Monthly Archives: November 2012

First two weeks of my Bike for Life

So the first two weeks of my Bike for Life are over.

Quick summary:

182.7 miles ridden

at least 10 miles ridden each day

happiness factor = through the roof 🙂

In Thursdays photo (below) we see my Shand Stoater/Bike for Life parked outside Rothley Baptist Church while I was there for the village Christmas lights being turned on.

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Please excuse the mud all over her, sadly on Wednesday evening I went through Watermead Park and the receding flood waters have left behind thick wet mud and lots of debris. I wonder how long before all that gets cleared up (took ages last time).

Fortunately, I have come to a deal with Jane. Tomorrow (Friday) morning in return for my fixing a puncture on her bike and replacing the gear cable (currently a bit sticky) she is going to wash my bike 🙂 Just hope the water does not freeze on her.

Should be something over 20 miles tomorrow as we are out for lunch and then I need to nip into Leicester before joining Critical Mass.

Saturday will be this bikes first train ride, off to London for the first meeting of the Christian Feminist Network at Southwark Cathedral. So should get in at least 30 miles.

 

Leicestershire the anti cyclist county

If you live or travel in Leicestershire you have probably realised that this is a county that is resolutely anti cycling and cyclists. Let me give you some examples.

1. The County Council hold a Cycling Consultation meeting. Sounds good but it is scheduled for twice a year and this year one of the 2 meetings was cancelled and the other was scheduled for 1:30pm so that people would have to miss work to attend. It was allocated 1 hour. A County Council that believes 1 hour a year is an appropriate amount of time to invest in meeting cyclists to discuss the whole county makes the total lack of priority obvious. (to be fair the meeting ended up lasting 4 hours but still had to massively cut the agenda and has not agreed to increase the frequency or length of the meetings).

2. The County Council routinely ignore maintenance needs and reports about cycle facilities. At the above meeting CTC Right to Ride campaigners were struggling with problems that have been reported multiple times over 2 or 3 years and yet which have been ignored. I have twice reported a bad bit of cycle path alongside the busy A6 at a field entrance that floods every time it rains, no response yet.

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3. Tonight there are resurfacing works on the A46 between Syston and Rothley. The County Council ignore cyclists so have not even noticed that there is a two way cycle path alongside the A46 where they are working. They put up road blocks and diversions for drivers but cyclists don’t matter. I was stopped by a supervisor who was concerned when he saw me riding on the separated cycle path – he hadn’t even known it existed and didn’t know where it went. For my part I had not known of the road works when I joined the cycle path because there was not a single sign or lorry or anything.

Of course there are no plans to resurface the cycle path or make it meet minimum standards or make if feel safe. At the moment an Officer from the County Council, who designs cycle infrastructure, has told me he would not use it because it does not feel safe –  that is a big problem as during the recent floods it was the only crossing of the River Soar available to Cyclists between Leicester City and Loughborough. Here it is on video:

4. Then there is our MP Stephen Dorrell he generally ignores any letters relating to cycling and so far as I can tell has not signed any pro cycling (not The Times campaign nor any Early Day Motions) while our MP. That is very worrying in an MP who has a Health Service role at a time when the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence say that Cycling and walking should be the norm for all short journeys

5. Then there is the appalling quality of cycle infrastructure that Leicestershire County Council are still installing even this year. A reminder of my video of a “Safe Route to School” in Syston (taken at 10am because it is too dangerous to ride it when children are about).

I could go on and on about the low design standards (and have done so in quite a few other blog posts), yet the Council are determined to defend their designs as both good and cost effective, while doing their best to use as an excuse that Cyclists don’t all want the same thing (yet we were unanimous at the meeting that this particular infrastructure was dangerous and should never have been implemented).

6. This one is quite hard to believe. Cyclists are being told how wonderful it is that Leicestershire County Council were successful in a LSTF (Local Sustainable Transport Fyund) bid. Yet the very first tried and tested scheme of this SUSTAINABLE transport bid that they write about on their website is:

The expansion of ‘Wheels to Work’ – where young people are loaned scooters to go to work or training

Duh! I am sure that The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence will think that is an excellent idea.

Note that the whole of the LSTF bid is being spent in just a few areas (Coalville, Loughborough, Shepshed) and so the rest of the county have been promised that nothing will be spent on them for several years.

