Sunday, 15 December 2013

Some real radical ideas for cycling

The esteemed BBC published a list of several ideas to protect cycling here which it described as radical. Some of which were reasonable, some just plain silly and wrong.
They've now produced a second list of ideas from readers which is here, with no indication of popularity, so just seems like a cyclists-kicking exercise for the most part.

Here's my own list which may or may not be so radical.

Convert one lane of urban dual carriageways to mandatory bus and cycle lanes.

This has been a pet thought of mine for a good while. Yes, DCs are busy to capacity for maybe 2 hours a day max. Most of the time they are largely empty space. Turn that space to cycles and busses, and you have instant direct strategic routes which people are familiar with. Yes it will cause a little congestion at first, but as people migrate from cars it will reduce. We all know that more lanes = more congestion. So lets try fewer. Turns out Brighton has tried it and it really works

Allow pupil transport to schools by permit only

Too many schools insist on "contracts" and permits for cycling to school. Turn that on it's head and insist that children can only be transported by car with prior approval for sound reasons. This should reduce car levels to near what they are in school holidays which will also cut congestion for everyone else. Fewer cars = lower risk. A passive/aggressive approach to cycling safety with many many other benefits as well

Introduce Strict or Presumed liability

Presumed liability puts the liability and a strict duty of care automatically onto the larger party. So if a vehicle collides with a cyclist it is assumed to be the drivers liability unless investigations prove otherwise. This is already law across virtually all of Europe, and is standard in criminal and health and safety cases. It also protects pedestrians on the odd occasion cyclists run into them.

Enforce and strengthen road traffic law and penalties

Lets face it, on the roads you can just about get away with murder, and they have become a lawless mess. Anti social road use annoys a lot and affects a lot more. Get the police to crackdown on it. Accept unedited videos and photos as evidence, and toughen up the penalties. Most speeders and mobile users know that what they are doing is wrong and dangerous, but know the chance of being caught is very slim and the penalties are a joke. Stronger enforcement with instant bans and vehicle seizure, not just impounding, but total confiscation. Also illegal parking should be a points offence, not just a few quid which can be cheaper in some cases than the penalty. Make civil parking charges by licenced enforcers like council wardens legally binding to stop the daft evadement where drivers ignore them or argue legality.
Target cyclists for no lights and obvious traffic violations, but not to give dubious safety advice, and daft stuff like pedal reflectors

Give cycle lanes/paths proper priority

Most cycle lanes parallel to main roads often give way to everything, driveways, car parks, minor roads etc. It is about time these were reversed and the cycle path given the same priority as the major road at the same junction. Where visibility is limited then this should be a stop line, not just give way

Make most one-ways protected cycle contraflows

Many one way systems are put in place just to control or restrict the flow and direction of vehicles. Often the obstructed route would be shorter and safer for the cyclists.
These should be legal for contraflow cycling unless specifically banned for safety reasons. Where possible provide protected seperated space. Same applies to bus only lanes as well.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

How do we get people out of cars and onto bikes?, asks Mary Creagh

This was the question posed by the Parliamentary all party cycling group on Twitter attributed to Mary Creagh, the shadow transport Minister
Well Mary, cycling needs to be seen as safe and attractive before people will give up their cars. Above all it needs to be seen as a viable transport choice, and all too often currently it is not even on the radar.

Even though the Labour party is not in power nationally, there is lots that can be done by local authorities and Labour do control a lot of them. The Govt seem to be pushing responsibility to LAs saying it's a local issue, so Labour could make some real headway quickly.

here are some suggestions

  • On roads with a speed limit above 20 mph, which should be all residential areas, start building cycling paths which are physically separated from motor vehicles.
  • Where possible, residential roads should be closed to prevent though traffic. This will prevent "rat running" and ensure that only traffic that needs to be there is there. Ensure closures have permeability for pedestrians and cycles.
  • Shops, leisure facilities  and workplaces need to provide much more bicycle parking than they currently do, and parking needs to be visible, covered and secure.
  • Provide cycle training at all primary and secondary schools & offer widespread subsided cycle training etc to encourage everyone to cycle, especially as exercise based health strategies for prevention & treatment of diseases such as T2 diabetes & obesity.
  • Some schools insist on "contracts" like this one (googled). This NEEDS to be turned upon it's head and all schools should only allow pupils to be driven to school by special permission and permit. Cycling and walking must be made the default. Enforce no permit/no parking zones at school times.
  • Cycling must be promoted as a safe everyday transport choice. "Safety" schemes which advise helmet/hi-viz use must be ended. There is little if any evidence that it makes cycling safer. All it does is blame victims and spreads the belief that cycling is a dangerous fringe activity only to be practiced by the fit and brave.
  • Local authorities to deliver cycle-friendly improvements across their existing networks, including small improvements, segregated routes, and road reallocation. All LAs to adopt a "suggestion box" scheme for local cycling improvements & investigate & act appropriately. 
  • LAs need to conduct a cycle network audit, then develop and publish 5 year plans to build a comprehensive safe high quality cycle network across all of their authority, with strategic and feeder routes.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Troll politics?

Cycling has seen a terrible few days in London with 5 deaths of people riding bicycles in London.

