By Paul Nero, managing director of Exeter FM.
SO I'm driving through the ridiculous 20 mile-an-hour system that's been designed to stop people going to Topsham when there's a decision to make. Should I knock this ignorant cyclist off his bike, blast my horn so that he is in no doubt about my displeasure, or slow down further so that the tailback that's built up between the rugby ground and the roundabout becomes longer still?
As a responsible citizen I slow down. I fume. And I add fumes. Slow-moving traffic wastes fuel and adds to carbon emissions. Idiots who ignore cycle paths should appreciate that future generations of children will drown as global warming wipes out Lympstone. And it's their fault.
Cyclists who use the roads when we've just spent millions of pounds the country can ill afford on a network of cycle paths, are as selfish as they are stupid. Especially ones in Lycra. And especially the ones without lights or light clothing. How many of those do you see on the roads – but not on the cycle paths – these dark days? And how many do you not see until it's almost too late?
Last month, my Exeter FM colleague Mark Tyler wrote gaily about his plans to get on his bike. Much as I applauded the idea, I worried. When the occasion warrants, Mark is a sensible chap. But there's something about a man on a bike that turns their minds to mush. In his Echo column, in common with many others who have been anticipating safe passage between Topsham and Clyst St George, there he was dreaming of the trips he would make over the new wooden structure by the Bridge Inn. The fool. Now the bridge is open, of course, the alarming reality is that many cyclists continue to hog the windy, narrow road over the old bridge. Why is it the selfish few continue to slow traffic?
Three years ago, taxpayers spent about £3 million on part of the Exe Estuary Cycle trail between Exmouth and Topsham. "Money well spent," bicycling Ben Bradshaw MP told us at the time. And indeed the path is a major asset alongside our wondrous area of outstanding natural beauty. But what do our Lycra-clad friends tell us as they continue to torture themselves on the main Exeter-to-Exmouth road? That no serious cyclist will use a cycle path.
So if you've bought someone a bicycle this Christmas, ask them to use the facilities that have been expensively put in place, not just on their behalf, but on behalf of all road users, and keep us all safe and sane in 2012.