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Andrew Russell protests a new protected bike track in Ayr by setting up a rowing machine, and inadvertently proves why safe roads are a good thing

A man has protested the building of a cycle lane…by rowing in it.

Angry about the installation of a bike route on Holmston Road, in Ayr, Scotland, Andrew Russell set up a static rowing machine, dressed up in workout gear and a sailor’s hat, and commenced his rowing protest.

The blue painted, 600m kerb protected cycle route, installed in August, has caused public outcry and claims traffic will grind to a halt. While some figures show 600 people are cycling  on the route per week, local councillors are nonetheless threatening to join forces to “rip it out” because they fear it will cause congestion and "accidents".

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In a perfect piece of video irony, Russell tells the Daily Record: “I’m here because I think the whole thing was a white elephant, because if you look across the road they had a perfectly good cycle lane before, which they’ve now scrubbed out,” the moment a lorry towing a flatbed van thunders past on the road, beeping its horn.

The former painted cycle lane he gestured to would have placed those on bikes between fast moving traffic and a stone wall, with only a narrow pavement as a buffer, should they need to evade close passing vehicles.

Russell says he saw eight cyclists during an hour of his rowing protest, before adding he enjoyed the “peace and quiet” of the kerb protected cycle route.

Russell’s exercise protest is perhaps more ironic given the burgeoning health crisis in Scotland, with 31% of Scotland’s children overweight or obese. In 15 years, if current trends continue, 40 per cent of Scotland’s population will be obese. The problem has been called this generation’s tobacco crisis in terms of public health risk. Smoking is now banned in public places in Scotland.

Local papers reflect the somewhat hysterical local mood, stirred up following the bike route’s installation, variously describing the bi-directional, kerb-protected cycle track as a “giant” cycle lane, which will see a road “torn apart” potentially causing “traffic chaos”.

The Daily Record reports one councillor dubbed it an “accident waiting to happen”, though it’s not clear how protecting people on bikes from motor traffic would cause injury, unless someone weren’t looking where they were driving and blindly ploughed into the new kerb, injuring someone cycling on it. 

Plans are afoot to extend the route, but community council chair, John McGuire was quoted by the Record as saying “I think we can all be agreed that won’t be happening.”