We should not forget that there have been more across the country, and pedestrians as well.

There has been plenty of gnashing of teeth and hand wringing in the media, and especially social media like Twitter along with plenty of speculation and suggestions of what TfL and Boris Johnson should do.

Remarkably, Boris Johnson has come out and and said on LBC
"There's no question of blame or finger-pointing.
"That doesn't work in these circumstances," he added.
"But unless people obey the laws of the road and people actively take account of the signals that we put in, there's no amount of traffic engineering that we invest in that is going to save people's lives."
Cue lots of shouts about victim blaming, and Boris being a bumbling buffoon.

I buy none of this and I, possibly very cynically, suspect that Boris is playing a grim game here.

Boris knows full well that the only way to provide safe space to people riding bikes in London, and to pedestrians also is to control, tame, and to take space away from motor vehicles.

Boris also knows that taking space like that will not be a vote winner amongst the people who do drive.

By shifting the blame onto the bicycle riders and suggesting that them not  obeying the law, plays into the hands of the large numbers of people who do actually believe that cycling and cyclists are dangerous and a menace. Just listen to interviews with some of the London bus drivers here, or (god forbid) read the comments on the Daily Mail, or the Telegraph.

Media like the BBC assist in this victim blaming as intevitably virtually all debates end up being about cyclists not paying tax, running red lights, not wearing hi-viz or helmets.

Boris being the remarkably astute polititian he is (he is no buffoon or fool) knows that by playing that card all the ignorant cyclist haters will not turn against him. Also by promising improvements to the cycling infrastructure, which seem to take forever, then he hopes that the bicycling public will also buy his spiel.

But Boris knows that creating safe space for bikes costs more than money, it will cost him votes and "love" from the driving public, many more than he thinks he'll get from the cycling public, and his ambition prevents him from making that bargain.

Cyclists and pedestrians need to put aside their minor petty differences, and start squaring up as a united front against the vehicle lobby and the polititians who prioritise vehicles over people.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Suggestions for strategic additions to South Tyneside cycle network

Once you start looking South Tyneside like many places has a half decent network of routes available for cycling. There are some large gaps though, and a lot of the routes are incomplete and unsigned. Also several of the advisory routes are unsealed and of poor quality.

The suggestions summarized below are not just a personal wish list or a complete list of all ideas, but based on where I see people riding bikes in the area and where I think strategic links could work
between areas and enable cycling across the borough. I may tackle some of these individually in more detail in future posts.

Separated cycle route along the A194 from Whitemare pool to Tyne Dock

The A194 is one of the main and direct routes out of South Tyneside, and is currently a busy 70mph busy urban dual carriageway with virtually no cycling provision along it's length. This is a popular route for commuters in and out of the borough travelling to and from the industrial estates of South Shields, south Hebburn and Felling, and passes several large housing estates such as Fellgate and Lukes Lane as well which currently have little provision for anything other than motor vehicles. Implementing a quality seperated route along this road would open up and enable cycling along this corridor, and encourage people living and working along this transport corridor to use bicycles more.

"Quietway" from Brockley Whins Metro to Tyne Dock

This would connect from the Metro station at Brockley Whins with the NCN14 route from Tyne Dock into the town centre and also the Westway cycle route. At Brockley Whins it could also connect to routes to the shopping and leisure complex, residential and industrial areas at Boldon Colliery. 
This route exists on the ground but is a mishmash of roads and some footpaths which are often narrow. Sign it up, improve some of road closures, the footpath links and, and you have a route.

Protected cycleways along Dean Road and Stanhope Road

Adding protected cycle lanes along Dean road from Tyne Dock up to Westoe and along Stanhope road would act as main cycling corridors for the dense terraced residential areas both sides of these roads, and would link up to other existing and proposed routes.

Cycle route from Tyne Tunnel along A19 to Brockley Whins Metro

There is a need for a quality north south link along the A19 corridor.
The current advisory cycling route following the A19 from the southern tunnel interchange involves a flight of steps, and a footbridge where cycling is prohibited. There is an alternative route along bumpy narrow shared paths though Primrose following the River Don. This route could again link though the 20mph Brockley Whins estate or along Hedworth lane to Boldon Colliery. It could then link to the segregated route along Abingdon way and then the off-road cycling link from the A184 to the A1290 junction and on to Sunderland and Nissan.

Direct east/west route from coast to Shields ferry

Currently the cycle routes between the river and the coast avoid the Town centre like the plague. A direct east west route along Ocean road, and though the town centre would provide a short flat link. It would also have the bonus of guiding people on bikes though and past the main shopping area and the numerous restaurants etc along Ocean road. I appreciate that there is some potential for conflict concern in the main pedestrianised area. The route could link along Keppel street and Church way, although that is heavily dedicated to busses currently.

2 way cycle route beside shops at the Nook

The Nook is a popular and busy row of local shops along Prince Edward Road, but has busy free car parking both opposite and alongside the shops, along with one way systems designed for car use. I would like to see the parallel parking spaces alongside the shops replaced with a 2 way protected cycle lane. Place cycle parking stands at frequent intervals along the row, and this would foster and encourage the idea of using cycling for shopping from the nearby dense residential areas. Cycle lanes (especially protected) along the feeder roads (Sunderland road, Centenary avenue and Prince Edward road) would help immensely as well.

