Dear Reader: The Syrian refugees + the world's shortest cycle lane

The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.
The Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.

A regular column by the Harrogate Advertiser's Graham Chalmers.

Time changes the meaning of most things.

The traffic-congested Otley Road.

The traffic-congested Otley Road.

What is acceptable in one decade can become unacceptable a few decades later.

Hang around long enough and it may even come full circle.

This thought brought to mind the front page of one of our newspaper titles back in the 1980s.

The headline was about welcoming the first black family to Wetherby, if I remember correctly.

We printed a similar headline not too long ago on another front page welcoming the first Eastern European migrants to Harrogate.

Now, before anyone rushes to tweet their indignation, it has to be said that neither headline was a sign of unconscious racism on anyone’s part.

Both were nothing more than expressions of common hospitality to newcomers in our community, unusual ones at that point.

Even so, I doubt we’d do the same now. These are dangerous times when a single loose word can get you in serious trouble.

I was on the bus from Knaresborough the other day when I overheard a fellow passenger talking about a small group of Syrian children who had recently enrolled in a Harrogate school.

It was odd listening to the conversation.

What had these youngsters got to do with politics or headlines or controversy?

They were just a couple of kids going to school after living in a tent for four years in a refugee camp.

If it can sometimes takes a leap of faith to get in a car in a world of accidents and traffic jams, what must it take to get on a bicycle?

Cycle lanes are a good idea in theory, if it wasn’t for the fact that in Britain they are always starting and finishing, presenting the possibility of moving forward then forever dribbling out.

I mention this because I spotted workmen on the traffic-clogged Otley Road in Harrogate getting ready to put out traffic cones when I was driving home the other night.

What were they up to, I wondered. I hope they’re not doing what I think they’re doing.

The answer came the following morning as I drove back to work. Those were, indeed, white line painting machines and that was, indeed a cycle lane, albeit a wafer-thin one.

Located just up from So! Bar facing the Co-op, the freshly-painted lane for cyclists was squeezed between the single track going straight on at the junction and the single track forking to the left towards Pannal Ash Road and Rossett Sports Centre.

It must have ticked a few boxes in the planning stage but surely it flew in the face of common sense in the treal world?

For any bike rider entering that narrow corridor protected only by those white lines would soon realise that any cars wanting to switch from straightahead to left turn had no choice but drive through this sliver of safety.