Bicycle Repair Man

As it’s Friday, here is a wonderful gem from Monty Pythons Flying Circus about Mr F G Superman and his secret identity. I sometimes wish he were real.

Incidentally the star of this sketch, the ever wonderful Michael Palin, is President of the Campaign for Better Transport

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Cyclists Special

I know that this has featured elsewhere but it’s a wonderful film from a more civilised age.

On May 8th 1955, British Transport Films recorded an excursion organised by CTC. Please note the integration of bicycle and train network. To be fair, since the Royal Mail stopped using the rail network, the guards van was always going to be an annoyance to rail companies that couldn’t fill it with premium rate paying commuters whilst still treating them with the same contempt given to a battery hen.

Anyhoo, that debate is for another day. Pour a nice bottle of ale or stout, fill your favourite pipe with rough shag and enjoy people enjoying themselves in a time when it was allowed. And not a helmet or piece of hi-viz clothing among them.

Here is part 2 (see, you can even get up and make a cup of tea and some scones)

iPhone Apps for Cyclists

I’m currently road testing a new iPhone app for the CTC. I shall say no more as I have no desire to steal the thunder of CTC but my initial response is that it’s ‘utterly amazing’ although this may level out at ‘quite fantastic’.  If they progress with it and you own an iPhone then get it when it’s released even though you have no idea what it is yet. A bit like the iPad really.

As I was cycling to work this morning I started to think about other iPhone apps that could benefit cyclists. Sure, there’s a few for mapping, and a few to measure speed and distance (as you’d expect from a device that probably holds more power than all the computers combined that sent Man to the Moon). However, I would also like to see the following developed:

The Cyclops

You may be familiar with this concept if you follow the Lawn Tennis Championships at Wimbledon each year. If a car overtakes too closely, the phone could emit a loud beep and someone screaming ‘OUT!’

The Col de Hell

I DO NOT advocate using an iPod when commuting at all but…

Imagine you are grinding up some tortuous climb and the spirits are a little bit low. Just put your earphones in to listen to a recording of an enthusiastic crowd on a Tour de France mountain stage. The cries of ‘Allez!’! The shouts of adoring people running alongside you! Then you can punch the air or give a Mark Cavendish two fingered salute as you finally crest the Paris-Roubaix style pave at the top of Guildford High Street. You hero, you! Chapeau!

The Male Lycrometer

You look in the mirror and see the physique of Alberto Contador. Meanwhile the mirror is trying everything in its power to stop itself smashing and sparing your blushes. This app could measure your main bicycle type, your height, weight and BMI. If you go over a certain threshold, or your only bike is a Brompton it emits a loud ‘NO!’ if you look at a piece of lycra or replica team kit. If you pick up a garment and walk towards the till the ‘NO!’s get louder and more urgent. If you purchase a team replica jersey or bib shorts, the sponsor is automatically alerted by email that someone is riding around with their logo on that has all the sleekness and power of a wheelie bin.

The Femail Lycrometer

No comment. I like my legs and kneecaps where they are for cycling, thank you very much.

I’m sure you can think of more, dear reader and I welcome your thoughts.

Fascism, Cars & Cycling

Freewheeler has written a great blog post on Crap Walking & Cycling in Waltham Forest and linked to a post of mine at the precise moment I set up this more cycling specific blog. The article in which I referred to the Highways Departments of County Councils as ‘fascist wings’ was in this post here. I shall give further explanation (including why I consider the Highways Agency to be the fascist wing of the Department for Transport) in due course as it takes some explaining but has affected us all, particularly all cyclists, horse riders, hikers, or anyone that just fancied a stroll.

Apologies for ruining the link and please feel free to look around the rest of the site and make yourselves at home.

Best wishes and happy cycling

London Cycle Superhighways

Two of the London Cycle Superhighways opened at the beginning of the week to a guarded response. Obviously a scheme like this (which cost £23million in total) is going to invoke a broad spectrum of emotions.

For the purposes of this blog post, any reference to these new routes will focus on CS7 which runs from Merton to the City. This is because when I lived in London for a while I used to cycle from Morden to Camden Town every day which would have taken in much of this new cycle route. I had no trouble on this route with motorists, partly because most of the time I was passing stationary traffic. It is, as you can imagine, a very busy route and therefore will feel intimidating to the novice cyclist.

Route_7_Superhighway_21.05.10

It is all too easy for the experienced cyclist [in the UK] to feel sceptical about the scheme and even easier to pick apart TfL’s Utopian vision of a carpet of blue filled with relaxed, happy cyclists. We know all too well the diabolical levels of infrastructure that exist already (and for which Local Authorities must hang their heads in shame). However, I would like to tentatively offer the following observations;

Some have criticised the fact that CS7 uses the A24, a main thoroughfare into Central London. I would imagine TfL did this for the following reasons:

  • If one of the aims was to create a modal shift from car to bicycle, putting this revised cycle lane on a major thoroughfare with cyclists perceived to be making better progress would assist in this shift.
  • If the ‘Superhighway’ was projected on a route taking in quieter residential roads, for example to the east of the A24, then all those people living to the west would have to make their way across the A24 to get to it. It is better for residential streets to feed into a cycle route. Also, if it is on a major road, it will pass more shops, schools, transport interchanges etc.

