Five things I hate about cycling: Terrible roads

Previously, I told you that I don’t like Hills, and that I smell particularly foul. Coming in at number 3 on the list of things I hate about cycling: Terrible roads.

The problem

There are two issues that cause my blood to boil here: road layout, and road condition. Come with me for a moment, as you go on an imaginary cycle around Sheffield.

You hop on your bike, wobbling as you attempt to navigate around all the pot holes on your residential street. You make a turn, making it to the main road, where the road surface is heavily worn tarmac, with raised sharp pebbles showing through – the technical term for this type of road is a “tyregrater”.

Vibrating through that, you find yourself on a lovely smooth run of tarmac, and just start to get some momentum running… when you hit a series of speed bumps the width of the road, with nowhere for cyclists to skirt round them.

The incline increases, and soon you are in a speedy downhill, but immediately have to start braking heavily, because at the end of the road, the sharp hill ends suddenly with a traffic light, a traffic light that stubbornly remains red no matter how much you glare at it.

Then you turn left onto a cycle lane. The cycle lane appears to pass through several car parking spaces (with cars in them), a bollard and a set of railings. Its also on the edge of the road, where many uneven layers of tarmac over the years have combined to leave a craggy 45 degree slope. After a few minutes you come straight to a roundabout with cars racing round so aggressively that your death would have been certain, if you hadn’t just gone over a massive hole in the tarmac surrounding a drain cover and punctured both tyres.

You throw your bike in the nearest dumpster, and get on the bus.

While this is a (mild) exaggeration, I have actually had all of these experiences, and have several of them every time I hop on my bike. I hate feeling like a second class road citizen, but being on a bike, this is often the case.

Road layout

My biggest bugbear with road layout comes in the form of cycle lanes. Renowned amongst seasoned cyclists for being unsafe, unrealistic and unhelpful, I generally tend to avoid them, at the same time resenting the money that is spent on them.

Warrington Cycle Campaign runs a Facility of the Month, which applauds, in a tongue-in-cheek manner, ridiculous, dangerous, deceitful and plain stupid cycle lane examples from all around the UK.

I have included my own submission, with a caption to accompany it below:

Ridiculous Sheffield Cycle LaneThis delightful two way cycle lane, near the University in Sheffield, is a beautiful example of urban cycle planning. Located right next to one of the most dangerous roundabouts in the city, the track used to join the dual carriageway at right angles, leading to a distressingly deadly arrangement.

Happily, the city council obviously listened to feedback from cyclists, and helpfully installed some railings between the end of the cycle lane and the main road. Since this, there have been no reported accidents on this 3 metre track!

Is this because cyclists ignored the track from the beginning and just take the filter lane on the left, which gently and safely feeds into traffic? Or is it due to the visionary work of Sheffield City Council? I leave the decision up to you.

Road condition

When it comes to road condition, especially in Sheffield, we have had some hard winters over the last few years, with a lot of freeze thawing, leading to many roads resembling a patchwork of repaired sections of tar. Unfortunately, lumpy road + inner tubes that are 3mm thick can only lead to one thing… but I will cover that in another post shortly.

The solution

The solution, on this occasion, is partly realistic, and partly less so.

Firstly, its time for the council to spend a lot more money on roads. Lets spend a few hundred million, and get some nice smooth roads. We’ll probably save the cost on petrol savings from the reduced friction. Well we won’t, but still, let’s do it.

Secondly, we need to change all the signs, so that cycle lanes become “car lanes”, and the bikes are given the sole licence to ride on the rest of the roads. Absolutely guarantee you would see a lot more cyclists around!

This article is part of my Five things I hate about cycling series. Read the rest here

Five things I hate about cycling: Sweating

Previously, I told you that my fifth biggest hate about cycling was Hills. Coming in at number 4 is: Sweating, and the need to shower.

The problem

Cyclist on a bike, in a shower, silhouette.So why is that you ask? First off, if you aren’t male, you may not be aware of the scale of the problem. A 2006 study showed that if you exercise 14 fit men for an hour and a half, they will produce nearly 16 litres of sweat between them. As a comparison, your average bucket is about 9 litres. Men literally are capable of sweating buckets.

This wouldn’t be a problem if our society wasn’t so discriminatory. One side effect of civilisation, it appears, is that there is no such thing as sweaty professionalism. Apparently the ideal businessman does not have wet patches back and front of his suit, and it seems that most people don’t want their doctor to be dripping whilst they examine you.

Unfortunately, on the scale of sweatyness, running from 1 (A rock) to 10 (Really old Brie, wrapped in socks, in a plastic bag, in monsoon season), I hit about a 9: I am definitely a sweat monster, especially when I have to deal with hills.

This all ends up frustrating me, since I can rarely use cycling to replace my normal mode of transport without knowing that I have somewhere to change afterwards. It means that I have to pre-plan every trip, often having to check out new locations at least once before I can cycle it.

Replacing a 10 minute car trip becomes rather impractical, since it becomes a 30 minute cycle, followed by a 10 minute hunt for showers, and 20 minutes making myself look presentable. And when the showers are locked/being replaced/filled with stacked chairs – all of which have happened to me – it can be a real problem.

A few years ago, I cycled 7 miles to work, only to realise I had forgotten my suit! It is hard to express the extreme misery I felt inside when I realised that I was going to have to cycle all the way back home, grab a suit, drive in and be an hour late for work into the bargain. If I could have cycled in a suit without fear of drowning, this problem would go away.

The solution

This brings me onto my solution for Sweating – compulsory laser treatment for all men, coupled with a readjustment in the attitudes of society toward odour. Sorted.

This article is part of my Five things I hate about cycling series. Read the rest here

Five things I hate about cycling: Hills

Silhouette of a man cycling uphillI don’t actually hate hills per se, just hate that I find them the biggest mental obstacle to getting out on my bike more.

In fact, I tend to savour the “burn” that hits you whilst you climb up them, and the post-exertion endorphins after the hill levels out. The feeling of achievement at the completion of a big climb is fantastic too.

The problem

What I don’t like is that when I contemplate going for a ride, the first thing that jumps into my head is “Nah, can’t be bothered”. This is probably because I live in Sheffield, erroneously renowned for being built on 7 hills, like Rome. This is wrong – Sheffield is worse, it has 8.

Leaving my house in Sheffield, I can cycle about 2 miles without pedalling, zipping down roads of seemingly ever increasing grade. The downside of this is that every single ride I ever take is followed by an ankle grinding crawl back up to somewhere high above the cloud line.

And it’s not just me. When London first trialled their cycle scheme, they had a problem with bikes disappearing from the stations at the top of hills, and the stations at the bottom being too full. The problem has been even worse in Paris and Barcelona, both cities that have more hills. In Sheffield, I suspect they would need some kind of continual conveyor belt, back up from town into Crookes.

The solution

This brings me onto the perfect solution for Hills – the city council needs to built a ski lift up to my house. Sorted.

This article is part of my Five things I hate about cycling series. Read the rest here