Tuesday 31 May 2011

Has Bike Week Got it Wrong?

Eek! That's probably a controversial heading for a bike blog in the UK. Bike week is a week of dedicated events held across the UK with the aim of promoting cycling. It has big backers, plenty of celebrity participants and is generally thought of as a good thing in cycling circles.

So what am I on about?

Cycling is on the increase in the UK, and a lot of that upsurge is due to commuting cyclists, like myself. I personally came to a moment in my life where I had a choice: buy a car or buy a bike. I chose bike and have never looked back. So if we want to make a difference, if we want to get more people out of cars and on to bikes we need to focus our efforts on those who currently drive to work. Those who don't yet have a bike, or haven't even yet considered buying one.

Great, so what is bike week doing to encourage these drivers out of their cars?

I searched on  the bike week website for events within 20 miles of my work in Glasgow. This is what I came up with:

Family fun Charity rides x2
Off road cycle rides x2
Donate an old bike day
Cycle Festival (not held in bike week and I was at it!)
Primary School Ride Event
Big Bike Day (Country Park)
Sponsored ride event

Every one of these events is great and does help to promote cycling generally, but it is mostly preaching to the converted and is not in any way aimed at promoting cycling as a viable form of transport.

Of course there are some events not in Glasgow aimed at commuting cyclists, however, almost the majority of them and free breakfasts for cycle commuters, and free maintenance, again all aimed at the converted.

Who's fault is that? It's probably our fault. Bike week depends on us, cyclists with an interest in campaigning and promoting cycling, coming up with ideas and doing the work to make it happen. So well done to those who have and are organising events! I just feel that to make a difference we need to change the focus. We need to show those who haven't even considered cycling before, that it isn't only an option, but it is often by far the best option.

How do we do that? I certainly don't have all the answers, but I am starting to think through a few ideas, one of which is here. I'm going to be working on that idea and a few others over the next couple of months.

So come on cyclists, especially those that have converted from car driving to cycling, what is that made you switch? How can we encourage others to do the same?

Monday 30 May 2011

Time to Look up Again!

I'm hoping you learned from the last time that when I ask you to look up, I mean look up towards the top of the screen, and not at the ceiling. I won't be supplying the lazy-man option of a link half way down the page this time (15% of you clicked that last time!). You should be fully trained looker uppers now.

So if you didn't see my last look up post, you'll be wondering what the bejeezuz I'm talking about.

Look up. Yes there is a new tab above the advert banner that will take you to part 2 of the Helmet Camera Ultamate ish review thingy. This is the interesting one, as it shows how the cameras cope at night. So if you cycle at all in the dark (you might not if you're scared of monsters) then look up and click.

No-don't worry, there are no monsters in my night time videos. I ran along the route just before hand with a broom and chased them all away. having three young chilren I am an expert with dealing with monsters.


I must admit I have fibbed once in this blog.......No don't worry, not about there being no monsters in the videos....about supplying a link.

Mind you I never said anything about there not being monsters in this blog. Best click the link now just in case one turns up.....

The new tyres from Wiggle didn't roll well, but they tasted great.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Forget Critical Mass. What About Critical Pass?

I'm not a big fan of Critical Mass. If you don't know what that is, look here.

In my opinion, and it is just my opinion, it annoys other road users too much. I feel it alienates cyclists that little bit more, a bit more fuel for the Us and Them'ers. Don't get me wrong, I like the sentiment, showing off the freedom of cycling, demonstrating the fact that the roads are for everyone including cyclists etc. I just feel it does more harm than good.

However, one comment made to me recently by someone else on an internet site in relation to my filtering video, got me thinking.

What we really need is a mass demonstration of the utility of cycling and the futility of driving (at least during the urban rush hours). This is something that my filtering video shows quite well to a small online community, but it doesn't make those that matter notice, i.e. the people on the cars. Critical Mass doesn't demonstrate this, as those taking part tend to be cycling slowly, often holding up other traffic.

So what would make people, people who were actually sitting in their cars in a huge queue of traffic take notice? How about a few hundred cyclists safely and carefully filtering (legally) past the queues of rush hour traffic.

Instead of Critical Mass, why not have Critical Pass?

