Family cycling

This past Saturday saw a rather lovely “first” happen as I got my first proper ride with Nelle on the WeeRide as myself, Isaac (16) and Charlotte (11) took a ride over to my parents in Croydon as the rest of the family drove over – our car *only* having 7 seats and friends staying over meant we were a few seats short!

This is a journey I’ve often done myself and as a regular and quite capable cyclist it’s a trip I barely give a second thought too – there are a few routes I can choose depending on what kinda mood I’m in and how energetic I feel. For the large part, the routes I’d cycle is pretty much unchanged from what I’d use if driving however that all changes once you start considering a suitable route to use with 2 of your own who can’t quite match your normal cruising speed or quite have the same confidence on the road around high volumes of motor traffic.

After a bit of deliberation, I decided it would be best to try following the signed cycle network route to Croydon. I’d take up the lead position, Charlotte would ride 2nd and Isaac would act as a rear marker as he has a bit more experience riding on the road. I had a vague idea where it headed but as this is one of the original cycle networks it is notorious for sending riders down quiet back roads (good – means generally speaking traffic levels are very low) but does require you to keep your eyes peeled for directions as it’s rather winding (bad – we only had 1 missed turn, thankfully called out by Isaac). As it turned out we only really had a couple of awkward moments on the whole 3-4 mile journey where we had to cross busier roads which involved trying to find a suitable gap in traffic for me & my co-riders. At each one, I’d explain what we needed to do as we waited, either to head straight over or do a bit of a zig zag so if we did get separated we’d soon be back as one group and it went fairly well.

Eventually, after about 40mins we ended up turning up in what the network considers “Croydon” as the little blue signs vanished. This turned out to be about 1/4 mile up London Road from West Croydon. At this point I used my local knowledge to plan a route towards East Croydon station, again trying to avoid busy roads, but that was all dashed when I noticed (new?) signs stating that North End – the main pedestrianised shopping street in Croydon – was actually a shared use area so we could cycle through there! The slower pace set by the younger riders meant this was ideal and we deftly negotiated the hordes on Saturday shoppers. The final part to join up to East Croydon did involve using a slightly busier road but as it was only a very short stretch and turns into a bus/taxi/cycle only section past the station it wasn’t a huge issue. I just needed to wait briefly as I made it through a set of lights the other 2 riders didn’t 🙂

 

The return journey in the evening again saw me giving some consideration to routeing that isn’t always needed when driving. I had the advantage this time of knowing where the other route ran so managed to use the route towards Thornton Heath from East Croydon – my only gripe being a lack of signage to turn you right onto Dingwall Road if headed over the railway bridge however once on that section. It’s a fair traffic free route and using some other local knowledge I was able to connect us back up to our morning route once we got to the end of the “Thornton Heath” leg and the rest was fairly straight forward.

The experience did highlight a few things for me which I believe shows why cycling as a family like this isn’t as widespread as it ultimately needs to be if we want to tackle both rising pollution and obesity levels through promoting active travel.

Firstly the whole “ordeal” of planning a route. It’s not until you want to ride somewhere with less able cyclists that I realise how much I take for granted my own abilities to cope with regular roads. Trying to work out the “least busy” route isn’t quite as easy as it seems! In some ways, it was actually useful being on a different bike to my usual commute and carrying Nelle as it meant I was riding slower and could under-gear so I travelled at a speed that Charlotte and Isaac could match. We also come up with an impromptu system to let me know if I’d got a little ahead as Charlotte would ding her bell twice 🙂 This did also again show me it’s possible to cycle in regular clothing and NOT get all hot and sweaty as I was barely even exerting myself – fantastic for the ride over as it meant I could chat with Nelle, who due to the design of the WeeRide, was neatly snuggled between my arms (note to self – take coat and gloves for the small passengers, wind chill is a thing!)

