Friday 5 December 2014

Extraordinary tweets from Cambridesire Police

I wonder whether how Cambridge Police have been tweeting is in any way related to my suggestion that we should report more incidents to them?

It isn't unusual for cyclists in the UK to complain that the Police don't seem to take complaints from them seriously - its something repeated so often as to become almost a cliche. Its not surprising really - its an over-stretched service, a thin blue line, apparently. And I wouldn't go out of the way to give them a hard time for it, I know that they can't do everything.  I do question their priorities though.

But a fairly mundane comment on twitter has escalated into a quite extraordinary response from them.

To recap, as part of a discussion I pointed out incidents like this - and note, two PC's  (or a PC and a PCSO? It was a long time ago) came to my house to see this video, and told me that they didn't think it was dangerous so said they'd do nothing:

And their response?

Here. Have a look. And at this one too

So to recap, I've used examples some of which our police service have refused to do anything about where motorists have passed closely in a way in which most cyclists would view as probably aggressively, and in response I'm being told its too late (despite trying to report such incidents at the time) and that I need to back off.

I'm not the only cyclists tweeting at our police force telling them the view from our saddles makes it look like they're getting things wrong. The annoying thing is, none of the cyclists talking to Cambridgeshire Constabulary are looking for any trouble - they're looking to get reports of dangerous driving taken seriously. Or taken at all, for that matter. And the response? Denial. Flat denial that there is a problem.

There are some good folk at Cambridgeshire Constabulary but looking through their twitter feed they're getting very 'us' and 'them'. I wonder whether they're interested in having any kind of constructive relationship with cyclists - it doesn't look like it to me.

I'm left wondering only one thing - how far are they willing to go to not police motorists endangering cyclists?

Please, if folk from Cambridgeshire Police are reading this, try to take a step back and ask what relationship you want with cyclists in the county. Do you want us to report incidents of dangerous driving? Mobile phone use at the wheel? Aggressive driving? Yes or no? We're in the ideal place to see these things - and I'd argue that we'll all be better off if cyclists DO choose to make more such reports, and you'll have a far better picture of which sections of road are most hazardous for vulnerable road users so you can target your resources more effectively to keep everyone safe, to really reduce the rate of injuries on our roads. Thats certainly what I want - why isn't it what you want? 

Tuesday 2 December 2014

Zero Tolerance Spot for January, Coming to Your Town?

I want to lay down a challenge.

Talk to the other cyclists in your town, find a place you all agree is dreadful because of how motorists behave there. Is it a junction where 'they' always jump red lights? A place 'they' always pull out of without giving way? A pinch point where 'they' always drive straight at you? Take your pick, but do please choose one.

You've got a month to put the word out that this location is your target. This is where you're going to make a change. I want you, and all of the other cyclists there, to report every rule infraction you see, by every motorist, to the police. I want you to get incident numbers for all of them. Heck, if you can strap a camera to your helmet or your bike and record the problems you have there so much the better!

Lets make a difference in the New Year. Lets stop allowing the Police and Local Authorities to fob us off, one at a time, incident by incident. Lets make it absolutely clear - enough is enough, its time for us, the Cycle Lobby, to start getting shirty about how they've been treating us.

Cambridge Cyclists - Magdalene Street, the 'narrows' where bus and taxi drivers do not give way to oncoming cyclists, driving straight at you with the expectation we'll somehow disappear. Every event, every time 'they' endanger us, we'll report it. All through January. And in February? Pick somewhere else.

Are you all up for it? Can I get a 'HELL yes'?

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Why would you stop if you hit a 'normal' pot hole?

I keep coming back to this point. Maybe the news reports aren't explaining it well enough. Maybe I'm just missing something, but I don't understand.

He said: “As I turned into Trumpington Road I felt something but it felt no worse than some of the potholes which are around.
“I stopped immediately and got out of the car to understand what had occurred and my car had gone over the cyclist.”

So this guy hit a cyclist and killed him, a cyclist who had come off his bike somehow and was in the road. The driver was on the phone. But despite mistaking a cyclist (who he hadn't seen) for a pot hole, he wasn't careless.

Sorry, I don't get it. I don't understand how killing someone who has fallen off their bike because you go round a corner and don't see someone lying in he road so you can't stop in time to save a life, can be viewed under law as not careless. I don't get it.

And I don't want to lose sufficient empathy with fellow human beings such that I ever do understand how drivers get away with this.

Tuesday 25 November 2014

Dear John Lewis (Again)...

Dear John Lewis,

Since then we've upgraded or replaced a whole range of things, and because of that incident very few were purchased from you.

More recently I needed to replace my old Kenwood Chef, so I asked in your Cambridge store how big the packaging was for the model I wanted. I was delighted to hear that it would fit in my bike trailer so I paid for the item and came back with my trailer that Saturday.

I was mortified to discover, after battling busy city centre traffic and queuing for a space in the underground bike park (there aren't any special spots for cargo bikes or trailers - note that, as ever, there were spaces free in the car park - when will you be having words with your landlords to get more bike spaces?) that the size of the box was almost twice what your 'partner' had said.

Yes, after throwing a bit of a paddy on social media you agreed to taxi it round to me, which I thought was the least you could do after all that fuss. And yes, you've credited me with £40 - which wasn't he point, but that'll be going to the Red Cross so thanks.

I just wonder why you seem to hold cyclists in such contempt? You need to have accurate measurements for your products when packaged so if we're making special trips we'll be able to take our stuff home. You need to clearly offer the same service to get packages to cargo bikes or trailers that you offer to motorists.

The reason most of us cycle is because we want an easy life - its an efficient, fast, simple way of travelling and transporting goods. So, quite seriously, if you want us to cycle to you to spend money, stop making it so bloody difficult. 

Do us all a favour will you? Can you try engaging positively with cyclists in Cambridge to get this kind of thing right? Can you provide some places to lock up cargo bikes or trailers so we can get bigger products home? 

Its not asking much for you to treat the half of Cambridge's population who cycle as customers you DO want, as opposed to plebs you want to keep away. Come on guys, you're not market stall traders, you're the big JL. Get this stuff right.

Wouldn't it be nice if cyclists, like me, were singing your praises rather than picking such obvious fault?



Improvements in Kings Hedges and Arbury - Part 3

A keen reader may recall that I recently discussed plans to improve cycling in the North of Cambridge. This is my third and I hope final contribution on the subject - feel free to tear me down now, but read part 1 and part 2 first.

Essentially, there is plenty of space along much of the Northern length of Arbury Road for good quality segregated cycling provision - and we should ask for that from the School heading Northwards. But further South we've a problem with old, established hedgerows that unlike many of the blandscaped tree planting that blights many of our city streets actually supports a wide range of plant and animal species, as well as shielding homes from the relentless noise of the traffic. 

