Archive for the ‘Bike’ Category

The Big Ride – A Big Eye-Openner

Posted: May 4, 2012 in Bike

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

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.


<name removed>

Well if you insist 🙂 Have now reported via Roadsafe

Why do we tolerate it?

Posted: April 15, 2011 in Bike

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”…….

Cycling to work to avoid stress

Posted: February 25, 2011 in Bike

I read this lovely article from the Daily Mail site yesterday and at first I thought it was complete rubbish (this is the Daily Mail after all….) but then after looking at the suggestions from the research I’m not so sure it all ties up.

Yes I suppose by riding to work I’m putting myself into a “dangerous” situation, exposing myself to the various pollutants in the air etc. but I’m sure this isn’t just a blanket effect for everyone who cycles, after all I’m getting a decent work out each day so surely this must offset some of the risk?

Also the perception of danger varies from person to person. I don’t have any issues dealing with the busy London roads, it’s almost become second nature now! If anything I feel more stressed when I’m using PT as there are timetables to follow, interchanges to make between trains and the undergroud and if any one of those is missed then it usually entails a fair bit of waiting around and wasting time. I quite like using my time productively so a 15 minute wait for the next train to me is viewed as roughly 3 miles cycling to my destination 🙂

There are also other nice side effects of exercise such as actually acting as a de-stresser and I honestly couldn’t believe how much better I felt yesterday after my ride, my first day back on the bike since rather stupidly shutting my fingers in the door of the family car on Valentines Day. Since then I’ve been fairly unbearable and in a foul mood, the brunt of which my wife and children have had to deal with. If I don’t get a chance to blow off that excess energy it just build up to the point where I become rather short tempered. This was compounded by the fact that I had to use public transport to get around for work and the fact that the injury that meant I was off the bike was entirely my own stupid fault!

I can’t imagine the strain of all that stress was good for me and even I could tell I was much calmer having got in from the ride home last night! Incidentally last night was the first time since last summer/early autumn that I’ve been able to ride in a short sleeved top and it felt great, nothing beats the sensation of wind on bare skin and I was absolutely belting around in London before hitting the hills in Crystal Palace which I positively glided up with none of my usual asthmatic warthog impressions 🙂

Not just a cyclist

Posted: February 7, 2011 in Bike

I’m not just a cyclist.

I’m the computer guy. The one everyone comes to with their tales of woe about this not working and the weird error messages they get. It’s running slow. It’s not running at all. No problem, I’ll come round and have a look, I enjoy helping people and the occasional chance to learn something new each time always has me hunting out the more mundane problems.

I’m a brother. To just a single person, but I can blame my parents for that 🙂 We may have had our differences growing up but I think we are past that all now. We’ve both grown up and are doing are own things now. He does some super-complicated physics stuff which makes my brain hurt just trying to understand the title on his papers……

I’m a son. I had it fairly good growing up. I was very lucky in this respect and it’s a point I don’t think I’ll fully appreciate for a good while yet.

I’m a husband. I started fairly early on that one by most peoples standards. I’ll have been a husband for 10 years come end of May this year. That’s almost just over 1/3 of my life! I may not be a brilliant husband but I like to think of it as a learning experience. I apparently have a lot to learn but do have a lifetime to do so 🙂

I’m a father. To 6 wonderful children, I’m so proud of them! Despite the constant struggle with them to tidy their room, put things away, going to bed in the evening and waking up in the morning I wouldn’t swap them for anything and can’t imagine my life without them. It only takes one smile from them and suddenly everything in the world seems right.

I’m a helmet cam user. This is a fairly recent development as I only got the camera last Christmas. I’ve found it rather beneficial as not only can I record both the good and bad behaviour of other road users I can also capture my own. I don’t sit down and review the whole of every ride but I can easily go back to certain key situations to see if there was anything I think I could have done better. They say you have perfect vision in hindsight and it’s even better when that vision in presented in 720p on a 40″ screen 🙂 I’ve contributed clips to a friends video series entitled Silly Cyclists. I’ve even had a comment left on my Youtube channel thanking me for my contributions which was remarkably satisfying to read 🙂

I’m a commuter. Unfortunately I can’t send the kids out to work yet so I have to go. As I don’t (often) work from home I need to get from my house to place of work. I sometimes use the a bus and sometimes use a train. But most of the time I’ll get there under my own steam (well actually sweat….) which brings me to my next point.

I’m a cyclist. This is probably fairly obvious to those who have read this my previously (yes both of you ;-)) and to be fair the URL is a bit of a giveaway. Combine this with the previous point above and this is where I get to do most of my riding. This however seems to annoy some people as they routinely place me in danger for apparently no reason. Since getting my camera I’ve been highlighting these people on Youtube and there is one common theme, quite a few of the incidents I’ve recorded could have been avoided had the driver been a little more patient.

I’m sure my friends, family and employer would be hugely overwhelmed that I won’t be around to sort out their computer issues all because you couldn’t wait a couple of seconds to overtake me safely instead of speeding past mere inches from my handlebars.

My brother is very intelligent, I’m sure he’ll understand that you had something really important to do. So important that you feel it necessary to race into a disappearing gap between me and a traffic island, after all the cyclist will bounce off your car.

Despite what she says sometimes I’m fairly sure my wife would prefer if I came home every night. I appreciate following a cyclist at 20mph when you could be doing 30mph may waste a few precious seconds, but is 5 seconds worth more then my life?

