Shy bairns get nowt


If you follow me on Twitter you may have seen that I had issues with a Stagecoach bus driver on Tuesday. I reported him to Stagecoach and to the police. By Thursday evening Stagecoach had written to me saying they had conducted an investigation, the driver would be disciplined and the company would be “issuing a reminder to all drivers of the importance of observing designated areas for cyclists.”

I didn’t want to press charges on the driver, but I wanted it officially noted that he felt it was OK to use his bus as a shaking fist. A work-based warning shot across his bows may make him a more careful driver in the future.

He had used his bus to cut me up on John Dobson Street in Newcastle. When I tackled him about this and suggested he might have had deficient eyesight – his bus twice encroached in a cycle reservoir – he got shirty and shouty. Fearing further aggression, perhaps with an accelerator pedal, I took a photograph of the driver.

He had a bus full of passengers but he got out of his vehicle and had a go at me. Another cyclist was in the green cycle box beside me and volunteered to be a witness, should I wish to lodge a complaint.

I’ve never complained to a bus company so had no idea whether the matter would be ignored or investigated. It was investigated, and promptly. I read on the Twittervine that not all bus companies take such matters as seriously as Stagecoach but if you’ve been on the receiving end of some dodgy “professional” driving it’s definitely worth reporting it to the driver’s employer.

Here’s the email I got from the managing director of Stagecoach North East:

Further to your correspondence on Tuesday 6 December, I can confirm that we have now carried out an investigation into the issue you raised. This included viewing CCTV footage taken from the vehicle involved.

We expect extremely high standards of our driving team. If we have evidence of poor driving we will put in place re-training or, in serious cases, take disciplinary action.

Following our investigation into this matter, we can confirm that the driver on this occasion did not meet the high standards we expect of our staff.  I would like to apologise for this. As a result, I can assure you that the driver will now be dealt with through our disciplinary procedure.

In addition, we are also in the process of issuing a reminder to all drivers of the importance of observing designated areas for cyclists.

I would like to reassure you that the safety of our employees, passengers and other road users is our absolutely priority. We have a comprehensive training programme for our professional driving team that is amongst the best in the bus industry. This includes extensive training before any driver gets behind the wheel as well as on-going training. This includes specific guidance on ensuring the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and other road traffic.

Our 8,000 buses in the UK cover millions of miles every week and the vast majority of journeys run smoothly. However, with such a high volume of journeys there can be incidents involving our services. While some of these are caused by the actions of our drivers, it is fair to say that some incidents can also be due to the actions of other road users.

I hope we have demonstrated by our swift response and investigation that we are a responsible company, and that where cases such as this are brought to our attention, we take them extremely seriously.

I’d like to teach the world to cycle in perfect harmony

I’d like to build to world a home, and furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees and snow white turtle doves
I’d like to teach the world to cycle in perfect harmony
I’d like to buy to world a bike, and keep it company

I’d like to teach the world to cycle in perfect harmony
I’d like to buy to world a bike, and keep it company

It’s the real thing[bike], what the world wants today[bicycling]

It’s the real thing[bike], what the world wants today[bicycling]

It’s the real thing…!

Lyrics above were lightly edited from a song produced for a TV advert promoting sugared water , 1971

Life lesson from the Netherlands: don’t major on bikes, major on people

Cambridge April  9268

I’m in favour of separated paths for cyclists. I’ve been hammering on about it for the best part of 25 years, with editorials on the subject in the mags I founded such as BicycleBusiness (in issue number one, August 1999, I waxed lyrical about the “tendril-like spread of cycle infrastructure”) and On Your Bike, the non-Lycra magazine for newbie cyclists. More currently, I have an 8-page feature in the second issue of Cyclingmobility magazine on the sometimes excellent bike infrastructure in Taiwan.


