A little while ago I posted my thoughts about unreasonable barriers on cycletrails and why I thought Sustrans were not confronting the issue as squarely as they should.
I’ve just had a comment on that post from somebody who calls themself F***Off (I’ve masked the offensive word) who says their email address is firstname.lastname@example.org (you have to give an address to post a comment)
I’ve deleted it of course since I believe in being open about yourself and somebody who hides their identity in such an aggressively rude way should not have a platform but the comment was interesting so I thought it was worth discussing. Here is the actual comment:
“Oh f*** off. If there is crap in your way and it has no reasoned basis to be there, get the bolt cutters/angle grinder out and remove same.”
So FO believes that direct action is the only or most effective answer and I have some sympathy. In some circumstances I have done just that if the opportunity arose. But this particular direct action is absurd unless I was willing to let it take over my life.
I could go out with an angle grinder and destroy cycle gates, however there is a huge number of them all over the country so it would become an all-consuming life’s work, especially as a cordless grinder and battery packs make up a heavy load to pull around on your bicycle and doing it in a car rather defeats the object. The planning and precautions I would need to avoid being caught would also be extremely burdensome. And if I did the barrier cutting in a sloppy way it could cause real danger to people using the cycle trail* That’s the difference between real life and the movies.
Alternatively I could go and carry out a symbolic attack on a few of these barriers near home but that would not actually alter very much, I and others would still face the struggle with the great majority of barriers remaining and the most likely effect is that local authorities would just regard this as mindless vandalism and use it as an excuse to do less for cyclists.
I don’t know what the answer is to this challenge but I guess I’ll keep on complaining and hoping that a critical mass of opinion will build so if there were to be some direct action it would be understood as a moral act by a significant number, not just an occasional crackpot lashing out. Where public support has accrued to direct action it is usually because a large number of normally reasonable people have decided to become unreasonable in support of a recognisably reasonable cause.
*In case you think this is just good old “health and safety gone mad” I should mention that somebody I know, while riding along a cycle trail in twilight, struck a difficult to see obstacle (quite a large boulder placed there by the authorities but blending in with the background) and ended up in hospital with head injuries that lasted for some time and could have had lasting conseqeunces. Something equally nasty could happen if you left part of a metal barrier sticking out of the ground, especially with a sharp cut edge. Afterwards a group of cyclists took direct action and painted that boulder white and I was pleased to lend a hand.