It's not straight forward of course. Queuing traffic can vary from day to day. Sometimes the roads are unexpectedly quiet, sometimes they are unexpectedly busy! You'd also need to find a lot of cyclists who on a work day were willing to meet up and all cycle from one place to another. Perhaps it wouldn't work in places where there are lots of cyclists already, although that would depend on the numbers who take part.

There would also be the safety issue, i.e. everyone would have to cycle at their own risk, but would be VERY strongly encouraged to filter safely and legally obeying all road laws as they do so.

However, if it worked it would be quite a spectacular demontstration to the frustrated car drivers of the advantages of taking to a bike.

Of course this is just an idea floating about in my head. It might never happen. It might be that it can't be arranged. or that no-one is interested in doing it.

It's just an idea. What do you think? Would you want to take part in a Critical Pass?

Thursday 26 May 2011

Look up! The Review is here!

Look up. Yes, I do mean look up!

No, not at the ceiling, up towards the top of this web page. You'll notice a new tab has appeared just above the advertising banner that no-one ever seems to click! There you will find the link to part 1 of the Ultimate(ish) Helmet camera review.

What are you doing still reading this? You should be reading the review by now!!

Ah, you are too lazy to look up. Ok. I'll help you out. Just click this link.

Are you still here? Ah, your not interested in my review, you just want to see me fall off my bike?

Oh ok. Watch this then.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Ultimate Helmet Camera Review - Coming Soon!

It's nearly time for The Ultimate Helmet Camera Review....ok, The Almost Ultimate Helmet Camera Review.

On Friday I will be publishing comparative videos from 4 HD cameras in daylight and at after dark. This is to coincide with the publication of a review I have written for Cycle the CTC magazine. The following Friday I will post more detail on my personal opinion of the four cameras, the video quality, usability, etc.

This is no ordinary review.

All of the video footage was collected at the same time. Yes, that means I wore all 4 cameras at the same time and looked an absolute plonker.

Would I still have to point out the camera to naughty drivers?
So if you are thinking about buying a helmet camera (ok you can put them on your handlebars if you must!) then stay tuned. There might even be a discount code or two......

Cameras: POV.HD, Contour GPS, Drift HD170, Dogcam Bullet HD

Monday 23 May 2011

Letter to First Glasgow

Below is the latter I have sent to First Glasgow in relation to this incident.

Edit: This letter was forwarded on to First Edinburgh as it was apparently one of their buses and drivers

Dear Mr XX,

Below, you will see an e-mail that I had previously sent to you in March 2010 and the reply that you sent back (then as Deputy MD). It was with regards to an incident that I had with a First Glasgow Bus whilst I cycled to work. I have also had some previous dealings with First Glasgow, some of which resulted in First taking part in a Give Cyclists Room campaign (http://www.eveningtimes.co.uk/doc-has-a-cure-for-danger-on-city-roads-1.975448) Since the last incident in the start of 2010 I have had no reason to complain about the driving of your buses until I had an unfortunate incident on the 18th May at approximately 5:40pm.

The incident occurred on Milngavie Road with bus number 30741. This road has a cycle lane on it, one which is very poorly designed. If followed, it takes cyclists on a zig zag route in and out of the main traffic and it also directs cyclists into the door zone. The door zone is a bad place for a cyclist to be as all it takes is a parked cars door to open and the cyclist will be seriously injured or killed. Therefore I avoid it when I can. I also avoid following the zig zags in the lane as this creates it's own dangers especially when the cyclists and the traffics paths converge.

It is on one of these sections where I had the incident with bus 30741. The video of the incident is shown here (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIYwzG3QqME). My intentions and line were obvious and there were no deviations from the direction I was travelling. I was aiming to re-enter the lane, although I intended to stay as far right in the lane as possible.This was a very obvious pinch point  due to the parked cars and zig zag of the cycle lane. Despite this the bus driver decided to continue with a very close overtake which left me no wriggle room to the left (I could not take my chosen position here or I would have made contact with the bus) and no wriggle room to the right. I dread to think what would have happened had the van door opened or I hit a pot hole.

I agree that the bus did remain outside the cycle lane during the initial incident, however, due to the nature of the lane, and the proximity of park cars etc, the bus should have either pulled out significantly further (if safe to do so) or remained behind me, which would have been the correct course in this particular instance.

