50 miles challenge in Newcastle City centre – A member’s story


It’s at the Big Toon Ride that we met Ali and his son, Archie. He had heard about the ride, came along, and joined the Campaign. Shortly afterwards, he approached us with an idea and here it is, with his own words. It echoes how people felt riding around the city centre that day, and more generally the situation described by many in the Safe cycle Petition and our recent members’ survey, a city Centre which is not fit for cycling:

“I’ve had some daft ideas in my life, not least choosing to ride at least 50 miles per day for 50 consecutive days in memory of my Mother-in-Law who died of breast cancer in August 2013.

An even dafter idea was using the Newcastle Cycling Campaign’s “Big Toon Ride” as a warm up ride just a week before my 50 x 50 challenge. Don’t get me wrong, the “Big Toon Ride” was a great event and served to amply illustrate the demand for more cycling space in Newcastle upon Tyne but……as a way to train for a long distance cycling challenge it was an exercise in sheer futility.

Cycling in Newcastle is a moribund exercise, you just can not get anywhere. In 2014 when green initiatives are rightly all the rage, it beggars believe that cycling through such a great city is simply a tiresome series of shunts from red light to red light to red light. My cycling computer recorded my progress at just over 4 pitiful miles per hour whilst we fought for road space against some pretty uncompromising bus drivers and one particularly belligerent Mercedes driver……. “Errrr, that’s a bunch of kids on bikes you are trying to drive through mate”.

I found myself questioning why anybody would choose to cycle here at which stage the most ridiculous idea of them all came to mind. The thought process went along the following lines.

“How best to highlight the sheer pointlessness of cycling through Newcastle? Oh! I know!! Why not do one of the 50 mile charity rides through the city centre obeying every rule of the road and trying to avoid being crushed under the wheels of all the equally frustrated drivers of less environmentally friendly motorised vehicles?”

So, I resolved to undertake what I believe will be the slowest and most tedious 50 mile bike ride of my entire life – not just of the fifty consecutive rides I’m doing for the breast cancer charity. Most of my rides so far have been in hilly Northumberland where I average between 12.5 and 16 miles per hour depending on the weather and terrain. That generally means between 3 and 4 hours of pedalling but I fully expect the Newcastle city centre ride to take anywhere between 8 and, god forbid, 16 hours.

Basically, it is going to be a long, long day because instead of being the safest, fastest, cleanest and most encouraged means of transport in our great 21st century city, the lack of cycling infrastructure renders bicycles pretty much redundant. In this day and age, that is a deeply depressing indictment of our city’s planners.

Please, please. please help me illustrate the futility of cycling in Newcastle city centre by joining me on Saturday 5 July for a circuit or two of the town. Believe me, I’m going to need every bit of company I can get as I wait patiently at yet another red light whilst missing the start of the world’s greatest celebration of cycling, the Tour de France.

How ironic!

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Ali in full action (and still smiling) at the Big Toon Ride
Photo Credit: Carlton Reid