It’s obvious that when riding a bicycle, you experience the things around you a lot more intimately than you ever would in a car or motorcycle. You get chance to see, smell and hear stuff at a speed which creates many micro-experiences.
For example, when I’m cycling in North Yorkshire, one of the things that I love about the area is the street furniture, or put more simply, the old road signs. Whilst the main roads all have the latest standard signs, which are reflective and readable at 70MPH (113KPH), there are a lot of the more traditional road signs on my cycling routes. These road signs are called Fingerposts.
Fingerpost signs in the U.K. were first used as early as 1697 on main route crossroads. They’ve evolved from early wooden signs that have a pointing finger on the end of the board indicating direction, to cast iron signs with a triangular, arrow shape on the end, which even some of the most modern road signs mimic. They’re not unique to the U.K. and examples can be found around the world.
The fingerpost isn’t unique to road signs either. They’re used for public footpaths and just general directional information, like where the public toilets are. The old road sign Fingerposts I’m referring to are usually cast out of iron, and virtually always painted white with black lettering. Not only are these road signs very cool, there is a big vintage market for them as well, so when they’ve been replaced by modern signs, they get sold as decorative antiques. There are also quite a few books that have been written about them, and also companies whose sole business is the restoration and replacement of these traditional signs.
There’s a nice 3-way cluster of Fingerpost signs fixed on a post just outside our village, and I look at it every time I cycle past. More recently, it’s started to annoy me a bit, because the signs are dirty and covered in a green moss. I don’t know who is responsible for cleaning these Fingerpost signs in North Yorkshire, but whoever it is, they haven’t been round for a long time. Today, I decided that I would demonstrate my own pride in the beautiful countryside and clean them.
To clean the sign would need a number of things like step ladders, water, cleaning solution, cloth, brush etc. The Fingerpost sign is close to the village, and according to the sign, it’s three quarters of a mile away, so I thought that the best way of carrying out the task is to take Bessie the tractor. If you want to know more about Bessie and her life since she rolled out of the factory in 1948, you can read it here https://diaryofamotorcyclingnobody.com/introducing-bessie/
Bessie has a very convenient box on the back that can be lifted or dropped using the hydraulics, so this would be my carrier of cleaning stuff and equivalent of the ladders to reach the sign. I arrived at the sign, parked Bessie underneath it and jumped into the box on the back. The cleaning was easily done with a long brush, water from the barrel in the box, some bike cleaning solution and a cloth. What was interesting, was the number of people out doing their ‘lock-down-walks’ who commented on what I was doing. This made the job take a bit longer, but it was good to discuss (at social distance obviously) the merits of keeping the place looking great and having a pride in where we live, whose responsibility it was to clean road signs and as usual, lots of comments about Bessie. Someone even said thanks for doing it.
There are enough pressures on local authorities without people calling them during a pandemic and hassling them to clean road signs, so I reckon that it would be good for some people to adopt a local road sign or Fingerpost like this, and keep it clean. Obviously, I mean adopting it in its intended location, and not adopting it and hanging it in your shed wall or home. Clear?
I appreciate that there is not much cycling in this post. However, it is hidden in the text. Cycling allows you to cover distance faster than walking and to see stuff, notice stuff, and give you time to really think about it and reflect. This Fingerpost story is just one example of that.
As a ‘sign-off to this post’?, there is a Japanese rock band called Leberion and they did a song called Fingerpost. Just thought this last fact might be interesting. Possibly.
All photos by the Author