John Reid Road Cycleway

The John Reid road is a typical 60's (built 1963) urban dual carriageway in South Shields linking the A194 in the west of the town to the A1018 Sunderland road. It's a popular route to the coast, and forms part of the Great north Run. 

Although it has housing  estates along each side, it used to be a 70 mph limit, but has steadily been reduced to 50, then to the now 40 mph limit. That hasn't made it any safer to cycle along. So the schemes to include cycle facilities along the road was welcomed as it is the direct link up to shopping area at the Nook, and to Marsden and the coast.

The last part of the scheme was completed about 9 months ago, which was the section between Perth Avenue in the west to Galsworthy road. This is a shared facility for people on foot and bikes along the eastbound carriageway. Even though the DC then runs for about another 1/2 mile the cycleway ends at the crossing over the bus only exit at Perth Avenue. It should be noted that the light controlled crossing across the DC at this point is pedestrian only and cyclist are expected to dismount. Also cycles are not permitted though the bus only exit at the lights.
Looking North from the end of the cycleway.

The way is largely resurfaced footway with plenty of street furniture

Approaching the Galsworthy rd junction where you
need to use a Toucan to cross as the cycleway crosses
carriageways to continue 
polite sign asking cyclists to give
pedestrians priority on the  rail bridge
Once across, the cycleway continues along the
westbound carriageway

I've clipped the shot above from Gmaps. The JR cycleway runs along the westbound (bottom carriageway). The West Harton cycleway which runs from Boldon lane shops to New Road in Boldon Colliery can be seen running under the old rail bridge. It's a shame that ramps have not been installed to directly connect the 2 cycleways. Connections are left largely to informal desire lines.
The cycleway does dip down to join the separate underpass under the John Reid, but this does not link up to anywhere once north of the DC, and does not formally link to the Harton route either.

Once across Boldon lane, either via the refuge adajcent to the roundabout, or the toucan crossing a few metres down, there is a barriered entry on to the shared path across Temple Park. I really personally detest barriers like these. The LA has not bothered to fence either side, so illegal motorcycles are not prevented from getting onto the path. In my opinion all that is needed is one or two posts which are ideally lockable/removable to allow for maintenance access.  

one of the signed junctions on the
Temple Park section
The barriers at the Temple park path junction
with Boldon lane

The path is quite wide, well lit for night use, and has signed links to the Hospital, Fire station, Leisure centre, and to the housing estates and schools to the south of the park.

Once past the fire station the path starts to run along the side of the road again, where there is a toucan crossing over to the hospital etc. All links are helpfully signed.

Rejoining the path along the road.
More unnecessary barriers though
Roadside path crosses access road into
Temple Park Centre. 

There is another toucan crossing over the road to link to the Westway shared path (pavement) route to Tyne Dock, and also to the on road cycle lanes up King George road to Westoe and onto the Town Centre.

For cycling east to the coast, the route just ends at the large roundabout, so you will need to be able to mix it with traffic from that point.

It is a very useful link from the housing estates in west Shields across to the popular local shopping area at the Nook, and also for people travelling to the schools linked by it, and workplaces such as the Hospital.

Overall it is a good route, but It could be improved by
  • Completion down to and cross the A194 to Low Simonside.
  • Installation of a Toucan crossing at Perth avenue, and allow cycles though the bus exit.
  • Make both sides of the road shared use to eliminate unnecessary crossing of the road
  • Proper formal links to the West Harton cycleway
  • Remove the unnecessary barriers (replace with bollards if desired)

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

8 reasons to be grateful to cyclists

In my last post I asked 7 questions why britain as a whole often seems to hate cyclists and cycling.

Here are 8 reasons then why Britain should be grateful and thank people who ride bikes...

1. People riding bikes reduces traffic congestion

Every person who rides a bike is using a lot less road space than a person in a car, so the traffic jam you  sit in every day is shorter by a few metres for every cyclist that passes you.

2. People riding bikes saves car parking spaces

When you drive to work or the shops, and moan about the struggle to park, look at the bicycles and remember that each one is not using a valuable car parking space

3. People riding bikes saves everyone taxes

Bicycles don't wear out the roads like cars do, or break signs by crashing into them, so roads cost less of your taxes to maintain. New cycle facilities are a lot cheaper to build than new roads as well.

4. People riding bikes reduces the burden on the NHS

People who ride bikes are generally healthier and fitter, so need fewer visits to the Doctors and Hospitals. This saves a lot of money, and frees up time and resources for the people that really need healthcare.

5. People riding bikes reduces air pollution

Bicycles don't emit pollution, so by riding a bike instead of driving, every cyclist makes the world a little less polluted. This in turn reduces climate change, and saves the planet.

5. People riding bikes conserves petrol so you can drive more

Petrol and diesel are both fossil fuels and are finite. By riding bikes people cycling are saving fuel so the people who want to drive will be able to for longer.

