Friday, 30 December 2011

What a crazy year that has been.

Glasgow's Squinty Bridge at New Year?

It's that time of year again when, due to a totally artificial division in our calender we are forced to look back at the 365 or so days that have just passed. And what a 365 days they have been!

Of course this is a personal blog. It is not a blog about world events, so there is no point in me recounting them here. Others are much better at that, and have much better insight into the ramifications of the Arab spring, and Prince Phillips heart condition. So I'll keep it personal. What has 2011 been like for me?


It all started off well. I had a wonderful opportunity to visit Boston in the US and to take pictures of pretty bikes stuck in the snow (that's not what I was there for!). The weather did reduce the amount of time I could spend on the bike though which was annoying. However, I  made it onto TV (ok my video did) and onto radio!

Early 2011 was also the time when I really started writing my blog more regularly. I realised that I enjoyed writing, despite being very bad at it. In fact I even dabbled in writing some 'bike comedy' (here and here), although I quickly realised that I was better to stick to my day job!! I was more successful when writing about the abuse I was receiving and the abusers. I really shouldn't have made it to the end of 2011 alive!!

I thought a lot about cycle lanes, and decided that they were indeed very badly designed and often downright dangerous. However, as the year went on I began to realise that I wasn't 100% against cycle lanes or cycle specific infrastructure. In fact, I came across a realisation that not everyone could, would, or should be a vehicular cyclist such as myself. Perhaps there was another way...

In the middle of the year I had lots of grand ideas. Most of which I didn't have any time to follow up unfortunately. Events, not totally in my control took over my time. In fact during the summer things took a nasty turn and made life very uncomfortable for me for a while. I'm not going to go into detail here, but suffice it to say a driver who didn't like the fact that I caught him on camera decided to try to make my life very difficult.Of course you can't keep a good Magnatom down, and I've managed to turn negativity into positivity. Out of it all came the idea for a book. Yes, I started writing a book. So if you are interested to find out more about who I am, what I do, why I do it, and some of the crazy stuff that has happened as a result; stay tuned to these pages for more details!

Things did turn more positive again with a great meeting with First Buses, for it only to go a bit pear shaped again with my run in with the law. I really have lost a lot of faith in the police as a result. However, in good Magnatom style there is a ray of hope, and I hope to have some more details of some positive developments in the new year.

There was of course the very successfully Cycle video Day. Which resulted in video submissions from all over the world. Brilliant. Of course, time towards the end of the year (I also have three young kids as well!) was becoming tight, so I didn't manage to follow this up the way I had intended. Me bad. Must do better.

Mind you, I did become a millionaire! Ok, not in money terms, but in YouTube viewing terms. Great, except for the fact that most of the views were probably from people wanting to see me knocked off my bike. Oh well, a view is a view!

Towards the end of the year, life as Magnatom seemed to get a little quieter with nicer commutes and fewer incidents (and less threat of arrest etc!). I recorded one particularly glorious commute. This was probably my favourite video of the year, closely followed by this beauty!

Don't be fooled by the quiet end to the year, though. As I have hinted before, there are already plans afoot for 2012. Possible progress with the police, a planned project with a campaigning group and.......something else I can't quite tell you about yet. Sorry! Mind you it should be worth the wait if it all comes off.

There is one thing that is as certain as death and taxes: there will be more videos! Who knows I may even try something a little different in 2012.

Happy New Year when it comes and safe driving/cycling!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Hate Crimes?

I am used to abuse. I get lots of it. It's to be expected when you put your 'head above the parapet' and make a stand. Someone will always find a reason to hate you.

When does YouTube abuse cross the line? When does abuse become a hate crime?

Hate crime is undoubtedly an emotive subject, one that I am certainly no expert in. Personally I am a strong believer in the right to free speech. That's part of the reason why I leave a lot of the abusive posts on my videos, when many others remove them. I often find that the 'haters' hang themselves with their own words.

However, there is a line that, when crossed, takes abuse to another level. For me that was crossed recently with this comment.

I'm ramming the next biker off the road because of this vid and yes....I will reverse over them.

In some ways this comment is not as bad as some, I've had plenty saying they would run me over, etc. However, this isn't directed at me. It is directed at a random cyclist, the next he meets perhaps. Of course, he may well be kidding, and is likely to be an 'internet hard man', however, that was the excuse of some facebook posters in Dundee recently. In their defence one of their lawyers said,

He was certainly not serious about there being a 'riot in the toon'.

The facebook rioters were both sentenced to 3 years in prison.

Should I report this and similar comments as hate crimes?

Looking at the Strathclyde Police website hate crime is defined as a crime motivated by hatred of someone because of their race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality or national origins, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability. On the reporting form there are no other options, certainly no option for hate crime motivated by transport choice.

Ok, so maybe there is an option with YouTube. Again, they specify protected groups similar to above and make it difficult to report this as a serious offence. It can be reported as abuse, but their isn't an option for threats directed at a non-protected group.

So, whilst I completely agree that abuse against the listed 'protected groups' is unacceptable, why does it appear that hate against groups such as cyclists are not. Yes, I could try and force the issue with the police. I could try and force them to take me seriously, though I doubt they would. The problem is that I could probably report 3 or 4 people a day.

So is hate against cyclists on YouTube and elsewhere which incites violence against cyclists acceptable? Is it an unfortunate side effect of free speech? Or should we strive to make hate such as the example above punishable via the law?

What are your thoughts?

Thursday, 15 December 2011

My Most Popular Video - Analysis

For some reason the video below has recently become my most popular video on YouTube by far. Over the last month it has been viewed 9,308 times.

Why, I'm not sure. It seems to be the haters that have latched on to it. I'm getting lots of abuse for not cycling in the cycle lane, for my reaction to the driver, and quite a few suggest that the pass wasn't close. So I thought I would explain the video in detail here. Hopefully some of my haters might even get to the bottom of this page! :-)

First lets look at the road and lane layout of the road on google map (see here).

It's a dual-carriage way with a 30mph limit on it. It has two wide lanes (approximately 3.5 metres wide each). There is an intermittent cycle lane that ends abruptly, a good distance before the lights. It's width varies along its length, but it is never wider than about 1 metre.  There are a number of junctions along the length, including the one that the aggressive driver turns into. This is a car park for some local shops.

A recent publication by Transport Scotland points out that the absolute minimum width of a cycle lane should be 1.5m and that the desired width should be 2m. This lane falls well short of even the minimum requirements. The following text from the Transport Scotland document makes interesting reading:

Sub-standard width or poorly located cycle lanes can provide a false sense of security for both cyclists and motor vehicle drivers and encourage poor lane discipline from both. In many cases, a narrow cycle lane can encourage close proximity overtaking by motor vehicles (Parkin, J and Meyers, C (2009)). Limited space alone is not a reason for providing sub-standard width cycle lanes. Alternative solutions should be sought at such locations.

So on this section of the road I choose not to use a cycle lane that falls well below the absolute minimum standards for a cycle lane. Which, as I have pointed out in a previous blog and is backed up by the Transport for Scotland (Cycling by Design), the lane encourages close passes.

Of course, staying out of the lane in this instance did not discourage this particular close pass. Why not? The problem here is that the lanes are quite wide. About 3.5 metres wide. In fact where the close pass took place, the width of the the left hand lane, excluding the cycle lane is about 3.1m.

In this video I was probably cycling about 20cm outside the edge of the lane. When on my bike I am probably about 60cm wide. So within the lane that leaves 2.4 metres of lane to my right. When the close pass occurs the car remains just within the left hand lane (there is a car in the outside lane).  Looking it up on the internet a Honda Civic is about 1.7m wide. That leaves 60cm between me and the Honda Civic. It is generally accepted that the minimum distance you should give a cyclist when passing is about 1 metre. That is of course a minimum.

