Monday 19 December 2016

Cambridge is run by, and for, motorists.

So we're not likely to get road closures to fix the streets of Cambridge by channeling traffic in other directions. A proven method of reducing conflict at junctions and thus shortening the average journey time of everyone in a car is rejected because motorists don't like it.

Its like I've died and gone to stupid land. Birmingham or somewhere. This meant to be a city full of some of the smartest people in the world but for some reason when it comes to transport we're the biggest idiots you can imagine. Everyone here agrees that congestion is a nightmare - that you can't get from one end of the city to the other in a reasonable time because of traffic congestion. 

Everyone agrees that cycling is part of the solution, not part of the problem, and that more people walking or cycling would be a great way to make things better for them to drive to where they want to go themselves - and thus will only endorse measures that will inconvenience motorists sufficiently that they themselves wouldn't be put off motoring - they support 20mph zones in principle but will whine like a 30 year old PC fan if its enforced on them. They'll whinge on with whatever contrived counter-arguments they can against anything that'd stop THEM driving, while vocally supporting anything that wouldn't but, inexplicably, they think might put other people off.

There is no joined up thinking. Lets not enforce 20mph limits or, indeed, anything much on the roads. Whats that, cyclists are on the pavements? Why aren't they on the roads where we don't enforce anything? Send the cops to get them, thats tackling the problem at its source, isn't it?

While Policing, the City Deal, indeed the whole structure of how we make decisions is done by in a faux-populist approach by geriatrics with axes to grind pestering the hardest we're basically doomed to failure here. Be under no illusions, Cambridge is a polluted, congested, car-sick hell hole run by, and for, car dependent codgers.

Friday 16 December 2016

Chris Grayling Doors a Cyclist

Yes, its a legal requirement to look before opening a car door if you're a passenger, if you door someone you've broken the law. Its primarily the drivers responsibility but I believe a passenger can be held responsible too - either way, its not, legally, ok to endanger a cyclist passing the car you're in. You don't even have to hit them for it to be illegal - you simply must not endanger them.

No, its not illegal to filter on the inside. Its not necessarily a good idea and one can make an argument that a situational choice to do so is wrong - but its not illegal. You are required to look out for cyclists doing so regardless of whether you approve of it. You don't like cyclists on the inside? Fine, I don't care, but be aware that the Highway Code makes it clear that you have to look out for them.

No, one can not rationally say 'you were going too fast' and 'I didn't see you'. Those are not compatible statements. One could say 'I didn't see you' alongside 'How fast were you going?' But that ain't what he's done.

Its not ok for a Transport Secretary to say things like this while he's also acting in a way that could kill cyclists. I'm left wondering how he doesn't see this as simple exemplification that segregated infrastructure saves cyclists lives, and saves others from so many negative interractions therewith. Do you want an easy life without this kind of thing? Then for Pete's sake man, invest in bike infrastructure.

Monday 12 December 2016

Milton Road Plans - How Should we Respond?

It seems that councillors and residents associations have come out in favour of a pretty groovy plan for cycling on Milton Road. 

Now we're a way off from this happening yet, its got to go to the local authority and, this being Cambridge. months of ridiculously intense, nit-picky scrutiny. And it'll start with local bloggers taking on the role left vacant as our regional press becomes ever less adept at this. Say what you like about Richard, Puffles the Dragon Fairy and even me, but without the likes of those guys its hard to see how we'd hold any local government to account in the UK these days.

Now, as I say, its a fairly groovy plan, but the devil may be in the detail. Will we really do away with bus lanes along most of the road, in favour of a cycle lanes with priority over side roads segregated from the main road by trees? What kind of trees, are they going to try to keep some of the more miserable specimens and just shoehorn us in? And will it really be continuous, is Cambridge actually ready for a true Dutch style roundabout on a major road in to the City?

There's a long way to go, but provisionally I think we've got to be supportive - and I think we need to take criticism from other lobby groups (the bus lobby in particular) on the chin, before hitting back just as hard. I don't recally bus and car lobbyists wringing their hands and saying 'but what about the cyclists?' all these years. Its an adversarial system where we all demand what we want and there's no reason why we should play nicer than other groups.

So for what its worth, I'm with Camcycle on this. For the moment. There will be calls to cut back on provision for riding and indeed on tree planting in favour of bus lanes. And its now our job to rebut those calls. 

One last thing - my three local city councillors in Kings Hedges (Smart, Gawthrope and Price) abstained on this vote. Whats the matter, gents, can't be seen to be supporting cycling? Well if you won't vote for me, I'll not be voting for you. Shame on you all. Our county councillor. Fiona Onasanya, voted for this. Thanks Fiona, thats brilliant. 

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Shameful Headline from the Telegraph

What an awful rag that paper has become.

Apparently, according to the headline:
Cycling with headphones kills mother as coroner says she caused her own death
So apparently a woman was riding a bike with headphones and, unequivocally, the coroner says that killed her. Thats what the headline says, so thats what happened right? Lets read on...

The mother-of-one, who is thought to have been listening to music on her iPhone, probably panicked trying to avoid a collision, Hull Coroners' Court heard.
The hairdresser was "riding purposefully" before she wobbled at the nearside of the lorry and fell fracturing her skull and spinal cord. She fell on the verge and died instantly without hitting the lorry. 
Ms Norton, who was not wearing a helmet at the time, seemed unaware of the HGV, the inquest heard.

Oh, so she might have been listening to music. She's thought to have been listening to music. And she was near-side of a lorry and fell off? So she's allegedly unaware of the lorry and just randomly fell off and thats not related to the lorry, she wobbled and fell off because she was listening to music? Why would she do that? She was riding along and only fell off when the big lorry came alongside, and thats just a coincidence because she was unaware of the lorry?

But it gets worse.

Ms Norton’s 18 speed Carrera racing cycle was found in its lowest gear with the chain still in place. Her iPhone and headphones were picked up at the scene.
Coroner for East Riding of Yorkshire Paul Marks ruled that listening to music could have contributed to Ms Norton’s misjudgement.
Professor Marks said: "I accept this was an entirely avoidable incident and the cause of the events that lead op to the accident rest entirely with the cyclist.
He concluded: "I cannot determine if she was on her iPhone listening with earphone at the time, but if she had been, it could have caused a distraction and could have contributed to the cause of the accident."

So we've no evidence she was listening to music other than she had an iPhone with ear plugs. We don't know she was wearing it. It appears we have no independent witnesses who can tell us what happened. And the coroner says that maybe its all her fault, but presents no evidence that this was the case? And, best of all, rather than doing the slightest due diligence on the report the Telegraph chose to go a step further from saying that headphones might have contributed to the accident and in their headline claim that the coroner pins blame firmly on the cyclist wearing headphones over this? 

There's a sucker born every minute, they say. But what kind of sucker would you have to be to buy this crap? 

Thursday 17 November 2016

Copy of email to Cambridge police

UPDATE: Via a circuitous route local police are taking this seriously - local political blogger/independent journalist Richard Taylor tweeted this on to several councillors, who contacted local police who as a result got right back to me with the information that they're looking to prosecute. Good news - but deary me, why ought this be so complicated?

Just spent a frustrating little while talking to our local police force on the phone. First officer I spoke to was just colossally unhelpful, and wouldn't give me an email address to send video evidence to. She felt it was appropriate to bring some kind of text link to that to the station and hand it over while being interviewed - and that might not be for days. When I said that this is silly and could I speak to her superior officer she hung up. I was livid.

Phone back, got email address but no clear indication they'd definitely even look at an email.

I hate 'but its the year (x)!' type outrage - but come on Cambridgeshire Constabulary, sort this out. This isn't ok.

Anyway, here's the text of the email I've sent.

Video evidence for incident 95 (reported today). Incident was at about 6:15 PM yesterday.

I would like you to find someone to look at this ASAP please - I'm sure you'll agree that someone oughtn't be driving like that. I'd be happy to come in to the station to make a statement about this, but I'm concerned that you'll not start investigating this incident until then (and the earliest time you had for an appointment for that was Saturday evening).

