To be honest this headline could have said one of a number of things that was muttered or shouted at my young family on one of the many occasions we have cycled on the Wirral Way over the last 6 months. Lockdown has brought out the best in some people but definitely the worst in others.
If you’re reading this article I imagine you know what the Wirral Way is, and have probably even ran, cycled, or walked on it; but if not here’s a summary.
The Wirral Way is a 12 mile path on the track of an old railway that goes from West Kirby to Hooton in mid-Wirral offering superb views over the Dee Estuary to Wales. It’s car free, mainly flat, and wide enough along the whole route for 2 possibly 3 people or bikes to pass easily. For those reasons it makes it very popular with long distance walkers, pop out for a stroll walkers, dog walkers, runners, horse riders and yes cyclists.
The other comment I had muttered at me today was ‘It’s like a bloody motorway’ today. Yes it was sunny, yes it was busy (ish) but for the most part it was a lovely morning out with lots of people using the Wirral Way enjoying what is probably the last weekend of Summer. It wasn’t actually like a motorway, of course, as there was no cars on it, and that’s clearly the point.
With three girls who have only really developed an ability to cycle a decent distance in the last couple of years, the Wirral Way makes a perfect morning out. It’s flat, it’s safe, they don’t have to navigate cars and hand signals, and they can learn the skills that will hopefully make them safer cyclists in the future. I ask them to cycle single file, on the left hand side of the path, and I thought it was what we were trying to encourage, more cyclists and less cars on the road. Yet when we take them out on the bikes we field a number of criticisms and disgusted looks.
The comments are mainly from people who seem to have decided that the Wirral Way is simply there for their own use and enjoyment. There are whole threads on facebook dedicated to people discussing the fact that they should be able to use it in peace. I am not by any means saying that ‘they’ shouldn’t use it, but why is their right to use it any more valid than mine or my children. If cyclists aren’t their thing then perhaps they should take a walk on the beach, or in one of the parks, or on the pavements around the beautiful streets. All places I can’t take my children cycling. When I run I sometimes do run on the Wirral Way if I’m trying to build up some distance but there are far prettier places to run or walk. So if I can, I choose to do so, leaving more space for those who can only walk on the Wirral Way because it’s flat or convenient to where they live.
I’m also not saying that some criticism of some cyclists isn’t warranted. Yes some can go too fast, think the Wirral Way is just for cyclists and treat it like they own it. But isn’t that what the person walking their dog is doing when they don’t call it back, or when friends out for a walk, walk 3 abreast down the middle of the path so you can’t easily navigate round. My 8 year old rang her bell today to alert some walkers to her presence as 3 people were walking in the middle of the path, and I was treated to a comment of ‘oh for gods sake, more bloody cyclists’. I stopped myself from shouting back – it’s not your bloody path, but perhaps I should have.
What’s the answer for the Wirral Way? I don’t know. It’s always going to be a multi use path. However all anyone can really ask is that if you are going to use it, just use it with compassion. It’s a wonderful luxury to have and to use, but we all need to remember it’s not ours, or even for one set of people doing one set of things. The Wirral Way should be for cyclists, it should be for everyone.