Friday, 16 August 2013

Going Dutch: a cautionary tale

On the whole, I think that the Trois V is in favour of the move towards cycle lanes in the Dutch style (and certainly towards a legal system that puts pedestrians at the top, then cyclists and then vehicles).  But, as the Tristesse Endura ride showed, cycle routes are not without their difficulties, and we're aware of the perils of the crap cycle path as much as anyone.  I suspect that at least some of us also favour John Franklin's view of roadcraft, while being aware of the debate that is going in cycling blogs and Twitter.  But this is not a manifesto, nor a position statement (our Constitution eschews such things) but by way of explaining what I was doing here:

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As it turns out, I was doing bad things.  En route to the Team Bike marshalling station in Gunnersbury to drop of the Squadra and a heavy back filled with sugar in the form of High 5 gels, I had my departing instructions from one of the Friends of the Trois V running round my head: 'go safely, darling'.  This, combined with a curiousity about bike lanes and going Dutch, the recent history of three minicabs turning in front of me and two pedestrians stepping out without looking, led to me acting on a whim at the arrival of what I mentally called the Hammersmith roundabout, but now view as the Hammersmith Gyratory - the name captures more of the urban horror.

There was a sign of a little bike, pointing onto the pavement, followed by a series of bike height Pelican crossing buttons and lights, rather like the lights for horses (again, this was too urban for such Constitution Hill indulgences).  I followed one set, slowly, and then another, at a gentle pace, and began to make progress towards my destination: King Street on the other side of the roundabout (which, in case you are unfamiliar with it houses Coca Cola, a bus station, a tube stop and some butt-ugly half-baked-PoMo office blocks).  To my right was some bike parking - a good sign - but the sense of bike path was no fading.  Where to go? I freewheeled on slowly, looking for a sign, was momentarily distracted by a very bad and loud busker, when I head a voice:

'Do you know why I stopped you?'

I looked around and a slight, young British transport policeman was trying to get my attention away from the busker. That was a good thing.  But the series of smart alec replies that ran through my head ('because of these red shoes?', 'to save me from the busker') were wisely suppressed.

'No, officer'.

And so it began.  I have become a pavement cyclist, the lowest form of life, pretty much.  Despised and loathed by the Trois V, the comments section of the Daily Mail and Standard, as well as giving fellow wheelers a bad name.

I explained that I had been directed here by the cycle lane, wondered about saying how slow I was going, and that I was only one abreast this way, that three cars had earlier decided to try and kill me, but instead suggested he should point out to his superiors the poor design, the lack of signs (visible ones anyway), and that I never normally did such a thing (true) and had just decided to follow the cycle path rather than attempt the gyratorory, as I normally did (en route to Richmond Park, a detail I didn't go into).  Floating above all this was a sense of ridiculousness, a slight worry I would be late for the marshalling point, and a slight wondering whether this was all on CCTV.

Perhaps not wanting the paper work, I was given a verbal warning, had my date of birth and name taken (which I gave up trying to spell after a while.  The curse of having such an unusual name as 'M[redacted]').  All done with a half-thought about the times one does or does not have to give up such information, how efficient their records were anyway, and what computer systems they might use.

And then we entered a long digression about who partly paid his wages (TfL), so it would be better if the complaint to them about the lack of the above would come from me.  It actually began to be a pleasant chat at that point.

So, sent on my way with a verbal warning (ingested as 'don't bother with cycle paths') and some homework ('Dear TfL, would you like a trip to Amsterdam?'), I clip clopped in my red clogs precariously on my way.  I remounted, and promptly had a Mercedes pull in front of me and a man stepped into the street.  Good work, Condor, on the brakes, btw.



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