6. People riding bikes saves space

Bikes take up a lot less space than cars to park and ride, so save valuable space for people to enjoy

7. People riding bikes are mostly better, calmer people

Most people who ride bikes are better and calmer. On the road they are more observant and careful as they do not have airbags and crumple zones to protect them. this also makes the ones that also drive better drivers. Cycling is also stress relieving, unlike driving which is often stress inducing.

8. People riding bikes keep local shops and businesses going

People riding bikes to shops etc generally shop more locally and thus keep local businesses trading, rather than make one trip to the large out of town shed. Cyclists also make more trips, and cos they spend less on motoring have more money to spend at these shops.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Dear Britain -Why do you hate people when they ride bikes?

  • Why is giving room when passing so a person riding a bike has a safe amount of room so hated? 
  • Why is holding back so that a person riding a bike doesn't feel bullied so hated?
  • Why is a person wearing sport specific clothing so hated?
  • Why is a person who can spend a few thousand on sports equipment so hated?
  • Why is a person who rides a bike as a hobby or interest to get and stay fit so hated?
  • Why is a person who rides a bike instead of driving a car as transport so hated? 
  • Why does Britain hate people when they ride bikes? 

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Guest post from Major Ivor Misunderstanding - Bloody Runners!

This is a guest post by Major Ivor Misunderstanding (ret)


Once again we are trapped in our homes by hordes of people supposedly embarking on a "fun" run although what is fun about running I have no idea.

They have closed off the public roads and turned them into a racetrack. As a result I will not be able to drive to the Golf course for lunch and a few harmless whiskies before harmlessly driving home as I do every Sunday.

What right do they have to deprive myself and others of our personal freedoms so that they can have a morning of so called fun?

These so-called runners don't pay road tax like I do. I have heard although I don't believe it , that some roads are paid for by council tax. I'll wager most of these neer-do-wells  aren't from around here either. why can't they run on their own roads?

All that pounding must damage the roads really badly. Do they get charged for the roads to be repaired after they have destroyed it? No I'll bet they don't.

Do they not have special tracks they can waddle around near their homes tucked out of site so that they don't offend the vast majority of the right-minded public. We don't want to see people doing this kind of nonsense.

Most them "wear" such minimal clothing so that they are almost naked underneath, with everything  jiggling and bouncing about whilst they bound down the road all sweaty and steamy.

All this exercise must place a great strain on their bodies. What about the millions which it must cost the NHS to treat all the heart attacks that all this running must attract. Why is it that the poor taxpayer must fork out for these idiots when they harm themselves. Make them go private, and don't treat anyone who gets ill or injured whilst running without taking their card details first.  I also think they should be forced to wear special helmets for when they trip over. I know how easy it can be to fall over. I have done so myself many times walking across the car park from the clubhouse.

Another thing is all the rubbish that these louts create, just chucking away fruit leftovers, and water bottles. They leave the place looking like a tip. the police should fine them.

I am glad to see though that someone has had the good sense to make them all wear registration numbers so they can be easily identified.


Ivor Misunderstanding, Major (ret)

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Helmet survey - The responses

About a week or so ago, I posted a link to a simple helmet survey I knocked up.
This was in frustration at the simple yes/no leading crap which has being doing the rounds lately on newspaper websites, mainly as a response to a campaign and subsequent comments by Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, and Laura Trott.

I wanted to get a feel for the sort of person who wanted compulsory helmets, and what sort (if any) of riding they did and how long they had been cycling. It is important to note, that there is no deep academic or scientific basis for the questions or results other than my curiosity.

In the end I only got 90 responses, I was hoping for more but it's still more than a lot of the beauty product "surveys in TV ads.

I wanted to export and post the raw data, but it turns out that SurveyMonkey doesn't let you do that with the freebie, but does let you filter the results.

Question 1. 
I had hoped that more none cyclists would respond as they also have a valid viewpoint. I found it interesting that by far the largest proportion reported that their main style was commuting/transport.

Question 2.
Again, interesting that most responses were over 20+ years of experience, which surprised me as I expected a wider spread.

Question 3
Fairly even split for this one overall, with 52% wearing a helmet and 48% not.

Question 4

Expected this result, but not perhaps quite as high with 82% saying that a lid did not make them feel safer from traffic. From personal experience, I find that I suffer more close passes when wearing on and feel that this could be the source, as well as the fact that if a vehicle hits you at speed, then a helmet is not a lot of help.

Question 5
There you go. 95% of people who ride bikes don't think helmets should be compulsory. No surprise apart from the numbers. I expected a fair few more to be in favour actually.

There were only 4 in favour. 2 identified as fast recreational, and 2 as general leisure riders. All four answered that they wore a helmet (no surprise) and 50% feel safer with a lid & the other 50% don't.
All of those had been cycling less than 20 years & 1 less than 5, so presumably have always worn lids. 

60% of all the respondents who cycled for more than 20 years did not wear a helmet. almost 90% reckoned it didn't make them feel safe from traffic, and 100% were against compulsion.

Monday, 2 September 2013

After the debate... What next?

Well we've not had the campaign, the inquiry and recommendations and now the debate..  What next?

Backstepping just a touch.

