Why do we tolerate it?

The Independant today started a campaign entitled “Save our cyclists”. On the front cover they had 20 pictures. Those 20 people are no longer alive as they have been killed over the last 18 months whilst on their bikes. Yet this seems to be “accepted”. After all they chose to cycle around and everyone knows how dangerous that is…..

Whilst there are now regulations coming into force that mean that lorries will be required to have additional mirrors and sensors to detect cyclists who venture into their blindspots, I can’t help but think if those 20 people had been in cars and died as a result of collisions with lorries the laws would have been changed in a matter of months……as it stands the current EU safety legislation won’t come into force until 2013. Better late then never I guess except that is still going to be a bit too late for the next cyclist that finds themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time between now and then.

Reading through their article I was gobsmacked to read that a bus driver was cleared of killing a cyclist through dangerous driving as according to “expert” evidence her view could have been obscured by cab fittings? Surely this must be a joke?? Aren’t these people professional drivers? They are entrusted with very large and heavy vehicles that operate on both extremely busy roads and residential streets. They are trusted to carry members of the public, yet I have encountered a few who seem to put ensuring their bus is running on time ahead of the safety of other road users. Overtaking cyclists just so they can pull into a bus stop or plain ignoring pedestrians on zebra crossings. This behavior isn’t limited to bus drivers though, other road users also show a similar dis-regard for the safety of those of us on two wheels.

But why do they do it? Pent up frustration? Maybe they think it’s funny to terrify people? Maybe they are just a bully (it’s amazing how much confidence 1 1/2 tons of metal cage can give someone) or it could just be through ignorance. Most will probably tell you that cyclist shouldn’t be on the roads. Understandable really as cars where clearly around a long time before bikes……and it’s not like us free-loading cyclist pay anything towards the upkeep of the roads that those cars, vans and HGV’s are constantly pounding. I mean I’m sure I cause an awful lot of wear, with a fully loaded bag I reckon me, my bag and bike must easily weigh about 85kg 🙂

But then all cyclists are lawless idiots aren’t we so surely we deserve the abuse? Clearly I must be seeing things when I pull up at a set of lights in London and have 10-15 other riders around me and 5-10 riders carry on through the red light. I personally find it a bit difficult to judge the true amount of red light jumping cyclists as I often find I see the same ones at each set of lights (get the hint here RLJer’s IT ISN’T QUICKER…..). It may also surprise some other road users and pedestrians that those of us that do stop for red lights and do our best to obey the traffic laws tend to get quite annoyed by the riders who don’t follow the rules. Annoyingly getting some of them to change their ways is like trying to get blood from a stone. For me the worst part is that their bad actions tend to mean the rest of us get tarred with the same brush. Just the other day I was heading down Charring Cross Road when a older lady was crossing on a zebra with her mother (I think!), I had seen them over the cars so started to slow down to let them finish crossing. Now I know this could be a natural reaction from the pair but it genuinely looked like they where expecting me to race on past them assuming I hadn’t seen them or I’m just plain ignoring them. After all cyclist don’t pay attention to the laws of the road – shouldn’t I have just raced between the two of them? Possibly scattered the pair of them like skittles for good effect? No. I’m a road user, therefore I play by the same rules as any other road user. The fact that I’m on two wheels and not four and that I’m powered by my legs rather then petrol doesn’t mean I’m any different. Yes I can filter into some smaller gaps and don’t get held up that often but I’ll still stop for pedestrians and red lights, after all I’ve got plenty of time to spare 🙂

So why can’t we all just get along? I mean I’m pretty sure no one is out in a car or on a bus during the rush hour for fun (unlike me on my bike :-)). We are all just trying to get somewhere so why can’t we just show each other some respect? All I ask for is a bit of space. If that means I delay you taking a corner by a few seconds I am really sorry. Can’t wait a few more seconds to join the back of the next traffic jam? Ah diddums, just drive patiently along behind me – I can do a reasonable speed if given some room and once we get to the back of the queue I’ll disappear up the road and you can sit there and stare at the vehicle in front. All the while thinking “Bloody cyclists holding me up”…….

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Is going carless careless?

