In Welcome Other News… The Ryburn Valley / Electric Cars / Japan / Norway / Edwardian Britain

Trump, Brexit, May (although see below)… I’ve had my fill.

In other news:

IMG_1925I joined BBC Radio Leeds presenter Andrew Edwards last Thursday morning for a walk along part of the route of the disused Sowerby Bridge to Rishworth railway line and one day, hopefully, the walking- and cycling-friendly Ryburn Valley Greenway here in West Yorkshire. He was recording our chat for his ‘secret spaces’ series of reports and it will be broadcast this coming weekend on his early morning breakfast show. You should be able to listen in by following this link. The proposed Ryburn Valley Greenway has featured several times here on – click here for more – and I formally joined the small group of locals who are advocating its implementation earlier in the year. This week we received the ‘results’ of the consultation that has been carried out by an outside consultancy firm for the local council. It is a little half-baked to say the least and certainly not worthy of the £26,000 it cost to produce. More details on the Ryburn Valley Greenway Facebook page:

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More details / comments on the Facebook page

The battle continues!

Following my trip to Ulverston last week to give a talk at the Retro Rendezvous / Vélo Retro festival – see the photos here and here – a couple of follow-up emails arrived. The first from a chap called Simon who hadn’t attended the talk but who had spoken to his boss – who had attended – about something I said. Specifically it was this part of the talk:

The message is clear, no? I have recently added the slide comparing cars, electric cars and autonomous cars as I think it makes a clever point (and all credit to the person who created it and shared it on Twitter). Simon thinks not:

“…with electric and self-driving cars the numbers of vehicles will reduce, a lot, but obviously not as much as if people were just using bicycles, or electric assist bikes.”

It’s an interesting point and Simon cites evidence:

“In Berlin for example they have electric mopeds and electric cars that you can ‘rent’ for your journey, I think so far there are about 1000 of each and there is a noticeable reduction in the amount of traffic that is on the roads.”

I replied, somewhat sceptically, with my own thoughts:

“What will make a difference is action by governments on a national and local level to curtail the self-imposed rights of motorists to go everywhere in their cars. Banning personal vehicles from urban areas is not a pipe dream. It has been done in Zermatt for example where no resident or visitor is allowed to bring their car, whether it be petrol, diesel or indeed electric, into the centre of the urban area. A fleet of electric vehicles exists and are used by companies to transport goods to their shops, restaurants, hotels etc… and for taxis. The city centre is transformed (I’d recommend a visit). Housing developments in The Netherlands have been built upon the premise that no one will use their personal car in the urban area. Solutions are designed and built into the urban environment whether it be appropriate transport links to access the houses and flats or underground infrastructure to remove waste from the streets etc…”

I visited Zermatt back in the summer of 2016 while on a walking holiday – more details here – and below are a couple of photos of those electric vehicles. Simon does make an interesting observation however and I would be interested in hearing more evidence of what he says being true.

The second person to enter into an email exchange with me is Alex, who was in the audience last Friday and who I shared a coffee with the following morning. 7717865408_IMG_0708He has, interestingly, cycled in Japan:

“In my view Japan needs a bit more understanding regarding etiquette etc than any country I have ever cycled in as they are tuned into it, whereas probably in China or east Asia generally elsewhere it is a bit easier to busk it on the cultural front…”

I’ve added a few bits and pieces to the ‘Japan 2020‘ section of on the following pages:

If you are able to add anything yourself, please get in touch.

On the subject of cycling long-distances, Nicholas Waite has been back in touch. Towards the end of last year, he emailed a good number of questions about cycling from Tarifa to Nordkapp and I posted them to in a question-answer format:

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For all 24 questions and answers, follow this link

Nicholas has now reported back after having arrived at Nordkapp. He makes some interesting observations about cycling in Norway:

“I made it to Nordkapp , June 28, after 73 cycling days (84 days in total) and am now safely entrenched back in sunny London.

Norway kept its worst to last. The final two days were the most climate adverse days I have ever cycled in. They were the legs from Olderfjord to Honnisvag and then the last day from Honnisvag to Nordkapp. The wind was so strong on the second to last day they closed the road to Nordkapp for 3 hours. On that day I found the infamous Honnisvag 6.8 km tunnel to be a relief from the elements. I passed several cyclists that day that had dismounted their bikes and were trying to push them against the prevailing wind. 

In fact the last 2 weeks in Norway were very wet. Had only one decent day (the first) on the Lofoten Island group and the ride up to Andenes was as wet as I have ever been on a bike. From Lofoten to Nordkapp it was rain and cold and wind every day. 

A friend asked me if the beautiful scenery at least balanced out the hills and weather.  At the time I said I wasn’t sure. Looking back I would say it didn’t. Had I not already had 4,000 km under my belt by the time I got to Norway am pretty sure I would’ve severely struggled as the weather was just relentless. I won’t be rushing back to Norway anytime soon given my experiences nor given the ridiculous cost of most things.”

I think I agree with Nick. On the days when the weather is dreadful, northern Norway can be hell. I was lucky and had a mixture of good and bad; it sounds as though Nick wasn’t so lucky. You can, of course, read about my own experiences in Spain to Norway on a Bike Called Reggie:


One final item of ‘other news’: The Song of the Highway. You may or may not have read my three books, but John and Sue Dews have and have been very complimentary. They even emailed me with a proposition:

“Having read three of your excellent cycling books, in which we felt very much a part of your adventures with Reggie, we wondered if you would be interested in reading two volumes of cycling memoirs produced by ourselves from a diary written by my grandfather, Charlie Shimmell’s cycling travels in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Wherever he cycled in the UK, he kept meticulous records of road conditions, weather, places visited, people he encountered, timings and mileages. We were very much reminded of these memoirs after reading you own accounts and this has prompted this request.

We typed up the contents of the handwritten diary into two volumes which were produced as A4 paperbacks by a local printer and which have been freely distributed to family and friends.  The volumes contain not only written accounts but a large number of old postcards, newspaper cuttings etc… relative to cycling in the late Victorian and Edwardian years.  The original diary, now over 100 years old and in a fragile state of repair, has been deposited at our local Archive centre for safe keeping…

IMG_2086A few days ago, the volumes duly arrived and am now about to delve in for a read!

One of the nicest things about having cycled across Europe, maintaining this website, writing the books and giving the talks is the personal contacts that I have made. Some classic examples are contained in this post and I am grateful for each encounter whether it be face-to-face or virtually via the Internet. Thanks to Andrew at Radio Leeds, Simon (even though I disagree with him), Alex for his insights into Japan, Nick for his feedback about Norway and John and Sue for their kind gift. The time you have spent with me or in contacting me is very much appreciated. And, of course, it beats hands down hearing more about the awful Trump or the shambles that is Brexit. Keep in touch!

1 reply »

  1. we really enjoyed our tour in the Netherlands and Germany this year cycling across northern Holland and picking up the Ems cycle route to Munster and then getting maps for the rivers Ruhr and Rhein. Once back in the Netherlands we cycled down the river Meuse route and across southern Holland and back to Imjuiden. The upshot of this is that I have got myself a touring e-bike . Its is brilliant allowing me to not hold back my husband. I don’t have the assist on all the time and once charge has depleted after 97 miles so I think that is great. Electric bikes really can help all of us. I was going to wait until I am 70 but as DH says why wait 2 years?

What do you think?