As I indicated in my previous post, I found the ride this year a bit strained because of the antics of some idiots. The issue is not the route per se but the simple fact that the significant proportion of that 6000 is what you might term “casual” riders. And within that category there was, to put it bluntly, a large number of total morons. I now find myself saying that I will not ride it in this particular event again. The reason is quite simple: I saw so many examples of idiotic cycling behaviour that I would neither want to be associated with it nor would I risk my own safety.
The event organisers had obviously put thought into the route as it was impeccably routemarked. There was also a sizeable quantity of marshals on hand but what was missing was any indication that the bulk of those marshals were capable of dealing with poor cycling behaviour. It was apparent early on that the bulk of the participants were not regular cyclists and most certainly did not know how to behave on the public road or when cycling in a large group. I repeatedly saw riders overtaking on the inside, weaving in and out of other cyclists at speed, stopping dead in the middle of the road (especially on hills), running red traffic lights and riding on the wrong side of the road even in the face of oncoming traffic. I also saw marshals standing by and doing nothing about it. I believe the event organisers should have recognised that having so many non-regular cyclists on the road at the one time was likely to lead to such behaviour. The main flashpoints should have been identified and stronger marshal presence located at them.
In events like these we rely very much on the support of other roads users. A week previously I had taken part in the Tour Ride in Dumfries, and while admittedly they had significantly fewer riders to deal with, the marshals were superb and highly proactive especially the motorcycle marshals. A similar picture would exist for the other sportives I have ridden this year including the Graeme Obree Classic. What I saw at Pedal for Scotland Challenge route makes me wonder just how much damage we have done to that goodwill. I witnessed a number of close calls and I witnessed altercations between cyclists and motorists. It would be too easy to say that these were not “real cyclists”, but sadly we are all tarred by the same brush and the disgruntled motorist is not going to distinguish between an experienced and road-wise club cyclist and a once-a-summer numpty. I am all for encouraging people into cycling, but there is a massive issue to be addressed in terms of cycling safely on mass rides just as there is a massive issue to be addressed in terms of cycling responsibly. The organisers of Pedal for Scotland must do more to ensure the latter happens as well as the former, and as part of that they should play a major role in ensuring that the participants are aware of their responsibilities. We need all recognise that our war cry of “share the damn road” is, as it were, a two-way street.