Yesterday morning I needed all the courage and motivation that I could find. The thermometer read 5°C, the wind was howling and the rain was lashing down. I rolled down the road with it stinging my face to meet my brother. He was late so I took refuge in a bus shelter hoping he would not turn up. Unfortunately he did and was not about to turn back. We headed west with the south-south-westerly doing its best to put is off. Littlehampton, Arundel, Whiteways, Coldwaltham all rolled by and the precipitation gradually stopped. In fact, inside our protective layers of waterproof tights and jackets we were actually warm, enjoying ourselves and really happy to be out. Living in the ever changing climate of this country I felt proud to be British.
That Sunday morning, early and in those weather conditions you can imagine that the roads were really quiet. Very few vehicles passed us in either direction. So it baffles me that despite the lack of traffic three drivers should chose to pass us so close that we could almost feel the swish of their wing mirrors. Why? Is it a British thing? Last year we rode 1,600kms through France and Spain and one, yes, one vehicle in 10 days made a close pass! What is more, some of the roads we were on were busy national routes. Yesterday 50kms, no traffic and three desperately close passes!
Are we proud to be unique among European countries in our approach to other road users?
To make matters worse this aspect of British culture is amplified in West Sussex and, worse still, Worthing. Despite the county having double the number of KSI (Killed or Seriously Injured) compared to other counties and Worthing with five times as many as Brighton (five times the size) the County Councillors all still think that prioritising motor vehicles over other forms of transport is the way ahead. If you don’t believe me ask your local County Councillor (find your councillor here). Of course there are many that will answer you with some wonderfully motivating rhetoric but do not be fooled. Ask them what tangible thing the County has done for cyclist in recent years; and I don’t mean the odd leisure routes in the countryside. With the attitude of the government and in particular our current group of County and Borough Councillors towards motor vehicle use it is unlikely that British culture will change in my life time. In fact if the elected members of our governing bodies have their way my life time could me a matter of weeks. My father is 88 and still playing tennis. I want to beat him in the old blokes fitness competition. Let’s hope that I can.
Are you really proud to be British?
For crying out! Kids can’t even cycle school. What sort of a country is this?
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P.S. If you are a county or borough councillor or are a friend of one and you disagree with the sentiment expressed here, let me know what has been done for Sussex cyclists and I will make sure that they are publicised all over the web and social media.