Blimey! We’re in 2016 and I’ve finally biked the whole 3 miles to work and most of the way home. Once. I was walking in a cycling pose for the next 2 days. I am seriously unfit! Despite walking and bussing it all winter and a major yoga habit that costs twice as much as my mobile, I am really not as fit as a flea. Well, possibly a dead flea. Oh dear!
Still, for the 2nd year running I did manage to irritate a much younger* work colleague by cycling in earlier in the year than him. He was not a happy bunny.
*I’m as old as the hills, the term ‘much younger’ does not imply that he is actually young, just that he is younger than me.
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I’ve been meaning to post about this for a while. People often say there’s no space for dedicated bike lanes on Bristol’s narrow roads, but I think there is. Plenty.
Have a look at these two for a start:
Three lanes of highway inbound at Old Market. And someone getting booked for ‘breaking down’ in that titchy bit of bike lane.
And a hundred yards further on a real motorway channels thousands more cars into a smallish city centre where people are trying to live and work. And look at the wide pavement. You’re going to say the wide pavement is needed to accommodate the historic Stag & Hounds pub. OK, good point. But why is it so unattractive then, with puce railings to stop people hurling themselves into three inbound lanes of traffic? And do you think the traffic sets off the ancient and beautiful pub? There are other lovely ancient buildings along here, and a brave sort of nightlife. Imagine how all that would flourish if we cut back on three lanes of traffic howling into Bristol at 30 MPH (not to mention the two lanes howling out). Say two lanes each way and a fat, fully segregated two-way bike lane on the south side of the road, swooping left at the top to join the Bristol to Bath path.
This is Clifton, so not really Bristol (joke, it’s where rich people and students live). The houses are huge with acres of garden, yet there are still cars stored on the road. I chose this shot because of the cyclist between two cars. The car overtaking seems to be giving him plenty of space but I didn’t see how they came through that pinch point. And tehre are clearly cars parked in the pinch point as well.
As you can see, there’s plenty of room for a segregated bike lane, or there would be ….
Orange, the telecomms giant have joined calls for London to get its finger out & build ‘next-gen’ cycling superhighways including the one that’s been called ‘Crossrail for bikes’.
In fact, they’ve put forward a nifty little business case, as many of their employees cycle to work and still more would if it was a bit safer. They say they want to promote active lifestyles for all their employees and that cycling ‘increases spending in local retail businesses and lowers air pollution levels.’
Is this a little turning point in the evolution of cycling in London? In the UK? You know, I think it might be.
This is interesting. It’s a map of bike-related collisions over the last 10 years or so.
Point it at your postcode and see how safe it is. My regular route is mostly car-free but the little back roads I use … well… there have been a couple of accidents there too. Not as safe as I thought, but pretty safe, nonetheless, over a 10 year period.
But look at the map. All those junctions where someone has been injured. There isn’t much of a hint of who’s at fault in most of them, but I clicked on a few where both participants were on the main road and the motor vehicle was turning left. My son’s learning to drive. One very important thing I’m talking to him about is what the left wing mirror is for (and it’s not for batting bikers with!).
I clicked on some more of the little yellow dots and quite a lot of the cyclist casualties were small boys in residential streets. Perhaps that makes it easier to understand why they’re bringing in 20 zones, though I don’t know how anyone can drive through narrow streets with houses both sides and not be on maximum child alert.
After a couple of weeks of laziness and bus travel I got on my bike again on Monday morning. Phew! How did I get so unfit so quickly! Or am I just getting old? And have I put on that much weight in a mere 2 weeks.
Maybe the tyres are a bit flat.
So I ask my desk buddy at work and he says the extra friction from having more surface area on the road could be causing all those symptoms and mentions there’s a foot pump in Reception. He offers to pump it for me, but hey I know how to pump up a bike tyre. Or I thought I did. Oof this foot pump’s a bit hard to pump. Not sure any air’s going in. Cycle home on what feels like a lead bicycle. And at home I discover what a Presta valve is! (not Piezo, as my son calls it!). You take off the little plastic cap and underneath there’s a skinny looking valve with a pin sticking out. And a tiny little nut you have to slacken off. So that’s why the foot pump at work didn’t work! I had no idea!
The bike’s all pumped up now and ready to roll now, but one word of warning about Presta valves. You push the pin thing swiftly once and a little woosh of air comes out to let you know the valve works. You push it a little bit longer and your tyre is completely flat in seconds. These are high-pressure sports valves & work best with very hard tyres. But I don’t have a clue why Raleigh chose to put them on a classic step-through bike. Not a clue!
(I want to start writing about bicycle issues but I want to keep my ‘exploratory’ voice and not develop a ‘telling’ voice. I do hope this works!)
Wear what you like, but know why you do. I think that’s probably the only fashion mantra I possess! Personally I wear a helmet and a hi vis jacket, usually with jeans or shorts and a t-shirt. This works well for me but I’d appreciate your views.
Helmets are an issue people often bring up. Either they ruin your hair or you’re sure motorists are less careful because they think you’re more protected or a serious ‘cyclist’. Well, yes, they aren’t the best with gel or anything elaborate. And yes, I think it’s probably true motorists do occasionally get lulled into a false sense of security. And they’re not much use if you get side-swiped by a lorry turning left.
But you can pick up a helmet for a tenner or so in Asda, you could gel your hair when you get there and if you do fall off and biff your head or get cracked on the nut by a careless wing mirror (like James Cracknell) you’ll be glad you wore one. Part of the reason I wear mine is because my cycling colleagues would give me earache if I didn’t. So I do.
Likewise the hi vis. It came from the pound shop and it just gives a driver a little extra chance of seeing me. Apart from that I just wear comfy clothes. A cotton t-shirt because if I’m going to sweat (I don’t usually go that fast) I prefer to sweat in natural fibres and not some infernal ‘wicking’ material from Du Pont.
If you’re a (re-)beginner at riding a bike you need to think all this through and decide what’s best for you. I see a number of people riding bikes in the evening while wearing black clothes. That isn’t best for you, even if you think it is. Really it isn’t.