I worked with a Maths teacher in 1993 in Bolton who became a good friend, until the inevitable passage of time where we lost touch – Facebook didn’t exist back then – but we met up a few years ago, when he holidayed down the road from us in Lowestoft, Kessingland, about 8 miles from home.
Andy had bought a caravan and we met him, Cheryl, Harry and James at his pitch, had a barbecue, drinks and on returning home, I made the usual impulsive decision to buy a touring caravan.
Andy reciprocated the mutual purchase, a year later when he succumbed to a pair of Crocs, something with as great a social stigma to others as admitting to mental health problems.
I remember him proudly showcasing the footwear on my Facebook page and the next communication I heard from Cheryl was that Andy had been killed by an elderly driver whilst cycling on holiday in Dorset. It’s a cruel world and one of the reasons I don’t believe in God – no higher being would sanction such a loss of life surely.
So when this guest submission landed, about cycling, I was interested.
Peter, from Holland, sent this excellent piece, which I’ve taken editorial liberty with and guillotined into two articles.
Here’s the first part as a taster:
Do you have a death wish…..? GO CYCLING!
I grew up in the Netherlands or better known as….”Holland”. When you are Dutch there is one thing you can be certain of and that is that you will be introduced to riding a bicycle at a very young age. Biking is extremely popular in Holland. The ANWB, which is the Dutch equivalent to the AA in this country, was founded in 1883 as “the Dutch National Association of Cyclists”. The CTC which is nowadays knows as “Cycling UK” was founded by Stanley Cotterell in Harrogate, five year previous. This shows that there was an interest in uniting and representing the interests of cyclists in Britain even before the infamous “born to bike – Dutch” felt the necessity to follow this mere good example.
There are 17 million people living in the Netherlands and these Dutch own nearly 23 million bicycles. Some people have two…..one for work and one for leisure. Many Dutch cycle to and from work or school….every working day. The cyclists in Holland have a very strong lobby in the Government and they make sure that they have a finger in every pie with regard to anything that could possibly conflict with their painstakingly negotiated legal rights. These rights may seem quite “OTT” in this country. I shall give you an example:
In Holland, they have this crazy law which has given cyclists an equal right of way as motorised traffic. This applies to traffic in the cities, not on normal motorways. Well….unlike in this country, in Holland you wouldn’t find cyclists on a motorway….but more about that later. As car driver in a Dutch city you will have to give right of way to a cyclist….! Really….it’s true! Here in this country, I can only imagine a Minister of Transportation with the desire to commit a most certain political suicide to suggest such a proposterous idiotic new law. But perhaps in time…..? Who knows…
In Holland as well as in Britain it’s quite common to be offered a “company car” with a certain position. In Holland one can now also choose a “company bicycle”. For the employer the purchase of a company bicycle for an employee is fully tax deductable. It’s a way to stimulate people to come to work on a bike, if the commuting distance would enable them to do so. Nowadays with the development of the E-bike (electric power assisted cycling) an increasing number of Dutch people opt for the bicycle to make the journey to –and from work.It’s scientifically proven that cycling greatly improves one’s health and it particuarly helps to deal with stress, not to mention the hugely positive impact cycling has on reducing the chances of developing heart –and vascular diseases.
Cycling holidays are quite popular in Holland. One can cycle on dedicated paths and tracks through the rural parts of the country from one hotel to another. Your luggage is forwarded and delivered to your room in the hotel before you arrive. It’s even possible to book an inland water cruise and bring your bicycle on board. Part of the cruise you will cycle overland while, during the day, the ship is sailing to the next port.
I believe that it is very important that school children in Britain cycle to –and from school similar to their Dutch counterparts whom, if I may just state a fact here….often cycle in the relative safety of large groups which travel from surrounding villages to Colleges and Universities in the larger cities, covering no less than 20 -25 miles every day. Here in Britain we have the “school run” instead because sending your kids to school on a bicycle is basically issueing them a death sentence. The risk of young children being scooped by a car on the narrow country lanes they would have to negotiate is simply too great. Therefore you will find in a place like Kings Lynn, where I happen to live in close proximity of, that the traffic arteries through this relatively small town are completely congested at 3pm because that’s when the mothers do their school run. Hardly anyone cycles……because it’s too dangerous.
And that’s exactly what I would like to talk about in the next article.