Critical mass - Jimmy Carter thinks I'm a sinner - CycleBlaze

April 23, 2007

Critical mass

"On a bike, the journey is more important than the destination." Franco thought so, too, about roller-skating. He wrote to me afterwards: "Tank yuo for the wonderful photo. I arrive in Wien in three day: i start from Passau on thursday at 8:30 and arrive on the sunday at 4:30 in the morning. First day 110km, friday 65 km and saturday 155km.I'm very happy for this. Very incredibile experience roller alone all the night near the forest. (sorry for english)"
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Yesterday we rode along the Danube - which curiously is a name that none of the countries along the Danube actually gives to the river - to just short of Regensburg. That's north-east of Munich, which means we have another couple of days to go before we reach the Austrian border just after Passau.

When we got to the outlying town of Bad Abbach it was a joy to see that it described itself, in German, as 'bike-friendly.' And well it might because from there on both the bike path and the parallel road were thick with cyclists. Not cyclists like us, with eyes gripped tight to the horizon, but everyday cyclists for whom a sunny Sunday was the only excuse they needed to get out on a bike and ride beside a beautiful river.

This is a cycling country. As in neighbouring Switzerland, or at any rate in the flat parts, a bike is an everyday way of getting about. That could well explain the near-absence of fat people. So, on this road, there were just so many cyclists in both directions that we formed the critical mass that decreed it was we who were the traffic and not the car-drivers who wanted to come the same way. Cars went at the same speed as bike-riders or they didn't go at all. It was the reverse of the position in town, where it's cars that hold up cyclists and not the other way round.

I am not a militant cyclist. I am happy by and large with the way I am treated on the road and I don't seek to be part of mass demonstrations of urban cyclists dedicated to clogging up city roads in some sort of revenge or mean-mindedness. Nevertheless, there is a pleasure in being one of just so many that the ordinary position is reversed. There were times when, as a driver trying to overtake was brought to a halt on the wrong side of the road by an oncoming pedalling platoon, that I wanted to shout 'You may well complain that cyclists hold you up for a few seconds out in the countryside but it's like this every day for cyclists in towns.'

Our camp site was alongside the path leading to and from town and it was dense with cyclists from the time we arrived after a short day at 2pm until well into the evening. Where they were going, where they had been, I didn't know. Maybe it wasn't important for them either. They were just out on their bikes in the sun and that is reason enough. On a bike, the journey is so often more important than the destination.

"On a bike, the journey is so often more important than the destination."
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