Friday, 31 October 2014

Tourmalet! Not the Mountain the Cucu Jersey!


There aren't many personal benefits to being a cycle blogger in Glasgow. Generally it can be a bit....fraught. However, from time to time I get an offer to review something, and this is one such instance. So for a change, a happy blog, one where I get to try on my new Cucu Tourmalet Jersey courtesy of Blog on Brands who were nice enough to send it on to me.
http://www.cucubarcelona.com/100-thickbox_default/tourmalet-jersey.jpg
...and no, that's not me!
First off, yes your are right, I probably have no right to wear this jersey as I have never cycled up Tourmalet. In fact, I have never cycled up any Alpine or Alpine like climb. However, I felt justified in wearing the jersey as I promised myself that I would one day cycle up Tourmalet. There you go, I've said it.

Now I just need someone to fund it for me.....

Anyway, back to the jersey.

I have to say that this jersey was far nicer looking than any jersey I have ever bought myself, though that is at least partly a reflection on my normally practical tastes. It's really good looking in the flesh with a very classic style. In fact it is so classic I must admit it looks far better if you aren't wearing a helmet at the time for that proper, classic look. Being a helmet camera cyclist, this could be a problem....

http://www.cucubarcelona.com/101-thickbox_default/tourmalet-jersey.jpg
With the right coloured helmet it might work...

As a rider who is about 5ft 10 in in height and perhaps carrying just a tad extra weight, I went for the large sizing, which seemed to fit nicely. In fact I could possibly have got away with a medium to show off my...ahem...muscles, but the large was a good enough fit. The silicone grippers in all the right places seem to keep it where it should.

The top has a 3/4 length zip which unfortunately is absolutely no use whatsoever in the Scottish winter, but might be useful on that Tuesday in summer when the sun shines (actually it would have been very useful this summer!). Unfortunately, the zip presented me with the first issue...

Yes! I do know how to use a zip, but unfortunately this zip was a little stiffer than I was used to. I found that moving the zip with one hand just wasn't possible. Two hands is fine if you are stopped (or a better rider than me), but for me that meant waiting until I had stopped to adjust it as required. That wasn't the only 'zip issue'. I found that pulling the zip to the top resulted in some of the jersey material getting caught in the zip making it even more difficult to unzip. I've since learned not to zip it all the way up, which for a top selling at about £56 is a little frustrating.

The jersey itself felt fine on, if a little thin for my linking (don't wear black bib shorts underneath as they will show through!), though it would probably be perfect for summer riding (but perhaps not in Scotland!). There are three pockets on the rear of the jersey for your jelly babies, but the pockets were a bit shallow for my liking, not many jelly babies and my mini-pump wouldn't fit.

After a few wears and washes (always at 30C of course!) I noticed that some of the stitching close to the bottom of the zip looked a bit suspect. Overall, I can't say I'd be 100% happy if I had paid for the top.

Those dodgy stitches



The perfect summer (not in Scotland) riding top? Well, the design is certainly a winner, and so long as you don't zip it all the way up and you don't mind the odd dodgy stitch and you don't want to overdose on jelly babies, then this is the top for you!


The really sad, don't I look in this jersey, selfie!

 


 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Continuing to Turn Anger into Action

So I've replied to my MSP's last reply. Below you will find the reply. As I've made some of this public, I should probably keep it that way. It's an interesting journey into the mind of a government MSP.



I have to say I was very surprised by your reply to my initial e-mail. I'll try and explain in this e-mail why.

You didn't address the justice issue I was referring to in my original e-mail, that is the undercharging of drivers in cyclist death and serious injury cases. This is not just a police issue, but is also an issue with the Procurator Fiscal. I know for a fact that the case I sent you information on is not the only case for concern,  I personally know of one family who feel aggrieved by their treatment within the court system. There are many more.

I would be very keen to look at the evidence that you have access to that suggests that training is the 'way towards safer cycling'. All of the evidence that I have come across suggests that infrastructure improvement is the way to make cycling safer, unless you are happy to keep cycling exclusive to those brave enough to cycle in the current climate (which includes me, but not my wife and children). I am more than happy to bring you along on my cycle commute to work one day to explain, as we cycle along, why that is the case.  I'd also be interested to know if you could provide any examples of industrialised countries where modal share of cycling has increased from 1% to10% or beyond  through training. This is particularly relevant considering the 2020  target of 10% of cycling modal share set by your government.

