Dr. Hutch: Cycle paths with speed restrictions

When Britain finally gets segregated cycle paths, we’ll also be hit with speed limits, reckons the Doc — and then we’ll have to innovate new metrics with which to measure ourselves

A few years ago, a strange theory 
held most dear 
by school-run psychopaths in 4x4s was that London’s Richmond Park had a 12mph cycling limit.

This was, of course, utter humbug, even if the specificity of 12 was curious. Still, it was strongly enough believed that it was not unusual to see drivers take their mobile phone away from their ear to hurl abuse at you for doing 13mph.

Of course, it would have been easier to hear them if they’d been driving at 20mph, the park speed limit for cars, but in practice, well, who’s got the time these days to slow down from 50mph just to abuse a bike rider?

Speed limits seem to me an inevitable consequence of any serious attempt to create segregated bike infrastructure. Because, in the UK at least, segregated bike paths will be crap. They’ll be narrow and twisting, they’ll stop and start, and they’ll be used to walk dogs.

Even so, if these paths ever get built, using them will become compulsory. It just will as that’s the way the world works. “We built a cycle path, they should be made to use it.”

Destructive path
Then, because they’re badly designed, people will start getting injured using them, and start suing the councils. This problem will be solved by imposing a speed limit of, say, 12mph.

And then, seriously, what are we all going to do? We could simply ignore the speed limit, but given the moral high ground we collectively occupy on the subject of speeding by motorists, that seems very unlikely.

Or we might decide it’s time to set aside our competitive instincts and take to just noodling along enjoying the view. But I don’t think that’s likely either. No, with speed constrained by law, we’ll just look for some other way to make ourselves suffer.

The obvious answer would be some sort of cyclist’s ball and chain. Strava would stop being about how fast you went and become more about how large a weight you could pull while still hitting 12mph.

The sort of people who upload files that they’ve recorded while the bike was in the boot of the car would be able to cheat by putting absolutely huge balls behind their bikes on skateboards. This would be an excellent idea, because then a sort of automatic justice would 
be meted out to them when they got to the first steep descent, and got run over.

I know that would never actually happen. They’d never pull the weights up a hill in the first place. But imagine the moment on the climb when they cracked, and suddenly transitioned into being towed backwards down the hill by their balls. Is that not almost as good?

The other way would be to take a leaf from Team Sky’s book, and focus on aerodynamics. Parachutes could be the answer to all our problems. For those of you worried about the aesthetics, I’m sure you’ll be able to get a Rapha one.

As an added bonus, on the descents it will turn into a para-glider, thus freeing you from all speed limits, and offering the chance to partake of all sorts of new and dramatic crashes. Imagine… “All power to West Yorkshire was lost this afternoon after a cyclist flew into overheard power lines near Leeds.”

In truth, the safe way would be some sort of special resistance unit added to the bottom bracket that would increase the power required to turn the cranks without passing it on to the back wheel.

I admit that you could achieve something similar with nothing more than really bad bike maintenance, but don’t worry. I’m confident that we’ll find a way to do it that costs a month’s salary, and gives you something to brag to your mates about.

Acts of cycling stupidity

Word reaches us of a well-known cycling fitness writer who was returning to southern England from Scotland last week. To her great dismay, her car broke down in the outside lane of the M6 motorway.

The resulting tailback made it to fully four editions of the national radio travel-news. But as she waited to be rescued, she was delighted to be able to watch the entire Giro d’Italia convoy inch past in the snarl-up as it made its way from Ireland to Italy.

Whether she has made the connection between this occurrence and the late arrival on the continent of all the team vehicles isn’t yet clear. But it’s always particularly heart-warming when journalists get properly involved with major cycling events isn’t it?

How to… photograph a bike race

Remember that what counts is not what you see or experience with your own eyes; it’s what you photograph and put on Facebook. There’s no finer instrument for photographing a bike race than a phone. It’s exactly what the pro photographers use — the only difference is that they keep theirs in big black waterproof housings.

Whatever you do, don’t turn your phone on and open the camera app until the race gets to you. That way, you can be sure to still be entering the unlock-code when the front of the race arrives, and you’ll be able to get a nice picture of something random and pointless near the back.

Use the widest angle lens setting possible. This will ensure that you can include as many spectators, road signs, houses and body parts as possible. This helps give the photo a sense of place, although you won’t be able to make out any actual cyclists.

You can get a better picture if you stand in the road as the race approaches, rather than by the side. The further out you stand, the better the photo.

Avoid causing yourself unnecessary alarm at the proximity and high speed of the oncoming race by not looking at it. Instead, focus on the wide-angle image on your phone screen, which will make the action look both slower and a lot further away.

Finally, for a selfie with one of your heroes, take a dog and let it loose as the race approaches. Then you can pick a rider from the resulting pile-up with whom to photograph yourself.