It goes without saying that 2020 has been an extraordinary year, one that started amongst the rumblings of concerns about a virus that was sweeping across Asia and breaking into Italy, and that quickly turned into a global crisis of the likes that few of us have experienced before. January was rung in as normal but within a few weeks, thoughts turned to increased hand cleaning, keeping distance, and whether that cough or cold is actually something more concerning. Calls for the first national lockdown to stem the tide of the pandemic in Britain were aired towards the end of February, early March – to which the government finally relented towards the end of that month; restrictions which despite the nomenclanture of “Lockdown 1”, “Lockdown 2”, and perhaps soon “Lockdown 3”, have never entirely gone away.
So, it is against this backdrop and the acknowledgement that for many this has been a disastrous year, and for many more still a very difficult one, that I provide my summary of cycling achievements – because in that regard, for me it’s been a good twelve months.
I’m pleased to report that once again, I have exceeded my total annual miles for the year, both in comparison to previous years and my objective for 2020. I wanted to ride 1,600 minimum with a stretch target of 1,800 – in actual fact, 2,100 miles is my approximate year total, and that’s with an abysmal February (32mi) and only slightly less awful December (51mi). For six months of the year, I exceed 200 miles; in two months I beat 300 miles, a monthly total I’d not reached before.
I’ve not achieved everything I wanted to though. In last year’s post, I wrote about wanting to repeat my first ride to Kenilworth Castle, but that didn’t happen. I also decided against trying to re-do 2018’s Leicester ride, generally finding anything above 35 miles uncomfortable and difficult, and in fact this year’s longest ride is slightly down at 37 miles versus about 40 miles in 2019.
However, those misses are offset by more wins – I rode to Ryton Pools, roughly as far south as Kenilworth and so, a good alternative; I repeated my ride to Rugby which included a breezy return trip; I regularly visited the War Memorial Park in Coventry throughout the summer on a near weekly basis, a roughly one hour each way trip including some busy city roads; I filled in a few more squares on Veloviewer to bring my max square score to 10×10 and visited a couple of new villages in Leicestershire where I’d not been before. Coupling these achievements with the above distance PBs, overall it’s been a successful year.
The Lockdown Effect
Of course, my achievements were no doubt helped to some degree by the first lockdown from the end of March, where motor traffic noticeably and quantifiably evaporated making the roads quieter and generally more pleasant to cycle on. Sadly that was short lived. Where traffic had dropped to levels last seen in the 1950s, it has since returned at least to 1990 levels if not greater. Anecdotally, there also appears to have been a deterioration in standards of driving too, to which I can attest through a greater submission of reports to the police through the Nextbase portal.
For some, those quieter roads in the Spring and early Summer provided a new opportunity to get out on cycles. It was certainly a joy to see so many more people out riding, and clearly more casual riders than usual too – plenty of mountain bikes and hybrid bikes, people out in casual clothing – a little bit of evidence that with less traffic and generally safer streets, people will cycle more.
Advocacy and Infrastructure
That brings me to advocacy. This year saw the long-awaited and welcome publication of new guidance for the provision of cycle infrastructure, both on the highway and for off-road routes too, in the form of the DfT’s new Local Transport Note (LTN) 1/20. Assuming authorities actually follow this guidance, it sets the groundwork for new high quality infrastructure for cycling.
Locally, plans continue to build routes along the A47 Long Shoot, from Nuneaton to Bedworth, and Bedworth to the Coventry boundary. There is also some enthusiasm for a route to run from the town centre out to Weddington along the A444 Weddington Road. In Coventry, the city has announced its own plans for high quality routes in Coundon and Binley.
It seems then that there might be a slow shift in intent to actually provide safe cycling infrastructure in the area, though this is tempered by the recent provisional plans published for Nuneaton’s ring-road which fall far short of best practice for cycling provision.
This is also the year when I returned to Facebook (fb.me/BicycleBenUK) in an effort to better distribute thoughts, ideas and comment on local issues to people in the local area. I’ve been promoting certain messages (e.g., switching off idling engines outside of schools) and engaging with relevant local news articles, to some “interesting” responses. I look to continue with this avenue of engagement next year as despite some backlash, I think it’s important to try to reach people in the local area when I am commenting on nearby developments and schemes.
Local or not though, do head over to the page and give it a like/follow if you’re so inclined!
Looking Forward to 2021
Over the coming year then, I am looking forward to seeing the plans develop for the local cycle schemes – will ground be broken in 2021? I don’t know, but it would be nice to see these schemes move from something purely on paper to actual real world developments. I suspect Coventry will be the first to move, but hopefully Warwickshire CC, in Nuneaton, will not be far behind.
Personally, I’m not setting myself any major breakthrough targets other than to say I want to keep to around 1,800 – 2,000 miles in the year if I can. I would think this will be highly dependent on how the pandemic plays out, as well as work, so I can’t really see myself pushing much beyond this year’s achievement which in itself has relied on a couple of exceptional months. If the opportunity arises though, I’d like to hit 300 miles in at least one month again – could 350 be a possibility? It might be a stretch but let’s see.
A Final Note
Last of all, you may have seen the link to my Ko-Fi page (see below, after the article) where readers can send across a few pounds as a one-off contribution to the running of this site, in support of something that’s useful or informative, or just generally in support of my (albeit limited) advocacy, and I want to thank those who have supported me with their entirely voluntary contributions.
I don’t run adverts on this site which is entirely free to access with no paywall content. However, I do run occasional adverts on the likes of Facebook in order to try to boost certain messages to the local area. Those adverts combined with the general running costs of this site do therefore represent a real cost to me, and whilst I don’t go out of my way to ask for contributions, any support is always gratefully received (but if you can’t or don’t want to, that’s fine).
So, once more, a big THANK YOU to those who did support me in 2020! ??
All that leaves me to say is, I wish all readers and followers a Happy New Year for 2021. Hopefully it will be a better one than the year just passed, and by the end of it, we’ll be able to look back at the pandemic as an event being consigned to history.