Wednesday 26 August 2015

Cyclist Haters Boycott List?

This rather brought back to me the importance of logging the interactions we have with individuals and companies. How many times have we all watched as someone in their company van rained hate down on a cyclist? How often have we seen someone tweeting rancid abuse at cyclists from their company profile?
And within a couple of weeks, how many of these do we still remember?

I wonder, do need a simple repository for these incidents? Somewhere such are recorded, but where we give a right of reply to those who've been so unpleasant. It has to be matter-of-fact, simply logging what happened and giving the salient facts with appropriate links to media (video, tweets etc.) supporting the claim. 

My bottom line is that I don't want to trade with cyclist hating people. If someone thinks I deserve to be badly treated because of how I choose to travel, I don't want them to get my money. If someone employs others who endanger cyclists on the road, I don't want their company to benefit from my spending. I want them to have a chance to show contrition, and if I believe them I'll go back to spending there - but I want to know, an I want to have the option not to.

Many of us shop 'ethically' for food, clothing, energy, etc. I don't see that this is inherently very different to an other ethical choice.

The question is, how should this be done? Do I set up a new blog and record these incidents there when they happen? Has anyone got a better idea?

Friday 21 August 2015

Second worst cycling junction in the Country

It won't seem surprising that Cambridge, the most cycled city in the UK, is home to a junction with one of the worst accident rates for cyclists in the UK. I refer here to the Lensfield Road Roundabout, highlighted as the second 'worst' in the UK.

Obviously there are imbeciles missing the point of that news story on comments pages across the UK, and blaming cyclists for everything form Isis and global warming to the Reptilian Conspiracy - such criticism isn't just contemptible victim blame its also mud-skipper intellect trolling ofa story that isn't related to anything on their (I use the term with caution) 'minds'. Likewise, there are glib tweets along the lines of this being a statistical inevitability because there are so many cyclists in Cambridge - an equally moronic comment ignoring the fact that there are also dozens of other junctions in this City, many with more cyclists than this one, none of them making it into this 'top 10' of shameful moton carnage. You can't say 'there's bound to be a Cambridge junction in that list' without having a good answer for why, say, Castle Hill or the Catholic Church Junction aren't in the list.

Its an awful junction. Have a look at it - approaching the first of two mini-roundabouts that make up this hellish route from Trumpington Road.

Yes, in that narrow space there are hree lanes for cars there - two going forward, one going left. Nowhere specifically for cyclists. The lanes aren't really wide enough to allow a car through without risking loss of its wing mirrors to the vehicles alongside, and they're corralled in by a traffic island (not that you could use this to cross the road - there's a fence to make it clear that pedestrians are not welcome). Click forward once - you see those two forward arrows? If you want to go straight on here, you need to be out in the middle of that traffic, so unless you were keeping pace with the traffic in the middle of the road to begin with, the constant stream of motons turning left has to let you out. And that traffic is backed up as far as you can see - they're already angry, they're on their phones texting to say they're running late. Don't expect any mercy from that direction.

Lets go forward to that first roundabout now.

The roundabout isn't raised at all - motorists will jump into it without a care in the world. Very often drivers turning from straight on will stop, half way across, because a car is coming from the left - although they're unlikely to do so if you're coming that way on a bike. And even if you've managed to get into the correct lane here your chances of drivers coming from the left ceding priority as they ought to are wafer slim.

Remember we had two ridiculously narrow lanes to approach this junction if heading straight on? Well, one would think that might be simple enough, but it isn't. The right hand lane feeds in to the next roundabout to turn right on to Lensfield Road, the left hand lane on towards Trumpington Street. And the right hand lane is the one used by delivery vehicles, lorries etc. heading towards University departments like Chemistry, the Gurdon Institute, Biochemistry etc. (the New Museums Site, Downing Site, Old Addenbrokes Site etc.) while freight heading for the Grand Arcade and Lion Yard is (mostly) going straight on (except where the driver intends to rat-run down Tennis Court Road) - bluntly, these heavy vehicles do not fit in to the feeder lanes for the first roundabout and the drivers have insuffficient visibility to safely change lanes in the short distance to the next mini roundabout, thus...

So we've got two streams of traffic, often with motorists distracted by mobile phones, sat-navs and the perplexing change of road arrows from straight on to right, crossing each other with no regard to cyclists on these two roundabouts. Its car-nage writ large.

