This hateful piece of sub-Clarkson publicity-by-controversy was published on my local newspaper’s website recently. The newspaper is going rapidly tits-up (like all newspapers), having recently gone weekly, and the author has just launched a new radio station in the area, so is no doubt trying his damndest to get as much attention for himself and his new media business venture as possible by being an odious twat. Anyway, after spitting bile about the piece briefly on Twitter, and having been sworn at and had nasty, mean hand-gestures made at me on a couple of occasions by cockfarmer motorists whilst cycling on the road , I thought I’d quickly outline some points about why I don’t always use a cyclepath, and, more importantly, why I am entirely entitled to cycle on the road if I choose to do so.
Different people cycle for different reasons
In fact, so do I. Sometimes I’m just nipping to the shops. Sometimes I’m going for a gentle summer ride with my wife. Sometimes I’m exploring new parts of the countryside. Sometimes I’m going to work. Sometimes I’m out for exercise. Depending on the reason, I might cycle at different speeds, some of which are wholly inappropriate for narrow, winding, bollard-studded cyclepaths. In fact…
I like to cycle quite fast
Over the course of a 30-mile ride across Devonshire countryside, taking in country lanes, main roads, cyclepaths, hills, flats, etc etc, I will average just over 15mph. On a straight, flat, wide road with a nice surface I will average 18-22mph depending how much I’m going for it. Cyclists are apparently not actually legally allowed to ride on cyclepaths at speeds of over 18mph; therefore we go on the road. There’s a reason skinny, drop-bar bikes are called road bikes.
Cyclepaths are full of obstacles
Bollards; chicanes; gutters; leaf-mulch; bins; broken twigs and branches; people on rollerskates; benches; children on those little silver scooters; pedestrians; dogs: these things are all much more common on cyclepaths than they are on roads, and they are all dangerous to cyclists, and cyclists are all dangerous to them. Shared-usage paths are one thing, but I regularly see pedestrians walking on specifically delineated cyclepaths when there are also specially delineated walking paths – if I were to do that as a cyclist I’d expect abuse.
Cyclepaths are often badly designed
Especially where they cross junctions with side roads, roundabouts, traffic lights of any kind, or any other complex road topography. Cyclepaths are almost always added later, as an after-thought, which is why they can stop seemingly arbitrarily or continue without signage, causing confusion and thus danger amongst cyclists and motorists alike. Coming down the hill from Haldon, a cyclists’ paradise, you’re dumped from broad, fast, excellent cyclepaths onto what’s effectively the hard-shoulder of the busiest stretch of dual carriageway in Devon; it’s petrifying, and signed so badly that I’m surprised there aren’t regular deaths.
I pay for the roads too
There is no such thing as road tax. Council tax, which I pay, because I live within a council (several, in fact – Devon County Council and Exeter City Council for a start), pays for roads. The tax disc on your car is Vehicle Excise Duty, and is a tax because cars are dirty disgusting things that pump out rancid minging fumes. I pay Vehicle Excise Duty too because I drive a car. Bicycles don’t have to pay Vehicle Excise Duty because they don’t cause any pollution (whilst being ridden – obviously there’s the embedded pollution of their construction, but that’s paid for in business taxes). It’s quite simple; cyclists pay for the roads as much as motorists (and pedestrians too, for that matter), and thus are allowed to use them as much.
Motorists often ignore cyclepaths
I do not think motorists are idiots. I am one. I am also a cyclist, and a pedestrian. I have witnessed many, many fine, courteous motorists, and many, many awful, idiotic cyclists, sans lights, sans attention, sans care for other road users, sans knowledge of the law. Idiots come in all modes of transport, as do decent people. An idiot, discourteous cyclist, however, isn’t quite as likely to kill someone as an idiot, discourteous motorist. So please, don’t park on cyclepaths; don’t even pull over onto them for a second to drop someone off. Don’t pull up into the green block for cyclists at the head of traffic lights. Don’t regard cyclepaths as extra space for you to swerve into; there might be a cyclist there.