Also as shown on the video, further down the road the driver decided that it was a good time to start pulling out as I passed his vehicle. Again a very poor manoeuvre.

Therefore, I ask that you investigate this incident and take appropriate action where necessary. I think it needs to be stressed in very strong terms to this driver, that this is no way to drive around more vulnerable road users.

I would also be happy for you to use this video and any other video I have in your driver training. In fact I would be interested to know what driver training you provide with regards to driving around cyclists.

Thank you for your help in the past and I look forward to hearing from you again in relation to this incident.

Best regards

Thursday 19 May 2011

First Bus Incident

I hate the cycle lane here. I've discussed it in this video and I've discussed some problems with cycle lanes here.

Due to the nature of the lane here there are sections I feel forced to use due despite the parked cars and the risk of getting 'squeezed' by traffic coming from behind. Mind you I don't expect to get squeezed by a bus here, especially when there is ample chance for the bus to hang back, and even move over a bit more.

In the incident shown below it actually felt like he was squeezing me in intentionally. Further down the road he definitely started pulling out knowing full well I was overtaking him.

Pause the video at 1:34. The Space between him and the van is the minimum space he should have given me.

Was he teaching me a lesson with his bus, or was it just really bad driving?

I'll be reporting this.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Am I a Cycling Maniac?

I had an enjoyable cycle to work this morning. No incidents, reasonable weather and at a reasonable pace. A good example of why I love cycling to work.

However, later in the day someone at work mentioned that another colleague (I don't know who and it doesn't really matter) saw me cycling to work. Apparently I was cycling like a maniac, weaving in and out of traffic dangerously really annoying this particular driver.

That really confused me. I certainly remember filtering through some heavy traffic, but I can't understand why it would annoy anyone as I held up no-one, endangered no-one and had an incident with no-one. The only thing I can think of is that they were jealous? Perhaps.

So I decided to put the section of my commute up from this morning where I filtered through the heavy traffic. I assume this is the section where I caused mayhem and panic. Watch it, be honest, what do you think?

Must Squeeeeze Past Cyclist

Oh look. There is a gap. It might be a bit of a squeeze, but, what the heck, it's only a cyclist......

This particular A road is not my favourite. I tend to avoid it unless I am in a rush to get home. It's ok, but not always the most fun to cycle on because you get impatient drivers who just can't wait to get past, squeezing through when there just isn't the space.

This particular squeeeeze might not look that bad on video.

However that is because both myself and the oncoming driver had anticipated the stupidity and braked enough to let them pass. Had we not.......it's best not to think about that.

All for what, a minute or so off their journey? 

Mind you, it was just a cyclist they were squeezing past........

(Note: When there is lots of oncoming traffic and overtaking opportunities are few and far between, I do pull over to the side occasionally to let cars pass). 

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Where Did My Back Wheel Go?

I was really enjoying this mornings commute. I was even thinking about a new post extolling the virtues of cycling, when something went horribly wrong.

Approaching the Canniesburn Roundabout in Glasgow. The ground is wet, but no rain is falling. I see a van on the roundabout indicating to come off at the proceeding exit. Turns out it is the next exit he wants.

No problem, plenty of room to stop.....Thud.

I completely lost traction on the back wheel. Not sure why, but I suspect diesel.

For those that don't like me: It hurt. It hurt quite a bit. Ouch!

For those that like me: I wear my Road Rash as a badge...with pride!

For the Anatomically Challenged - This is a sore thigh.


Ride safe!

Friday 6 May 2011

Cycling Glasses for All Seasons?

I wear glasses when I cycle. I don't need them for vision, but from experience they are a vital piece of equipment that keeps road dirt and rain out of my eyes...oh and the occasional suicidal bee!

Then there is the sun. Yes, we do occasionally see that in Glasgow. It is best to keep that, rarely seen glowing orb, shaded a little if you want to see what is going on around you.

So when I had a triple lens sunglass failure back in the summer of 2010 I decided I needed a decent pair of specs. I was looking for a pair of glassed that would work through both the summer and winter months. Ideally I was looking for glasses that you didn't need to swap lenses mid ride when the sun decided to put in an appearance.

I wanted cycling glasses for four seasons. Was that possible?!