The get Britain cycling parliamentary debate was well attended with estimates of a 100 or so MPs from all parties. the debate itself was largely positive with only a few mentions of helmet compulsion (which mostly got talked down quickly) and the usual crap about training, hi-viz.
But overall there was some very good points with everyone agreeing that investing time, effort and money into cycling as a transport mode is a very good thing for the UK.
Maria Eagle gave it both barrels as she laid out a cycling manifesto from Labour, and the Govt's response was underwhelming by comparison. I certainly wasn't expecting a massive U turn from the likes of Norman Baker but by spelling out what the Government are doing, really highlighted their lack of real commitment and progress.

So what next...

Actually to my eyes chucking a shedload of money at the problem as is, would be completely wrong.
What we need is:

  • A proper long term plan and timetable for cycling. As many said other transport has such plans but cycling doesn't. That is the important thing that came out of yesterday. Which ever party Govt follows this one will carry on the work
  • A review of legislation to that a lot of the facilities which currently would not be legal could be made legal
  • A review of design guidelines to ensure that proper high quality facilities which are designed for the future planned growth and are more than a blue shared use sign on a 1metre path.
  • Carefully (but speedily) updates to planning guidelines to ensure that provision for cycling is considered right from the very start of a project.
  • Once we have the above two, they need to be mandatory for LAs and developers to follow.

Some of that appears to be happening, but it isn't transparent or public enough, and expert opinion AND best practice from the continent needs to be considered.

Then and only then is when people should start the actual digging and building.

In the meantime, there is stuff that can be done.
Public facilities like shops, schools, workplaces  need to be forced to provide secure parking provision for bicycles as many don't currently, and implement other facilities such as showers and lockers etc.
For example, my workplace only has a few bikepods for secure bike parking which are all taken and does not plan any more or operate a waiting list. This is completely the wrong approach, is failing the people that want to cycle now and could be tackled immediately. They are not willing to so need to be forced.

Local Authorities, and large developments such as out of town supermarkets should be made to implement a "Cycling Suggestion Box" scheme, where small improvements which can be made relatively easily, such as the following examples

  • Dropped kerb for access onto a route
  • Removal of a barrier
  • Where short contraflow or cycle bypasses to blocked off roads for increased permeability

LAs should be forced to examine and reply publicly back with either timetables for the work OR constructive explanations why it cannot happen. If it is sensible, then the change should be implemented. Like Freedom of information, there should be strict timetables set for consideration and replies, and also for any works needed.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Why not use cycle routes and paths?

Because most of them are utter shite.

These are some examples from my local area.

These are some examples, but there many more barriers as well as these where you need to dismount to pass, either at the ends of the path, or randomly in the middle of the route. These are often magnets for anti-social behavior and broken glass abounds

Randomly having to give way for anything crossing the route, often for no reason. Absolutely no priority to cycles

 Completely unsigned and with no indication of direction, so unless you know a local area intimately you WILL get lost

Or the routes are just symbols painted onto narrow footpaths

Or the cycle path is nothing more than a dirt track (ignoring the wagon parked blocking it)... or an anonymous cut between a couple of houses

Or even suddenly has a section that you are not allowed to ride along, even though it is a LA cycling route

Just imagine the uproar if roads were this crap...

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Pointless hopefully unbiased Helmet usage survey

I've gotten a little sick and fed up of the current media fascination with cycle helmets and shouts for them to be made compulsory based largely on one boy colliding with a van.

The likes of Wiggins, Trott and Cavendish have also weighed in with their considered (not) views on the issue, and media outlets from ITV's This Morning to London's Evening Standard have had pointless  surveys.

So... I thought I'd chuck my own little free pointless helmet survey together. It doesn't ask for any personal data or emails & not even IP addresses, but just asks 5 simple questions to gauge the perspective of the person providing the answers

The survey is here: Please complete and I will post the results in a week or two when it has collected a decent number of responses.

It would be interesting to get the views of people who don't cycle as well so please pass it on.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Helmets - Should they be compulsory?


Simple short answer. Quite a long winded reason why below.

There's been a lot of flurry recently as a family managed to garner a lot of media coverage calling for cycling helmets to be compulsory as their son was hit by a van while cycling and ended up in hospital with a head injury. According to the media he didn't want to wear a helmet as it would have messed his hair up.

OK, I can understand their anguish and sympathise with them, but there was little about the cause of the collision, and who's fault it was. In most crashes between people riding bikes and motor vehicles the driver is the at fault party.

A helmet would not have stopped the lad from being hit. What if he had suffered crush injuries or badly broken legs?

The best approach for all improved safety is prevention, NOT mitigation after the event.

A better and safer road environment would have helped and possibly prevented the collision.

Better awareness and sensible road safety education (not the bloody silly and offensive Niceway code) could have also helped.

I personally wear a helmet only when I think it appropriate due to increased risk, not all the time 

That is when it's slippy for example when raining or snowy or icy.
When I'm mountain biking as crashing is more common, and there tends to be lots of pointy hard things called rocks. Although to be fair I cycled off road using a touring bike for years before I got a mountain bike and a helmet.

As I wear glasses, I also occasionally wear a helmet with a peak when it's raining anyway as otherwise I would be wearing a cap or hat with a peak. Again if it's cold I will sometimes pop the lid on.

