Saturday, 24 May 2014

Bank holiday weekend – a few early morning thoughts

Caribou crossing – an interesting sculpture in Indianapolis, IN. USA
I'm pleased with the interest shown in my blog by the folks of Indianapolis (see previous post for more details). I'm reading David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries at the moment – it's not my main book, but I occasionally pick it up when I want to chill out a little as it is a very chilled and laid back creation, ideal for a sunny day accompanied by a glass of Cabernet. I'm about half way through it (on the chapter about Buenos Aires) but this morning I flicked back to the beginning to find a quote that the guys in Indianapolis might not necessarily agree with (although the fact that the Pacers' Bike Share scheme there is only a few weeks old might mean that Byrne is right).

Byrne says that 'most US cities are not very bike friendly' and adds that they are not very pedestrian friendly either. 'They're car friendly – or at least they try very hard to be', he says and being as he's an American who lives in an American city, he's probably right, but that makes the two bike share schemes I've tried in North America (in Montreal and San Antonio) worthy enterprises – and here's hoping there will be more in the not-too-distant future. I think they work in some cities and not in others.
A dedicated cycle lane on the Indianapolis bike share scheme
Do they work in London? Well, I would avoid riding in London at all costs regardless of the type of bike available. It's simply not safe and there have been many media reports of fatal clashes with lorries. City cycling only works if specific travelways can be established, like in Indianapolis, or, failing that, if the traffic, by and large, isn't that heavy (like in San Antonio and Montreal). In Montreal, for  instance, I remember standing in the middle of the road to take a photograph of the distinct lack of traffic on a Saturday morning around 0900hrs – it wouldn't be possible in London. Likewise in San Antonio. But in Essen, Germany, there's an element of taking my life into my own hands as the situation there is 'here's a bike, provided by the council' but that's it, you're on your own, sharing space with the traffic and it's a similar story in London. Travel to Milton Keynes and you'll find dedicated cycle lanes, similar to those in Amsterdam and other parts of Holland where city planners took the bicycle into consideration.

Bridge over the canal in Indianapolis – all very pleasant
Here in the UK, bad weather was promised this bank holiday weekend and bad weather was received in the form of rain. I awoke early on Saturday morning expecting a ride to Westerham in Kent, with Andy and Phil, but the rain was hammering down outside and was still doing so around 0600hrs so I sent out the abort text. On and off it rained all day, with little patches of sunshine here and there, and by early evening it was quite pleasant. It was one of those deceptive days. Had I woken up to a spot of sunny weather I might have gone out and then taken a soaking en route, but the morning was constant rain and the patchiness didn't start occuring until later in the day.

Now, sitting here in the conservatory at 0641hrs on Sunday, the plan is to ride out with Phil, possibly the slow way to the Tatsfield bus stop. Andy's out of circulation now until next week. His only opportunity for a ride would have been yesterday (Saturday).

A map showing the various bike stations dotted around Indianapolis
Things have conspired against us and we haven't been cycling a lot recently. Mainly it's been me travelling (I was in Indianapolis for the best part of 10 days if you include the getting back) and then it was the poor weather. Oddly, it's a been a time of extremes as over the Easter holidays I managed roughly 10 consecutive days of riding, all of which are detailed on this blog (just scroll back and you'll find the relevant posts).
Indianapolis' fantastic yellow bicycles
The blinds are down so I can't see the garden from where I'm sitting, although I can detect that there's a breeze as I can see the tops of some shrubs swinging from side-to-side. Still, as long as it doesn't rain it'll be alright.

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