Steve Worland’s friday slot asks what escapism is really all aboutâ¦
It’s sometimes said that TV, airplanes and motor cars are dehumanising
influences on society. It’s sometimes said that society no longer exists,
only individuals. It sometimes said that individuals on mountain bikes are
terrorising the countryside. What’s the link?
The link is that everyone has been adversely affected, in one way or
another, by the de-localisation of our everyday activities. For years now,
it has been an attractive prospect for me to be able to jump into a car in
Bristol at 5.00 on a Sunday morning, buzz up the M6 to the Lakes, have a
huge fry up at the Coniston caff at 8.30 and then ride up the Old Man to the
top of the world. But, as attractive as the prospect is, I have never done
it. Why? Because it seems energy wasteful when there are loads of good rides
locally. If I could do it as easily on a train, it might be a different
matter. It’s far easier to justify train journeys in energy terms, because a
train is going to make the journey anyway, regardless of whether I’m on
board. Oh, and another cyclist aboard may make them think more about
cyclists wanting to use trains. Wishful thinking? Sure. The reality is a bit
more multi-dimensional, but you know what I mean.
I have the same problem with races. I don’t want to drive over 200 miles to
a race, but then I’m equally reluctant to see a race organised in the local
woods. The NIMBY in me creeps in. I don’t want to accept part of the blame
for several hundred sets of tyre tracks doing three laps of what I almost
regard as my own personal trails.
I don’t really know how to settle such inner conflicts. The ‘Not In My Back
Yard’ approach is a particularly difficult one to come to terms with, simply
because when an opportunity is provided, I’ll sometimes go and ride in
someone else’s back yard, not because it’s necessarily any better than my
own back yard but because it’s different, and because of that difference it
may prove to be stimulating, invigorating or just fun. At what point does
the cost of fun become unjustified? Now there’s an even bigger question than
the de-localisation one.
So, back to de-localisation. Our new, some may even say twisted,
relationship with the world we live in is one based on velocity rather than
movement. A mass influx of people can be damaging to an area that hasn’t
developed the systems to take the pressure of non-localised use. Pressure
points like Snowdon or bits of The Lakes are good examples, but the same can
happen almost everywhere else in the world. Even the Middle Of Nowhere will
be a theme park sooner or later.
I don’t have a solution that would work AND keep my own sense of non local
adventure satisfied. But have a think about why we’ve mutated into a society
(or a collection of potentially selfish individuals) who feel a need to
escape all the time. What are we trying to escape from?
The answer lies in what your local community has to offer for the adventure
influenced. How lively are your town shopping areas after the shops have
shut? Where’s the space and interest for the skaters, riders and evening
leisure strollers? Where’s the street music? Where are the bike skills
classes? Hey, shopping centres are for shopping, aren’t they, just like the
countryside is for walking, the living room is for watching telly and the
car is for getting to work and strapping babies into. Could it be that we’ve
gone too far down the road to compartmentalisation of life’s activities. Do
something out of place these days and it’ll probably be banned.
by Steve Worland