On the cancellation of Midlothian Sprint Triathlon

I’ve got a whole bunch of things that I want to blog about, I seem to have got very behind.

I was supposed to be doing Midlothian Sprint triathlong in a week or two; and then I got the following email from the organisers:

“It is with great regret that we have to announce the cancellation of this year’s race. Entrants will receive a full refund minus their credit card transaction fees.Following a meeting on Friday 12th April at the request of the new police sergeant in charge of the Dalkeith area, the race organisers were informed that the cycle route was no longer acceptable, despite the safe and successful running of the event for many years. The particular concern is cyclists being allowed to cycle in a coned lane through red traffic lights, which happens through two sets of traffic lights on both laps. The sergeant highlighted an alternate route with 4 right turns on each lap, but would not recommend or endorse the alternative route in any way. In our opinion this course is not a viable option for such a large race.
Since the 12th April the race organisers have been working to come up with a safe course which is acceptable to the police. Unfortunately there is no alternative option and no agreement could be found. Triathlon Scotland has advised us that the original course is acceptable as long as cyclists obey the Highway Code and stop at all red lights (6 sets on each lap). We have decided that in the interests of safety and of having a fair race we cannot take this advice.
We fear that going ahead this year the race would quickly become a farce, lead to packs forming at the lights, ill-tempered motorists & cyclists and could be dangerous. We have been warned by the police that disobeying the highway code would be viewed seriously for both riders and race organisers.
The race organisers hope that cancelling the race this year will give us 12 months to work with the police to come up with a solution for next year.”

And so a person, who (as far as we know) knows nothing about triathon, or cycling, can cause an event, which has run without issue for many years, to be cancelled, because he has an issue with cyclists using a coned lane to bypass traffic lights. Even thought this has worked in the past.

So much for the olympic legacy, Edinburgh the World Class Cycling City, the promotion of sport. Yes, fine, we’ll give lip-service to all these things, but go and do it somewhere else, please. Don’t expect us to have a presumption in favour of this sort of thing going ahead, or anything like that.

On Pedal On Parliament

Last April, 3000 cyclists took part in Pedal on Parliament. I love the story of how it all started – a couple of people were discussing a big cycling demonstration that was due to take place in London, and someone suggested that something similar should happen in Scotland. They initially thought that a couple of hundred people might come along. Then they thought it might be more. But I don’t think anyone dreamed that 3000 people might appear. (You have to have sympathy (and a lot of respect) for the police – the organisers had given them an initial estimate of 300 people, and although they’d later increased that, the police certainly were not expecting 3000.) Politicians turned up and said nice things, but in the year that followed, not much has changed.

The Pedal on Parliament manifesto has eight points:

  1. Proper funding for cycling
  2. Design cycling into Scotland’s roads.
  3. Slower speeds where people live, work and play
  4. Integrate cycling into local transport strategies
  5. Improved road traffic law and enforcement
  6. Reduce the risk of HGVs to cyclists and pedestrians
  7. A strategic and joined-up programme of road user training
  8. Improved statistics supporting decision-making and policy

I think points 2 and 4 are particluarly important. In the end, too many people are put off cycling because they think that it is dangerous. Certainly, sharing roads with fast-moving traffic (the drivers of which may be thoughtless, careless, distracted, or even occasionally downright hostile) is unpleasant – I think those of us who cycle regularly forget just how unpleasant it is, until you get some really poor driving. Just this morning I’ve had a couple of passes from LGVs that felt quite close – in neither case do I think that it is worth making any kind of fuss or comment, but I’m supposed to be “used to this” and I didn’t like it – how would that feel to someone who was not “used to it”? And better, properly segregated infrastructure, that takes cyclists where they want to go by sensible, direct routes, costs money, so point 1 is important too.

