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Hedge-blog: is a cyclist still a cyclist without a bike?

19th April 2014


As HedgehogCycling reports today in Tour de France news, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) is asking people not to take bikes on trains during the 3 days of the Tour de France in the UK. This is unfortunate, to say the least.

The Tour de France is a cycling event (revelation!), which is going to attract cycling fans, who are usually cyclists themselves. If you're spending a few days or a weekend watching the race, it's natural to want to have your bike with you. Besides, there'll be road closures during the Tour, but the intention is to allow cyclists to ride to viewing points after the roads have closed to vehicles. This makes it doubly unfortunate if fans can't have their bikes with them. 

The effect of discouraging people from taking bikes on trains will be to persuade more people to drive. That's not a good thing. The roads are going to be horrendous anyway. I'm already picturing the gridlock in Harrogate on the afternoon of Friday 4th July 2014. It'll be like the Great Yorkshire Show times seven - awful. Alternatives to driving should be made attractive, but this is the opposite.

The message from Conrad Haigh, ATOC's Head of Integrated Transport, is not what you'd expect to hear from a head of integrated transport. 'Cyclists are being asked to take a sensible approach and avoid bringing a bike on any train that might be busier than usual because of the Tour de France but, if it's unavoidable, they should allow extra time to make their journey.'

I suggest that it would be much better for the train companies take a sensible approach, and provide enough capacity for bikes, even on busy trains. They would then be enabling integrated transport, not preventing it. 

What does the last part of the quote, about allowing extra time for the journey, mean? I think that Mr Haigh has tried to make his words so anodyne and uncontroversial, that he has also almost sucked the meaning out of them. However, he appears to be saying that passengers with bikes may not be allowed to board a busy train, and will be forced to wait for another, later, less busy service, assuming there is one. Again, that's not great. Instead of making excuses in advance, maybe the train companies should use the time remaining before the Tour to make plans to meet demand. 

Finally, an existential question arises from Mr Haigh's words. He conjures the concept of cyclists without bikes, but is a person without a bike still a cyclist?

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