Yesterday afternoon I took a bit of time to finally clean my Trek road bike after it got caked in mud last Wednesday when I cycled to Northampton for a District Exec meeting. Once it was clean I realised that I had run out of grease for my bike grease gun. After walking to the local bike shop and finding it closed I decided to ride to the next nearest. Besides it was an excuse to continue to run in my new Alfine 11 speed hub gear on my Bullitt Clockwork cargobike.
I thought I could nip to City Cycles at the southern end of Thurmaston and then maybe call in at Starbucks on the way home. Unfortunately they only had tiny tubes of grease.
So at just before 5pm I carried on into Leicester, knowing that the bike shop by St Martin’s Square would close at 5:30
If you know Leicester at all then you will appreciate that by car this would have been crazy. The drive would take all the time without allowing for parking or walking from the car park.
But by bike it is different.
I used the crappy bike path to get me down the Melton Road to Belgrave (including the appalling junction with Watermead Way) and then cut across to join the cycle route along the river past the Space Centre and on through Abbey Park.
The cycle route then abandons you but with mostly quiet streets I can weave my way to the pedestrianised city centre (which is open for bikes).
I parked right outside the shop door and got what I needed with more than 15 minutes to spare.
So I treated myself and rode to Costa by the clocktower for a nice Flat White (again parking out of the way right outside).
Then I remembered something else I needed and so rode home via B&Q where I bought 10 x 2.1m lengths of shiplap timber and a pack of battens. With them strapped on top of the cargo box I headed for home, this time partly through Watermead Park. Unfortunately, cycle facilities in Leicester and Leicestershire are of a very low design specification. They are generally passable when riding a solo mountain bike, however, they are not designed for cargobikes, nor tandems, nor trailer bikes, nor bikes with childseats, nor child trailers or luggage trailers. Therefore you have to pick your route carefully when riding any of these. The new Sustrans designed route from Abbey Park to Syston includes many obstacles that you can’t get through or past except on a solo bike, even then many of them will require you to dismount.
This means that if you are riding anything other than a standard unloaded mountain bike you need to know the routes well so that you can pick your way around the things our infrastructure “designers” put in your way. Our “designers” claim to be thinking of a family of four all riding bikes but they fail to consider how the family get to that point. They don’t think about how the family get to the point where the children can ride independently.
When our children were small and growing at various times we used childseats, we used trailers, we used trailer bikes, we used tandems, we used recumbent trikes (solo and tandem). The routes I can take around crap cycle facilities as an adult riding a cargobike who is used to riding on the road are not available to the families with children (the route I came home through Thurmaston village being a good example).
So anyway I took the only practicable route open to me and got home without any problems. All in all just over 12.5 miles.
A trip that would have been impossible by car and which the “designers” of cycle infrastructure have tried to make as difficult as possible is still only possible by bike. Not only are trips like this only possible by bike but attempting them by car contributes to congestion, pollution, obesity, depletion of limited resources and transport poverty.
On the flip side what is also worth remembering is that so called solutions to help the retail sector that include a focus on cars would have failed today. Free parking in Leicester would not have gained business for two city shops and one out of town store. Instead an investment in cycling infrastructure that means more people feel safe cycling would mean more people with more money to spend locally and the ability to do it. Side benefits would include a healthier and happier population.