I know some of the members of the ED's cycle co-op team quite well, and I know for a fact that they agree that whilst training can help to a small extent, mass cycling will not occur without significant infrastructure investment. This is needed in East Dunbartonshire just as much as anywhere else in Scotland.

I was though, most surprised by your last paragraph. I fail to see what relevance the governments overall budget has in this discussion. Yes, if the Scottish Government had unlimited funds, I'm sure it would invest in cycling infrastructure. However, budgets will always be limited. What matters are the priorities set within those budgets. As things stand cycling and active travel are very far down the priority list and thus receive a tiny, completely insufficient budget.

The truth is that your government has full control over cycling spend (and most of transport) and you choose how to spend your capital. The lack of spending on active travel is purely a political decision. You and the Scottish Government are spending huge sums on roads. Transform Scotland estimates you have a £9bn programme of major road projects, including £3bn A96 and £3bn A9, in and to your traditional heartlands.

Trunk road spending also rises in this year's draft budget (from £639m to £695m) whilst your cycling investment, though still confused, looks set to fall (a reasonable estimate being from £39m in 14/15 to £36m in 15/16) and the proportion of that going to infrastructure also looks set to fall as Spoke have detailed (http://www.spokes.org.uk/wordpress/2014/10/budget-infrastructure-fear/). It would seem that despite the consequence of a NO vote, that transport spending can increase, just not for active travel.

If you have any information that refutes these figures and thus backs your assertion that government funding for cycling continues to increase, I would be grateful if you could pass it on to me.

I will leave you with one comment I received in relation to the blog I wrote about our ongoing conversation (http://www.magnatom.net/2014/10/the-angeraction-never-ending-cycle.html). This comment was left for me on Facebook. It was from a mother I know from Bishopbriggs who I know is keen for her children to be as active as possible. Her comment was:

Yes I completely agree that the East Dunbartonshire Cycle Coop is a fabulous project.  My youngest is to do a long distance ride with them this Friday. Does this mean that I'm more likely to allow her to ride the open roads of Bishopbriggs - eh absolutely naw!!!! Karen and her team can teach my child all the skills she can but the roads and car driver behaviour allow me no confidence in the option of this as a means for my child to get to school.

This lady is not part of any minority. She represents the majority view of parents, including myself, who fear sending our children out on the roads with training as their only protection. If you and your government truly wish Scotland to be a healthier, less polluted, less congested, more socially inclusive (less than 50% of households in Glasgow have access to a car) country, then perhaps it is time to look once again at your government's priorities within current budgetary constraints. Training of vulnerable  road users should not be one of your priorities.

Yours sincerely,

David Brennan

Sunday, 26 October 2014

The Anger/Action Never Ending Cycle

My previous blog details a letter I sent to my local SNP MSP, Fiona McLeod. Today I received a reply and....well....I was pretty taken aback by it. First I'll let you see the reply and then I'll comment on it. First though, please read my original letter.

Fiona's reply was:

Dear Dr Brennan,
I understand that Police Scotland have recently announced a focus on driver behaviour.
Government funding for cycling continues to increase and I am persuaded by the arguments and evidence for training as a way towards safer cycling. We have a significant example here in my constituency with the work being done by ED's Cycle Coop especially in Bishopbriggs where they have already exceeded the 20% target for cycling to school.
One of the consequences of the NO vote in the referendum is that the Scottish Government will continue to have their budget squeezed.
Yours sincerely
Fiona McLeod MSP
Strathkelvin & Bearsden

Ok. Let's work through it.

Fiona has completely side-stepped my points and questions on justice. I was directly asking for her to contact Kenny MacAskill with regards to the police and PF undercharging dangerous drivers. She makes absolutely no reference to that what so ever, and instead tells about police Scotland focusing on driver behaviour.

Then Fiona goes on to suggest that she has seen evidence that training is the way forward for safer cycling.

What!?!? WHAT?!? Seriously?!?

I will be asking for Fiona to send me this evidence that she is persuaded by. I am genuinely intrigued. I'm also intrigued to find out if she has looked at the huge, overwhelming amount of evidence that suggests that safer cycling can only be brought about by safer infrastructure. I'll also be asking her if she can point to any industrialised country in the world that has brought about mass cycling (greater than 10% of modal share for example) by using the 'training' approach.