 

Avoiding the rush hour

This afternoon I realised I wanted some bits from PCWorld in Leicester. Realising that at 4pm on a Friday afternoon is less than ideal. It not not very attractive to think about driving into the centre of a city known for it’s traffic during the rush hour on the day after flooding had disrupted many of the roads (we had been diverted by the floods on the road to Rothley earlier in the day).

So I did the sensible thing and cycled there. Turns out it was 5.07 miles and thanks to having no priority at any junctions and taking the recommended cycle route it took me 31 minutes 19 seconds (27 minutes 39 seconds moving time). I don’t think I would have been much faster by car. Google Maps estimates 14 minutes but 4.15pm on a Friday afternoon is sure to be slower.

During my ride I was not held up by traffic jams. However, I did get held up by a cars a couple of times on Harrison Road when they rushed to overtake me before braking hard for either a speed hump or an oncoming car (both times I later passed them when they were stuck waiting).

If we had Dutch style cycle infrastructure then I would expect to have saved several minutes over my time.

If we had Dutch style cycle infrastructure then I would expect to find cycle parking when I got to the shops.

Anyway as it was I ended up cycling just over 10.5 miles in around about an hour and visted 5 shops in two separate shopping areas. No queing, no sweat, no stress just some gentle exercise and a sucessful outing.

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In weather like this

In weather like this:

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you need a bike like this and a place to park it in the dry like this (Shand Stoater in Syston Methodist Church)

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Belt drive, hub gears, hydraulic disk brakes, full mudguards, dynamo lighting because you know it makes sense 🙂

Bad infrastructure does not get used (example in Syston, Leicestershire)

Consider this:

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My bike parked in the new bike stand at St Peter and St Paul School Syston, Leicester when I was there to take an assembly this morning (so at 10am everyone was in school, no more bikes to arrive).

Notice how popular cycling to school is (not!. 3 bikes and a scooter plus mine. That is less than 1 cyclist for every 2 classes). The reason is obvious in my video of the so called “Safe Route to School”.

So the route is terrible. Bad infrastructure such as Leicestershire County Council have installed here in Syston is a waste of money because:

  • it fails to encourage people to take up cycling because it still does not look or feel safe or convenient (see the picture at the top for proof)
  • it is not used by existing cyclists because
    • it is not safe,
    • it puts them in conflict with pedestrians
    • it makes their journeys much slower

In addition bad infrastructure like this creates conflict:

  • between drivers who think cyclists should be on the cycle infrastructure (or even on the pavement) even though it is dangerous (or illegal)
  • between pedestrians who feel less safe on the pavement because cyclists are allowed to ride on shared paths
  • between pedestrians and cyclists who do not feel safe on the road and so always ride on the pavement even when illegal (using the excuse that the places where it is legal are actually no different from the other pavements)
  • between children who want to cycle and their parents who do not feel it is safe
  • between drivers and parents wanting to get their children to/from school safely but who are frighted by the large number of cars around the school entrance

Understated success

After riding into Leicester yesterday I used the Bike Park as dry secure storage for my bike while I went to work using the WiFi at Cafe Nero (our whole house seems to be taken over by the bathroom fitter at the moment so it is good to get out).

I was really pleased by the reaction of the staff to my bike.

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First they noticed the handlebars and thought they were cool. Then gradually as they looked more closely they noticed other features like the Rohloff 14 speed hub gears, the belt drive, the Hope Hydraulic Brakes (only mine are the Special Edition no longer listed), the Hope Headset and the Ergon Cork grips.

Other bits they didn’t notice were the Middleburn cranks, Hope Bottom Bracket, Schmidt Dynamo hub, the Plug II USB charger, the B&M rear dynamo light and until they moved the bike the Schmidt eDelux dynamo front light (they couldn’t believe how quickly it came on and how bright it was). They didn’t notice the front and rear racks were Tubus stainless steel. The mudguards and little randoneer front rack were also take for granted.

When they noticed the stuff after looking closely they then commented on how cleverly understated the bike is. The fancy, high tech bits don’t shout at you. Instead you need to look closely to notice them. Exactly what I wanted. Apart from on this blog I don’t want the bike shouting look at me! When on the street I don’t want the bike attracting too much attention.

So job done 🙂

Incompetent infrastructure in Leicester

Yesterday, I cycled into Leicester on my new Bike. Nothing unusual in that, I ride into Leicester at least once a week. By preference I go for the mostly traffic free cycle route through Watermead Park and Abbey Park although it nearly doubles the distance.

