Huntly Slow Down, 2009

Mass bike ride around the town of Huntly:
80 cyclists, powdered chalk and handmade chalk dispenser
Deveron Arts, Huntly, Aberdeenshire

1. When you move around the town on foot or bike and take in the new houses as well as the old, you start to notice how the paths work. The builders put in a new path for the estate. Tesco also put in a path, to connect the people on the estate to their store, and the planners were delighted to see all these new developers cooperating so well.

Box ticked.

Except the Tesco path doesn’t meet the estate path. There’s a muddy gap of about ten metres that nobody seemed to notice on the plan.

So now the people that walk to the supermarket bring mud into their lovely new houses when they get home, onto the beautiful carpets, from the path gap. Unless, of course, they drive.

2. The children take their bikes to school to learn road safety. They pass. Hurrah! They aren’t allowed to take their bikes to school anymore. The roads are not safe.

The thing about Slow Down was that what I really wanted everyone to do was go FAST. FAST down Bogie Street. FAST, FAST, FAST. On a bike, with the wind behind you and no fear of hitting or being hit by a car.

Because you can’t go fast down Bogie Street now, even though it’s downhill and one way and doesn’t have much of a pavement, because as well as being a small shopping street in a small town, in the North of a small country, running from the town square to the railways station, it’s also the A97. Indeed! And further down the street, but still in the town, it becomes the A920 as well! And the other main street, the one that crosses the square from the other side, that has most of the shops including delicious ice cream, butchers, bakers and a fine selection of malt whisky, that street, Gordon Street, is also the A97. So the town square is the intersection of the A97 and the A920.

Does that make it a square or a major road junction? Or maybe it’s a car park now – it also has 20 parking spaces. What happens when you take the cars away then?

Beautiful things.

Gentlemen read newspapers, drinking coffee. A cellist plays Bach. We learn Tai Chi. An artist gives you a historic tour of your own town. There’s a blanket for your knees if you feel cold.

How do we make it safe? We think about a lane for bikes. Where do we want to go?


To go everywhere we need a path that goes everywhere. The discussion grows. We mark it on maps and talk about it in meetings and eventually there comes a point where we just need to DRAW it (we are artists, after all).

We talk about cars, we talk about bikes, we think about how to make it good fun.

As I said at the beginning – it’s not really about SLOW, it’s about FAST.

Huntly Slow Down Artists Book