Yesterday I cycled to Bath to visit the home of Cycling News. I was doing some testing and consumer research stuff on their new website. It sounds more glamorous than it actually was. They promised me a year’s supply of the bongo of my choice, so i hot-pedalled it over there sharpish. I opted for Pro Cycling.
I was running a bit late so hit the A4 on the way out. It’s quick, direct and not very nice at all. On the way back I had more time so opted for the railway path. It’s a real privilege to be able to cycle the full 15 miles or so between the two cities on a dedicated path, knowing that there are no cars or lorries. It was pretty dark so there weren’t that many cyclists. During the day the path can get fairly congested, it’s mixed-use and suffers more than a little for this very reason. I avoid it like the plague; it’s nodder central. No-one seems able to tolerate the fact that there are other users out there. It’s also a strava segment, which is fairly ridiculous, even if i am on first name terms with the top 5.
Riding out of Bath was fine, it was quiet and there was only the occasional cyclist coming the other way. They courteously dimmed their bulbs. You need a really bright light to ride the path, it’s overshadowed by trees and is very very dark. Nearing Bristol things got decidedly hairy. Several cyclists were equipped with the kind of bulb that gave Winston Smith a serious headache and softened him up before the introduction of the furry beasts. Many of them had some sort of twin-mounted front assembly, putting out a huge amount of lumens. On several occasions I found myself completely blinded by the oncoming rider and had to stop, shrug my shoulders and ask them to dim it. At one point i just laughed and told the oncoming rider ‘you’re actually blinding me, you’re light is so ridiculously bright’, and he just grunted. Later i nearly got knocked off by a three rider paceline. It was like Rollerball, crossed with the chariot scene in Ben Hur, with some of Death Race 2000 thrown in. And it was about 6.15pm. I told them they were a bunch of dicks.
Rollerball is probably more like the Madison than the Railway Path by night.
By the time i crept back into Bristol I felt a sense of genuine relief at having survived. It was the same feeling i get after coming off the A419 at the end of a 10 mile time trial. Which is not really how it should be. I plan to never use it again.
There’s something counter-productive about having a fiendishly bright light. It’s one of my bugbears and I’m sure I’ve written about it before. You need to see and be seen, but you don’t need to blind car drivers; there is a level of risk associated with shining a pulse of intense light into the eyes of an oncoming motorist. You shouldn’t really be blinding your fellow cyclists either. I value my eyes, they help me get home. I don’t appreciate nodding commuters blazing out a billion lumens on a well-lit street; or a dark railway path, for that matter. And while I’m on a rant, riding recklessly on a road bike along the railway path doesn’t make you a racing cyclist. Racing makes you a racing cyclist. Charging along a railway path in a three man commuter pace line, overtaking (or was it a though and off? Christ, I hope not) makes you a selfish asshole.