Of course, how close a pass that is acceptable depends to some extent on the speed of the passing vehicle, which in this instance was undertaking the vehicle in the right hand lane. Using google maps and relating that to where where the car passed me, and noting the time it took to get to the end of the cycle lane (4 seconds approximately over a distance of 76m) the car was travelling at approximately 43mph. Remember this is a 30mph section of road. Also note it is probably a little less than 4 seconds, so I have probably underestimated his speed.

So, lets recap so far. I was out of the lane as it was poorly designed and below minimum standards, he passed me well below the minimal acceptable distance for a car to pass, and he did so, whilst undertaking another car and travelling in excess of the speed limit (remember that's a limit not a target).

So what could he have done to prevent it? He could have slowed down and waited to pass when it was safe to do so at a safe distance and within the speed limit. It's a big ask, I know, but for anyone with reasonable car handling skills it should be pretty easy to do. So he is wanting to turn into the shops. Perhaps his safest option would be to wait behind me for the distance. Now that will be totally unacceptable to some! Lets look at how long he would have been delayed.

He reaches the back of the queue at about 41 seconds. I reach him at 46 seconds. Now lets assume he is a good driver and he left a 2 second gap behind me, so he would have been delayed by 7 seconds. He would have reached the queue at 48 seconds in the video. the car in front doesn't start moving until 50 seconds into the video.

So had he waited behind me he would have been delayed for the grand total of...........

Diddly squat. Zero. Nill. None. Nada seconds.

What could I have done to prevent it. According to the 'collected wisdom of YouTube' (is there such a thing?!?) I should be in the lane. Would that really prevent a close pass? Or, would the driver just pull out less and leave me the same amount of room, or possibly even less? I think this is likely here.

Do I have any other options?

Yes I do, but I suspect that the haters would not like it. Cycle further out into the lane. Cycling further out would 'close the door' and would leave no gap for a pass. By cycling 90cm or more from the edge of the cycle lane, there would be no space for his car to fit. The driver would either have to wait behind (in blind rage no doubt) and look for a safe gap to overtake (in the outside lane that the council have provided for the purpose) or run me over.

Would he run me over? I very much doubt that. For all the bravado and testosterone that is on display in the comments section of the video which would suggest that 50% of drivers would run cyclists over in this situation, I have yet be be run over.

So thanks guys for making me revisit this video. Having taken the time to look at it in detail and take into account your comments, I now know what to do to prevent this type of driving again.

Cycle further out in the lane.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Beavering in the Background

I haven't posted for a couple of weeks, which isn't like me. I like writing the blog. I like forcing my opinions on people that are daft enough to read them! (You're not daft, honest!) However, I've been busy.

Not busy on my normal noisy, tell the world about it sort of way, but quietly beavering away in the background. Not like me at all....quiet that is, I'm always busy!

There are a couple of things cycling wise that I am working on with others. I don't want to share too much until things are more concrete, but there are a couple of things happening that I am excited to be part of.

One is related to my recent dealings with the police. There may be a silver lining to all of this, not directly related to my complaint. My complaint is dead in the water. There is no point in me wasting my time pursuing it. However, my recent interactions with the police may have opened a new line of communication that could be very useful for the future. More when I know more.

Another possible development is also quite exciting if it comes off. It would be working with other campaigners and a particular campaign group to produce a cycling infrastructure visualisation. Again it's early days yet, but if it works out, I'll certainly share the project with you.

In fact, I'm beginning to wonder what the point was of this blog post. It's a post telling you, that I have things that would be interesting to post about, I would love to post about, but it's best if I don't post about them....not yet anyway.

Sorry. I'll stop writing this and get back to my beavering.....

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Anger, Frustration, Police

Sorry, but this post requires a little bit of background reading. If you haven't already read it, look at this post first about an incident I had in Milngavie Police station 3 months ago, where I was threatened with arrest. Now, again if you haven't read it, read my post from yesterday here.

Right, you should be up to speed now. In fact you are probably about as up to speed as I am. I've had a busy day looking after the kids, so I haven't had a chance to think though this mornings phone call from the police. So this post is just about me thinking this through as letting you know what has happened. Apologies if it reads strange.

So this morning the phone rings. It is the officer that is in charge of the investigation. Obviously my e-mail has at last got a response. The introductions out the way the officer tells me that he was surprised to hear from me. It turns out that the complaint had been dealt with informally as I had requested.


Going back in time a bit, after I had sent the request in, Sgt xxxxxxx the investigating officer phoned me to say that he was in charge of it. He discussed the detail with me and pointed out that there were two options available to me. Informal complain, or formal complaint. He suggested that in the first instance we should treat this informally and see what the officer has to say for himself. Then I could decide from there if I wanted to take it further. This seemed reasonable, especially as it turned out the officer was on holiday at that time and would be for a couple of weeks. Sgt xxxxxxx would speak to him then and get back.

Fair enough.

So time passed and I hadn't heard anything. So I called on (and I have checked this time on my mobile phone records) 29th September at 13:02. Sgt xxxxxxxx wasn't in so I left a message for him to get back to me. He didn't. I'm busy so I didn't manage to phone again until the 30th October at 13:34 (again on my phone records). Again he was not in, and again I left a message for him to get back to me. Again he did not.

I finally found some time to e-mail as described in my last blog and today came the call.

The following is a rough reconstruction from my memory of the main points of the conversation

Sgt: We agreed that this would be dealt with informally, so I had a chat with him.

Me: No, I agreed that it was reasonable to chat with him to start with to know where we stood.

Sgt: No, we agreed to deal only with it informally.

Me: That was not what I agreed. Anyway, surely I would expect some form of reply from you about what happened at that meeting, especially considering he was not available when I first complained.

Sgt: I can only apologise about that.

Me: Is it not normal policy to respond to a complaint even if informal only

Sgt: I can only apoligise

Me: What was the outcome of the chat?

Sgt: Both officer xxxxxxx and the desk lady both denied they mentioned anything about arrest.

Me: That is a downright lie!

Sgt: Ummm, errr, sorry about that.

Me: What about the fact that he was saying filming faces and licence wasn't allowed

Sgt: He was only suggesting that there was a civil issue (There isn't!!!)

Me: Also I tried to contact you twice and left a message twice to call me back. Why didn't you?

Sgt: We have system where if someone leaves a message an e-mail is sent to me to contact you back. I never received such an e-mail

Me: But I definitely phoned twice

Sgt: I can only apologise.

Me: What about CCTV in the station, does that back up any of my events as described?

Sgt: Unfortunately this is an older station and doesn't have CCTV. They only get it when refurbished.

Sgt: You can make this formal if you wish

Me: I'll need to go away and think all of this through.....

So here I am. Feeling completely let down by the police.

Surely, even if he did get the wrong end of the stick and thought I just wanted an informal chat I should get some feedback? I was always considering the option of making it formal, after I had heard his response.
There is no way I said I was happy for it just to be treated informally. I very clearly remember it being suggested that it could be taken further later. If it isn't policy now, it should be policy for any complaint, formal or informal to get feedback after the person being complained about has been interviewed.

Why were my two phone calls ignored? Incompetence from those taking the messages? Was it ignored by the investigating officer?

What is certain is that the police officers lied about threatening to arrest me. I can assure you that happened. My wife would attest to how shook up and angry I was when I came back home.

What do I do now? Do I just drop this? Do I put it down to experience?
Should I put in a formal complaint against the original officer? They will just deny it again anyway.
Should I take it further? More senior officer? PCCS? MP or MSP?

I really don't know.

