There are days when cycling is all about facing the elements alone with your music (sssshhh don’t tell anyone.. it’s only plugged in the nearside ear and it’s on quiet) and your thoughts.
There are days when it’s pure unalloyed pleasure because you have time to spare, the sun is shining, the floods are receding, even the mud is drying out and the world seems to be in a Good Mood.
Yesterday was such a day. Apart from some early mud – to be honest I didn’t mind too much as I still had mud clinging to the downtube from the last outing – it was mostly dry roads and lanes.
The drivers were kind – astonishingly so in some cases, as a couple of them slowed or paused and gave way to me with smiles and waves. I can only think my “jazz hands” gloves have made the difference.
Wearing my jazz hands gloves makes me incredibly visible without being covered in yellow – although, thinking about it, St David’s Day is most suitable for being covered in yellow and if I was any kind of Welshwoman at all, I should have had a blow-up dragon riding on the backrack!
When my bro gave them to me at Christmas, I was loathe to swap my nice warm red and black winter gloves for them. Wearing day-glo yellow does make you feel a tad self-conscious.
But when sticking out the arm and flashing the Unmissable Hand of Rightfulness you do actually feel extra-confident that you’ve been seen. So maybe that’s why drivers are being extra-nice because I’ve got jazz hands. If that means I’m safer, I’m happy with that.
Anyway, the ride was quite lovely what with the daffodils in bloom, the crocuses in yellows, purples and mauves that people have blooming in the verges in front of their homes, the wrinkly new-born spring lambs lying so close to their mummies in the fields and the birds all singing welcome to Spring.
I wouldn’t like to ride those lanes at night though. The winter weather has taken a terrible toll on the road surfaces. In places, up to a metre of the edge of the lane was unrideable due to deep fissures or because the tarmac had just disappeared.
Water-filled ditches have appeared where there were none before. I had to laugh at a mallard standing considering a swim along the road in a newly-formed water feature!
The road repairs are going to cost millions. Mostly because… (beginning of rant.. look away now if you can’t be bothered to read further..)
…mostly because since the late 1970’s county councils have been hacking the road maintenance budgets. Before that County Surveyors used to draw up detailed, efficient plans for road maintenance which included proper repairs in a timely manner before the road surface crumbled.
Now, road maintenance is largely patching or scraping the very top layer off and replacing with a correspondingly thin layer. There is no budgetary consideration given to permanent lasting repairs – which is why we now have roads which are more or less Third World standard.
Anecdotally, I’m hearing of more and more drivers who have suffered damage to their cars because of the road surface. Cyclists can only try and avoid the potholes and deep, potentially fatal fissures. But any cyclist who suddenly swerves into the road to avoid a hole that would buckle their front wheel is at risk of being hit by following traffic.
If cycling is to be encouraged as a safe realistic transport option, road repair budgets have to be beefed up to make riding safe.
It’s no good, as in Cheltenham, painting around the potholes, painting around them again six months later and painting around them six months further on when they have got bigger before finally patching them.
Crumblingly bad road surfaces in towns are bad enough but at least there are streetlights. In the countryside, cycling in the middle of a lane at night to avoid holes at the sides of the road is a potentially fatal. It remains to be seen when inquests are held, but there’s a possibility road surface could have been a contributory factor in the tragic car/cycle accident deaths of two cyclists recently.
(End of Rant)
So I think Spring has sprung, even if, today, it’s gone back into its box again.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a bike to clean. And 2 bathrooms, actually, but I’m prioritizing… Byee!