But ‘build it and they will come’ is only a part of the solution to getting more Brits on bikes and it’s very possibly not even the biggest part. The perception of cycling as a sweaty, slow, outgroup thing to do is a huge barrier to cycling in Britain, and building a hyper-connected, Dutch-style cycle infrastructure, door to door, still wouldn’t get Brits on bikes en masse. Of course, more people would start cycling if road danger was removed by physical separation but probably not in the numbers that would be required to satisfy Government return-on-investment equations.

When new roads are built, cars quickly clog up these roads. Similar doesn’t happen with cycle infrastructure in the UK, even high quality cycle infrastructure. Partly this is because even the best, protected facilities are short – and a network with gaps won’t be used as much, but a joined-up network can’t be built overnight – but it’s also because there are many other barriers to cycling. ‘Danger from motorised traffic’ is always close to the top of the list when folk are asked why they don’t cycle but there are many others on the list too, and some of them could be just as important.

In the US, grannies are being attracted to motorcycling in record numbers despite the dangers. Some even tote their grandchildren. They are far from blase about the danger but recognise that the trade-off is worth it.

Two of the fastest-growing segments of the motorcycling population are women and riders 55 and older.

Kathy Hilstein of Arroyo Grande is one of those new riders. She called herself a “back seat” rider until 18 months ago, when she bought a Harley-Davidson Street Glide three-wheeled cycle.

Now, the petite and youthful 52-year-old grandmother rides daily, including shopping trips and toting her 9-year-old grandson Cruz Sumner around the area.

“It’s my way to relax. It just takes away all of the stress,” she said, admitting she was terrified of motorcycles until she and fiancee Dave Cantua rented one a Hawaiian vacation.

Now it’s her favorite pastime, and she rides alongside Cantua, venturing as far as Laughlin, Nev.

“I try to be aware of my surroundings constantly, but it doesn’t keep me from riding,” she said, adding her bike gives her a new-found freedom. “I don’t like to wait until he gets off work to go riding.”

Now, if a US granny can get over her fear of riding a motorcycle on American roads, why wouldn’t a British granny get over her fears of riding a bicycle on British roads? It can’t just be because motorbikes are fast and can accelerate away from danger; this acceleration probably adds to the danger, motorcycling is far more dangerous than cycling.

Bit Zen, I know, but British grannies don’t ride bicycles because they don’t ride bicycles: the UK culture for riding bicycles was wiped out in the 1950s.

To rebuild that culture it will take separated bike paths, yes, but an awful lot more, too.

In 2009, Peter Zanzottera of UK transport consultancy Steer Davies Gleave told the Scottish Parliament: “People love cycling but hate cyclists.”

In the UK, and in many other countries, cyclists have a bad reputation. Cycling may be good for the economy, good for waistlines, good for unsnarling traffic, and good for the planet, but when a UK politician hears cyclists calling for dedicated infrastructure, nine times out of ten that politician pictures a cyclist running a red light, or buzzing pedestrians.

This is a mistaken perception but it’s a prevalent one. Cycling in the UK is perceived as – and is – tribal. In the Netherlands, there are lots of people on bicycles, not lots of people who would call themselves cyclists. For cycling to go mainstream in the UK, it needs to become more “normal”. This is already happening, albeit slowly.

London’s ‘Boris Bikes’ are being used by people who otherwise might have taken the Tube or a taxi. In Darlington, the Beauty and the Bike scheme (a scheme part-funded by the Bike Hub levy, of which I’m involved) is showing that cycling doesn’t have to be all about Lycra, testosterone and helmets. Yes, the teen girls in that Dutch bike scheme want bike paths (“It’s the Infrastructure, Stupid”) in Darlington but the very fact they are cycling in Darlington, despite the dire cycle infrastructure, is slowly creating a culture of everyday cycling in Darlington. It’s not just ‘safety in numbers’, it’s about making normal cycling visible, trendy even.

Because cyclists are inherently tribal, groups are solidifying, especially in the blogosphere: there are those who say cycle numbers will only increase if cyclists are separated from motorcars, and there are those who say cycling on roads is far from a danger-fest. Both groups are right. But both groups (of which there are many sub-divisions) are coming at this from the point of view – shock, horror – of cyclists. This isn’t always helpful because, well, cyclists aren’t exactly loved by mainstream British society.

