Punctures, theft, safety, car pollution, appearance and personal hygiene, and personal poor health are, to my mind, the main reasons why cycling struggles to be the go-to mode of transport.
Those that harbour ambitions of a cycling revolution that puts us all in the saddle, whilst absolutely right for so many reasons, will never get there. Therefore investing heavily in hope is essentially wasting tax payer money. It doesn't mean to say that reasonable investment should not be continued, just the foot needs to come off the peddle for those decisions makers that have ideals to see the world on two wheels.
I have taken the time to write about my fledging cycling experience using the cycle lane along the seafront, as well as highlighting some areas of cycling that will be difficult to remedy.
I bought a bike recently and was quite pleased after riding from Southend to South Benfleet and back.
Unfortunately as I began my next venture out I struggled to get the momentum I previously enjoyed and could hear a gripping sound as I attempted take-off.
I turned to see my back tyre had succumbed to a piece of broken glass I must have picked up on my travels and so the active travel momentum had stopped in tune with my bike.
Not being a naturally keen cyclist I returned the car until 3 months later I had finally found the gumption to fix the bike and return to the saddle.
This time I was more cautious to avoid anything resembling potential puncture material, and had indeed managed to escape harm by the end of the ride.
On my first outing I hadn’t really noticed any pitfalls aside from the necessity to keep breathing! This time I was looking from the perspective of what could be done to encourage and enhance the cycling experience, but specifically along Southend seafront.
To Southend’s credit, there are in fact many beautiful locations along the seafront that inspire stop-offs.
The problem is that leaving the bike out of sight always promotes worry that it will not be there upon return.
Whatever locks are available are fairly easy to cut through. And never mind if you don’t have a lock at all!
A simple solution is for the Council to invest in strategically placed bike security racks across the city. The location of which would of course need discussion, but this aspect of cycling cannot be underestimated.
Hazards Along the Cycle Lane
Cycle lanes as an idea is positive and is the right thing to do. The trouble is the one on the seafront is quite dangerous or at least feels as though it is.
Riding towards other cyclists at varying speeds requires both parties to be competent and focussed on the path ahead. Being that neither cyclist holds any such guarantees life can become quite stressful as you each try to navigate each other. No wonder the more serious cyclists don’t use it. This could have been avoided by positioning each cycle lane on the opposite sides of the road as is the case in other towns and cities.
And whilst trying to avoid a head-on collision there is a very real risk of running into the curb. There are arguments as to why it is raised, but one trip will be enough to see why it is a serious hazard. The cycle lane as you ride into Leigh is perfect. No curb, just road markings. And it is one way only.
Crossing as a Pedestrian
Cycle lanes are not common and I for one have been guilty of not paying enough attention while crossing onto the pavement on the seafront. By luck I have never been struck by a cyclist. The problem is as you cross, if there are cyclists blocking your journey, you then have to perch upon the small patch of pavement that has been left to the pedestrian.
On the section between the Three Shells and Genting Casino parked cars open their doors onto the cycle lane. To compound this risk, the passengers then blissfully unaware, step onto the cycle lane and it is only for the cyclist to be aware that a collision does not take place.
City Beach Cycling
The end of the cycling lane along city beach is an anomaly that has not been solved. For some reason it was decided not to include this into the plan. The result is confusion. The rules are not clear for pedestrian or cyclist and I regularly witness near-misses.
Cycling will improve health, but when you’re unhealthy it is quite the struggle to move!
We are in the age of the car and no amount of influencing can change that. It is too convenient. Given the electric revolution coming soon, the environmental argument will soon reach extinction.
So what is the answer?
Whilst I would richly espouse all the benefits of cycling I believe it is always going to be an activity of pleasure rather than a primary option for transportation.
This incessant drive towards active travel is inconsistent with the advent of clean cars. In this sense we need to re-think the car as the enemy and reinstate the concept of making life easy again for the driver.
This is not to say that all the points I have mentioned shouldn’t be addressed because whether cycling is for pleasure or transport, it still needs to be safe, secure and convenient.
We need more cycle lanes, but they need to be safe for the cyclist, pedestrian and the driver. We need a lot more security locations for cyclists to lock their bikes. And we need cycle lanes and roads to be clear of glass and other sharp objects.
We should never agree policies that punish drivers and force them into cycling, but instead create an environment so accommodating that if and when a driver does take to the bike, the experience is so easy and enjoyable they will willingly and enthusiastically continue the journey.