But do you want to know the real shocker? Its worse coming the other way. This is what its like from Trumpington Street:

Why, yes, that IS three lanes for cars and lorries, each narrow enough to scour the go faster stripes off a mini, and no provision for cycling. In the heart of Britain's cycling capital. There is no provision for cycling, and if you work in this part of the city there may well be no viable alternative route.

And, yes, if you're heading off down on to Fen Causeway you've got to get across those streams of traffic ideally into the right hand lane, hope that the laughably unlikely thing of motorists at the first roundabout letting you across happens, and then face just the same implausible scenario at the second roundabout.

My dear readers, I put it to you that this is not the second worst junction for cycling in the UK because its in Cambridge and there are a lot of cyclists - we have many junctions, and this is the only one we've got in the top 10. This, my friends, is one of the UK's cycle accident blackspots because it is designed with no regard to cyclist safety. It was built by motorists, for motorists. And there it is, right in the heart of the supposed cycling Nirvana that is Cambridge. And if you survive it you're now at the other end of the road to this miserable piece of shit which leveraged nigh on half a million of cycling funds for drivers, for almost no improvement for cyclists. 

The trouble with Cambridge is, fundamentally, we pretend to plan each road for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians. And then we come up with a set of priorities that at each location puts motorists first, cyclists second, and we barely consider pedestrians at all. Which means that when we're lucky we do get some half decent cycle facilities - but they're almost never good enough and nearly always an excuse to shovel cycling cash into the coffers of car-centric road designs. And when push comes to shove, cyclists can go and fuck themselves, we don't build for safe cycling if there's a perceived need to squeeze three cars in sideways instead.

Cambridgeshire County Council, hang your heads in shame. Second most cyclist accidents at a junction in the UK, at your brutally designed junction. Deal with it. Do it now.

Thursday 20 August 2015

Why do I use a helmet camera?

There seems to be some suspicion around helmet camera riders. Indeed it isn't unusual for some to assume we're out looking for a fight, or some kind of trouble, and there has been some to-ing and fro-ing regarding this. 

While I don't really want to get in to the whole 'YOU'RE A VIGILANTE!' or 'YOU'RE A GRASS!' thing because, bluntly, I'm not going to pander to people that stupid, I do want to lay out how and why I use a helmet camera.

I'm a camera nerd - I've got rather more cameras than would be considered strictly necessary. I'm not a compulsive collector by any means but I've got different kinds of film camera, and assorted digital cameras. Photography is one of my passions, and if you really want to here, take a scan through some of my favourite shots.

When it comes down to it, helmet cameras (whether its a Muvi or a GoPro or whatever)  are cool. I mean they're really nifty pieces of technology - recording for hours on end, producing high quality video footage on to a tiny, tiny memory card. They typically have quite wide angle lenses and tremendous depth of field properties - they record images that are crystal clear and sharp as a button. They are amazing things - and I reserve the right to have a nerdgasm over a technology as great as that.

They give us opportunity to record many of the weird and wonderful things we see. But also they afford us a chance to record things that people just wouldn't believe happen on our roads - the things that if we went to tell anyone about before the days of helmet cameras no one believed. In fact I'd go so far as to say that helmet cameras have changed how the Police interact with cyclists - you've now got a chance of meeting a Police officer who's actually aware of the problems we face on the roads, although some are both aware and uncaring. If you've been riding long enough to remember before there were cameras you'll know that previously if you went to the Police with a buckled wheel they'd never believe you if you said a motorist was involved - now, at least, they listen. Its progress, but perhaps not enough. Helmet cam footage has changed the game with regard to getting non-cyclists to accept that there are problems.

But there's also the simple reality that the camera does generate 'evidence'. If confronted with a motorist being absolutely bleeding stupid I'll ask for a quote for the camera - sounds like a crazy thing to do but most often it'll calm the motorist down if they know they're being filmed. Well, maybe not calm them down, but they become cautious about leaving an evidence trail. 

And there are a lot of us with cameras now - so many that I'm pretty sure the word is out among most of the aggressive drivers that we're here and not to be messed with. I get fewer really aggressive incidents on the road when I'm wearing the camera, so much so that I wear it as visibly as I can on top of the helmet. Its a visible deterrent, it says to motorists who may otherwise knowingly be looking for trouble to go and look elsewhere. I don't wear a camera to go looking for trouble - I wear a camera because I'm looking to avoid trouble.

Helmet cameras thus give us multiple routes to defuse potentially dangerous situations, and they're fun. They aren't about being vigilantes or looking for trouble to film - they're a way that we can get feedback about our riding and record what we see out there. And there is nothing wrong with any of that.