The route I outlined in part 2, which bypasses the hedge thats the biggest problem and which makes uses of quiet, excellent space to cycle on can be shown thus:

In case you're concerned about whether there's space to construct this route, take a walk with me from Nicholson Way, looking back to Arbury Road, up towards Ashvale:

And at the other end, here's how much space there is to give us a good route to and from the School from the end of Ashvale:

Taming the Abury Road/Mere Way junction is a good idea, but I entirely reject the notion that budget for active transport ought to be spent on this unless we also get some good infrastructure for cycling and walking. I accept that alongside some of the older hedgerows on Arbury Road, hedges that clearly pre-date the building of the estate, that might not be easy - but here we've got a very clear example of low-hanging fruit, and massive space to install high class cycling provision at low cost in effectively unoccupied space. Its a no brainer - replace the mini-roundabout with a raised junction and give us a good cycle route too.

Further details from part 2 (joining up to the shared use facility and, ideally, doing something with the dogs dinner of a junction joining on with Kings Hedges Road) are simple enough.

I also reject the notion that simple maintenance work (resurfacing the paths around the Rec ground) should be funded this way - by all means, give us new surfaces on the paths, but lets not wrap that up with a small amount of widening and insult us by calling it an investment. Its not, its subverting developer funds for maintenance, call it what it is.

Lastly, there is massive scope for further improvement for cycling in this part of the city - if I may, would any of the folk from the County care to come for a ride with me (and perhaps someone else from Cambridge Cycling Campaign) and have a look see?

Monday 10 November 2014

Cambridge Police making things needlessly hard - part 2

You'll recall I tried to report something I thought dodgy to the Police. 

After sending a complaint to the Commissioners office, and to the complaints department, I got a response from a Chief Inspector. And it was pathetic, imho - I don't think its appropriate for me to post the text here, but you'll get an idea about it from my response (below)...

Dear xxxxxxx,

I'm not clear why you think this isn't sufficient evidence to be worth having words with the gentleman. The perspective from which the image is taken is right in front of the driving position - while it is possible that it could be another person leaning right in front of the driver, it isn't likely - and I should think you'd also be wanting a word with the driver for allowing that to happen. And while, yes, it is possible that the picture was taken with a camera and later transferred to another device to then put up online, surely thats something you'd also be wanting to talk to the driver about? If you saw a driver using a camera while at the wheel of the car, you'd certainly be having a word.

Bluntly, there is no combination of factors leading to this photograph being taken from the driving position of a car that does not give you good cause for talking to the driver - and it seems impossible to argue that talking to the driver is disproportionate.

It is also not hard to track down who sent this - the link (which I provided) to the tweet takes you to his twitter feed, from which you can see he's got a link to his facebook address therein. Looking at the contents thereof it won't be hard to find his email contact, name and, from that, location. I'm a little disappointed that you think thats too much work - its almost none. Indeed, have you not considered simply emailing him to ask? I'm not for a moment suggesting you should be storming round with flashing blue lights, but there is clearly something wrong going on here, and if you ignore such a blatantly wrong thing it'll keep happening - don't you want to stop this before an accident occurs as a result of this behaviour?

I must also say that it really does need to be simpler to make online contact with the police. If you've got a twitter presence, and I send information such as this to you via. twitter, why can't you deal with it simply and effectively without having to make a call, make another call because I've been cut off, send an email, send another email, and chase it via. the another call because the email address may not be checked for days?  This isn't just a simple training issue, its a problem with Cambridgeshire Constabulary being incommunicative - from my end it looks like you're doing everything you possibly can to avoid even taking the report, even to the extent of coming up with implausible excuses for the picture perhaps being taken by someone else and not checking the link I sent which will, very quickly, find you the contact information you need.

Is Cambridgeshire Constabulary a police force of the 20th or 21st century?


(my name)

12 days on I got another reply. You'll have an idea what that said from my response below...

Dear xx,

Thanks for your response and for looking in to this.

I'm a little baffled that you've brought up your role in looking at road traffic incidents where life changing injuries occur in response to being asked to look into this. On the face of things this looks illegal. We see regular 'crackdowns' on road infractions which are not immediately causing such injuries, and I've yet to hear a police officer in the media complain that their time would be better spent dealing with other things. 

I understand that such a thing won't be an immediate top priority, but would you rather that this kind of thing isn't reported at all? Surely if mobile phone use (or fiddling with a camera or, at best, letting someone else lean over you to take a picture while you're driving!) is a serious enough offence for the police to occasionally target, you must also want people to report such things?

The response first via. twitter, then via. phoning 101, then from the Inspector and now from you seems grudging, to say the least! I'd rather hope that our police force would be all in favour of this - can you please explain to me where I've got that wrong? Bluntly, Police response to this appears evasive, slow, and grudging. 



Okay, I get it, limited Police time and resources and all that. But you can't tell me that you can have a crackdown on cyclists having lights while simultaneously ignoring things like this - thats not proportionate policing. You also can't be telling me that you'll only look at something if you're badgered in to it. What kind of policing is that?

Bottom line? This isn't going to get Cambridgeshire Constabulary good publicity like a 'crackdown' on mobile phone use does, so I don't think they're interested. If they were interested I'd have been able to report this with one tweet or, at most, one call. 

Nonsensical policing from a force that, demonstrably, are failing cyclists. Sorry, but there it is - the Police have made this needlessly difficult from the outset. Can it really be that they're making it so hard to report something to reduce the incidence of reports?

Sunday 9 November 2014

Near death experience with taxi.

Had one of those close overtakes today. The kind that are not accidental, nor are they careless - they are malicious, calculated attempts to enforce the view that we should not be in the way.

My better half and I were almost at Cambridge City Centre, heading in on Victoria Avenue. At the end the road there's a roundabout, where to go straight on you need to be in the right hand lane. With 50 or 60 yards to spare we both looked over our shoulders, saw a car well behind us, signaled, and moved out. 

Just feet from the roundabout stop line, a taxi slipping between the car that had taken the left hand lane and us missed me by a matter of inches - it very nearly brushed me. Still moving out as it undertook, he seemed only to see my partner in front after nearly taking me out, and swerved away again before accelerating and nearly taking her out too - all to get to a stop line one place in front of us.

We caught him. Obviously. And we caught him again at the rising bollard (where, being pumped full of adrenaline from such a cynical act of aggression, I berated him very loudly). And then we caught him again on the way out of Drummer Street. And again at the junction with Downing Street. Or, in other words, his overtake was not, and could not, gain him the slightest advantage in terms of road space. We were being taught a lesson by a coward (and he was a coward - he was all aggression behind the wheel but without the courage of his convictions when I shouted at him loudly enough to attract witnesses) using his taxi as a weapon with which to threaten us. 

There is no such thing as accidentally driving within inches of a cyclist. Such an act is, always, assault. Its not careless driving, its not dangerous driving, its assault - the express intention of this is to frighten us off the roads.

