PJ Brown – Do they care?

Posted: January 23, 2012 in Uncategorized

You’ll have to bear with me if this comes out in a bit of a mess but I’m rather irritated at the moment…

Last Friday, 20th January, I was cycling to a training course down in Kenley and heading down the Purley Way when this happened:

Not the best of starts to the day. I edited out the footage, uploaded it to Youtube on the Saturday

Sevening they penned out an e-mail to PJ Brown on the Sunday morning:


I would like to make a serious complaint about one of your drivers I encountered on the morning of 20/1/12 whilst cycling to work.

At approximately 8:30 I was headed southbound on Purley Way in Croydon when the driver of one of your lorries with registration GK08 PGU performed a very unsafe pass on myself, barely leaving me any room.

When I caught up with the driver with the driver at the next set of traffic lights a few hundred yards up the road and gestured my disapproval of his poor driving the driver then pulled forward into the bike box (therefore jumping the red light as he passed his stop line) and shouted ouf the his cabin window, calling me “maggot” and complaining I was riding too far out from the kerb.

At the time of the pass I was travelling on a slight downhill section at around 30mph (it’s a 40mph limit) about 3-4′ from the kerb in what is known as “primary” position and it taught by Bikeability and the IAM as  a safe position to use when either approaching pinch points or when overtaking by a motor vehicle would place the rider in danger. Having had the HGV before your one do a very close pass just before a traffic island I was trying to be more cautious.

Highway code rule 163 gives a very clear description and picture of how much room a cyclists should be given when overtaking and in all honesty I’d expect more from such a large vehicle due to the wind buffeting.

The incident was caught on my helmet camera and can be viewed here: http://youtu.be/4oPB-ZUrgnQ.

Just so you are aware I will also be contacting Advance Fuels to complain about their drivers behaviour also, however I believe your drivers apparent lack of respect for my safety and his attitude at the lights ahead warrant some looking into and I look forward to hearing back on how this matter is being dealt with. I have had a look over the Health and Safety policy on your website and believe this driver is in breach of a few clauses with regards to respecting the safety of the public, given the high proportion of HGV’s involved in cyclist accidents and fatalities and don’t believe this sort of driving is an anyway acceptable.

Thank you

I got a response from there this morning:
Good Morning,I have read your complaint reference our Driver and the advance fuel
vehicle. The road narrows to a singular track where these two incidents
took place and vehicles are not to cross the chevron area.
Your footage does not show the distance you are away from the kerb and
our driver states you were a lot further from the kerb than you have
stated. My driver did not jump any red light but only moved forward to
acknowledge yourself. Admittedly he called you a ‘maggot’ but you had
created a new era of ‘cycle rage’ gesturing and a vile torrid of abuse
to other road users. You also enticed trouble at the traffic lights.


<name removed>
Plant & Transport Manager

Nice eh? Seems from reading this they think the drivers actions where reasonable and could only be expected with my “cycle rage” and I enticed trouble at the lights….
Not much I could do asides from a new reply to summarize my feelings on the matter:

Thank you for the response. I’m guessing you haven’t actually looked at the section of the Highway code that I mentioned that demonstrates the safe distance to pass a cyclist? If so you can clearly see both the drivers in this case failed to give me adequate space.
I also believe my footage gives a fairly good representation of the distance I was riding out from the kerb, cyclist are NOT required to hug the gutter. As a commenter on the video stated the consequences of striking the kerb would have resulted in a crash.
As for my reaction at the lights I’d put that down to the adrenaline from having 2 rather large vehicles coming past at extremely close quarters. The mere fact that neither hit me doesn’t make them “safe”.
Anyway I’m guessing from this response no further action will be taken with this “driver” so I will now be forwarding a copy of the video to the Met Polices Roadsafe unit and see what they think about it.
Thank you
I’ve just finished the Roadsafe submission so can only hope they’ll take it a bit more seriously then then PJ Brown, who like most construction companies have a nice shiny PDF on their website detailing their “health and safety” policy….which apparently can be ignored when it suits them!
I’m not going to let this one rest. Given the number of cyclists killed by HGV’s (and this isn’t even central London!) I don’t think driving like that shown by either of those in the clip is in anyway acceptable!
So what are your thoughts; Was I riding too far out? Where they safe passes and did I “over-react” at the end?
I have also contacted Advance Fuels and await their response….
Check here to see the response I got from the MD after my MP wrote to them.


