Monthly Archives: May 2011

Appropriate treatment of potential killers

So the story of a 34 year old man using one mobile phone for talking while texting on another while driving at 70mph is in the press (Telegraph & Daily Mail).

It seems the penalty (if found guilty by a court) might be 6 points on his license and a fine up to £1,000

It also appears that “His car, which was allegedly uninsured, has been seized.

The charge in the courts is apparently going to be “Driving without due care and attention”.

This does not seem an appropriate response to me. Any pedestrian or cyclist in the vicinity of this driver would have been in grave danger. Any pedestrian or cyclist hit by a car at 70mph will almost certainly die.

My feeling is that if you flout the law like this then the charges and punishments need to be far more radical in order to protect innocent people who are going about their normal lives in our communities.

In my view the charge in a situation like this should be more like “Attempted murder through dangerous driving”, if they had actually been part of a crash in which someone had died then the change should be “Murder through dangerous driving”. By that I mean pre-meditated murder, I don’t believe it can be considered “accidental” or manslaughter if you make a choice ahead of time to do something this dangerous.

I believe that drivers would be more likely to change their behaviour if they know that the charge that would be brought against them for dangerous driving (speeding, drunk driving, using a phone while driving, …) is “Attempted Murder through dangerous driving” if they have not killed anyone and “Murder through dangerous driving” if they have.

I also believe that we need to provide real protection for the public for the long haul. So if found guilty I would support:

  • Immediate confiscation of the car being driven in a dangerous way. This to include sale of the car for public funds.
  • Confiscation and sale of all other cars registered to the driver (at the time of the incident)
  • Lifetime ban on having any car registered in the name of the driver
  • Lifetime driving license ban
Protecting our children from people who drive in such a dangerous ways seems like an obvious response to me.

Fortunately we didn’t drive or walk

Jane has just had a gap in her work day for an hour and a half. So we decided to nip out for a coffee together despite the rain.

Sadly it turned out that all 5 places in Syston that do coffee (I don’t count Subway) were closed as it is a Bank Holiday.

Fortunately, we were on our bikes which meant we could find out that all the coffee shops are closed faster than by any other method. If you drive you have to negotiate several one way streets and a pedestrianised town square and as usual the traffic was queuing on the Melton Road.

As we were quick we didn’t get very wet and the coffee is now on at home 🙂


Funding bike facilities

In a comment on Leicester on a Saturday evening JPR said:

what do the authorities say, is there no way to privatise a project that will build and maintain such schemes… cos the council ain’t gonna do it are they

Funding anything is very difficult when the costs and benefits are not aligned. There are plenty of great benefits that come from implementing great cycle facilities but it seems to me that the departments responsible for the funding will not gain many of the benefits. This is exacerbated by timing issues. The cost benefits of cycling facilities will take time to appear while most of the costs are up-front.

Let’s imagine for a moment that Leicester (and Leicestershire) invested in a high quality cycle infrastructure.

A high quality infrastructure would include the following:

  • Segregated cycle facilities into the city from all directions. These would be wide (over 2 metres for single direction travel), they would have priority over all small side roads and driveways. They would be level across all junctions with clear markings and safe crossings of all junctions. For some this would be fully grade separated (see Multi-level roundabout – the safest solution for a junction).
  • The City Centre closed to private cars with cycle facilities separated from buses and taxi’s.
  • Safe routes to all schools including bans on parking within a 1/2 mile of all School Entrances
  • City wide 20 mph speed limit. Slower speed limits in residential streets and outside schools
  • Rat runs through residential streets closed off to motorised vehicles with short & direct routes provided for pedestrians and cyclists
The experience around the world is that when a high quality cycling infrastructure is created that feels safe from door to door then the take up is very significant. For a relatively compact city like Leicester 30% of all journeys to be by bike is a reasonable target.
Notice also that all these changes make the city a better place for everyone, not just for cyclists. We all benefit from reduced casualties on the roads, reduced pollution, reduced congestion etc
In hard financial terms a great cycling infrastructure will generate considerable savings:
  • Lives would be saved. There would be a significant reduction (as we have seen in the Netherlands) in the number of Children (and Adults) killed on the roads. There can be a debate about how much money should be spent to save lives. However, at present the road system is by far the largest external cause of child death in the UK.
  • Emergency services would cost less. If less people are severely injured on the roads then we will save money both in the initial emergency and also in the longer term care and rehabilitation of victims of crashes.
  • Health care savings will be made in three areas (reduced illness due to reduced pollution, reduced obesity will reduce the load on the NHS and the reduction in injuries in crashes)
  • Education. Many studies have shown that children who walk or cycle too school are more awake and do better.
  • Reduced congestion would generate savings for many businesses
  • Reduced oil dependency will see significant savings in the money going abroad to buy a dwindling resource
  • Employers will need to pay lower expenses to staff who cycle rather than drive for work
  • Employers will save money through needing to provide less expensive space for car parking.
In addition to savings, a quality cycle infrastructure will generate income:
  • A study in Melbourne demonstrated that if you allocate the same size space to cycle parking as for car parking in a retail area you generate significantly greater sales income
  • People who cycle save money which would be spent mostly on imports (cars and fuel) and they spend it in the local economy.
  • Cyclists and Pedestrians are more likely to spend money in the local area rather than drive somewhere else. This helps local businesses.
What we now need is politicians who can recognise all these positives and be willing to divert resources into creating a quality infrastructure. We also need people who can help us better align the costs and benefits so that better decisions can be made.







Upcoming goals

I have just been having a little look at my Daytum page. It looks like there are some nice round numbers coming up soon:

  • in 74 miles on my Bullitt Cargobike I will have ridden it 1,700 miles in 2011
  • in 76 miles I will have ridden a total of 2,500 miles in 2011
  • in 81 miles riding for work I will have ridden 1,500 miles for work in 2011
By the end of June I expect to have ridden every day so far during 2011 and I am just starting to wonder if 6,000 miles in total might be within reach for the whole year. I am running a daily average of 16.38 miles so far in the year but that would need to be 16.44 miles a day to reach 6,000.
All those numbers sound absolutely huge to me.  They are far, far beyond anything I have ever ridden before. Yet it is amazing how easy they have been to achieve. It all builds from two basic commitments that I have tried to turn into daily habits:
  • To ride my bike everyday
  • To not drive for work when it is in the local area
Now the miles just add up, mostly with very little effort. For example on Saturday I did 15.5 miles (1 mile for work to a coffee morning at Syston Methodist Church and 14.5 miles to Pizza Express). That was all in ordinary clothes and riding gently. Today will be 8 miles in the morning (round trip to Rothley), extended to about 15 miles by nipping into B&Q for some extra guttering bits for the bike store. Then in the evening just 1 mile for the evening service at Syston, although I might go for a fast evening ride as I haven’t been on one for a while.
I was just thinking about some of the consequences if I had driven instead of riding 2,500 miles in about 5 months:
  • Driving the 2,500 miles would have cost me around £1,000 (40p per mile which clearly many do not feel is enough to cover the real cost to me, otherwise they would not have campaigned for the expenses rate to be increased to 45p per mile)
  • If I had driven the 2,500 miles I would have gained weight from about 1.5 million calories that the cycling has used up (very approximate based on an assumption of 3 calories per mile per pound body weight)
  • If I had driven the 2,500 miles I would have caused around 660kg of CO2 to be released (based on 166 gpk).
  • The 1,500 miles I have ridden for work has saved the Methodist Church £300 (actually a lot more as the Bike is always free to park).
Lo0ks like riding a bike has been good for me and everyone else 🙂

Leicester on a Saturday evening

IMG_20110528_180651 by Dave 42 If the whole route into Leicester was like this bit (just passing Birstall) then maybe other families would also cycle into Leicester for a meal on a Saturday evening (especially when approaching a deadline for using up Tesco vouchers).

For us it is just over 7 miles from Syston to the Pizza Express in St Martin’s Square. Much of the route is off road.

However, none of the off-road elements are dedicated cycle routes, they are all shared with pedestrians and worse with pedestrians who have dogs with them that are not on leads.