Do not tell me there is no 'war on the roads'. There is. Only, we aren't fighting it. They are.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Thoughts from a new member of Cambridge Cycling Campaign

Joined @Camcycle yesterday specifically to support their resolution to adopt their own Space for Cycling as something to measure proposals for cycle provision against. And it was passed, despite society grandee Jim Chisolm (in my view wrongly and triumphantly) implying that the specific wording of the proposal watered this down. If Jim is proved right and this is not implemented as a tool to measure all such developments against, I think the Campaign will be a laughing stock.

A few reflections on the AGM (my first Cambridge Cycling Campaign meeting in donkeys years) from a new member...

(1) The attendees are, for the most, chaps. Older (40+ if I'm being generous), middle or upper class (posh, as you'd call them in my home town), educated, and everyone was (I think) white. The kind of people who look like they read the Daily Mail so they have a good reason to be offended. People who know what hummus is. There's a really big problem with the campaign group claiming to represent cyclists in Cambridge, who are nothing like so homogeneous. There are a few younger folk and a few ladies - but its not a good mix by any means. Cycling to work today I saw hundreds of other cyclists - white, black, Chinese, South Asian,young, old, women, men... you know, the kind of mix of people you see every day in one of our most cosmopolitan cities. I've always been concerned that the Campaign is assumed by so many to speak for 'cyclists', and I'm more bothered by that now than I ever was. 

(2) Voting. Well, I get that having a system that allows you to 'reopen nominations' if no one standing for a post is approved, or why you'd need a system for ridding yourself of bad committe members, but the idea that you can vote for or against a candidate? That ain't the way. Sorry guys, but I suggest instead that you need a system whereby you allow the committee to suspend membership thereof with, say, a 2/3 majority committee vote, of any committee member who has brought the organisation into disrepute, which I suspect is what you wanted to achieve. Please, ask the members if they'll grant you that. 

(3) Ambition - its good to see that there are plans to go bigger with a new employee for the campaign. Its good to see that the changes to membership fees were implemented to allow that to happen. I'm not entirely convinced that the job, as briefly described, is as yet fully thought out, but I wouldn't expect that it must be yet. Good idea.

(4) Martins summary of whats happened in the past year. Far too diplomatic. The Catholic Church and Perne Road represent stealing cycling funds and spending them on cars - just come out and say it straight. The County have some decent(ish) ideas but please call bullshit when you see bullshit. You've done some good stuff - but I'm left wondering what you gain from not being far more forthright in criticism of utter crap. The response the Campaign issued to the Catholic Church junction was good - time perhaps to write a very scathing post-mortem thereof?

All in all, if Space for Cycling becomes a yardstick against which roads and cycling provision are measured, this marks a coming of age for the Campaign, as it moves on from lilly livered, bland acceptance of sheer rubbish foisted on us in the past out of fear of rocking the boat and losing even the value-less facilities we have. This is where the Campaign becomes what cyclists need, where it might really start representing the broad mix of cyclists here, and where it may even see a broader demographic join up. Or, its where it fails to do so - and we look on jealously while London starts to build the infrastructures that have been eloquently described by Cambridge Cycling Campaign folk in Space for Cycling. 

It'll be interesting to see.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

'Improvements' in Kings Hedges and Arbury - Part 2.

In my last post, I criticised plans for pedestrian and cyclist 'improvements' in North Cambridge.

And I promised ideas for how to make it better.

Lets begin by looking at where the whole scheme (arguably) has its way in to this part of the City - the Mere Way/Arbury Road junction.

View Larger Map

So its a big, wide approach route. And I'm proposing that we should punch straight over the grass verge opposite on to the quiet Nicholson Way route.

Pan left and you'll see a little used cycle route - little used because it goes nowhere. Click forward once, then look to your left and you'll see why, the cycle lane turns sharply across Arbury Road with no real incentive for cars to stop. It becomes, quite literally, a cycle lane that goes across the main road with no signals, no information for motorists to know what it is, no waning... Its  meaningless, mostly ignored facility which motorists might or might not stop for. It leads you to a churned up path that is in dire need of routine maintenance, passing along the North of Hanson Court.

Now, pan right and look Southwards down Arbury Road - you'll see around 40 yards further on a turn off to the left which takes you to a handy cut through to Roxburgh Road if you're a cyclist. This is the route used by many cyclists going to and from the Science Park, and it could be part of a truly excellent set of facilities for riding in the North of Cambridge.

You'll also notice a quiet back-road running parallel to Arbury Road. So why not, if we're looking to improve things for cycling here, provide a safe cycle cut through linking that road directly to the junction? If the plan is to create a better route for cycling and walking, then cut straight from the back-road to the junction, which may be replaced with a raised junction anyway, linking the existing (useless) cycle facility to it by a continuous cycle lane in a new design requiring traffic Southbound on Arbury Road to give way to traffic from Mere Way? Give priority to the Arbury Road/Mere Way route (which also benefits bus riders, this being the route of the Citi 1) while proving a cut-through to a quiet road on which cyclists could turn right to get to the Roxburgh Road route or Left to get to the proposed improvements on the Rec' ground.

Much of the plan seemed to be about getting people to St. Laurence School. Having made a safe point to get to the quiet route parallel to Arbury Road, all we now need to do would be to sort out the muddle on the other side of Arbury Road - here, this is what you'll see if you've crossed over Arbury Road and you're now riding North towards the school.

View Larger Map

For some reason rather than having a simple, single surface to ride on we've got to zig-zag on needlessly narrow (arguably) shared use, before ending up at this junction...

View Larger Map

So now to get to Ashvale, a quiet suburban route taking me directly to the school and which is a natural route to take from the end of Nicholson Way/Hanson Court, I need to go round a blind corner at the garages, zig-zag a railing and drop off the kerb into traffic that probably hasn't even indicated at another mini-roundabout? No, no, no - connect this corner up with an off-road cycle route that links here (Albemarle Way) with Nicholson Way/Hanson Court and now we've linked the School with Arbury Road, and linked the North/South route to the Science Park too.

At the end of Ashvale there's plenty of room to build wide, fully segregated pedestrian and cycle routes both to the school and all the way back to Arbury Road - coming out more or less where the cycle route currently does. This would connect to the recreation ground (as in the original plans). And unlike the original plan, this gives us a safe, simple, easy route to navigate that avoids Arbury Road and provides the kind of quiet infrastructure parents are looking for to get to the school, while also assisting fast, adult commuters connecting to the Science Park or to the City Centre from further up Arbury Road, or from the South.

Turning North from there we've got a rather needless layby and bland, featureless stretch of hedgerow - get rid of them and extend the cycle route all the way to the shared use facility that comes round the corner from Kings Hedges Road. It isn't a great shared use route (none of them are) but it may as well connect.

Frankly, I'm ambiguous about the St. Albans Road junction. I approve of changing the priority there as is proposed, but I think we're kidding ourselves if we say thats for cyclists or pedestrians - its to tame motorists, and that should never come out of funds that are, allegedly, for active transport.

