Did you see last week’s Ricky Twicky Times? Well did you? Cor blimey! That front page all about that bloody cyclist clocking 41mph in Richmond Park. Dangerous eh? And breaking the 20mph speed limit too. The article elicited plenty of comment online. Ban ’em! Leave ’em be! What about the motorists, they’re even worse. And as for those deer, wandering around, eating bark and chestnuts like they own the bloody park: twig-headed idiots. There were no winners.
It got us thinking about cycling. Unlike that chap in the park, not everyone wants to race around wearing lycra that provides onlookers with way too much information about what goes wrong when you hit middle age. But not everyone wants to ride at a sedate pace waving at vicars whether that be on a bike or on a deer. It’s about balance isn’t it? And there are always valid arguments both for and against that.
How about some tolerance and respect and understanding? Why, just the other day, your humble correspondent got called a “two wheeled terrorist” for having the audacity to try to cycle through a green light whilst a group of rugby fans were attempting to cross the road despite the ‘red man’ facing them. Thanks guys. The very next day we witnessed a car braking hard when making a left turn into a side road, not because the driver had made an error when overtaking a bike but because a cyclist had been bombing along the pavement and had crossed the junction without so much as a sideways glance. Pavement cycling by small children is one thing (namely, illegal, a bit irritating but understandable), but there seems to be a small but determined group (usually men in their twenties, often in hi-viz work vests, en route to some place or other) who think a pavement equates to a cycle lane. Dudes, it doesn’t.
And how about this sign spotted on the Eel Pie Island bridge urging local cyclists to show consideration towards residents on foot. If there’s a more polite request than this anywhere in the world we’d very much like to see it. But they have a point too.
You’ll note we haven’t bothered to mention all the occasions when motorists have been inconsiderate towards cyclists or the accidents that make the news with depressing regularity. There are too many to list.
Having said all of that, let’s cut to the chase, is Twickenham actually a good place to cycle? Richmond Council’s “mini-holland” bid which sought funding from the GLA to improve cycling in the borough didn’t fare overly well but El Brute does make positive noises about trying to encourage cycling. There’s an El Brute ‘cycling champion’ with a brief to promote cycling across the Council’s work. There are even classes available to help people improve their confidence on two wheels. And yet in Twickenham we’re all waiting (and waiting) for the roadworks and pavement works to finish so that we can see how effective the cycle related aspects of the Twickenham Action Plan turn out to be. Yes, there were some in there. As it stands at the moment riding through the town centre doesn’t feel very different than it did a year ago. Or two years ago. The bus stops have moved, some of the marked bike lanes have gone, there are some advance cycle stop points at junctions (often occupied by cars) and the traffic is just as busy as ever, if not busier. It’s not for the faint hearted. And because of that we’ll reserve judgement until the whole thing is finished.
It would be great to see more locals confident about getting out and about on their bikes whether for work, fitness or just for fun. El Brute and others need to make sure the awareness-raising and education process encompasses those on four wheels as well as those on two. Who knows, maybe next year, those drunken rugby fans might even be shouting ‘nice wheels’ rather than abuse.
So. Cycling? In Twickenham? How’s it going for you?