I know we all have a job to do and we like to do that to the best of our ability. I like to teach my kids to work hard so I hope they’ll understand when daddy comes home injured because some taxi driver is so intent on getting his fare around quickly he completely overlooks me riding next to him and cuts me up. I should consider myself lucky though, at least he was one of the ones that knows what his indicators are for…

Thankfully so far the only accident I have caught on camera is due to my own stupidity and I got away with it relatively un-scathed. I’m just hoping these are the only type I capture.

All I’m asking is for drivers to see me as more then just another cyclist. I could be your IT technician. I could be your brother. I could be your father. I could be your husband. Just because I choose a different way to get around please respect my decision. After all if I’m on my bike it’s one more seat on the train or one car less on the road.

New gadgets

Posted: January 10, 2011 in Bike

Well I’ve now taken the plunge and become a fully fledged helmet cam cyclist! The helmet mount for the Contour arrived last Wednesday and I’ve started videoing my rides 🙂

It’s rather interesting having a camera that records your every action. Some people seem to be under the impression that helmet cam riders get into more conflicts or seek out chances to put themselves in danger. I actually think it’s quite the opposite. Since getting my camera I’m thinking more about my actions, it’s all well and good saying or even thinking I’m a good cyclist but I now can back that up or disprove it with the video.

My wife has so far refused to watch any of my recordings. I think we sat down and watched some parts of the very first recordings I did with the Contour but this was mainly out of her interest in wanting to see the quality of the captured footage. She has heard and read the tales of my exploits in The Game and knows I can be a little bit of a daredevil! This isn’t helped by the wide angle of the camera making some of the gaps I filter into appear a lot narrower then they actually are in real life, again this is great for reflecting on your riding as I have thought a few times “Bloody hell that was tight!”.

As has now become common with helmet cam wearing cyclists I want to share both the good and the bad things that I capture whilst out riding. So far I’ve posted one instance of bad driving and contributed some footage towards another bloggers video as we both captured the same incident after bumping into each other whilst commuting to London last Friday. I’m sure as I complete more rides with the camera I’ll build up a good collection of (hopefully) both the good and bad. Also since appearing on Gaz’s video I’ve had a flood of views and news subscribers (hello if your reading this!) so I now feel even more obliged to upload some quality content 🙂

I can’t say that since starting to use the camera I’ve noticed an increase in the amount of good and bad driving I’ve noticed, yes I may be more aware of when it happens as I can now make a mental note to find and review it later in the day. In any case feel free to checkout my Youtube channel, there isn’t much on there yet but I still have potentially another couple of small incidents I can add once I pull out the video from last week, nothing too serious though just a red light jumping motorbike and some ninja cyclsts 😉

The attentive among you may also be wondering what the second gadget was? Well spotted! This one is yet another camera, a Muvi-clone that I’m hoping to get properly mounted to the rear of the bike. I’m currently on the 2nd iteration of the mount but it’s not too stable and the captured video is useless unless I’m sat at lights! I have plans to make a sturdier mount but other little projects around the house keep getting in the way so for the time being it’s only forward facing footage!

New Year

Posted: January 3, 2011 in Bike

So here we are, almost a year after I setup this blog to track my efforts to complete a century ride all I have to show is less then a dozen posts!

I don’t think however I can quite measure 2010 in blog posts though as not only did I successfully complete the original goal of completing the Magnificat I had some fairly significant non-cycling related things happen. For starters we had our 6th child this year!! In what I can only really describe as one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed my wonderful wife birthed her in a birth pool in the living room without any help!

It was recorded as a delivery before arrival as she arrived before any medical help, it all happened so quickly that I don’t honestly think we could have gotten anyone in quick enough to help but that’s a whole other post!

On another family related note my eldest turned 10, I now feel rather old knowing that I have a child who is a decade old! It’s been a very exciting decade so I can’t really complain 🙂

So where does this leave me for 2011? Well one thing that doing the Magnificat showed me last year, asides from the fact that I can ride my bike effectively from London to Bristol in a single day, is that I rather enjoyed the “working towards a goal” part. As the previous posts will testify I felt a great sense of achievement as I started pushing my previous personal bests on the fortnightly Sunday rides I was completing. It didn’t matter if it was lapping Richmond Park or the 80 mile jaunt that I went on and somehow managed to a) miss Box Hill and b) not get lost in doing so!

So for this year I’ve set myself a rather different target, instead of riding more miles I want to ride on fewer wheels! Now I don’t mean something “simple” like learning how to pop a wheelie I mean a proper single wheeled ride – a unicycle! This was partly prompted by a local LBS having a sale on and finding I could purchase one for 40 notes!

That was the only colour they had left!

As the caption says that was the literally the last one they had left and I wasn’t really ready to pay half that again just to get it in chrome. Besides I have 5 girls and at least 4 of them seem rather interested in learning how to ride, hence returning to the shop the following day to get a 16″ model! Unfortunately I’ve had to put my practising on hold for the minute as I’ve discovered it has a leaky valve. Just waiting for the local Halfords to open so I can pop down for a new inner tube! Some quick googling has provided me with some helpful hints and those who follow me on Twitter will be painfully aware I found a “few” unicycle videos on Youtube 🙂

I was also rather fortunate that for Christmas Santa brought me some more bike tech! I’ll probably do a blog post for this itself put in summary I’m now the increasing collection of cyclist who record their journeys as I’m now the proud owner of a ContourHD and a MiniDV Muvi-clone camera. I’m still waiting on the helmet mount for the Countour but do have some footage from the MiniDV but will save that for it’s own post.

So it looks like 2011 is going to be a fun one for me, must be at least 20-25 years since I first learnt to ride a bike and I decide to go and try and learn again!