Flow like water

Posted: November 8, 2011 in Uncategorized

Having read a blog post recently (can’t remember the exact article….) from a cyclist who claimed he didn’t like to be called part of traffic as he was able to move (at least during the rush hour) at a much higher pace then the motorised traffic it got me thinking of how best I could convey this myself.

I personally don’t mind being called “traffic”, I am a road user and on occasions when the motorised traffic is particularly heavy I am left at a standstill. I take pride in my filtering ability, something which I’ve had plenty of chance to build up with over 4 years of riding in central London, but there are occasions where I just can’t safely fit through any gap. In these cases I’ll wait patiently for a safe gap then get on my way, jobs a goodun!

Then it struck me the other night as I was nipping between the slower moving cars and trucks on The Highway heading towards Tower Bridge, I’m (or the collective “we” for most cyclists in fact) are more like water flowing round rocks. It’s just in this case though the rocks are actually big metal boxes and they can roll forwards themselves. We don’t tend to hold up the traffic, in fact I think my journey times would improve greatly if I woke up tomorrow and all the motorised traffic had been removed from the roads! I often find myself having to ease off as I get stuck behind a slow moving motorists due to the sheer volume of traffic 🙂

Take this evening for example, I pulled up alongside one particular company van on Albany Road as I waited to turn onto Camberwell Road. I didn’t think much of it at the time until I caught up with and eventually overtook the same van on Streatham High Road, some 4-5 miles later 🙂

So for my motorised brethren who think bikes are slow…..just remember we can go with the flow, all whilst you are staring at the rear window of that vehicle in front 😀 Maybe one day you’ll make the change, stop being part of the problem and become part of the solution.

This also brings me to another point

I was muling over some ideas in my head whilst doing the dishes this evening if there was any way to get drivers to understand why they have a duty to drive responsibly on the roads?

Having watched the bad drivers program on channel 5 over the last few weeks I’ve started to spot a theme with the really dangerous drivers – the ones who speed, use their phone, eat at the wheel etc. They all come out with something along the lines of “I know I should slow down/not use my phone but….” It’s as if they don’t seem to grasp the responsibility they bear when they are in charge of 1 or 2 tons of metal capable of high speeds on public roads. Roads that are used by other responsible motor vehicle drivers, cyclists, pedestrians et al.

Part of my musings reminded me of the restrictions imposed on motorcyclsts which are summed up nicely here

As you can see it’s very specific and limits the rider to a certain engine size and power when they start out, unless they can take the relevant tests and training to prove they are capable of handling the larger bikes.

I’ve had a look to see if there is something similar for the driving license and guess what? There doesn’t appear to be any restrictions bar vehicle weight! But why is this?

Could it be to protect the driver/rider? After all if someone who has just passed their test has an accident it’s generally going to be the motorcyclist that comes off worst of the two. The driver at least has a metal box to cushion their lack of experience….

So why don’t we have a similar scheme for car drivers? I mean at the moment I’d imagine the biggest barrier to a new driver getting a high powered sports car is insurance but then if you have enough cash to throw around (or a disregard for the law, but that’s a whole other kettle of fish….) then in theory it’s doable. Here’s the keys to your new Ferrari Mr New Driver 🙂

Another idea I considered was making bicycle training part of driver training. It may help them realize how vulnerable cyclists are and could possibly (I know it’s a long shot!) change their attitudes towards them on the road. Also maybe if they understood the “mechanics” of using a bike in traffic they’d also realize that cyclists generally don’t hold up drivers! Yes you may have to wait a few seconds until it’s safe to pass or not arrive at the back of the next queue for another 10 seconds but is getting past the rider ahead really worth risking potentially seriously injuring another road user for? Relax, your blood pressure and wallet will thank you 🙂 Better yet, get on a bike and become part of the solution and not part of the problem (to traffic jams that is!)

Now I have no idea how any of this could be implemented or if it’s even feasible. In an ideal world it would be impossible to drive without a valid license and insurance, which in turn could be used to restrict which cars you are able to drive.

