Look At It This Way - July 8, 2011

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Blackpool, we are told, is a Cycling Town, promoted as a “first class” cycling resort by Cycling England. If all those brand new cycle routes beginning and ending within yards haven’t convinced you of such – the number of hire bikes parked up along the Promenade should.

I tend to wobble on bikes. Heck, I wobble when stood stock still. Maybe if Blackpool Council started hiring out trikes I’d be tempted to brave the process, but there’s something inherently uncool about trikes, unless they come in princess pink with sky blue trainer wheels, and a dinky little bell that tinkles out Justin Beiber’s Won’t Stop whenever you come to the sharp end of our Shared Space Central Promenade.

Yes, I know I’m going to be in trouble for the “uncool” trike line, but while I may have the body of a flabby 55-year-old, I have the self-consciousness of a 15-year-old wannabe Top Gear presenter with a troubled t-zone to go with it. Forget arsenic and old lace, think arthritis and zits.

Being inclined to wobble does not make me the greatest fan of the cycle, although my cherished old Raleigh small-wheeler was my pride and joy, until my late dad nicked and knackered it long ago when he borrowed it to go to work, reached down for a sarnie from the dinky little basket at the front, and somersaulted over the top.

That was back in the days when cycles had three gears, and your chain dropped off if you stopped pedalling when you tried to change gear.

I bought a foldaway bike a couple of years ago, in a short-spurted fitness craze. It had eight gears and the chain fell off if you didn’t stop pedalling. Confused? Enough to drive me to a trick cyclist.

Plus it had a tendency to fold on me, like a poker player on a losing streak, whenever old ladies on walking frames overtook me. If my child-bearing days weren’t already far behind me, that would have ended them with almost clinical precision without anaesthetic.

Why this bumpy ride down memory lane? Well, we’ve got cycle town status, cyclists a-go-go, bike doctor workshops, and the 25th Manchester to Blackpool charity cycle ride, taking place on Sunday, to raise cash for The Christie hospital, Manchester.

Yet two rail firms, normally happy to pocket cyclists’ cash, have put a spoke in the wheels of those hoping to return inland, by train, after the event, by exiling them for the day, along with leisure and business cyclists unconnected with the event.

Sounds like a second-class service for a first-class cycle town. The edict has been imposed because of the number of riders who gathered at North Station last summer after the annual event. Why not simply provide extra carriages and let the train take the strain – and the dividend. Hardly charitable, is it?