 

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Nelle in the WeeRide during Pride Ride

 

Secondly, and partially related to the prior point, is that the lack of provision on routes that would be the most logical and direct ways to travel often don’t “feel” viable. It’s pretty much just a few advisory cycle lanes! The provisions provided on the cycle networks (from what I can remember) worked OK for use on regular bikes but I suspect some of the contra flow lanes would present a problem if you should have a cargo trike as they tend to be wider than your average traditional bike meaning that some of the entry points might be too narrow to accommodate them.

The tricky part is how do we fix this? For starters, it can involve simple steps such as simply showing those cyclists you meet on the roads whilst driving some courtesy – don’t tailgate them and wait until it’s safe to pass. When you do pass try to leave as much room as possible, you don’t know if that rider will need to swerve for something you’ve not seen from inside your car. Don’t try to squeeze passed at “pinch points” such as at traffic islands or on narrow roads with oncoming traffic, a few seconds delay won’t kill you but your impatience could seriously injure or kill them. This makes cycling a lot more pleasant and a lot less stressful for the rider, who is ultimately just someone trying to get to their destination in one piece – just like you 🙂

To see a proper uplift in cycling numbers and more families out cycling is going to take some fairly large environmental changes, thankfully the Dutch have a 40-year head start on us in the UK so we can borrow design cues from there to help here. Segregated lanes on the busiest roads and traffic reduction on residential roads that stops rat-running are just 2 techniques used by them to create roads that not only feel safe, but are safer for everyone by either removing conflict entirely or reducing the potential for harm when it can’t be avoided.

TfL’s “Healthy Streets” initiative looks like it could go some way to implementing some of this, with a focus on switching peoples travel mode from private car to public transport, bike or walking however it’s still in the VERY early stages at the moment. The segregated lanes in London have shown that where safe infrastruture is provided it is used, we just need this message to get through to transport planners in local councils!

 

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World Naked Bike Ride 2017

I’m back! Hoping to blog a bit more on here and this recent ride seemed like a good excuse to jump back in so here goes 🙂 One small bit of housekeeping before we start, this post will contain some nudity – I know the title might be a bit of a hint but I thought I’d just mention there are a few pics from the ride so you may see some blurry boobs and willies!

I’ve never really been one for taking small bites when it comes to my cycling challenges.

I started off commuting about 20 miles a day and then signed myself up to the London Bikeathon some 11 years ago – a single 26 mile ride, not a massive jump in my usual daily distance but was one that would need completing in one lump.

After that I did the Capital to Coast a couple of times, riding from Esher to Hove, covering approximately 60 miles. The second year I did this I set myself the challenge to do this non-stop, which I almost did bar a brief hop-off for thunderous leg cramps after I dropped my chain on approach to final climb!

After that I think came a biggy, and the reason I started this blog all those years ago, the Magnificat – a double whammy as it would have been (and still is!) my longest single ride to date AND my first imperial century ride at a whooping 127.5 miles. I’d only ever done just under half that in a day before and in preparation for it I completed a solo 85 miler but wanted to save popping my 100 mile cherry for the actual event 🙂

For a few years after the Mag it went a bit quiet for long rides until I complete a 270 mile jaunt from Bolton to London, calling in at Barlborough and Letchworth on the way as we did a tour of my employer’s offices following being brought up by BT, over a long weekend.

This was what I’d consider my last big challenge until I decided it might be fun to attend the World Naked Bike Ride in London. To keep fully in the spirit of the ride I decided I’d take the “bare as you dare” dress code to it’s [almost] final end, adding only my cycling gloves to the recommended attire of shoes. This would make this ride my first time as a naturist (something I’d casually considered before, I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin) and first time attending a WNBR. The date for this years ride was 10th June and on the 9th I checked the weather and it looked nigh on perfect. 23C and no rain!

One of the aims behind the ride, besides being an excuse to disrobe and go for a sightseeing tour around London, is (amongst other things) to protest our current car culture and to raise awareness around the vulnerability of cyclists on our roads. With these in mind I’d been mulling over slogans that could be painted onto my back, legs etc. on my commutes for the week or 2 before the event and had a few firm favourites.

