Monthly Archives: January 2011

Getting ready to tour with a Bullitt cargobike

Tomorrow morning I am off on the nearest thing to a tour that I have done so far on my Bullitt cargobike. It is only 15 miles or so to Launde Abbey but I am staying there until Thursday.

As Cycling Plus arrived today with a supplement about touring including guides about what bike to use and how to get ready I thought I would write a post about getting your Bullitt cargobike ready for a tour. It is quite simple, there are only 3 steps.

1. Pack what you are taking into bags.

For some things this is obvious. My laptop is already in a bag so I’ll take that. For my clothes I might use a small suitcase so that they stay nicely folded or otherwise a normal soft bag. Anyway whatever you choose make sure that it is easy to carry to your bike and then into where you are staying at the other end.

2. Pack the bags into the Bullitt.

Very easy. Drop the bags into your front box and put the cover on. Job done.

3. Get on the Bullitt and ride off.

Oh and enjoy your tour.


#ride:10miles of healthy therapy

Life is tough and sad at the moment. I have tried different ways of coping in the past. They have not been generally successful. I guess my two most common responses are to eat and sleep (at least hide in bed). I have used those many times and it has been a key factor in accumulating the weight I am now fighting to lose.

Now I am trying to ingrain a different response. So tonight after everyone else had gone to bed I went for a very gentle 10 mile bike ride. I circled Watermead Park (enjoying again the improved access at Birstall) and so have seen about 10x more rabbits than cars.

Sometimes a hard ride feels a good way to help with depression & sadness. Today it felt better to be very gentle, it gave time and space to think, to remember, to swear, to cry, to pray.

Tomorrow is going to be difficult but I am so much better prepared for it than I would have been using any of my previous responses.

Next time you are down and struggling consider pedal therapy, it seems to be working for me, maybe it might work for you.


Common Concerns

At yesterday’s startup meeting of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain there was a common thread to many (not all) of the people wanting high quality separated cycling infrastructure.

They were parents, keen cyclists themselves but now with children feeling that it was no longer possible to imagine their children starting to ride on the road as they did when they were young.

I am empathise with this. Being an older parent we have 3 sons (for the moment we are in a one year period when they are all teenagers) who all enjoy riding bikes on holiday and yet who rarely ride at home and almost never alone.

I confess I do little to encourage them to ride around, we are fortunate here that they can get into Leicester easily by train and to school/college by walking or train plus walking. Syston is compact enough to walk around which helps a lot.

Most weeks beyond transporting a wheelchair bound mother-in-law our car is used only for transporting sons.

The kids you see riding bikes sadly almost never have working lights and are almost always bouncing on and off the pavement. I watch them with my heart in my mouth wondering if they will survive very long. Not long ago one jumped off the pavement right in front of my cargobike, he hadn’t looked at all. In a car doing 30mph I would have struggled to miss him.

We are told that by far the greatest external cause of death for children is motor transport (nearly half of all dead children are killed as passengers, as pedestrians or as cyclists). The children in wealthier families are locked up in homes to keep them safe and the children in poorer families die on the roads.

In the 1970’s the Netherlands responded to the number of children dying on the roads in what was seen as a national crisis. I wonder if the UK is at last ready to challenge the greatest threat to our children – the car.




Traffic up

Pleased to see that traffic to 42bikes is up considerably. In fact January has had twice as many page views as any other month. In fact January 2011 has more than 1/3 of all the page views ever.

I doubt my writing has suddenly improved so I choose to believe the growth comes from posting something every day 🙂

Thanks to both my visitors for hitting the refresh button so often 😉


A view of Leicester Critical Mass

I rushed into Leicester for my first Critical Mass this evening. I was a little late having had a funeral this afternoon but caught the mass close to the Curve.

I was told afterwards that there were exactly 100 riders, they were very friendly and the reactions from pedestrians were positive. I didn’t hear or see any problematic exchanges with drivers.

It was the nicest ride yet up the A6, felt very safe to be among such a large group of riders.

The route was just over 4 miles and we ended up at the Criterion Pub for drinks and pizza. Met some nice people.

Afterwards thinking about it I do believe it is a good thing as an opportunity for socialising and perhaps for making cycling more visible to drivers.

On the other hand I am not optimistic for the chances of it changing much in Leicester. I am more and more convinced that to get people cycling we need a high quality separated infrastructure. So far as I know there is no developed country with high levels of cycling without a dedicated cycle infrastructure and this is for good reasons. However, when it is considered prohibitively expensive to alter a junction that has no safe crossing for pedestrians we have a long way to go.


Cyclists and Pedestrians failed by Leicester City Council

Back in November I wrote Bad road junctions #1 Leicester A607/A563 and said that I had emailed the appropriate people in Leicester City Council.

I have now had a reply (apparently it was first sent on 5th January to the wrong email address). It includes this:

Thank you for enquiring about pedestrian and cycle facilities at this junction, which we received on 18th of November 2010.