The only thing for certain is that I used to hold the police in high regard. Now, I feel like I can't trust them at all. I have lost all faith in Strathclyde police. That is very, very sad.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Ongoing Police Complaint

What follows is a letter sent to Strathclyde Police today (contains some minor changes).

Dear Sir/madam,

On the 28th of August the complaint, (
see here), was sent to you via e-mail concerning the conduct of Officer xxxxxxx on the 14th of August at Milngavie Police Station. Following this I was contacted by Sgt xxxxxx  via phone indicating that he would be dealing with the complaint against the officer and would get back to me with regards to it.

It is now just over 3 months since I made the formal complaint via e-mail and I have had no further word on the progress, or lack of progress of this complaint. I have tried phoning Sgt xxxxxxx on two separate occasions to find out what was happening. Sgt xxxxxxx was not available on either occasion, but my contact details were left and I asked to be contacted back. I have never been contacted back.

I feel I have waited long enough for this complaint to be progressed and I am now considering taking this to the PCCS if I do not hear about the state of the investigation within the next few days.

It feels like this complaint has been ignored or swept under the carpet.

Many thanks for your help in this matter.

I am not holding my breath. 

Friday, 25 November 2011

It Has Happened Again

I'm sure most of you will remember my Oil Tanker incident which occured in March 2008. It was a horrible incident that unfortunately, due to technical issues never went to court.

Unfortunately, this morning I suffered a very similar incident in exactly the same place. This time instead of being icy it was pouring with rain. It was an HGV, although this time a tipper truck instead of an oil tanker. I came on at the same junction, I was well on the roundabout, more so than last time and the HGV pulled straight out. Had I not stopped on this occasion I would have been run over with the cab.

He did slow down a bit, gave a bit of a wave and drove off. He saw me all right. No question there.

There were plenty of drivers around who witnessed it, but they drove off.

So there I was stuck in the middle of the roundabout completely dazed and absolutely furious that the same thing could happen again.

I swore a lot and once the adrenalin had worn off, I was a bit shaken.

Of course, I'm no ordinary cyclist, I am a helmet camera cyclist, so I have it all on video, front and back. Interestingly, this time, due to the angle I ended up at, it is the rear footage which demonstrates how close it was better than the front. I know the name of the company that operates the HGV and I have it's registration. I even have a GPS trace showing my position and speed on approach to the roundabout. So the video has been edited and the police have been informed.  Of course, with it being a weekend it will probably be a day or so before they have time to see me, which is fair enough.

So where is the video? It is on YouTube, but it will remain unlisted for the time being. I am determined to do this one by the book, so it may be a while before it is released for general consumption. Sorry.

On the bright side, that is two HGV drivers who have done their best to wipe me off the planet and two that have failed. Perhaps, contrary to what my 'fans' suggest, I am actually riding a bike in a way that allows me to avoid collision.

I've decided that a slight change to my route is in order. I can come to that roundabout via a different direction. I'm not going to let that happen again.

After today hope I still have a few lives left.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Crash, Bang, Wallop!

As a follow on from my previous blog I thought I should be as open as possible about the videos where I have made mistakes. So he is my list of videos where I either admitted I made a mistake from the start, realised later that I made a mistake, or more spectacularly, I crashed!

This will probably be a blog that my haters enjoy!

Crash 1
Filtering mistake
Undertaking an HGV
Blocking a car
Crash 2
Crash 3
Overtaking mistake
Almost a crash!
Cutting up a car
I hit a car!
Crash 4
My sheep incident
Lucky escape
Almost hit a car
Clipless Moment
Crash 5 (Ouch!)
Crash 6

I should point out that the above videos have occured over a 4 year period!

I try to be honest about my mistakes. I also try and learn from them. All I ask of other road users is that you do the same.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Too many incidents?

I'm a cyclist and I'm not involved in anywhere near as many incidents as you!

I'm on the receving end of many comments like this on a regular basis. Often on YouTube, but I am certainly not immune to this on internet forum sites either. This thread is an interesting example of how a thread can turn into Magnatom Bashing. You will need some time and patience to get through it!

I have certainly never claimed to be perfect. Sometimes I over-react, but I always try to remain honest. If that means showing a video where I come across badly, then so be it.

The argument that I am a troublemake and involved in far more incidents than anyone else is often banded about during these forum jousts. I can actually understand how it comes about. Imagine you have come across my videos for the first time and you start working your way through them. You flick past the boring videos, the ones where it shows me filtering through traffic, battling through floods, taking in the wonderful views and focus on the incidents. 15 or 20 videos later and it seems that all that idiot ever does is get into spats with drivers....he's a menace!!

What happens though if we take a step back. Actually look at all of my videos (I can also see the ones that are private for one reason or another) and see what the videos actually consit of.

This is how I would split them (186 at time of writing including a few private videos):

65 Incidents which were only annoying
15 Incidents which I considered risky to me
1 serious incident
31 which were observational of something positive (I was not directly involved)
27 which were observational of something negative (I was not directly involved)
17 which were either a mistake by me, or a fall that was my fault (admitted from the start or later)
14 that were demonstrating equipment
13 which were educational in some way
2 containing my family members
1 radio interview

So only 81 of my videos are of incidents where I felt someone else was at fault, and were at the very least annoying. Whilst I have been using a camera I estimate I have cycled 11320 miles. So that is about 140 miles between incidents. Remember that is incidents of any kind on predominently busy, urban, bike-unfriendly roads.

Taking only risky or serious incidents I have to cycle about 710 miles before I have a risky or very serious incident. Taking only the serious incidents (my oil tanker incident) which really risked my life, at the moment that stands at 11,320 miles.

So, do I really seem to get into bother more than other cyclists? I know that the vast majority of the incidents that I have had, had I not recorded them, I would not now remember. So without a camera, if I reflected back, I too would think Magnatom seems to get into a lot more bother than me..

Friday, 11 November 2011

Cyclist Scum

Cyclist scum?! That is exactly what a lady driver appeared to think of me.

I was actually quite shocked at this interaction with a driver for a few reasons. Firstly, I have been having great commutes for the last few weeks, so this has unfortunately ended my good run. It came out of he blue. Secondly, I have no idea why she reacted the way she did I did not holder her up. The large queue that I filtered past may have held her up, but I didn't, certainly no more than a few seconds. Lastly, she didn't look the aggressive sort, but as you'll see from this video she was particularly aggressive and most shockingly, full of contempt for me.


A cyclist DARED to speak to her and question her.

See for yourself....

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Ultimate Cycle Commute Rucksack?

There are two distinct camps of cycle commuters. I'm not talking about those that want to cycle on the roads and those that want lanes. That's for another blog post. I'm talking about a far more contentious division.

Panniers or rucksack!?!

You have to get stuff to work, and unfortunately you sometimes have to bring work home. But how do you get it there? Some cyclists swear by Panniers as the answer. You will certainly have less issues with sweaty back syndrome. However, I am proud to be a Rucksack wearer, and have been since I started commuting.

So if you fall into the Rucksack crew, I can heartily recommend a rucksack.

The Deuter Trans Alpine 30. Trans Alpine? Remember I cycle in Scotland!

Seriously though this has been an amazing bag for me.

How many times have you read a review saying something was amazing only to find out that the reviewer had only had the item for 2 weeks?! Can you trust reviews like that? Rest assured this is no short term use review. I have in fact been cycle commuting with this rucksack since October 2006. The same one throughout.

I have had this bag just over 5 years. Think about that. That's 5 summers, and 5 winters. I've had this bag longer than I have been filming my rides with a helmet camera! It's been rained on, snowed on, I've came off my bike (a few times) with it on. It has been on my back in temperatures of 28C and temperatures of -15C. Over that time I have cycled many thousands of miles. It has taken a beating.

So what about the bag itself?