I guess at the end of the day it all comes down to enforcement. Laws and regulations are only as good as the enforcement used to back them up and unfortunately there is far too little where unlicensed and uninsured drivers are concerned which in turns means having neither of these isn’t really a deterrent to some people, so for my suggestions of restricting drivers to certain vehicles I think it is actually the attitudes of road users that  need to change rather then the system that governs them.

The 4 minute mile

Posted: July 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

That’s the rough rule of thumb I can use for getting around town on my bike. Not bad eh? Compares rather well with the other modes of transport for getting in and out of London! That’s a proper door-to-door time as well so it accounts for waiting in traffic and at red lights (yes believe it or not the majority of cyclists do obey them….). My 10 mile commute this morning was completed in just shy of 40 minutes.

There have been occasions where this is a bit skewed, I had a horrendous time getting along Chelsea Embankment once due to sheet volume of traffic and when the last Harry Potter movie came out my progress down Hampstead Road, Gower Street and on towards Trafalgar Square was more a case of filtering practise then fast riding.

I think the only thing that has done a more consistent job of slowing me up is the snow in which case my journey times approximately double, which is still about twice as fast as motorised transport…..

So at 4 minutes per mile that gives me an average journey speed of 15mph, which is about right as my moving average is usually high 16’s/low 17’s so the small loss is expected once I account for time spent sitting still. Compare this to a car in London which apparently only averages 7mph according to some research carried out by Citroen.

So anyone who wants to complain about bikes holding them up should maybe have a look around next time they are sitting in a traffic jam. See all those things sitting around you and not moving? Yeah……..that’s what’s holding you up, not the cyclists who is disappearing off down the road.

London Bikeathon 2011

Posted: July 2, 2011 in Uncategorized

Last Sunday I accompanied a couple of work colleagues on the London Bikeathon.

It is a charity bike ride  raising money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, a very noble cause. The ride itself offered a variety of routes with different distances, 13, 26 or 52 miles, divided between a “scenic” route, heading west from the central London start and the “city” route which headed eastward. The Challenge ride took in both of these and it was this one we did. As a fairly experienced rider I wasn’t too worried about the distance but it was the first time I’ve done these sort of distances with relatively inexperienced riders. Heck the first time I did the Bikeathon about 4 years ago I was only down for the 26 mile city route and I was nervous about finishing that 🙂

As such I knew I’d be fine finishing but what was truly remarkable was the amount of non-regular cyclists taking on the challenge ride for whom this actually was a challenge. I don’t think this really hit home until we’d re-grouped at the finish line (I’d got ahead as we joined Emabankment heading back towards Battersea, the traffic was far too heavy for hanging around and I’d switched into commute mode!) and I could see how exhausted both my friends and the other riders where! 52 miles of London roads in 26c heat is hard work! This combined with the very moving messages being displayed on the main TV screen in the finish area brought a lump to my throat. 1/2 century rides are fairly easy for an experienced rider to knock out and I’d even go so far as to say that most regular cycle commuters wouldn’t have a problem with the distance. The course on the whole was pretty flat with the worst hill being Sawyers Hill in Richmond Park and that was only tricky as it fell in the later half of the ride so you already had 30+ miles under your belt!

Another interesting point was the other riders apparent lack of road sense, clearly an event like this will end up attracting people who don’t ride on roads that regularly but some of the behaviour I saw was just a lack of common sense let along road sense. I think the worst example was when we got stopped at a level crossing (Barnes?) in the westbound leg. The first group of riders sat either in the queue or near the barrier but as the road was also blocked in the opposite direction it meant riders started filtering up the “wrong” side of the road only to find they couldn’t fit in at the front and so waited on that side of the road and this built up quite a sizeable group.

Of course you can imagine what happened once the barriers went up. Chaos. The cars who had been waiting to come down the road now couldn’t proceed properly as their path was blocked by a few dozen cyclists. Our lane was slow going as well as we had to let those who had been waiting in to let traffic move! ARGH!! I think the situation could have been handled a lot better if some more marshals had been on hand to try and control the other riders. A similar situation happened when we left Richmond Park. Very narrow streets with barely passing room between cars yet still some riders insisted on lane splitting between the two, forcing drivers of oncoming cars to stop.