By my reckining, we lose three parking spaces in my proposed solution - two on Nicholson Way and one at the end of Ashvale.

Lastly, re-surfacing the paths around the recreation ground behind the school is common maintenance work. It is disingenuous of the County Council to say that this is an improvement, it blatantly isn't. By all means, re-surface this route, but not from developer funds earmarked for improvements. For once, can't we have maintenance money to maintain and spend improvement money on improvements? 

Monday 3 November 2014

Arbury and Kings Hedges 'Improvements'

Thanks to Hester who shared a link that we're maybe getting some 'improvements for cycling and walking up in North Cambridge. Lets take a look at what is proposed.

Here's where they're talking about (this from Cambridgeshire County Councils website)

Its the orange bits under discussion, and this includes the awful junctions of Arbury Road and St. Albans Road and Mere Way, alongside the baffling Kings Hedges Road junction and a little loop around the 'Rec. If you look at said loop, you'll see that one of the orange lines is (almost) a straight ccontinuation of Mere Way, continuing the line of the old Roman Road, possibly the oldest extant route in the City.

The first thing you'll notice, before even looking at the details, is that it doesn't join up - the remainder of Arbury Road (both heading South East from Mere Way, and between the junctions) is to remain dreadful. And I mean dreadful - its plagued with antisocial parking, fast motorists accelerating in anticipation of or escape from the A14, and it being relatively long and straight they'll take outrageous liberties overtaking cyclists with inches to spare. Will improvements solely at the junctions make Arbury Road more appealing to cycle on? Will they hell - from the outset this proposal does nothing to make cycling more appealing in the area.

Lets go from the North end downwards. At Kings Hedges Road we're promised tarmac over the dirt track that cuts the corner to Kings Hedges Road - and for some unknown reason it'll be a shared use facility, linking to a shared use light to cross Arbury Road which then goes back on to the shared use path on the other side. You'll note that there is plenty of space on either side of this junction to widen the path and create segregated cyclist and pedestrian facilities, but 'shared use' is such ingrained dogma at the County that they've not even given us this as an option. So here, at the first hurdle, this fails - for no adequately explained reason this is yet another facility that just is not good enough.

If we head South we get to the next bit - some changes to traffic calming on Arbury Road (link to PDF file here). Colour me unimpressed - shared use facilities alongside a narrowed road? So if we choose to ride a more continuous route along the narrowed road we'll get honked at and bullied by angry motorists who want us out of their way on the narrow section and on to paths covered with pedestrians going to and from the school? So I'm meant to use a shared use section for a small part of a journey down a road, despite now having to give way to pedestrians and motorists as I enter and leave the facility? No way! Not now, not ever - this is a bad idea. By all means narrow the road, but give us dedicated cycling infrastructure in its place. We're narrowing the road and restricting the layby without doing anything positive, at all, for cycling. And by making it shared use we're making it considerably more hostile for pedestrians.

If we move down to St. Albans Road we've got three proposed solutions (link to PDF file) to replace the mini-roundabout. The first is a simple t-junction, that maintains the wide, car-centric sweeping curves of the junction that will encourage drivers wanting to turn left onto St. Albans Road to left hook northbound cyclists. Pedestrians wanting to cross St. Albans where it is narrower will still have to walk way down the road before getting to a safe point to cross. The other two options - both of which turn the main direction of traffic from Arbury Road on to St. Albans Road, will likewise mean cycling North or South bound we'll have to deal with crossing a stream of traffic to continue a journey either from St. Albans to Arbury Road or just to continue on Arbury Road. There is no provision, of any sort, for cycling in this part of the plan - all three proposals just make this differently hostile. This isn't about managing the route for cycling and walking, its about managing the increased flow of car traffic on Arbury Road and needs to be rejected entirely until a better plan is put forward or paid for directly from funding for roads, rather than funding from developers. It doesn't benefit the people living here, it benefits those passing through.

Fun and games continue as we keep heading towards Cambridge on Arbury Road (yet another PDF download, sorry). And its more of the same - if I want to keep cycling up Arbury Road towards Kings Hedges Road I've got to cross a stream of traffic. If I want to turn right from Mere Way on to Arbury Road I've got exactly the same problem with cars not giving way from the left at the proposed junction as I do at the old roundabout - and I see no reason that won't be compounded by cars turning off from Arbury Road from my right to continue down Arbury Road.

There's nothing for cyclists here. Oh, thats right, its a raised junction. So we'll be looking at a surface that cracks and becomes uneven with the weight of heavy vehicles. Brilliant.

There is nothing for cyclists in any of these plans. Nothing. Nada. Zip diddly squat. Its money being spent on 'sprucing up' the roads to control motorist flow without giving the slightest throught of any sort to cyclists and pedestrians - we've got a moved crossing, and thats it. 

But what about that cycle route round the rec ground? Well, here they propose using this developer money for routine maintenance. I kid you not. Look, here's what they say: 

We are proposing to widen and resurface the paths on King’s Hedges Recreation Ground (including the Pulley play area) to improve access to St Laurence’s and other cycle routes in the area. The paths are both local and strategic cycle routes but they are currently narrow and in poor condition.

Or, in other words, they're going to resurface the paths that are hard to get to anyway, which ought to form part of an excellent strategic North/South route through Cambridge but which do not. They're taking developer money and using it on very long overdue maintenance rather than on anything new. They'll maybe be a bit wider, although in truth they're lined by grass rather than roads so they're not really giving us more space for cycling at all. 

This is a pathetic waste of money when there are simple ways of improving the lot of cyclists and pedestrians in Kings Hedges which are being completely ignored. Bluntly, this is a moronic set of proposals from an organisation bereft of imagination or ideas, a council machinery that misses few chances to display how much it hates cyclists through inadequate or downright dangerous infrastructure. It achieves little or nothing for active transport in the North of Cambridge, and very likely gives us yet another mish mash of bad shared use for aggressive motons to try to bully us on to. Saddest of all, there really isn't any reason why some very simple things can't be done to make the area much better for active transport. I'll go in to that in my next post...

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Why can't Cambridgeshire Constabulary make things easy?

Below is a copy of the email I just sent to Cambridgeshire Constabulary, the PCC (Graham Bright, about whom I have been less than complimentary) and to Cambridgeshire Constabulary complaints department. How do you think this'll go down?

With bewildering advances in technology allowing people to commit quite new crimes, in new ways, I don't find it quaint or endearing that Cambridgeshire Constabulary want me to do the equivalent of shout in a tin can on the end of a bit of string to report an incident...

