Monday 17 December 2012

It Could Have Been So Different

It is generally agreed, in cycling circles at the very least, that the inclusion of the Allecat racing in the War on Britain's Roads documentary was irresponsible. Not only was it effectively fake and filmed as part of a race with a prize at the end of it, it just wasn't in any way representative of how people actually use the roads with bikes. It was in the documentary to create controversy, and to get a few extra viewers.

Shame on the BBC.

Notice I say BBC here and not Leopard. I have my suspicions that it was only when the first edit was shown to the BBC that they decided to spice it up a little with footage such as this. I could be wrong, but that is my impression.

Of course I could just continue the rant, but that would just be wasting everyone's time. What I want to show here is an example of a different approach.

What could we have replaced the Allecat footage with? How about this?

 Not quite as controversial is it. So let's imagine that the Allecat footage had been replaced with the footage above, and that the interviewees, including myself had a chance to comment on this. How might it have gone... (for this part you need to imagine the narrators voice).

 ...with the amount of cyclists increasing in our towns and cities some suggest that the battle is set to escalate. Cyclists and drivers are set to compete and fight over ever reducing amounts of space on our roads. However, others suggest that it doesn't need to be that way, and that we only have to look to our continental neighbours for the answer....'
 Footage starts playing

Angry Taxi Driver
I'm not sure we have enough space here for lanes like that. They'd have to take away a lot of the parking to make space for those lanes. Mind you, that might not be a bad thing, more business for me perhaps... (focus on big smile)

Lorry Driver
You know what, if the roads were designed like that I think I'd go and buy a bike myself and cycle in to work occasionally. I like the fact that in the busiest and more dangerous areas that the cyclists and other traffic are separate. That means there are a lot fewer opportunities for conflict.

Older Taxi Driver
(draws in breath...). That'll cost a few bob to put in 'ere. I suspect those in charge wouldn't want to spend money on that....very costly....Still, it does look like it would keep everyone that little bit safer
Dave, Scientist, 39 (i.e. me!)
This is how Britain's roads could look like, if only our politicians were willing to invest in our infrastructure. As it stands Britian's roads are just designed for cars. Our continental neighbours have shown that with the right political will we can make our roads safe for all.....Look at the lack of hi-vis jackets and helmets. There really is no need for any of that when the roads are properly incident with the HGV would never have happened if the roundabout in question had be designed to Dutch standards....

Ok, so it wouldn't hit as many headlines. You wouldn't have any Daily Mail hatelines...sorry headlines the following day. What you would have though is a documentary that not only looked at the issues, but also started the debate on what the solution might be. We could have had discussions on the 'space' issues, or lack of. We could have talked about the funding issues, the environmental issues, the health issues.

Instead we all talked about some bloke who made a bit of money out of putting up a prize for the biggest prize muppet cyclist.

So BBC, you missed an amazing opportunity to take the REAL cycling debate to the masses. Instead you helped fuel a war, that doesn't actually exist. Well done......

Elite Cycling - Nothing to do with Cycle Safety?

I posted a tweet following the the Sport Personality of the Year Competition where Bradley Wiggins was the winner. I said:

We need to make our roads safer so we can have many more #SPOTY cycling stars of the future! #cyclesafe

Pretty uncontroversial I thought. Not so. I had a couple of replies saying:

 cognitive dissonance? Transport cycling does not equal sports cycling
Elite Races generally take place on closed roads with marshalls. How does that relate to everyday road safety?

I must admit I was a bit taken aback by this, and later someone suggesting that linking sport and utility cycling was almost dangerous. I'm not entirely sure why.....

So, was my tweet misplaced. Is cycling for sport and cycling for utility/recreation unconnected?

There are a number of ways I could argue this...I am a utility cyclist, I have progressed on to sportives and had I been younger I might have progressed to sport..... is one such argument. However, this summer I have seen first hand the most compelling reason for arguing that cycling sport and other forms of cycling are intrinsically linked.

My children.

Bradley Wiggins, Sarah Storey, Sir Chris Hoy, etc are sporting cyclists and are certainly classed as elite. They and their compatriots were also truly inspiring this year. Their efforts in the Olympics and beyond were incredible to watch. Whilst I was enjoying the spectacle and endevour knowing that I would never emulate what I was watching, I was conscious of the effects these events were having on my children. I had the immense pleasure of watching them go from being bored...'aww dad do I have to watch this...' to being completely memorised by the drama unforlding before them....'...come on Laura!!! Come on!!!!'. All three of my kids, even my 2 year old were screaming at the TV (and fortunately for us at the riders in the World Cup at the Glasgow Velodrome later) to go faster!

My children now dream of being in Olympics.

