Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Our Greatest Battle

Cycling in Scotland has a huge battle on it's hands.

No, this isn't 'War on Britain's Road'. There is no war, as I have discussed on a number of occasions in the past. Yes, there is anger, but the anger is driven by ignorance and most often impatience. Nearly all of the incidents I have encountered from the very first day I sat astride my commuting bike back in 2005 have either been a result of ignorance, impatience or both.

How can you explain to a driver that you need more room, when they haven't felt what it is like to be passed at 30cm by a 40mph car?

How can you explain to a driver that you very rarely are the cause of them being late, and that instead it is the 300 other cars in front of them that are holding them up?

You rarely can, and I know this because I've tried.

I myself was probably ignorant and impatient around cyclists before I became a cyclist myself. I must admit I can't really remember if I drove well or not around cyclists. I suspect I probably didn't. It was only through experiencing first hand of what it is like to be surrounded by 1 tonne steel boxes, that you realise how much care you as a driver must take around them.

So we need more people cycling.

Yes, we do. But the huge battle isn't to convince people to cycle. People do want to cycle, they just don't feel it is safe. I'm sure I'm not the only person who gets a 'ooooh, you wouldn't catch me cycling on the roads....too dangerous...' type of reaction from people when I mention I cycle to work. I've even had several police officers react precisely that way.

So our biggest battle is to make the roads safe?

No.

Making our roads safe is actually pretty straight forward. We don't have to invent anything new, we just have to take advice from cities and countries that have already being making their roads safe. It really isn't rocket science. Of course, making these changes takes money and political will.

Ah, so the biggest battle is convincing the politicians?

Nearly, but not quite.

Once again, there is a simple process to follow. We lobby our politicians, we write to them, we hold demonstrations, we fill in petitions, and we generally make a bit of a nuisance of ourselves. Politicians, despite what you might think, do actually listen to voters. Yes, they have their own agendas, but they also value their jobs. They understand that enough people don't like what they are doing then they are out of a job at the next election. Despite what some people might think, this process does actually work.


Ok! OK!! So what is the greatest battle?

It's the battle for you.

Eh?

More accurately, it is the battle to convince you, that YOU can make a difference, and that coming along to something like POP is worthwhile.

Over the last few years I've been fortunate to meet many people though campaigning and one thing is obvious among cycle campaigners, we are a very optimistic bunch. We all BELIEVE that we can make a difference. I am absolutely convinced we will eventually make Scotland a cycle friendly nation. Understandably, not everyone is as optimistic as cycle campaigner (could that become a new simile?!).

I've also met people who are quite the opposite and I've been told by some that I really shouldn't bother as nothing will ever change.

This is the battle ground.

Have you read my blogs, or have you looked at the POP website and have you thought...

What's the point in going? Nothing ever changes.

The government never listen.

There's just too much to do, we'll never get there!


If this is what you are thinking about Pedal on Parliament on the 26th April, please, PLEASE, think again. Imagine if you did come. Now imagine if all the other people who thought the same way as you came. Now imagine you added all of those people on to all of the people who were going to go anyway.......

Suddenly 4000, becomes 5000, becomes, 6000.........


POP does make a differenc, but it can ONLY make a difference if you come to support us. Every single person, on a bike or on foot makes a difference.

So I beg you....and yes I've just got down on my knees as I type this.....please make every effort you can to come along to POP.

I know it's not easy to get a bike through to Edinburgh, so instead just come on foot.

I know you could do with getting your hair cut that weekend, but be crazy and let it grow a little more.

I know you really should visit your family, but tell them you'll pop over next week and tell them that you are delaying because you are trying to make Scotland a better place for them.

I know there are probably 100 and 1 different things that you could be doing that Saturday, but this particular one could be the one that really makes a difference.

With you with us in the 26th April, we could start the journey to a safer, fitter, healthier, less polluted, and wealthier Scotland.

Thank you.

Pedal on Parliament: That's Mr Beaumont to you
Richard Cross http://www.richardx.co.uk/



Friday, 4 April 2014

End the silence

Apologies.

Actually, I'm not entirely sure what I am apologising for. The fact is that many people might have been pleased that I've been.....a little quiet recently. I am a whiny lil sh!t according to some YouTube commentators after all (whatever that means!).

Why have I been quiet?

