C is for Cycling
"No, no... There's no way... Oh no, ye canna cycle in Aiberdeen!"A mere handful of years ago, in a taxi on our way to pick up some newly-bought hybrid bikes, those were the self-congratulatory and dismissive words bursting incredulously from the mouth of our taxi-driver; our own personal private-hire knight-of-the road.
As we all know, taxi drivers have a proprietorial attitude to the public highway, so we thought he was likely to know what he was speaking about!
Truth was, at the time, we kinda agreed with him. We were well aware that motorists generally regard speed limits as advisory in this town; we knew that gridlock and traffic volumes cause the city to grid to a halt twice a day; and we were cognisant of the fact that cyclists who use the road are regarded as the lowest of the low - hated by all other road users.
But we thought that this didn't apply to us, as we'd only intended to use the Old Deeside Line for our cycling - not to go anywhere or do anything (don't be silly!) - just to keep up a level of fitness.
How little we knew! And how little our taxi-driving knight-of-the-road knew!
As it turns out Aberdeen is one of the best possible places to cycle. A cross-town cyclist, starting from, say Pitmuxton (close to Broomhill Primary) going to Kittybrewster (say, the Nothern Hotel) can easily beat (by up to a half) the time taken by any motorised transport for the same point-to-point, and with no parking-space-hunting or charges!
As time goes on, we see that cycle routes begin to join up as 'missing links' are sewn together; roads which are forbidden to motorised transport open up as 'bypass' routes for pedestrians and cyclists; one way systems are declared 2-way for cyclists and special interest groups get their voices heard by local and national governments, resulting in increasing ring-fenced funding for 'cycling, walking and safer streets' budgets.
Brand-new 'missing link' connects
Old Switchback, Westhill Cycle Route,
Hazlehead Paths, Kingswells Paths and
Fernhill Paths. Phew.
(Not sure about the 'pushmepullu' bike, though)
Fernilea Road - closed to motors, but a 'bypass' for cyclists and pedestrains.
Connects Rubislaw with Summerhill.
Additionally, the potholes caused by the very harsh '09-'10 winter have prompted the closure of some roads to motor traffic. That needn't worry us cyclists (as long as we've got a suitable bike)
The weather has been a kind of Dr Beeching for roads
It's as if there's a kind of parallel Aberdeen just for cyclists and pedestrians; a city which bypasses the world of those who like to spend their time tied to a chair in a locked hot metal box. A city which is at right angles to - over, under and through - the Aberdeen which they think they know. The Aberdeen Cycle Map has recently been published in an updated revision which shows all the recent developments in our favour. The networks are extensive - spreading like the branches of a forest, linking up and intertwining as transport nodes increasingly interconnect.
All over the west end.
Thing is, cycling's a bit like a drug - it leads on to harder things and suddenly we find ourselves cosulting the council's 'Core Paths' maps and noticing that routes around the city expand further still for cyclists who use mountain bikes. Now, it's possible to cycle from Pitfodels to Dyce via Hazlehead and Fernhill all off-road. Indeed, it's now possible to cycle from Banchory to Aberdeen, cross the city, and continue on to Ellon, Auchnagatt and Fraserburgh all on routes dedicated to cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians.
So, as those who choose to be motorists grind their teeth in the gridlock, tied to their chairs in their hot locked metal boxes, we cyclists enjoy rapid transit across what feels like an altogether different city. A human-scale city; a city of freedom and fitness and fun, a town where we can go where we please - free of charge and freed from care.
You see, motoring compresses the consciousness, and anaesthetises the soul. It disconnects the driver from the town being crossed.
By contrast, cycling expands the consciousness and re-connects us with our city - as more and more people are finding out. Government stats show a near-doubling in cycle commuting in Aberdeen since 2007, second only to Edinburgh for cycling as a choice of way to travel to work in a city. No surprise - when it looks like this: