Highland Cyclist Numbers Cause Serious Safety Concerns - Minister Is Told

"Growing numbers of cyclists - especially during competitive weekend events - are causing traffic disruption and compromising road safety on the A82".  
According to a report by Stephen Norris in The Oban Times, this is the view shared by haulage boss Ali Ferguson and chairman of Fort William FC Derek MacGillivray with Scotland's Transport Minister Keith Brown.  

Cyclist numbers are causing 'serious problems' and  journey delays.  Apparently it takes the football club an extra hour to get to away games, and the haulage firm increased costs due to delays. Cyclist numbers are blamed.  Do they have a point?

I can't find the online version of the story, so I've put a photograph of it above, and a large version at the bottom of this post so you can read the whole thing - click and it expands.

Once past the headline, the arguments covered the article become blurred and conflate a series of points, which I'll try to unpick.  

Too many cyclists wear dark clothing and don't have lights.  

Well, not having lights at night is an offence. Frankly, if anyone rides the A82 at night without lights they have a death-wish.  Nothing would get me on that road after dark.

As for delays, the most serious recent delay which shut the A82 for ten hours, was... a lorry fire.

Lorry drivers have had "a number of near misses on the A82".  

Yet the group campaigning to upgrade the road opposes a Transport Scotland proposal to reduce the speed limit on the narrow, twisting sections from 60mph to 50mph. Incidentally, I've always found that the drivers of Ferguson's lorries are among the most considerate on that road.  

So are cyclists to blame? Or organised cycling events?

If the latter, please don't blame the former.  Because here I have a lot of sympathy. It can be tricky to leapfrog a snaking line of exhausted riders, fully engrosed in finishing challenge event.  Or large groups of end-to-end riders on LEJOG whose mini-peloton is shielded by slow moving support vehicles.  Motorists naturally find this frustrating when yours is the fifth group that day.

Perhaps the narrow sections of the A82 are simply not the place for such events?

In a lot of cases cyclists are not using local cycling routes.  Now this riled me.  I don't know many cycle routes on the A82. However, there is a prominent one between Glencoe and Ballachulish which I rode past yesterday. Past. Not on.  

The photos show why.  In places it is coated with slick, skiddy mud and filthy water. 

In others it is covered with a skiddy carpet of pine needles and leaves.  

I could find barely any of the original surface uncovered.  When I first wrote about this route in August 2010, I was pleased with it, but not now.

I've (once) ridden alongside this route with the local bike club West Highland Wheelers and when I suggested the cycleway, they stared at me like I was insane.  

There is no way anyone would consider taking a road bike onto this skiddy surface.  One tweak of the breaks or twitch of the wheel and you'd be off.  

And then there are the 'give way' signs. They are everywhere. Just when you get up a decent speed, you're breaking again.  

Look at this crossing.  Give way, move to the  road.  Give way, move to the centre.   Give way again.  Move to the next section of lane.  

Why would anyone do that when they can just ride straight past on the road?  

Want to know why cyclists aren't using local cycling routes?  

Because they're not suitable for cycling, that's why.

There are regularly big, adventurous sporting events in this area we're lucky enough to call home.  Many of them involve some element of disruption to normal life, whether it's on the Ben, in the centre of Fort William or on the surrounding roads. 

Lochaber brands itself as the Outdoor Capital of the UK.  The website proclaims 'Pedal in Paradise', boasting an 'internationally renowned reputation for superb mountain, road and hybrid biking'.  It even invites visitors to 'Conquer the towering Glencoe road climbs'.  

Where are they?  On the A82?


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