When does Road Closed mean Closed?
A fine sunny day led to plenty of Easy Riders (41) assembling on Drury Lane. I’d not ridden for a week or so, and it was good to hear that participants had missed my blog posts regularly popping up on the website.
The middle group, led by Adrian, was so large that we decided to split into 2 subsets of 8 riders, with Gifford leading the second half. We pedalled off down London Road, right down Queenborough Lane and through Rayne. We were riding through farmland a lot of the time, and the rapeseed was in full flower. Its perfume was pronounced at certain points and it made me remember how cross it made my beekeeping aunt, as rapeseed makes very hard, white, granulated honey, rather than the smooth, golden liquid that she preferred. We turned left at Thistley Green and headed south east to Great Leighs, where Adrian found us a nice ford to ride through. The sensible ones amongst us (ie me!) took the footpath which had only one footstep across the rivulet feeding the ford, and remained dry. Ed - Adrian and Roger braved the ford, with only the latter getting a wet foot ;-)
We followed quiet roads across to Notley Road, and turned left, pedalling slowly up the hill until we reached the church at Black Notley, where our tea stop had been declared. This is a great tea stop - £1 for tea, £1 for cake, with optional donations to Dementia Friends. My dad had dementia, and I think this is a good cause, worthy of our support. When we left the café, I wished them profit, and the ladies behind the counter said they always received excellent support from our group, and were keen for us to return. I noticed two elderly ladies hobbling carefully from the tea room, who got into a car, driven by a care home worker. I had some cheerful conversation, hoping they had enjoyed themselves while out gallivanting and enjoying tea and buns – which they had! It also made me think about how the church served different parts of its community – elderly ladies in their circumstances are probably on a very restricted budget, but at these church prices, they could probably fund a trip out.
Adrian was soon cracking the whip and we pedalled on to Bulford Lane, past Bulford Mill, where there was a sign saying Road Closed, access to station only. Not really noticing, I pedalled up the hill, over the railway line, and turned right at the top onto Mill Lane where we assembled at the entrance to the new housing development. No road closure! There was a lorry for some sort of work at the Mill Lane/Bulford Lane junction, but definitely no road closures. We went on to do a loop around Perry Green, then turned right at the Ashes, to ride up to Long Green. Once again, I sort of saw a Road Closed sign. Foolishly I did not read it properly, but thought ‘I bet bikes will be able to get through’. We merrily pedalled along, and I noticed lorries accessing the depot at the top of Long Green, and idly thought, ‘I bet this is where the new A120 goes through, they’re probably doing preparatory work’. Then I rode past lorries with huge spools of electrical cabling being unravelled and looked at telegraph poles and trees being mechanically removed by graspers/cherry pickers. I heard one of the workmen say ‘This road is meant to be closed’. This gave me the realisation that actually, riding past these workmen was not safe. If the grasper had dropped the telegraph pole, it could have caused a fatality. My reflection is that both the contractors and the Easy Riders were in the wrong. The road was not correctly closed to traffic, as there was no member of staff on the entry point, no barrier, no red light. But we should have taken more notice of the road signs, after all the Highway Code applies to all road users. et often, when Road Closed signs are displayed, they are just wrong – as demonstrated earlier on our ride, and this has ‘trained us to behave badly’.
I don’t know what the answer to this situation is. The only helpful thing I have to suggest is that all of us need to judge our own safety situation, and all of us need to be confident to shout a warning, or demand a halt, so a group decision can be made. But each of us needs to improve our safe riding. Ed - agree we need to check with the contractors to ensure it is safe to go through.
We reassembled safely at Fowlers Farm, and dispersed to our respective home locations. 26m, average 10.25 mph, 2 hours 26 minutes in good company with interesting conversation. I returned home a happy chappie.