Let’s follow trailblazers Cambridge, and allow York cyclists to saddle up in the city centre

11 Jun 2012 @ 6.27 am
| Opinion

Is this how York's Olympic Torch cycling escort might look at Micklegate Bar? (hint: no)
Cyclists are to accompany the Olympic flame round York. Local bike blogger and author Rob Ainsley might be one of them…

On 19 June, the Olympic Torch will come through York.

Of course, city centre pubs are one of our specialities. How many of our alleged 365 it will go past I don’?t know, but I do know that if the flame goes out, there?’ll be plenty of smokers outside them who can offer a light.

And we?re adding another York speciality: the flame will be accompanied by cyclists along Tadcaster Road.

The only other place allowed to have a peloton behind the torch is Cambridge. If the flame goes out there en route, there’?ll be no shortage of physics postdocs offering to help relight it in a more hi-tech way.

Cambridge is even more of a cycling town than York – 28 per cent of trips are done on two wheels compared to 19 per cent here.

A lone cyclist on Sidney Street, Cambridge. Photograph: Google
I’?ve lived there too, and while I have a soft spot for it ?– where pubs with a big screen here show Sky Sports, pubs there show the BBC Proms ?– you can’?t get decent fish and chips for love nor money.

What?’s the use of having a buoyant science industry, Dutch-level cycling culture and the world’?s number one university, without decent haddock and mushy peas, eh?

But maybe we can learn something from Cambridge. Recently they?’ve let cyclists use their pedestrianised centre.

Despite dire warnings from some, the predicted bloodbath has not materialised. And Cambridge doesn?’t let motor vehicles into there. At all.

Compare that with York, where cyclists are told to get off and walk, but then, along with the other pedestrians, have to weave in and out of cars, vans and lorries all with, of course, perfectly valid excuses to be there: deliveries, disabled badges, sorry officer I got lost, I no speaky Inglish.

Cambridge’?s centre isn’?t as pretty as ours, but it?’s nicer because it?’s not as motorised. Proper pedestrianisation, with cycle access, works for them; why not us?

So, don’?t expect to see any cyclists following the flame through our cobbled medieval centre. They’?ll only be allowed as far as Micklegate Bar.

And if you ask me, telling 200 locals with bikes to stop riding next to a Wetherspoons, where the only bike parking is a pole with the No Parking sign on it, is rather asking for trouble…

Rob Ainsley is the author of 50 Quirky Bike Rides…in England and Wales. To read more of Rob’s adventures on two wheels, check out his Real Cycling blog