Dear Sir/Madame, 
Firstly, I would like to draw your attention to what I believe may be evidence of the use of a mobile device while driving, in Cambridge, in a tweet. This can be seen here:

For convenience I have also included a scree-grab.
Obviously it is illegal to use a mobile device while driving, even if the vehicle isn't moving at the time. The tone and content of the tweet show a certain aggressive tone, which for me makes this seem really rather sinister. The perspective from which the image is taken appears to be the drivers seat. 
Could you please investigate this, and respond with an appropriate incident number and a rough idea what (if anything) you plan to do.
Secondly, I have to comment on how silly your procedures for reporting such things are. I initially tweeted a link to @cambscops, which I would hope ought to bring this to the attention of police staff to make a decision on whether it should be pursued. I was directed to phone 101, which would of course necessitate reading a long URL down the phone, a procedure likely to result in errors and a waste of time. After waiting around 5 minutes to get through first time, I was then cut off, and the second call took 14 minutes to get hold of someone, who took a long time to find an email address to make the report to. Said address ( could very easily be shared on your website to facilitate rapid, easy communication but it is not. 
Bluntly, if I report something I think is illegal to the Police by any means, at all, it is surely beholden on the police to take that report and do something with it, rather than respond that it is being reported in the wrong way? It appears that you are trying to minimise the number of incidents that are reported by making it needlessly hard to report. 
I have copied in Cambridgeshire PCC, Cambridgeshire Constabulary Complaints department.
Yours Sincerely,
My name
My address

Monday 20 October 2014

Perne Road and Cambridge Cycling Campaign

Reams of blogroll devoted to this awful new scheme are already being flushed down the information supercarsey. Many of us predicted it would be awful. It is awful. It is already the site of people getting hurt.

So I don't need to add much in the way of criticism to a scheme that was obviously bad from the outset and which has entirely lived up to our low expectations - the blogs listed above already adequately rip this to shreds.

But I do want to remind everyone that Cambridge Cycling Campaign quite inexplicably gave grudging support to this scheme. It appears that doing 'something' was seen by them as sufficient reason to support yet another crap installation at enormous expense to the cycling budget. They supported this to demonstrate that 'Dutch' geometry is right, that its not dangerous, despite the fact that dreadful off-road shared facilities would undoubtedly make said geometry dangerous to cyclists as we're squeezed off in less space than we were previously, with confusing on/off road signs putting us and motorists in each others collective blind spots just where we'd all like to accelerate away. Its almost like the campaign thought Perne Road was taking one for the team so we get a better facility later - despite there being no evidence that this would be the case.

And Camcycle have been tetchy with the way bloggers and cycling journalists have covered this.

Guys, I know, there are some good folk at the Campaign. But you need to chill out and accept that you got this wrong - through your irritable criticism of those covering this story you look like patsies for the County Council, apologists for hazardous infrastructure.

You never, ever answer the simple question - if cyclists don't hold out for genuinely top quality cycling infrastructure here, in Cambridge, right now, then where and when will we? If you keep supporting schemes like this then we will keep getting schemes like this

Bluntly, when will you learn?

Thursday 16 October 2014

Victim Blame (again)

Its that time of year again. Nights drawing in, a new academic year, and we're bombarded with messages telling us to have bike lights, hi-viz, helmets, etc. All the stuff we get every Autumn, ignoring the reality that every safety measure we as cyclists can employ won't add up to a hill of beans next to the carnage wrought by motorists - and many of us will be asking ourselves how much victim blame amounts to an acceptable word of caution, and how much is too much?

Again, this coincides with the emotive subject of victim blame in rape being in the news, this time from Judy Finnegan. I gather she's a daytime television presenter married to Alan Partridge.

We'd all agree that suggesting not getting so drunk you're vulnerable to assault (of any kind) is good advice. And minding your drink so no one slips you anything you don't want is a wise precaution. We might go so far as to recommend not wearing something or acting in such a way as to send a message you really don't want to send while at a location in which you may be exposing yourself to risk. But I also hope we'd all agree that none of this is in any way a valid excuse for a rapist - while its fair to advise taking care in a hostile world, we don't any longer absolve the criminal from responsibility for his or her actions based upon the behaviour of a victim.

Ms. Finnegan rather made a mess of things in her brief foray into the area. She's not the first and she won't be the last  to try to say something uncontroversial (rape is always wrong, punishment must reflect the specific crime) and make a pigs ear of it due to brevity/language/no brain buffer between the idea and vocal chords. I get why people are offended by what she said, and from the rapidity and tone of her apology so does she.

So lets compare that with how journalists and 'celebrities' regularly cover cycling. Here in the telegraph for example:
From what I observe, a fatal combination of poor riding skills, a complete disregard for the Highway Code, and the temptation of turning a gentle ride to work across Battersea Bridge into the final stage of the Tour de France, are just as equally to blame for the number of accidents on Britain’s roads as careless drivers.
Of course, we know this isn't true - cyclists are not to blame in 93% of their deaths or serious injuries on the road. That means if we changed our behaviour and got nothing wrong, ever, we'd see very little change in cyclist injury in the UK. The above statement from the Telegraph is an example of horrifically wrong victim blame - and this is a paper with a strong pedigree of vile cyclist hate. 

Lets turn to the good old Daily Mail. Well, lets give a link where one of the articles therein is dissected. I wouldn't wipe my arse on that piece of shit 'paper', I'd feel dirtier afterwards. Noreasoned thought there - the article contains collective blame, stereotyping, 'some of my best friends are...', etc. Prejudice based wank without a any sense or integrity to it.

Maybe local journalists, with a penchant for communities being better places by being quieter, less polluted, cleaner, fitter places might be less obviously frothing at the mouth anti-bike loonies? Oh. Maybe not. In fact we see the victim-blaming mantra writ large, trollumnism with the entire focus being on cyclists. 

How about the 'quality' peridicals? No? 

Stereotyping, and blaming cyclists for others harming them, is so common as to be unremarkable. No one challenges it. You can start a conversation with 'bloody cyclists'.  It has perfused every part of our culture and society. It infects our legal system (I refer you to the Cycling Lawyer blog for all too many examples of people killing cyclists and getting away with it because the cyclist who was right in front of the driver 'came out of nowhere' or 'the sun was in my eyes', or even 'because its a dangerous road').

As a society we try to have it both ways, and we fail - either victim blame is bad, or victim blame is good. We can't sub-divide based on whether the victims are doing something that we don't do - if they're acting within the law (or even outside of the law) and get hurt or killed due to the actions of others, which is the case with the vast majority of cyclist injuries, then this remorseless victim blaming has to end. And we'll only get there if we make all of the crass, lazy, downright offensive stereotyping of cyclists that we see in our media a thing of the past.

By all means, advise cyclists to have lights. Spend about 2% of your effort or bile relating to cyclist safety on this, about the proportion of deaths and serious injuries this causes. Anything more? You're victim blaming scum.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

The Telegraph vs. Cyclists?