It does concern me that this guy will be driving around until at least then without you having initiated any kind of discussion with him, and I would have thought that on the evidence of the video footage alone you've got more than enough to go and have a word with him to initiate your investigation. And I feel fairly sure that even if the first step is that this guy knows you're looking in to his driving he'll be taking some more care - prompt action could (and looking at the video I think you'll agree very likely will) prevent someone getting hurt.

Would you be able to give me some feedback on how you'd like to handle this today please?

Lastly, you've really got to update your system for handling reports of crime. You've got a single not-necessarily monitored email address for receiving crime reports and many of your staff aren't even aware of if, believing its rational to require that members of the public attend the station and presumably write down weblinks? You know full well that isn't ok.


Colin Davidson.

Monday 14 November 2016

Normal, Everyday Cycling - Roundup.

I'm looking back at posts about riding my bike from last week, where I was making an effort to document every ride in a way I'd never normally consider, and I'm mostly struck by how little cycling really defines my time.

Yeah, I get around that way, so I've got to remember bike lights and a lock and do need to think about waterproofs at this time of year, but I'm not waiting for the bike to warm up in the morning, I'm not choosing travel times and where to shop based on how heinous the traffic will be, and I'm certainly not spending so long sitting angry in traffic that it has any negative impact on my mood. My means of getting around costs me next to nothing and it takes less time than any other available options. Yeah, its healthy and green so in some ways more 'virtuous' than driving, but I'm riding a bike about because its the most practical, time and space efficient way of getting from A to B, allowing me to split journeys more productively and get to where I want most effectively. My riding isn't about other people driving - its a rational choice for me. 

Could it be better still? Well, yes, many of the routes I'm using lack good cycle facilities and its fairly obvious that the presence of such would help out where traffic is heavy and drivers angry. But even as things are I'm left with three thoughts about cycling every day from this. 

Firstly, my bike riding defines me less, in any practical respect, than the people driving are defined by their transport choice. My method is cheaper, easier, faster, and puts way less strain on any aspect of my life than theirs. Calling them 'motorists' and me 'just a person getting about' makes more sense than the normal view of 'cyclists' as strange outsiders while drivers are 'normal'. Whats 'normal' about choosing one of the least convenient and practical forms of transport for most journeys?

Secondly, it takes actually sitting down and thinking about the massive convenience of being able to lock up and shop, look, wander about wherever I want to bring home the benefits of a cycling lifestyle - or, rather, a non-motorised transport dependent lifestyle. I couldn't stop off at a shop on the way home if I was on the bus and I'd struggle to do that by car in most cities. I couldn't combine a car journey with a ride around a few likely green spaces looking for wild mushrooms on a car, so if I'd been driving a car about all these years my knowledge of what grows where and how I can use it wouldn't be what it is now. Riding a bike frees time, yes, but it also allows us, physically, to see more of whats in our neighbourhoods and be more involved in our communities. Cycling facilitates personal growth within our environments by reducing the physical and conceptual distance between us and what is around us. I know what trees grow on all of my regular routes because I've time to see them, and when they're shedding useful or tasty fruit I can stop and pick it.  I know when to pop in to the local farm shop because he'll have discounted game. I know when to pop in to the assorted local ethnic food shops to talk to the most enthusiastic staff there who'll want to share passion for their own cuisines and encourage me to try something new. Bluntly, cycling rocks.

Lastly, its amazing just how chilled out most cycling is. Yeah, you'll get the occasional nutjob on the road. But for the most part its relaxed, easy and simple. Yet every working day last week I passed the same folk sitting in the same cars in the same traffic jams, usually with the same stressed and unhappy looks on their faces. I'm forced to ask - why is it I'm the odd one for cycling?

Sorry for getting evangelical. But biking around really does make life better in all sorts of ways that most people never even think about. I wonder, when trying to get more people out on bikes because the net impact of that is better for everyone else, is the fact that our lives can just be better a more effective way of selling cycling?

Normal Everyday Cycling - Day 6 and 7

Horrible weather on Saturday, but we could still pick up the remainder of our shopping by bike. First went out to Daily Bread, a sort of wholefood place where as ever I was struck by people driving colossal 4x4's to a supposedly 'ethical' outlet to buy less stuff than we get home by bicycle. Only a small load required this week though, not enough to warrant the bike trailer so we wend there and filled the bike trailer with dried fruit for Christmas cooking, 5kg of flour and yeast for the bread machine and a few other bits and bobs. Then we took a round-about route home to see if there might be the first of the wild blewit mushrooms of the year. There weren't - but still, worth a look, they won't be long. Again, while I normally wouldn't even think about this it just wouldn't be possible to combine that with a shopping journey by car.
Then out to the local shops in Arbury for other stuff and to put our Christmas order in with the butcher in plenty of time, for local gossip (and celery) from the greengrocers, and to the supermarket for more bits and bobs. Not a lot to get but, again, by being on a bike we weren't tied to where we could easily park a car, so we can far more easily get to the smaller shops with no loss of time. 

Sunday was, for me, a toss up between going out looking for mushrooms or going down to the Allotment in the morning before meeting some mates - I chose the former largely because I fancied a bit more of a ride in the sunshine. That means I'll have to harvest some veg from the plot one morning on the way to work - which isn't a big deal. My better half went in to town in the afternoon for a bit of Christmas shopping and I gather met a friend for a tea, while I spent the afternoon gaming with the lads at a mates house.

All in all, a chilled, relaxed weekend - I wouldn't say riding my bike defined the weekend in any way, but it did enable it.

Saturday 12 November 2016

Normal Everyday Cycling - Day 5

The weather forecast for Saturday was looking grim, so I took the Elephant Bike again on Friday to get some of our shopping on the way home, and go to the market at lunch time. There are a couple of little farm shops in Cambridge, but at opposite ends of the city centre and I wanted to visit both. That means either a long walk or riding a bike between them (goodness knows where you'd park a car if you were trying to get to one shop on Lensield Road and another on Mitchams Corner).

Crazy mad traffic on the way in to town again - thats every day this week. Might have been the worst of all on Friday morning. I tend not to think about it, but I suppose for the most part its the same people stuck in the same traffic every single day and I can't imagine how long it must take them all to get to work. I don't feel smug or superior at all when I pass them, just a lack of understanding as to why they choose to travel that way. Surely the park and ride or the park and cycle has to be better than spending that long getting in and out of the city centre every day.

So I managed to get to both of the farm shops on the way home, and the market at lunchtime, and loaded up the pannier bags and basket with a box of clementines, a brace of pheasant, a chicken, two bottles of Fentimans and plenty of cheese and assorted impulse buys from the farm shops too without really having to make another trip - being able to stop and lock up a bike en route wherever I'm going provides a huge advantage over pretty much any other way of getting around. 

With any luck there might be at least a few moments of dry weather and time to get out into it over the weekend...

Thursday 10 November 2016

Normal Everyday Cycling - Day 4

Another wet morning, but more cold than moist so scarf and hat this morning.
Struggling to think of anything exciting to say about riding to work and back today - the only thrilling thing to relate is that, as ever, when the weather is wet the roads are more rammed full of cars than at other times. I thought I'd go a different route to avoid the worst of if, but there's no getting around it, when the weather is bad some of the people who'd walk or cycle drive, and the result is carmageddon. And with that comes a delays to the bus service.

So another day of commuting faster, easier and really enjoyably by bike. 

The only question I'm left with on a day like today is why me riding a bike is held somehow definitive of me, whereas all the people spending way longer in their cars are not defined thus instead. My way is faster, easier, simpler faster and lower stress than the other options, its the sensible option. So why is it seen as the odder choice?

Normal Everyday Cycling - Day 3

Day late with this one, did't have time to put this up last night.

Raining this morning so had to don an extra garment - waterproof over-trousers. Cheap and cheerful things from an Army and Navy place on Ebay, I don't need them very often but once in a while they're handy.

