For many reasons I always ride early in the morning. If you have ever read or heard the way that I describe the trails and roads of Sussex you would think that I lived in a utopian riding paradise. The early morning sun always seems to shine whilst the masses snooze under their duvets. The dawn raid walkers, cyclists, equestrians and doggie people are all courteous and friendly. Drivers just don’t seem to bother in the early hours. Bliss, peace, quiet and safe, the Sussex hills on or off road are what cycling is made for…. early in the morning. Not so later in the day.
Recently I took some time off and enjoyed just chilling out in a blustery British summer. I did do some riding. Oh dear! Riding during the day is awful. My private and exclusive South Downs was jammed with walkers, riders, campers, doggies and even cycle tourist away from their lowland northern European habitat. And all those quiet country roads had cars buzzing this way and that all in a desperate panic to get to wherever they wanted to as quickly as possible.
On one of these rides we met a family from the Netherlands: Mum, Dad, 6 year old and 2 year old all travelling on two bikes, one tag-a-long bike and a trailer. They were headed to Plymouth. It was 17:30hrs and I was ashamed to be British. We took pity on this adventurous family and loaded them up into the van and safely delivered them to their camp site. They had planned to cycle the A283 to Washington from Steyning at commuter death hour!
I have asked councillors and officer in West Sussex County Council what they intend to do when the number of cyclists gets past the level of being a tourist attraction to a road obstruction. I believe that the official view is for the aforementioned folks is to collectively put their heads in the sand and hope that cycling pedals away to bother another county.
Oop north where cycling has been a part of the infrastructure and is imbedded into local culture the bike and car seem to cohabit in unison. However, as the cycling tsunami spreads south to the homecounties’ residents don’t quite know what’s hitting them. We need to keep an eye on Surrey and watch to see how they deal with it as this ever increasing wave is now reaching the shores of West Sussex. At the moment there seems to no plan to either: accommodate, control or encourage the shared use of the roads.
Whether we stay in or out of Europe the one inevitable change to euroism will be the use of the bike. Despite lack of government support be it local or national the bike is coming and unless we act now this wonderful and efficient form of transport is going to wreck it for the drivers. So motorists, if you have any sense and you want to continue enjoying your car your absolute priority now should be to lobby your councillors and MPs to invest in cycling infrastructure otherwise you’ll have to sit there and make the most of looking up my lycra clad arse!
Here’s the route. Despite my moaning about the roads of Sussex it wasn’t too bad and Janet who is scared to death of any car did not complain too much. Its worth a go, 40km, quiet roads and a visit to Stan’s Bike Shack