Monthly Archives: November 2010 - Page 2

A legal anomaly

It seems the police in Cambridge want to demonstrate why the law needs to change: Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest: An anomaly.

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Reliable transport needed for winter

Carlton Reid gives a good example of the most reliable transport when the weather gets bad. Q: What is better than a 4×4 at climbing hills in snow and ice? See Quickrelease.tv » Spike to School Day.

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Leicester City try to stop cycling

I don’t think much in the way of comment is needed. The spelling is the only amusing part of this situation.

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This Google map shows the exact position of this wonderfl cycle facility is at:

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Am I for integration or segregation for bikes?

In recent weeks a battle has been raging between cyclists who believe in integration (otherwise known as vehicular cycling and supported by the CTC and LCC) and those who believe in segregation (modelled on the Dutch system of separated cycle facilities).

One of the strongest advocates of segregation in the UK blogs at Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest you can see his/her arguments at How an integrationist became a segregationist with examples all over the blog but see  “Cyclists should make themselves visible to other road users” and What’s wrong with the London Cycling Campaign? as typical demonstrations of the key points.

On the other side, or at least in the middle, the case for integration has been put well by Carlton Reid in Quickrelease.tv »My despicable stance on segregationism.

So where do I stand?

Depending on the weather or time of day or how much sleep I have had I either agree with both of them or neither. Huh?

For me in favour of segregation are the following:

  • Segregation is the only route to significant modal share. In countries with significant numbers of cars (ie ignore China 10 years ago) there are no examples of a significant share of all journeys by bike without a segregated infrastructure. Not one example anywhere. To hope for a significant share of all journeys by bike without segregated infrastructure is pie in the sky.
  • I believe that we need to massively increase the share of transport by walking and cycling for the following reasons
    • health
    • environmental
    • cost and availability of oil now that we are past peak oil (and restrictions already ahead following the BP deep drilling disaster this summer)
    • congestion reduction
    • Quality of life see World’s Most Liveable Cities 2010.
    • safety
  • Segregation is proven, there are plenty of working examples (just not in the UK). There is no reason why it can’t work here.

For me in favour of integration

  • If I wait until we have segregation then I will have lost the opportunity to live a healthier and statistically probably a longer life
  • If I wait until we have segregation then I will miss the enjoyment of cycling that I get now
  • If I wait until we have segregation then I will be much worse off. Cycling is much cheaper and more time efficient for me

So I am going to continue to say that we really need segregation if we as a society are going to enjoy them many benefits (social, economic, health, environmental) of living in a mass cycling culture. I am going to continue to point out the stupid and dangerous things that are around already and that I see being created as Leicester City/Leicestershire County still work to make cycling more dangerous.

BUT in all that I am going to continue to recognise the huge benefits of cycling now without that infrastructure to me, to my family, to my community and to the Church that employs me. Therefore I am going to continue to cycle and hopefully increase the amount I do further.

You might say that I want to try to model the benefits of cycling while I support efforts to make the benefits available to everyone as I recognise that the appalling conditions of our road system for cyclists understandably put many people off.

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Go to the Cinema and live longer!

Warning this only applies if you cycle to the Cinema. Cyclists on average live longer and healthier than non cyclists (lots on this if you google. One summary with references to a fully study is at Health Care Magazine: Health benefits of cycling).

So today we went to see the new Harry Potter movie (incidentally the best yet judging by the fact this is the first Harry Potter film where I have stayed awake the whole way through!) at the Odeon in Leicester. I cycled there as my last meeting of the day was well on the way.

After the film I cycled home and it was such a lovely quiet evening through Watermead park that I couldn’t resist the longer route (to Birstall and then via the King Lear Lake).

I am encouraged by some of the results of my cycling habit.