To those who hate cyclists, calling for infrastructure to protect cyclists is like calling for nicer prison conditions for pedophiles. That’s a deeply shocking thing to say, and no doubt it will be plucked out of its context and quoted back at me, but we have to recognise we’re often despised to a degree out of all touch with reality. Even a picture of Kelly Brook riding a bike in a flouncy dress and heels can’t stop hate comments against cyclists in the Daily Fail.

Cambridge, King's College

If we’re hated, and our calls for infrastructure are going to continue to fall on deaf ears until our numbers increase, perhaps we could learn from what happened in the Netherlands? Not just by pointing our engineers and politicians to examples of great cycle infrastructure, but perhaps trimming back the cycling message altogether and going with a more broad-brush approach?

For instance, why do we feel there should be separated lanes just for cyclists? Why not also lanes for roller-bladers? Or pogo-stick users? Daft parallels, of course, but you have to put yourself into the shoes of a city planner or a politician. They get it in the neck about law-breaking cyclists, and to provide better conditions for cyclists – you know, who don’t pay for roads or bike lanes – is not something that will curry favour with the majority of their constituents.

Critically, increasing bike modal share will involve cyclists partnering with other groups. Other groups that also want cars tamed.

One of the reasons for the success of the automobile has always been the united front – at least in public – put on by what was once self-styled as Motordom and which we now know as the ‘motor lobby’. By singing from the same hymn sheet, the disparate parts of the motor lobby was able to steam-roller the not-at-all organised opposition.

By joining forces we could be stronger.

Tacking cycling aims to wider societal aims was one of the ways that cycling’s modal share was increased in the Netherlands. Post WWII cycle usage didn’t drop as far or as fast in the Netherlands as it dropped in countries such as the UK, but nevertheless, the writing was on the wall: cycle use was on the way out.

In the 1970s, the Stop de kindermoord campaign helped create an atmosphere in which Dutch politicians and town planners could do more for cyclists, arresting the decline. Stop de Kindermoord means ‘stop the child murder’. This was a safety campaign by a loose coalition of cycling groups but Stop de Kindermoord didn’t major on cycling. Its focus was on protecting children from harm, and that harm came mainly from motorcars. Tame the cars and children’s lives would be saved. Tame the cars and cycling is more pleasurable. Win/win. [There’s now a British, 2011, ‘Stop the Child Murder’ group. It’s on Facebook, naturally].

Likewise, the success of Sustrans in the UK, an organisation created by cyclists and largely still run by cyclists, can be attributed to its broad appeal. When it lobbies local Government or negotiates with landowners or goes cap in hand to grant making bodies for funds to extend the National Cycle Network, it doesn’t lead with its cycling credentials, it talks about routes for people, people on bikes, people in wheelchairs and people on foot.

Intelligently, like Stop de Kindermoord, Sustrans also pushes for better travel conditions for children. Which local politician could possibly argue against ‘safe routes to school’? By lobbying for routes that protect children, Sustrans is very successful at getting localised traffic calming. But schools are dotted here, there and everywhere. Join up the dots between schools and you have an urban cycle network. Sorry, an urban active travel network, designed for walkers, wheelchair users and, oh, coincidentally, a few cyclists.

Cycling groups who want to get more cycling in their locales need to buddy up with pedestrian groups, with wheelchair user groups, with child safety campaigners, with NIMBY organisations fighting urban sprawl. Don’t just fight for better conditions for child cyclists, fight for better conditions for all children. With cars tamed, human powered transport can flourish. And the taming is better done collectively rather than tribally.

Explicit encouragement for specific modes – the creation of dedicated infrastructure for cyclists, for instance – is important in some locations but it’s essential cars are tamed everywhere. Not every road needs a bike path, but every road needs slower, more carefully driven cars.