Will they make it....well....who knows. The odds are of course against them, but they have the dream just as I did when I was a child, to be a sporting great at the highest level. I didn't make it (judo for me) but I certainly won't be discouraging them. So how do they get there? Hard work of course. Hard work where? In a velodrome? On closed roads? In a multi-million pound gym with sports coaches analysing their every muscle twitch?

Of course not. If they want to be great cyclists, they will have to cycle on the roads.

There is the connection. For there to be a sporting elite, it is absolutely vital that any sport has a grass roots from which to pick the elite from. Elite athletes rarely exist without coming through the ranks, and Bradley is an excellent example of this. He worked hard, trained hard, and must have pounded many, many miles on roads, just like you and me. He was not born with a silver bike under his bottom.

My children, like many others around the country have been inspired to ride their bikes, and like many other parents around the country I feel I have to temper their enthusiasm a little because the environment, the roads, are not anywhere near as safe as they should be.

So, to anyone who suggests that there is no connection between elite sports and every day cycling, I'm sorry, I disagree 100%. We utility cylclists and every day recreational cyclists should be working with the likes of British Cycling to make our roads safer, not just for the 8 - 80 year old grass roots cyclist like you and I, but for the elite as well.

Let's make Britain's roads safe for EVERYONE!

Friday 7 December 2012


What follows is a guest blog. It is written by Rob who contacted me after 'The War on Britain's Roads' on Wednesday night. His original e-mail to me is here. I asked Rob if he wanted to share his story on my blog and he agreed. Here, completely unedited, is what he sent me.

Is it a sign of weakness to say that you were wrong? To admit that you feel ashamed of your views and of the abuse you heaped upon someone? I was brought up to fight my corner, to stand up for my beliefs but also to hold my hand up and apologise when I was wrong. So, here I am. Holding my hand up and apologising.

I admit that I settled down to watch last night’s “The War on Britain’s Roads” looking forward to seeing footage of cyclists getting what they deserve. That may sound harsh but let me explain. I have been a professional driver for over fifteen years, driving buses and coaches all over the UK from the Highlands of Scotland to central London. I have always tried my best to be courteous to cyclists and to be mindful of the space that they need. I have been infuriated though, when that consideration appears not to have been repaid. I have lost count of the amount of times that I have been held up by cyclists not using a cycle path, or not been able to pass a cyclist on the road as they have been a fair way out from the gutter.

I recall one day rummaging around on YouTube, as one does. I stumbled across one of Magnatom’s videos and gave it a watch. I was immediately incensed at what I perceived to be his piousness and his selfishness. So I watched another of his videos, which did nothing to change my opinion. I even had little sympathy for him after watching the clip of the tanker on the roundabout that was featured on the programme last night. And so my antipathy towards cyclists was strengthened, and I posted abusive comments towards him under a lot of his videos.

Then, one morning at rush hour I was driving a commuter service into Preston. There was a cyclist ahead who was not using the provided cycle path, which meant that as the road was a dual carriageway I would be unable to pass him safely as it was extremely busy. So I passed him with inches to spare. He contacted my depot to complain and I was invited to view the CCTV footage from the bus. I was looking forward to clearing my name and to justifying the manner of my driving. However, once I had been shown the CCTV footage I was shocked at how little room I had given him. It was not inches as I had thought but millimetres. One slight wobble by the cyclist (which would have been perfectly possible given that he was being passed by a fifteen tonne double decker bus) would have sent him under the wheels. This sobering incident probably planted the seed in my brain that last night’s programme propagated.

The programme made me realise that most cyclists don’t do things simply to wind motorists up. What can be perceived as selfish riding can often simply be self-preservation on the part of the cyclist. Yes, there are moronic cyclists, of course there are. But as the programme amply demonstrated there are also moronic motorists. I was shocked at the behaviour of some drivers, shocked at how little they valued the life of another human being. And then I remembered my encounter in Preston. And realised that I was one of those drivers. That was a truly horrible feeling, knowing that I could so easily have killed that cyclist. There was no excuse for me driving like that.

So, I offer my sincere apologies to all cyclists. You have my word that I will never again put a cyclist in danger. Well, not on purpose anyway… ;-)

Thursday 6 December 2012

After the War Comes Peace?

Last night saw The War on Britain's Roads take to the small screen. There had been plenty of discussion before was it aired about how terrible it would be, and we would all be knocked off our bikes by angry drivers as a result. I suspect the truth is a little less sensational, and that it has been business as usual, although I had the day off, so no cycling for me.

I think some of the suggestions about how terrible it would be were a little over the top. That's not to say that the programme didn't have any problems. I think some of the editing was a bit harsh (not of me but of others), the programme lacked balance in some of the comments made, there was no need for the Allecat races (do we show illegal car racing in car safety documentaries?), and there was no discussion of any solutions to the issues.

We at Pedal on Parliament have come up with a possible solution to the incident that I had with the HGV at the roundabout in Milngavie. It's worth a look.