  • Weight loss continues, albeit very slowly. Still with the amount I eat it is a miracle it is going down at all 🙂
  • At the pre-assessment for having a wisdom tooth out I noticed my blood pressure is in the “optimal” range 🙂 I don’t know what it has been in the past.
  • I have noticed that I don’t end up out of breath when cycling up hills and the like. Being not particularly fit and somewhat overweight one of the things I didn’t like was how hard I would be panting after cycling hard up a hill. Now I cycle up faster, I can stand and peddle for much longer and I don’t end up out of breath in the same way.
  • I have just got some new jeans sized next waist size down and I still need a belt with them 🙂

Hopefully these all indicate a healthier way of being than I was.

What is more it is not just “healthier” but also better in many other ways. I am less stressed. I am more awake. I am able to give better attention to people and situations. I can enjoy meals without feeling guilty. I get rides like tonight’s beautiful silent ride through Watermead Park where I get to see foxes and rabbits. I get to see more of the place where I live and do so without disrupting other people with noise, congestion and fumes.

Going to the cinema and knowing that doing so contributes to living longer and happier is a good thing 🙂

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Variety of bikes needed

Today, I won’t be using my Bullitt cargobike.

While it would be very handy for the first four places I am going at the last I am concerned about security.

So today I’ll use panniers on my Pearson Touche fixie.

The reason is that at the end of the day I am going straight from my last meeting to join the rest of the family at the Odeon to watch the new Harry Potter film. They will have gone in the car (as the film finishes too late for the last train) and I can put my fixie into the car for security while at the film. as they are taking the car I can also bung in a change of clothes (as a clerical shirt is not my first choice for going to a film with the family).

Anyway off to the first visit now. Maybe photos later.

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Learn to swim before cycling in Leicester

Maybe it is a way of encouraging us to be healthy, but it seems that Leicester City seem to want to encourage all cyclists to learn to swim.

Otherwise why would they provide a cycling facility like this:

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That is under Watermead Way on national Cycle Route 6. Not looking forward to navigating those bollards when it is icy. Lucky I can swim.

Why would anyone think this is a good idea?

Why not simply install a barrier to stop people accidentally falling in (then cyclists would not need to be swimmers).

If they are worried about people rushing round the blind corner then why not just straighten the path a bit on each side of the bridge to provide a better view. Or they could have just narrowed the river at this point (it is narrower elsewhere). Instead we get these bollards that mean just where you should be focused on not hitting pedestrians , not riding into the river and avoiding oncoming cyclists you are instead focused on getting weaving through a narrow gap.

Duh!

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On School runs

So today I was riding back from the Leicester Royal Infirmary at about the time all the roads clog up with parents driving to school to collect their kids. Here is my experience of the traffic that causes:

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Horrible isn’t it. All those fumes and the frustration of not going anywhere. However, there are some things I am willing to put up with for the sake of others 🙂

This school run thing is strange. Are we bringing up the most unhealthy generation ever?

As one example, I was visiting someone recently. Both parents work from home. While I was with them their teenager phoned to say that it was raining and would they come and collect them from school. One parent had to stop work and drive to school.

However, they live less than a mile from that school. In addition there are short cuts for pedestrians. The school has a car park that is completely blocked up by cars at end of school as are the roads through the housing estate on the only way to that car park. The driving route is along the main road in Syston which is very busy with cars for the shops and school run with multiple pedestrian crossings to hold you up. I left before they got back and cycled home (did not notice any rain). Our son who walks from a school a similar distance away was already home when I got there. It wasn’t cold, if it rained it was brief and light. So instead of the teenager getting a little bit of healthy exercise the roads were snarled by another car, the route home was made more dangerous by another car and the whole process delayed them getting home.

Why do people do this? What a huge waste of time and money. It seems crazy spending time & money to do something that is slower, less healthy and far less social (surely nicer to walk a short way home and chat to your friends on the way).

In a town as small as Syston we should prohibit parking in and near the schools (and enforce it) except for residents. Those who come in from the villages around should have somewhere to drop off and collect but keep it some distance from the school to make it safer for those who can walk or cycle home. Keep the road and car park for school buses and transport for any disabled children. The whole town would benefit and so would the kids education (I have seen several studies showing that children who get exercise on the way to school are more alert and more able to learn).

