Monday 12 January 2009

Magnatom FAQ

I've decided to write a FAQ that I can refer to, as I am often asked the same questions over and over again on youtube and elsewhere. So here goes...

(Questions have derived from common youtube/internet questions. Of course the questions have been sanitised. More questions will be added as required or as requested).

You don't have a life do you?

Yes I do thanks. Quite a good one in fact. I've got a good and interesting job, a family, quite a few friends and some interesting hobbies not related to cycling.

Do you even know how to drive?

Yes I do. I passed my test first time and I am considering taking an advanced driver test this year (2009).

Do you own a car?

My wife and I between us own a car. Quite a big car in fact, a 7 seater people carrier.

Why don't you pay road tax?

Because there is no such thing as road tax. There is vehicle excise duty which my wife and I pay for our car.

OK, then, but you don't pay VED for your bike, so why should you be allowed to use the roads?

VED does not pay for the roads. It goes into a general taxation pot. The same pot that income tax, VAT, etc go into. I pay probably more than my fair share of tax, and so help with the upkeep of roads.

Anyway I pay the correct VED for my bikes emission band.

Do you think you are a policeman?

No. But I have a truncheon....

Why do you cycle in the middle of the road?

I don't. The broken white line can be slippy.

OK then, wise guy, why do you cycle in the middle of the lane?

I only cycle in the middle of the lane (primary road position) when I feel it is necessary for my safety. The rest of the time I cycle either 1m from the edge of the road or where a cars left tyre would typically be, depending on the road.

So how can cycling in the middle of the lane be safer?

It can be safer for a number of reasons. It can prevent unsafe overtakes where there isn't enough room for a bike and a car. An overtaking car should leave enough room for a cyclist to fall over when overtaking (i.e. at least 3ft). Drivers are not always aware of hazards that may cause cyclists problems, i.e potholes, gusts of wind etc. That is why we need a bit of room.

It can keep cyclist out of the door zone, i.e. the area where car doors open on to. Cyclists have been killed by doors opening on to them. People getting out of cars don't always look.

It can make me visible i.e. fully within the line of sight of drivers. This is especially important on roundabouts. Drivers looking on to a roundabout expect to see vehicles in the middle of the lane, not at the edge of the lane, so they are more likely to miss a cyclist at the edge. Thus the risk of being pulled out on is reduced by taking the primary position.

Fair enough, but in most of your clips your in the middle of the lane. You just like holding cars up don't you?

No way! There is nothing worse than having an impatient driver behind you. I'd much rather have them in front of me where I can see them and where I am in control of my own risk.

My videos on youtube, tend to be at trouble spots on my commute. That is, areas on my commute where there are parked cars, there is a junction, there is an approaching pinch point, blind hump etc. These are the very places where I take a stronger road position. In the areas where I feel safe enough to take a secondary position there are fewer incidents. Not because of my change in road position, but because it is a safer road.

But your holding cars up! Surely you should just get out of the way!?

I will get out of the way when it is safe to do so. Anyway I rarely hold a car up for more than a few seconds. I often find that following a dangerous overtake, that I catch up with the offending car/driver at the next junction/lights/traffic jam. Often the overtake is pointless. On a normal morning or evening rush hour, I can get to work/home quicker on my bike than in my car. You could almost argue that cars are holding me up. But I won't.

If there is a cycle lane, you MUST use it!

Rubbish. It is rare for cycle lanes to be mandatory. Thanks goodness. Generally there are very badly designed don't provide enough room and can often lead cyclists into situations that are dangerous! Cycle lanes are usually there, not to improve the safety of cyclists, but to allow councils to tick boxes. Check out this web site for some examples of cycle lane design.

But it is cyclists like you who cause all of the congestion in the rush hours (someone actually suggested this to me on one of my videos)!


If it is so stressful and your having so many incidents, why do you cycle to work?

I love cycling to work. It is one of the highlights of my day (actually cycling home is better!). I'm outdoors, getting exercise, I'm not held up in traffic jams, and there is nothing like cycling on a fresh cold, still winters morning. The vast majority of my commutes are happy and incident free.

So don't you ever make mistakes then?

Yes I do. In fact there are a number of videos where I admit from the start that I made a mistake. However, what matters is that I am constantly trying to improve.

Why do you shout at drivers?

I try not to, and if you compare some of my earlier videos with my later ones I think you would see an improvement. It is easy with hindsight to criticise my reactions, and yes I agree I should 'rise above' it. However, it is hard when someone has risked your life for the sake of a few seconds off their journey to keep level headed. However, I never hurl abuse, I generally just want to know why someone did what they did. I just have to shout less and swear less.

Doesn't wearing a helmet camera encourage you to look for trouble?

Personally no. Who I am with the camera is who I am without it. My wife would happily confirm this for you! However, I can understand how using a camera could encourage some to look for trouble. However, to cycle in such a way to intentionally cause incidents, whilst doing so safely would take considerable bike skills, which I don't possess! Anyway, on my commutes, I have one of two things on my mind, getting to work, or getting home to my family.

You seem to have a lot of incidents!

Actually I don't, and the majority of the incidents I do have are relatively minor. By that I mean, although my safety might have been compromised, it was not seriously so. If i didn't have these incidents recorded I would probably forget about them. However, I post them, just to show what happens to cyclists on the road.
As well as this a good number of my videos are about other things, such as heavy rain, other cyclists, people weeing in cycle lanes etc. So it turns out that I have incidents (most of which are minor) on about 3% of my commutes. So not as many as it might appear.
It also fluctuates. Towards the end of 2008 I had a long period of about 3 months where virtually nothing happened that endangered me (apart from one door opening but that was a young girl, so all was forgiven!). I cycled exactly the same way during those 3 months as I normally do.

You block views and users that you don't agree with on youtube

No I don't. Have a look at the posts. You will see a lot of comments posted that I don't agree with. What I will do is block someone who is abusive.
I try to answer as many questions as possible, however, my time is limited. So if I feel someone is trolling I will stop replying. Reasoned, questions or points that are contrary to my world view are always welcome. I don't have all the answers.