It's not a small bag, and that is exactly why I bought it. I needed space, as I tend to carry quite a bit. It's not unusual for me to be carrying, clothes for work, shoes for work, a note book or two, wallet, spare cycling jacket, spare batteries, tubes, multi-tool, puncture repair kit, water, mobile phone etc. So it can carry a lot! It has a nice number and nicely proportioned compartments and very importantly for the poor weather a rain cover (that is Hi-Vis yellow).

It also fits very well with restraining straps on the main shoulder straps and around the users waist. Once it's on I forget it is there. Do I get a sweaty back? Of course I do, but its not too bad, and with the Airstripes system, better than average. Mind you, it doesn't really bother me, and I think it is a price worth paying for the convenience of a rucksack.

Here is what it looks like new.
Looks good new...

So what does it look like now, having been through all weathers etc? Not too bad!

Ok, so it's understandably a bit tatty, but pretty good considering its use. Most importantly it has plenty of life left in it.

So how much is the 'ultimate commute rucksack'? Currently it is just over £80 from Amazon. Not cheap, but for a bag that does what it should and is built to last, its a good investment.

UpdateJan 213
Chain Reaction  are doing these bags at an excellent price of £65.99. A bargain at that price.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Does it get any better?

You may have noticed that I've been a bit quiet recently. Not like me, I'm not known for being quiet as I am sure you've noticed!

So why the radio silence?

A couple of reasons really. The first, and most boring is that I am busy. Yes, contrary to what many people say about me on my YouTube videos I do actually have a life. That life which has a busy job, a wife and three young children in it, has been pretty demanding recently. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. Mind you, as I write this my wife is battling to get our youngest to sleep, now she has contracted Hand, Foot and Mouth for the second time in 2 months. That isn't such a great thing.

However, the slightly less mundane reason I have been quiet is commute has been quiet. No, the roads haven't suddenly cleared of cars, far from it. It has been pretty busy on the roads recently. It's just that I am going through a magical period of stress free cycle commuting.


It's never perfect, but any incidents have been of a very minor, forget in 10 seconds nature.

So no, videos then?....not quite. In fact I think I have produced my best video to date. Ok, that's my opinion, but you can have a look and decide for yourself below. The only thing I'll say about the video is that it was filmed during one of my best commutes ever. One of those commutes where from start to finish you just can't stop grinning. You just feel at one with the bike and everything around you...including the traffic.

I got to work totally buzzing and wanting to keep cycling for another 100 miles.

I love driving. Not commute driving, that's never much fun in Glasgow, but I do love driving, especially on open country roads. However, driving has never made me feel the way I felt during this commute, and never will.

Enjoy! :-)

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Police Came Calling...

Saturday was a busy day in Magnatom Towers. My in-laws are staying at the moment and due to the help with childcare and the extra labour, it's always a good time to get work done on the house. So 70% of the 23 year old lounge paper is stripped (I know it's 23 years as the decorators wrote the year down!) a back boiler has been stripped out (a Corgi engineer had disconnected it before anyone asks!), I slice my finger open taking said boiler out, and the police turned up at the door....

Police!? It's ok, I've not been rumbled. At least not yet. In fact they came with good news.

A few weeks back I had a nasty incident where a car overtook me so close I honestly can't understand how it didn't hit me, and I had to swerve out of the way. I felt it was bad enough to show the police.They were back to tell me they had spoken to the lady, and she has been charged with Careless Driving.

It's funny, upon hearing that I felt a little guilty. Human nature I suppose. I don't like taking action like that, which is part of the reason why I very rarely do. So that wasn't the good news. What was good news was her reaction. Upon the police arriving at her door, a few weeks after the incident, her initial words were:

You're here about the cyclist I nearly knocked down aren't you?

According to what she told the police, she has been concerned about the incident ever since and felt bad about it. She has apparently learnt from this and now gives cyclists a much wider berth.

That is good news!

So whilst this driver will, if she does plead guilty as expected, get 3 points and a small fine, this is not the good news. The good news is that one driver will be much more careful around cyclists in the future.

A result.

As for the video. It is private at the moment and will remain that way until I can find a way of blanking her number plates. She has been good enough to apologise and admit fault. I think it is only fair.

Anyway, I'm being totally anti-social to my in-laws at the moment. So no chance to check spelling and grammar..... :-)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

I'm a Millionaire !

It's official. My YouTube channel has now had 1 million views.

Blimey. I'd never have thought that when I started!

Yes I know, 900,000 of those are probably me looking at my own videos, and 98,000 are probably people who glance at my videos to see if I have been run down yet, but that means I've had 2000 views from people who like what I do.

Thank you! :-)

What is fascinating is the list of my most popular videos at the moment (i.e. what people are looking at over the last few weeks).

The most popular is this one.

Look at the comments and you'll see that the majority of comments are of the 'hate' variety. What is also interesting is to go to the YouTube channels of these haters. They do tend to fall into a couple of particular stereotypes!

I am proud though of my second most popular video at the moment. It is one of my favourites.

What I found very interesting though, is that if you Google 'Hate Cyclists' this video comes up on the second search page.

Mmmm. Wouldn't it be fun if this video were to come up as a top result on Google when searching for 'Hate Cyclists' or 'I Hate Cyclists'

So if you are looking for a well done gift for me for reaching 1 million views, link to my filtering video above from your web page so that it rises the google rankings! :-)

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Dedicated Cycle Video Day Blog

A quick entry before bed....there is a sickness bug going through my family at the moment, so I need an early night!!

I've set up a new blog focusing on the Cycle Video Day. You can find it here.

Happy videoing! :-)

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Cycle Video Day - Detail

If you haven't already read this page and then come back here.

Ok, detail is too strong a word. I'm intentionally trying to keep the detail to a minimum. I think it is better that the output from this day is not too directed. It should be a bringing together of many peoples views and experiences of commuter cycling.

However, I'll clarify a few things.

Videos should be no more than 10 minutes long. Any amount under this is acceptable. I know some people have suggested that 10 minutes is too long. However, leaving the option of a 10 minute video would allow someone to post a video filtering past queues of traffic, or to be able to show off a particularly scenic route. It is up to YOU. You decide how long, and what is in your video.

You will need to load your video up to YouTube or a similar video hosting web site for it to be linked to.

It certainly doesn't need to be uploaded, edited etc on the day of filming the footage, but ideally if you could edit it before the 17th October that would be great. If you think it would be late, you could e-mail me to let me know. Not everyone is a dab hand at editing video!

You don't need to be a regular YouTube'er to do this. In fact this could be your first uploaded video. All videos are welcome. All posters are equal!!

I will set up (probably with some help) a blog or website dedicated to this, and post details as soon as I have it. There will also be an e-mail address set up for everyone to send details of the videos to.

There may be the opportunity to edit bits of everyones videos together to produced an overall video for the day. If you don't want your video edited in this way, let me know!

If your video is offensive etc then it may not be included. I don't expect that I would need to reject any, but please note, it is possible!

Anywhere in this blog and elsewhere where I say 'I' or 'me' I actually mean WE! I do not claim ownership to this. I was daft enough to come up with this crazy idea, but I will need some help. Help with the website, help with graphics, help with editing, help with publicity etc. So if you think you can help leave a comment below (or twitter message me, or send me a message on YouTube, until I get the e-mail set up).

Most importantly, DON'T cycle any different to how you do normally. DO NOT go looking for trouble (not that you would anyway). It should be a true reflection of your experience on that day, not manufactured to look good/bad.

Happy Video Camming!

Oh and if you can think up a catchy name for this event/website etc. Let me know!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Cycle Video Day

There are lots and lots of Helmet Camera Cyclists on the streets today. Some great and good (like me of course....), some I admire, some I'm not so sure about. Here is the list of those who are currently posting, or have posted YouTube videos.