But changes in the way roads are designed and used don’t just need money, they need political will, and that seems to be the hardest thing to find. That is why it is important that people who cycle lots, and people who cycle a bit or not at all and who would like to cycle more, stand up and make a noise and be counted; not just for themselves, but for others who don’t even think that they could cycle – and especially for children, who are often effectively imprisoned by their parents’ fear of the roads, leading to a vicious circle where parents feel they have to take thier children everywhere by car, and so the roads are busy and dangerous because they are full of people transporting children by car because all the cars make it dangerous…

So, this year POP is on Sunday 19th May. Unfortunately I couldn’t go to POP last year, because my Wonderful Boyfriend was running an ultramarathon. And I can’t go this year, because my Wonderful Boyfriend is running a different ultramarathon. But if you can go, you should. And, knowing the way things are, I guess there will be another POP next year, and I really will manage to go to that (even if it means sending the W.B. to do his ultramarathon without me…)

On a weekend in the West (3) – risk, roads and other ramblings

So last Sunday I finally got up a hill, having decided that I didn’t fancy any of the big hills that I’d passed on the previous two days while walking on my own, and having failed to persuade anyone to join me. The hill I did go up was “only” a Corbett, jsut behind the Kingshouse in Glencoe. I think I made a pretty good choice – the southern side, where I went up, had been well stripped of snow lower down. There was more snow higher up, but by then the angle of the slope was easing. There was some really impressing rime ice on the summit rocks and trig point. Good views north, as well as an unusual angle on Buachille Etive Mor.

I did a fair amount of driving over the weekend, not something I enjoy doing. I do try not to worry about the impatient person behind me and think about the road ahead. It is always had to decide if I’m too cautious or the other person is going too fast. People who overtake me on straights when I’m doing 60 in a 60 limit I can live with, as it were – it is their choice to break the law. It is the twisty sections where an appropriate speed is more debatable that worry me. Anyway I got less stressed about it than I do sometimes.

On a weekend in the west (day 2)

Day two’s cycle was a bit longer. I parked on a minor road off the A85 just west of Dalmally (if I were doing this or something similar again I’d use one of the many parking places I found at the northern end of the A819) and took the minor road that runs down the eastern side of Loch Awe. This was a nice quiet road, with some nice views over the loch (it might be even better going north as you’d then be looking at Ben Cruachan). The road surface was a real mixed bag – the were some section of lovely new smooth tarmac and some bits full of potholes and gravel – I assume they’ll be next on the list for new tarmac! After an hour and three-quarters, I was slightly bored of Loch Awe and was glad to get to the end of it! I also came to a junction with a sign about a cycle route to Oban – I was glad I checked my map, as that took me back up the other side of the loch, and not the route I’d planned. I continued to the A816 and then turned north to Oban. I thought the A816 was a great road to cycle. Remember this was Easter Saturday – there really wasn’t that much traffic, and most drivers seemed quite patient. (I did get a couple of close passes from cars with Dutch numberplates!). The road does a series of climbs and descents and some of the descents were really fast and sweeping, on good tarmac. I’m not a very confident descender, but I did enjoy these, especially where the road surface was good. I knew I didn’t have a lot of time, so I pushed on to Oban. It would be nice to come back sometime and explore that area a bit more slowly.

In Oban I got a sandwich and a coffee. I then had two options – the A85 which I expected would be faster to cycle but busy with traffic, and a minor road running inland which was marked as part of the Sustrans cycle route 78 (the same one I hadn’t followed at the end of Loch Awe). I expected that this would have much less traffic on it, so even though I thought it would also be slower to cycle, I went that way. I was right about the traffic, and I was also right about the cycling speed! It was a really small, up-and-down-and-round-about road. A lot of the surface wasn’t very good, and there were lots of cattle grids, which I hate. It did go through a really pretty glen, and when I stopped to take a photo of Ben Cruachan I realised that it was absolutely silent – the only thing I could hear was a stream. So as a one-off, that was probably the “right” way to go. If I had to cycle from Taynuilt to Oban regularly, I think I’d use the A85 – once I did get on to it it didn’t seem too busy, and it was mostly wide enough for cars to pass without too much hassle. I do wonder who Sustrans think use a route like that – it didn’t suit me in speed-merchant mode, but it is further than I would go on my Brompton. Tourers, I guess, who would be happy to take the slow quiet road over the fast busy one. But not all cyclists are tourers, and not all tourers pootle.