Traffic was crazy again this morining as ever, cars queued up at the road works and the traffic lights, and as ever, didn't delay me by much.

Wasn't raining after work, so the waterproofs were stuffed into the pannier back, rode out to the shops to pick up some snacks for my partner and I. We were going to the pictures to see Dr. Strange and meeting there at the cinema. Handy to be able to lock up the bike right outside both the cinema (the Light, rather than the Vue, which really needs to sort out its bike parking at the Grafton Centre urgently) and the shops up on Fitzroy Street, so I had time to do that while she booked tickets. Car traffic was bumper to bumper on Hills Road, with long streams of angry motorists getting into bike lanes, clogging junctions, etc. Managed to avoid much of that by taking a back route along by Fenners, but there's no way to avoid Hills Road bridge.

Not such a bad film, got home about nine-ish on rather queiter roads. One sticky moment with a car accelerating fast on the wrong side of the road on Gonville Place heading towards the traffic lights at the Catholic Church junction, a seemingly mindless manevore that couldn't hope to gain him anything. Don't know for the life of me what it was about, was he just frustrated by being stuck there?

I don't immediately see how we could have done any of this by car or bus - two of us coming from different places to meet at the cinema and get home together? I don't get how people who rely on cars manage any kind of social life, at least during the week!

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Normaly Everyday Cycling - Day 2

A colder morning today, with neighbours spending what seemed an eternity warming up cars and scraping ice prior to driving off. The traffic news was all about crashes here and delays there, but nothing that ought to have been a problem for me.

Traffic was again heavy on the main roads, with road works on Arbury Road to make things even more unpelasant. I filtered past on the outside both at the road work lights and at the end, and I'll confess I gave the guy in the shiny white SUV that passed me way above the 20mph limit to be stuck in traffic in front a bit of a dirty look.

Was surprised to be undertaken by a lady on a road bike going around the roundabout on Milton Road, and I did shout a warning at her (the bike-rider package I represent doesn't have the turning circle she does). We were in danger of both coming off as she turned into the space I was heading in to. She didn't approve of that! But I'd rather an exchange of a few harsh words in response to yelling a warning than come to grief on a the roundabout.

City Centre was rammed again, but I could console myself that my neighbours were probably still scraping ice off their windscreens...

Rode in to town from work at lunchtime, picked a few things up at the shops.

And as ever at this time of year the trip home was in the dark. Again, coming out of the city centre the car traffic was heavy, especially on Magdalene Street where the one-way section was backed up in both directions with cars filling the space and preventing oncoming traffic. Again, everyone on the road seemed angry except fot the cyclists. Milton Road was likewise a bit crazy, and coming off Mitchams Corner I was a bit concerned by the taxis blocking the cycle lane - but it wasn't a problem, the traffic wasn't so bad I couldn't get around them.

So not as uneventful as yesterday, but basically humdrum.

Monday 7 November 2016

Normal, Every Day Cycling - Day 1

It was cold this morning, winter is well on the way now, so I was wearing a good jumper and a coat and gloves today. And as Monday is game night, I've not normally got time to cook much so today I took this bike to pick up pizza on the way home - the flat basket really helps for things like that. Didn't need a rucksack, could load pannier bag up with work laptop.

Ride in was uneventful, other than that there seems to have been something happening on Milton Road somewhere - cars were queuing all the way along it and on Arbury Road too, so I found myself filtering past traffic most of the way. I also hit the 9 o'clock lecture rush when I got to the city centre, which means the commuter-peloton with hundreds of other bikes. Hair raising stuff until you're used to it. 

The bus from home goes a different route to the way I ride, but I was talking to a chap who commutes that way later on and apparently it took him three quarters of an hour to get to work. It took me less than 20 minutes through horrible traffic, and I consider that rather slow for my normal 3 mile trip.

Stopped off at the supermarket on the way home for pizza. The most eventful thing that happened to me on the road today was a pedestrian sprinting out across in front of me as the lights changed while loudly apologising - I suppose she must have been in a heck of a hurry.

And thats it for today. Looking at the traffic, its fairly obvious to me that my bike riding made up less of my day and contributed less to my stress levels than all the folk stuck in lines of cars! More tomorrow...

A week of normal, every day cycling

I'm often confronted by the implication that because I cycle I must be somehow doing things differently to everyone else, that my life is more complicated or difficult somehow. Perhaps this is because most people don't get that riding a bike isn't a preoccupation or a hobby in itself (although it can be), its just a way of getting about. Cycling seems to be what makes us stand out, its how those who see us doing it define us, and they're rather unable to deal with the fact that we don't define ourselves by it in the same way.

Riding bikes isn't my hobby. I mean, yeah, it might seem like it is to you because this blog is all about riding, but really this place is more a reaction to being treated as if I'm weird for what I consider to be a background activity. So I thought maybe I could get across some of what riding a bike is all about by describing my riding for a week - maybe if non-cyclists can see that we're just folk getting around, maybe in some small way this will contribute to us no longer being seen as two-wheeled weirdos. 

I'll put the first post up tonight sometime. What kind of thing about daily cycling do you want to hear about?

Saturday 22 October 2016

Cargo Bike at Cambridge Homebase

As readers of my blog will be aware I'm not one to hold back from criticism when I think local retailers are letting us down. When we're off out shopping or to catch a film having somewhere to leave our bikes and being able to get directly back to them afterwards matters - I'm looking at you, Vue Cinema and the Grafton Centre - stop locking your front doors before all the films finish if you want our custom! Somewhere safe to lock up and access such that I can get in and out with shopping is a minimum, but this is Cambridge and I'm always looking out for those retailers who provide a bit more for cyclists.

Getting big stuff home is sort of the final frontier of cycling provision. For me that usually means access with a bike trailer on my ex-posties bike, but not everyone has the luxury of owning a cargo carrying bicycle. Yeah, I suppose you could use one of the short-term car hire companies (assuming you can drive), but would you want to get as angry and fed up as all the folk you pass every day sitting stuck in their cars? Doesn't sound fun to me.

If you're shopping at Homebase on Newmarket Road you've got a great new option. They've just got hold of a cargo bike you can borrow. This one here...

I had a chat with the folk in the store today, and it seems that this is a very new scheme. Its got a label on the front telling us its from London Green Cycles, and its built to take a load - the staff were telling me that they were training to use it by carrying colleagues around. Seriously if you've never ridden a Christiania its worth getting hold of this bike for a while just to have a go, they're rock solid but very rideable. 

The deal is simple enough, you pay a £50 deposit (which you get back - using it is free!) and you've a few hours to get your stuff home in it. I'd be tempted to get all my other shopping home at the same time and leave my own bike locked at the shop. The Christiania has its own locking mechanism, making it essentially hassle free.

At the moment, the scheme is new so the shop is sort of feeling its way in to things. I did ask about booking in advance but the response was a little wooly - presumably if it becomes popular they'll have to sort that out soon enough. 

I'm impressed, Homebase. Good stuff. Thanks!

Monday 17 October 2016

Cycling - the Great Equaliser

Bikes can be expensive.

And they can be cheap. Like, really, really cheap.

While one could get uppity about how much of a waste of money the carbon fibre delight linked at the top is for anyone other than a professional road rider, or snobbish about the 'bike shaped object' illustrated from Cambridge market, I think both exclamations miss the point.

Cycling can cost you, basically, more or less whatever you want to pay in its initial outlay. And then for just a few notes you can keep riding - the occasional repair or, if you paid a tenner, some free time and the willingness to scavenge more parts, will get you where you're going. It can be very expensive or it can be free.

The weird idea that cycling is for posh people, rich people, paupers, young people, men, women... Its all complete crap. Cycling is for everyone - if you've a tenner or a million quid, its for you. Its the great leveller - get a bike, any bike, and ride it. And thats all you've got to do.

Self Driving Carpocaplypse?

Why yes, that is a silly, clickbaity title. Thanks for noticing. But, sorry, it is true.

