Chiltern Railways supposed commitment to cyclists doesn’t extend to actually allowing you to travel with you bike at any time other than alternate Wednesdays after 9 pm. Refusing to be beaten by such a forward thinking policy, I’ve adopted a two bike approach leaving the ratty one overnight at Marylebone station.
Marylebone has about a hundred secure stands each taking two bikes. To be allowed overnight usage of a stand, unsurprisingly a bit of form filling is required. Having chased a number of grumpy railwaymen, wearing 2ndhand Butlins uniforms, around the platform, I secured and completed said form. The following is a verbatim conversation taking 15 minutes and attracting an ever larger and more incredulous audience.
Here’s my form for an overnight tag so I can leave my bike at the station
Very good sir, may I see your season ticket?
I don’t have a season ticket
Ah, sorry sir, season ticket holders only
Why is that?
Yes well but why?
(some heaving breathing and stroking of chin)
Don’t quote me sir, but I think it’s because they are concerned about abuse
Abuse of what?
Abuse of the privilege sir?
No I’m sorry, I;m clearly being stupid, how could you abuse the privilege of leaving your bike in a station overnight?
Ah well sir, you could be leaving it for another reason
Like what? Selling drugs out of the seat tube? Or have bikes been categorised as weapons of mass destruction by this bloody nanny state? And come to that why are season ticket holders more trustworthy? Do you have them positively vetted?
Very droll sir, but it’s season tickets only
(time to change tack), me
Is there a space problem then? Aren’t there enough racks for everyone?
Oh no, there is loads of space
Sorry there is loads of space but I can’t have one?
Season ticket holders only sir
But look if there’s space and I’m saving the environment by riding and it’s going to make me a happier person, doesn’t that make you a happier person too?
If it were up to me sir butâ€¦â€¦
YES SEASON TICKET HOLDERS ONLY. Well that’s bollocks, bring me the head of the station master.
(now there is a mildly amused crowd gathered round, fella runs off and comes back with uber jobsworth the station manager)
I calm myself and explain the situation. I explain that any system which doesn’t allow you to bring a bike and doesn’t allow you to store one is not really cycle friendly or sensible. He replies:
I agree with you sir but it’s season ticket holders only.
How much is a season ticket from Haddenham?
(rustling of timetables)
Right well I spend£65 a week, that’s£250 a month so that’s about the same as a season ticket. So when I’m here can I leave the bike and when I’m not then I won’t?
Sorry sir, we’d like to help but it’s..
â€¦ yes I think you’ve made that clear but can you make an exception, I mean I promise not to explode it on the platform, throw it in front of a train, allow it to sexually harass the customers, etc.
Well sir, if we made an exception for you, we’d have to do it for everyone
(crowd is now about 20 people, I turn round to face them)
HANDS UP everyone who’d like an overnight bike pass?
GO ON, DON’T BE SHY
(no hands go up)
That’s a pretty representative sample, so I don’t think you’re going to be flooded with applications.
(shuffling of feet and only a laser like glare from me stops them trotting out the season ticket line again. They are now looking nervously at the crowd and about 5 railway guys are standing behind the increasingly uncomfortable station master. It puts me in mind of the bash street kids. One pipes up:)
Considered a folding bike sir? We’ll take those anytime
(I robustly articulate my argument re:folders)
Young man, do I have the countenance of a cheese making, beard owning, clothes knitting, nut cutlet eating person to you? I would rather repeatedly slam my testicles in a desk drawer than ride that parody of a bicycle. Please leave me with what little dignity I have left.
(with comic timing, a folder, er, unfolds behind the mass of grinning punters who are enjoying the free street theatre. Better still, he’s a fully paid up member of the scraggly beard and cheese knitting society. He attempts to haughtily rise above the extreme pointing and giggling of the crowd but frankly I don’t think he pulls it off)
So we’re agreed, it’s a dumb policy that’s not in line with your published support for cyclists nor backed up by any problems of space so may I have a tag please?
We would sir but as we may have explained it’s season ticket holders only
(I successfully fight the not unreasonable urge to beat the station master to death with his pug like colleagues and go for broke)
Okay, here’s how it going to go. I’m going to write to the head of Chiltern railways, The Department of Transport, all the major papers, the CTC, Sustrans and bloody â€œWomen and Babyâ€ if I so please explaining exactly what a bunch of mindless jobworths consider to be a coherent transport policy. Let’s have a list of your names then, I’d hate to misrepresent you.
(bit of a Chiltern Railway group hug goes on as they consider their options. Much heckling from the crowd now blocking one of the platforms. The brits never fail to join a queue just in the spirit of enquiry). The spokes-idiot is pushed forward by his colleagues:
Right sir, in your case we’ll make an exception but please (and I kid you not, this is exactly what he said), “don’t tell anyoneâ€œ
I may have giggled. I dunno if it was the murderous glint in my eye, the restlessness of the crowd or the threat of a damning review in mother and baby but I am now in possession of the rarest of the rare, a non season ticket holders right to park tag.
There was cheering in the crowd. Put me in mind of the VE celebrations. I was about to embark on a Churchillian address “Never in the field of cycling conflict, have so many been irritated so much by so fewâ€ but unfortunately â€“ once they realised the chance of violence had diminished- everyone left.
I’m thinking that maybe my bike may be in for a bit of special treatment from the railway guys but hey sometimes you have to make a stand. And I’d rather be riding than standing on the sweaty grimy tube.