A number of reasons really. I've certainly been busy. Busy with family and very busy with work. Oh and my home laptop decided to die on me as well, which didn't help. That's not the whole answer though.

The truth is that sometimes doing what I do, helmet camera vloging and cycle campaigning, is hard. It takes a bit out of you when you follow the links in your web statistics and read why some commentators are linking to your site. Sometimes people link here because they agree with me, sometimes because they find my arguments interesting, and sometimes because they disagree with me. That's all perfectly fine and part of healthy debate.

What I'm not always so happy about are the personal insults and the general hate that doing what I do sometimes stirs up.

...a prize prick who is only making things worse for all of us. Dooring is too good for him
 'Magnatom : Fannybaws' is a T Shirt I would definitely buy into.

Yes, I know...the bottom half of the internet is best ignored and 99% of the time I generally do ignore it. Just sometimes, if you've had a tough week for other reasons, coming across people talking about you like that.... just gets to you, especially when these people are cyclists from Glasgow. 

However, every cloud has a silver lining.

...he continues to paint Glasgow as a dangerous place to cycle in. Which is rubbish

The above comment from the same pages stuck in my mind for some reason and it was only a day later when commuting home and I saw a cyclist cycling on the pavement that it became clear to me that the above comment was, whilst not insulting in any way (a difference of opinion which is fine), just didn't make any sense.

If you have 22 minutes to spare you can actually hear me thinking about the logic I use in this post, in this video.


Oh, you don't have a spare 22 minutes?.....Oh, OK, read on......


Why, if the roads aren't dangerous (or perceived to be dangerous) in Glasgow, do people ride on the pavement?

I'm not the first person to come up with this insight, but it's power at that moment (see the video above) wasn't any less because of that. Sometimes an idea just slots into your head and it makes perfect sense. A moment of clarity.

If the roads were truly safe, and felt truly safe, then why would anyone want to cycle on a pavement, where you have to contend with pedestrians, kerbs, uneven surfaces (I think they are worse on the pavement than on the roads!), people walking dogs, lampposts, street signs, etc? Pavements, like everything else, are designed not for people, they are designed to not get in the way of the roads.

Cities are designed around roads, not roads around cities.

Therefore, if you want to cycle the quickest way from A to B then your first choice would be roads. Only very occasionally will a path be quicker than a road. Roads are designed for convenience, yet, many cyclists still chose to cycle on the pavement.

Why?

Well, the answer is obvious.

Yet, there are some cyclists who insist, just as the poster above did, that,

The roads are fine. I have no problem on the roads!

Yes Mr Poster but you and I have built up, over a long period of time, skill sets to deal with the conditions that we face on the roads. Even I, 'Magnatom: Fannybaws' took a long time to build up the courage to cycle on some of the roads that I routinely cycle on now, and I'm no shrinking violet. I certainly wouldn't have cycled on the roads on that video above when I first started.

So yes, the poster might be right, the roads might well be fine for him. It might well be fine for him and another 0.9% of the population who are willing to fit in around the motor car in far from ideal conditions.

Congratulations. I applaud you. Seriously.

I used to think like that to, until I had kids. As they grew older and they learned to ride their bikes, I realised that the only way they could ride anywhere except our cul-de-sac, a few quiet local country roads, and a canal path, was if I spent an awful lot of time teaching them the methods I have learned over the years.

No.

Not acceptable.

That is the difference between me and the poster. I've chosen not to accept the status quo. I've chosen not to accept that we have to ride defensively everywhere we go. I've decided that cycling needs to be easy and to feel safe, and I'm sorry, to the overwhelming majority of people, IT DOES NOT!

That's why I ask drivers why they have driven too close to me. That's why I will not accept someone driving a bus too close behind me. Most importantly, that is why I am 100% determined to make our roads safer with the help of the other organisers of Pedal on Parliament and with your help.

Like me or loath me, it doesn't matter. What's not to like about a Scotland that is safe for all people on bikes, not just Lycra 'Fannybaws' warriors like me.

Join me and thousands of others on the 26th April at the Meadows in Edinburgh at 12pm.

Let's end the silence and lets make some noise.






Thursday, 20 March 2014

Andrew McNicoll



Tonight I had plans to write about this incident which has recently concluded at court. However, that blog is now on hold until another night. Why? Today a verdict was reached in the case of Andrew McNicoll, a cyclist who was killed cycling to work in Edinburgh on January 2012.

