Thursday, September 29, 2016

Cycling by Train

Feeling a bit weary, I jumped on the train in Dover to visit Canterbury. I loved taking my bike on the British trains.

A few stations lack lifts, incredible as that is given the footfall. I am glad I'm not in a wheelchair. For me it means unloading the bike and carrying first panniers and then bike up and down stairs, which is seriously hard work. Not to mention stressful, given that at every station there are these regular announcements "Please do not leave luggage unattended. Any unattended luggage will be removed without warning and may be destroyed." See me run up and down those stairs...

But to get the bike into the carriage is just a small step and someone usually offers to help lift it up.

In France, it was more like three steps up to board, and my calves were black and blue with bruises from Betty-wrestling.

On the smaller UK regional trains, bikes can be taken into any carriage. Sometimes there is a designated space with restraints and fold-down seats, but often I'd just have to stand with it in the entry way, to balance the bike and make sure that people could get around it to get on and off. Sometimes there would be several bikes, requiring a bit of discussion about who would be getting off next and delicate manovouring to not block the exit.

Trains and cycles go together well and every station has cycle parking, although there are also signs warning that theft is common.

I got locked into a carriage at one point. The train divided at some station down the track and I'm sure the destinations board on the platform had said I needed to be in the last four carriages to get to where I was going. We stopped somewhere - nothing unusual in that, I was reading a book, and because there wasn't anyone else in the carriage I'd wedged the bike in behind the seat. Then there was an announcement to say this train had terminated and everyone should leave now. But I couldn't reach the button to open the doors without moving the bike. Too late, nothing happened. . I tried the door at the end of the carriage and that was locked too. No one in sight on the platform. No response from the microphone that was supposed to contact the driver. I tried the emergency button and not even that was working.  My four carriages had disconnected and the train had continued without me.  I did a mental inventory of what food I had with me - tea bags and a jar of vegemite, how long could I survive on that? Just as I was trying to work out who on earth I might phone, a conductor came through and released me. He said he was past his knock-off time but he always liked to walk through the train before he clocked off.  Thank goodness!

Not bad going, that this was the worst thing that happened to me in two weeks of cycling and camping.

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