Lockdown in the Saddle

It feels wrong to admit it but in some ways I quite enjoy lockdown, notably the quieter roads and chance to slow down.

Less traffic on my local streets also means that I feel more confident to make more journeys with my little boy on my bike. Despite being a fairly confident and regular bicycle user, the busy roads remain the main thing that discourage me and many others from cycling with children.

Over the last few weeks we’ve had great fun together on my bike. Every drop-off and pick-up from the childminder’s has been another mini-adventure. He loves watching the world go by and occasionally bounces to encourage me to go faster.

Generally speaking, we’ve also enjoyed such positive exchanges with others when we’re cycling together. I hadn’t realised that a baby on a bike was such a spectacle!

‘That kid is having a great time, he’s loving life!’ commented one of the teenagers smiling from a park bench. An older couple waved hello to us as we passed them on a ‘shared path’ (that’s a path designed for people walking and cycling). A man on his way home from work admired our travel arrangement ­– with baby, mum and baggage all neatly balanced on two wheels.

On some of our rides we’ve tried out some of the council’s recent upgrades to cycle infrastructure – on Marlborough Road and the Old Town Railway Path.

Admittedly I was very cynical when I first heard about them; however, to my relief, they did make me feel a little bit safer. I felt like I had the same right to be on the road as any other user (and rightly so). These painted white lines offer no physical protection from motor vehicles and still enable vehicles to park and drive in, but they are a positive start.

I understand it presented a good opportunity for the council. Whilst I’m just a little resentful at the relatively few pennies being spent on walking and cycling when compared to the millions that continue to be spent to our ever expanding highway network, understandably the local authority wants to ‘test the waters’ before making their case for more permanent, protective infrastructure.

Similarly, the recent re-surfacing and drainage works to the Old Town Railway track has been encouraging. It’s now usable year-round for more people, particularly those who aren’t such big fans of being caked in mud!

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that by the time this is published we’ll have received news on whether the council’s second bid for access improvements to the Old Town Railway Path were successful. Currently it is mostly accessed via steep, unsurfaced or stepped paths. Further improvements could really make a difference.   

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