When the 10th did roll round I woke up with a sense of excitement and trepidation. Today was the big day, what was it going to be like going naked in front of strangers – who are also going to be naked but also amongst the general clothed public! I pushed that aside and got on with preparations, ensuring I had all the bits I needed in bag and getting SWMBO to assist with sloganing up my back and legs. Went with a snappy “Natures own hi-viz” on upper back, “Does my bum look good? #gocycling” above bum, “Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Cyclist” on my right thigh and “I hate tanlines” on my left with a bonus “MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra for those unfamiliar with the oft used term!) free zone” under left arm.

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The plan for the day was to ride to the West Norwood start point, ride up to the main event in Central London, complete the course then come back. There would be body painters there so I was expecting to see some naked people but wasn’t aware until the morning before that the ride from there to Central London is under the same “bare as you dare” dress code. Arriving there around 2 PM and making our way into the backyard, having spotted a naked guy and lots of bikes up the alley I was met by a lot of skin and feeling rather overdressed in my shorts and vest top! Our host greeted us and explained where the toilet was located and about body painters. I took off my top almost immediately, had a bit of a look around at the body painters work and some other riders painting each other before finding the loo. After a bit of “nervous bladder” I thought before rejoining the main group there is no time like the present so just took off my shorts and returned to the backyard and it just felt (to nick a quote from the great Stewie Griffin!) “right”. I think having everyone else there nude helped in that I didn’t feel out of place and at that point I’d cleared the initial hurdle – disrobing for the first time. I got Isaac to assist with repainting some of my slogans as they’d rubbed off on my shorts and t-shirt on way up and within 25mins or so the call went out to prepare to leave.

 

**GULP**

We all filed out and collected our bikes, ready to take the next big leap (for me anyway as a first timer!) of getting out onto the public roads proper. West Norwood was about to get an eyeful of about 30 cyclists, with very few of us being able to be described as “lycra louts” ;P

As we joined the main road the theme was set for the remainder of the day, shocked drivers and pedestrians and mobile phones being pointed at us, god knows how many people have  a brief fuzzy video of my arse on their phone around London that evening! We stopped at the lights further ahead down the road with a generally warm reception bar one lady in a car who drove past yelling “put some clothes on! You’re disgusting”.
“Get a bike and come have some fun!” I yelled back, which I assume she heard as she flipped a 2 finger salute out the window. Result! At this point I just ignored the fact I was riding around in just shoes and gloves, after all I’m in a reasonably sized group of similarly undressed riders and for the whole of our route we certainly drew attention. Brixton High St was possibly the busiest outward bound section as people literally crowded out of shops or to the windows to catch of glimpse of “those crazy naked cyclists” – it’s an odd feeling knowing you are part of the group that brought a ray of WTF sunshine into so many Londoners day!

 

As the ride progressed we started picking up roads I normally use for my commute, albeit it at about ⅓ the speed I usually ride them at with about 95% less on! We stopped at the north end of Vauxhall Bridge to wait for the group headed in from Kew/Clapham Junction to join us and then continued on along Millbank. I joked “I’d be tempted to go for a Strava KOM considering the marginal weightsaving of being naked!” and did find myself pushing on a bit as 2 non-WNBR riders overtook me. I was at the head of group and I picked up the pace a little before being called back by ride leader!

 

Our route for the day saw us heading along Millbank, hanging a right over Lambeth Bridge and then headed round to Waterloo. From there we went round Aldwych and past the Royal Courts of Justice before heading towards Lincolns Inn Fields for a break. Here we got some freebie Naked (great product placement!) yoghurts and a chance to stretch, have a chat with our fellow riders, use loos, admire each other’s body decorations/slogans and even a bit of a sing and dance thanks to some bikes towing PA systems! About 30 minutes later we set off again, headed for Covent Garden and possibly the most electrifying atmosphere as the roads were pretty much lined with tourists and workers cheering us all on, riders blowing whistles and horns, lots of waving and the continued tunes being blasted out. It was just epic. We rode over Trafalgar Sq and down The Mall before ending up outside Buckingham Palace – definitely a bucket list item!

