Over the last week, I’ve spotted something rather strange happening in Horsham.
A Dutch invasion.
A practical Batavus.
A child’s Batavus.
But the invasion isn’t limited to Dutch bicycles – some British bicycles are getting in on the act.
I couldn’t identify this lady’s bicycle – but it looked rather new. As you can see, she’s dressed in ordinary clothes. No helmet, hi-viz, or unnecessary accoutrements.
I’ve also spotted this Swedish ‘City Crescent’ bike – which has a coaster brake, integral lock and dynamo lights.
And in this picture, we can see a gents ‘Real Classic’, lined up next to the aforementioned Raleigh and Gazelle. Three in a row.
The Gazelle and the child’s Batavus have, it seems, actually come from the Netherlands. Whether they’ve been bought there by British residents, or have accompanied Dutch migrants to Horsham, I don’t know.
The Swedish bicycle has come from Finland. Its owner had left it behind, buying a ‘British bicycle’ when she arrived here, which apparently fell apart after six months. She then got her parents to ship it over for her.
Investigation reveals that the ‘Real Classic’ bike is stocked by Halfords, for the princely sum of £179. At this price, I’m not too sure of the quality (maybe I’m being unfair), but I think we have to give credit to Halfords for stocking these kinds of bicycles at reasonable prices. At a guess, the rather more expensive Pashley would probably have been bought there too.
These kinds of bikes – which until recently were very scarce in Horsham – surely indicate an increasing appetite for practical, attractive bikes that are easy to ride and maintain. Even the humble, bog-standard mountain bikes that still tend dominate Horsham as the bicycle of choice seem to be being modified in ways that make them rather more useful as a town runabout.
These two have been fitted with mudguards, racks and panniers, as well as smooth tyres.
Unfortunately practical town bikes are not particularly compatible with Horsham’s cycle-unfriendly road network, on which you have to make right turns across multiple lanes of fast motor traffic, like at the location seen in the picture that heads this blog, where ladies dismount and shuffle their way across the junction, before proceeding on the pavement, or on the road, when there are no motor vehicles about. Or negotiate giant, sweeping roundabouts. Or ‘take the lane’ on narrower, fast roads, with parked cars on both sides, and pinch points.
But even with these appallingly hostile roads, these bicycles are increasingly in evidence.
Isn’t it time we started making our roads and streets a little safer, both objectively and subjectively, for the people who might choose to use utility bicycles like these? There’s clearly an appetite for cycling – ordinary cycling – that needs satisfying.