Evening Post Motoring, 8 Feb 2006 - a holiday substitute for the section editor's "Road Rage" column
THE best place to make friends with Notts cyclists is between the electronic "No Cycling" signs on Beeston High Road. Aim to be there at 3pm Saturday. New targets will be along every minute, and the press of shoppers should prevent them achieving escape velocity.
So, what lessons should you draw from the size of your new friendship group? They have done wrong, yes. They have ignored a message flashed at them clearly in bright white bulbs. They are an irritation to pedestrians - although not nearly as dangerous as a pavement cyclist somewhere quiet, where he or she's not expected and can build up speed.
But they may also help explain why, every time I hear a howl of outrage against us cyclists, or someone makes a gesture, like these signs, towards tougher law enforcement, my heart leaps a little.
It means there are enough of us to be worth caring about.
It means that some planner, somewhere, may decide it's worth his while to make cycling legally as safe and intuitive as cycling illegally.
This is not a natural thought for many planners. They know you have to put in some cycle routes - targets, and all that - but they believe you can create them by painting white lines down the middle of the pavement and sticking "CYCLISTS DISMOUNT" signs on the narrow bits. These command about as much respect as would a "GET OUT AND PUSH" sign suspended above the M1, but while there aren't many cyclists, that's not the planners' problem.
Many cyclists, moreover, is something you can avoid. You can make sure the pavement cycle lanes vanish abruptly into non-cycle-lane pavement - most of us don't like getting in people’s way, even on a bike. Your on-road cycle lanes should double as parking, to ensure plenty of thrilling swerves into the middle of the road. The few riders that remain will feel like corpses on sticks, which encourages an outlaw mentality, but that is, again, not your problem. Everyone hates cyclists already.
Fifty thousand students, and a certain amount of foresight, have moved Nottingham beyond that bone-headed approach. "CYCLISTS DISMOUNT" is becoming a collectors' item. Cycle routes increasingly turn out to lead somewhere. Soon it may be possible to distinguish between poor riding and poor street layout.
And if everyone still hates us, we cyclists will have to find a new excuse.