Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Glasgow Winter Cycling Policy

As you may have seen recently I had a wee adventure in the snow last Friday. It snowed thick and fast which resulted in me abandoning my cycle commute home. It was only through the generosity of others that I made it home safely and in a timely manner.

There really isn't anyone to blame for the chaos on Friday. As my video demonstrates the snow came down pretty fast, so there wasn't time for the council to react. Yes, perhaps the roads could have been better gritted before-hand, but the weather is often unpredictable in this part of the world. Let's give them the benefit of doubt.

However.....you knew that was coming didn't you....it's what has happened, or not happened since, that is of concern.


This is a typical tweet from the council at the moment and suggests that priority routes will be treated first, then footways and bridges. So roads first and then paths....or at least some paths, certainly not all.  More interestingly there is no mention of cycle paths.

OK, let's be fair, this could just be because they could only fit 140 characters into a tweet, right?! The will of course grit cycle paths, right?

Ummm...


Errr....


Hmm...


Ok, so it would seem that cycle paths are not looked after at all. Even award winning ones, or ones with counters on them.

But surely things have improved now that it is FIVE days since the snow fell. Surely by now for instance the entrance and exit to the Clyde Tunnel cycle/pedestrian path, one of the main active travel routes for getting people north and south of the city, will be clear?!

Umm, no. This is from today.




To be fair, it isn't just cyclists that have issues.


That's on a hill.

So, if you are a cyclist and you cycle through the winter months, and if there is a hint of ice around, Glasgow City Councils policy, and this is policy as it is their policy not to grit these routes, is that you must cycle on the road. Cycling facilities, limited as they are, are off bounds.

To be fair, no-one in their right mind would ever want to cycle in the winter when it's cold......would they?



So, it would seem that not only does it snow in countries where cycling rates are high, not only do people keep cycling in poor conditions, but that the authorities in these countries understand that cycle and walking infrastructure should be included in the priority routes.

How many cycle routes are specified in Glasgow's priority list? Well according to this document cycle routes are treated as 'priority 2'. That is, a relatively low priority. Actually, it's worse than that. It is priority 2 for paths. That is the roads come first, then priority 1 paths and then, if they can be bothered, cycle lanes and other paths.

Glasgow will rarely provide decent cycle lanes. Unfortunately these rare cycle paths will very rarely be cleared of ice or snow in the winter. It would seem that a decent, clear cycle lane is a very rare thing indeed.


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Community Spirit

Lost.

There are lots of things I think we have lost over the years. We've lost our connection with nature by living in cities, we've lost the understanding that, you can get from one place to the other without the need of a combustion engine, and we've lost sense of what a cities design should really be about.....it's people.

One thing that I think we've also lost is our community spirit. I love hearing stories about how people never used to have to lock doors, how neighbours used to look out for and look after their fellow neighbours and that when times got tough, people pulled together to make things right.

Are these stories just urban legend? I don't think so. I just think we have lost connections with those around us and the car, a transport mechanism that locks us in a box with only a radio to keep us company, has fueled the process.However, it doesn't take much to bring community spirit back.

Have you ever been on a train where the power has gone for a short period of time? Suddenly people start chatting and joking, where before they would stare into space/phone/newspaper/adverts. Our pampered lives keep us apart, but throw in a little disruption or a little risk, and people start to communicate again.

I experienced this very phenomenon last Friday night. What started off as a very typical, cold and slightly wet/snowy commute home on my bike, fast became an adventure. Oh OK, not really an adventure, but something a little out of the ordinary. A little adventure. With snow.

The snow started falling as I cycled through Jordanhill, and after a short space of time and the short ride to Anniesland, the driving and riding conditions had deteriorated significantly. As I was still 7 miles from home on my bike I pondered.... what was I to do? Should I keep riding and hope that conditions improve? Should I stop and call my wife for a lift? Or should I just start walking?

I decided to stop. There was no way I was going to ask my wife to collect me, as the driving conditions fast became pretty poor. But I didn't have to walk home. Why? Well, community spirit, that thing that eludes us for most of our daily lives, popped up to the surface, and people with no other connection that just being in the same place at the same time started pulling together.

Rather than describe the details I'll leave you to watch the video. Yes, it's a long video, but I think it's worth a watch.



It all worked out in the end.

So what? Am I suggesting that we need more peril in our lives to bring back a bit of community spirit?