I thought that I might have stumbled upon the answer last summer. So in July last year I bought some Rudy Project Glasses. The Rydon ImpactX Clear Photochromatic lens variety.
How the Glasses look during the unusual Glowing Orb events

Let me explain the name. Rydon, suggested they were for cycling. ImpactX suggested that these glasses were virtually unbreakable (allegedly), with good optics and scratch resistance. Clear Photochromatic suggested that the lenses reacted to the light conditions allowing them to be used in the dark (clear 78% light transmission) and in the sun when they have 'reacted' (dark 18% light transmission).

This all sounded good to me. To last they had to be tough, and to be used al year around they had to be able to cope with all light conditions, so I went ahead and bought a pair. Of course they aren't cheap, about £130 here at Wiggle. A lot perhaps when you can get swapable lens glasses for a fifth of that price... but I've never got on with swappable lenses.

Initially I was impressed. They were very comfortable on, and very adjustable. As they were nice and light, I'd often forget I had the on. But how have they faired since I bough them 10 months ago?

Are the truly four seasons glasses?

As I use them for commuting, they do take some abuse. I know in the past that glasses I have owned have been very scratched after a relatively short space of time. I am therefore pleasantly surprised that they are still in great condition. Not perfect of course. There are a couple of slight scratches on the glasses, but nothing that is noticeable when riding. Some of colour from around the Rudy Project name has pealed off on the arms, but it really isn't noticeable. So ImpactX works a treat.

Very Few Rudy Scratches

The real test though was in the light transmission department. In the winter there are sections on my commute that are pitch black in the winter, and as I've mentioned earlier they had to be able to cope with the occasional ray of sun. Again, though, I was very pleasantly surprised. In the dark, I was able too see, just as well as if I had dedicated clear lenses on. In the summer they quickly darken to work very respectably when the sun shines. Perhaps they could go slightly darker, but to be fair, that is a minor quibble, and I don't ever remember having to screw my eyes up. 

Going from dark to light, the lenses react very quickly, definitely within a matter of seconds. From light to dark the reaction is more sluggish. Minutes rather than seconds. However, I've  never had a problem with this, even though my commute takes me through a tunnel (The Clyde Tunnel). So they certainly can cope with the seasons changing light conditions.

So, I've found the Holy Grail in sunglasses then? 

Not quite. Unfortunately they suffer from one irritation. Fogging.

Of course, all glasses suffer from fogging, but I've found that the fogging issue is worse for these glasses than others I have had in the past. Whilst the glasses are great at keeping the wind and dirt out of your eyes, they haven't quite got the ventilation right, which is a real shame. Otherwise I would have no hesitation in heartily recommending these glasses.

So the Holy Grail is glasses similar to these, with better ventilation. Do they exist yet? I can't be sure. Perhaps they have solved the misting problem with the Magster glasses which have extra perforations at the front of the frame. They are a bit more expensive, however, if they do indeed solving the fogging issue (and I had the cash) I would definitely by a pair of these.
Are these the Holy Grail of Four Season Cycling Glasses?

So if you are willing to gamble, these glasses (£148 in Wiggle) might be Glasses for All Seasons.

If anyone has these glasses let me know what you think.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Confusion on Glasgow's Roads!

Something very strange has happened over the last month or so on the roads of Glasgow. It has me completely perplexed and bemused.

Have more drivers than normal been aiming there cars at me?


Have all the millions and billions of potholes been repaired......properly?

Not a hope!

Has the gods of tailwind been smiling upon me....in both directions?

I can but dream....

So what is it that has been happening me over the last month that is so shocking?

Absolutely nothing.........That's right, absolutely nothing has been happening to me out on the roads appart from me happily getting from A to B and from B to A. Ok, that's maybe stretching the truth a little. There has been the odd slightly close pass and the occasional daft overtake, but nothing serious enough to actually upset my cycling Karma.

It has been brilliant!

I just wish I knew what was the cause of this welcome interruption in normal service. Could it be the good weather? Perhaps. Could it be the extra holidays that we had in April? That is certainly a possibility.

It'll be interesting to see what happens as we head further into May as the weather inevitably takes a nose dive.

Still, whilst it lasts I'd like to pass on my thanks to the road users of Glasgow. Much appreciated!