Lots of cycling folk have commented on self driving cars. Some are enthusiastic, talking about the flaw in car design being the meat-pack in control, and how having machine like reflexes at the heart of a computer driven miracle of modernity will save cyclists lives by spotting cyclists earlier and reacting faster. Others have been rather more pessimistic. Auto-cars will of necessity require cyclists be excluded from road space such that robotic abominations against nature can reach maximum efficiency in dystopian nightmare of hyper-connected communication.

I think that both argument's have some merit. Humans do tend not to look where they're going, so having a machine do it isn't a bad idea. And yes, there's a risk that the most efficient use of space is one where every vehicle 'thinks' basically the same - but I think that the take-up of autonomous cars (stupid name, lets call them auto-cars or something) will be slow enough such that they'll have to have programming to work around other vehicles from the outset.

What worries me more is that, conceptually, they have to be designed to kill pedestrians.

Imagine, if you will, the typical urban main-road. You know the sort. Its the main road of a market town that should be charming but isn't because all you can see and hear is cars. Or a city street with four lanes of drivers going nowhere fast but conspiring to make the route un-crossable. You eye up the first motorist, he doesn't give an inch, you keep walking to the quarter of a mile away crossing hoping that a gap will appear, but it doesn't. No matter how often you think you've made contact you can never see a way across all four lanes. Maybe you make a dash for it - only to get half way across and stand there terrified until a softer-hearted driver grudgingly lets you cross. 

What stopped you from crossing? Are the drivers morally superiority so you're showing them deference? Do they have a greater right to get where they're going than you do? No, of course not - the dominance of motor vehicles in public space is only possible on one basis. The very real, ever present, and utterly terrifying threat of violence. You can't cross the road, even when the drivers gain nothing from stopping you, because the motorist can kill or maim you, and is not absolutely required by law not to do so. There isn't sufficient legal or moral pressure on the motorist to ensure the safety of pedestrians crossing the road such that we can step off the pavement. Drivers are bullying you not to cross.

Imagine the same road full of auto-cars. Intelligent, safe, auto-cars that are designed to spot pedestrians who want to cross, or who have entered the road space, and therefore to stop. Now imagine what the impact of that is in a crowded city centre. Come on, be honest, do you walk way up the road to the crossing point and back up to where you want to go or do you just step out and stop the traffic to get over?  Keep your imagination fired up for a moment longer - now there's not just you looking to cross, there's a stream of people wanting to cross the constant, terrifying maelstrom of traffic. If that stream of people know that they each of them can stop the cars, don't they just do that? At their own leisure, when and where they choose? Of course they do.

Can you now think what that'd be like in the car? Travel sick doesn't even begin to cover it. You'd get nowhere, you'd be forever stuck in the city centre at rush hour - and in those cities where the evening revelers merge into the homeward-bound commuters, you might be there all night. 

Bluntly, the only way we'll be able to make auto-cars work is if we intentionally program them to risk killing people. If we don't give them the capacity to prioritise getting a passenger home over the safety of those outside the cars, they'll fail. They won't, and can't, work.

We already know that Mercedes Benz are designing cars that'll kill those outside the car if it saves the person inside the car. That is the only way this technology can work.

Be afraid. The autocalypse is coming. And its one where pedestrians come last.

Monday 10 October 2016

The Problem With Treating Us Like Cars... that we're not.

I've always been an advocate of riding assertively where we have to do so to remain safe on our roads. It just makes sense. If we've got to claim the lane in a road to make it clear that this isn't a good place to overtake safely then yeah, whatever, go for it. Its not like there's a better choice.

But I'm not a car. My bike isn't a car. In riding that way I do not, as I am so frequently accused of, acting like I think I'm a "fucking car, mate". I don't appreciate the way that people respond to cyclists riding this way, by referring to us as being like cars. I ride assertively because its a safer way to ride, but I don't like that it means that people think I'm being a dick for riding as if my vehicle is somehow the same as theirs. And I'm annoyed that I'm even discussing this in terms of the perceived heirarchy in road users.

I've been increasingly of the opinion that adapting cycling to fit the road space available is the wrong way round. Not just that we're getting it wrong with regard to how we build cycle facilities as add-ons to road space, at the margins, at the edge, both physically and in terms of funding, but also with how we handle the whole question of cycling. 

Imagine, if you will, a road network without cars. Built for cycling and people getting around burning cake rather than petrol. What would it look like? And how does that differ from what we actually get? It would connect places directly and simply. We'd have straight lines rather than be taken all round the houses like cars are - there wouldn't be one way systems (which necessitate driving a greater distance but reduce journey time by lessening conflict at junctions), and those on the main cycling route would have priority over side entrances (which all too often doesn't happen for bike routes). Junctions would be simple - we wouldn't have to cross multiple streams of traffic in weird, odd directions to avoid the nastiest bits for cars.

There wouldn't be many traffic lights. Really busy routes might need them, but for the most part we'd have a 'make eye contact and cross' rule, as we sort of informally have on shared use routes we have already. Cyclists would rather slow a bit to let people pass than have to stop entirely, its so much easier continuing on your way.We'd ride somewhere towards the middle of the lane, all the time, and it wouldn't be considered weird. We'd do that so that pedestrians wouldn't be worried about stepping out in front of us.

I think where I'm getting to is that while roads weren't built for cars, they've been so heavily modified in favour of everyone being in a car that the few who aren't have to act as if they are to avoid being killed, but we're resented for acting that way anyway because we're not in cars. The paradox of vehicular cycling - we ride in a way that reduces danger at the expense of increasing conflict.

We need to back up a bit and maybe stop JUST demanding more and better cycling facilities and ask what whether we're really missing the other thing that we ought to be asking for - to be treated like cyclists, rather than either a modified form of pedestrian or an inferior car. This doesn't only impact on the kind of route we ask for, its also about how we should be asked to behave on the roads. Dare I suggest that perhaps that design for cyclists and the culture we would expect thereof might make a better road transport system for everyone? Maybe, for the good of pedestrians and cycclists, we should be demanding that everyone does things our way, rather than the way that motorists want? 

I guess this touches on other questions I've asked here before - whats the point in us obeying rules set up to facilitate better motoring at the cost of our own safety and convenience? Is it really worth suffering the wrath of motorists rather than riding slowly and tentatively on a wide pavement that we're legally un-entitled to but much safer on? Is there really any point in me stopping at a red light if the driver behind will be angry that I'm there anyway, and probably try to run me off the road as I enter the junction ahead?

Is fighting for a transport culture that enshrines cycling culture worthwhile? And how would we redesign roads to facilitate this?

Thursday 6 October 2016

Cambridge City Deal, Road Closures, and What the Protests Mean

Well, its all over the news here in Cambridge.

Seriously, by reducing the normal rush hour traffic from stop-start acceleration averaging at walking speed to a smoother pace of motorists who've got out of their cars and walked, they've proved beyond any rational doubt that except perhaps for the disabled private cars have no sensible place in the commuter mix in Cambridge. 

I faced a longer delay on my bicycle due to a film crew on Kings Parade (more of that god-awful Grantchester thing I should think, where for some reason every journey in Cambridge involves a rugged vicar riding past Kings on a sweet old bike with the saddle annoyingly far too low) than anyone who rode past this paradoxical event has reported.

So, whats it all about? Well, its all about Braess paradox. Old hat, really, look it up on Wikipedia if you've never heard of it. Closing some roads means some people choose to travel via, a different mode or route, so those who still drive might face a longer journey but a shorter journey time, thus actually burning less fuel, wasting less time, and polluting less. You move from the individual competetive choice of route that creates a god awful mess of junctions to a collaborative, more efficient routing. It isn't controversial to anyone who's ever looked at the impact of road closures on traffic modelling. 