There really is a large number in the UK and we are quite widely spread geographically. As a group I think we are having an impact and a number of us have made it into the news at the local and national level. However, every piece I have ever seen has always suggested that we are few, and are possibly just a fringe element (perhaps we are!!).

This got me thinking.....oh, oh, here we go..... What could we do to help publicise that we are a growing force on the roads? What could we do that would capture peoples imagination, whilst at the same time get the message out that we are all road users and we all deserve respect?

And then the clouds parted, the sun shone and angels started singing.....ok, perhaps that is a little bit of an exaggeration, but I did have an idea, which is always worth celebrating!

Why not bring all of the helmet cam users together in a Day in the Life type project?

What if for one day, one specified day, we all captured and uploaded 10 minutes of our cycle commute. The particular 10 minutes would be up to the discretion of each cyclist, it could be an incident, an enjoyable section of the commute, a glorious sunrise, a bit of commuter racing.... anything that captured nationwide what cyclists were doing across the country on that day. Then all of the videos we collected and linked to from one location, each with a short 25 word description of what the video depicts.

I'm not even sure what it would consist of in the end, and what the final story would be, but I'm sure it would be a fascinating insight into cycle commuting and could serve as an educational and campaigning tool.

So what do you think? Are you ready to film a day in the life of your cycle commuting?

May I be so bold to select a date? How about Monday the 10th October 2011......

NOTE: Change of date. Now 10th October. Otherwise, us in the north would be filming in the dark!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Pulling Out My Finger

Those who pay attention (and those who care!) may have noticed that I have been quieter recently. There are a number of reasons for this. One reason is that the roads have been pretty good to cycle on recently. However, there are other reasons of a more sinister nature.... boom, boom, boom, tada, da, da, da... (that was the start of the end titles on Eastenders, which I'm sure was obvious!)

Yes, you've guessed it, I'm going to leave that for another day. Why? I suppose I am still a little too angry about it, and want to let the dust settle, but more importantly, I want to leave it for my book.

What did you just say?!!

Yes you read right, my book.

I've had a look back over the last 6 years and it really has been a rollercoaster. I've had lots of great fun, and I've had some brilliant successes, but there have been some very low points as well. They say that everyone has a book in them, well, I think I have one that I feel the need to share. Of course, it is entirely possible that no one will want to read it. However, I did an entirely unbiased poll of my facebook friends and 7 said they would buy it once it was reduced in a bargain basement store, 3 said they would buy it and send it to taxi drivers they didn't like, and one said that if it was thick enough to prop up their wobbly kitchen chair they would buy it, but only if it had a picture of my face in it.

Yes I do have 11 friends!!

So, having had such a positive initial response I have started. I have about 600 words so far. Only 300 to go.....what's that? Books tend to be longer than a blog post!?!? I'll have to have plenty of pictures then!

Actually, I think I have two books, and the shorter of the two will probably be finished first. Watch this space!

(Oh and if you are a publisher who likes what I write here, is willing to ignore the terrible grammar and spelling, and can see the HUGE potential of a book about a particularly controversial cyclist and his crazy journey so far then feel free to contact me!!!)

Anyway, that's enough of my get rich quick scheme....oh ok, my make £5.50 if I am lucky scheme.

I have other ideas and plans that I need to progress. I have to follow up some leads with First Bus, I need to get my Celebration Station idea moving, and I need to crack on with my plan for a Day in the Life.

What Day in the Life plan?

Ah, I've been so busy I forgot to blog about that. Right. Best get a blog written about that then. Or maybe I should write book 1, or is that book 2, or maybe I need to play with the kids, change a nappy, put that front mudguard on, talk to the wife, fix the leak in the shower, look into getting the garage door repaired after I managed to close it whilst a bike wheel was in the way, get a life, read War and Peace, develop a new metabolic imaging agent for use in stroke.........


Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Butterfly Effect

Lets imagine a cyclist is a butterfly. Now lets imagine that this little butterfly notices the time and realises that it is time to go to work. So it dons it's helmet (butterflies are unlikely to hit the ground at more than 12mph so it might actually provide some protection....), and sets off on it's commute to the big flower.

Unfortunately for this butterfly, there aren't many butterflies around. In fact the majority of the traffic on it's commute are really large birds flying back and forth on really short journeys. These journeys generally consist of trips to get DIY goods (twigs), to get snacks in for the kids (worms or sometimes butterflies!), etc. This means that the sky is a busy place for the little butterfly, and he often finds that he needs to take evasive action to avoid being knocked out of the sky or eaten. It's a bird eat butterfly world, out there.

However, all is not lost. The butterfly has a secret weapon up it's wing. Having been a pupal of physics for a long time it knows about the butterfly effect. If things get rough and the butterfly fears for it's life, all it needs to do is flutter it's wings in a certain way and chaos ensues. The wind starts whipping up, storm clouds gather and all the big birds scatter for cover, giving the butterfly an opportunity to get to the big flower before the force of the hurricane reaches it's peak.

Could this bike be the answer to commuter blues?

Bravo little butterfly! 

Is it possible for us cyclists to learn anything from our colourful winged friends?

Unfortunately I don't have wings. I have tried very, very hard to whip up instantaneous storms, by flapping my arms up and down in a manic manner, but despite studying physics for many years, I never got to grips with chaos theory. However, fear not. It turns out I do have powers, powers to not only control traffic, but I have the power to cause huge tailbacks that stretch for miles and miles.

What do I need to do to unleash this mystical weapon? I just have to make one car driver behind me understand that I need a little room, and to slow down a little instead of overtaking me dangerously!

Brilliant! Here is the proof sent to me by Professor JimLem of the University of Youtube.

@magnatom Yeah, he could have taken his foot off the accelerator, causing every vehicle behind him to slow down too. Minutes later, there will be miles of tailbacks, resulting in delayed, frustrated drivers everywhere. And all because of YOU.

Cyclists should be grateful that there are designated lanes for them to use at all, since cars, vans, lorries and motorcycles are all operated by people who PAY to use public roads. I'm not surprised this guy reacted the way he did.

So car drivers, the next time you see a cyclist in front of you and it isn't safe to overtake, use your foot-brake and slow down a little. Then look carefully in your rear-view mirror (not too much of course, as you still don't want to knock the cyclist down!), and watch as the traffic chaos unfolds behind you.

Marvel in the power of the YouTube butterfly effect........

Sunday, 28 August 2011

I Was Almost Arrested

The following as a document that I have just sent to the local police. It is part of a more detailed complaint relating to a visit I made to Milngavie Police Station on the 14th August 2011. My visit was to report an incident/crime that I considered and still consider to be serious in nature. I have removed details of this from this blog as I still wish to pursue this with the police. I have also removed the officers name as this could prejudice any investigation.

The majority of this document was written upon returning home from the police station. At this point I was a little shell shocked. For a while I was not sure I was going to get home without being arrested.....

Arrived at the station at approximately 2:30pm. Talked to lady at front desk. Showed attached documents xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.
I explained briefly the problem to the lady officer, who took the documents away. She came back and explained that after talking advice, she was not bringing the officer she was speaking to, out (more senior?). If she did, ‘you wouldn’t be leaving the station without being arrested’. Obviously I was quite shocked by this statement and asked for clarification.

She suggested that I was not allowed to cycle with a helmet camera the way I do, and posting the videos in a public place, i.e. licence (number) plates and faces are private. She also said I was not allowed to post on YouTube. I was of course shocked by this statement and mentioned that I have already talked to lawyers etc and that I have taken advice from the Information Commissioner. She continued to point out that the advice she had been given (from her colleague) was contrary to this. Eventually she said, ‘Right! Wait here!’. She disappeared off into the station. Her manner was suggestive of, ‘now you’re getting into trouble’. I was expecting to be arrested.