Not Proven.

In my capacity as one of the organisers of Pedal on Parliament I have had the honour of meeting Andrew's Dad, Ian and step mum, Lynne. Ian and Lynne who are ardent supporters of POP have in the time I have known them shown great courage and strength in dealing with their loss. They have not only kept up their amazing work at It's Good to Give, but they, since the death of Andrew have set up a safer cycling charity Andrew Cyclist.

They have great courage and strength in everything they do and personally when I feel a bit low about cycle campaigning (and that certainly happens!), I think about what Lynne and Ian are going through and that I don't want that to happen to any mother, father, son, daughter, sister, brother or friend, ever again.

Now is not the time for me to comment on what I think about Andrew's case. There is plenty of time for that. Now is the time to stand behind Ian and Lynne and call for safer cycling on our roads. Ian and Lynne have told us themselves what they want. Investment in cycle infrastructure, stricter liability, and justice for vulnerable road users.

Help us achieve this by coming to Pedal on Parliament 2014 so that part of Andrew's legacy can be that he and his family helped make Scotland's roads safe for all.

Andrew McNicoll 2010






Sunday, 16 March 2014

Avondale Complaint Letter

The following is a copy of a letter I have just sent to Avondale Coaches. I will keep you informed of any replies I receive.


Dear Sir/Madam,

Unfortunately I am writing to you to report quite a serious incident that occurred with one of your bus drivers at approximately 17:30 on the 10th March 2014.

I cycle commute to work 5 days a week, and on occasion come across your buses on a particular stretch of Dumbarton Road in Whiteinch. On this particular occasion I was traveling east towards the Broomhill roundabout. I was cycling along at a good speed (17mph according to my GPS trace) when upon doing a rear observation I observe one of your coaches approaching me at speed and at close proximity. Seeing the coach approach in this way caused me alarm. Very late, the coach pulled out around me. Whilst the coach did give me a reasonable amount of lateral room, it did cut in very early causing me to brake. This was due to an oncoming vehicle. I reacted to the driving as I felt it was aggressive and dangerous.

I normally turn up Broomhill Drive, however, on this occasion I was delivering leaflets to a local cafe for a cycle safety campaign that I help to organise (http://pedalonparliament.org/). As a result I caught up with the bus and driver in Partick. At this point I asked the driver, "What was that for?". At no point during the following 'discussion' was I aggressive or abusive. However, your driver was incredibly abusive towards me, swearing loudly (and in front of members of the public) and making unsubstantiated claims about my cycling and reason for reacting to his aggressive driving.

As a cyclist of many years who has had the misfortune to have been subjected to some atrocious driving, I record my commutes on both a front facing (helmet mounted) camera and a rear (bike mounted) camera. Therefore, the whole incident and the following discussion are captured on video. The video can be found here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oB8onHtbY8k).

The driver makes a number of accusations. He accuses me of deliberately swerving in front of his bus (the video footage clearly demonstrates that the only way I swerved was away from his bus). He claims that I 'do this for a living', i.e. implying that I intentionally entrap drivers by cycling in a manner that 'forces them' to drive poorly. He also suggests that this is the third time that I have 'done this to him', again implying that it is I that is in the wrong and that I am doing it intentionally.

It just so happens that I have had at least one incident with an Avondale bus in the past (and it may have been this driver), when the bus was tailgating me with a time gap of 0.3 seconds. Again I have the footage here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WNsRomEAZp8) This footage was from the morning of the 29th January 2014. I am sure you will agree that a bus driver should give a cyclist significantly more of a gap than 0.3 seconds.

Not only was this drivers driving of a low standard, his attitude towards me as a cyclist was appalling. His comments about my road position 'I should be on the left' are completely incorrect (http://www.britishcycling.org.uk/cycletraining/article/ct20110110-cycletraining-Bitesize-Bikeability--Part-4--On-Road-Positioning-0). It is very concerning that a bus driver would be so misinformed of the needs of another road user. His suggestion that I swerved out was completely wrong (as were the witnesses, who would have been seated further back in the bus). I was particularly concerned about that fact he pointed out he knew me and he knew about my filming and posting online. Despite this, and the despite the fact that he knew his driving would be filmed, he decided to drive in this way, and to react towards me the way he did. The fact that I have reacted to his driving in the past should have suggested to this driver that it was in his interests to drive more carefully around me, not more aggressively.