Friday 14 August 2015

Just a typical crap driver...

I wouldn't normally write a blog post about a random shit overtake, but this one has managed to get me a really odd reaction online.

Here's an incident that happened on Arbury Road a little while ago. Its a common or garden stupid overtake - she's passed rather too close and then has nowhere to go when she's past, so she slams on the anchors in a narrowing road space where there are parked cars. Stupid, pointless, and I catch her up at the junction.

Now its a bad overtake but its not a world class embarrassing incident for the driver. I think my cycling was okay - I'm out from the kerb to avoid the parked cars, until I'm forced a bit closer by a driver who's braking while passing me, in a 20mph zone she can't get anywhere fast in anyway.

So I was surprised by this.

Yes, apparently this is the worst bit of cycling ever seen by someone calling herself 'fatbird'. Naturally I (and others) enquired what I'd been doing wrong, and apparently 'opinions vary' but I'll not find out any more because I'm blocked.

If there's criticism, make it. But the worst cycling you've seen in Cambridge? Back that up or retract, Fatbird. Your criticism is plain stupid.

Tuesday 11 August 2015

Piece of crap victim blame tweeted by Cycletoworkday

UPDATE: The folk at Cycle to Work Day have held their hands up and said sorry, we goofed, we've deleted it. So, thats good then - I'm happy they've retracted and good on them for saying sorry. I'll leave this article more or less as it is though - it was my first (horridly disgusted) response to an awful dis-infographic, a sublimely awful piece of anti-cyclist propaganda that I've a horrible feeling will re-emerge.

I refer in the title there to this awful, AWFUL disinfographic.

One would hope that the folk at  would know better than to share such a buttock wrenchingly piss poor piece of anti-cyclist wank. One would be wrong. Its almost entirely incorrect in nearly every aspect it discusses - and while it ought by now be needless to correct bloody awful moton propaganda dished out by shitty little organisations who pretend to support cycling while in fact making our time on the roads worse by implying we're to blame for everything that ever went wrong in the history of humanity, I find myself once again refuting crap like this.

I'm bashing this out quickly during a work tea-break, so stats are from memory. Apologies for lack of referencing but if you require said refs then holler, I'll back these up and correct later if necessary. In the mean time I promise you I'm not far out with these...

From the top left, we can see this is about 'cycling and the law', and we're directed down the lamp-post where we're implored to wear a helmet and hi-viz - which is not required by law. At all. Even a bit. Nor does the benefit thereof show up in accident stats. So thats wrong to begin with. We're then told we must have lights - which is true, but of course the vast bulk of cyclist KSI's happen during daylight hours, and as a safety factor this accounts for something like 2% of deaths - and this is likely an over-estimate as it is often based on the sole living eye-witness (the driver).

There's a tree underneath it that for some reason blames jumping red lights (if memory serves thats another 2%, give or take, of cycling KSI) for the 85% of cycle injuries. Or, in other words, this ignores the measured, massive, overwhelming cause of cycling accidents (motorists not looking) and simply blames the victims. 

But then we've got the real doozy, the one that tells us unequivocally that this is to appease motons, not appeal to cyclists. We're told:
Use of cyle lanes makes your journey safer and is recommended in section 62 of the Highway Code
Section 62 does not refer to cycle lanes. At all. Even a bit. It talks about cycle TRACKS. Cycle lanes are covered in 63, where we're actually told:
 Cycle Lanes. These are marked by a white line (which may be broken) along the carriageway (see Rule 140). Keep within the lane when practicable. When leaving a cycle lane check before pulling out that it is safe to do so and signal your intention clearly to other road users. Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer.
Bluntly, the highway code acknowledges that many cycle lanes do not make your journey safer - hardly surprising really.

This lying piece of crap disinfographic then tells us we must not ride 3 abreast (again, not in law - and not necessarily a good idea in the heavy cycle traffic of Cambridge, for example), it tells us that section 67 of the highway code tells us we should ride single file (it doesn't), and worst of all it gives us a fabrication for the most common causes of cyclist injury (every single cause they attribute to the cyclist - without mentioning that the most massive, overwhelming cause is motorist inattention/error).

This is worse than simple victim blame - its an intentional misrepresentation of the facts, of the highway code and of good cycling practice to pin the blame for accidents solely on cyclists with, I think, a simple goal of softening the guilt felt my motorists who cause such carnage on our roads.

For tweeting this, I'm clear in my mind that 'Cycletowork' are yet another part of the car lobby. All be it a particularly insidious, cynical part thereof.