There where also some routing “problems”. Nothing that lead us to go off course but having done a few guided rides now I know it can be very easy to miss turns. This is all well and good on quiet country roads but not so good on central London’s busy streets! As such a bit more warning that I need to move over to the right for a turn would have been appreciated! I mean if I’m concerned about the little amount of notice I’m given for a turn I’m sure the more inexperienced riders could easily have come unstuck! For me shoulder checking and signalling is second nature, however I did see a few riders just dart out from the left of the lane to the right when they did see the “turn right” sign, who thankfully where being followed by patient cars! Luckily tho the sheer number of riders did make it easier at some points.

Unfortunately sheer volume of riders, even when all wearing clearly emblazoned brightly coloured t-shirts, doesn’t  stop some people being impatient little shites. A good few times I witnessed some rather aggressive driving with people tooting their horns to hurry us along or the idiot driver who overtook a car that was patiently following the riders up the hill in Richmond Park and tried to cut back in amongst a group of riders. Bear in mind this park has a 20mph limit, is very popular with cyclists and it was very busy with bikeathon and social riders this sort of driving is just plain dangerous!

On the whole tho it was a very enjoyable ride. It gave me a chance to see a side of London I don’t always get to see and at a more sedate pace 🙂

I did capture some footage at various points around the ride and this can be found here I hope you enjoy watching it almost as much as I did filming it 🙂

Living outside the box

Posted: June 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

One of the great things about cycling is you are much more connected to your surroundings. I think I first realized this many years ago after I’d been cycling a lot more then I had to drive somewhere. I was in my car heading back in towards a rather awkward junction in Streatham in the pissing rain in the dark. I felt as if I was blind!

Suddenly I had these pillars blocking blocking parts of my view. The small piece of window I could see of was frantically being cleaned by my wipers and I couldn’t hear a damn thing! It was then that I think I realized how much I rely on ALL my senses whilst travelling by bike, even in the pouring rain I’m much more aware of what is happening around me then in the car. I feel disconnected from the road in there. But when I’m on my bike I feel very much part of the traffic, I can hear it breathe around me and have nothing obstructing my view.

Another great advantage of not being hived off in a little metal box is that it’s much easier to interact with your environment and other road users. I know you can sort of do this in a car (heck you have enough time whilst sitting in queues to look around) but I’m talking about those “moments” when you make a brief connection with another human being.

One of these happened was earlier this week as I was heading up the ramp from Wandsworth r/b towards Tooting. It’s not a long hill but you certainly feel it and I was slogging away up it and sensed another rider behind me. He swung out to the right side and I hugged the left. I looked over and we exchanged a knowing smile 🙂 He then commented “Windy today” and we both just smiled and dug a little deeper to keep up…….also earlier in the ride I’d had a chat with another cyclist who asked had I heard her swore (as if I’d care, I could make a sailor turn red with my mouth……) it turned out some kids at the bus stop thought it would be funny to “pretend” to push their friend into the road in front of her. Hilarious I’m sure if the cyclist had fallen off, I’m sure they wouldn’t be laughing when the police arrive however.

Then the following morning as I was heading up Queenstown Road towards Battersea and I arrived at a set of traffic lights. Stopped alongside me was a chap with a kiddy trailer on his bike. I smiled as I love seeing people using bikes to transport kids! As the lights go green the young boy in the back yells “Go Daddy!” and promptly kicks the rear wheel 🙂 All meant very kindly but I couldn’t help but smile at this funny and wonderful little moment, I’m hoping the helmet cam caught it so I can post it up!

That evening I was doing my usual job of not racing along The Embankment when a rider (who I had already overtaken previously) came past drafting a scooter! Now this is basically like a red rag to a bull for me! I set about chasing him down and once he’d lost his wind block he slowed up a bit. We then managed to form a small peloton of 4 as the 2 of us caught another couple of riders. Once the traffic snarled up he hopped onto the pavement and slowed up ALOT. I carried on down the road and again gave him a glance and we exhanged a knowing smile. Although we didn’t acknowledge it earlier we both did now 🙂 One of the tennants of Silly Commuter Racing is not showing any signs of actually being in a race….something we both clearly missed as we responded quite clearly to each others accelerations 🙂 I then had a bit of a filtering fubar and got hemmed in behind some vehicles before Battersea Bridge. The cheeky sod only rides past on the pavement and says “Your stuck now!” before dropping off the pavement at the front of the queue just as the lights go green. I didn’t see him again after that, the traffic was fairly heavy and he was far enough ahead for me to lose sight of him. Damn shame…..