The cycling twittersphere is rather in a tizz about this article here, followed by the events described in this rather one-sided version here

To summarise - the Telegraph opinion piece didn't get past basic trollumnism. I can pretty much  (and cruelly) paraphrase the entire article with 'as a cyclist myself, with no reference to recorded accident cause statistics, I'd like to associate with negative, stereotype based generalisations about cyclist behaviour being the cause for their untimely but deserved deaths at the hands of more virtuous drivers - how DARE any of them use helmet cameras to record incidents where they're forced from the road and waste police time on those who intimidate them with their cars'.

There was, understandably, quite a bit of online response to this ugly, victim blaming, clumsy anger-piece. I've covered victim blame before, and little more needs to be said other than that Critchlow is both demonstrably wrong and indefensibly lazy in his portrayal of cyclists. His article will be interpreted by those who already hate us as an endorsement of mistreating cyclists on our roads, and I can't condone any part of it. It doesn't even make sense - does he think helmet camera riders have some sort of death wish, that they go looking for trouble to have some kind of confrontation to post online? Does he believe that cyclists seek to encourage motorists to use their vehicles as weapons against us? Its very hard to dismantle his article without feeling that his writing comes more from prejudice than rational, impartial observation. And he's not just a trollumnist, he's a cyclist himself. Two unremarkable kinds of cyclist hate rolled in to one unpleasant mess.

The Telegraph is rather robust, on occasion, with how it discusses cycling. Or, to put it another way, it occasionally revels in irrelevant, petulant cyclist hate, and while there are some decent articles this kind of pandering to moton-angst is the baseline to which the this rag tends to return, and this encourages precisely the kind of behaviour that cycle helmet cameras are worn to protect us from. Bluntly, the Telegraph encourages anti-cyclist hate with this kind of writing.

Considering how low these blows strike, its rather a surprise to me that John Stevensons comment was taken so to heart - especially as coverage of the incident in the Telegraph seeks so hard to stress how fearlessly their man has served his country and reported from war zones. I wouldn't condone Stevensons tweet - but come on Telegraph, sort your life out - can you not put more effort into resolving this and asking that the two gentlemen shake hands? You need to accept that this kind of article, inciting hate against any group, including cyclists, is flat out unacceptable, and that even people who ordinarily show impeccable judgement may not strike a good balance in responding to this kind of pathetic slur. You need to raise your standards above basic rabble rousing.

So, gents, on the remote chance either or both of you read this, can you call truce and settle this? Here, now. Accept that the article was misguided and offensive and that the response over the top. Both of you apologise and move on?

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Are Motorists Sociopaths?

I was out riding my bike the other day, up through Histon, back home through Milton. Nice ride for the time of year, by which I mean that I can enjoy the magnificent golden East Anglian evening sun that turns early Autumn in these parts a stunning mix of green and amber. And I've also got to deal with the carnage motoring plays on wild animals that are mown down in vast numbers while foraging through the litter of the close of summer, killed en masse, in their prime while trying to fatten up for dark months ahead.

After I'd swerved around a flattened hedgehog I slowed down to negotiate a badger who had car tracks through his midriff, before stopping to neck a pigeon who'd been winged by some motorist or other and who wasn't going to survive the resultant wounds for long. Indeed, on my short (urban) commute home I know I'll see the same three desiccating wild beasts on the tarmac that I saw on the way to work. The crime for which these animals paid the ultimate price? Being in the way of motons.

I'm not okay with this. It isn't reasonable to kill a wild (or domestic) animal because you're in a hurry - and that is all that is happening here. Imagine the following conversation.

"I ran over a fox on the way to work, couldn't help it on the main road it just stared at the headlights."  you say to your colleague as you hand over her morning cup of tea.
"Oh, I know, its terrible isn't it?"  She replies, taking the cuppa with the kind of smile that tells you tea really is the solution to all of your woes "I hit a pigeon at the weekend, I was sure it would fly out of the way but I was picking feathers out of my radiator grill later on."

Now re-phrase that a little.

"Travelling fast is important to me, so I drive such that I won't be able to adjust my course or speed to avoid killing innocent wild animals. As a result of that I killed a beautiful animal, a fox in fact, and I am in no way going to accept any responsibility for having done wrong".

Or lets put it another way.

"I punched a fox to death. I was out cycling and it risked slowing me down a little so I killed it in a way that is completely unsuitable for ensuring a clean painless death. Heck, it might still be suffering now, I've got no idea, why should I give a fuck?"

Does your colleague take the tea and share a Tea smile with you now? No? You mean because you implied that we are (or should be) responsible for our own actions you've broken the moton omerta and become outcast from their secret animal death cult?

Millions of animals are killed on our roads every year - estimates vary, but because we're in a society where mowing down creatures is considered just one of those things no one is keeping count. Whether its a vegan driving to work in his stereotypical Prius or a confirmed carnivore in a predictable Land Rover, each is guilty of being part of a culture that puts animal welfare at the bottom of their priority list. But its worse than that - around 6% of motorists go out of their way to kill animals with their cars. Yes, that does include you, 'animal lover' driving the dog for a walk in the country park.

Killing animals, voyeurism of harm... These are often thought of as early signs of psychopathy. So I'm forced to ask - are motorists, through being basically okay with activities that brutally and messily kill animals in vast numbers, collectively or individually sociopaths? Quite seriously, you're okay with killing warm blooded animals not to eat, or to have some useful product from, but merely as an inevitable side product of a daily activity that you could readily change such that this isn't the case any more? What the fuck is wrong with you?

UPDATED: Are motorists sociopaths? Exhibit A.

Monday 11 August 2014

Not the Judean Peoples Front!

I can't take it any more.

Let me paraphrase what I'm seeing a lot of right now. 

What the hell is WRONG with all these cycling campaigners, getting all uppity with each other and not seeing that they need to do things MY way?

If its not dissing each other over whether sport cycling is a good way of getting people interested, its fighting over whether a fairly harmless seeming television program about cycling is any good for us. And if its neither of those they'll just diss each other for no good reason. Here. Look.

Guys, for fucks sake. Chill out. 

Is it just that cyclists in the UK are, by their nature, willing to be a bit fighty else they'd never be happy braving the roads? Or  is it more that the few people who are willing to discuss cycling online have been beaten and battered in to their positions by years of never ending negativity from cyclist haters who want to berate us for no readily apparent reason? This goes further than 'being a cyclist myself' - it seems to me that so many folk who talk about cycling fail to grasp that we have a slowly emerging UK cycling culture, and its got its own shape, its own way of doing things - and that any argument failing to address this as part of how we further the cause of cycling (whatever that cause is - there isn't consensus!) fails at the first hurdle.

Sometimes, you know, its just a telly program. Or its just a bike. Or its just a race. And maybe, just MAYBE if so many of those in to cycling campaigning in the UK weren't lost up their own arses we'd all do a lot better.

Stop taking yourselves so seriously. Stop infighting. Or fuck off and stop pretending you're helping any cause other than your own ego. There aren't enough of us for it to be worth having tribes.