I’ve been meaning to get this post done for a while now so here goes….

This blog was originally setup to document my journey to completing the Magnificat last year and so riding my first century. This came and went relatively easily compared to what I along with my family are about to tackle.

The question is this: Is it feasible for a family with 6 children to get by without a car?

It may sound a little silly at first but hear me out 🙂 Our current family vehicle, a 8 seater Toyota Emina Lucida is really not practical to run anymore. The MOT is running out shortly and he have been told it will need some work completing to pass this. This involves spending money we’d rather use elsewhere. The rising cost of petrol means we are now having to put in £15 a week as a minimum to just complete the few short errands we use it for. Once you also account for VED (£220) and insurance (est. £700) you can see why it may be finacially viable to get rid of it!

Myself and my wife have given this some thought and we reckon it’s workable. A few lifestyle changes will be necessary, which may be difficult to adjust to at first but we CAN do it.

We are rather fortunate with our location, which has helped massively. We live 5-10 minutes walk from our children’s school and have 2 major supermarkets (one being a 24 hour Tesco) within 10-15 minute walk. We can get our main monthly shop online and thus get it delivered courtesy of Asda (something we have done a few times before, it’s just so much simpler!!) and it we do need to get a big shop locally we recently purchased one of these:
Clas Ohlson - GARDEN TROLLEY

It’s a garden trolley from a local store (Clas Ohlson), rated for a load of 250Kg it’s more then sturdy enough to have the 2 eldest in along with the various other items 6 kids need. It also means we have somewhere to put the younger members of the family when we head out for a longer excursion as they can’t walk the whole way. We are considering purchasing folding micro-scooters for the elder ones to make the long journeys a bit more enjoyable for them and to cut down on arguments about who gets to rid in the trolley 🙂

The rugged design also means it doesn’t mind being taken to the park and dragged across the grass – the chunky tyres handle it very well and so far pretty much everyone we’ve seen has commented “Very cool” and I don’t yet know how we haven’t caused a car crash as drivers tend to stare rather then watch the road……the other intended use for it was larger shopping runs between the main monthly delivery, something we did use it for a few weeks back after a visit to a local park. It’s rather handy as the shop didn’t mind us taking it in (after all we are freeing up a “proper” trolley for another customer by using this :-)) and it made everything a lot easier. We have also tried to account for times when the security guards won’t let us in and have invested in some security chains for it. This is mainly for when we are out with it solo as if we are out in a group one adult can wait outside it with.

 

Another positive of using the trolley and walking around is that it forces you to take everything in. In some ways this is similar to when I’m on my bike, the slower nature of the travel compared to a car means I can enjoy the scenery (not such a boon in town, but it does have it’s moments…). It also means spending more quality time with the children and hopefully as they get used to the walking they won’t moan as much 🙂

 

So far the excursions have been relatively small. A walk to the local park and a visit to my parents who live about 2 1/2 miles away. A journey that would normally take 10-15 minutes in the car that now takes about an hour. Not that it’s a bad thing it just means adjusting timings a bit. Besides I’m sure we aren’t quite walking the most “efficient” route and we have plenty of options for re-routing with some that include play parks for the kids to “have a break” in 😉

 

For anything longer then a walk we are going to be relying on public transport and bikes. Again we are rather lucky in that we have 2 mainline rail stations within an easy walk of the house and I’m already quite happy to ride around all day. The 2 eldest are more then capable of putting in reasonable mileage (both have done the 9-10 mile Skyride with me) so asides from the obvious cost saving we also have a nice health benefit – I for one can’t wait until I start reaping the benefits of pulling the trolley around. It’s good workout for the legs doing the hills and the arms get a nice stretch as well. Just as well we are saving about £60 a month on fuel for the car as I can see the food bill going up to compensate!

 

Bearing all this in mind I shall now try to report back on how successful we are with our little experiment. I do remember this did come up in a “discussion” a while back on a bike forum I often use. Another member said I didn’t need a car and instead wanted one. A friend then commented something along the lines of “Don’t be ridiculous, of course he needs one look how many children he has!”. Guess we’ll find out who was right soon………