A short while later Officer xxxxxx  came out and took me to an interview room. It was made very obvious that they were not interested in my crime report, only in the ‘illegal’ nature of my filming and posting.

Officer xxxxxx and another officer, who entered the room (I did not get his name) started stating that what I was doing was illegal and that videoing and posting videos to YouTube could get me arrested. They pointed out (all the way through the discussion) that number plates and faces are private and that I have no right to film them. I fact officer xxxxxx pointed out that his number plate had his initials on it and he considered it private. I pointed out several times that all the information that I have (including the Information Commissioner) suggests that filming and posting as I do is perfectly legal. They told me I was wrong. 

I felt that they softened their tone as the discussion went on and they then were suggesting that I could be sued by someone for one of my videos. They did however say that, if I cycled past a school, and inadvertently filmed some children, that if a parent was alarmed by that, I could be arrested  for filming children. Officer xxxxxx said ‘I would arrest you, no questions asked’.  I pointed out that the issue of intent, i.e. that my filming has nothing to do with filming children. He agreed that this would be a matter of the courts or procurator fiscal. Is it policy to arrest people who film children without question if a complaint is received?

I then asked about xxxxxxxxx (my crime report). He dismissed this off hand. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

On a number of occasions he pointed out that organisations need CCTV signs when using cameras and he asked a few times if I was licenced to film. He suggested that I needed to be, and as far as he was concerned what I did was not exempt from the DPA under the recreation exemption. He asked me to define ‘recreation’ with regards to the DPA. I pointed out that I did not know this and that was why I contacted the Information Commissioner. 

I also pointed out that I had reported incidents before, and I mentioned an incident that I reported to Milngavie police station of an oil tanker that nearly killed me. I described in detail why it didn’t go to court in the end due to a Supreme Court ruling meaning that the original testimony of the accused no longer being acceptable for use in court. He seemed a little confused about the issue of corroboration at first, i.e. I pointed out I’d need an expert witness to talk to my footage as it was not seen as independent otherwise (specific to Scots law I believe). Upon considering this, he agreed. I pointed out that all the way through this investigation when talking to the police and the Procurator Fiscal that no-one suggested my filming was illegal. He was dismissive of this.

At one point he pointed out that if a woman decided to strip off in her front garden and I inadvertently filmed her (and she saw me and complained), he would arrest me for that. This is blatantly not true.

I also pointed out that the MET in London actively encourage the use of helmet cameras. Officer xxxxxxxx pointed out that that was in England and this was Scotland, so would explain the difference. This of course is wrong as the data protection act is UK is covers both Scotland and England.   
The meeting ended with nothing being done about xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx and I felt shocked by the way I was treated as the accused. 

On the way out I mentioned that the lady at the desk had suggested that I could get arrested today. He agreed that was not the case, but that I had to be careful.

I left the station at approximately 15:00. I felt very shocked by the experience. It really did cross my mind that they were going to arrest me when they took me through. Very unpleasant!!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Riots and Road Rage

We've all seen the pictures of the violence and looting on the streets of London and other English cities. Shocking wasn't it. The violence, the looting, the loss of control. It makes you realise that society is not as happy or in control as we often like to delude ourselves.

What is most surprising though is....that we are surprised.

What do I mean by that?

Just look at my videos, and the videos of countless other road users (not just cyclists). It doesn't happen every day but, hold up the wrong driver for a few seconds, sit a little further out on the road than someone likes, etc and the red mist descends and road rage soon follows. Just watch the following video as an example (not mine).

The experts are arguing over the cause of the riots. Gang culture, rap music, single parent families etc are all being touted as causes. Perhaps it is a lot simpler than that. Perhaps we see violence as the norm. People know that there is a lot they can get away with without serious consequence. For example the attacker in the above video is only being sought for a public order offence and not for assault. Will that stop him doing similar again in the future?

So should we be shocked by the riots? No. There is violence and aggression on the streets every day. Just not mob violence.

The public outcry over the riots is encouraging the courts to look at stiffer penalties and firmer policing, Great. But where is the outcry for incidents like this? When will the police, and the courts get tough where it is actually needed?

Until then, Joe Criminal will know that he can get away with 'murder' with only a slap on the wrist.

Actually, you can actually get away with long as your weapon of choice is a car.......

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Meeting With First Bus - Outcome

As I mentioned previously, I was invited to meet with First Buses South East and Central Scotland. I was invited as I was unfortunate enough to have had an incident with one of their buses during a commute home.

The meeting was arranged well in advance but I was a little in the dark about what exactly it would entail. I knew we would discuss my incident, but I wasn't sure what else. However, as I was due to meet with the managing director Paul Thomas and the training manager Mike Wilson, I hoped that the meeting would go a little further. Therefore I prepared a little.

First Bus have the right idea here!

So armed with a number of things to discuss, including campaigns that First might consider being involved in, a number of issues that cyclists had raised on my blog and via twitter, and a lot of curiosity about the training that First provide for their drivers, I made my way to their depot and training centre in Livinston.

I considered cycling there, but not wanting to sit through a meeting in sweaty Lycra I decided to drive. Once there I noticed something curious, you had to park your car by reversing into parking spaces. No driving forward into them. Why? It turned out that as you are more awake at the start of a shift, you were more likely to reverse safely when coming to work than when leaving it. Safety certainly seemed to be taken seriously....

As I arrived a little early Paul was not there yet, however I was quickly introduced to Mike Wilson. Straight away I was put at my ease, as Mike was very welcoming and seemed genuinely interested to see me, and hear about my filming, especially what equipment I use to do it.

Mike it turned out started off as a paramedic motorcycle rider, and then moved on to work with the police. His job with the police was to train police drivers and to inspect and conduct driver examinations. It was after meeting with First Bus about 6 years ago that he was offered a job with First Buses. The aim, was to bring the standards of driver training that are expected in the police to bus drivers. For the last 5 years he has been trying to change the standard of bus driving for the better.

Mike explained how they were using a number of techniques to improve driver training. One system that had made a big difference was the introduction of Green Road. I was given a excellent demonstration of how Green Road works by Graeme (otherwise known as Trigger!). The system is a GPS system that records the diving habits of the companies drivers that can be reviewed later. It records any unusual driving, such as fast cornering, hard braking etc. These 'incidents' are recorded using a traffic light system, with red being something out of the ordinary. Drivers also get instant (delayed 3 seconds) input on their driving, so that they know if they are hitting amber or red. There are incentives to keep the system in the green with further incentives for improved drivers.

I was also shown some of the training materials that they use. They base the training on the Smith system. Something that I had not heard of before, although a lot of the material made sense. Planning well ahead, making space for yourself etc. 

Another technique that they use are the mystery passengers. They routinely hop on buses to watch driving real time. Obviously they cannot have mystery passengers on every bus, but they can respond (in some cases within minutes) to customer complaints and Green Road information. Any driver who is failing in any way is brought back for training or other help. One thing that was nice to hear is that they do look 'around' the problem. If a driver has been great for 10 years, and suddenly drops in standard, it suggests that there is a problem, possibly even outside work. They try and get to the bottom of the issue to help the driver instead of just treating the driving. A good approach I feel.

At this point Paul came into the meeting! Actually, Trigger showing me the Green Road and the Smith system came later and to be fair I was early for the meeting. Some biscuits arrived as well, including Waggon Wheels. I was instantly won over! ;-)

Paul re-iterated much of what Paul had said to me, whilst explaining that he felt that the incident I had deserved more than just a standard letter. In fact at this point we discussed the standard letter. I pointed out that it can often feel like a fob off when you receive one. It rarely answers any of the issues raised by the complainer. It is understandably difficult, considering the issues surrounding confidentiality. However, Paul did note this and suggested he would look into it.