No, but we need more connectivity. We all suffer from a box mentality when we are driving our cars. We all look out of the windows and see a world full of, not people, but cars. We rarely see or connect with the person or people inside. Our transport choices dehumanise us.

I've discovered when riding my bike is that cycling is incredibly sociable. Not only do I nod, acknowledge, and talk to other cyclists, but I find I interact more with pedestrians as well. In the summer when the car windows are more likely to be open, I've also found myself having nice chats with drivers.

Cycle campaigning often focuses on safety statistics, on health indicators and on economic benefits. I think we've forgotten the other benefits of active travel. When we walk or cycle we are far more likely to interact with others and see others as humans and not defined by their mode of transport. Cycling can certainly cure a lot of the nations phyical ills however, I also think it can also help us reconnect with each other that little bit more and help us to see each other, not as rivals or irritations, but people who will wave a cheery hello back. 

(Special thanks to the owners of Skyform who were the ones who gave me a lift home. Much appreciated!)

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A Message from our New Transport Minister

Our new Scottish Parliament Transport Minister, Derek Mackay would like to make the following announcement. This announcement was made here (S4M-11980).

That the Parliament recognises the success of active travel programmes in enabling more people to be active more often, with record levels of investment in active travel; celebrates the 20th anniversary of the National Cycle Network; welcomes the publication of the second Cycling Action Plan for Scotland and the first National Walking Strategy; acknowledges the cross-party commitment to promoting active travel and progress made by the Scottish Government since 1999, alongside external partners, in laying the foundations for a more active and healthier nation, and commits to working together to realise the active travel vision, which outlines how Scotland will look in 2030 if more people are walking and cycling.
Supported by: Keith Brown*

I will now respond in kind.....

AAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

What, you would like a more detailed response?  Oh, OK then. here goes....

What successes? Seriously?! How can Derek (and his boss Keith Brown who is supporting the parliamentary motion) suggest that there has been any success in the governments approach to active travel when they have not made any measurable progress towards the 2020 target vision aspiration pondering of having 10% modal share of cycling? Success?

Yes, let's also celebrate the 20th anniversary of some off road cycle paths that are often not fit for purpose. Let's welcome yet another CAPS which once again does not actually set out ......an actual plan....or set an deadlines, or have any actual funding associated with it. Let's acknowledge the cross party commitment to.....umm, errr....wait a minute...it'll come to me.....I'm sure it will.....tell you what I'll get back to you on that one..... And let us rejoice that none of this non-action will now not actually happen by 2020 (and yes, I'm getting muddle up with double negative here, but this is politics so double speak is the norm....). It will now not actually happen by 2030.

So yes, I think you'll agree that my initial reaction pretty succinctly sums it up.

When this vision for 2030 document came out I mentioned to a few people at other organisations that I suspected this was the beginning of the goalpost relocation. They thought I was wrong. Yet, here we are, and the removal firm has been hired and they have started wrapping up the ornaments. But wait, before the ornaments are placed in their boxes we should all revel in how sparkly the ornaments are. OK, they are pretty ugly ornaments, but the idea of what we would like the ornaments to look like is grand, so......let's revel all the same, and at teh same time, give your new boss a great big pat on the back.

I got my hopes up a wee bit when I heard that there was to be an active travel debate at Holyrood on the 7th January. We have a new transport minister and perhaps, just perhaps he would bring about change.

Nope.

It looks like we are in for more of the same.

So, make sure you ask your MSP if they will be going along to the debate tomorrow. Perhaps with time being short a tweet might be in order. Ask them, will they be pushing for change, or will they join in the back-slapping ornament worshipping.


Monday, 29 December 2014

Facing Your Worst Fear

When it comes to cycling, what exactly is my worst fear?

Well, that's probably a pretty easy question to answer....it's being knocked off my bike by a large vehicle and perhaps being seriously injured or killed. I pray that it never happens.

Is that really my worst fear though when it comes to cycle safety?

Perhaps not.....

There is possibly something worse than could happen (though not necessarily worse for my family). Imagine if, when driving my car I was involved in a collision with a cyclist that resulted in me severely injuring or killing them.

That would be absolutely horrific! 

Umm, errr, hmmm......

Don't panic, I haven't been in a collision with a cyclist when I was driving, where they have been seriously injured or killed, thank goodness! I have though, been in a collision with a cyclist....