Monday 28 July 2014

Bloody pavement cyclists... Negative reinforcement in cycling behaviour.

Cambridge is almost defined by how much people complain about cyclsits. Cyclists on the pavement, on the road, stopping at a light that has barely turned red so you can't get through, going through the light they should have stopped at, ninja cyclists you can't see, out in the middle of the lane (where you can see them), going too fast, going too slow... You get the picture. There is no way we can ride that insulates us from criticism - we can be legally in the right in every way and STILL get abuse. We can ride safely and be criticised, if we break rules to stay safe we're criticised, if we don't we're dangerous cyclists. We can't win. If we ask for better cycling facilities to segregate cycling such that we can't inconvenience anyone, we're extremist whingers. There is no position to take that does not face apoplectic criticism.

Humans are just animals, really, and we respond to stimuli around us just like other animals. Bad behaviour that is punished sets of one kind of response, good behaviour that is rewarded sets off another. So I wonder, what does this constant rain of derision mean for cycling?

What does it mean if you're punished for being in the right more seriously than you're punished for being in the wrong? So, for example, if you're riding on a pavement you'll get some cold stares, the occasional telling off or perhaps the police might issue you with a fixed penalty notice. If you're riding on the road you'll suffer close passes (from people who think you shouldn't really be there and those who do it to liven up their days), aggressive driving, motorists cutting you up or, worse, even assaulting you with their vehicles. In short, you'll suffer numerous incidents that feel like near death experiences. Which is the greater disincentive, being tutted or facing what feels like a death risk?

Likewise, for red light jumping, if you stop at a red light you'll very often have motorists trying to out-accelerate you and pass on the junction. You might have a driver give you an earful (or even ram you) for stopping him when he could have got through at the tail end of amber or red. If instead you go through the red light (cautiously watching for danger) the most likely risk will be a strongly worded letter to the local newspaper.

In short, if we treat good cycling more harshly than we treat what we see as bad cycling, why ever would we expect cyclists to behave 'properly'?

It transpires that cyclists are, for the most part, pretty law abiding - but why ought we be? We're dealing with roads designed in such a way as to make safe progress to our destinations almost impossible and we face hostility, even aggression in return for just trying to get where we're going.

And, more importantly, does getting angry at cyclists who break the rules even make any sense? We see regular 'crackdowns' on cyclist rule violations here in Cambridge - but where is the crackdown on drivers passing too closely or driving an inch from our back wheels? Where is there evidence that our police forces understand why cyclists sometimes don't act within laws that make our daily rides unpleasant or even dangerous?

Until we acknowledge the fact that motorist aggression is the key cause of cyclists breaking the rules in ways we consider antisocial we won't prevent it. How we should solve the problem of aggressive motoring is another question - I favour both separate cycle infrastructure and policing motorist law breaking. But we're so far from this because there is simply no acknowledgement that this is the problem. We will continue with pathetic crackdowns on cyclists who merely want not to be bullied by motorists. And this will continue to fail.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

What do these hate videos tell us?

Another day, another bigoted rant about cyclists from someone with an over-inflated sense of importance. I'm not much interested in the specific nonsense espoused here, but if you haven't seen it here's a copy that hasn't yet been brought down due to copyright complaints:

Don't think so much about what she's saying -there isn't much brain activity evident at all in fact, its nonsense of the highest order. This guy she's talking to probably isn't going to assault a cyclist using his car for a dollar. What she's saying is dull, its not even a witty example of bike hate.

Think about how she's said it. With a cheesy smirk, she expresses an extreme hate of cyclists. She displays a confident, smirking demeanor. She 'knows' that the people she's talking to will share her view, because she 'knows' that she's being perfectly reasonable. Everybody hates cyclists, don't they? So it MUST be okay.

You'll see she's not trying to justify her rage against cyclists - she's merely picking up on the things that make them look different, for example with with her 'spandex' comments (spandex is the material more often in sportswear referred to as the brand name Lycra - spandex being used here in a supposedly derogatory way). She picks up on an perceived idea that cyclists must think we're better than she is with our 'my other car is a bicycle' sticker on the back of a Prius (ironically, in so doing she demonstrated that we are better than her). So she's sharing extremely hostile views supported solely by observations of a social outgroup being visibly different - its just prejudice. Plain. Boring. Un-extraordinary. Dull. Gosh I'll bet she's fun at parties, she's probably the one ranting about who she hates to a whole group of people standing in embarrassed silence, all waiting for someone to create an excuse to leave.

Consider what she doesn't do. She doesn't justify her hate, she doesn't question it. She's probably not even thought about it. She's not coy about anything - its sneering, happy, disgusting hate. Go back to the video again - move forward to 46 seconds. She yells at the cyclist for being outside of his lane, then for signalling to turn left, and THEN for signalling to turn left from the right hand cycle lane that she just chastised him for not being in - as ever with prejudice, facts don't matter. The other folk are in the wrong and we can state what we like to show thats the case.

She's an unremarkable example of a cyclist hater - closer to a Type 1 than to the Type 6 she aspires to be. Its the same kind of 'I hate cyclists' comments we see on twitter from mindless cycle haters every day, and its a symptom of living in a society where hate is respectable so long as you choose the right minority. She hates cyclists because thats what she's been told to do.

I'm reminded of the same comparisons of cyclist hate with racism that I've made before. It wasn't the sick old racist comedian in the working mans club who went out and assaulted people of other races, but this created the climate in which acting out on prejudice was accepted. So its good that this ladies police department suspended her from her duties - we need to treat this kind of hate like we would any other arbitrary hate, its not a direct incitement to aggression but it creates a climate where such is more acceptable.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the online cycling community - you spotted this video, you brought attention to it, and you reacted. Well done. We need your vigilance and your action to find defeat this kind of prejudice. Keep at it, and to quote Bon Jovi, keep the faith. Keep at it. And we'll win.

Monday 21 July 2014

Cambridge Cycling Campaign - New Committee Member

Its been good news looking at new Cambridge Cycling Campaign committee members over the last couple of years - they've picked progressive, decent folk who really do seem to get what we need in cycling. That has slowly filtered down in to campaign policy and priorities, and while I don't support all they do they've been massively better.

So I was surprised when I saw that Cambridge Cycling Campaign had their new committee chap out on their stall for the Big Weekend it was ex-councillor Colin Rosenstiel.

He was more bizarrely involved in some kind of incident where he allegedly stood in the way of an ambulance on a 999 call, because driving an ambulance on to the grass on Jesus Green is wrong.

I need add nothing to last weeks news story (it has been extensively covered in local media) - other than that for all concerned we must all be glad that this is over. This story is related to the local Liberal Democrat party not supporting him in the recent elections - the whole sorry tale is recounted in a series of stories in the local media. Prior to apparently admitting to the charge Rosenstiel was quoted saying that he'd "strenuously defend" himself, and after losing the election following from the local Liberal Democrats withdrawal of support for him, Rosenstiel described said party behaviour behaviour as "brutal action".