I’m pretty sure the cycle paths are blue to match those used in Copenhagen  (obviously the colour. Not the design and engineering standard). It’s pleasing that TfL have used their branding to keep it recognisable and simple for novice cyclists and although it’s flattering that Barclays saw the colour and thought that big banking could be associated with the humble, egalitarian bicycle, I sincerely hope this is not the beginning of some form of PFI initiative.

Although Transport for London (TfL) would have consulted extensively with the Boroughs, they must have consulted with cyclists at some point regarding the design and layout. I would like to know at what design stage this consultation with the end users took place. From experience, cycling groups generally see the plans when the construction work has already been programmed giving little or no scope for change. Although I’m sure TfL consulted form the start, it would be interesting to read what feedback they received purely for other councils and cycling groups to take note. (If you want to read about a consultation excerise that went well to cheer you up, please read here)

If it gets more people experiencing the pleasure and freedom that cycling brings than that’s wonderful as if they really are just tarted up ‘Crap Cycle Lanes’ then they should get loads more feedback on how to make them work. This would be fantastic as normally it is experienced cyclists that get consulted and even then only rarely. There needs to be a broader range of people giving feedback from all levels of cycling experience, all ages and ethnic origins.

Although there have been attempts at a London Cycle Network before with differing levels of success, I’d like to think of this latest venture as Cycling Infrastructure Version 1.0. Maybe there will be an upgraded version in the future that not only gives a fresh coat of blue paint but also a raised curb separating cyclists from traffic and pedestrians. Maybe the future version will tackle the issue of cars and vans parking in them (often lawfully, it must be said). Crucially, maybe a future version will give greater clarity at junctions with, dare I say it, PRIORITY (although that will probably come with Cycling Infrastructure Version 90.0).

In conclusion, I tentatively applaud Transport for London for at least giving it a shot and trying to be progressive. As long as they actively encourage and are transparent with feedback, learn how to listen and look to examples set in Copenhagen and Amsterdam we may see that cycling utopia yet. London and indeed the rest of the UK, has everything to gain from making this work and making it an exemplar.

For views from the front line, I recommend Real Cycling, London Cyclist, Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest or Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph.

Happy Thoughts

Last week I gave my humble opinion on a 19 page report issued by the Drivers Alliance which was focused solely on the removal Speed Cameras but offering nothing proactive in their place in terms of road safety. From the responses I received, I can deduce the following:

  • There is a well honed response unit of people that simply attack anything a person with an opposing view says. All very nice and I’d want the same if I was running a lobby group, particularly one like the DA. However, they may wish to reflect on why they’ve probably had so much experience.
  • When they make a statement, it is factual, based on proper research and statistics. It’s written by God and proofed by Jesus. However, when someone offers an opposing response, it is ‘a rant’ or the writer is ‘resorting to personal insults’ or ‘arrogant’ or they are ‘deluded’. I’m just glad these people aren’t Ambassadors to the UN.
  • Despite being repeatedly informed, some still think I am allied to the Ramblers. I like a good walk (particularly where a decent pub is involved) but I have no allegiance to the activities’ official organisation. I don’t actually represent any group. I didn’t think I had to.
  • That they simply couldn’t comprehend that I’m also a motorist because it is easier to compartmentalise someone. In fact, most adult cyclists are motorists too.

In the end I just stopped receiving comments, which I’m loathe to do (freedom of speech and all that), but found liberating in this instance as they were getting increasingly puerile and personal. The best way to stop a fire is by cutting off the oxygen supply. These people claim to have the upper hand morally yet they still come back for more (I was still receiving little packages of spitefulness last night). My lesson learned is that when dealing with these people it doesn’t matter what you say or how you say it, they will just move the goalposts and parameters, introduce new sets of ‘statistics‘ (which funnily enough didn’t show up in the initial report) or just start pointing the finger at other people. Or you of course.

So be warned. Someone somewhere will write a blog post about speed cameras simply giving an individual perspective and then watch as the response unit steams into action like a Panzer pincer movement. Best of luck to them.

 I also note on the Drivers Alliance website a spiteful little poll asking whether cyclists should pay ‘Road Tax’ and display a tax disc. I say that maybe they should but only when motorists do considering ‘Road Tax’ doesn’t exist and the bicycle is a zero emissions vehicle.

 So in conclusion, speeding is bad. Don’t do it.