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The problem with panniers

For years I have carried stuff around by bike in panniers. Now using my Bullitt cargobike I don’t have to.  What a huge difference this makes!!

I was using Ortleib back rollers and they are about as good as you can get. They fit well, are waterproof and last forever.

But the problem with all panniers is when you get off the bike at your destination, from then on all panniers are a right pain.

The shape is awkward to carry, slow to load and has sticky out bits to catch you and others. Plus of course it draws unnecessary attention to the fact you have cycled.

One of the joys of a cargobike is that you use your ordinary bags for your laptop and other stuff. So much quicker to load and faster + more convenient to carry around. Plus of course you don’t have to worry about adding extra stuff in any kind of bag or none while you are out.

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Connecting the day

I debated whether to title this post “Civilising the day”. Today is a good example for me of how cycling as transport makes better connections for the day. With three different places to be during the day it would have been possible to use the car but so much less efficient.

First stop a staff meeting, sadly still at the unholy time of 9am on Monday morning, I am still wondering how my Superintendent wrangled that one past me 🙂 This week in Birstall, so my turn to travel. As I gently pootled out of Syston, I thought this is not so bad, as I overtook about 15 cars in a queue for the Thurmaston roundabout. Slightly nicer, I thought, as I gently bounced along the Melton Road through Thurmaston village centre (lots of speed bumps and poor road surface). Even laughed to myself at the car that just had to overtake me just as they reached a set of speed cushions where they had to brake hard while still nearly breaking their suspension (not to mention the discomfort of moving your breakfast up and down that viciously – ugh!). Then very nice I thought during the lovely ride across the top of the southern part of Watermead Park, just enjoying it and not sparing a thought for the frustration in the cars queuing up to and through the junction with the Melton Road and Troon Way.

After the staff meeting my next appointment is at the Royal Infirmary for a pre med check up (I am having a wisdom tooth removed next month). The appointment letter reminds me to allow 30minutes to park my car. So instead I continue from Birstall, drop my bike at the Bike Park in Leicester and retire to Starbucks for some lunch (cheaper than the car park and diesel?) and to catchup on some paperwork (with a bit of time for blogging). From here I can make my way to the Royal Infirmary without any queuing or problems parking.

Then on my way home I can pop in to visit someone.

How would this have been by car?

Firstly, I would have to leave home at least 5 minutes earlier to get to the staff meeting (traffic and a much less direct route) and I would not have had the gentle wake up on the way.

Secondly, I would have had to choose between going home for a short while before the appointment at the Royal (which would have meant an extra 15 miles of driving) or coming into Leicester and paying for another car park.

Thirdly, I would lose all that time queuing to get into the Royal Infirmary car park (and paying for the privilege).

Visiting someone on the way home would be easy enough but given how close it is to home I would probably go home, leave the car there and walk. That is good for me but much slower than calling in by bike on the way home.

When your work, like mine, involves moving around between lots of places during the day all in a relatively small area (for me about 8 miles across) a bike is so much faster and more convenient than car that even ignoring the financial, health and environmental costs I don’t know why anyone would choose to drive.

Of course the fact that I can enjoy chocolate Yule log at Starbucks for lunch without guilt or worries about what the scale will say in the morning is just another added bonus 🙂

I am wondering how many miles this way of working is suitable for. Obviously the worse the congestion the more miles you can cycle and still be quicker than the car. Also as you get fitter the more miles you can cycle without affecting your work. For me I think I am up to about 20 or 25 miles per day on my Bullitt. This week I will have three days at around 20 miles and the others a bit shorter (say 5 to 15 miles). So I guess about 80 work miles in total. Clearly there has been some conditioning over the past 3 months as in the past 80 miles in a week would have sounded a lot, now it is just about connecting the day in gentle and civilised ways.

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