 

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Naked at Buckingham Palace, not something I ever expected to blog about!

 


This was the split point of the ride, where those headed back to Clapham Junction and West Norwood would go one way and those wanting to finish carried on along the cycle path to Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner. Our route back saw us also visit Knightsbridge before heading down to Sloane Sq. There is something rather poetic about heading down a road lined with designer clothes shops whilst naked that puts a large grin on my face “You’ve not got any clothes on!” commented one bystander “Of course not! I can’t afford the prices down here!!” We then headed along King Street in Chelsea before crossing Albert Bridge and stopping at Clapham Junction to part with some of the group.

The return leg to West Norwood saw us skirting round Clapham Common, a brief bit of my usual commute stomping ground along CS7 and then peeling off towards Brixton again and then over to West Norwood where the group had a clothes optional BBQ to look forward too. I didn’t stay for this, with 23 miles done that day with the last 20 done naked, myself and Isaac were just about ready to do the final 3 miles of so home!

 

So now having had time to reflect it has been an amazing day. I’d say about 98% of the reception we had was positive. Nearly every pub we passed resulted in cheers and clapping, similar with the crowds sitting on the open green spaces we passed. The police could’ve made an absolute killing booking drivers for using their phones whilst at the wheel and I’ll admit the group *did* hold up traffic on some roads and to ensure we all stayed together and ignored quite a few red lights! That last one did sound like material for a meme “I don’t always jump red lights, but when I do I’m naked!”

 

That being said we did get some negative reactions. People calling us filthy or disgusting, suggesting we should be ashamed of ourselves or to cover up as there are children around. I even think I heard one bloke call us “faggots” but we’d moved on before I could challenge him. Most of these comments I believe reflect on the upbringing of the person making them. Obviously being a participant in a ride like this I clearly have different views around the human body to these people and having engaged with some friends on Facebook via my posts about this event I can see the reasons behind this are many and varied and a little beyond this post, even with the WNBR theme of “accepting the human body” – what better way to teach people about the problems of body shaming and the seemingly unattainable goal to be “perfect” then by presenting them with a broad cross section of society stripped of all the usual social trappings of clothing? I assure you not every rider who attended was what would be considered “traditionally attractive” but that didn’t stop them coming out, displaying those imperfections and saying “Yeah, So what?”

 

As a little bonus the wife had a rather nice laugh the following day 🙂 I’d made a rookie WNBR error and not put on suncream ALL OVER and hadn’t realized the body paint isn’t tan through so the following day I was left with this rather amusing sunburn!_20170611_105839.jpg

 

Subjective Safety – Filtered Permeability

You may recall in my last post I mentioned riding home from The Big Ride with my eldest and finding some rather helpful road design in my local area. One way streets and no-through roads for cars had bicycle lanes joining them, enabling cyclists to continue on whilst cars are forced out onto the main roads unless they need local access.

Well last week I finally remembered to go back and re-visit the area with the helmet cam running this time to record it.

I left in the approach on the main road to show the conditions the roads can be used to avoid. As a fairly confident cyclist I’ve got used to the busier roads however this stretch (often heading the opposite direction) has had a few interesting bits; From drivers complaining when I stop for pedestrians crossing, drivers on their phone who moan when you point it out, reading a newspaper at the wheel not to mention the usual close passes it’s certainly a busy stretch!

A map of the area can be viewed here:

First off a little disclaimer: The wide angle lens does distort the gaps as I’m filtering, due to riding in London an awful lot I’ve come to learn pretty well what gaps I can make and what I can’t! So whilst the first 2 1/2 minutes might have you wincing as I go into what appear to be tiny gaps rest assured there was enough room 🙂

I start off the clip in the lower left corner of the map, on Leonard Road, coming round the sweeping right before doing a left on the roundabout to follow Streatham Vale/Greyhound Lane (the yellow road on the map). I ride up here until I reach Aberfoyle Road (opposite Woodgate Drive) where I wait at the lights before turning left. You can see this road is marked as one-way on the map and at the zoom level above you would be lead to believe this road does join with Abercairn Road however if you zoom in closer you can see the road is split with a narrow path between.

