After a frustrating experience cycling on the road yesterday (second in as many weeks), I was very close to writing a snarky facebook post or tweet on my personal feed for my friends and family, vocalising my irritation*. Instead I managed to convince myself to use that energy to write an email to our Central Bedfordshire Councillors. This is the result. As ever I’d encourage anyone reading this to also write to their councillors on how the town’s cycling infrastructure could and indeed should be improved. It is quite cathartic. Here’s the email, sent to all nine CBC councillors, a few minutes ago. Hope you all had a good weekend.
“Dear Councillor ___
I live on Soulbury Road (actual address redacted!). I regularly cycle to Tesco to get my groceries. Making this journey, specifically on the way back, forces me to either use either Old Road or Church Road (or Springfield road if I take a significant diversion). In all these cases I have to avoid what is known as the “door zone” of parked cars, where if a passenger or driver of a parked car opens their door on me as I’m passing…well, clearly it would not end well for me (people have died as a result of riding in this space and suffering the consequences).
That being the case, I take the lane, as the highway code says I am allowed to when I think it will improve my safety on the road. This can sometimes aggravate drivers. Recently I’ve started using Church Road as while there is still a door zone to be avoided, and the risk of antagonising drivers, at least it is not uphill, and a side road, unlike Old Road.
Yesterday evening I undertook this journey again from Tesco, travelling west up Church road. Often when I’m on this road I’ll check to see who’s behind me, as I prefer to not have anyone there, and I can get an idea as to what I’m about to deal with. Yesterday a BMW driver appeared behind me while I was taking the lane (avoiding the “door zone”). Almost immediately after I noticed he was there, he revved his vehicle’s engine. I ended up talking to him asking what his problem was. Lo and behold, the first thing he asks is what tax I pay for my cargo bike. Another ignorant road user, rather depressing. I attempted to educate him on the minutia of road funding and how I pay for the roads, just like he does, via my income tax and council tax. Unsurprisingly that didn’t placate him…after further remonstrations between the two of us as we parted ways he stated if he encountered me again he would run me over (or words to that effect at least). Cyclists, along with other road users, are often told to “share the road”. I put it to you that with drivers such as these, who threaten to use their vehicle as a weapon when their intimidation is challenged…well, we can’t “share the road” with these road users, and I do not believe we should have to.
Safe cycling routes across Leighton Buzzard and Linslade are not just a nice thing to do for people so they can get some exercise, they’re an essential part of our infrastructure, and we should not be expected to be forced to attempt to “share the roads” with drivers when we don’t know when an impatient psychopath may turn up behind us at any moment. Safe cycling routes are not just a leisure, or even transport issue. It’s a social justice issue – we owe it to those in our town who cannot afford a motor vehicle.
I’d like to ask you the two following questions.
- What are you doing on behalf of Leighton Buzzard and Linslade’s cycling public, as well as those that would like to cycle but feel unable to due to a perceived lack of safety, to create safe cycle routes from all parts of the two towns.
- More specifically, what if any plans are there for a safe direct cycle route between Linslade and Leighton Buzzard High street, dealing with the bottlenecks that are Soulbury Road and Wing Road, both of which suffer from the problems I encountered, especially when travelling west. If there aren’t any such plans, why not?
As you may already be aware I volunteer with Leighton BuzzCycles, having recently become the secretary. We actually have further Dr Bike events coming up at the end of this month and early June, and are planning to run more in the coming months across the town. I’m a very confident cyclist having ridden at least fifty five thousand miles since 2012. When even I, a campaigner for more cycling across the town, occasionally get jaded with the mindset and behaviour of some of the drivers I encounter, how am I supposed to encourage others in good conscience to get on their bikes?
Thanks for you getting this far, I know it’s a bit of an essay!
Thanks, Tom Littlehales.”
*I am of course, going to post a link to this blog post on my facebook feed instead!