30 Apr 2016

30th April 2016 The unexpected effects of cycling.


Saturday 30th 43F, 6C, windy with a heavy overcast and rain. It is supposed to clear up a little this afternoon. 

There are many complaints in Denmark about the poor condition of the roads. Councils [kommune] say they have no funds to repair, let alone improve, the situation. Some kommune [plural] are building or arranging new cycle superhighways and changing two way city traffic to one-way. Or even closing some roads to motor traffic altogether. Odense is an interesting example where a huge, wide, multi-lane road with multiple busy junctions and feeder roads was closed where it passed right through the center of the city. 

No doubt a great many driven journeys, along the now closed route, were simply passing straight through the city to destinations beyond. The motorway, which swings around the southern borders of Odense, has existed for years as the obvious, alternative route. A north-south motorway was also built to carry traffic down the island between eastern Odense and Svendborg. This has greatly relieved the weight of the formerly constant traffic on the older, main road routes. As I can attest from my own, newly-relaxed cycle journeys in that area. The difference has to be experienced to be believed! If a road is no longer a battered and roaring trunk road it can become a very attractive cycle route in its own right. It can be quite amusing to imagine oneself the last person on earth as one rides the silent, wide and  empty asphalt between once, horribly-blighted, rural homes.

There are a whole series of new cycle paths being built or are nearly finished on Fyn. These provide much safer routes for the vulnerable cyclist where they once shared the edge of the same asphalt as the [illegally] speeding traffic. The sense of hugely increased safety on these paths has to be felt to be believed. Given the [illegally] increased speed of the traffic on the same route, now no longer being baulked by cyclists, one hopes the drivers appreciate this aspect of the new projects. Nor should one forget the improvement in the surface on which the cyclist may now travel. 

A smooth path recognizes the right of the cyclist to travel in relative comfort rather than in the stone and gravel littered, and often potholed, gutter. Doesn't it strike you as odd that the cycle usually has no suspension at all yet must use the roughest and dirtiest section of many, busy roads? But you say the cyclist does not pay road tax! If the commuting cyclist is on their way to work do you suppose they pay no taxes at all? Do you suppose [for even one moment] that every penny of road tax actually goes to road maintenance and building new and nothing else? How many billions does it cost to build new motorways compared with the very modest sums for adding a new cycle path?

How much damage does the cyclist do to the roads compared with your car? How much space, noise and pollution does the cyclist cause compared to your car amongst countless many others? How many deaths and serious injuries do cyclists cause compared with the car? Do you suppose the local A&E is dealing with the dreadful carnage caused by cycling? How many hospitals would one really need if it was compulsory to cycle to work and back? What about the pandemic of obesity, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and depression? What about the absolutely colossal annual expenditure on prescription drugs? All wasted taxpayer's money in a desperate attempt to repair the "exercise-free" society's right to total physical indolence! 

It should be remembered that a great many Danes routinely cycle to work in all weathers. If more drivers should notice the speed and ease with which cycling commuters travel they may give up their damaging and unhealthy behaviour. Who knows, youngsters may even be allowed to cycle to school by parents who know that they, themselves, usually drive badly and often illegally fast. Which has often prevented them allowing their own children to enjoy the exercise and fresh air in their lungs by cycling to start their school day. Many councils have banned cars from stopping near the schools in a vain attempt to stop the unnecessary but habitual school commuter runs. Though there are always parents who "know better." As they dump their overweight child with "severe attention, behavioral or learning difficulties" in the nearest available drop-off spot just around the corner.

Let us imagine a fairy tale land where cyclists have absolute right of way. Imagine, if you can, a land where traffic lights are controlled by and for cyclists. The motor traffic must always give way to cyclists. The cyclist enjoys an uninterrupted journey from A to B without hindrance or being aggressively cut up by cars or lorries. Cyclists always enjoy far better surfaces and the cycle paths are wide and smooth and well maintained.

Now imagine if car journeys were restricted to [say] mid-mornings or mid-afternoons in cities. This would obviously preclude commuting by car. The alternatives would be cycling or public transport. In this fabled land public transport is speedy, comfortable and free. It also has excellent facilities for carrying shopping home for every single seat. Public transport is not used as a cash cow to take from the impoverished who cannot, or will not afford, a private car.

