This article was published in 1998, in Newsletter 21.

We do like to be beside the seaside

You may be amused by my recent attempts to transport myself round Blackpool during the Labour Party conference.

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Anne Campbell MP, with folding bicycle

I had an operation on my foot at the beginning of September, which meant that it was still encased in plaster when I went to Blackpool. This certainly restricted my walking, but I was delighted to find that I could manage to cycle as well as usual.

I tried hard to find a cycle shop in Blackpool from which I could rent a bike during my time there. However, there appear to be none! Ben Hayward Cycles were very helpful and lent me a small folding bike which was transported to Blackpool for me by my agent.

The combination of a very fast one-way system for cars, no cycle lanes and unfamiliarity with the location of the various places I wanted to visit made it all a bit hair-raising. The other problem was that there were few places where I could leave a bike safely. Group 4 security looked after it in their refreshment hut at one hotel. At the conference centre I folded it up, sent it through the X-ray scanner and then left it in the cloakroom. It was an interesting experience.

However, I did enjoy envious looks from the scores of other visitors as I whizzed along the prom and the bike saved me a fortune in taxi fares.

I am converted to the idea of a folding bike and I look forward to using it again in future when I am visiting other cities.

Anne Campbell MP

Bad surfaces

I’ve worried for ages about bad surfaces on new cycle facilities. Now I have experience of the sort of problem I had predicted might occur.

A colleague of mine went to Grafham Water on Sunday. He’s in work now with bandages on both hands, and a sore knee. Why? Well, when attempting to turn, the gravelled surface broke lose, resulting in a lot of grit in his hands and also a severed artery.

This is someone who is not a regular cyclist, and, if he’s ever going to become one he surely needs to have some good experiences on a bike. Instead, he commented this morning that he and bikes ‘don’t mix.’ I would be very surprised if he were travelling at what any of us would consider to be a high speed (though it obviously was such for the conditions).

I have suggested he attempt to sue the council, or whoever is responsible for the terrible facility, on the grounds that it is not suitable for cycling. If people were to do this regularly, maybe future facilities would be built so that they were actually suitable for cycling?

I’ve not seen the facility myself, but it sounds as if it has the usual gravelly rough surface and is too narrow to pass safely (especially for novice cyclists, I would imagine). Sounds bad.

The roads are surely safer than these ‘safe’ paths.

David Hembrow