I think I've mentioned before that one of the challenges around here is finding decent cycle routes through, or around, the various towns. Traffic in the centres can be very busy, and the major roads are designed to keep cars moving. While there are plenty of alternatives on the minor roads, these tend to be very fragmented and you need to know how to find your way. A simple journey from A to B can get complicated when you are not familiar with the best routes.
Difficulty in navigating around back roads is a reasonable problem when I am crossing towns that I don't visit very often. But we have lived here for more than ten years now, and it's a bit of an embarrassment to realise that I sometimes have the same problem in my own town.
This has come up because I had to take the car in for a service this week. The garage is on the other side of town, so these days I stick the bike in the car, and cycle back. With a few minor exceptions, I normally follow much the same route whether I am driving or cycling.
Finally it occurred to me that there ought to be a better way. And there is. Or at least I think there is.
There's a back lane that follows some old waterways near the centre of town. It dives under bridges that carry most of the traffic. There is only one point where you have to get off the bike to negotiate some steps and a messy road junction. Otherwise the route zigzags around the backs of offices and houses. Most of it is well surfaced, quite smooth, pleasant to ride, and remarkably quiet. Best of all, it slices right through busy and messy parts at the edge of the town centre, where it is particularly difficult to find alternatives.
I knew it was there of course. It is on the local maps, and I ride across it often enough. But bizarrely I had never thought to give it a proper try on the bike. Which makes me wonder how many similar alternatives I am missing.
The only fly in the ointment is that I'm not entirely sure that cycling is allowed along the whole length. It certainly is on parts, because there are signs to say so. At a few points I'm afraid I was concentrating on finding my way, and I wasn't paying as much attention as I should have been to what all the signs said. Open Street Map shows it as a footpath. The local authority cycle map shows most of it as part of the local cycle network. I need to take a more careful look.