This can be seen in the footage at 2:51, a small cycle lane has been provided to allow cyclists to pass through, meaning we don’t need to follow the same one-way system that motorised traffic does. Whilst I am now effectively doubling back on myself imagine coming at Aberfoyle Road from the other direction to where I started and turning right onto it to start. I then proceed down Carnforth Road and turn right onto Broadview then right again onto Abercairn to come back to this point to show the end of the route you could use to avoid Streatham Vale/Greyhound Lane southbound.

At 3:55 you get the view from the opposite side of the cycle through route showing the other cycle path that joins the two roads together and thus allowing cyclists to continue on Aberfoyle Road (which is nicely blocked at this point!) and then on round to Eardley Road to join up with LCN5.

I then re-trace my previous tracks instead this time I turn left at the end of Broadview and head down Abercairn. You will need to zoom in a bit on the map to see the narrowing of Abercairn just after Bates Crescent. This is blocked off for motorised traffic with a single small cycle path to the right (wrong side of road as I approach from this direction) which can be seen at 5:05. This can be safely negotiated however as each side of the barrier is effectively a dead end.

Once I am through there I continue on Abercairn and follow it round before re-joining Leonard Road roughly where I started. This also highlighted a small problem as whilst I had excellent visibility from my left onto the roundabout of approaching traffic the view to the right was very hampered by the white van parked in the bay (I think!) on the corner, meaning I had to venture some way into the lane to check it was clear! Thankfully the Focus appear to want to turn up Abercairn so I could proceed.

As you can probably tell from this clip the backroads where very quite and felt much nicer to ride on, I think the safety point can be shown rather well at 5:00 with the children playing out on the street 🙂 The design of the roads here, by blocking off would could have been a handy rat run to avoid the often congested Streatham Vale/Greyhound Lane for motorised traffic, has ensured that they are only generally used for residential access. The cycle paths that have been provided do however mean it is practical to use for a cyclist and when I came back this way with my 11 year old daughter from The Big Ride it was much more pleasant then the main roads where I was constantly on edge.

I really do wish we had more streets designed like this over here, it may not only encourage more cycling as it feels safer it would also offer an incentive as you can go where cars can’t! Cars by their very nature are able to travel faster (in theory at least) so why shouldn’t they be sent on a more circuitous route whilst the slower cyclists is given a more direct one? Unfortunately this would probably be seen as inflicting more hardships on motorists by reducing their choices however I think this needs to be weighed up against the reduced transport choices for the 98% of our population who don’t cycle as they don’t feel safe.

The Big Ride – A Big Eye-Openner

Last Saturday myself and my eldest daughter, 11,  joined another 10,000 cyclists in London for a ride Hyde Park to Blackfriars Bridge to show our support for the LCC’s Go Dutch campaign – she even signed the petition at the start!

As a regular commuter battling through London’s often hostile roads and junctions has become second nature. I’ve adapted my riding style to “cope” with mixing with multiple lanes of fast moving traffic. The exact sort of traffic that had me rather worried about taking Iz along with me for the feeder ride. Getting to the start would have been fairly simple if I’d been on my own as I could use my normal routes but when you have an in-experienced younger rider with you suddenly these busy roads don’t seem like such a great idea! Luckily the meet-up point for our feeder ride (supported by the Lambeth CC) wasn’t too far away and I could make use of a few sections of LCN5 to avoid some of the busier sections. I think the short stretches I used go to show we still have a long way to go with providing safe and convenient cycle provisions for those who want to cycle around. Whilst our LCN route followed some backroads it also passed through a small segment of shared footpath that would be in-accessible if I was using anything asides from a standard bike. The cycle path is “blocked” at either end by a chicane formed by 2 metal barriers, using a bike with trailer I’d probably just make it through by dismounting completely and might just be able to pass the bike & trailer underneath as the bars are rather high but it’s hardly ideal and certainly not convenient. I may have some helmet cam footage of this, which I will add later if I do.

