Sunday, 12 June 2011

Bike Week To Highlight Weak Links

National Bike Week is coming up soon. It starts next Saturday.

There are a few events taking place in the Highlands.

Anything that encourages people to get on their bikes is a good thing but of course in return it would be good if the powers that be did a bit more to make it easier for those not already in the saddle to choose what is a healthy, cheap and environmentally friendly way of getting about.

I've blogged before about cycling between Nairn and Inverness. Fifteen miles in a pretty straight line for motorists yet there's no easy option for cyclists. There is however a way to plug a couple of gaps and make it happen.

Last week on a rare day off (hard earned from work and generously granted by Wife-features and Toddler Who Must Be Obeyed as a day all to myself) I took the train into Dolphinsludge and cycled home to the Sunniest Town in Scotland.

Rather than climbing uphill to Culloden Moor and taking the back road to Nairn (it may be quieter than the A96 but blimey motorists still put their foot to the floor) or my recent wiggly route through Balloch Woods, Tornagrain Forest and round Loch Flemington, I opted for the direct way.

You can take the coastal road to Ardersier and then keep going past Whiteness and eventually to Delnies on the outskirts of Nairn. On a map it's almost a straight line, much like the A96. But there are a couple of snags.

At both ends there are sections where you have no choice but to cycle on the A96. Eek.

From Inverness you can go through Culloden and Balloch on wide 30mph roads or cycle paths but then there's a short section to the Castle Stuart turn off where it's 60mph with only a nettled verge to leap into if something goes wrong. The section only takes about 2 minutes if you pedal hard and my technique involved staying well away from the edge and continually looking behind me so motorists wouldn't be tempted to try slipping past me while dodging oncoming traffic.

The same horror must be gone through at Delnies. The path alongside the A96 out of Nairn only extends as far as the old Delnies school. Just a couple of hundred yards more and it would finish opposite the Ardersier turn off. Dandy. I remember when the trunk roads people were renewing that stretch of road and the path and I asked if they could extend it a wee bit. They didn't even reply. I asked a couple of the local councillors; one got back to me saying they'd asked and had been told no so that was that. Feeble.

As part of Bike Week I'm encouraging folk I know who work in Inverness to cycle in if they live outside the city in the hope it shows (a) how wonderful a morning bike ride can be and (b) how easy it would be to plug a few gaps in the road and path network to make it easier to enjoy. Maybe then every week would be bike week.

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