Also the off-road elements are generally a poor surface, occasionally a very poor surface (such as south of the Space Centre which is still very bumpy despite some recent very minimal “maintenance” – which consisted of pouring some tarmac down some of the wheel swallowing canyons). There is also a lot of glass around on the off-road sections.

Unfortunately, the on road sections are much worse than the off-road.

On the way in there is:

  • The junction from Grafton Place to Abbey Street (crossing the Central Ring with a left then right). The traffic lights make this reasonably straightforward but both our sons feel unsafe doing this.
  • The junction from Abbey Street turning right into Belgrave Gate. The right turn is clearly marked as being for buses, cycles and taxi’s only but that is totally ignored despite being only 50m from a Police Station. Due to all the parked cars and aggressive driving getting into the lane to turn right is not easy and cars want to rush past you through the junction before they get to the roundabout.
  • The roundabout on Belgrave gate where we need to turn right at to continue up Haymarket. Buses and Taxis all feel they can and should push cyclists out of their way while car drivers who are trying to go where they know they are not allowed are very unpredicatable.
  • At the Clock Tower we join the pedestrianised area which is generally ok.

On the way out we take a slightly different route as Haymarket is one way. So we go along the pedestrianised Humberstone Gate and then turn left into Charles Street. The problems are:

  • Charles Street is very clogged with buses who ignore cyclists (however hard to try to make sure you are visible in their wing mirrors then seem to ignore you totally).
  • Charles Street also has a number of cars despite no cars being allowed. I guess that as the car drivers are already breaking the law it is no surprise that they often show very dangerous behaviour to cyclists.
  • From the end of Charles Street we turn right at the roundabout and then left into Abbey Street. As you go around the roundabout you can be sure a car or taxi will ignore you and pull out just in front of you while a bus tries to ram you from behind.
  • At the end of Abbey Street we go straight across the Central Ring into St John Street. As the traffic light phase is so short that car drivers get very impatient here and try to force their way past.

Of course at the Syston end we also have the horrors of the traffic calming on the Wanlip Road (all of which are bad for cyclists) and the aggressive behaviour typical of the Melton Road.

So we have a ride which is 7 miles long. 5 miles of which is safe and traffic free but the mile at each end does not feel at all safe.

With some basic work it could be made much more attractive for people to ride into Leicester from Syston, Thurmaston, & Birstall. Work such as:

  • enforcing the existing law eg
  • speed cameras are much better for cyclists than the style of traffic calming on Wanlip Road
  • traffic light cameras to catch cars turning right into Humberstone Gate
  • cameras to catch cars using Charles Street
  • connecting the national Cycle Route 6 into the centre of Leicester in a safe way
  • 20 mph speed limit in Syston and inside the Central Ring of Leicester
  • training bus drivers to be safe to cyclists
  • Of course if we were at all serious about attracting cyclists then in addition to sorting out the on road sections the whole route through Watermead Park and Abbey Park would be twice the width, a smooth surface and woith a very clear segregation between cyclists and pedestrians (different surface treatments and a kerb between).

    More of the route would also be lit at night and the bollards under Watermead Way and the barriers at Birstall, Bath Street and Thurcaston Road would all be removed.

    Finally the bizarre signs & route for cyclists at the Wanlip Road exit to Watermead Park should be improved (at the moment new signs have been added that contradict the white markings painted on the surface and cyclists are directed to use a narrow cycle entrance that is painted as a one way entrance as the exit as well).

    Sadly many people seem to believe that Leicester has a legitimate claim to be a cycle city and that it can expect to see significant increases in the number of cyclists. No doubt much of any increase will continue to be people riding illegally on the pavement because they feel the roads are too unsafe and they can’t find the cycle facilities (or indeed tell them apart from the pedestrian pavements).


    Peak oil and peak cars

    Some good quotes from Angry Birds poop on cars:

    last month, Fatih Birol, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: “We think that crude oil production has already peaked, in 2006.”

    People are driving less and it’s not just a blip thing, not just because of the recession. People are driving less because driving has become less attractive.

    You’ve heard of Peak Oil. Get ready for Peak Cars. This is the idea that mass motoring has reached its peak and is now in decline.


    Safer routes will encourage more to cycle – Going Going Bike

    This should be considered obvious common sense Safer routes will encourage more to cycle – Going Going Bike.

