

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