I’ve long been an advocate for cycling infrastructure. Bike lanes, give us bike lanes. And bike boxes at intersections. And cycle paths that connect towns that don’t follow the road, that meander through fields and forests instead. I’ve thought “build it and they will come.” I’ve thought that women are key to cycling safety and that we care a lot about safety. Guess I still think all that.
But it was interesting this week in Northern England, Yorkshire to be precise, home of the Tour de France start for 2014, to see attitude overcome a lack of infrastructure. There are no bike lanes and very narrow roads, twisty and winding over hill and around dale. And not just no bike lane, no shoulder, paved or unpaved. And yet, and yet, lots of bikes.
In Sheffield this Sunday morning I watched loads of road cyclists out to play, some singly, others in large groups. There was no room for cars to pass and they seemed to wait patiently behind them. I’ve got two thoughts about how cycling culture thrives despite these roads.
First, the roads and their challenges (sheep crossing, anyone? ) mean that no one expects to go fast. Even without bikes traffic moves slowly on the back roads here. That’s different from North America where even in the city traffic can move very quickly.
Second, there seems to be more appreciation here in England for the sport of cycling. Lots of people are keen about the Tour de France start in Yorkshire.
So maybe a good attitude can overcome a lack infrastructure if the other conditions are right.
I’m still thinking about this.
Now 47 days to go!