On cycling issues we've got records of his views and statements in cam.transport (ye olde days of usenet haven't yet been forgottein in Cambridge). And its patchy. He's not always bad, but I wouldn't refer to him as an infrastructuralist. And while I don't for one moment accept collective responsibility for cyclists, I suspect I'm not the only one who groaned at the inevitability we'd all cop it in response to him losing his temper while with his bike on the train.

I was surprised that the Campaign (a politically non-partisan body) elected a prominent member of one of the local political parties their committee while the Liberal Democrats were waiting to see what happened with his court case. It seemed foolhardy. If I'm honest I don't get it - he brings 40 years of experience as a councillor but he's an easy target for those seeking to criticise the organisation. And I've got to ask -  if the Lib Dems were backing away from him, why is he good enough for the cycling campaign while the same legal process was ongoing?

I dunno, I don't get it, perhaps some of the Camcycle folk who turned up and voted him on to the committee at that meeting will come along and put me right - am I missing something fundamental that explains all of this.? It could be a mistake. The appointment of a prominent ex-councillor, a political figure in this city, and one who was at the time rather under a cloud seems strange, looks like a regressive step for the campaign.

EDIT: Position of Liberal Democrat party couldn't be clearer. Colin R. is no longer welcome to stand for them. 

Thursday 10 July 2014

And that is how we get policing wrong...

Just popped out of work for a bit to pick up some lunch and caught a little montage that, for me, encapsulates almost everything wrong with policing cycling in the UK.

Trinity Street was effectively closed - a demo was due along any minute coming the right way down this one way street. It was also pissing it down. The result was that almost no one was around, I could see a dozen pedestrians, a PCSO, and a lady winding her way slowly the wrong way down the one way street on a bicycle, with one child on a kiddie seat on the back and a second with one of those little metal scooters (you know the ones, like a scooter used to be but blighted with wheels so tiny as to make it crap).

Inevitably the PCSO yelled at the woman to stop. Not getting why, she did't stop, so PCSO got in the way and stopped her. Bike Lady had locked up and re-mounted in a place that she might perfectly feasibly have not seen the one way sign - and the street was empty anyway (both good points I have some sympathy with). Oh, and there was something about todays strike and having to have her child with her or something.

Anyway, PCSO wasn't to be budged, so off storms bike woman and children still shouting angrily - needless to say, this being Cambridge, there was an Old Fart Man on hand to join the fray, chastising bike woman for being rude and on the wrong side of the law. This new encounter ran the risk of dragging on - I could hear the demo coming from round the corner by now, and it would certainly be accompanied by 'proper' police officers - so I asked both to chill out. Angry Bike Woman wasn't having any of it of course, so I copped an earful - and now it was the fault of the striking demo folk who got a some stick (which I rather think they didn't notice).

Every single part of this was needless. No one gained anything, no one COULD have benefitted in any way. I'd argue Angry Bike Woman oughtn't be breaking the law, but it really can be hard to know where such restrictions apply - signs are terrible. PCSO ought to have handled that better - informing ABW that she was in error was fine, but not done well. I might also argue that policing such as this on an otherwise empty road seems needless anyway, but once ABW was stopped its really a fair cop and she needed to just get off and stay calm.

But then there's Old Fart Man. There always is one, quick to pass judgement on the slightest indescretion of a cyclist. No doubt he's penning his irate letter to Cambridge News as I bemusedly blog. He didn't help, his interruption was never going to help, but these cyclists need to be told, you know.

Its easy to police minor faults by cyclists, it both plays well to the Codgers and reinforces their false perception that cyclists are child murdering monsters - but its not a good use of Police resources if our main interest is reducing harm (I defy anyone to tell me how this lady could harm anyone riding at shit-scooter speed). In fact to police this way reinforces a negative cyclist stereotype and we should oppose it. But, you know, sometimes, it ain't worth having a fight over - ABW would be better directing her ire at City and County Councillors to get them to put signs up saying which way you can ride out from our bike locking areas. 

Everything about this yells out to me how badly the UK, even Cambridge, handles cycling. Such a small event, but such a clear message.

Friday 13 June 2014

Rate Limiting Steps. Or, don't overtake and brake, you idiot.

I remember learning a really important lesson in kinetics in chemistry at school. Well, from my chemistry teacher rather than in class. 

It actually came in the corridor on the way up to the school dinner hall, where we'd always run up as a bunch of lads to join the queue, before hanging around waiting to be served and for a table to all sit at and eat. He questioned why we ran, explaining that its like in chemistry where you've got one step that governs the rate of whats happening. You can run up the corridor all you like, it won't get you sat down and eating any sooner. Rate limiting step. 

Now thats a good lesson in life, and its a good lesson in chemistry - there's no point fannying about with the steps of a reaction that don't govern the rate or efficiency of a process, its the rate limiting step that governs how quickly something will be produced. Of course later in education I encountered all sorts of reactions where, for example, because reagents are really cheap, or because you can recycle a reaction volume to re-use any excess you end up with some parts of a process being given way more feedstock or energy than they really require - or, in other words, despite the rate limiting step thing holding true, you still have 'too much' in the other steps because there's no good reason not to.

Yesterday I was riding along, catching up with a slower cyclist, when a car passed me and pulled in. The driver obviously had to then slow down for oncoming traffic, only to be stuck behind the cyclist in front as we approached the red light at the end of Carlton Way. She seemed most put out (to the extent of sounding her horn and yelling) when I passed her to get in to the cyclists box in front of the traffic. Of course, you always catch them. You always go past. Their average speed in traffic is way slower than ours - overtaking us never gets them anywhere.

The parallel between this and the lessons one would have hoped to learn at school are pretty obvious - gunning your engine and overtaking only to be stuck a little further on while a cyclist overtakes you again is just stupid, didn't you even go to school? But when we think further, what the car does is make speed effectively free. Might be a few pennies to overtake and slam on the anchors, but its no physical work and any financial cost is lost in the general money pit of motoring. Inefficient, downright daft decisions have no consequences.

Cars used on urban and suburban roads are capable of reaching absurd speeds, in moments, with no effort on the part of the motorist. In fact to avoid doing so is considered so strange that if you're driving behind a cyclist the next driver will very often be right up your exhaust telling you to get a shuffle on, mate, ain't you got nowhere to go? Its only a fucking cyclist. And it you hit the cyclist? The courts will understand.

We have made aggressive, pointless and downright dangerous overtaking morally, financially and legally free. As a result of this bad overtaking is the norm rather than the exception - to the point where we then tell cyclists to ride assertively in the middle of the lane and act all surprised when motorists bully us out of the way. 

Until we take this kind of dangerous, antisocial driving seriously in the UK we'll never really tame aggressive motorists. But how do we take motorists back to school and get them to realise the importance of rate limiting steps?