Cycling in Britain?
On reading that British local authorities have created thousands of miles of cycle paths, Expatica blogger Michael Dawkes pays a visit to Britain to see if he and his bike can 'reintegrate'.
Suffering a 'momentary lapse of reason' I determined to return to the UK. Having read that British local authorities had created thousands of miles of cycle paths I donned a helmet made by Halfords and undertook an exploratory visit; to see if me and my bike could reintegrate.
In the name of politically-driven green statistics, how they had lied. Yes, they've painted 'cycle path' on strips at the side of roads, but where do they start and where do they end? Most seem to be useless routes to and from nowhere. As for what happens when you get to the by-pass that leads to the out-of-town shopping centre, you don't want to know.
In British towns where they really need to alleviate traffic congestion, cycle lanes disappear at road junctions; on bridges; outside McDonald's where they are overwhelmed by litter. Cyclists than head back into the gutters of narrow, traffic-infested streets. The only other place for a cyclist is between the double yellow lines. These indicate that cars and white vans should not be park there. 'Indicate' is the operative word.
If you're going to Britain and taking your bike, be warned. Do you remember when British motorists had a reputation for being polite and considerate to other road users? Gone. Their attitude to cyclists is best summed up by a relative of mine, who, noticing my look of horror as he blasted his horn at a man for no good reason other than that he was on two wheels, offered by way of explanation. "Well, he doesn't pay road tax."
And let us not even mention the concept of a British version of a cheap, integrated user-friendly public transport system slated for any time this century. That is as fanciful a concept as landing a stray hunting dog on Mars on Christmas day and expecting it to bark joyfully while the Queen addresses the nation.
Other facts of British life and dubious space projects stared me in the face. Prompted by eloquent, iconic petrol-heads like Jeremy 'Dopey' Clarkson, Britain faces decades of road expansion and ever-increasing pollution. I wonder if Mr C. realises the effect he's having on the half-educated teenager from the sink-estate, the kid who aspires to drive a stolen Ford to Mexico? Isn't life strange? How is it that people who have decent brains are so bereft of common sense? Incidentally, Mr C. and I both come from Doncaster. Irritatingly, they'll probably put a blue plaque on the house where he was born and bulldoze my birthplace to the ground.
Looking at a non-integrated British bus and train service that I could not possibly afford to use, I would have to get a car. That was a depressing thought. I did not want to back down that road. I tried the irrational approach. Why not buy one of those chunky little Smart Swiss bug-eyed things? Yes, they look like pregnant tadpoles but at least they're eco-friendly. Mr C. thinks they're appalling because we can't drive them round corners at ninety kilometres per hour. That tempted me even more.
But could I really take such a drastic backward step? As I fretted and dithered I took to eating comforting steak and kidney pies and sausages. A zit blossomed and I suddenly found that I couldn't get my ballet tights on. That did it. I did not need to become obese at my time of life.
So I came back to Holland where I happily exercise my right to swish along cycle paths. What I particularly like about this country is that no one laughs at fat old men wearing ballet tights.
12 April 2007
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Michael Dawkes / Expatica
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