You are correct in saying that this junction is poor for pedestrians and cyclists to cross. We have looked at addressing this but have found it to be prohibitively expensive to construct safe crossing facilities at the junction and we currently have no scheme in progress this financial year. As a cyclist I fully understand your concerns about using this junctions, especially when we have reasonable cycle facilities on sections of Melton Road and adjacent routes. I have copied this email to Andy Salkeld, our cycling co-ordinator, so that he can advise you alternative routes if that is helpful.

That is from

John Dowson. Team Leader Sustainable Transport. Transport Strategy. Highways and Transportation

To be honest I am quite stunned by this response. In my reply I pointed out that to achieve a safe crossing for pedestrians we need:

  • The installation of green/red pedestrian indicators on existing traffic signal posts.
  • The reprogramming of the traffic light sequence to provide a pedestrian pause on the parts of the junction where there isn’t one (I think that means the four exits from the junction).

Let us be clear. A few signal display boxes, a bit of re-wiring and reprogramming does not meet anyone’s definition of “prohibitively expensive”. A small team should be able to complete the work in a couple of nights work.

I wonder how the cost of this work compares to the 18 planned weeks of work that we are still enduring on the northern end of the B667 in Thurmaston. These have blocked the pavement for that whole time and the result will be a wider road for cars to feel more comfortable when they break the speed limit and so be less safe for cyclists (oh and add a junction into a new industrial area that looks like a race track designed for cars travelling at 60mph).

I do not accept that the installation cost of safe crossings for pedestrians is “prohibitively expensive”. I suspect that instead what is really meant is:

We have looked at addressing this but have found it to be prohibitively expensive to construct safe crossing facilities that do not delay motorised traffic at all at the junction

It seems that providing safe crossings for pedestrians and cyclists is unimportant compared to slowing cars at all. As we hear these priorities let us remember that the number one cause of deaths of Children in the UK is road transport.

Note that if the work is done to provide safe crossings for pedestrians then making it safe for cyclists simply requires less than 400metres of existing pavement to be re-designated as shared use, given the typically appalling levels of sign-age for cycling facilities in Leicester we could expect two double sided shared use signs per section of pavement. So 8 double sided signs to be installed on existing posts. That can hardly be described as prohibitively expensive either (it might take one person half a day, with no road closures needed).

I have responded to the email with this cheap interim suggestion. However I want to recognise that Leicester describes itself as a Cycle City with a stated aim “Leicester City Council’s aim is to get more people cycling, safely and more often”. So I have also suggested that it should be obvious to everyone that this cheap interim solution can hardly be considered ideal and that it will do little to encourage more cyclists (at this point see this post from today: What won’t bring about mass cycling (5) vehicular cycle campaigning). My longer term suggestion that I included is quite simple and I accept it would be a little more expensive:

Obviously as Leicester is a “Cycle City” I would expect a much higher quality cycle provision such as I have used in the Netherlands and in Copenhagen. That would include:-

  • a 2.5m wide separated cycle lane on each side of the Melton Road from East Goscote to Leicester City Centre
  • the entire cycle route to be raised above the road level giving clear priority over all motorised traffic at every driveway and side road along the whole route
  • proper maintenance of a smooth cycle surface including priority gritting and snow sweeping when required.
  • prioritised traffic light flow for cycles along the whole route as that when a cyclist gets one green light they will not see a red light all the way along the route

I concluded with:

I am sure that as cyclists you would agree that without routes of that quality it is a nonsense to call Leicester a Cycle City and without such an infrastructure Leicester will not achieve a significant increase in modal share for cycling (and I do not see how any interim target less than say 20% of all journeys could be considered significant). I am sure you are aware that no city in the western world has achieved significant model share for cycling without a significant investment in separated cycle infrastructure.

I look forward to hearing from you as to
a) Why relatively minor changes at the Melton Road/Troon Way junction to make it much safer will be prohibitively expensive
b) What is being done to provide a cycle infrastructure for Leicester that justifies the title “Cycle City”

I’ll let you know when I hear something.


Improved Cycling facilities: Birstall entrance to Watermead Park

Fantastic. A new entrance has been installed between Birstall and Watermewad Park (the entrance off Whites Lane).

It is now passable by bike and even by my Bullitt cargobike. Not easily passable as the gap narrows to less than the width of my handlebars so it takes a bit of manhandling to get through. Still that is a lot better than what we had before. I wonder if the designers of these barriers have actually seen many bikes? Do they test these barriers with many bikes (Jane’s very ordinary town bike also has handlebars wider than the gap). What about families with children on childseats, in trailers, on tag-a-long bikes or tandems?

However, I am not going to complain as it makes a nice change as this is the first piece of infrastructure change in this area that I have seen since September that has not actively made things worse for cyclists.

So many thanks to whoever it is in Birstall, Charnwood or Leicestershire that got this sorted. I am pleased that I now have an alternative to cycling through Thurmaston when going from Syston to Birstall or Leicester City Centre.