I found most car drivers on the single-track roads pretty good – there was the odd one who assumed we could pass in opposite directions at speed, but to balance them there were plenty who stopped and pulled over to let me come through, and who acknowledged me when I did the same. My biggest fright was someone who sounded like they were coming very fast behind me just when I need to give my full attention to a horrible bit of road surface – mind you they did have some piece of metal machinery on a trailer so it may be they were not as close as they sounded – I didn’t dare take my eyes off the road to look back!

I did have one final misadventure with the infrastucture. There’s a bridge over the railway that has traffic lights. I stopped at the red light, and waited. Nothing. Some cars came the other way. My light still didn’t change. I waved at the light. Still nothing. I rolled back a bit and cycled towards the light. It remained red. I had a bit of a look – was the bridge wide enough to cycle through against the red? I wasn’t sure. Eventually a car came, and lo and behold the light changed – but not for long, I only just had time to get through behind it before the light went red again – there was a bit of an uphil start which didn’t help for quick acceleration. I do intend to complain about it – not that I expect anything to be done, they can’t get many cyclists along there (or maybe they all just go through the red light… which is probably what I’d do another time…)

On a weekend in the west (day 1)

It may or may not already be apparent that I own more than one bicycle, and that I wear things other than a suit to cycle in. This post (and the next) will be by WisoB’s alter ego, the dreaded MAWIL (Middle Aged Woman in Lycra – though I hope I’m not quite old enough to be middle aged…)

So on Good Friday I cycled from just south of Drymen, past Balloch on the southern shores of Loch Lomond, through Glen Fruin, round the Rosneath peninsula and back (thanks to “Rasmus” on the CycleChat forums for the route). It was a very nice day, and the views over Gare Loch, Loch Long, and the Firth of Clyde were very fine. When I got to the A 82 (which is the main road north from Glasgow to the Highlands) I looked for a cycle path which I’d been told existed, but I didn’t spot it, so I just went up the road. The road was quite busy, but it was OK to cycle, if you are used to cycling on busy roads… that stretch at least is quite wide and I only remember one very close pass. As I got near to the roundabout where I was going to turn off I realised that the footpath on the other side of the road was my cycle path, but I didn’t bother crossing the road to get on to it. The next section (the A818) did have a nice smooth wide path on the correct side for going up the hill, but it took me a while to conclude that it was designated shared use… so I used it, and when I got the the roundabout at the top of the hill I discovered that the creators of the path had not thought that cyclists might want to go somewhere other than left at the roundabout. I had to get off the bike and lift it back onto the road.

The minor road through Glen Fruin was lovely. There’s another, parallel road which takes most of the traffic, so the road was very quiet and the glen was lovely. There are a couple of cattle grids that are obviously no longer needed, so they’ve just taken out the gate and put tarmac round them! At the high point there’s a little road that takes you through to the main road and a fast descent to Garelochhead. The next bit of road is shown as a minor road on the map but it is the access road to a military base at Coulport so it was a good road (with some scary notices about MOD property at the start!) There’s another good descent into Coulport if you like that sort of thing… and then a lovely quiet road all the way round the peninsula and back to Garelochhead. The climb back up on the minor road to Glen Fruin was reasonably tough, but the views over the “Arrochar Alps” were very fine. I agreed with the cyclist who I passed admiring the view that it was worth stopping for.

Then I was back on my outward route. This time I did pick up the cycle path by the A82. The first bit was fairly bumpy and narrow, just a pavement that had been designated shared use. However near Balloch it turned into what was obviously a section of the old A82, which was almost traffic-free. And it was shorter! I got coffee and cake in Balloch after cycling round for a bit looking for somewhere that looked suitable, and when I got back to the car I discovered my cycle computer was showing 99.6km, so I did an extra little bit to get the 100km in. I’m a bit of a geek like that…