Be loud. Be proud. Stand up for cycling. But be aware that not everybody shares our passion. If we push for dedicated cycling infrastructure as the be all and end all of cycling promotion, we’ll achieve a lot less than if we had a broader objective, an objective shared with other, non-cycling, city dwellers.

Peddling press release has heart in the right place but…

Bike Parking by Peter Drew of Adelaide

It’s always good to see major bodies and charities plugging the pro-bicycle message but Heart Research UK may want to do a bit more, er, research before jumping on the pedal-powered bandwaggon. Full press release copied below.

For a start, it’s ‘pedalling’, not ‘peddling’. The latter means selling, place to place.

And the very first bit of advice is really going to encourage people to jump on their bikes, isn’t it?

“Always wear a helmet and long sleeved tops, as well as padding for elbows and knees to give protection.”

This advice is aimed at adults. As @MCRcycling says on Twitter: “It’s almost like they want to stay in business by putting people off bikes.”

Nor am I too keen on suggesting folks look for a bike at “car boot sales, second hand shops or on eBay.” I know I’m biased but perhaps suggesting calling in to a bike shop first might be better advice?

Other than that the rest of the press release is tickity boo.


Get peddling

As part of National Bike week 2011 (13-26 June), we’d like to encourage all workers to commute by bike. According to the British Medical Association, cycling 20 miles a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by 50% compared with those who don’t cycle at all. Regular cycling increases your heart rate which helps build fitness and stamina, promotes healthy cholesterol levels and lowers blood pressure. It also helps to decrease body fat and keep your waist measurement in check.

Your mental health will improve too as endorphins, the body’s natural happy hormones, are released, increasing your self-esteem and decreasing depression, anxiety and relieving stress. Cycling to work will ensure you arrive wide awake and be ready to take on the day’s challenges as well as allowing you to dodge rush hour traffic. It also offers huge environmental benefits and is much cheaper than using the car or public transport.

Here are some practical tips to get you peddling:

• always wear a helmet and long sleeved tops, as well as padding for elbows and knees to give protection

• invest in a foot pump and keep your tyres pumped up; test your brakes before setting off on the road

• always wear high visibility clothing or reflective strips so people can see you more easily

• ensure you have bright front and back lights for cycling in the dark or on a dull grey day

• hone your bicycle maintenance skills by going on an evening or weekend course

• cycling for long distances can leave you hungry so a hearty breakfast such as porridge or muesli will give you a good start. If you’re feeling peckish mid-morning, snack on fresh fruit, dried fruit, unsalted nuts or seeds

• take fresh clothing in a rucksack or keeping a spare set at work. Your organisation may even have shower facilities or be willing to invest in some

• get your employer involved in the tax efficient ‘Bike to Work Scheme’ to make cycling cost efficient for both you and them

• if you don’t have a bike hidden in the garage, look for one at car boot sales, second hand shops or on eBay

Put that bike to good use and enjoy being fitter by getting that heart pumping efficiently. Ditch the car, bus or train and get peddling – it’ll do your heart the world of good.

Etape Caledonia protestor believes race to be illegal

Etape de Caledonia Simon Willis

In my story on, Peter Hounam of ACRE (short for Anti-Closed Road Event) answered my email about his organisation’s opposition to the Etape Caledonia. But he didn’t answer all of the questions. Here they are:

Hi Peter

I’m doing a story on the Etape Caledonia. Would you mind answering a few questions?

1. You’ve been quoted saying local businesses are impacted by the rolling road closure. Is this not very much offset by the money spent in the local economy in the run up to the event, with many of the riders booking hotels and eating in restaurants etc? Your family’s coffee house may have even done a roaring trade because of all the cyclists (one on the link below said he bought chocolates… [NOTE: Peter Hounam’s son-in-law is a chocolate maker based in Grandtully on the route of the Etape Caledonia)

2. Do you believe the Etape Caledonia is a race for the majority of entrants? 

3. In what way do you believe the event to be illegal?

4. Clearly, highways are, by definition, thoroughfares for access, and closure of such rights of way is a restriction on free access. However, closure for the Etape Caledonia is for a limited time only. Road closures by themselves are not illegal: if two cars crashed head-on on the road through Grandtully, the police may temporarily suspend access on this road. What is the difference between these two types of temporary access restrictions?

