Chairman’s Letter, September 2017
Dear RCC members,
I hate cyclists on the pavement. I hate them on the towpath and I hate them in pedestrianised areas.
There. I’ve said it.
I don’t hate the people forced to ride their bikes there, I hate the fact that this is where cyclists have to ride for their own safety or comfort.
I do it all the time. I routinely cycle through Broad Street and Queen Victoria Street and the Oracle riverside, and I love to ride down the towpath into town. I rarely ride on shared use pavements, but I do occasionally (the route to the hospital is one I use from time to time).
I also walk in all those places and I don’t like cyclists who pass me too close, ring their bells and expect me to jump out the way, or who ride towards me at speed and try and squeeze past.
The fact is cyclists and pedestrians don’t mix well, and due to the lack of space in a town where the car is king and the bus is queen, the easiest option is often to provide for cyclists in places where they won’t interfere with our transport royalty.
Some of the difficulty is caused by behaviour. I am both a selfish pedestrian and a selfish cyclist.
When I walk I want cyclists to ride carefully around me. When I cycle I want drivers to drive carefully around me.
I don’t find it all that hard to do it. If I ride along the towpath I can easily slow right down, even engage in a bit of banter with pedestrians. If I drive I am more than happy to sit behind a cyclist (sometimes to the obvious disgust of a following motorist).
It is amazing how drivers can follow a whole bunch of other drivers nose to tail at less than walking speed without questioning whether the person in front has paid enough tax, or if their journey is important. But put them behind the same person choosing a self propelled lightweight mobility device and they simply must get in front.
The Council (and it isn’t just RBC, Oxford has much more infrastructure, many many more cyclists, but the standard of design of the average cycle facility is only very marginally better than Reading’s) must be seen to do something to encourage people to ride a bike.
So their default option is to put us on the pavement. Ironically one of the biggest problems for the Oxford Road community is cyclists on the pavement, almost exclusively caused by impatient drivers trying to drive along a narrow cluttered route which is far too narrow to pass a cyclist safely. It doesn’t take a transport scientist much bother to see where cyclists are going to ride.
Don’t forget that most people I have met through the Reading Cycle Campaign ride out of choice. For a great many people the bicycle is their only option.
Try doing three jobs on the minimum wage in different parts of Reading and having a family to provide for. You can’t walk everywhere, the bus fare will soon eat into your earnings, and you certainly can’t afford a car, and if you also happen to live in a small rented property anywhere between the town centre and Tilehurst, a bike isn’t just a sensible choice, it is a vital one.
If you then have to make a journey into and out of town a few times a week along the Oxford Road you sure as hell won’t persist on the road, in the rain, in the dark, with the way some drivers use that road. So the pavement is the best alternative.
Of course there are selfish cyclists who care for no-one but themselves, and the immigrant father on his way to one of his low paid jobs in a shop somewhere will be tarred with the same brush, no matter how polite and careful he may be.
And placing cyclists on the pavement makes it worse for cyclists both ways. Pedetrians hate those that brush past too close, drivers hate those that don’t use it, so after the Council has introduced a new scheme, cyclists are the losers.
So, that is why spending half a million pounds to put cyclists on the pavement on route 422 of the ‘National Cycle Network’ infuriates me.