The truth is I don't know whether the specific closures suggested are the right ones - and neither do the protestors, because (correct me if I'm wrong) the modelling hasn't been shared yet (if, indeed, it has been done). I support the proven principle behind such closures but I question whether these are the right ones - and I'd like to see the supporting evidence for the specific measures suggested before supporting or opposing. You know, give me the evidence to decide. Why the fuck is that controversial? Unfortunately this makes my approach radically different to these protestors, who are just another subdivision of the NIMBY movement against change in Cambridge

Truth be told the protestors have no alternative suggestions and don't have evidence against the current plans. There's talk of setting up a traders lobby group against them (but not, apparently, FOR anything else), and councillors are saying 'we're listening'. So the NIMBYs win this round.

What does this protest mean for the wider city deal and for activism in Cambridge in general though?

Firstly it means getting off your arse and protesting works. Unfortunately its always easy to get people to protest against something, its very hard to get people marching FOR something else. Fear is a better motivator for protest than anything else. So we're going to continue to see protests against, well, more or less any kind of change that the City Deal wants to look at, and that sort of de-values rational, evidence based criticism as it is drowned out in the noise.

Secondly it means that where activists are neither united nor vocal, it'll remain easy for City Deal and for Councillors to ignore them. I'm looking at you, @camcycle. You saw that actually quite trivial critical mass campaign this morning? That wasn't us. That was motorists gaining a victory over a process actually set up to benefit them - holding an on-foot peak commuting time critical mass. You want to be listened to like they are? Then we have to act like they do, we have to mobilise - but for as long as you're the ones at the top table for discussions on behalf of cyclists who for the most part are not your members but who the City Deal and the County allow you to speak on behalf of such activism can achieve nothing because they'll do what the County has always done - point at you as representative and maintain anyone else is fringe. We're past reasoned discussion - what do you say, Critical Mass, Milton Road? 

Cycling oils the wheels of Cambridge transport. Without us, if so many didn't ride, the city would grind to a halt, and yet we're taken for granted because we don't stand up for ourselves. Enough. City Deal stands at the brink of failure because short-sighted NIMBYS oppose every version of positive change. Come on guys, who's up for it? 

Tuesday 4 October 2016

One Plain Clothes Cop on a Bike, with a Camera

Again our local cops are coming out with not such a bad message. Yeah, driving while using a mobile phone is a distraction, and its far too common wherever people have mobile phones and cars.

Its good that our cops are occasionally prosecuting for this, but a rate of under 100 per month across the whole county barely scrapes the surface - if I walk down Downing Street I'll see a dozen of the motorists lining up for the Grand Arcade car park on their phones, and thats every single time there's a queue. And we're saying that catching less than 3 a day is something to boast about? No. It matters that they're distracted when inching along in traffic that pedestrians expect to be able to safely cross between, and I think the few moments when traffic starts to clear and the driver accelerates are among the more crucial ones in preventing accidents.

Its not an under-statement to say that if you drive while fannying about with a phone in Cambridgeshire you'll get away with it. You can consider yourself incredibly unlucky if you're caught, its statistically such a freakish event.

But I don't see why it has to be that way, especially in and around our cities. If I can see motorists on their phone, and if I can film them whenever I put a helmet cam on, so can our coppers. 

So I propose the following two ways our cops could make a massive difference to road safety in our city. Pick either guys, but both would work well. 

Firstly, get your staff who bike commute helmet cameras and to ride to work wearing civvies. Once a week pick out, say, the top 20 incidents from each rider (close overtakes, motorists going through red lights, mobile phone use) and send out notices to those drivers. There you go, off the belt, 20 extra notices served, per cop commuting by bike, per week. Oh, what if you don't get 20 on film? Yeah. Right. You're having a laugh.

Secondly, make it one cops job per day, doesn't have to be the same cop, in fact it would be better to have a rota, to ride around Cambridge or Peterborough with a camera on. Again, in civilian clothes (CID is a thing, right? Coppers In Disguise?). Send a notice to every motorist they find on the phone, jumping lights, passing too close, or driving aggressively. Should't think that in a few hours you'll ever fail to catch hundreds of offenders. One copper per day will put the stats for your entire force to shame.

We're already seeing other forces do similar - come on Cambridgeshire Cops, you can and really should do it too.

And if you don't want this staggering rate of prosecutions for the good of cyclists and pedestrians? Think about your stats. Bluntly, if you're anything other than the enforcement wing of the motoring lobby you'll do it just because you want stellar rates of prosecution. 

Monday 3 October 2016

No, Camcycle, gritting cycle paths isn't a gender issue

I like Robin Heydon, he's a good bloke, and I think he's taken Cambridge Cycle Campaign in, generally, the right kind of direction.

There are a couple of areas I disagree with him though. One of those is his continuing belief that anything positive can come out of his writing articles in the Cambridge News. Its a newspaper with a long-standing habit of trolling for and thus encouraging, ant-cyclist hate, tucking a cycling blog away in its pages is more about maintaining a facade of decency than actually providing a decent, balanced news resource. Trolling sells advertising, its why journalists are now primarily content providers rather than gatekeepers of news.

Another is the content of his most recent post therein, in which we're asked whether gritting cycle paths is a gender issue. Lets delve through Robins reasoning:

There are 63,000 people who I think are being discriminated against in our city of Cambridge. These 63,000 are the girls, women, and ladies of our city. Our sisters, our daughters, our mothers and grandmothers, our partners, fiancée or wife. People we know and care about
You what now? Wow, I'm up in arms. They're discriminating against all the women? The girls? All of them? Thats not ok. Sort 'em out! Tell us more, Robin. Won't have this in my city, lets sort this out!

But can policies on roads be discriminatory? Could the councils be accused of actively discriminating against women? I would hope that we would not have politicians who do this, yet I fear that this is exactly what happens. Let's just take a couple of examples.
They're telling women they can't ride bikes in Cambridge? They're making it so they can't choose what to wear while riding? Thats fucking disgusting, lets storm Shire Hall and tell those bastards where to stick it.

 Does the way that we clear snow and ice from roads discriminate against women? Well, we know that women are more likely to ride a cycle or walk to work than drive a car. In Cambridge, for example, 46 per cent of people going to work are women, yet 49 per cent of women cycle or walk to work compared with 47 per cent of men. Ok, that is more women cycling or walking than men. Similarly, 28 per cent of women drive to work but about 32 per cent of men. That means more men are driving than women. So let me ask you a simple question: if you wanted to be equitable, wouldn't you clear the cycleways and footpaths from ice and snow before you did the roads? Wouldn't that be equitable?
What? You're saying that although within 1% of 48% of men and women ride bikes or walk to work here (pretty damn near the same number, such that its questionable whether there's any significant difference) we need to start treating active transport as a gender issue? Well, ok, I get what you're saying, but your data is wafer thin, and your claim to this being significant seems dubious. There's little reason to believe there is a significant difference between the two.

Your next data - 28% of women drive to work but 32% of men - we're looking at 2% either side of 30% then? Dude, how accurate is this data because 2% either side of a number isn't immediately convincing me of anything. I want to see a very low error figure for that data point to be convinced that the two numbers are statistically different.

I'm assuming that the rest of the people working have to get to work. You haven't cited data on how many work at home so I'll assume you've made a good, fair comparison and excluded that from your numbers. We can't compare mode of transport of people working at home so its probably best to leave them out of the figures here. If they're not going on foot, by bike or by car they must be getting the bus or the train, and that leaves 23% of women, 21% of men - and of course people getting the bus also need the roads gritted.

So for gender parity do we need to grit the roads to be sure that we're not disadvantaging women who get the bus? We need to grit the roads, rather than the cycle routes, because sexism?

Some of your other points (gritting cycle routes means people use them through winter and that those who ride on them don't get injured so often) are spot on. And I entirely agree that we should be ensuring the safety of those engaged in active transport - its a no brainer that more people driving rather than cycling or walking when the weather is frosty will make the roads more congested and more dangerous just when we need that not to be the case. But come on dude, this isn't a gender thing. There are gender related problems in cycling, but we need to view them in context. There are problems with how cycling is sold to men and women. But we need to keep our heads screwed on when looking at statistics.

