Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cycling at Night

Yes I did cycle to my meeting in Cambridge last night and yes it did rain - in both directions. When I was a schoolboy I used to cycle around 1.5m/2Km to school and remember well the feeling of sitting in class with wet trouser legs - it was part of growing up. I don't think it occurred to me to have a spare pair of trousers available. I guess I must have always had a coat though for the worst of the rain, because I only remember the discomfort of wet legs. Well that is what happened yesterday. I set off with a pair of leggings in my bag, just in case! It was not raining but after a while there was some rain in the air - but not enough to really justify stopping and putting up with the faff of getting some leggings on. The trouble is that after a while and before you know it you get wet enough that there is little point in putting on the leggings. At one point it stopped raining and my trousers started to dry - but as I neared my destination it rained again and heavier so I sped up. The downside is that then you get hot and sweaty. So I spent the first hour of the meeting steaming slightly as I dried out. It is not that bad though really.

On my way in I did roughly count the number of cyclists that passed in the opposite direction and how many had lights and how many did not. I reckon I passed around 100 cyclists and around 10% did not appear to have lights (or at least lights that were switched on). All the cyclists outside the centre had lights though on - it was only once I got into Cambridge that I noticed "no light" cyclists. As I was not moving too quickly it was not too bad, except when cycling through the Midsummer Common area - then when navigating small gates with cattle grids they (no-light cyclists) create some unpredictability.

I think I am more tolerant when driving a car than when cycling. After all someone's foolishness will only dent my car (and being a Landrover is likely to dent their car/vehicle more), but the same minor incident for a cyclist can be very painful - I know having been knocked off my bicycle in daylight by a car driver who just failed to see me, in fluorescent yellow!!! Having said that it still surprises me how many cyclists (10% in my "survey") there were without lights.

On the way back it started raining again and made me wonder if those people who have responsibility for the specification of some of the cycle paths have ever tried cycling at night in the rain. I have two bright front lights and still find it tricky. Along Riverside in Cambridge they have poles in the middle of the road to stop cars and vans from using it as a through route - they have reflective markings - except for a pole with a sign? There are many dents/kerbs in the road that in daylight are no problem, in the dark are tricky and in the wet and dark are really quite unpleasant.

I think that our Council Leaders should lead from the front and see what it is really like to get around by bicycle - perhaps they do of course and perhaps I am a wimp.

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