I would request that you investigate this incident please. I would be very concerned if this driver was to continue to drive with the attitude that he displayed on this occasion. Personally I am concerned that this driver will now be looking out for me as he obviously has a problem with the fact that I ride with my own safety in mind and that I don't accept that his driving is acceptable.

Please keep me informed about the progress of your investigation, and the of the outcome.

Best regards

David Brennan

Friday, 28 February 2014

The Truth About Drivers

I'm going to say something that is probably a bit controversial and perhaps not entirely politically correct. However, it is something that I unfortunately believe is true. In the past I have said on a number of occasions that the majority of drivers are good around cyclists. I no longer believe this to be true. I now believe,


The majority of drivers do not know how to drive around cyclists.

That's actually quite statement, but I hope to explain why I feel this way. First, let me share a few videos from this month. Remember this is this month only.

 

 
 











 


That's a lot isn't it.

What's really worrying is that this is not all of the serious incidents I witness/suffered. There were several stupid overtakes into the face of oncoming traffic that haven't made it to video. There is a close passing bus that will make it to video, when I get a chance. The worst incident of all happened a few nights ago, when three cars, all in succession squeezed past me in the face of oncoming traffic. The first one was (and I have no doubt about this at all) the closest/fastest pass I have ever suffered. 

It was horrific.

I knew as soon as it happened that it was one I would be reporting to the police. Unfortunately though, my rear camera memory card had got corrupted and wasn't recording (happens sometimes on my Contour Roam if I forget to format it every once in a while) and I had forgot to properly charge my Sony AS 30V. 

I didn't have any record of probably the worst pass I had suffered. I was livid.

I've lost count of how many significant incidents I've suffered this month. I'm almost certain it has been my worst single month of cycle commuting ever.

Why was it so bad?

Is it my riding? Am I, as some people suggest, asking for these incidents to happen? Is it the weather? It has been almost constantly wet all month. Is it down to the the dark? Is it because of the recession? Are driving standards dropping?

I won't comment on my riding, that's for you to decide on, but I think all the others are contributory, and I think it is contributing to impatience. When we are impatient, be it because we are a bit pissed off with the weather, the fact we are skint, or the damn continual rain, we take risks. 

We look for gaps that we can squeeze through.
We look for a wee bit extra speed on that slow road.
We are just a wee bit more likely to hit our horn at someone in the way.

We are a little bit more likely to get pissed off that a cyclist dares to get in our way and thus we will get past them at the slightest hint of an opportunity.

And that's the issue. Opportunity.

In the past I've based my observations about the proportion of bad drivers solely on the amount of incidents I have generally. Overall, I interact with hundreds of drivers a day, and the majority of those interactions are fine. So I used to surmise that the majority of drivers are fine. However, the fact is that the majority of my interactions with drivers are....easy. For example, in many interactions there is plenty of space for the driver to overtake, or there's absolutely no opportunity for the driver to overtake. What happens though, when the interaction is hard.

What do I mean?

I mean, what happens when there is a sniff of a gap or there is possibly enough time to get past? It is at moments like these that we can define a driver (or cyclist for that matter) as good or bad. It is difficult for me to show in my videos, but I'm coming to realise that when there is a hint of an opportunity, a large percentage of drivers will take it.


So we can blame it on the weather then?

No. Well, not exactly.

The weather and the other factors are behaviour modifiers. They work towards bringing our driving down to our 'base' level (if we let it). For example, when you aren't stressed or in a rush, you are willing to leave a big buffer. However, when you are stressed it brings you down to your lowest level, the level at which you think your driving is acceptable. If you are a good driver, that level is still pretty good. If your a bad driver.....well, all of the above incidents happen if and when the half chance opportunity arises. So whilst stress leads to more example of bad driving, I don't believe it is the root cause.

The root cause is that a large percentage of drivers just don't have a clue how to drive around cyclists and, due to never having experienced it themselves, are very unlikely to understand why their driving is so bad. They don't understand that that half chance opportunity puts you on your bike in significant danger.

I was nowhere near you.

We need to stop pandering to egos and face facts. Something significant needs to happen, and it needs to happen fast.Otherwise I and others will just become the next statistic.

I honestly feel like I survived this month. I don't want to just survive another month again.