Getting back to my complaint they also agreed with me that the driver should have driven better, i.e. should have hung back. They also agreed that the cycle lane was of very poor design and is contributory in this particular incident. I asked if they would back me if I was to bring up the issues I have with this particular cycle lane, and whilst they did not jump at the chance, they did suggest that they agreed that the overall design of that road could be improved. They suggested they could help me pursue a site visit with the council. Something I will certainly pursue.

I then started mentioning some of the other campaigns that they might consider being involved in. I mentioned my Celebration Stations idea, and they agreed that this sounded good and they would be happy to be involved (training buses for cyclists to sit in to see blind spots, for example). They were already aware and looking into the Spokes/Lothian buses campaign.

I also mentioned cycle training for drivers. This is where Paul mentioned that they are in the process of introducing the Cycle to Work Scheme (Cyclescheme). That sounded like a step in the right direction. However, I asked if they would consider integrating some form of cycle training with that, even if only to encourage more employees to cycle. For example that could be as simple as led rides for those considering cycling, or more advanced cycle training sessions. Again the idea didn't get anyone jumping out of seats in excitement, but it wasn't a lead bomb either. Perhaps if anyone knows what is available I could pass details on.

My final suggestions was that I myself would be willing to do a talk about cyclists for the drivers. I enjoy giving talks at work, and I've a fair amount of experience at doing it (sometimes in hostile environments!) This talk would NOT be a talk where I say, 'you should drive like this, you should drive like that'. I wouldn't presume to have the first clue about driving a bus. However, I could certainly try and explain why cyclists cycle the way the do, why they complain about certain types of driving etc. Mike seemed interested in this and was happy to look at any materials and ideas I came up with for this. So I will be following this up as well. Working title: Bloody Cyclists! :-)

After all of this, and Mike passed me his contact details (you will be hearing from me shortly!!) I went off with Trigger to see the Green Road system, and a bus!

Yes, I did get to drive a bus. A real one, not a simulator. No, don't worry, it wasn't on open roads. Just in the training yard. I also only managed to go forward and backwards. Unfortunately time was too short to do anything else. Although the driving was limited it was still an eye-opener. Visibility is terrible! Not only the well documented blind spots. It's the ones created by the door supports, the mirrors (getting in the way!), etc. Every cyclist should have a go at sitting in a bus cab.

So, overall I was very impressed with my visit to First in Livingston. I was made very welcome, and I was very impressed with the attitude to safety. Of course that doesn't mean everything is perfect. It isn't, there are still incidents on the roads. But, maybe, just maybe, with a little collaboration between different groups of road users we can make our roads a safer and happier place to be for everyone.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011


A couple of things have happened lately that have made me reassess what I have been doing lately. One is private, and will remain that way for the foreseeable future. No, my wife hasn't left me....mind you I wouldn't blame her! ;-)

Another was a post made on one of my videos on Youtube. It made me think.

I respected these videos of yours, however upon hearing an increasing number of personal insults ("What does the CK stand for on your registration plate?") in same, I am afraid you are losing your integrity in my eyes. Disappointed you lower yourself to their level, and let's not beat around the bush, that's what you're doing. Pull it together please.

I think the poster was to some extent right. I wouldn't say I was being insulting as such, but I think I was focusing too much on the tit for tat point scoring by making a smart comment. That is not what I am about, or what I stand for.

My aim is to make the roads a safer and happier place, not just for cyclists, but for everyone. Not to get a few pats on the back for being a smart Alec.

So it's back to basics. Post the odd video where I feel people, including myself, can learn from. Campaigning for better and safer roads. Getting more people on bikes.

To start that ball rolling, I've removed a couple of videos that I felt had the wrong focus. Perhaps a few more will come down when I have a chance to look back through them.

Rest assured though, you haven't heard the last of Magnatom.

On that note I need to get to writing about my First Bus meeting.... :-)

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Social Commuting

Ask cyclists why they enjoy cycle commuting and there are a few common replies, fitness, speed advantage in cities, environment, etc. However, one that is often overlooked is the social aspect.

Take today for instance. Cycling to and from work today I:

Said good morning to a chap who I often see walking his dog (well controlled!)
Said good morning to two gentlemen I often see out for a morning stroll along the local country lanes.
Had a laugh with a driver when he asked, 'why the camera?' 'to catch bad drivers like you!' It was a joke of course!
Had a chat at the traffic lights with a new lady cyclist. Her saddle was too low and she appreciated the advice. She had just started out but was really enjoying it.
Had a 10 minute chat to a cyclist I sometimes see on my commute home. Hi Nick, if you are reading! Hope you pop in! :-)
Said good evening to another dog walker I often see.
Nodded hello to several cyclists that passed in the other direction.
Said thank you to the nice young lady cyclist who slowed to let me pass in the Clyde Tunnel.
Smiled and waved at the little girl who was smiling and waving at me out the window of her daddy's car.
Nodded hello to the young lady jogger who gave me a nice smile back.

This is a typical Glasgow cyclist that it is worth getting social with.....

So I put the question to all of the driving commuters out there: How social has your commuting been today?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Meeting with First Bus

You may remember I had this incident some time ago with a First Bus and I wrote this letter of complaint.

I never did receive a letter of response. Why? Because instead of writing a letter to me (the easy option) they have asked to meet me!

So this Friday I am off to the First Bus training facility in Livingstone to have a chat with the MD of First South East and Central Scotland, and their training manager.

I'll be chatting to this chap.

What will the meeting consist of? I'm not sure, but I'm hopeful that it will go further than just discussing the merits of this particular complaint. I have had some campaigning success with First Glasgow in the past. The Give Cyclists Room campaign, whilst admirable, was probably a little simplistic.

So what do you think as a cyclist, I should be discussing with those in power at a large bus company? What are the, 'must cover topics'?

I'm hoping that we can work together to make the roads a safer and more pleasant place, not just for cyclists and bus drivers, but for all road users. We have to start somewhere.....

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Is this Chap Articulate?

I'm off on holiday at the moment, so no commuting just nowt! It's a mixture of treats for the kids and work in the house and garden. A typical holiday for a family with three young kids! :-)

Anyway, I thought I would break my radio silence for this classic.

A 'chap' has published a couple of comments on two of my videos. They are as follows:

Shouldn't have been cycling in the middle of the road you dumb cyclist twat!! 

Followed by:

You're the dick cyclist, once again you're cycling in the middle of the road - frankly, I hope some driver does aim for you one day to kerb your mouth!


As I had some time tonight (Waiting for my wife to put my youngest down. We are going through a difficult stage at the moment, as she does not like going to sleep in the cot!!), I thought I would search the Youtubers user-name. Not difficult as he was one of those daft Youtubers who used his real name as his Youtube name.


It turns out that this 'chap' does some computery type stuff, 'BMC Remedy ITSM Administrator and Developer.....etc' All very good I'm sure. Has his own web page and everything! :-)

What really tickled my funny bone though was the tag line on his web page, especially considering his comments on my videos. It is as follows:

An adaptable, responsible, enthusiastic, articulate individual capable of developing existing and new innovative ideas...

Responsible and articulate is he? LOL!!!!

Whatever you do, don't google his tagline, as that would take you straight to his website and then you would see how a slight change to his web address would be very appropriate......


Friday, 1 July 2011

Jeremy Clarkson School of Driving: Lesson 1

Before anyone points out that Jeremy Clarkson is just joking when he comments about cyclists, and how you should drive around them, I actually find his humour mildly (I stress mildly) amusing. Anything coming out of his mouth should be taken with a great big pinch of salt. Whilst I enjoy cycling, in the right circumstances I also enjoy driving, and am happy to watch the odd episode of Top Gear.

