Cycling through the floods
Cycling through the floods
Ok, so maybe we're just a bunch of southern softies, but the rain has brought problems beyond just a few pairs of wet socks.
I cycle five miles to work each day, with a few options to play with, one of which is the River Wey towpath, a lovely traffic-free route in dry weather.
Another route is a fiddly cycle path, involving a few steps and a bridge you have to walk over.
Unfortunately, both of these routes are currently under deep water in many places and have considerable postdiluvian damage to embankments and surface.
Back on the road again
So, the only options left are the main road routes. But even there, clogged drains and the sheer abundance of rainfall has left huge puddles. Ever since I hit an underwater pothole while cycling along a flooded lane, I've avoided cycling through deep puddles - but doing so sometimes obliges cyclists to ride right out in the centre of the road. This requires anticipating where the puddles are and when to start signalling to other road users your intentions - all fine for experienced cyclists, but nerve-wracking for novices, who normally would be using the flooded cycle path.
Most drivers are, of course, pretty good at understanding that cyclists don't want to cycle through deep puddles and give space accordingly, but it only takes one idiot to take chances and try to overtake just as cyclists are moving out to avoid an obstacle.
This is why we need to ensure that even the busiest routes include decent facilities for cyclists - we shouldn't expect cyclists to exile themselves onto picturesque - but occasionally very damp - towpaths and back route cycle paths.
The rainfall - and lack of drainage - has also led to potholes forming and the edges of lanes washed away. One street near me that was top dressed just a couple of months ago has seen a complete failure of the surface.
When (if?) the water finally drains away, there'll be lots of candidates to be uploaded to Fill That Hole, CTC's pothole reporting website. We've had a roaring start to January, with over 70 potholes a day being reported to the site.
Within a month, thanks to funding from the Department for Transport, we'll be issuing an update to our iPhone app to make reporting even easier - an app for Android phones is also in the pipeline.
What to wear?
And finally, there is the issue of clothing. A full set of waterproof gear - jacket, trousers, booties - ensured that my wettest ever commute this morning left me mostly dry, but not everyone can afford this sort of equipment for the few days each year where you will get truly soaked, if all you are doing is cycling to work.
And what do you do with it when you get to work? Here at CTC we have a drying room, showers and lockers, and the office was designed to cope with cyclists arriving in wet gear.
Of course, one option could be to get off the bike when the weather is this bad, but if, like me, your bike commute is a) the quickest way to work and b) the best way to start the day, the alternatives - even in pouring rain, aren't worth contemplating.
We've just launched comments on the CTC website, and we'd like to hear your stories of how the rain and floods have affected your cycling.