Robin old chap, this is a specious argument. You're taking tiny differences in numbers that don't clearly show what you want them to show and making yourself look daft. Don't do this, please. Don't.

Monday 26 September 2016

THINK! Safety campaign. Moment of Genius?

Yes, its shit.

But as well as being shit, for reasons more than adequately explained elsewhere, is it, very quietly, a work of complete genius?

Obviously there must be no ambiguity in a simple safety message - if we're riding or driving along and an overtaking vehicle swerves in to us, or if we're at a junction and another road user pulls up on our right to turn left through the space we're in, then the other guy is in the wrong. Its that simple. 

But out there on the road, out in the wild, where life is complicated and full of consequences? Yes, its still that simple. The other guy is in the wrong. Don't be bloody stupid.

If, however, we bimble up the inside of a massive vehicle that's turning, and he pulls through the space we're in, we're in the wrong - I'd argue that such an error is not one that should be worthy of a death sentence, and that engineering and design consideration needs to be given to reducing the harm from such incidents, but I don't think that detracts the idea that such is a bad idea.

And that's where this video sits - the intention, the wordy approach, would be to tell us not to ride up the inside of massive vehicles, whereas the video shows a scenario in which, if we're generous, the events leading up to the incident are ambiguous. It looks like the truck comes past the cyclist and turns left through him. The video is entirely at odds with the message, and comes across as horrific victim blame. I get all that.

But maybe that IS the message. In the real world the cyclist will be blamed whether its his fault or not - there's often no other witness in incidents where the cyclist gets killed, and if the only eye witness is the driver the chance of a prosecution is slim. Were you riding along, minding your own business when a toe-rag turned through you and killed you? Haha, we're the Department for Transport, and we stand with the motor lobby in blaming YOU!

Is this video, unintentionally or via a moment of sublime genius, set up as a way of communicating just how hostile we are towards cycling in the UK? Is this actually telling us - 'you do nothing wrong and we'll still bend facts to blame you'? Is the Department for Transport funded Think! campaign actually aspiring to a work of tremendous and subtle art, turning the very act of trolling into a cunning tool for bringing transport inequalities to the public eye? The Man will read ambiguity into your death to find a reason to let the other guy off, so look the fuck out. We're coming for you.

Superbly trolled. Wonderfully executed. Masterfully unpleasant.

Naah, forget it, I'm obviously talking shite. These folk aren't that clever, its just crap.

Friday 23 September 2016

New Crap Cycling on Arbury Road

So far... Well, I want to say so far so good, but it isn't.

Its better than it was, but I can't help thinking that this misses the point.

The plan for Arbury Road cycle provision was always so incomplete as to make the scheme almost valueless. Seriously, if you're not going to make whole journeys safe then don't bother, I'll hold out for the whole of Arbury Road being done thanks. This short section isn't a staging post towards that - its a staging post towards us being directed off down a side road that might be taking us nowhere near where we actually want to go unless we're making very specific journeys to very specific places. A way for councillors to pretend to give a shit about cyclists without pissing off people who want to continue storing their cars, for free, on the road.

But despite this piss poor plan to fail from the outset, its still worth asking - is this first section in itself good enough?

No. It isn't, Not by a long way.

There are three potentially dangerous sections. 

Firstly, if you're heading North towards Kings Hedges Road, you're boned. I mean, literally, you've got to cross multiple lanes of hostile traffic - and they don't hold about there when the lights change, if you're trying to get kids home from the school to Orchard Park you might as well just walk. You hear the car horn sound as I'm trying to get away from the lights? Do you fancy that while riding with your children? No. Of course you don't. There's also no way on to the shared use facility off to the left from there - so if you're heading either way down Kings Hedges Road or straight over on to Orchard Park it doesn't matter, you're abandoned. Complete, absolute, fail. Just don't even bother.

Secondly, you'll notice after I've turned round and come back on to the new section, there's a sort of angled bit, you're not on a ramp taking you down to road level, its also angling to the right - its oddly surfaced. Its relatively smooth but will, when its frosty, be terrifying. Right where the new tarmac starts we will (not might, WILL) see people slide off into the road when we get hard frosts or snow. And its so completely needless. Just make it slope down properly, it isn't that hard. 

Third, you can see at the end of the South bound section where I'm heading back to the mini-roundabout, a car driver can more easily cut through the cycle lane than actually use the roundabout as its intended. You can see from the video that I'm wise to whats happening and can moderate my speed - how do you fancy riding home from school with your kids at a spot like that? How many times do you think a parent will put up with that before giving up? 

Bluntly there has been little imagination shown here, its good along much of the length of it but at either end it fails catastrophically - and with only the slightest change in thinking this could have been very good. At the South end the mini-roundabout needs to be gone and the transition from cycle lane to road sorting out. As it stands now motorists will do as the guy in the video did - drive straight through the bike lane. Not good enough, it needs re-assessing. Urgently. And at the North end we need an advance light for cyclists leaving the scheme, and simple priority on to cycle facilities on Kings Hedges Road and to Orchard Park - the route needs to be safe for whole journeys, not just as far as the first junction.

Disappointing. It should be great. Its not. I'm left sort of hoping they just give up on the rest of the scheme rather than more of this crap.

Tuesday 20 September 2016

Obligatory Helmet Opinion Piece

There will be another more reasoned and less sweary post about bike helmets at a later time. In the mean time if you're offended by things like swear words then this post is not for you...

Of late I seem to be addressing several of the cycling issues that just will not die, like whether or not sport cycling influences mainstream riding behaviour, bike licenses, etc. And now it appears to be time to jump feet first into the one that pisses many cyclists off the most.

Fucking helmets and people who don't much cycle trying to force their fucking arguments on us. Don't expect this to be yet another well researched, reasoned, thoughtful and referenced demonstration of the bleeding obvious fact that bike helmets reduce the uptake of cycling while not particularly reducing injury rates, about risk compensation and brain stem injuries and all that bollocks. You want that? Just fucking google it, the internet is already full of articles that make that point, don't ask me to flog that dead horse for you. I'm not into that, go and satisfy your fetish elsewhere you kinky bastard. 

I don't care if you ride wearing a helmet. Or not. I don't. Seriously, its not my business so stop expecting me to have an opinion about it. Its an almost perfect example of your actions affecting you and not me or anyone else for that matter. If you feel the need to denigrate others for wearing a helmet or not, or otherwise doing shit that doesn't affect you, at all, you've got problems. Deal with them, don't bring them to me.

So, yes, I accept the argument that at an epidemiological level bike helmets offer little, and that at a personal level whether or not to wear one depends on a number of factors. And I accept that as such its really just a personal choice. If you want to wear a bike helmet, great. If you don't, fine. Its a handy platform for a helmet camera, and that alone is reason enough for me to wear one sometimes. I also wear one if I'm going properly off-road or in icy conditions where the most likely fall is a slow one of my own engineering.

But here's where the controversy really comes in to it - compulsion vs. opposing compulsion. No one, but no one argues its never ok to wear a helmet. I want to make that absolutely clear - this is a discussion that is often portrayed as pro-helmet vs. anti-helmet, but that is not true at all. No one is telling you that you must never wear a helmet. The entirety of the argument 'against' helmets is simply one in favour of choice to wear a helmet or not. There is no 'anti-helmet' movement. It does not exist - there is merely the desire not to be compelled to wear personal protective equipment of marginal worth and an understanding of the net negative impact of such across a wider society.

Conversely there's an active, insidious and genuinely demented pro-helmet lobby - and they frequently portray those who don't agree with them as anti-helmet. I'd like to say they're naive but really that seems needlessly generous to those responsible for what I believe to be a cynical and dishonest portrayal of the points put to them. For the most part their narrative is better served by pretending that those who disagree with them want to deprive you of your right to be safe and your right to wrap your child up safe. Its a lie. It is not erroneous, its a flat out lie. They know better, they're frequently told better, and they still come out with this lie.

