Picture the scene: you’re on the morning commute, casually riding along the cycle lane, wind in your hair, smile on your face. Before too long, you start to hear a whirring noise – faint at first but growing louder. When you turn to see what it is, you feel like you’re suddenly in a bike-based remake of Jumanji, as some of the world’s top professional cyclists bear down on you like a stampede of wheeled wildebeest.
Well, if you were resident of Zottegem in Belgium this week then you could’ve found yourself inadvertently taking part in the first stage of the Three Days of De Panne, as 15 riders were fined £160 for taking to a cycle lane during the race. The reason? To avoid the bumpy, bum-bothering cobbles that comprised that section of the official route.
Now, as a cyclist living in post-industrial northern England, I can certainly appreciate the lure of a smooth, paved cycle path, when the alternative is a bruising encounter with a muddle of quarried rock, but the punishment meted out by the commissaires should be applauded in this case. After all, some of the greatest occasions in the sport take place on the ‘pavés’ of mainland Europe and, brilliant as it is to see cycling infrastructure being fully taken advantage of, it would hardly be the same if some bright spark decided that, in future, the best way to ride from Paris to Roubaix is by cycle superhighway.
A casual cyclist shows Philippe Gilbert how he should have been using the cycle lanes during the Three Days of De Panne.
“It just shows you that there is still kindness out there”
Teacher Katie Blomquist who raised $80,000 through public donations to buy every student in her school a bike in Charleston, United States.