THERE was a time when I felt the bicycle was probably doomed as a safe and sensible method of transportation.

Motorways were being built all over Britain while the few cycle tracks alongside arterial roads from the 1930s lay disused and decrepit. Cars were within the reach of ordinary people instead of being the province of the privileged few.

A sketch in Monty Python’s Flying Circus had Bicycle Repair Man as a joke Superman, deeply old fashioned and dreary. The bicycle had enjoyed its heyday in the 1890s when it had been popular and modish. It then became a sensible way of reaching factories and offices for work between the wars.

But bikes lacked the glamour of cars and the excitement of motorbikes. In towns like Brighton, people were put off riding them by hills, wind and rain. It seemed so much more modish to travel by car, especially on wet, windy days when even the rain was driving.

And they were easy to steal. I have had 13 and a quarter nicked over the years (the quarter being a front wheel). I never saw any of them again.

Bikes were vulnerable and accidents common. They did not fit easily into road space, being too small and slow on highways and a nuisance for pedestrians on pavements. I remember being shouted at when I backed a plan for cycle parking at a new casino planned for the King Alfred site in Hove. No one would ride a bike to a casino, they sneered. But I did.

Gradually things began to change. The first new cycle track in East Sussex since the last war was built in the late 1960s between Lewes and Kingston. It was little more than a mile long but it was a start.

New bikes in bright colours were flooding the market and the national BMX track was installed in Brighton. The oil scare of the 1970s made some people realise that unlimited fuel might not be available permanently to power cars while bikes needed sweat rather than grease.

Mountain bikes proved to be marvellous for exploring the countryside.

People found that well-made bikes, like sewing machines, were handsome machines that would last forever. In busy town centres, bikes would usually outpace cars.

Cyclists banded together to call for improvements. One of the best was and is Bricycles. Unexpectedly it managed to get a cycle track on Hove seafront and soon this was extended to Brighton.

Nationally the cycle track charity Sustrans soon ensured that no part of Britain was more than a few miles from a bike lane. People began to realise that bikes were versatile. Riders in other parts of Europe such as Holland and Denmark showed that they could carry children safely and were good for commuting.

When ridden in large numbers, they ceased to be invisible to most motorists and became safer.

The seafront lane in Brighton soon became one of the best used in Britain. The London to Brighton bike ride each June rivals the Great North Run as the most popular participant event.

All this is wonderful news for people like me who never stopped riding bikes. But I find many cycling campaigners are deeply depressed. They see there is still an enormous amount of work to do and that plenty of people are still anti-bike.

The rather superior attitude posed by some cyclists, and the kamikaze antics of youngsters in busy shopping streets does not endear them to the motoring majority.

It is plain that cities like Brighton and Hove sometimes put bike lanes in the wrong places. Those in The Drive and the Old Shoreham Road are little used and the cash could have been better spent elsewhere.

The seafront cycle lane badly needs redesigning so that no part of it is actually on a road.

Converts to cycling are appearing all the time. They discover that for each grinding hill there is an enjoyable glide.

Not all winds blow against you and there is surprisingly little rain in the sunny south east.

The bike is a brilliant form of exercise. It travels at just the right speed for riders to enjoy great views.

It is simple enough for minor adjustments to be made by riders to most machines and there are plenty of good bike shops everywhere.

Anyone can ride a bike ranging from an old lady going to church to a middle aged man in Lycra burning up miles on the Downs.

I never thought the bike would become so popular again but now I see it will continue for years as the joy of bikes draws in new riders. It is a virtuous cycle.