Meanwhile to those who plan cycling facilities I would urge you to visit the Netherlands or read up on Dutch standards for cycle infrastructure and start working on providing us with facilities of that standard (see this paper on  making cycling irresistable in several countries) . With the prospect of fuel rationing within 10 years, continuing fuel price rises, the obesity problem and the senseless deaths of so many children you need to really get a move on in rapidly providing the sort of facility that will make people feel safe so they are willing to get out of their cars.

Car centric planning is killing our Children and destroying our hope of a good future.



Time to get ready?

It seems that within Parliament at least one group are trying to get ready for the future taking into account the reducing supply of fossil fuels.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas have released a report on TEQs – A Policy Framework for Peak Oil and Climate Change. In it the recommend an electronic energy and fuel rationing system. Hat tip: Parliamentary report: Fuel rationing may be necessary by 2020 « Make Wealth History.

Cynically, at first glance it looks far too fair as a system for our government to consider.

However, it does suggest that by 2020 there may need to be some rationing of fuel and energy. It seems to me that less than 10 years is not a very long time if, as individuals, we want to protect ourselves from the impact.

For example 10 years is not a very long time in housing terms. Some houses and places to live are heavily dependant on the current low cost of motoring (remembering the real cost of motoring has dropped over the last 10 years). If much higher prices become the norm and if rationing is introduced then there may be significant shifts in pricing.

Suddenly the “investment” in a faster, bigger, more comfortable car does not look so good. If fuel rationing is introduced the value of such cars will plummet, as wiser people look ahead so those price drops will start well before rationing actually gets introduced (as nobody wants to be stuck with an expensive, fuel guzzling car the day rationing is introduced). Maybe now would be a good time to reduce the risk by downsizing in numbers of cars as well as move to more economical ones.

If electricity costs were to include the full carbon footprint then maybe the losses in the national grid and the less than green production of many forms of power generation might put a sudden end to the desirability of an electric car.

When we are 10 years older we will find physical change more difficult. Losing weight,  getting fitter and less dependent on a car for transport will be easier now than in 10 years time. Maybe now is the time to start easing gently into cycling and walking for more of our journeys so that when it becomes a financial necessity we are prepared.


Getting confused in London #ride:8.64miles

This morning I 0cycled with Pete Philips from the President Hotel (somewhere in London, but I don’t really know where and I don’t recommend it so can’t be bothered to find where it is) to Methodist Church House on Boris Bikes.

This evening after Methodist Council and after an extra meeting of a few tweeters I cycled back from Methodist Church House to St Pancras Station on my Birdy folding bike. On the way I went wrong a few times partly through not recognising which way I had come from St Pancras on Monday (exacerbated by the large number of one way streets) and partly because there were a few signs showing a cycle route to St Pancras but they kept abandoning me.

I don’t ride in London very often but it does seem that there are more cyclists about (I was about 20 cyclists back at several traffic lights). There were a few idiots with no lights and a few who went through red lights (although none that I saw that inconvenienced any driver or came anywhere near a collision), however, the huge majority stopped at traffic lights and had good lights on their bikes.

Still a huge distance to go in terms of infrastructure, but there were a few useful bits (sadly some blocked by badly thought out roadworks).

Also the Boris Bike worked well and was a very effective and way of getting from the hotel. Saw lots of them in use.

Despite being relatively slow to fold and somewhat awkward to carry when folded my Birdy worked very well for 8.64 miles today 🙂 It got me from the entrance to Leicester Station to home in Syston in 25 minutes 13 seconds, 5.35 miles and a moving average of 12.74mph with a maximum of 21.28mph 🙂 Certainly a lot faster and more comfortable than a Boris Bike but the mudguards are not as good.


Multi-mode travel

This morning I had a very good journey to London for the 2 day Methodist Council meeting.

It was a 6.8 mile ride to Leicester Station on the Birdy (average speed 11.5mph). With an hourly train service from Syston and the time of my London train this made riding the Birdy quicker than catching the train. I took my time folding it and put inside it’s neat cover and it fitted fine in the luggage rack.

Given the impossibility of being sure that you can fit an ordinary bike on the train this was a good solution.

I also had plenty of time at St Pancras so after unfolding the bike I was able to ride it along the empty platform and then found a nice back street route to Methodist Church House rather than simply riding along Euston Road as I have done in the past. With one slight diversion due to an unexpected one way street it was only 2.7 miles (average 10.5mph).

Overnight I have left it securely at Methodist Church house as they had arranged transport to and from the hotel.

Tomorrow I can reverse the journey.

Would I do it everyday? H’mm, I think I would probably swap for a Brompton to get that quicker and smaller fold to make the train bit easier. On the other hand with it’s full suspension the Birdy copes really well with the rollercoaster sections of the Cycle path alongside the Melton Road and between the Abbey Pump Station and Abbey Park. It yet again confirmed for me that despite a really comfy rucsac that it is much better to have the load carried by the bike. Unless things have changed a lot with the new Birdy the Brompton has advantages in this area with big front bags and a rack that is part of the normal fold.

Better still though would be either lots more bookable space for normal bikes on the train or excellent secure storage at Leicester as I could have easily used a Boris bike at the London end (even if not quite with the door to door convenience).


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