Light on Cycling
It's almost a year since I cycled regularly. I've been out on my bike less than 20 times since last August. It surprises me to see this written but it's true. However, I have not given up cycling by any means. Nope. I've just had other things to do, beginning with re-roofing part of our house (stripped down to bare brick and concrete). In fact I've done a lot of things I would not have done in the comfort zone of daily bike riding.
Last March me and Sandra went on a short cycling holiday in Shropshire—or whichever county Ludlow is in. We didn't even get our bikes out of the van. Later on, in June I think it was, we went on another short cycling holiday on the west coast of Wales in the hinterland near Aberaeron. Again, no cycling. They are both very nice places but, as we discovered, no-one cycles there. That's what I was thinking: no-one cycles in most of the UK*. Of course there are parts of the country that lend themselves to it and where people are enthusiastic about riding bikes. I live in one. Evenings and weekends all year round the local moors are full of mountain bikers, often in groups of twelve or more. We are shortly going on a short cycling holiday in Derbyshire and this time we'll definitely go cycling.
When you are into something—anything—you tend to believe it really matters. If, for instance, you are a passionate fisherman you don't understand why everyone else doesn't go fishing. If you are tiling your bathroom it becomes the big thing in your life and you show your visitors into the room so they can see what you've done. It's only when you stop doing this something that a sense of perspective returns and you remember how life is normally lived. That's how it was when I stopped cycling regularly at the end of last August.
There are cyclists on the CTC Forums who genuinely believe in a cycling revolution when Britain eventually goes Dutch. Over and over I've read how it all makes sense, with MPs going off to look at Dutch roundabouts and new budgets announced to get this country on the path to cyclenation etc. Since I stopped reading it (as I was doing 'other things') I've stopped believing it. I see no evidence of it. I don't even think about it much and nor do most people unless they happen to be an enthusiastic cyclist who hears and follows the arguments. I have gone back five years to when I was not a cyclist but I rode my bike. I'll probably be on my bike regularly again from this Autumn. Probably or maybe—it doesn't matter. I'll enjoy cycling as much as before but I won't let it become a comfort zone. They are what one should guard against as one gets older.
*Re: "no-one cycles in most of the UK" – I don't mean it literally. But I was surprised not to see a single bicycle in Ludlow, a pleasant market town set in lovely countryside. Ludlow is on a hill and that's the reason. The kind of mass cycling advocated by campaigning groups such as the CTC won't happen in the UK because the majority of people will not cycle uphill. The topography is not conducive, nor are the roads, confined as they often are between hedges and buildings up against the roadside, not suitable for separate cycle paths except occasional ones that eventually lead nowhere. Sportive and off-road are different and seem to be thriving (I am thinking of getting a mountain bike). People cycle for fitness regardless of the road conditions, and clubs go out on Sundays. I don't mean that sort of cycling. I mean there is no option but to enjoy things as they are, accepting that motorists generally regard bicyles as nothing but a nuisance to be negotiated or preferably ignored altogether. I have suggested before how Britain is unique in the thousands of miles of bridleways criss-crossing the landscape almost everywhere and all of it accessible to bicycles. Off-road cycling has a future I think.