Why you’ll never get Norwich cyclists only using cycle lanes
- Credit: PA
Opinion: Efforts to make cyclists use cycle lanes are doomed to failure, says Steven Downes.
I'm fairly good at counting, so I know that 'cyclist' is not a four-letter word.
But there are growing numbers of people who say it as if it is.
Without going all Kenneth Williams about it ('infamy, infamy, they've all got it in for me'), I'm feeling decreasing levels of love from drivers towards me on my Pinnacle Neon.
Cyclists should be adored, of course - after all, we are not putting our hands around the neck of Planet Earth every time we turn a key in the ignition.
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But instead of getting a cavalcade of black sedans and streets lined with adoring residents as I cycle to work each morning, I get cars and vans that menace my back wheel and almost shave my legs when they pass me.
Drivers cut me up, give me hand signals or lean out of the window to teach me new Anglo-Saxon words. Which is a bit patronising, as I'm already fluent.
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And in the latest attempt to pluck a feather from our angel wings, there are calls to force cyclists by law to use cycle paths/lanes.
What a utopian vision it evokes, with a parade of people on their sit-up-and-begs doffing their bowler hats at passing motorists who give them a cheery wave.
All would be separate, safe and splendidly happy; no crossing of the streams.
Unfortunately, it's a hefty blow to a popular fish (codswallop).
I can't speak for other cities or towns, but utopia is not about to burst forth in Norwich.
For, while I appreciate the well-meaning work that Norwich City Council is doing to try to tip the scales more in favour of cyclists, it's a battle that will only ever be part won.
The medieval layout of the city means there's simply not enough space to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and motorists unless they mix.
That means compromise. And if you are a cyclist you'll know that many of Norwich's cycle lanes are at best compromise, at worst inexplicable.
Some are part of the pavement, so you have to slow to a crawl in case a pedestrian suddenly changes lane because they're in iPhone World.
Others are so subtly separate from the pavement that nobody knows.
The short and practically pointless cycle lane in Tombland is a perfect example. I could leave the road to join it, chicane round some hapless walkers, then take a few minutes to rejoin the road a few seconds later. Or I could stay on the road, endure being sworn at by a taxi driver, but arrive at work on time without clogging up casualty.
There are plenty of other paths that are just downright confusing. So, preferring not to get brain ache, I often opt for the road.
If any motorist doesn't like what I'm saying, imagine being told that by law you have to take the slowest and most confusing route each day. What do you think you'd do?
This is not a whining defence of poor-little-lamb cyclists - we are cursed with a far-too-large minority who ride irresponsibly: jumping lights; mounting the pavement; swerving in and out of traffic; riding without lights at night.
It's more of a challenge to the powers-that-be (not sure what they 'be' - dragons, perhaps?) to make it possible for cyclists to always use cycle paths.
Millions of pounds has been spent in Norwich to come up with a curate's egg of a solution. It'd be nice to see a bit more clarity of thought to make it actually work.
Only then should there be an expectation that us two-wheelers will retreat from the road.
Oh, and by the way motorists, if you want me to be a good boy and use cycle paths, I've got a challenge for you.
When I am on a road with no cycle path, stay away from my butt, give me space when you overtake and look in your wing mirrors before you pull out of a parking space.