July 11th, 2011

We roadies do struggle to understand bicycle transit

For twenty years I did my bicycle commuting more of less as I did my racing, on the same bike, in the same clothes, on the road, pushing hard. It was a hero act to an extent: "It looks like it's Fleming, he's broken away. What a move! They won't catch him from here. He takes the stage!" That's Phil Liggett's voice I'm hearing as the helicopter follows me over the one hill between home and my office. When asked, I would understate the time trips would take me, tell people it's easy and to just do what I do, then secretly take pride in the fact that nobody dared. This is the roadie mentality. It is why our type should never have represented cyclists' concerns to those designing road infrastructure.

Phil Liggett humouring Lynette Chiang from Bike Friday—Lynette, no-one believes he rides a Bike Friday ;)

My nation's potential masses of bicycle commuters are all still driving to work, looking at that narrow door zone they would be expected to ride in, if they made the switch. They don't care that I have the legs to take a lane when the road narrows. They're not impressed that I can do 70km p/h in a car lane, down hill, at night, in the wet. After 20 years of riding like that, frankly, I'm not impressed either. It's suicidal.

Me ol' buddy Mikael, showing Americans how to turn left from the right, in Copenhagen. It's safer, but slower.

But it has taken a long time for me to realize my road racing background does not make me an expert in mass bicycle transit. I'm still no expert, and am not sure it's my calling to ever become one. What I would say though, is my background uniquely places me to represent the speedster's point of view when conflicts arise between fast and slow cyclists on narrow bike paths. Loathed by drivers for not getting off the road and into the blue lane, and loathed by city dwellers for ruining Sesame Street for them and their hand puppet children, the roadie commuter (once the only commuter who cycled) is left out in the cold. He/she is most insulted in places like Copenhagen, where cyclists must use bike paths where bike paths have been provided, and must turn left using what they call a "box turn" (like the old hook turn cars made in Melbourne).

Left: Sydney cyclists poo pooing the tricycle lane. Right: Slow cyclists, come here, I wanna give you a hug. 

The speedster, let's try to appreciate, is likely to be riding from further away. Stop them from cycling, and they will more likely fill city streets with vehicular through-traffic, than suffer the indignity of waiting for trains. The speedster should be encouraged, and of course given what some would call car space to ride on. Bike lanes are too narrow for fast riders and slow ones. That's my little rant. 

Reader of the Week: Baldy bespectacled beardy, beer breathed, B- bloody biker boy Brian

"Don't call ya blog hoovering movering," people here told me. "No one's gunna know whatcha mean." With all due respect to everyone I knew before blogging, before I traded up to my new fancy network of friends, yous is all retards. I'm sorry my sweets. And it was precisely to edit you all from my Christmas card list that I did give my blog such a privileged title. And here, see, the gamble paid off. I'm followed by at least two nuclear physicists, who do things with maths we post-structuralists verisimilitudinously can only copy with words. One of these nuclear physicists, I must confess, is my own brother-in-law (hi Marty Farts) but the other is an actual reader, who found my blog, and who reads the words (photographers know, you wouldn't come here for original pictures). Plus he aced my recent quiz: "what famous building is that, with bikes out the front?"

I am talking of course of Brian Ewins, who describes himself thus: 
Born before the moon landings, but after the White Album[...]. I'm a Scottish cycling geek; weekends it's on-or-offroad adventures, weekdays its either the 20 mile-each way rural cycle to the day job [he writes software these days—his weapons days are behind him] or if the weather's terrible, jumping on the train with the folding bike. This year I'm riding with some like-minded eejits called the 'Get Lost Collective', hitting trails across Scotland and beyond, touring offroad and wild camping...when the abysmal weather allows it.
All that sounds rather like a Bosnian exodus, with damp rugs strapped to mules, but whatever, the dude has at least one awesome bike, and a rather quaint (okay, old fashioned) way of describing the same weather and scenery over and over in the weblog of his pan-British rides. Plus he will leave a few more Twitter followers to his estate than I'm able to match. So thank you Brian, truly, for deigning to read my, at times, scrambled thoughts about bikes. I'm not sure why you would give me your time. Perhaps I conjure visions of better weather.

From left: the Gary Fisher Singlespeed 29er with path racer bars, all informed choices; using the Brommie for touring, how frightfully cute; and, drum roll please, the titanium Van Nicholas amazon! God, now I'm jealous.