When you're discussing an issue with people who will portray your opposition to compulsion as a desire to ban their personal preference, and such is the argument you'll invariably encounter, you're not in the kind of mutual respect territory conducive to reasonable discourse. Helmet bigots are not rational or reasonable and their argument is not based on an intelligent analysis of the available data - its an emotive, angry position based purely on anecdote reliant victim blame and othering of injured cyclists - one can easily blame those one sees as 'other' for anything bad that happens to them, whether it their fault or not. 

Don't keep tediously banging on about choice with these people - be honest with them that you know what they're doing. Don't keep demanding that they accept the published data, they won't. Published data doesn't trump dogma. Use your imagination for a nanosecond and you'll think of dozens of examples (religions, climate change denial, UKIP, Beliebers, Sunderland fans, etc.)

Roll around with pigs, get covered in shit. Its that simple. Tell them, tell them again, then tell them what they are. And thats it. 

Thursday 8 September 2016

Car Overturned on Road. Cyclists to Remain Frightened.

The tone is dreadful of course, designed to attribute no agency to anyone involved. No, Raymond, the car did not flip. The driver somehow managed to overturn the car in a 20mph section of straight road with good visibility in dry, warm conditions. I'm fairly sure that the car did not flip itself over like an amorous terrapin sliding off a chip shop pie.

But this is only half of the story. The top end of Arbury Road, a section close to Kings Hedges Road, is currently closed to put in bike lanes and make some other improvements, as the first part of a disappointing upgrade. This upgrade, it transpires, stops some distance before this incident. We're due to get the other end of Arbury Road improved, somewhat, but there are no plans to make cycling to the Milton Road junction more appealing. If you're trying to get to the Behhive Centre to work or shop, tough, you'll be left on a long, straight, allegedly 20mph race track where somehow or other cars magically invert themseves, parked cars block lines of sight, and close, aggressive overtakes are the norm. Do you live off that end of Arbury Road and want to cycle to school? Tough titties, cyclist scum, we don't care about your welfare.

In all of Cambridge there is not a better example of the scorn our local authorities show to cyclists than this abysmal plan to make half of a major throughfare safe for cycling - this supposed improvement that does nothing to make whole journeys safer can not and will not encourage more people to ride in to Cambridge. 

A bike trip is only as appealing as its most terrifying part - and you plan not to improve this section where motorists flip their cars over. Why, dear road planners, do you even bother with this nonsense?

Tuesday 6 September 2016

Cyclists vs. Runners

This is another of those 'belt it out before work' type posts.

I spotted a tweet thats been picked up by bigger feeds like ukrunchat, and its worth a ponder:

The answer is simple enough really. Lots of cycle facilities are rather mediocre 'shared use' pavement routes. Sometimes they're better signposted from the road than they are from the pavement, so if you primarily use the pavement at one of these locations you may not even have seen such signs. Its also very often the case that this provision suddenly ends with no notice - so you're riding perfectly legally down a shared use path, then you're suddenly riding illegally, but with no way of knowing this.

But cyclists do break the law and go on the pavement to avoid frankly terrifying road conditions - and this is acknowledged in guidance originally issued alongside the capacity to issue fixed penalty notices. To paraphrase - chill out, the cyclist is just trying not to get killed.

But lets take a step back and, for a moment, just compare the risks brought by each. Remember, we can determine the kinetic energy of an object simply enough, half mass times velocity squared, and a cyclist at 15mph has about 2000 J. 

A runner, going shall we say 8mph and unencumbered by the mass of a bicycle so, shall we say 80kg, thats a little over 500 J. Yes, the cyclist can bring more bang in a collision, by about four times - not by the orders of magnitude difference we see between a cyclist or pedestrian and a car. Lets also say, though, that a cyclist on the pavement is going more slowly than a cyclist on the road would be, a fair assumption considering how bumpy and congested with street furniture our pavements have become. At that speed we're only looking at about 1250 J - two and a half times more energy - we're down to the kind of differences where the specific type of collision becomes very important in determining what the real risks are.

We really should reflect that while understanding the numbers still show its better for cyclists and runners not to mix on pavements, that there are very few injuries thus caused is a fair reflection of the fact that the actual risk of this is low. Do you want cyclists off the pavement so you can run there without worrying about it? Great, I'd like that too - what you need to do is pester your local authorities and central government to build segregated infrastructure that facilitates this.

Thursday 1 September 2016

Letter from Olympians - pretty close to spot on!

Just a couple of quick thoughts before I dash out to work.

This is in the news. Open letter from British Cycling, being widely promoted by Chris Boardman, about Olympic cyclists calling for an increased spend in transport cycling (to a still modest 5% of transport spend).

So its from British cycling and its notable that there aren't many names from the velodrome cycling team not there. Some no don't want to get into anything political, some have done so and got stung by saying stupid things before, maybe a couple of them don't agree. But I think it more likely from assorted tweets and instagrams that some are also just way too busy doing media and indeed just partying after another successful Olympics.

The only thing I'll add is that you can't just throw cash at transport cycling - it can go wrong. You've got to have oversight that leads to sufficient quality infrastructure that actually makes a change and, all too often, cycle funds sit there in local authorities bank accounts until they can leverage them to fix junctions for motorists. UK councils leverage cycle infastructure funds for generic road building/fixing projects, they don't leverage generic road funds for cycling.

So if this is to be anything other than cosmetic, it has to have just a little bit more detail - the funds have to be protected and targeted towards high quality infrastructure.

Otherwise, I have to say, this is tremendous news. Good stuff, British Cycling!

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Dear Grafton Centre and Vue Cinema - why do you hate us?

I promised you a local blog article for local people. So here it is. 

Please bear with me while I get through the ranty bit. I promise you I'm ending this with a constructive proposal to make things better for cyclists in Cambridge. 

We (my better half and I) went to the pictures last week to see Suicide Squad after work. The Vue cinema up at the Grafton is maybe a little more convenient for us than the other place down on the leisure park, so we went there. There's no dedicated cycle locking provided by the Grafton centre, which is a downer in a city like Cambridge. None. There are some rather out of the way bike locks at the East Road entrance in the bus station, but that's an urban motorway, vaguely rideable during the day when the traffic isn't moving but not at cinema kicking out time among speeding night time taxi drivers. So we locked up by the main entrance - Fitzwilliam Street, where there is safe, well lit bike parking.

After the movie we were stopped by a security guard while en route back to our bikes, instead being directed via a side door to a dingy, dark, intimidating narrow alleyway that stinks of urine. The kind of place Batman's parents go to die. You wouldn't go there alone at night, you would rather not go there even in a group. 

Needless to say we did protest. But the security guard would have none of it.

Whats that you ask? You want to know what the car parking is like? Massive, pervasive, convenient, opening straight on to the cinema concourse. Step out from the pictures, step straight in to the car park.

I mentioned this to various people who ride bikes here, they gave me a simple enough answer for how they handle the whole 'going to the pictures at night' thing - they go to the other cinema.

I contacted the Grafton, got the standard 'its our policy to...' spiel. Then I contacted the cinema chain and got the 'its them, not us...' nonsense. Yes, I understand, you want to keep homeless people out because, oh, I don't know, reasons. Yes, I get that you need security. But at the expense of customer safety to the point where a cyclist (we're half your potential customers here) will go elsewhere? That's just stupid.

Look, guys, you're in the middle of a big redevelopment at the Grafton. Why aren't you making positive noises about cycle parking? We make shopping trips and we're good spenders. Don't insult is by actively looking the doors on the only good bike parking that you don't even provide. Want our custom? Great, lets talk.

You, me, the guys from Cambridge Cycling Campaign, maybe the cycle officers from City and County councils, let's sit down and talk about how to deliver better cycling access. I'll bring cake. Let's do this. Are you game? Will you meet with cyclists or do you not even want our custom?

Friday 19 August 2016

Team GB on the Velodrome - how good are they?