5. I am aware of your background with the Sunday Times and the Vanunu expose and the budget leak etc. As an award-winning investigative journalist you have experience with taking on ‘the powers that be’ and winning. When and why do you think you will be successful in blocking the Etape Caledonia?

6. On The Courier website a commenter from Leeds said: “If the local people are so against it then who were all the lovely people stood by the roadside cheering, waving flags and playing the bagpipes?” What do you say to that? 

7. As a percentage, how many locals as a whole are against Etape Caledonia? How about tourism-related locals, how many B&B owners and hoteliers are against the Etape Caledonia?

His answer to these seven questions was:

“Please feel free to use what I said to the Courier. You should practice asking open not loaded questions. We shall be issuing our arguments on legality when ready but they do not have permission to race only to run a trial and it is no longer that for many participants. Why not investigate this yourself.  No more to add.”

The BikeBiz story has many more details. Pic by Simon Willis.

Partition is not a panacea

HGV and woman cyclist

I’d love to see a whole bunch of Dutch-style segregated cycle paths in the UK. Real ones, done to standard, not yer usual fob-offs.

But I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime, I’d love to see more cycling. Many advocates believe this won’t happen without protected, segregated cycle paths. If that’s the case, then we should just give up on cycling right now because even if the UK Government was an overnight convert to the sense of cycling, it would still take many years for the perfect infrastructure to be designed and built (and for the objections from motorists to be quelled).

It’s also worthwhile pointing out that the Netherlands – a wonderful cycling country because of its sustained efforts at encouraging two wheels over four – doesn’t have segregated cycle paths that go absolutely everywhere. Dutch cyclists still have to mix it with motorised vehicles at times. As this video shows, Dutch cyclists can also be knocked from their bikes by reckless, dangerous motorists:

The motorist who knocked the cyclists off their bikes on a road where cars and bicycles have to travel together was rightly villified. Sadly, that wouldn’t happen here.

Segregated bike lanes would have protected those Dutch cyclists from the monster pick-up but no Government is going to build as many bike paths as there are roads. Roads are highways we must not be shunted from.

Just because I don’t think UK politicians are ready to champion protected bicycle lanes, doesn’t mean I think mixing it with motorised traffic is pleasurable or desirable. I’d be mad not to want safe cycle routes. And such routes can be built.

In Seville, Spain, a 120km network of segregated bike lanes were recently built over a period of three years and by the end of those three years cycle trips went from 6000 to 60,000 trips per day. The segregated lanes were brought into fruition by the Infrastructures for Sustainability department, a part of the Seville City Council. The template for the new segregated infrastructure was developed from Seville’s Steering Plan for Bicycles (2007-2010).

Today, in Seville, 7 percent of all journeys are made by bicycle, a rise from 2 percent before infrastructure investment was made. 30 percent of those attracted to start cycling switched from driving cars.

Seville also created a bike share program, SEVici, provided by JC Decaux as per in other cities. These Velib-style rental bikes get a lot of use because of the protected bicycle lanes.

Because of the success of its segregated bicycle network, Seville was selected as the venue for the cycle advocacy conference, Velo-city, this year staged March 23-25th.

“In a very short time, we have combined our economic efforts with a firm, decisive policy aimed at developing road interventions, sectional programmes and strong policies to foster the use of bicycles as a healthy and sustainable means of transport with a positive impact on both the individuals involved and on society in general. There is no going back.We proved that it is possible to prioritize in favour of sustainable transport and make a significant contribution to the necessary battle against climate change.”
José Antonio García Cebrián, member of the City Council of Seville and director of Velo-city 2011

Top marks to Seville for showing it can be done. But segregation alone is not enough. Seville’s Bicycle Plan also contains many ‘softer’, pro-cycling measures. These measures should not be sidelined by those believing UK politicians will be converted to the cycling cause by the power of logic and common sense (and templates from other cities).

