In a Cycling Utopia, pedestrians and cyclists get on just fine (and you can cycle on water)

At the beginning of September, Lucy and I spent a long weekend at our local Center Parcs (Longleat). It’s like living in some sort of cycling utopia! A forest environment, a mere handful of vehicles on the road, masses of bikes, loads of bicycle parking, special bike trails and paths.

If you read the popular press these days, you will learn that cyclists are a menace in pedestrianised areas, that they don’t use their bells, that they cycle too close to people, that they cycle too fast, that they appear out of nowhere. If you unquestioningly take the opinion pages of the papers as gospel truth, you may well believe that it’s a wonder that there aren’t horrific casualties every single day that pedestrians and cyclists go near each other, I guess it’s a miracle that there are only a handful of cyclist on pedestrian deaths/serious injuries every year. We must have been VERY LUCKY to get away with it!

What’s curious about Center Parcs is that cyclists and pedestrians mix completely and thoroughly, yet I heard not one bad word exchanged betwixt the two camps. Even though cyclists were weaving through pedestrians strung out over the routes. Even though there were queues to get through gates. Even though at various times cyclists and pedestrians would have to give way to one another in an environment that was not heavily regulated. The difference is in the expectation, you come to Center Parcs knowing full well that there will be shared-use paths with bikes. There are few clear definitions like ‘pavement’ and ‘road’, so somehow cyclists are prepared to meet with pedestrians and vise-versa.

It rained a lot on the first day, which I actually found quite pleasant in the forest. I was reminded of my favourite sequence in the film My Neighbor Totoro, where the Totoro is delighted by the sound of the rain dripping from the trees onto his borrowed umbrella. To live amongst trees is a special thing indeed.


Some pics:

Lucy took her Diamondback MTB and I took my Brompton, but when it comes to being on the water, you need a specialist machine:

Keep one in the garage for when the floods come

Keep one in the garage for when the floods come

It was a surprisingly smooth ride – moving downwind anyway.

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. It sounds wonderful, though I think the difference is not really between how people behave at Center Parcs and how they behave in the real world. In my experience there is a big gap between the imaginary universe inhabited by the popular press, where everyone seems to come from another planet, and the real world where (almost) everyone I meet seems human.

  2. Thanks for the comment GOM1 – I enjoy reading your blog (http://tlatet.blogspot.com) so it’s great to have your input here. I do think it has a lot to do with psychological expectations arising from the design of the roads as much as anything. There was a reasonably recent episode of the bike show where Jack talked urban planning (http://thebikeshow.net/2008/07/14/14-july-2008-vive-le-tour-london-street-design/)
    There was very interesting discussion about expectations arising from the design of the road surface. I believe Jack put a pdf document up with more detail.

    Thanks for reading GOM1.

  3. Thanks for the link – interesting stuff. The CABE document is here http://www.cabe.org.uk/AssetLibrary/11279.pdf

  4. That’s a fantastic machine, perfect for floods.


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