Yes, Bishopbriggs has brought about very localised changes in cycling to School in Bishopbriggs. I also know that I very, very rarely see anyone cycling through Bishopbriggs any time I drive through it, except for the odd Lycra clad cyclist heading off on a training ride to the Campsie hills. I also know some of the people involved in ED's Cycle Coop very well, and I know for a fact that they are as frustrated as I am about the lack of investment in infrastructure.

As for the final paragraph, that makes me the angriest of all.

One of the consequences of the NO vote in the referendum is that the Scottish Government will continue to have their budget squeezed.
What utter, utter, UTTER rubbish. Spending in cycling is not falling due to budget squeeze, it is falling due to political decisions by the Scottish government.

The truth is that the Scottish Government has full control over cycling spend (and most of transport) and they choose how to spend their capital.  They are spending huge sums on roads (Transform Scotland estimates they have a £9bn programme of major road projects, including £3bn A96 and £3bn A9, in and to their traditional heartlands).

Trunk road spending also rises in this year's draft budget (from £639m to £695m) whilst government cycling investment, though still confused, looks set to fall (a reasonable estimate being from £39m in 14/15 to £36m in 15/16) and the proportion of that going to infrastructure also looks set to fall as Spokes have detailed this and as I pointed out to Fiona in the  letter I sent her.

Spending on cycling does NOT continue to increase!!!

My previous e-mail to Fiona was written as a result of anger. I took action because of that. Now I am even angrier at being patronised in this letter, full of avoidance, dubious evidence, and the fact that it implies that the Scottish government doesn't have control over cycling spend.

Rather than just staying angry, I will do the right thing and continue to question robustly our politicians, including Fiona. I urge you all to do the same. I will be writing back to Fiona. Please feel free to write to Fiona and your own MSPs asking the same questions I have asked. Feel free to use my original letter as a template.

We need to start making MSPs answer the hard questions. Only then, and after they are challenged on their terrible answers, will they see that they must change their policies towards cycling and active travel and that we won't stand for evasion and half truths (I am being generous here).

It's up to you to help me do it.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

My Anger to Action Letter

Following on from my blog yesterday, I have turned my anger into action. The letter I sent is below. Please send a letter to your MSP. It does make a difference.


Dear Fiona McLeod,

Unfortunately I am writing to in an angry state of mind. The reasons I am angry are two-fold. Firstly I was shocked to hear yesterday about the following case (http://www.strathspey-herald.co.uk/News/Elderly-driver-tells-Inverness-court-he-did-not-see-cyclist-victim-21102014.htm), of a lady who was knocked off her bike and killed. Only recently has this case came to court. The driver has been found guilty of death by careless driving. As I describe here in my latest blog (http://www.magnatom.net/2014/10/turning-anger-to-action.html) this is terrible outcome.

It is absolutely preposterous that a driver who hits a cyclist, who is cycling entirely legitimately,  on a straight road, in good conditions, who was visible for at least 250m isn't charged with death by dangerous driving. How can driving like this only be designated to 'fall below' and not to 'fall far below.....what would be expected of a competent and careful driver'?

I understand that this particular case is outside your own constituency and that you cannot interfere with due process, however, with many, similar cases occurring every year, where the procurator fiscal decides to only prosecute on the lower charge, this is an issue that I think the Scottish government needs to look at with some urgency. As a cyclist myself who on a regular basis faces bad and often dangerous driving, I worry that the law offers scant protection for myself and other vulnerable road users. I urge you to write to the Kenny MacAskill to investigate this issue as soon as possible.

The second issue that has made me angry is the issue of funding for active travel and cycling infrastructure. As part of the recent budget announcement John Swinney stood up at parliament and told us that an extra £10m had be found for active travel for the next financial year. Whilst any announcement of new money is usually to be welcomed, that is only the case if it improves our position from where we are now. Unfortunately it does not. In fact as Spokes of Edinburgh have discovered (http://www.spokes.org.uk/wordpress/2014/10/budget-infrastructure-fear/) £5m of the newly announced funding was not new at all and will be spent on 'behavioural changes' and the other £5m is Financial Transaction money and so, once again, cannot be spent on infrastructure. This compounds the overall situation such that in financial year 15-16 active travel will see a £4m actual drop in funding from 14-15.

