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