A BBC report says that Cambridge is “Britain’s top cycling city”. If this is indeed so, I feel sorry for the rest of Britain. For Cambridge, the last time I was looking (last month), is still far from being truly cycle-friendly. Unfortunately, there are no shortage of cyclist haters in Britain. This hatred is often based on a belief that it’s them, motorists, who are paying the mythical “road tax” while the rest are (equally mythical) “road tax dodgers”. On the other hand, (some of) the cyclists in Cambridge are arrogant like nowhere else. When Douglas Adams wrote about “a cyclist, who cursed and swore ... from a moral high ground that cyclists alone seem able to inhabit”, I’m sure he meant Cambridge cyclists.
I bought my first bicycle in 1998, shortly after moving to Cambridgeshire, in a hope to use it for my work commute. Back then, I had this mental image of Cambridge as a safe cycling place, which I by some reason extended to the rest of the county. The reality was different. The semblance of the cycling path was disappearing half-way from the village, and I was never feeling suicidal enough to hit the motorway. And so, for the next 13 years, my Integra Phantom was resting. (Resting, not rusting. It started to rust only here.)
I resumed cycling two years ago, in Corralejo. My first week here, I bought a budget Berg. Both Yuri and Timur were learning cycling on it, and then Yuri was using it daily, so it suffered a lot. In two years, I changed the pedals, wheels, gears, brakes (twice), saddle (twice), tyres (twice), countless inner tubes... well more or less everything apart from the frame and the chain. I reckon I invested in it at least twice as much as it was worth new. Still, cycling is the way to go in Corralejo. From our house, it is a 15-minute ride to the school and the same to Flag Beach.
When my old bike has finally arrived from England, I took it for a check-up to the sports shop where I bought the rest of our bike fleet. That’s when and how I learned (from “my” mechanic) that the brake levers in left-side-driving countries are the other way round compared to the rest of the world.
Now Corralejo is reasonably crime-free but one day Timur phoned from the school and said that his bike has disappeared. By that time, it also was a well-battered contraption scarcely worth stealing. Still, I went to the police to report the incident, if only for the sake of the experience. Needless to say, I never heard back from them.
Cycling in Corralejo is a breeze. Not because of the infrastructure — the cycling paths can be good, bad or absent — but thanks to the attitude. ¡Tranquilo, hombre! It’s only guiris (foreigners) who wear cycling helmets. Nobody bothers with hand signals either. The motorists normally leave the cyclists in peace; the cyclists don’t seem to be excessively irritating either. For me, the major annoyance comes in form of obese pedestrians who insist on crawling three or four a-breast, taking all of the pavement and a cycling path.
Ironically, just as we are planning to move, they, at long last, finished the re-surfacing of the high street and even put the new bike parking racks. If you are visiting Corralejo, think seriously of renting a bike. If you are moving in... do you need a second-hand one?