The extreme commuting challenge

It’s Bike week soon so to mark this great event which will try to encourage more people to cycle to work, I’m going to create the extreme commuting challenge, mad, extreme, commuting challenge competition. Now obviously I could just say ‘ride into Manchester without dying’ which is pretty extreme. And a challenge. But that would be too easy. So I’m going to target some actual, dedicated, segregated cycle infrastructure.*

*(It’s actually a shared path but this is Britain so it actually counts as dedicated infrastructure because we truly are the worst at this in the entire world)

So I’m going to call it ‘The Extreme commuting challenge’, or alternatively, ‘Can you imagine the outrage and carnage that would happen if you put drivers through this?’. I’ve created the course in conjunction with Warrington’s finest contractors who have spent weeks building the most difficult and obstructive obstacle course they could possibly think of. So put your body armour on, get yourself a full face helmet and an 8 inch travel mountain bike because you are in for the commute of your life!!!!

The focus of our course is Skyline drive. A short road linking the M62 to Great Sankey in Warrington. This is a brand new build on brown belt land so they could create absolutely anything they wanted. They could have built the most perfect section of cycle infrastructure IN THE WORLD here. Of course they didn’t. What would be the point in that?

skyline

When Skyline was first built, the cycle lane was ok…ish. Nice smooth tarmac, vulnerable road users only had to lose priority to great big massive lorries two or three times and some of the drops to the crossing points were only 6 inches. As far as British infrastructure goes, it was top notch. Recognising their mistake, the local contractors quickly set about changing that.

Lets begin the course as it stands today.

To be fair, this is the other side road coming out of Gemini retail park, but it’s a nice start. Quite a steep climb by Warrington standards and made all the more trickier by the random width available to the riders. It is a good warm up before the true challenges that face our competitors.

Our combatants (sic) then have to cross a busy road leading to and from the motorway. Oh, you think they should be able to see the traffic lights to know if it’s safe to cross or not? We don’t. But lets not worry about that because here comes our first skill challenge, ‘The ridge of DOOM’. Unnecessarily narrow, riders are squeezed through a gap which if fluffed up, could see them on the road under a lorry, or into a fence and if they’re really lucky, down an embankment. Try that with a full pannier. Clearly it’s empty in these photos but we’ll try and organise the event when the contractors are actually there. Abusive workmen stood around taking the piss is certainly going to improve the situation.

Our racers then smoothly flow round an off camber corner covered in gravel before entering the first Domino pizza confrontation. At some point in the future this will be come a mere crossing point where huge lorries, as mighty vehicles, have priority over soft and squidgy human beings (as it should be), but today, this is the most difficult part of the commuter challenge. Two, count them, two, 6 inch high kerbs with approaches channeled through high and narrow fence gaps with the rough ground in between scattered with workmen dandruff (bottles and that). Concerned that this was too easy, the contractors added two huge piles of loose gravel. I’m reliably informed that these were *supposed* to be ramps but any idiot can see that these only make things worse….much worse. I mean better.

Phew! Still, things aren’t over yet for our riders. Now they must take on Domino pizza challenge number two. Two 90 degree turns, over loose gravel, into a protected (HA!) channel on the road. Remember to turn both ways *immediately* otherwise you’ll be going under a lorry that passes six inches away from the cones.

At the other end we have a special little challenge that will test the quality of riders, ooh, I dunno, at Danny Macaskill’s level. What we’ve done here is put a plastic ramp in place. “Well that sounds a bit easy!”, you may retort. You have of course forgotten the nature of this challenge. You see, we’ve not fixed it to the ground at all. Or actually made it go up the kerb. Or even provided any functionality at all. In fact, anyone trying to ride up this clever feature is on their way to teeth out city.

Nice.

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Back onto the cycle lane we go but don’t relax just yet. The tactile paving can only mean one thing, DANGER!¬†

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That’s right, you’ve just lost priority to lorries (here) and cars (just up ahead) because you’re a scummy cyclists and cars and lorries are much more important. Buy a car if you don’t like it. And use it!

30 ton vehicles on a schedule behind you and the next dangerous hazard¬† skills test is before you, The ASDA chasm of uncertainty, so called because so far I’ve seen gas, electric and water men looking into to it. What’s in there? Nobody knows!

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Now our riders can relax for a little bit, until you know, they get to the off-camber left hander with the wrong tactile paving in the wrong place.

Bit of a sprint and it’s time to tackle the channel of death. Here the path narrows to less than a normal bike width. Lean over to the right! Don’t worry, it’s only a road filled with cars and lorries.

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This is exhausting but don’t worry, the challenge is nearly over. Only one more entrance where you lose priority followed by the relatively simple, roundabout of massacre where our riders are spat out onto the road just before a completely blind roundabout which is heavily frequented by Royal Mail lorry drivers and Amazon delivery drivers, the most diligent and least under pressure drivers that exist.

And that’s it! Our riders have successfully completed the extreme commuter challenge. Some of them are probably dead or in hospital wondering where all their skin is but it’s certainly a challenge worthy of today’s cycle-commuter who really does need to toughen up a bit and stop complaining about being treated like dirt.

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