This isn't normally a blog about sport cycling. Don't worry, my next post will be a good old fashioned rant about local cycling issues for local people. But I do occasionally touch on the subject. I'm a bit of a nerd for track cycling, I have been since Channel 4 started showing it on television back in the '80s. And in this post I'll look at Team GB track cycling at the Rio, London and Beijing Olympics. And, by comparison, ask how good has the Team GB performance been this time round?

Track cycling has had a long history at the Olympic games, with medals awarded at Olympic games since 1896. And like many sports we've seen much chopping and changing of events, with the program continuing to evolve until today. And while Britain has long had a reputation for producing strong pursuit riding, the age of Britain really dominating on the velodrome started in 2008. While we saw some success with the dawn of the Queally/Hoy/Wiggins era in 2000 and 2004, the seeds of this success were sown in the early '90s rivalry between Obree and Boardman (with Boardmans medals in '92 and '96 coming just at the right time to secure vital lottery funding), it was at the Beijing Olympics that Britain started to dominate.

So how have we progressed from 2008 until now? While there has been some change in the events over the three games, we can make some comparisons.

Pursuits (Team and Individual)

Beijing saw GB individual and team pursuit wins for men, and an individual pursuit win in the women's competition, while in London there were only team events for both (4k for men with 4 members to each team, but 3k and 3 members for women in London). GB dominance over these years has been absolute, but its getting harder, and winning margins are narrower. In the Beijing final the British mens team very nearly caught the Danes in the final, in London they comfortably beat Australia, whereas in Rio we witnessed a nail-biter with the Brits and Aussies slugging it out right until the end. Likewise, in the womens event the win in London was more comfortable than the absolute corker of a final we've just seen in Rio. Add that to individual gold medals for Wiggins and Romero in the individual events in Beijing, with silver for Houvenaghel in the womens and bronze for Burke in the mens, and you've got a scene of total (but increasingly contested) British domination at the Olympics. 

Sprints (Team)

The team sprints for men and women are real 'blink and you'll miss it' affairs, and are usually decided by fractions of a second. This wasn't an Olympic event for women back in '08 which is a real pity, especially we consider just how dominant Pendleton and Reade were at the time. In 2012 the women's team sprint was the biggest disappointment for Team GB on the velodrome, with their (I still believe overly-picky) disqualification leading to this being one of the three events they didn't win.. Pendleton and Varnish were a strong pair, but it wasn't to be on the day. Since 2012 there has been a lot of much publicised chopping and changing in this lineup, and GB didn't qualify to compete in this event - the only velodrome event we've not had a competitor in at any of these three games.

In the mens we've saw a colossal half second advantage for GB over France in the final in Beijing. In the rematch in London four years later they'd cut the advantage. In Rio it was the Kiwis in the final, and they were shaded out by a tenth of a second. A brilliant, but hard won win which required beating the Olympic record!

There's work to do in women's team sprinting, but Britain have the talent. But for both men and women the world has moved on over these 8 years, and winning margins are ever tighter. Brilliant for the chaps to have won again, breaking the Olympic record, but on current trends that's going to get harder and harder.

Sprints (Match Pair)

Dominance of the men's sprint has been absolute. Hoy gold, Kenny silver in Beijing. Kenny won Gold in London where only a single competitor was allowed per country, and Kenny and Skinner won gold and silver in Rio. Its not really an event best judged by times, that only being necessary for qualification, but by finishing fastest and second fastest in the qualifying part of the contest our cyclists have been able avoid each other until the final. Bluntly, at the Olympics our men have been peerless in this event.

In the women's event, the 2008 and 2012 Olympic cycle was best defined by the Meares-Pendleton rivalry. The Aussie and the Brit pushed each other on to great things, making their meeting at the edge of the track in Rio really touching. And they shared the honours - Pendleton won in Beijing, Meares in London. However in Rio team GB really kicked on, losing the gold medal to Vogel from Germany but capping off a difficult Olympic cycle for women's springing in Britain with silver for Becky James and bronze for Katy Marchant. Women's sprinting is now an event where we've got real strength in depth - the future looks bright. 


This was first held for women in London, and being a sprinters event its fate has more or less followed that of the sprinters - Victoria Pendleton won in London, Becky James exceeded expectations by winning a silver in Rio. 

In the mens event Britain has been almost as dominant as in the men's sprint - Hoy won convincingly in Rio and more narrowly in London, whereas Jason Kenny dominated the event in Rio. One would have to be very picky to point out that the last time we were allowed multiple entrants in Beijing, Ross Edgar also win silver. Callum Skinner also competed in Rio, failing to reach the final but performing well - a tactical error in the heats repercharge sent him out for a rules violation. Skinner is one to keep your eye on - if he can stay fit he could turn out to be a very special athlete indeed.


Not everyone is a big fan of the Omnium, it being a new addition to the Olympic program seemingly designed to keep a bit more variety on the track while some classic events were lost to get gender parity in events, and to make room for BMX medals to be awarded. I'm a fan of it - its a shame to have lost some of the other events but cycling just hasn't been given any more medals to play with, and the omnium adds some variety to the program.

Its really an event for an endurance athlete with an impressive turn of speed, and in the women's omnium Laura Trott has been the star. Sarah Hammer, the American also known for pursuit riding, has pushed her, but it seems Trott has managed to step up for London and Rio and somehow made the Omnium look easy.

In the Men's event we've had the greatest British multi-medallist the man in the street has never heard of and a road legend - the now three time Olympic gold medallist Ed Clancy competed in London and took bronze, whereas Mark Cavendish (a.k.a. the 'Manx Missile', the most decorated sprinter in the history of the Tour de France) was entered in Rio and won silver. It would seem to be an event either of those gentlemen would be ideally suited to, and while by Team GB cycling standards a silver or bronze medal might seem disappointing, these are still fine results in complex, highly competitive events.

Other Events

Two track events haven't been repeated since Beijing, the points race and the Madison (the former being 25k for women and 40km for men, the latter being a 50km insane tag team event only held for men - a disparity that I believe still exists at world championship level).

In the men's point race in Beijing we got our last Olympic look at Chris Newton, who picked up his third olympic medal (a bronze), whereas in the women's Rebecca Remero finished some way down, this distance event with sprints every few laps perhaps not being one she was as well suited to as the pursuit (in which she won gold). 

GB went in to the Madison with high hopes - the tremendous acceleration of Cavendish and the stamina of Wiggins had brought them gold in the world championship in Manchester, with the pair gaining a lap on the field in a stunning solo effort, but having ridden multiple world record rides in individual and team pursuit this was maybe asking too much of Wiggins in the much tighter Olympic schedule. They were also marked men - no one would work with them to help gain a lap on the rest of the field at the end of such a dominant GB track performance in preceding events. They finished 9th.

Total Medal Hauls - How good has Rio been compared to London and Beijing?

Britain dominated all 3 games, in Beijing winning 7 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze, London 7 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze and Rio 6 gold, 4 silver, 1 bronze. Now of course we can't directly compare the numbers because there was only 1 entrant per country in London, but the achievements across all games were similar. In Beijing there were 2 occasions where British competitors failed to win medals, in London 1 and in Rio 1. Measured by this rate of success, its a near faultless record.

The times posted by British riders also continue to improve - with Olympic and World records falling across all 3 games. But the winning margins are getting tighter and tighter - this is more apparent in the 'against the clock' events like team sprint and pursuits. It would appear that the famous 'marginal gains' are getting ever more marginal as the rest of the world catches up.

All in all, the record of team GB on the velodrome has been consistently excellent - the only snag going forward is that the rest of the world edges closer all the time. But there's much to be optimistic about here - experienced multi-medallists like Trott, Rowsell Shand, Burke, Hindes and Kenny are all in their twenties and could be stronger still in Tokyo, and don't be at all surprised if Clancy (31) remains a power-house in the mens team pursuit past Tokyo. And then riders like Doull (who's off to team Sky), Skinner, James, Marchant, Horne, Barker and Archibald are comparative youngsters. 

It'll get harder and harder for GB to maintain this level of dominance on the track - but with the available talent? They've as good a chance as possible. The future, like the recent past, looks bright.