Once we meet up with the initial group we where lead on nice quiet backstreets at a rather different pace to what I’m typically used to travelling at. This had the effect of reminding me that I don’t remain as warm when I’m not riding at my usual speed! I started wishing I’d brought a warmer coat and gloves along but did realize it also goes to show that it’s possible to get around without going like a bat out of hell and that you can actually cycle at a good pace without getting sweaty! I think even at this pace we where still going faster then the average speed for motorised traffic during the rush hour 😉

Our route into town saw us going via Brixton Town Hall, Clapham Common and finally Battersea Park as we collected more riders. From out initial group of 10 or so I think we where about 50-60 strong by the time we left Battersea Park, it really was a great experience to be part of such a large cycling train. Once we left Battersea Park we headed over the Thames via the newly re-furbished Battersea Bridge, through Chelsea and then along Exhibition Road before crossing into Hyde Park to meet the rest of the riders and wait for the start of the ride. Much like my route that I used to get to the feeder meet-up point the route into town used a selection of LCN routes, some main roads and quiet backroads. This was rather interesting for me as my normal cycling routes follow along pretty much the same routes I’d drive along, mixing with the high volumes of often fast moving traffic.

My typical route into London normally follows CSH7, which runs from Colliers Wood to Southwark Bridge (I often turn off at Stockwell but do occasionally follow until SB). This should have been “ideal” for getting us most of the way there but the truth of the matter is this Cycle “Super”highway isn’t somewhere I’d consider taking my children. It’s little more then blue paint at the side of a rather busy road. Some sections are in bus lanes which provide a certain level of protection (during their hours of operation) however other sections are on the side of 2 LANES of general motor traffic with nothing to segregate/protect the rider then a bit of white paint! So much for them being part of a “cycling revolution”. We need infrastructure that feels safe for the 98% of people that don’t already cycle not some markings on the road to draw in the 2% that already do. I suspect much of the vaunted success of this pilot CSH route, which in all honesty couldn’t have failed given it’s on a decent east/west corridor, is from riders being drawn in from nearly parallel routes – I used to use the A23 but switched to the A24 as the extra distance was negligible and it’s a bit more sociable as I have on occasions bumped into a few friend along it or even meet new ones as people recognize me from Youtube 🙂

The day itself went rather well IMHO. Despite the rather damp weather the turnout was fantastic with all manner of bikes and riders coming along, of all different ages. From the “regular” London riders like myself on their commute machine to families and parents on recumbents and cargo bikes with various children seats and/or trailers attached it was truly a wonderful experience. I think the fact that I rarely see bikes that fall into the latter category in London UNLESS there are closed roads (the only other time you will typically see them is on the Skyride) is rather telling in just how much London is failing those who would like to cycle but currently don’t as it’s just so good damn unpleasant. The view down Piccadilly, which I can only describe as “bikes as far as the eye can see”, was truly inspiring and much nicer then the usual car park. I’d love to see a comparison of how much space that many riders would take up if in cars (single occupancy of course ;-)) It was rather weird riding the wrong way down Regent Street and I even had a brief chat with some tourists at Trafalgar Sq who asked what all the cyclists where protesting about 🙂 From there we had a lovely ride down Whitehall, where I showed Iz what it really meant to “make a break off the front” after her attempt to outrun me! We then passed Big Ben and head towards Blackfriars whilst overlooking the Thames and the Southbank opposite us.

