On good cyclists versus bad cyclists

I suppose I should be grateful to the author of the “mummysgonnacycle” blog for her latest blog post, because it has got me cross enough to dust off this blog and post something. The post is entitled “Cyclists of the world unite! (or at least be friendly)” and is a grumble about 1) people on a sportive not stopping and offering to help her husband who was fixing a mechanical and 2) not all cyclists smiling and waving at all other cyclists.

Now on a sportive, there’s mechanical backup (that’s one of the points of doing a sportive) and she obviously had someone there who knew what he was doing. I can totally understand people not asking she was OK – especially as if everyone who had passed had asked she’d have been saying “Yes, fine, think you” umpteen times. So I’d cut people some slack there. It would have been different if she’d been standing on her own obviously not knowing what to do.

With the greeting every cyclist you see – it depends on context. I don’t say hello to everyone I walk past in Edinburgh, and I don’t greet every cyclist I see in Edinburgh – there are too many. If I’m out hillwalking, I will greet other walkers because there are few of them and we are acknowledging our shared hobby. So when I’m out in the country on a training ride I’ll usually greet other cyclists. I might not if my hands are full of bike though – if I’m going steeply uphill or fast downhill I want both hands on the handlebars, thank you!

This thing about “we’re all cyclists united in our mode of transport”, I really don’t get it. You don’t greet every car driver you pass, do you? But if you drove an unusual vehicle you might greet drivers of the same kind of vehicle. We want cycling to be so usual that greeting a cyclist would be as odd as greeting a car driver, and the only cyclists who greet one another are riders of recumbents… (I was going to say, and Bromptons. But Bromptons are getting very common around here these days.)

It seems to me that when I’m out on my Brompton in my street clothes, transport cycling nice and slowly, then I am a Good Cyclist, a good advert for cyclists, behaving myself and not scaring children and old ladies; but when I put on my lycra and get out my fast bike I become a Bad Cyclist, a lyrca lout, wearing silly clothes and putting some effort in and getting out of breath and sweaty. The horror. But I obey the rules of the road whatever bike I’m on, I treat other road and shared path users with respect whatever speed I’m riding, I’m the same person whatever I’m wearing.
Yes, it is actually OK to train, to want to be a faster, stronger, fitter cyclist, to race and to enjoy racing and competing and trying to be the best you can be whatever that means for you; yes, I totally accept that not everyone enjoys sport, not all cyclists are sports cyclists, not everyone wants to challenge themselves in that way. Just don’t criticize those of us who do.

I did a triathlon last Sunday. As we were coming down the valley, there was a short stretch of road where there were mountain bikers coming up the valley, connecting two off-road sections of a long (175km, I think) mountain bike ride. I was on my TT bike, I had a tail wind, I was down on my aero bars going as fast as I could. I did try and say hello. I think I may have confused some of them. Triathletes are notoriously grumpy, of course…


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.