Sunday, 19 October 2008
Cycling on the pavement
A cracked tooth meant a visit to the dentist and my failure to get up early meant I had to get there on my bike. There's no quick bus route - and I'd left it too late to walk.
The area is criss-crossed with cycle paths. They take engaging little detours and, every so often, allow cyclists to go in the opposite direction to the traffic. I'm pleased there are cycle paths but I'm never entirely sure where they go. Occasionally there are helpful signs with words like "university" but usually they point vaguely in the direction of some large area I don't wish to visit. I cycle to fencing, swords and all, and wouldn't do that without the helpful cycle path, but apart from that I tend to do what I've always done - share the road with cars and lorries.
However, I was heading towards the dentist in the rush hour and the lorries were closer than I liked. I vaguely remembered a cycle path I'd used before and, when I saw a sign, decided to risk getting lost.
I found myself cycling through quiet residential streets and little twitchells (or jitties, as narrow alley ways are more commonly called in this part of the world - "twitchell" is the posh usage). No-one was driving and hardly anyone was about. And then I was back on the main road and the tiniest section of tarmac was marked out for cycles. The roundabout had no cycle path at all. I think I was supposed to get off and cross at the lights but I've been cycling round roundabouts for as long as I've been cycling and used to enjoy crossing three lanes of cars at Marble Arch before the traffic lights were instituted.
The slope was a bit too much for me, though it's fun going down, and I pushed my bike part of the way. After reaching the dentist on time and experiencing some remarkably pain-free treatment, I decided to try more cycle paths on my return. I hadn't brought a jacket and realised the heavy drizzle was going to leave me damp - I didn't want to be sprayed by cars rushing through puddles.
I had to look carefully for the cyclepath signs. First I needed to find the start of a path so I looked for the small, black signposts. It took me a while to find one and at first I wasn't sure where I was supposed to cycle. Then I saw the white, painted cycle symbol on the pavement, almost covered by wet yellow leaves. The leaves were a problem since half the pavement was allocated to pedestrians and half to cyclists - the fallen leaves meant that I couldn't see where the division was. There may have been arrows too and more signs but the rain and leaves made it hard to find the way. The track led from pavement to jitty and then, every so often, took a narrow section of the road - at times the section seemed narrower than my handlebars though I suppose it must have been broader than that.
It wasn't easy. Every so often I found myself cycling on the pavement and then seeing that the cycle path had taken a different, parallel route. Eventually all bikes were directed on a route I didn't want to take, so I wheeled my bike alongside the main road until the turning off I needed.
At least I didn't hit anyone when I found myself cycling on the pavement - and no-one tried to arrest me. I wonder if "leaves on the sign" would count as a defence in court.