What!?!

Umm, err yes. A month or so ago whilst I was driving my car I collided with a cyclist who came off his bike, and fortunately, was only slightly bruised by the incident. Let me explain....

Early Saturday mornings are usually a rush in the Magnatom household. My wife is getting my daughter ready to take her to her dancing class (I'm hoping she'll change that for cycling one day!) and I'm getting the two boys ready for the cycling club that we attend. This Saturday was a little unusual though. We were early!

So there I was in the car, switching the engine on, wondering what to do with all this new found time. I ask the boys, 'as we are early, shall we go the high way?'....'Yes!'.

The 'high way' is the name I gave once to a route that I very occasionally cycle to work, and even less occasionally drive. It takes in some lovely single track road. The roads are narrow (as single track suggests) and it is quite a windy road. It also has a fairly steep gradient at about 17% at one point. However, the views from the top are worth it. In fact, I have a video of me cycling up that very road.


It's lovely isn't it?

Anyway, the boys and I were all togged up in our cycling gear with the bikes attached to the back of the car all ready for some fun on the bikes.... so I take the right turn up the hill and drop gear down to second to get me up the steep section. I'm not 100% certain what speed I was doing up there, but it was certainly less than 20mph and my best guess was about 15mph.

What could possibly go wrong...

Then it happened.

Just as I was coming around one of the corners, (I can't remember exactly which one as that didn't seem relevant at the time...) a cyclist appeared coming the other way. This shouldn't really present a problem of course...I'm happy to slow further and move over if needed to let him pass....however, there wasn't going to be time for that!

He was moving......fast!

Eek!

I'm pretty sure I managed to turn the wheel to the left, the car did stop with its wheels on the left verge. I'm also pretty sure that I quickly hit the brake and stopped pretty quickly after that. However, before any of that had any chance to take effect, the cyclist had collided with the drivers wing-mirror, scrapped along the side of the car and went flying into a bush behind me!

Eek (or words to that effect)!

It's in moments like that that time seems to grind to a complete halt and I'll admit it felt like ages before I actually fully registered what had happened and started getting out of the car. It probably was only a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

Oh no! I hope the cyclist is ok!!

That was honestly the very first thing that went through my mind. Whilst I didn't actually see his 'dismount' behind my car I could tell from the speed he was going, the bang that the collision had made, and the squeals of my two boys, that he had taken quite a tumble. Those few seconds were a few of the worst seconds of my life. It was therefore a huge relief for me when as I started to get out the car I saw the cyclist climbing to his feet and starting to brush himself off....

Are you OK? Oh my God, are you OK?!!!!!

Amazingly he was! Miraculously he escaped his 'close inspection' of my car and resulting tumble with only a few minor cuts and bangs, the worst of which appeared to be to the front of his hip. I didn't take a photo, sorry!

My next question was....Is your bike OK?

Anyone who cycles knows how important this question is, and is rightly only second to questions regarding serious injury. Amazingly the bike also appeared to have suffered only minor scratches and was in full working order.


Phew!

It was only at this point that I turned towards my car. I knew the wing-mirror was busted open (it's one of those movable/heating up electric jobbies that would not be cheap to replace). Indeed, initial inspections did not look to good and my roadside attempt to put it back together failed miserably. It was only a minute or so later that I noticed the big gouged scratch down the drivers door that only ended on the rear drivers door.

Oops!

It really was only once we were 100% certain that the cyclist was OK that this became an issue.

I'm really sorry mate, it was entirely my fault. I'll be honest with you, I was day-dreaming as I was coming down the hill fast and I wasn't paying enough attention. I'll cover any damage to the car.

What!!?!

Now if I'm honest, I wasn't surprised because 'I felt I was at fault'. I didn't think I was. Going 15mph up this hill was a reasonable and considering the size of the car, it's hard to miss (so it would seem...). However, we were out in the middle of nowhere, my only witnesses were my kids (9 and 7), and I just assumed that because of this, I was going to have to take the hit (pardon the pun).

Not at all. The cyclist was a complete gentleman. He owned up to fault, was happy to give me his details, and suggested he would cover all the repair costs. I was shocked by his honesty. I really shouldn't have been shocked, but having dealt with many other road users over the years who have...well...denied any wrong doing.....I was shocked.