Dreaming of a brighter future is necessary but pushing for segregation as the number one solution to getting more people cycling is not something that helps us right this second in time. I want to see more people cycling now and – until all the magical bike paths are built – work on getting a whole variety of ‘go by bike’ messages out there.

I’ve created smartphone apps (iPhone and Android) which direct newbie cyclists on to less busy roads, and oftentime imperfect cyclepaths.

I’ve helped make funding decisions on which cycling projects should get Bike Hub levy cash (the Beauty and the Bike project for young women on Dutch bikes in Darlington one of them). I’ve travelled with MPs and Lords on the All Party Parliamentary Cycling group to work out how to get more people cycling.

I’ve created ‘how to’ videos for new cyclists, including the one below.

In the 1990s I published a quarterly magazine called On Your Bike which was specifically targeted at new and returning cyclists; more recently I wrote a book to get new people to consider cycling to work. The online Bike to Work Book has had nearly 300,000 reads and downloads. I expect many of the readers are new to cycling, and I hope some of them were encouraged to cycle to work from reading the book.

An article from a proof of the expanded and revised 2011 version of the book is embedded below. Click on the ‘expand’ option to read it in full-screen and hit the right-hand arrow to flip the page. The article is a shortened and edited version of a article which gets some cycle advocates hot under the collar, partly because I say I want to keep riding on the road as an absolute right.

It’s a case of ‘be careful what you wish for.’ The addition of cycle lanes in the UK can sometimes make conditions worse for cyclists. Drivers both love and hate cycle lanes. They love them because such lanes are perceived to be a way of shunting cyclists out of the way; they hate them because (a) they think they pay for them with “their road tax” ( is another one of my little projects) and (b) because cyclists don’t always use them (for the obvious reasons we’re all familiar with).

In a Department for Transport research document full of stand-out quotes, this is worth highlighting:

“In practice, cycling infrastructure may not be designed to tackle problems of road sharing at all, but as part of efforts to promote cycling. Since one of the major barriers to cycling is the behaviour of [motorists], one natural response is to focus on providing ways for cyclists to avoid traffic – in line with this avoiding cyclist logic. However, as we have seen, this may run the risk of delegitimising the presence of cyclists on the road in the eyes of [motorists]. It is at least theoretically possible, that is, that one could end up making the barrier to cycling – the behaviour of [motorists] – worse.”

Bicycle Anatomy for Beginners from carltonreid on Vimeo.

Five minute video which lovingly zooms into bike parts, and names them. “Watch this guide and you’ll be talking bike in 5 minutes.” The ‘bespoke’ soundtrack was made using bike parts (spokes, gear shifting, disc brake rotor twanging), recorded in my garage and then made into music by Greg Johnston. It’s bike tech techno: I’ve called it ‘Bong. Psst. Twang. Whirr. Psst.’

Bottlenecks ahead, even for Hoverboards

Millfield House open again  13397 - Version 2

So, Philip ‘Hoverboard’ Hammond has got his wish. More tarmac; more expensive train journeys; subsidies for electric cars.

Up to 500,000 public sector employees might lose their jobs but at least those who can afford £30,000 e-cars will get sweeteners.

The Comprehensive Spending Review is light on details (especially the devilish ones) and we’re to expect expanded comments from Department chiefs soon. Hoverboard Hammond will spell out his cut-backs and new-builds next week.

I shouldn’t imagine he’ll mention the abolition of Cycling England. No doubt he’d rather cycling was in another Department; Health maybe or Sport. Why should it be in Transport, he must reckon, cycling is a mode of another age.

Electric cars. For Hammond, there’s a form of transport that’s going places. Except that it isn’t. Coal-powered electric cars are roughly the same shape and size as standard cars. Electric vehicles are no answer to congestion.