However, if the parody, that is Jeremy Clarkson, was to create instructional driving videos, this would probably be one of them.

So here is lesson 1 from the Clarkson School of Driving. How to get past a cyclist who is in your way.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Googling the Haters

Yes, I have had the odd death threat, the odd bit of abuse and the odd road tax argument thrown at me on Youtube. The death threats tend to come from internet hard men (or woman) who hide behind a cloak of anonymity......or do they?

From time to time, I pick a hater and I do a bit of googling. That is I do a quick search using their user name to see if it brings up any leads to who they may be. It is often surprising that someone who has just threatened to knock me off my bike next time they see me, is quite easily traceable.

Take for instance my latest google. It's not his real (or his user name), but for the purposes of this blog, we'll call him supermuppet.

I get a post on one of my my videos suggesting that (and I am paraphrasing so you can't google search it!), 'if that was me I would have ran right over you with my car'.


So I do a google search on suppermuppet. It doesn't lead straight to him, but it provides information on some other forums he uses, and importantly a different user name he uses on them, hypermuppet. From here it is simple to find some photos that he has posted.

Shock horror, he is a bit of a petrol head and loves nothing better than modding his Saxo. Oh, and one of the pictures of his Saxo has a lovely close up picture of..... his registration! :-)

So I post a reply to his message, asking (again in paraphrase), 'so you will run me over. Will it be with the car bearing registration plate.....'

Late last night I received a direct message on Youtube. It is exactly as follows:


I would appreciate it if you would remove my Number plate from your post.

I was just being a silly e-warrior, i shouldnt comment ive been knocked off off my bike before...

So take away their anonymity and the macho bravado just slips away. As he has, sort of apologised I'll remove his and my post, and won't inform the police.

Interestingly, whilst I've been writing this I received a new piece of abuse. I can't be bothered chasing this one up, but of your bored Patryk1632 is in dire need of being googled!


Wednesday, 29 June 2011

DogCam Bullet HD Wide

Having finished the Ultimate(ish) helmet camera review (see the tabs above), I was fortunate enough to be trusted with another camera to test. Docamsports felt that their new addition, the DogCam Bullet HD Wide (DCBW) was enough of an improvement on the standard DogCam Bullet HD that it required testing. So a DCBW was dispatched my way for testing.

My thoughts on the standard bullet are here, and you can see I was a little disappointed with it. Yes, it was cheap, but it's button was fiddly, the field of view was very poor and it was difficult to tell if it was on or not. You just couldn't see the LED lights!

So is the DCBW any better?

Well, it certainly looks different. It's a wee bit longer and it has a clear section on the front. It's longer to accommodate the a wider (and yes more expensive) wide angled lens. This lens 'laughs in the face' of its standard wee brother widening the filming angle from a paltry 63 degrees to a much more respectable 135 degrees. That's a good start.

The clear front also serves a purpose, it makes it much easier to see the operation LED lights. That doesn't mean to say it is perfect. In bright light it can still be a struggle to see the lights (green for power on or charged, flashing blue to indicate recording, and red to indicate that the camera is charging). However, it is an improvement and with a bit of squinting it is fairly straight forward to see the lights.

The button also seems a lot better. On the standard bullet I had, the button was very, VERY sensitive. This meant that I would be cycling along and the camera would be switching itself on an off. Very annoying. I may of course have had a faulty unit. However, the DCBW's button has a definite click to it when switching on and off. So I haven't had issues with the power cycling. Mind you, beeps to indicate what state it was in would have been a useful addition as well.

It comes with a 2Gb card (enough for just under an hour of filming) as standard, but can be upgraded to 32Gb. Of course how much you can record in one go will be limited by the battery. Something that is fitted into the camera and thus can't be swapped or changed. The claimed battery life is 1.5 hours. From my testing this seem just about right. At least in reasonable temperatures. It is likely to be shorter in winter. With 1.5 hours filming time you'll have to keep juicing it regularly, and long filming sessions won't be possible. Charging takes about 1 hour from flat.

I have also been reliably informed that the battery is rated for at least 1000 charge cycles. So if you cycle 5 days a week (45 weeks a year), and need to charge for each leg of the commute it'll take 2 years to approach that number of charges.

The camera comes with a number of mounts, that is sticky velcro things, fabric holders, and rubber holders, head bands  etc. Quality is ok, but not amazing. Of course you do get what you pay for, so this is probably to be expected, and due to it's size and weight it isn't too difficult to bodge a reasonable fit to whatever you need to fit it to. I'm not sure I'd trust the sticky velcro holders to remain sticky through a Glasgow winter though...

It also comes with two screw on backs that protect the memory card slot, USB connector, and microphone.

Anyway, that's enough of that. How good is it? What is the all important video like?

Here are a few videos of it in use. The first is a comparison with my Contour GPS (before it had a final firmware tweek to improve the video).

Please note. In these three videos the waterproof back cover is on. This muffles the sound recording. There is a second cover for use when dry which will greatly improve the sound. I will test this shortly and post the video as a separate blog which I will link here.

The second is a wee run in I had with a 'young gentleman'.

And the third is a different perspective on traffic filtering.

You'll see from the rear footage that the video does suffer from a wave effect (due to the rolling shutter). However, this is partially my fault. Once I bodge together a firmer fix onto my bike frame most of the wave effect should disappear. It is certainly no worse than many cameras in this price range. But, it is something to take into account.

Overall though I think the footage is good considering the cost of £145. (Actually £130.50 if you use the code 'magnatom' at checkout!).

In fact, I've gone and bought one myself and it is now permanently on rear view duty (no not video of my bottom!).

Would I recommend this camera? Yes I would if you can't stretch to a more expensive model.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Celebration Stations

What can we do to entice drivers out of their cars and onto their bikes?

I've been thinking about this for a while and with your help (special thanks to AlexWarrior!) I have an idea, that will at least act as an enticement.

In Vancouver Canada, during bike week they set up something called Celebration Stations. That is mobile 'stations' where cyclists can stop off during their commute to and from work, grab some snacks, other goodies, maybe have a mechanic have a look at their bike, enter a competition etc. It's generally a little station set up to celebrate cycle commuters and to say thank you to them.

The new trend for fireworks on bikes to aid visibility meant every commute in Sydney was a celebration

So how would that help to get drivers out of their cars? Surely that is just preaching to the converted!!?

Location, location, location!! You place these stations on the main commuter routes. Routes where cars are typically tailed back.

Imagine you are a driver stuck in a queue. A queue you get stuck in day in, day out. You're fed up of being stuck in that queue, but what can you do? You can't afford to move house closer to work, public transport would take even longer. You just have to put up and shut up.

Now imagine that whilst sitting there the driver notices more cyclists than normal filtering past the queue. Pesky cyclists. Who do they think they are!!? 20 minutes later and 100m further down the road, the driver spies what looks like a marquee at the side of the road. Peering over he notices a big sign....'Celebration Station'.
Eh? What's there to celebrate?

On closer inspection (easy to do at snails pace) he notices that the celebration is for cyclists. In fact the celebration is (and this is written in a poster nearby) a way of saying thank you to the cyclists for being one less car in the queue.

The driver looks at all the happy cyclists, notices that despite the fact that they have stopped off and had a bun (one which they will work off cycling to work), had a chat and a laugh, that they are still disappearing off into the distance whilst he/she is still stuck in that same damn queue....

Mmmm. Maybe I should look into this bike thing......

So what do you think? Let's make Bike Week next year a showcase for cycling, not just a quiet pat on the back for the already converted. Let's shout from the rooftops that cycling is FUNCTIONAL, FUN and FAST!

Who's up for celebrating?