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.


  1. What about cycling in the cycle lane and undertaking slow/stationary cars!!! :-o NEEDS FAQ!

  2. Good idea. I will explain why it is often dangerous to cycle in cycle lanes (bad design etc). As for undertaking, I try to avoid it, but I'll happily filter. :-)

  3. I agree that some bike lanes are pretty badly designed, although fortunately Germany is getting better in that regard.

    What about showing a stress free commute, or part thereof, so we can get the wider picture?

  4. I was wondering what kind of camera you were using and whether it would be suitable for ski/snowboarding and parachuting.

    Is it sturdy or fragile?

  5. workbike,

    I might just post a stress free commute. Watch this space...

  6. Whitelaw,

    I use a dogcamsport HQ1 and record on an Archos 405. Have a look at . There is boud to be a camera that would suit your needs.

  7. If you have/post a stress free ride to work can you set it to music....I'm thinking Carpenters - Close to you. :-) (also might work with the odd taxi driver buzz-drive-by, they just wanna be close to you)

  8. LOL! I think copyright is a problem on youtube unfortunately!

  9. The dogcamsport link looks like a cybersquatter. Hate to see them being fed!

    Thanks for the great vids and propaganda work btw.

  10. Hey Magnatom, I've read cyclecraft, but I still don't have that much confidence on busy roads (I'm fine with B roads and Mini Roundabouts)

    There is only one place which does bikeability training, but I'm not sure if I will be able to attend any of the classes any time soon.

    What would you suggest?

    Cheers :)

  11. Hi Tom, I'm a fan of your youtube vids but I do think you overuse the primary position, and this causes you a lot of your problems. I'm a cycle commuter too, (15 miles each way, mostly urban) and I hardly ever have any of the incidents you show in your vids. To me it's about claiming your space on the road, but also showing a little give-and-take. I think I might buy a helmet cam and start posting all of the positive incidents I have with drivers :-) Anyway keep it up and stay safe. John

  12. Hi

    I have been watching and enjoying your films for some time, do I notice an improved quality in your filming? I haven't got a helmet cam, but I would like one. I have the same problems as you do regularly. I am older, female and on a slower bike I get a lot of get out of the road abuse and it almost always happens around the primary position. Have you a new camera, its got a good picture.

  13. Hallo... Stateside here. I was wondering about filtering. (That's where you're slipping between lines of stationary vehicles, eh? "Lanesplitting" over here.) Is it strictly legal in the land of the thistle?
    I do enjoy your vids, though it has taken some use to appreciate your sense of right. Best, Kentuckyboy

  14. Magnatom,
    In your response to this:
    "If there is a cycle lane, you MUST use it!"
    You reply this:
    "Rubbish. It is rare for cycle lanes to be mandatory. Thanks goodness...."

    You seem to be accepting that 'mandatory cycle lanes' are mandatory for cyclists. Whereas, according to the Highway Code, they aren't.

    They are only mandatory during the hours of operation, which presumably means that if no hours of operation are posted, cars mustn't enter them at any time.

  15. amoeba,

    I actually come across a real Mandatory cycle lane every day. Cyclists are not allowed to cycle through the Clyde Tunnel in Glasgow on the main carriageway. So instead you have to use the separated cycle lane (which actually goes under the road!). So yes in general you are correct, but there are a few examples of actual Mandatory cycle lanes. :-)

  16. hi - do you still cycle the clyde tunnel? i'm thinking of changing jobs, which would mean my cylce route (currently Paisley - Glasgow) would become Paisley - Bearsden, requiring the obvious negotiation of the Clyde... Just wondering what the current state of the tunnel(s) is?
    PS. love the videos - i see similar things every day...

  17. I have been following your blog with interest in the late weeks since I stumbled across your youtube videos whilst researching for my dissertation titled "cycling - going nowhere?" I am basically finding out if in the UK there is a future for cycling and if we will ever get to the stage of our European friends in Amsterdam and Copenhagen. If you have a moment I would be greatful for your opinion on the matter. Here are a couple of questions I am trying to answer at the moment and would appreciate any input you may have: Do you see cycling becoming a principle transport mode in British cities in the future? And if so, what do you think are the major improvements that need to be made in terms of infrastructure in our cities? (I am coming from a civil engineering perspective.) Thanks, regarding the BBC news coverage of cyclists head-cams last week it seems that this kind of footage is gaining in popularity - fingers crossed the cyclist will prevail!

  18. Hi Georgina,

    I'd be happy to help. Perhaps if you send me a message of youtube I can reply back to you personally.

  19. Hi Si,

    Yes I do cycle through the tunnel every day.

    It's fine. Not the most inviting place to go, but I've never had any problems in the 5+ years I've been cycling through it.

    I hope you enjoy your new commute!

  20. I think you're confusing (or confusing us with) your terminology a little. The term "Mandatory Cycle Lane" is generally used to refer to a solid white line at the side of a road. Often their times of operation are restricted (and shown by signs). Motor vehicles can't park or drive in them during the hours of operation but cyclists can choose whether or not to use them. Often they're on double yellow lines, so the non-parking aspect is irrelevant.

  21. Legend, Just starting to commute and all the issues your video's point out will help. Keep up the good work.

  22. As both a cyclist and a class 1 hgv driver, who regularly brings articulated lorries into congested cities, I can see things from both sides. Drivers must slow down, give cyclists plenty of room when overtaking, be particularly careful at junctions and learn to consider every cyclist as a bonus because it means one less car on the road. But cyclists must be more responsible by avoiding rapid changes in direction and acceleration, cutting their speed where motorists are likely to misjudge things (let's face it, stationary traffic with cyclists filtering in all directions at ridiculous speeds is scary for motorists and pedestrians alike), by avoiding filtering where it may cause conflict, by not riding up the inside of large vehicles which may want to turn left, by not jumping lights no matter how tempting, and above all, be aware that their actions could end up representing cyclists as a whole if they end up on Youtube (a lot of commercial drivers have cameras too). Arguments over VED or cyclists' "rights" have never worked, kerbside confrontations are hardly an inducement to getting motorists onto their bikes, and segregation isn't going to happen because UK plc is just about bankrupt. If it was me, I'd show some videos taken from your car, demonstrating the correct way to cope with cyclists, and perhaps some videos demonstrating your judgement by slowing down or stopping where prudence and public relations are more important than "taking the lane", even in situations where you are perfectly entitled to do so.

  23. You said you never hurl abuse. What about when you called that female driver a 'fat cunt'