Of course in my fluster I couldn't find a pen, and having broken my mobile phone a few days before, I didn't have a phone to take any details down. He didn't have a phone on him either. So, he told me who he was, where he worked and....we parted ways.

I took the boys on to the cycling, but I didn't do it myself that day. I wanted to get the car home, have a proper look at it, and call my insurance. Oh and that gave me a chance to check if I could find the cyclists details. I was honestly keen to find out if he made it back OK. So I dropped the boys off at cycling (they were OK now...) and took the car home.

Turned out the mirror could be clicked back together and worked fine. It had a couple of extra scratches, but otherwise it was fine. The door....hmm...it was a bit of a mess.. The chaps details turned out to be 100% legitimate. In fact the photo of him on his works website confirmed that!

The call to the insurance was interesting. They listened and 'ummed and ahhed' and then told me that in 9 out of 10 cases it would go down as a 'at fault claim'.....unless the cyclist fully admitted fault.

He did admit fault.

Once I got in contact with the cyclist (who was, thank goodness, fine!) he contacted my insurance company, admitted fault and he offered to pay for the damage directly with me. A few quotes later (ranging from very expensive to downright reasonable), and the bodywork damage was gone and fully paid for.

Bloody cyclists!

Well actually, thank goodness there was no, bloody at all. The chap was incredibly reasonable throughout and I hope that in the new year, we might arrange a ride together, where I will be buying the cake! If we do I will of course blog about it!

2014 has certainly been a interesting year for me. Having never been in a road accident before with another road user, I was first knocked off my bike (and the driver there was incredibly reasonable about it all), and then I was collision with a cyclist whilst driving my car (this time the cyclist was incredibly reasonable)!

Eek!!!!

In both cases everyone was very reasonable about it, no-one was badly hurt, and all the damage was fully paid for.

Phew!

I have no doubt that some reading this will be saying....

Ah that bl**dy Magnatom......bet he was at fault.....he never makes mistakes does he......blah, blah, blah...

Yes, I do make mistakes and I certainly have. I've been lucky that they haven't resulted in anyone else getting hurt or anything else getting damaged. If though, that time comes, I  hope that I approach the situation as well as both the other driver and the cyclist did.

For all the idiots out there on the roads, and there are plenty, we must remember there are some genuinely good souls as well. So thank you Mr Driver and Cyclist for helping to restore my faith in 'Road User Kind'.

I hope that 2015 will be completely accident free not only for me, but for all my readers, whether you agree with what I do and say, or not. So I wish you all a happy, prosperous and safe New Year when it comes, and I hope that perhaps 2015 will be the year when we start making all of our roads people friendly.


 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A Wee Boost

Was I not just saying that I had had a wee crisis of faith? Well, I'm well on the road to regaining my campaigning mojo and yesterday I received a extra wee boost.


http://www.trespass.com/blog-awards-voting

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, this blog has indeed been nominated for the Trespass cycling blog of the year contest, thingy. Yes, yes, I know that I just blether on about stuff I'm angry/frustrated/infuriated about and so how could I possibly be considered for an award. To be honest I look at the other blogs in the list and they are, well.....umm...err, better presented, better written (yes this is typo heaven) and probably a whole lot more coherent, not to mention happier!


I have my suspicions how this happened....... someone at Trespass perhaps had had a few too many vinos one night. They were looking for entertainment videos on YouTube and stumbled on one of my videos. They wondered, who is this shouty clown?... and followed a link to my blog. At the same time they had a second browser window open, one that pointed to their latest project selecting good blogs. Whilst reading my blog they read something outrageous that I had written (or perhaps if they are a stickler for grammar they noticed one of my glaring mistakes...) and in a fit of outrage hit the keyboard. Unbeknownst (think that's the first time I've ever actually used that word in anger) to them, they had accidentally hit the add button on the work browser and ....well.....here I am.

They may yet correct the mistake....

Anyway, ignoring all of that, it's still nice to be part of the list. Will I win? Hmm, I suspect not. However, being one to take on difficult challenges (and helping make Scotland become a cycle friendly nation is one hell of a challenge!) I've decided that I will aim for....not being last.

Reach for the stars!!!

If you enjoy my blog, be you supporter or hater (mind you, as a hater I suspect you will vote for every other blog) or if you generally have some sympathy for underdogs, then pop along to the voting site, click on the cycling blog bit and put a wee tick next to Magnatom.

Thank you!