At the start of the independence campaign I was quite a firm 'No' supporter. In the end I voted 'Yes'. I, like many other Scots who voted 'Yes', did so because of our belief in social justice, and in a better and different future for Scotland, one that could be healthier, less polluted, less congested and at the same time wealthier. However, with the recent budget demonstrating a drop in active travel funding at the same time as the trunk road budget is increasing from £639m to £695m, I have serious doubts about whether such a future is a possibility under its current governance. I know many people who have joined the membership ranks of the SNP recently who will feel the same.

Spending small amounts of money on campaigns asking us all to be nice to each other, does not make a difference and will not encourage me or anyone else to take their children cycling on the roads. Roads should be for everyone, not just everyone who drives a car.

Please can I ask you to lobby your fellow ministers to not only look at the issue with the justice system, but to also look at a significant step change in active travel funding. Without it, there is absolutely no chance of you reaching your governments 10% cycling modal share target (aspiration?) by 2020. Absolutely no chance.

Best regards

David Brennan

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Turning Anger to Action

I'm sorry. Really, really sorry. Unfortunately my moment of happiness has passed and once again I am angry. very angry.

Why am I angry? Ignoring the fact that I've met a number of poor drivers on the roads recently who value their convenience  (and we are talking seconds here) over my safety, I have two issues that make me particularly angry.

This news article made me particularly angry. 

A driver (who is called elderly, though I wouldn't class 72 as elderly) ran into the back of a cyclist and killed them. He did this on a day with good visibility (according to the local article he would have seen her for 250m). He suggests that he saw the cyclist well before he hit them. He claimed that he was travelling at 15-20mph and yet after the cyclist hit the windscreen the cyclist was thrown 90 feet from the car. The car was in fact travelling at 33-46mph.

The driver had this to say in court:

I saw the cyclist in front of me so I was slowly coming up to avoid her and out of the blue I felt the impact. I stopped and saw it was a cyclist I had hit. I thought I had left enough space between her and my car.

No. You had not left enough room. You had not left any. You didn't even just clip her with your wing-mirror, you hit her square on and she bounced off your windscreen.

I'm angry.

This, though is not the worst part. The worst part is that the driver was found guilty of........death by careless driving.

What the f*ck!!?! What the actual f*ck?!

Careless? Seriously?!? This is not careless. How in any sense of the word, or indeed the law, could this be defined as careless. This was downright dangerous!!

Let's in fact look at the law. This section from the CPS (England but my understanding is that the definitions are the same in Scotland) is relevant:


(Death by careless driving).... stipulates that a person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if (and only if) the way he or she drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver. 
The clear difference between this offence and an offence of causing death by dangerous driving is the standard of driving. For causing death by dangerous driving, the standard of driving must fall far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver; whereas for this offence the standard of driving must merely fall below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.

So let me get this.....in the above case the driving standard fell below what would be expected of a competent driver, but not well below? The driving was just a wee bit crap, not totally shite? So not seeing someone directly in front of you on the road, when visibility is good, on a straight piece of road, without taking any necessary evasive action, and underestimating your speed significantly, and hitting them square on and sending them flying 90 feet and to their death......is just a wee bit crap?!?!

It beggars belief!

If there are any of my readers who work for the judiciary who could explain this one to me, I'd really be grateful! I'd love to know if you think this is justice, or that this shows that the judicial system is actually working....at all.

Protecting the vulnerable? No. Protecting the rights of the driver to travel unhindered. Yes.

As I suggested above, though, this is not the only other reason I am angry.

News of the above court outcome comes on the day when it is revealed by Spokes that the recent announcement of £10m extra for active travel and cycling by the Scottish Government is...well....anything but. £5m had already been announced and it would appear that the other £5m can't be spent on infrastructure.

Another education campaign anyone? Nicewaycode???

So today it has felt like cycling in Scotland has been kicked from two different angles. The judiciary and the government.

Grrrrrr!!!

So let's just sit back and accept that it won't get any better?

Hell no! Please, PLEASE, PLEASE.....write to your MSP. Tell them that that something needs to change with the judiciary and that if they really are in any way at all, serious about making Scotland a better, fitter, less polluted, healthier and more vibrant place, that that they must start investing in cycling properly and NOW.

It's really easy to contact your MSP, just click this link, enter your postcode and away you go. Remember it is your MSP that matters, not your MP.

Everyone in Scotland was so engaged over the independence referendum. Why not transfer that engagement to somewhere where you can make a difference. Please write to your MSP and perhaps, just perhaps we can persuade them to make Scotland a cycle friendly nation.