I've had a helmet since the late 80s when I started mountain biking, and started wearing it on the road in the circumstances above. Sometimes wore it a lot, it spent most of the ride strapped to the rack though.

I don't wear one when cycling around normally at 10 to 20 mph, on normal pleasant days as the risk is minimal. Likewise I don't wear a helmet or a stab vest when I take the dog for a walk.

What most people who DON'T ride a bike realise is that riding a bike is actually quite easy and people don't tend to just fall off very often. 

Riding a bike is no more dangerous than walking, or jogging, or for children playing in the playground.
There are almost 170,000 hospital admissions yearly for head injuries. Given the very low overall percentage of cycling takeup in the UK, then the number of injuries from falling off a bicycle is going to be a lot lower than that.

If helmet campaigners want to save lives and reduce injuries, then why do they not target car passengers, runners, children playing etc?

Having the likes of Bradley Wiggins say that helmets should be compulsory to ensure that cyclists have done all they can to protect themselves is very wrong. It is like promoting compulsory stab vests to prevent knife crime.

Courts or insurance companies that pronounce partial liability as no helmet was worn, when the victim was not at fault, Again would they do the same to a stabbing victim if they weren't wearing a stab vest?

quick google about for a breakdown of head injury figures found this page. There are lots of others with similar percentages for UK & USA etc

Statistics for hospital admissions where head injury was the primary diagnosis in 2002/2001 totalled 112,978

  • 75% of these were male admissions and 33% were children under 15 years of age.
  • 70-88% of all people who sustain a head injury are male. 
  • 10-19% are aged ≥65 years.
A breakdown of those admissions on the same study showed the following main causes
  • Falls (22-43%)
  • assaults (30-50%)
  • road traffic accidents (25%). 
  • Alcohol may be involved in up to 65% of adult head injuries.
So from the above stats, if people REALLY want to save lives, then they should campaign to make helmets compulsory for:
  • All children engaged in any activity. 
  • All Males
  • Anyone over the age of 65
  • Anyone drinking alcohol 
All cycle helmet campaigning and calls for compulsion do is raise the perceived risk factor and reduce the numbers who will  consider cycling.

This of course will just increase the numbers of people in the UK who do little or no exercise and place more people at increased risk of sedentary linked illnesses and early death. The UK already has 50% of children who do not get enough exercise

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Shopping & other stuff

A lot of people think that it simply isn't possible to shift more than a couple of mars bars by bike. nothing could be further from the truth.

Syd Mead, the conceptual artist responsible for the look of Bladerunner which is one of the most influential Sci-Fi movies, recently commented that although you can carry a melon on a bike, you cannot carry anything else.

In the bag of my Moulton, I can easily get 2 or 3 carrier bags of shopping in.  I can get similar in a couple of large panniers, but I do prefer the single large bag and of course the bike it sits on.

Below is the loaded bag, and the contents of one random shop. 6kg of dry dog food. 2 2L bottles of fizzy pop, several tins etc. Most people I see coming out of supermarkets don't even buy that much at a time.

For larger shops, I now have a trailer. Sixty quid from Ebay.

Below are some of the loads I have pulled on it.

Dry dog food. couple of bags of shopping & two growbags from ASDA.

Again, dry dog food and a lot of other shopping from Morrisons

3 of the large Morrison's bags for life full loaded. This was a well loaded trolley full.

Aside from shopping, the trailer is a remarkably useful and convenient tool for shifting stuff around. 

Here arrived at the allotment after tugging a polytunnel frame there. 

Loaded up and ready to take the lawnmower down to the allotment to cut the paths between the beds. Saves muddying the car up.

Even in the depths of a snowy winter, it can be easier and quicker (as well as more fun!) to take the bike to the shops, rather than drive.  

Saturday, 10 August 2013

10 commandments to Get Britain Cycling

The Government is tipped to make an announcement soon about cycling in the UK in the wake of the Cyclesafe campaign by The Times, and the Get Britain Cycling parliamentary debate.

The enquiry report proposed that the government should set national targets to increase cycle use from less than 2% of journeys in 2011, to 10% of all journeys in 2025, and 25% by 2050, and proposed a number of recommendations to make it happen.

The CTC have also issued a set of 10 top priorities, which to me seem to be a bit wishy washy and halfhearted, which is especially disappointing from one of the UK's leading cycling advocacy bodies.