Yesterday was not a nice day. Rain and a strong wind. However, what gets in the way more than the weather and slows you down more than the extra distances are the pieces of bad design that mix danger and frustration. Here are some pictures to illustrate what I mean.

First, there are the cycle barriers. From Syston I have to go through 3 of these. If you were riding from Cossington then you would have to go through an extra two of them. On most bikes they require you to life the front wheel to angle the handlebars while you go through. If you have a front basket or rack this is highly inconvenient.
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Then there are the dangerous corners. There are blind corners, there are sharp corners including unnecessary hairpins, there are corners with the surface covered in wet leaves and/or loose twigs. But this one at Birstall is one of the nastiest.

The camber is all wrong if you care going between Syston and Birstall (or vica versa). Plus thanks to a recently added board surrounded by gravel and ironically containing details of the cycle route the whole corner is littered with lose stones from the gravel. Very scary to cycle round this corner.

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Finally, there is the lack of drainage which makes puddles like the following common. Not too bad in daylight but hard to spot and navigate in the dark.

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Shand Stoater: My Bike for Life Photos

Just a quick pointer to say that all the photos of my Shand Stoater: Bike for Life can be found on Flickr.

There is a set of photos from Shand Cycles of production and handover.

All my photos are in a collection called Shand Stoater. As I take more photos I will put them as sets in this collection (but maybe I’ll have to wash the bike first, the cycle paths around here are very dirty at the moment – fortunately the combination of great mudguards and belt drive means I am staying clean which is what really matters).

One day I might even get around to putting descriptions in for the photos, but don#t hold your breath 🙂

Carrying a lock for my Bike for Life

Having a wonderful Bike for Life means you want to keep it. That means good locks.

For my Shand Stoater I am combining Infiniti3d locking nuts for the key components with the most secure U-Lock I could find which is the weighty (2.06kg) Krptonite New York Fahgettaboudit Mini. But I wanted an easy way to carry the lock, quick to get out and hard to forget.

So I have invented and built a set of straps to hold the lock on my little Velo Orange Randonneur Front Rack with Integrated Decaleur. Hopefully the following pictures are self explanatory. I’ll be testing it out in a few minutes when I go to find a coffee shop to work in as the whole house seems to have been taken over by the bathroom fitter.

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Sharing life with your wife

Last night Jane announced she wantedneeded to do some clothes shopping. I wanted (and needed) to visit Glenfield Hospital today.

We realised we could combine the two.

So when Jane finished work we set off for a (late) social lunch together at the Costa Coffee at Beaumont Leys. Jane could then do her shopping while I continued on to Glenfield Hospital.

The problem is that I didn’t know how long I would be and Jane wasn’t sure how long she would be. So travelling by car would be inconvenient. One of us would be bound to have to wait around for the other.

Travelling by car would also have been inflexible. I would not be able to respond to a call or message and change my plans – maybe going to Mayday Hospital as well or into Leicester to one of the Christian Bookshops or to someone’s home. Jane wouldn’t be able to decide there were no shops she liked and go into Leicester instead or that she liked the shops so much that she wanted to spend several more hours there.

Travelling by car would have cost money. The car park (if you can get a space during visiting hours) is a minimum of £1.50. Plus the route is not direct so you pay more for fuel.

So we cycled. Obvious really. The route is mostly off road and nice (apart from the not at all pleasant Birstall Road).

Here we are parked just by Costa Coffee (the Tesco entrance towards the Library).

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As so often is the case not many spaces (I took the last one later when I returned from the hospital) and badly positioned Sheffield toast rack (you can’t get the bike far enough forward to put a U-Lock through the rear wheel and bike frame and Sheffield stand).

So we nipped into Costa (and thanks Costa for paying Corporation Tax, one reason why we visited you today) for some lunch. Then I headed off to the Hospital while Jane started visiting every shop 🙂

After I had finished I returned and sure enough Jane hadn’t quite finished. So I guarded the stuff she had bought thus far (in Costa while being sustained by a nice Flat White) while Jane finished emptying the shops.

We then rode home together.

Net result was:

  • zero fuel cost
  • zero parking cost
  • loads of flexibility
  • some gentle exercise
  • quality time spent together
  • plenty of shopping done for Jane
  • my work accomplished
  • zero direct carbon footprint

So tell me. Why would anyone think of using a car for an afternoon like this (or even worse two cars to get the flexibility)?

Oh and of course my new Shand Stoater was a beautiful ride for this 🙂

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