Without the usual traffic, public transport can function unhindered too. So journeys are quick and effortless. Of course all the buses and minibuses are electrically and robotically driven so there is no noise and stink of diesel. With no gears to change, each journey is a smooth progression without jerks and heavy braking. Traffic jams are a thing of the past unless a rare accident occurs.

All shops and supermarkets deliver completely free of charge by small, electric, robotic vans best suited to the task. Most people no longer wander the aisles of the supermarkets and then queue endlessly for some surly teenager to deign to serve them. Shopping is routinely done online so packed car parks simply do not exist. Rapid delivery, on demand, by robotic, electric vehicle ensures forgotten items do not miss reaching the dinner table.

How far away are we away from this motor-free Elysium? Statistics prove that most car journeys are short. The car is only taken because it is convenient and has considerable carrying capacity. Though you still have to get in and out and lift heavy boot lids and empty the shopping trolley and it's all such a bore! Because car designers are far more interested in choosing alloy rims and low profile tyres and family radiator grill designs. Than [say] blocking the blinding and uncomfortable afternoon sun or having a shopping compartment for the free, take-home supermarket shopping trolley niche in the rear sides of the robotic car. Always assuming you were still clinging onto a private car when public transport everywhere is free and fast and even offers privacy.

Why do most cycles lack carrying capacity? This is slowly changing but baskets and even goods carrying cycles are available. An electric motor would ease the burden of climbing that hill back home with the potatoes and milk. But, the milk and potatoes are delivered free because all the shops know your shopping habits. They are delivered routinely to a daily/weekly or monthly schedule so there is really no point in thinking about it. Nor going without. And when you are bored with your routine meals? You use your effortless, mobile, virtual reality system to browse alternatives with all the stuff it knows you hate already rejected. So you don't have to plough through long lists or countless images of all the "nasty stuff" before you get to the really appetizing alternatives on offer. The Internet of Things knows exactly what you like and faithfully presents and delivers it on demand.

Oh, and by the way. Denmark already gives cyclists right of way at [non-light controlled] roundabouts, junctions and crossings. Drivers [except for individual predatory psychopaths] always wait for a cyclist [or pedestrian] to safely cross their exit before proceeding. Just imagine that in all those countries where car drivers think themselves infinitely superior to those who actually use their own energy to move forwards. While they sit there, blaring their horns in grid-locked, smog-laden hell on earth just trying [desperately] to reach the corner shop for a 480 kCal cup of cold coffee. Busily popping pills while they wait for their next, and final, heart attack. To be taken where the vast A&E is a vital part of repairing society's countless, human wrecks.

A late morning ride to the shops as usual.  The new cycle paths were flooded right across their width in quite a few places. I wonder why they didn't leave gaps between the granite sets to allow the paths to drain naturally into the road gutters alongside? Tradition? The way they have always done it?

The roadworks further on had caused a flood over half the width of the road. Drivers were belting along completely oblivious to the danger of hitting deep water at speed. I was overtaken precisely as I maneuvered around the water by riding in the opposite lane! I had given the following driver plenty of warning with lengthy hand signals. However, for them to have lifted off the idiot pedal would have required more than two brain cells to rub together. The absence of a third brain cell, to call their own, meant they passed me at well above the legal speed limit precisely where the water lapped over the white line in the middle of the road. 15 miles not wearing a life jacket. Perhaps I need a bigger saddlebag for such eventualities?

Had it been any other country I could have set up a camera to record drivers ploughing into the water at high speed for a YouTube video. But not in Denmark. Showing guilt by camera is illegal for the camera owner in Denmark. You'd think such videos would come under the freedom of speech laws the Danes will defend to the last breath. Hate speech against the Danes in the local mosque is perfectly acceptable. Showing morons risking other's lives by driving like raving lunatics is not?

Well, that's April over for this year. It felt mostly cold and miserable and was certainly much wetter than usual, but was till warmer than average according to the DMI. Greenland has been setting new records in heat waves. They'll be planting crops and spraying Roundup next. Global warming marches on.
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