A British city makes life on two wheels hard

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The Independent Online

The Guildford cycle path snakes gently though the Surrey countryside, bringing hundreds of cyclists each day to the city limits, then, without warning, drops them at the foot of a giant, three-lane gyratory system. If you want to get to the station which lies on the other side, take a deep breath, hold the handlebars tight, and pedal straight out into the rush-hour traffic.

The Guildford cycle path snakes gently though the Surrey countryside, bringing hundreds of cyclists each day to the city limits, then, without warning, drops them at the foot of a giant, three-lane gyratory system. If you want to get to the station which lies on the other side, take a deep breath, hold the handlebars tight, and pedal straight out into the rush-hour traffic.

This is no journey for the faint-hearted. Unfortunately it's one I'm obliged to take every morning on my way to work as the Independent's legal correspondent.

The route around the gyratory system - a series of fume-filled roundabouts on Guildford's ring road -takes only a few minutes, but in that time expect to be blown off course by a juggernaut, sworn at by a motorist and, occasionally, come face to face with an exhaust pipe. The only rule is that suddenly there aren't any rules. This, remember, is car country.

But if you want to get in or out of Guildford, by road or rail, the gyratory is the only route available.

When you reach the station you risk your life again crossing the lines of taxis which block access to the cycle-rack - which is, of course, always full. Plenty of signs warn cyclists what will happen to their bikes if they are found chained to the "wrong kind of structure" but none on what to do with a bike that hasn't got a parking slot.

Despite the dangers, an astonishing number of cyclists use the station, and I am certain that hundreds more commuters would get out of their cars if a few simple concessions were made, such as a bike lane to the station and a bit of secure storage space.

Any attempt to get round the lack of parking by putting the bike on the train and leaving it at Waterloo is doomed to failure. The commuter trains never seem to have a guard's van, and even if they did, the Waterloo racks are just as packed as the one in Guildford, overcrowded by at least 100 bikes a day.

Really, it shouldn't have to be like this.

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