Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford gets passionate
The sun came out for a few glorious late Summer days last week and I felt the old sap rising one last time. Time for a burst of “Two Wheels Good – Four Wheels Bad” to transport myself around Beverley before winter weather forces me to oil my aging joints with liniment or suchlike evil-smelling substances.
“No, it’s not me – it’s my knees,” I protest helplessly as people cast disapproving sniffs in my general direction, but no one seems to believe me.
Anyway, with all pains forgotten I found myself at the traffic lights of North Bar, looking across at a fellow biker. He was smiling – so was I. Feeling good: feeling fit: feeling young again.
“Fancy a race?” I shouted and he nodded. Tensely we waited for the lights to change and… Oh, I know you’ll think I was foolish to try such a stunt but I don’t care. The microsecond the green light showed I was off and in the lead, all thoughts of other road users and even commonsense forgotten. It was me against him – two males full of the joys of the challenge.
I got it right and I was ahead. Two, three, four seconds and then he shot past me into the distance, never to be seen again.
Well, he was on a 750cc Kawasaki or similar motorbike and I was only pedalling, so the result wasn’t surprising. Still, it had been harmless fun while it lasted and, as I subsequently realised, hadn’t caused any problems to the motorised road users behind us. Quite the reverse in fact – instead of being held up behind me as per normal when I wobble my way through the single lane of North Bar I was through it like a (fat) flash, leaving the four wheeled transport still changing from neutral to first as I cleared the crossing.
You will be aware of course that, as a cyclist, I rarely think about other road users anyway. This tendency not to consider their convenience when accelerating from a junction is hardly surprising. I am concentrating on my own health, saving the planet and avoiding huge potholes and puddles near the verge. I may pay attention to other wheeled devices when there is some concern about them crashing into me, but normally I can continue serene in my wibbley wobbly world.
However I do drive a car as well, at which point I transform from Mister Pedal Power to Mister Pedal-to-the-Metal. From this viewpoint cyclists are things to be tolerated at best, avoided at worst and generally ignored at all other times. A very practical demonstration of casual Anglican Christianity in action, some might say.
However it’s not always possible to maintain this lofty indifference and there are areas where conflict rages just below the surface. This is the point where two sides appear to be consciously jostling for position – in some cases literally ‘crossing the line’. At that point, naturally, you take sides and, predictably, that side is normally the one that you’re already on.
It happens in all areas of life. The other week there was a rehearsal for a concert in the Minster and one of the soloists wanted to be on a platform for part of the performance. “I’ll do it,” he volunteered quickly.
I frowned and coughed significantly, managing to convey in that one brief exchange that: “you concentrate on scraping those bits of string together and making a noise. Just leave all the complicated spatial rearranging of wood, tubular metal and holey plastic to the experts, if you don’t mind.” He capitulated immediately.
In the case of the conflict between bikers and drivers I find this battlefront especially marked on the road between Woodmansay and Kingswood.
Now some people may not have noticed but, over the past few months, a new cycle-friendly asset has been created. One (or probably many, many more) deeply caring individuals or teams within County Hall were worried – oh so intensely worried – about the safety of cyclists and determined to do something about it in the part of the globe controlled by ERYC. This care, concern, worry: even pathological fear perhaps, has driven them to great achievements – they endured hundreds of hours of planning, meetings, minuting, lobbying, persuading, arguing to win their arguments. Imagine the celebrations when the go-ahead was given for thousands of pounds of ratepayers’ money to be spent on white lines, notices, tarmac and new kerbs to create a pathway that can be shared by cyclists and pedestrians – keeping both of them safely separated from the automotive peril.
And yet, as I drive along this route at 30 miles per hour or whatever speed limit has been imposed in the last week I am still delayed by militant two-wheelers defiantly sticking to the motorists’ section of the road and completely ignoring their own, entirely empty, stretch of pathway.
I know the basic Christian message is one of tolerance, of living together, of integrating but, sadly, in this case I think segregation is the right idea – especially if ERYC’s Highways division keeps imposing speed restrictions as they have been over the last few years.
Because, very soon, the bike lane will be the faster one anyway.
A CD with a selection of 13 of the best, read by Neil Pickford himself, is available at the Minster shop, price £5 –or email mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org for details.