Saturday, 23 June 2012

Insane mental maps

Mental maps
Cycling: Newcastle vs Braunschweig (matching scale) - which one is bike friendly?
Dunno where it was mentioned, or who mentioned it. But the word "mental map" came up the other day.

Which made me think.

Our walking mental map is along footways and pavements, and it isn't usually great. But there's  salvation in some continuity and some safety. Crossing the road is usually difficult, but at least we get some grade-separation from traffic.

The cycling mental map is probably a bit more mental -  in the other sense of the word, insane.

In our house, every time we set off to a new location, we are chatting through the route. It's a ritual. A comedy ritual. Many times repeated. As we know from experience...
  • There's no continuity, 
  • cycleways start then end just as you were happy to have one, 
  • there's special skills involved, 
  • possibly there's some PC-ing included, 
  • there's the decision between cycling on fast busy 40 mph road or detouring twice the distance through back streets. 
  • Crossing roads is hell, 
  • and multi-lane roundabouts are a real putter-off.
He relishes conflict, I don't. Resulting in me knowing the shortcuts, the other half has the better manoeuvres and tactics. We learn. We teach is other. I will be brave.

The cycling map - mental - a bit like the walking map it's riddled with obstacles and danger signs, flashing warning signs in the brain, signalling "hazard", "careful here", "no-go area", "nightmare crossing", "d-d-d-danger", and so on. A bit like the map I created the other day for my bike commute. This is MY cycling map. This is how I see cycling in Newcastle, and incidentally 800 folks are with me on that.

To "normal" people this just means: Cycling. No. I can't get my head around it. There's no way! Literally.

Mental maps, mapped and printed.

I haven't consulted the official cycling map in yonks. It doesn't help me. It doesn't get me anywhere. I check the A to Z to locate my destination - it's just as good to tell you about cycling conditions.

Tyne and Wear authorities have recently printed the third edition of their cycling map. What is clear to me is that printed maps don't tell the full story. And that it's not easy to keep up to date with the removal of provision.
  • Long eradicated cycle lanes are still shown on the map (Elswick, Scotswood, Newburn). 
  • It was sad to see the Silverlonnen lanes lost (lost on the map as well). 
  • In addition we are now proud owners of NCN725. It's sign-posted, and has a lovely pink line on the map. Alas. It offers little help to me, someone who's travelling through Newcastle North to South for their cycle commute, for safety, continuity or space provision. N'er mind convenience or pleasure.
If you wanted to obtain a Tyne & Wear set of the maps you are asked to ring six different phones. Easy? Accessible?

If anything the new maps just re-affirm to me the point I am making above. The cycling maps themselves are just that: mental. It must be a real disappointment to someone who's new to cycling and having keenly obtained the cycle map, then to experience the patchy cycling provision and hostile road conditions.

They probably think there's something wrong with them, not the map.

UK Cycling - short-changed again
UK Cycling - short-changed again

Typical reaction: I give up. I'll drive next time. It's more direct and convenient. There's better space clarity; roads are for cars, right?

The other day I was asked to be grateful to be given scraps. You know what? I am not. I am rather dissatisfied with a service I, too, pay for.

Inspired by

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