    Sadly common sense seems to be entirely lacking in elected officials and also in the Department of Transport.

    The evidence from around the world as well as here in the UK is overwhelming.

    This survey again shows the potential for huge benefits in lives saved, congestion eased, money kept in our local economies, reduced obesity and reduced pollution if safer cycle routes were available so that people would be willing to ride bikes around town. It should be clear to all that the whole community and economy would benefit from a significant modal transport shift from car driving to cycling. Yet sadly our politicians don’t want to see these improvements and show no eagerness to make safer cycling a priority.


    Positive impact of integration vs segregation & fragmentation

    Today, as I rode through Watermead Park on my way back from Leicester I noticed more people out running than normal. It felt like quite a contrast between the positive impact of integration caused by riding a bike for transport compared to the segregation and fragmentation of life typified by going out for a run.

    When you ride a bike for transport it integrates a whole range of things:

    • Cost savings through cheap transport. See Americans Work 3.84 Minutes Each Day To Pay For Their Bicycles and Americans Work 2 Hours Each Day To Pay For Their Cars. Note that if you can claim expenses for riding your bike for work it can work out to be completely free, as it would for me if I did have such expensive tastes in bikes 🙂
    • A happier life. It is far more enjoyable to ride a bike than be stuck in traffic in a car. You get to use quieter roads, you can ride by canals and rivers and through parks.
    • A healthier life. Instead of becoming less healthy by sitting in a stressful environment (a car) you get beneficial exercise while getting from a-b. The statisticians seem to think you will now live longer.
    • More time. You gain time as you need to work fewer hours to pay for your transport (alternatively you can work the same hours and keep the extra money). You also gain time by not needing to take exercise separately from your transport (so the runners this evening have a triple loss – time stuck in a car, time spent running & time lost to earning to the cost of exercise and transport).
    • A higher quality of life for all. By riding a bike you have done a significant amount to reduce your negative impact on the lives of others (less pollution, less congestion, less oil used, less CO2 emissions). It would be expensive to find ways to achieve all these benefits for others if you had driven to work.

    On the other hand driving for transport segregates and fragments your life:

    • Your transport time is wasted. It can give no side benefits, it is all cost to you
    • Your car means you  have to work longer to get the same standard of living as you have to pay for the car, fuel etc
    • Your transport does not contribute to your well-being and happiness. You will need to spend other time making up for the lost happiness.
    • Your transport makes you less healthy so you will need to invest time and money just to stay still in fitness.
    • Your transport actively damages the quality of life for others.
    Seems an easy choice to me. A positive integrated solution (riding a bike) or a segmented and fragmented choice with high costs (money, time & personal) when you drive.

    Mountains, molehills and rain

    Today was pretty stormy with high winds.

    So with little effort I flew along at high speed to my meeting in Queniborough this afternoon.

    When I left the very strong headwind had been joined by heavy rain.

    So often in England this is the mountain that is used to explain why we don’t use bikes. We are told it rains all the time and we come to believe that we are made of sugar.

    The reality is quite different. It rains sometimes and when it does you put on your waterproof, take off the saddle cover and ride home.

    When I got home I hung the jeans up to dry and got on with the day.

    Why do we create these mountains in our minds? Why do we forget that riding in the rain is not a big deal?

    Mind you we could also ask why so many of the manufacturers, retailers and publishers also promote rain from molehill to mountain? If there is so much rain here then why make, sell & promote bikes without mudguards, mudflaps, hub gears, chaincases etc?


    Gently recovering

    So two days back after my long week of riding and feeling pretty tired I have needed to take it easy.

    Yesterday, it was 12 gentle miles for a Christian Aid event in Rothley and then then lunch at Stonehurst Farm in Mountsorrel with Jane.

    Today, I was preaching at Birstall in the morning & lunch out. Then an evening service at Harrison Road. Total 15.4 miles.

    Sadly it has been very windy.

    The combination of a recovery weekend, strong winds and 27 miles of riding needed for work meant that at times this weekend I have set records for slowest rides ever 🙂 It has worked, riding a bike continues to be a great way to recover from lots of things, including riding your bike too hard 🙂


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