I have distilled, and tweaked some of the enquiries recommendations into my 10 commandments which I think the Government should implement to encourage and facilitate more people riding bikes. Number 6 is pretty much as GetBritaincycling proposed (which is why it's different colour)
  1. Review and adopt international best practice for cycling & walking provision and infrastructure and make mandatory for all new developments and schemes.
  2. Make all public places such as shops, workplaces, leisure facilities and schools provide 10% of car parking with cycle parking & separated direct walking/cycling routes across car parks. Impose time limit for implementation.
  3. Parallel & protected safe routes for walking & cycling alongside trunk roads, motorways & across junctions must be provided ASAP to best practice prioritised by demand.
  4.  Local authorities to deliver cycle-friendly improvements across their existing networks, including small improvements, segregated routes, and road reallocation. All LAs to adopt a "suggestion box" scheme for local cycling improvements & investigate & act appropriately. 
  5.  Make 20mph default speed limit for residential & any other roads with significant proportion of non vehicular traffic such as shopping areas
  6.  Improve large vehicle safety by vehicle design, driver training, and mutual awareness with cyclists; promote rail freight and limit use of HGVs on the busiest urban streets at the busiest times, and use public sector projects to drive fleet improvements.
  7.  Stronger enforcement of road traffic laws with stronger penalties to aim for making bad or dangerous driving as antisocial as drunk driving is now.
  8. Provide cycle training at all primary and secondary schools & offer widespread subsided cycle training etc to encourage everyone to cycle, especially as exercise based health strategies for prevention & treatment of diseases such as T2 diabetes & obesity.
  9.  Cycling needs to be promoted as a safe and normal activity & mode of transport for people of all ages and backgrounds.
  10. The Government should produce a Govt wide plan for cycling, with annual progress audits & an independent expert as a national Cycling Champion. Each local authority to   have a local cycling champion or independent panel of cycling experts ao monitor & audit progress

Monday, 5 August 2013

I am not a horse, but an individual!

Well the nice way code finally launched with two of its videos today.

The first asks drivers to see people who ride bikes as if the are horses and give them the same consideration.

Some may find  the 40 or so seconds quite humorous, with most of the time spent with a person on a bike in stables being fed and shoed like a horse. Only in the last few seconds does the actual message get put across, which for drivers to give people riding bikes the same consideration as animals.

That's right, animals! in the minds of the geniuses behind the nice way code, the road hierarchy appears to be drivers, then animals, then people on bikes. Absolutely beggars belief.

But it gets even bloody worse

The second ad, starts with a person on a bicycle going though a red light, and then jumps to an old fashioned school master taking the piss out of a child for his name, and concludes with the message cyclists should not give all cyclists a bad name by jumping the red.

All that does is reinforces the view that every individual is collectively responsible for the actions of every other person riding a bike. 

They haven't tarred all drivers with the "one does wrong, everyone does wrong" brush, just cyclists and pedestrians.

Pedestrians are targeted with with texting and not looking. Driving whilst using a phone or texting gets barely a footnote. For frigs sake, out of walking or driving, which is the most dangerous activity?

It is a disgrace that this campaign is funded from sustainable transport funds, especially cycling, and yet targets the most vulnerable who are the very people it should be protecting. It's like running a campaign to get people to wear stab vests in day to day use. It just wouldn't happen, there would be a crackdown on knife crime and a public backlash.

All that has happened to date with the Niceway code is that drivers age old prejudices have been given official sanction.

It's not just a waste of scarce money, it is verging on reckless negligence. Some of the campaign team have come out as active cyclists. 

I would be ashamed if I was associated professionally with something which was this bad and misguided.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Review: Bikemate maintenance stand from Aldi/Lidl

Gonna start doing some basic review of some of the stuff I buy for cycling.

I'm starting off with the Bikemate bicycle maintenance stand which is periodically available from Aldi or Lidl for the princely sum of £29.99.

There is a very small amount of assembly out of the box which is basically pushing the bike clamp arm into the mount on the stand itself. When folded up for storage the whole thing is quite compact, and will easily fit into a car boot.

It is also reassuringly heavy. All the clamps for tightening the stand up have very large grabbable orange wheels for turning. There is a small tray attached to the stand for holding tools and parts. It handily has a magnet fitted to the underside to keep things secure.

 When you push the legs down like an inverted umbrella action, you end up with 5 very well spaced legs, with flip down plastic feet. Even on the rough piece of grass I call a lawn it was very stable.

The bike clamp arm can rotate though 360 degrees, and extends quite a way and should grab the widest of frames. The clamp has some anti scratch soft plastic, however if you are paranoid about scratches, then a yellow duster between the clamp and the bike frame would be useful.

Here you can see my Moulton clamped by the seat post. This is setup for touring/trails and is about 14kgs in weight. Not a problem for the stand at all.

The single criticism I would have about the Bikemate stand is that the bike clamp is a screw up action. Some kind of quick release to quickly take the slack would be great, as it can be a struggle holding a heavy bike with one hand whilst tightening the clamp. Of course if you have a conventional frame with a top tube, then this would be much less of an issue.

Here you can see a close up of the  bicycle clamp itself. It's all very sturdy and once clamped in the bike doesn't move

The Bikemate stand comes with a adjustable tube with rubber straps at each end for attaching to the bars and stand to prevent the bars and front wheel from swinging around.

The bikemate stand is the equal of many more expensive stands I have used in the past from brands such as Park Tools and Minoura.

The compactness, 5 widely spaced feet and the magnetic tool tray all stand out as excellent features as does the overall quality feel. The fact that when they come on sale they are only £30 is outstanding.

The only real negative comment is that they are only available 2 or 3 times a year.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The nice way or the highway...

This week Scotland "pre-launched" a major new road safety campaign costing almost £500K which aims to boost mutual respect amongst all road users by asking them to be nice to each other.

the strapline on the blog is

Let’s face it we all have to share the roads. Until the world is a perfect place there are some simple rules we can all follow to make it safer for everyone out there. 