The Government’s main answer to congestion is to spend precious resources on dualling a number of roads, widening the M25 from junctions 16 to 25 and 27 to 30; and to allow even more hard-shoulder running on a bunch of motorways.

Predict and Provide is back with a vengeance. I thought we were meant to be cost-cutting?

The Comprehensive Spending Review would have been an ideal opportunity to reign in King Car. But not with Hoverboard Hammond in charge. He wants more roads so he can prowl them in his e-Jag.

But, again, he won’t get far.

A tarmac-fixated Government could quadruple the width of every motorway but that won’t cure congestion. Quite apart from the fact that such road building only encourages new journeys, and more cars, there’s a basic flaw in the “road improvements” argument. Building wider motorways won’t decrease journey times because, for the most part, people aren’t driving to and from motorway service stations, they’re driving via cities.

There’s no room to expand city roads. Bigger motorways cause bigger bottlenecks once cars venture off the motorways.

In ten years time, the Government of the day will scratch its head and wonder why the roads are more gridlocked than ever. “But we spent billions on widening roads,” ministers will bleat. “How could congestion get worse?”

The current lot even got rid of Cycling England so there wouldn’t be a quango promoting city journey alternatives.

This is a Government that promises to get more people on bikes and on public transport but will only splash the cash on cars: while the £5000 e-bribe gets prime position in the 105-page Comprehensive Spending Review there’s no mention of the new Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

The Campaign for Better Transport believes the LSTF will get £560m over four years but this pot will be fought over by cycling, buses and other forms of local transport. £560m (divided by four) out of an annual budget of £30bn is shockingly low.

Civilise the car!

Driving while distracted with cellphone

“The car’s high speed, particularly relative to walking, creates an aggressiveness that must be constrained. Certainly it has not been possible to rely on the self-restraint of the individual motorist, whose motoring decision-making is usually singularly self-centred.

“For a while it was thought that simply providing more and more street space was the solution. But this has rarely proved effective, and one of the major advances in recent times has been the use of a restricted street system to forcibly civilize the car.”

Strong stuff. Must have been written by a Bolshevik bicyclist? A sandal-chewing, lentil-wearing hippy? An Autogeddonist? A car-hating loon?


It’s from a book by Maxwell Gordon Lay, author of Handbook of Road Technology and Ways of the World: A History of the World’s Roads and the vehicles that used them.

His car credentials include being Executive Director of the Australian Road Research Board and he was Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria.

Istria, imagined by Sustrans

Tour du Istria

We’re not really beach-holiday fanatics. We like the seaside and swimming pools but only after some geographical exertions. I say ‘we’; that means the heads of the Reid household. The kids would love to stay in one place, soaking up the sun and bleaching from over exposure to chlorine.

Being born to active parents might be seen by them to be their bad luck but perhaps they’ll eventually come to appreciate the tough-love we give them. Today was another Reid family epic. It was only 40 or so kilometres but it was roasting in Istria and much of the morning’s route was on dirt tracks and even a fair distance on singletrack.

We were heading for the Sustrans-style Parenzana former railway line, a 70km bike trail that rises from sea level to 293m above sea level near Groznjan. We found the trail just before Buje but detoured up the long hill into town because it looked so imposing (and because the road down the other side of the hill was the quick route back to the hotel swimming pool).

While Ellie went into raptures over a flitting wall lizard by a fragment of a Roman statue; I was similarly taken by the Church of St. Servelus, made from lots of bits of Roman architecture.

This part of Croatia is stuffed with Roman settlements, Roman ampitheatres and Roman villas. Shame we’re leaving tomorrow; I’d’ve liked to have seen some more of the region’s history. The kids want to lounge by the pool. They win: one day only.

Parenzana sign, near Buje
Parenzana sign, near Buje

Ellie in front of St. Servulus church, Buje
St. Servulus, 16th Century church at the top of hill-town of Buje

Kids still have enough energy to attack
The kids might protest they’re tired when riding, but they soon recover their energy when dad needs to be splashed and soaked by the hotel pool