I guess what I’m trying to say really is humans are social animals. Cycling gives me a chance to connect with and interact with other riders that driving doesn’t. I think it’s the happy endorphins that are released during exercise that sparks it off as if you tried to stick up a conversation with a stranger on public transport you’d probably be seen as a mental case! Not that those who are listening to their iPods and have their heads buried in a smartphone would know about that. They don’t know what their missing 🙂

Another cyclist on the road

Posted: June 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Well not on proper roads yet….just the one outside the house but it’s certainly a start. The best part is she did it “properly” – a little wobbly but that’s excusable when it’s her first time without stabilisers 🙂

The she I’m referring to here is my 3rd eldest daughter and it’s quite frankly made my day! It’s a difficult feeling to explain, but one that most parents of cycling children will know all too well, that feeling of immense pride as they roll off down the road or park path without you 🙂 I was smiling from ear to ear as I looked up and realized that no sooner had I removed her stabilisers she just ridden off the drive and “got it”! She still needs to master the push off but I think it may be remedied by using a different bike, the current one has a rather small gear which means she’s barely moving on the initial crank turn and barely has a chance to get her foot on the other pedal to carry on riding! Of course now she has gained her cycling wings it means I’ll be taking 3 of them to the London Skyride this year….it was bad enough last year trying to keep an eye on 2 of them, hopefully this year the eldest can be trusted a bit more, either that or I’ll have to rope in some assistance – 9 miles, evenly taked slowly, could be a big ask for a 6 year old.

The best part is I think it was her younger sister who prompted the removal of her stabilisers as she asked for her’s the be taken off whilst on the way back from a friends party today. Nothing like a bit of sibling rivalry to kick them a kick up the arse! I also don’t think it’ll be long before I pen another post when she eventually figures “it” out and joins her 3 elder sisters racing around outside which brings me nicely to my last point. The fact that the children now have their bikes and a suitable place to ride them at home.

Before we moved we just didn’t have the room for my bikes and theirs. We had no access to the garden at the rear from the street which meant any bikes that needed to be taken out there for storing would have to be wheeled through the house. Hence my bike was stored in the hall, on the floor during the week and then suspended (most!) weekends from a Lidl bike hoist – possibly the best £5 we ever spent! Such a simple way to reclaim floor space 🙂 The road we lived on also wasn’t the safest and most conducive to children playing out. With a tyre shop/hairdressers and popular chip shop at the bottom combined with us living just before the first side road this meant we where on the stretch that was often used as a racetrack by those wanting to turn around! We now live in a house with gated access to the rear which means plenty of room to store both mine and the kids bikes (and my mum now has her garage back – thanks for the storage!!) and our location at the top end of a cul-de-sac with an abundance of children means there is very little traffic and those that do drive expect children to be playing and running around so drive respectfully. As such the kids can play out or ride around with each other the other kids in the area, relatively safely 🙂

I still have fond memories of cycling around as a child, afternoons spent riding round the local neighbourhood with other local children – calling instructions back down the line as we braked or turned 🙂 Then there was the summer holidays before I started running for my local athletics club, in an effort to build up some fitness and out some muscle on my legs I’d regularly ride 10 miles each day (such is the joy of bike computers!). I can see the same enthusiasm in my own children, the eldest already has a bike computer and loves to tell me how far she has ridden or how fast she managed to go 🙂 Even this afternoon’s downpour didn’t dampen their spirits, after all what are raincoats for if they can’t be used to keep you dry!

I once read that cycling was one of the few activities you can do as an adult that makes you feel like a child again and no one (well not many….) people will think you need locking up 🙂 I consider myself extremely fortunate to be in a position that lets me continue to cycle as a means of getting to work, not many people I’ve spoken to outside of those cycle-commuters, have said they look forward to their journey to and from work 😀

I also have 3 more little cyclists to raise which means 3 more chances to get that warm fuzzy feeling – I can’t wait 😀