But don't those rules already exist in the Highway code? Why do we need an expensive new campaign and slogan? Just bloody enforce the existing rules and laws?

The campaign blog also states:

The campaign is designed to make the roads a more tolerant and harmonious place. We’re not under the impression the Nice Way Code is going to make the roads a wonderful place free of accidents or road rage overnight of course. It’s intended as the start of a conversation about how we treat our fellow roads users. It is there to support infrastructure and enforcement measures.

but seems to consign the whole campaign to a dismal failure in the second sentence.

The blog then waffles on about research with focus groups showing that all misdemeanors should be treated equally. All that seems to have happened is that they have clung onto existing prejudices without any real thought. I did post a comment asking if they would post the research, but although they replied, Nicewaycode completely ignored that point

Are that many cyclists really genuinely aggrieved about the odd person on a bike jumping a red light or occasionally riding on a pavement? I have done both, I suspect like most people riding bikes, because infrastructure has not been designed with any thought for cyclists. I don't get upset when I see a person riding a bike along a pavement. When I do ride along a path shared with pedestrians I slow, they usually give way and we pass the time of day & thank each other. A few idiots ignore me, but they are just as likely to ignore TV ads also.

Coincidentally, cyclists RLJing is one of the largest moans from drivers who of course never ever jump lights, and pavement cycling is a gripe from pedestrian groups.

The problem I have is that these appear to have been accepted at face value, and placed alongside drivers passing people on bikes with only a couple of inches to spare at high speed and not even mentioning all the other things drivers do like squeeze past at pinch points, pull out without looking, overtake and then turn left immediately. Which cyclists did the campaign designers speak to? A good proportion of drivers treat cyclists like something they trod in. At least the ones that hurl abuse have seen you! Other drivers are either texting or talking on the phone, fiddling with the sat nav, can't see cos of the sun but plough on regardless.

Mutual respect is rubbish. People riding bikes generally instinctively respect cars and HGVs etc cos if they don't they get hit and at best it hurts. At worst they are dead. All the driver will suffer is a bit of scratched paintwork. Dented if really unlucky.

Neil Grieg from the IAM is quoted as saying “If everyone on the roads can work together to reduce stress, give each other more room and stick to the rules"
So how exactly am I supposed to destress a driver, give them more room (sounds like ride closer to the gutter) & stick to the rules. Sounds like some subtle victim blaming to me.

I am not one-sided. I walk, cycle and drive like most people who cycle. Most drivers though do not cycle as well and a good proportion don't seem to walk very far anymore.

The real problem is the personality transplant that seems to affect a lot of people when they get behind a wheel. The Chief Constable of Cleveland police made the following quote here about drivers causing obstructions for disabled people.

“Some drivers have a completely different mindset when behind the wheel of a car. They would be considerate enough to hold a door open for a vulnerable or disabled person but think nothing of parking across a pavement and forcing them to walk on a busy road.”

 This is what needs to be broken, not some naive half arsed flowery campaign asking people to be nice to each other

Monday, 22 July 2013

If you can't cycle it, then it ain't a cycling route

I've been reading the local council's published proposal and funding bid for a local "pinch point" along the A194  which is a busy 70 MPH dual carriageway which also happens to one of the main routes into the town.

There is bugger all about improvements for cycling, apart from a mention about signing some of the slip road crossings, apart from the following

All well and good, but the bridge which is marked on the official map as being advisory specifically prohibits cycles from being ridden. The actual signs at either end of the bridge are below.

South side of the footbridge
North side of the footbridge
Now colour me pedantic, but a cycle route where you are only allowed to push your bicycle, is NOT a cycle route, advisory or otherwise, it is a footpath. I have been across and appreciate why they stop you from riding a cycle, but to mention it as a cycling facility in a bid to show that cyclists are catered for is nothing more than a bare faced lie.

The A194 route is popular with commuting cyclists, not that there is that many as the conditions are so hostile, as it is a direct link in and out of the town and links several residential and industrial areas as well as schools. The current cycling provision is frankly zero.

This bid goes into lots of detail about car movements and into fantasy about how it will create more jobs cos more people will be able to drive there once the congestion caused by the "pinch point" is removed, which kinda seems like a self defeating prophecy to me.

Any congestion reduction will only come from reducing the number of cars, The bid actually hints that it would INCREASE traffic volume. This is madness.

As I mentioned above the bid makes virtually zero provision for improved walking and cycling apart from putting in better crossings on the A19 sliproads. That's out of £3.4 million, and as it has now gone public, it can be assumed that it has been given the green light from the DfT. Below is the section explaining the paltry amount of consideration given to pedestrians and cyclists as part of the bid

What should have been done, was to provide a wide 2 way cycleway from Whitemare pool along the A194. As well as very wide grassed verges, there are various sections of the old road (Roman Road and Hadrian road) which run parallel to the A194 which could be linked in to reduce the overall cost.

This would have provided people with a real alternative to driving, but it seems that South Tyneside council is stuck in the 1970s still.

This is why national mandatory high quality designs and guidance is urgently needed to force local authorities like South Tyneside Council to provide good quality and safe environments for pedestrians and cyclists