Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Councillors and space4cycling

I met with my ward councillors this afternoon after emailing them about supporting space4cycling.

One of them is currently the councillor lead on Health and Wellbeing for the council, and next year will be the mayor, so has quite an opportunity to promote and encourage cycling both to the public and within the LA.

They had an idea which was whether it would be possible or feasible to organise rides in a similar fashion to the Sunderland rides. The intention being to promote cycling in the LA area, as an overriding concern is the levels of obesity and inactivity especially amongst children. I've heard worse ideas from councillors. 

Certainly there are several cyclable routes staying more or less within the borough boundaries which are safe. If I'd offered to lead/organise I think they;d have bitten my hand off. Sadly I struggle to find real time for that sort of thing due to personal circs (pity cos I enjoy that stuff).

The only real stereotype I had chucked at me during the meeting was the cyclists on pavements, as one cllr had a recent tale of a young mother suffering a broken leg. While that's regrettable, it was pointed out in strong terms that vast majority of people on bikes are responsible and considerate, and that drivers present a far greater danger even on the pavement. I highlighted the recent local case where an OAP driver hit a pedestrian and didn't realise until the police tracked her down.

A discussion about safety and enabling cycling as opposed to expanding roads to cope with congestion followed. Enabling more cycling, and even reducing car use by 5% would have a massive positive impact on congestion, and this was agreed.

We moved onto routes, and I pointed out that there is a lot of navigable safe routes within South Tyneside, but that a  lot of it is "invisible", unsigned, and often has a detail like a missing dropped kerb, or a barrier, All of  which hinders cycling. 

I suggested the idea of a tube style map of strategic routes, and this was thought to be an excellent idea (yes I stole the Newcycling SCR idea), although I added the stations like used on the Edinburgh Innertube.

I also suggested signed leisure routes as self guided circular rides, and also to specific destinations, linked to the above map. Again well received.

The idea of a "quick wins" suggestion list to tackle the small stuff that can make a big difference was also suggested and agreed with. the concept being similar to this from Camden Cyclists

I was promised that my suggestions would be put to the officers, and that they would keep in touch and relay back progress. I did offer to act as an "expert" and that I would be happy to work with them on trying to improve the lot of cyclists in the area.

Here's hoping. It all sounded very positive and they were very definitely on board.

We got though quite a bit in a short space of time.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Chris Hoy hasn't earned my respect

The comments by Chris Hoy and published in the Telegraph deeply disappointed me, although they are just the latest in a line from high profile cyclists. I've ranted about the myth of mutual respect before.

I expected more from Chris Hoy though, as he has always come across as a reasonable, intelligent, and thoughtful guy with a mature sensible point of view.

They legitimise the view among the ignorant  that all people riding bikes need to behave before any are treated as human beings, let alone equals.

If it was just the law that was expected, but it is the imagined laws.

"Cyclists should get off the road and on the path"
"Bloody cyclists always riding on the path"
"Riding all over the road 2 abreast"
"Riding in the middle of the lane"
"Not wearing a helmet"
"Wearing a silly bit of plastic"
"Not wearing hivis"
"Dressing up like power rangers at Christmas in silly clothes"
"Not paying tax"

There is a natural state that whatever cyclists do, there seems to be an equal and opposite reaction from the idiots and the haters.

Even suggesting that respect needs to be earned, just feeds into the hands of the bigots, as they will always invent another excuse or a made up reason to justify their hate.

So you wanna start riding to work/school etc? Part 2. You

The light nights and warm days are almost upon us, and some may be wanting to start cycling to work or to school.

Cycling will make any trip much more fun and pleasant than being in a car & what better way to round off a day in the office staring through the window at the sun than a bike ride home in it.

Riding a bike is simple and fun, And about the only special piece of equipment you will need is a bicycle. Here's some hints and tips which certainly for me make riding for transport a lot more pleasant and easier. Part 1 of this series covered the bike.

Do I need special kit? Nope.

You can easily and comfortably cycle in normal everyday clothes. If you are riding long distance or cycling for sport, then yea, don the lycra and cycle jerseys if you wish, but you don't need to for a short ride to the shops.

If it's warm, as there is nothing better than warm air on the legs, then walking shorts will be better than a pair of jeans, and less exhibitionist than a pair of lycra shorts. they often have plenty of zip up pockets for phones, money etc.

For colder weather, walking trousers are lighter and easier to ride in than jeans. If it rains while you are out they will not become as sodden for as long, although you can buy showerproof trousers as well. You can now even buy trousers from Marks and Spencer designed specially for cycling.

"Active" T-shirts designed for walking and jogging are often better than a heavy cotton t-shirt as they will wick away any moisture quicker and keep you feeling dry, and less smelly.

If you are cycling regularly, then investing in cycling shoes is wise as the soles are stiffened to maximise power transfer from feet to pedals, which also helps prevent foot fatigue and pain. A lot come in styles that look like normal walking/trekking shoes. Sizes vary so always best to try some on.

The other thing I always wear is a pair of cycling gloves. Gloves serve a variety of purposes.
Gloves improve your grip on the bars, and have padding for increased comfort.
Gloves usually have a towelling section for wiping your brow
Most importantly, if you do come off,  the natural reaction is to put your hand out. gloves can help against cutting or scraping your hands on the road etc.

Won't I be too cold or too hot? Possibly at times, but you wear several thin layers that you can peel off if necessary, rather than one mega-thick layer. When riding you will be creating your own inner heat anyway.

Won't I get wet all the time? It doesn't rain that often actually. Always carry a waterproof jacket unless you are just nipping to the corner shop. If it does rain, just grin and bear it.

Won't I get all sweaty, smelly and dirty? Possibly if you are really working it. If you ease back the effort a little bit and relax, then much less so. If you are riding to work etc, then a quick wash or a wipe down with wet wipes will easily freshen you up. You don't need a shower after every couple of miles riding.

If you are cycling regularly to work etc, then if possible keeping a change of socks/underwear and even keeping shoes and trousers at work saves having to lug them with you, and more importantly can be a blessing if you do get a soaking on the way in.

As for carrying everything, then stick it in the panniers you bought. Always line the panniers with tough plastic liners. You can buy expensive branded rucksack liners, but I recommend rubble sacks from the local supermarket.
Line the pannier with the sack, chuck everything in the liner, and then roll the top and tuck in, before closing the pannier. Unless you've pierced the liner, that will keep your gear dry through anything.
Always try and pack keeping the heaviest towards the bottom, and the lightest and most needed at the top

I've not mentioned helmets for a reason. Wearing one is a deeply personal choice.
I used to, but don't any more for regular riding as the risk is low. I'm equally at risk of tripping on uneven pavement walking to the shops, but don't wear a helmet for that. Helmets are of very limited and questionable use if a vehicle hits you as they are not designed for that.