Unfortunately by the time we got there hunger pangs had got the best of my ride buddy and we bailed onto the train to go back to one of our local train stations, seems 18 miles is just about as much as her legs can manage! I was incredibly proud of her and she was equally excited that she’d not only managed to ride all the way to London but had seen so many sights, including cool places like the Science Museum! We refuelled on the train before setting off the for short ride from the station to our house. This was also rather interesting as I found some rather nice examples of “filtered permeability” right on my doorstep! Ironically on roads I normally miss due to using the busier main roads 🙂 I will have to try and use them on the way home one evening so I can add some video of it. In the meantime some of it can be seen here:

What we have here is 2 linked one-way streets 🙂 A route that would be impossible in a car is made practical and usable on a bike. As these are residential roads they are much calmer and so much nicer to ride on. We have another here:

Again a dead-end for cars is turned into a usable route for cyclists. These made it a heck of a lot easier to explain the concept to her when we could actually see and use it in real life, restricting the flow of motor traffic to only those that NEED to use it, instead of providing rat-runs, does wonders for improving the area 😀 It’s something I’d like to see implemented more often as it really did “feel” safe riding along these roads when compared to the main roads that we used at other times.

For me the day showed me a whole other side of cycling. From the slow moving queue of cars heading the opposite way round Hyde Park as hundreds of riders passed them in the opposite direction and the queues elsewhere just go to show that despite their perceived speed private motor vehicles just aren’t practical for some journeys in major cities. Given that an 11 year old managed 18 miles why can’t some adults leave their cars at home for short (<5 mile) journeys? At the moment I suspect part of that answer is largely to do with the perceived danger of cycling, hence steps need to be taken to ensure people can make safe and convenient trips by bicycle in the same way they can do in their car. The Dutch seem to have managed it, however it took them 40 years to get to where they are today. My hope is that this *might* be the start of our proper cycling revolution, we just need some political leaders with the balls to stand up to the motoring lobby. For far too long the roads have been built with their convenience in mind, with cycle lanes and the various little bits of infrastructure we do get often implemented poorly and then used as an excuse to moan about spending when, surprise surprise, cyclists don’t use it as frankly it puts us in MORE danger! Weird when you consider the many millions billions of pounds that are spent on bypasses and motorway widening schemes (not to mention the forced eviction and compulsory purchases of people’s homes and businesses if they are in the proposed path of said bypass…) which serve little more then to offer a temporary reduction in traffic levels until they again increase to fill the newly available space as more people choose to drive as it’s so easy. What we need is some spending to actually remove people from their cars onto more space efficient modes of transport. This would have the effect of reducing overall journey times for everyone else and making it easier for those who truly have no alternative to motorised transport to get around.

This may make me sound anti-car but I prefer to think of it as pro-choice. Cars are great if you need to cover long distances, transport many people at once (such as  6 children!) or need to carry large loads and I don’t want to deny people using them for this. However we need to ask WHY single people still see the need to use a car for the 1-2 mile journey to their local shops to get some milk and sugar? Cycling should be seen as a potential quicker and easier replacement for walking, however until it is perceived as being as safe and easy as driving we still have work to do. It’s going to be difficult but it will be worth it.

Thought I’d finish off with some shots from the ride 🙂

Iz gets her bike decorated before we set off 🙂

The view down Park Lane as we waited to start

Another great response

Now you’d have thought with all the recent reporting on cycle safety and awareness etc. that some people may be a little more careful when out on the roads or at least interested when complaints are made regarding bad driving.

Seems the message didn’t quite sink in with City Electrical Factor‘s who aren’t at all interested in following up my complaint regarding this piece of driving I recorded on the 27th February on my commute home

I’d say it’s fairly clear, I’m on a green at a crossroad, their van emerges from the right (narrowly missing the people coming the other way) and carries on up the road. If watched in slow motion I do a quick glance as I ride past the lights and you can see they are red!

The response I got from them having contacted them to notify them of this?

good morning sir

if you believe my driver and have proof that he broke the law then please refer your evidence to the police.

regards

<name removed>

Well if you insist 🙂 Have now reported via Roadsafe

Taking my life in my hands

Not my own words but those of our great PM:

I’d been meaning to do a post about why I’m attending the Cyclesafe Flashride but I think Mr Cameron has hit the nail pretty much on the head (with a sledgehammer….). I think the reason I don’t stop riding is because I’ve just become used to the poor conditions and treatment I receive whilst out riding and have adjusted my riding accordingly. Sharing multi-lane road systems that scare even Olympic athletes has become part of my daily routine as I try and get to and from work.

