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C
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BIC
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save
seven aks
?
John Morrison asks whether the
town is doing enough to help people out
of their cars and onto two wheels
PiCTURES RussEll HARPER & JOHN MORRIsON
“w
hen the parking and other initiatives; but it’s hardly a surprise.
spirits are There’s been a UK national cycling strategy since 1996,
low, when the but in sevenoaks you wouldn’t know it.
day appears To some extent, this is a national attitude problem. In
dark, when the words of Olympic gold medallist Victoria pendleton,
work become “It’s a risky business being cyclist in the UK. There
monotonous, are a lot of people who really dislike us. It’s the Jeremy
when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a Clarkson influence – we’re hated on the roads.”
bicycle and go out for a spin down the road.” – Sir Arthur One bold sevenoaks cyclist who tackles the A25 on
Conan Doyle his 20-mile ride to work in Croydon is policeman David
palmer. he says motorists fail to realise that cyclists
The creator of sherlock holmes, bless him, was
travelling at over 20 miles per hour need a bit of space
writing in 1896, before the internal combustion engine
on the road. “You also have to pull out to avoid drains,
got into its stride. Going for a spin along a main road in
especially when you risk getting your wheel stuck in the
those days didn’t involve being squeezed off the road by
grating. If you really want to encourage people to cycle
There is a cloth “
cars and hGVs. since Team GB’s Olympic success in
to work, you need paths separate from the road.” As a
Beijing, however, cycling has become cool and Kieran
father of children under 10, he bemoans the lack of safe
cap image and
Burton, manager of sevenoaks’ excellent bike shop Bikes
routes to take them cycling in sevenoaks.
Bikes Bikes says he’s noted an upsurge in interest: “A lot
if you’re on a
Not everyone shares Graeme Fife’s jaundiced view
more people are buying bikes to do the shorter journeys
of sevenoaks motorists (see opposite page), but every
that they used to do by car.”
bike you are a
cyclist I spoke to for this article backed his views on their
But taking up cycling in sevenoaks isn’t for the
Cinderella status in the district. Dave sims, secretary of
rather sad, poor,
faint-hearted. Our town lies at the bottom of every
the meridian leisure cycling club in southeast London,
conceivable league table
says his group tries to
working-class
for cycling use. One of the
avoid the town. “It’s pretty
incongruous images of
appalling. I don’t recall
individual. it’s
2008 was of the lycra-
seeing any cycling facilities
clad mayor of our twin
war out there
in sevenoaks.” The route
town rheinbach arriving
up and down polhill is a
in sevenoaks, having
and it can be
particular bugbear for riders
pedalled all the way from
on the route into and out of
horrible in
Germany. Are our local
London. he notices a sharp
representatives planning
contrast with the Greater
Sevenoaks
to return the compliment?
London area, where lots of
It seems unlikely. When I
money has been spent on

GRAEME FIFE
surveyed the 54 sevenoaks
cycle routes and maps, and
district councillors on
with other areas of Kent.
behalf of Vine, only a tiny
One saturday morning
fraction confessed they
in september, I stood at the
used a bicycle on a regular
traffic lights in Sevenoaks
basis. That’s not intended
high street and watched
as a criticism, given the
the traffic entering the town
lack of safe cycle paths in
centre from the north. In 15
the district and the almost
minutes I counted 180 cars
complete absence of cycle
and only two bikes.
 vine October 2008 onlinevine.co.uk
Rare sight: a postman enjoying a few
moments of car-free cycling on Dartford Road
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