The Tour is Heading for France a year after it graced our Town. Chris Froome looked good as he eased into yellow yesterday something that never really happened last year. Early days though and a long way to Paris.
This year we had to make do with a Big Bike Bash and a grand day out it was. Lots of bikes, beer and a chance to ride the finish of the Tour as a family this was great. It was largely the work of Richard Cooper, HBC council Leader and I congratulated him. Anything that keeps riding bikes in Harrogate on the agenda and keeps memories of the Tour alive is good with me.
We rode up from Starbeck as a family. Actually two families, some friends joined us. The route we took was tortuous so as to avoid the Knaresborough Road. With a six year old its a no go really even if you are heading to a bike event where some roads are closed. We took the cycle paths across the Stray pausing only to try and get across Wetherby Road by the Hospital. There was supposed to be a Toucan (bike Pelican ) crossing here it was funded and everything but Richard Cooper got it stopped.
It is really dodgy as a crossing to be honest. I ended up wheeling out into the road and hoping the cars would stop rather than hit me, they did but I got a few looks. At least the kids got over safely.
Towards the end of the Stray the cycleways finish. We continued on the Stray on footpaths because well, 300 yards on the Main Road would have been bonkers with the kids. Then we ended up on pavements for the last 100 metres until we got to the road closures. It just seemed better than trying to protect a six year old in 3 lanes of traffic.
More folk are definitely on their bikes post Tour in town, often on our car centric road network. I guess these are the brave, the competent, road warriors like myself. What about those that might but dare not? I have been working with lots of those recently people who want to ride a bike but simply are too scared so they get back in their cars.
I don't see why all the paths on the Stray can't be shared use. The ones we have work well. Recently almost a year to the day after the Tour came Harrogate Borough Council have painted NO CYCLING signs on the paths that are pedestrian only. Lots of people seem miffed I wonder if as many are delighted?
I will probably ignore these No Cycling instructions. As I ignored the ones that used to be on what are now the Stray shared use Cycleways. I will I'm sure ignore the signs when I think it is safer than riding the roads. Especially when I have the kids in tow. I will ride carefully, I will be polite to pedestrians and I will ride pretty slowly, but I will ride. I may get fined, I might even get arrested. The publicity would be great to be honest. I wonder if lots of other people though will heed the signs and think, well I can't ride the roads you know what, sod it I will get in the car down to Montepelier it is less faff.
If my Council can't work in everyone's best interest when it has money to spend. How can I believe that it is actually interested in making this town one where riding bikes is a sensible choice. Everyone is rightly worried about the (car) traffic in town but unless we can help people to make choices other than taking the car the traffic will not go away. I drive a car, I want quiet roads too, but there is no traffic control fairy.
We have a Sustainable transport Champion in Rebecca Burnett I like Rebecca but she seems to think defending the status quo is more important than actively getting more people on their bikes. I disagree, no surprise there.
Whilst I like Richard and Rebecca and think they are good people. I am worried that the innate conservation (small c) of Harrogate means they are too scared to do all they could to make this an even nicer town to ride around and that is a tragedy. All I have to offer as a contrary view is my whinging and my occasional middle class mild dissent. I doubt that will be enough.