The situation gets worse once I’m move further away from the city centre, where the relatively fast moving but wide multi-lane raceways are replaced with smaller main roads and side streets. It’s on these sort of streets I normally encounter the driver who can’t spare a few seconds for my comfort and decides to scrape past with hardly any space, again this is something I’ve become accustomed to. Some people do seem to like to see just how close they can get and for their efforts they earn a spot on Youtube. Some however do actually wait patiently for a safe space and give me plenty of room, something which should be common place is all too often a pleasant surprise.

I think it’s because of this why I’m so nervous in letting my eldest attempt to ride to her secondary school next year. The route there and back involves travelling down a road that is going to be fairly busy during the school run and is punctuated with quite a few traffic island pinch points. As an experienced and confident rider myself I feel fairly comfortable asserting myself through these but I can’t expect the same of her can I?

David Cameron’s comments in here are pretty much straight out of their campaign material and the “template” response most of his party sent out in response to Cyclesafe campaigners. £15m investment? Yeah I’m sure that’ll make a *huge* difference! Considering Boris spunked  £10-20m per Cycle “Super”Highway just in London alone Cam’s £15m for the entire country is going to be spread VERY thinly! The whole cyclist training thing is another great piece of spin, you can throw around a few large numbers and make it look like your doing something! After all why bother trying to educate 30m drivers about how to act respectfully around cyclists and about their rights on the road when you can just target the much smaller minority of cyclists and arm them with techniques to tackle the car-centric roads we now have?

So in a nutshell the reason I’m attending the ride this evening is because I want cycling to be accessible. To anyone. To everyone. Everyone from my 11 year old daughter to my 52 year old mum should be able to hop on a bike and go for a ride without “taking their lives in their hands” and without needing to attend a special training course!

Cyclesafe and complaint response from my MP

Following on from my recent dealings with Siobhain McDonagh (MP for Mitcham & Morden) in regards to my HGV incidents and her contacting each company directly I thought it best to let her know that Advanced Fuels had actually started dealing with it more seriously. I also took the chance to bring up the Cyclesafe Campaign, seeking her support for it if possible. I received her response earlier this week:

Thank you for writing to me with your concerns about how to improve safety for cyclists. I
am very glad to hear that Advanced Fuels are now taking your complaint more seriously, I do
hope that the matter will be resolved shortly. However, I am disappointed that your complaint
with PJ Brown is not being treated in the same manner, I shall continue to make enquiries into
this on your behalf.

I welcome efforts to increase the take up of cycling and want cycling to be considered more
often as a transport solution, and as a way of keeping fit and healthy. You may have seen that
I signed a motion in Parliament aimed at reducing accidents, and I am especially concerned
about the continuing number of accidents involving lorries and cyclists. I know that this has
also been a concern of the London Cycling Campaign. Like them, I support making it easier
and more pleasant to cycle, and am pleased that more and more people are travelling in this
way. I want cycling to be as safe as possible, and I certainly support the recent campaign to
improve safety.

I sincerely hope that the campaign launched by The Times will make a significant difference
to the safety of cycling in London, so that you can have confidence in allowing your eldest
daughter to cycle to school.

So looking rather promising on the cyclesafe front, she hasn’t done a “copy and paste” job like it appears some other MP’s (including the PM) did when contacted by other concerned members of the public, neither has she suggested cyclists put themselves in danger. It’s also good to know she is still going to make some enquiries with PJ Brown following their rather shocking response in the previous post.

Now a bit of a call to arms, although if your reading this I’m sure you’re already aware, there is a flashride planned for next Wednesday (22nd Feb) in London – the evening before the cycling debate in parliament. Details can be found here or here. I strongly urge any cyclists to try and attend, having been on the Blackfriars flashrides myself in the past they have all been excellent fun. There’s a great sense of community and you can’t help but grin as you look around at a sea of cyclists 🙂