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Column: As a cyclist I never had any reason to drive a car

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Old March 25th 20, 06:43 PM posted to uk.rec.cycling
Simon Mason[_6_]
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Default Column: As a cyclist I never had any reason to drive a car

THIS is the story of how I tried to go green and ended up as an environmental hypocrite.

As a child, I was appalled by the death toll on Britain’s roads. There were more than 6,000 fatalities each year and many times that number were maimed or seriously injured.

Cars also caused appalling pollution and if I went for a bike ride lasting any time, my face would be covered with black marks.

Public transport was dying as people became more prosperous and bought cars.. There was a trickle of train closures in the 1950s which became a flood in the 1960s following the Beeching report.

The countryside was being ruined by motorways and dual carriageways. Ugly flyovers and underpasses wrecked historic towns.

It seemed to me that things could only get worse unless the nation made a real effort to cut down on cars but no one agreed with me.

I determined when I was 17 and old enough to start motoring that I would not own or drive a car.

And I never have, although it has caused great complications for my friends and relations.

I sometimes wonder what sort of driver I would have been. To find out, I took a driving test on a Lambretta I’d bought for ten pounds, passed, and immediately abandoned the scooter.

Having ridden a bike on roads since I was four, I found it the quickest and most convenient way of getting around towns and often it was faster too.

I was always able to cycle to work and as a reporter rode bikes to cover stories.

Keeping a tally, I covered several thousand miles annually and eventually claimed that I had cycled the equivalent of going around the world.

The millionaire Mike Holland, who owns the Engineerium in Hove, was amused by this and asked if the bike could be displayed when the museum reopened.

Sadly this has not happened yet but I took the battered steed there a few years ago and it may still be awaiting rusty stardom.

Going around the countryside was not always so easy. One Sunday when I was a freelance reporter, I was asked by a national newspaper to interview a man in Bolney who was not on the phone. Bolney does not have a station and there were no Sunday buses.

I cycled there over the Downs and was told he had gone to Lower Beeding. I carried on to that village but he was out.

My wife and I acquired a tandem which was useful for getting round town and was worth taking to dinner parties as the riders could not be breathalysed..

But she disliked it and bought an old car. I then had to decide where to use that or not. I did ride in it quite often but continued to cycle on my own.

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