I use cyclepaths every day when I ride to work, I support & regularly donate cash to Sustrans, the awesome organisation that has created thousands of miles of cyclepath in the UK and continues to drive new paths across the country, and I am cheered whenever I see one of those little blue and white cycle signs with the number of the path on it. But sometimes they cause me problems.
When I’m riding to work I pootle along easily, waving to other cyclists, calling out “good morning” to the walkers and happily slowing to avoid errant dogs. I listen to the birds, I note the new flowers and how the trees are changing. I use a cycle path for 99% of the distance, and since I moved and have been able to use the route 4 cyclepath I’ve cut my car collision rate from 1/year to 0/year (and yes, every collision was the fault of the car driver, not mine).
When I’m training on the bike I need to be able to put out a certain amount of power for a certain amount of time. If riding at an easy to steady pace this means I need to consistently travel at around 30kph on flat roads. If I’m riding harder I need to go faster. I can’t do this on cyclepaths. They’re too narrow, too bumpy, and they have dogs and walkers on them too. I need to use the roads when I train. I plan my training routes and times to avoid traffic as much as possible. It’s more pleasant for me, and I avoid holding people up. I’m also likely to live longer and to be able to train more consistently by avoiding collisions with vehicles.
So it pisses me off when I’m training and for the very short sections of my rides when I’m near a cyclepath a car driver that has taken an extra 5 seconds of their journey to overtake me then shouts at me through an open window to “get on the cyclepath!” (By the way, half the time cyclists can’t even hear whatever the hell people in cars are shouting).
It’s incredibly rude to assume you know better than someone else and to then shout at them giving no chance at reply or recourse other than the middle finger. I could explain as above why I’m on the road. I could tell you that I really try to stay out of your way, but for this 200m of road where there is a cyclepath I really need to stay on the road. I could argue that there is currently no legislation that says a cyclist should use a cyclepath rather than the road. I could describe the dangers of my hurtling along a narrow path at 20mph and the risk to pedestrians, animals and me. I could complain about how long it takes to cross road junctions using cyclepath traffic light controlled crossings that give priority to vehicles over cyclists and pedestrians. I could argue that I really haven’t slowed you down by much, and ask you to respect other road users and consider that their use of the road is as important as yours. I could remind you that we’re all on a journey and the aim is to get there safely, not quickly. I could be condescending and advise you to get your lazy arse out of bed earlier tomorrow so that you’re not rushing to work late.
But I don’t get a chance, unless I catch you at the lights. And then you tend to have your windows raised up all of a sudden, and you are very keen to speed away as soon as the lights change.