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TRANsPORT sPECIAl
Zero
the number of pupils
from Bradbourne School
who cycle to school.
save
seven aks
?
The figure at Sevenoaks
School is just five.
source: Bradbourne and Sevenoaks School
“St John’s is terrifying”
Local author Graeme Fife says he meets an
“ingrained hostility” of car drivers in Sevenoaks
Sevenoaks author
Graeme Fife has cycled
thousands of miles around
europe and America, and has
An upsurge in interest: Kieran Burton, manager of
written a book on the Tour de
Bikes Bikes Bikes at the top of Sevenoaks town, says he has
seen rising sales following the Olympics. “A lot more people
France. he says the UK as a
are buying bikes for the shorter journeys”, he says.
whole lags behind europe, but
sevenoaks is particularly bad, I came across 63-year-old robert Thorne attaching
not just in the lack of facilities his bike to a lamp post in the high street because of
for cyclists but also because of the lack of anywhere else to leave it. he had come by
the way its motorists drive. “The train and cycle from north London to sevenoaks to
UK by and large compares very visit his elderly mother. “I began half a century ago by
poorly. There is this cloth cap cycling from Otford to sevenoaks school. That would
image and if you are on a bike be rather unusual today. The real comparison is between
you are a rather sad individual, sevenoaks and typical town in Germany or holland
you are poor and working where you will find half of the population making
class. There is a whole tissue of journeys by bicycle. Freiburg is the classic example.
prejudices. Basically it’s war out sevenoaks is hilly, but there are hills in Bavaria too and
there, though we’re not helped occasionally you have to get off, but you have the fun
by the idiocies of some bike of cycling back downhill. The attitude of motorists in
riders. By and large drivers don’t northern europe is quite different. They are extremely
like cyclists and particularly in courteous towards cyclists and even reverse to let you go
sevenoaks it can be horrible.” by. No one in this country would dream of doing that.’
A whole tissue
Graeme meets the “ingrained hostility” of car sevenoaks town councillor Tony Clayton, a Liberal
of predjudices:
drivers regularly on st John’s hill, where cyclists have Democrat, is a keen cyclist who believes sevenoaks could
Sevenoaks author to negotiate a busy main road which also has lots follow the example of Tonbridge, where pedestrians
Graeme Fife has of parked cars. “st John’s hill is terrifying for me,
and cyclists share some of the pavements. he says
cycled thousands of
even though I’ve been cycling since I was a kid.” he the congested A25 from seal to sundridge is a good
miles around Europe
contrasts the situation here with what he has found example of a main road where the pavements are rarely
and America but says
in holland, where there are plenty of cycle lanes
cycling in Sevenoaks
used by pedestrians and could be adapted to make cycle
is “horrible” because
and a different attitude. “I was in holland cycling paths. “If we could get a safe route along the A25 it
of the “ingrained
for a week, and there was no hint of aggression from would become a way for an awful lot of kids to get to
hostility” of car
anybody driving, walking or on motorbikes. That is school.”
drivers
the signal difference.” The very low number of secondary school pupils
I asked Graeme whether he would send a child travelling by bike in sevenoaks is probably the most
out on a bicycle in sevenoaks and his reply was worrying aspect of the current situation. If there was
unequivocal: “Absolutely not.” he says cyclists are a GCse in promoting cycling for kids, our town would
right to be annoyed about the lack of secure covered collectively fail it. Kieran Burton says his sales of
parking for their bikes, both at the station and in the children’s bikes actually seem to be falling. At sevenoaks
town centre. he sees offroad leisure cycle routes, such School (co-ed), only five day pupils cycle out of several
as the one between penshurst and Tonbridge, as just a hundred. At Walthamstow Hall (girls only) the figure
sop to cyclists whose real need is for safer routes along is similar and at Bradbourne (girls only) the number is
the main roads, such as the A25. zero, so it doesn’t look as though anyone from sevenoaks
will be joining Victoria pendleton in Team GB.
onlinevine.co.uk October 2008 vine 
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