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A Chance Encounter

by Roy Spilsbury

Sometimes the debate about the needs of cyclists, pedestrians, or whatever overlooks the fact that we are talking essentially about people, and there are occasions when we come across folk who are not always what they appear.

Picture the scene. It's mid afternoon on a Friday in early November. In drizzly and murky conditions I have to cycle the two miles into Llandudno Junction to buy a return rail ticket for a trip to a Liverpool cycling conference the following day..

Between home and the Junction I chose to use the cycle path on the Black Cat roundabout. I arrive at the first slip road and come across a middle-aged, portly chap sitting on the ground next to an upturned wheelchair. He is attempting to replace the tyre on one of the small front toggle wheels. He is clearly in difficulties, and I stop to offer assistance.

He informs me he is Tony Hull from Basingstoke, and is on a solo trip to Ireland. Apart from his obvious problem, he says he is tired, has diabetes, and has decided to stay at the Travel Inn on the other side of the roundabout when his wheel is fixed.

I try without success to get the tyre on, almost relocating my thumbs in the process. At this point Tony says he is in the AA which entitles him to call for aid in such situations, and he promptly telephones on his mobile for assistance. Ten minutes later there is no sign of the AA's Samaritan and it is decided I will help him back into his wheelchair and push him, tilted backwards, over to the hotel.

Being concerned about the tyre coming off again, I asked how it had happened. He complains about the careless construction of a dropped kerb by the roundabout. I say I am involved in taking the local authority to task on just such issues, and announce I am a post holder with CTC Cymru, the national cycling organisation. Whereupon Tony fishes out his wallet and produces his current CTC Membership card.

You can imagine my surprise and pleasure to come across a fellow member in such unusual circumstances. Mind you, he wasn't much pleased with his technical problem, although he made light of his predicament.

He then pointed out that his Cyclone Wheel chair had a hand drive device tucked out of sight for use in special circumstances, and in fact he had just returned from a solo trip to France after using it.

Still no sign of the AA, and I was about to start pushing, when two ambulances arrive in convoy, presumably having received a report from a passing motorist that some bloody cyclist has knocked an old bloke out of a wheel chair!

Three cyclists on the cycle path going round the Black Cat roundabout at Llandudno Junction

Black Cat Roundabout

The story has a happy ending. Tony with the help of the ambulance men finds a bed at the inn and the following morning sets off early on his trip to Ireland, wheel problem duly sorted by the AA.

The moral of course is don't judge a parcel by its wrappings. Members of the cycling fraternity include many with a range of disabilities from paralysis to visual impairment.

In fact there is an MP with two jags who's been photographed on a bike. Rumour has it he was once seen wearing boxing shorts in Rhyl as well!


See Gallery Pages 2 among others for overcoming physical disability through cycling