I'm still recovering from seeing my ugly mug in TV and trying to catch up with everything that has been written about it (the documentary, not my ugly mug). I'll take a day or two to take stock before I write about the experience in detail. However, one outcome from last night is worth sharing.

As anyone who reads this blog will know and as was mentioned in the documentary, I get lots of abuse on my YouTube channel. Some of it can be very nasty. However, a short while after the programme finished I recieved a message. Rob, wrote the following to me in a message via my contact page on this blog:

Good evening,

I am contacting you after seeing you on The War On Britain's Roads tonight. I have previously viewed your videos on YouTube and I have left you abusive comments. However, after seeing this programme, I feel that I owe you an apology.

The programme made me stop and think carefully. I have only once knowingly driven dangerously close to a cyclist and it is now something that I deeply regret.

As you acknowledged in the programme, there are bad cyclists just as there are bad drivers. However, in both cases the good far outweighs the bad.

Very best regards, and all the best for the festive period,


I've since contacted Rob to say thanks for his words, and I've told him how much they were appreciated, and he has agreed to write a guest blog here in the not too distant future.

I think we can all learn from my experiences on the road (I am still learning), I also think Rob can teach us a lesson or two as well. Let's forget our prejudices, and remember that every car, every bike, every truck has a person on or in it, and we all deserve respect on the roads. Yes the the design of the roads certainly needs a major overhaul and needs it as soon as possible, and I will continue to work towards that, but with a bit more tolerance and consideration from everyone we can save lives now.

Let's make Britain's roads a safe and enjoyable place to be for all.

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Who actually reads this blog? Does it matter?

Ever since I've started writing this blog I've always been interested in who reads it. Obviously I can look at the Google statistics and see that it certainly gets hits. In fact I am surprised by how many hits it gets. I've had a lot extra hits over the last couple of days! Normally though, it's probably people who actually like what I write, or people who enjoy laughing at my incompetence. The statistics don't tell which they are.

The statistics also don't tell me who is reading my blog and what their background is. I have my suspicions though. I suspect that the majority of my audience are cyclists. No great shockers there. I also suspect that the majority of my audience share similar views to me, with regards to the need for funding in cycling and that that roads need to be designed for all and not just for those who chose to use them in a car.

Why do I want to know?

It's important to know your audience so that you can write in such a way that interests them. I'd soon loose hits if I started writing about the effects of different rubber compounds on the rolling resistance of 700C road bike tyres. It would be related to cycling, but, I suspect, not of great interest to my current audience.

To be fair though I've never been someone who worried too much about my audience (I never used to have one) as I just enjoy writing about a subject that I feel passionate about. However, it really does matter. It matters because....and this is again just a suspicion....that I am only preaching to the converted.  The majority of my audience will almost always digitally nod in agreement. We will reach a consensus among ourselves.

Blogging is powerful, however talking about a niche subject, and unfortunately cycle safety is a niche subject, the message rarely extends beyond the niche. If we truly believe in making cycling safe not just for a small band of passionate people, but for everyone, cycling has to matter to everyone. It needs to become something that we all debate and discuss. Cyclists and non cyclists.

I've already made my views clear on the suggestions that there is a war raging on Britain's roads. I just don't buy it. Many others have also made it clear that they are expecting the worst from the documentary on Wednesday night. It is likely to be far from perfect. However, this programme will do what none of our blogs or tweets can do. It will take the debate on cycle safety and road safety in general well beyond the cycle safety niche. On Thursday morning everyone, whether they cycle or not will have an opinion. Yes, there will be some extreme views on both sides, but at least the debate will have widened.

I and my fellow campaigners at Pedal on Parliament will be doing our best to spread the message that our war should not be with other road users, but with the very design of the roads themselves.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

War on Britain's Roads?

If you've been watching BBC 1 recently you may have noticed a trailer for a programme called



What is an even bigger 'hmmm' is that I am involved in it.

It was actually in June 2011 that I was approached by a film company to take part in a documentary for BBC1, and it is only now that the documentary is about to be aired. After it is aired I'll talk more about the process, how and why I was convinced to take part, and I might even provide some behind the scenes footage (filmed by yours truly).However, what is certain is that the angle that the documentary is now taking is certainly different to what was originally envisaged.

I haven't seen the documentary yet, and I probably won't see it until it is aired at 9pm on BBC 1 on the 5th December. I haven't even managed to see the trailer myself yet! However, I want to make something clear.

There is no war on Britain's roads.

Yes I post footage of incidents. Yes there are some terrible drivers out there, and yes some people hate cyclist. However, the suggestion of WAR is just media hype.

There are excellent drivers.. There are plenty of average drivers. There are some terrible drivers.

There are excellent cyclists. There are plenty of average cyclists. There are some terrible cyclists.

There is, and always will be a distribution of abilities. That will never change. Yes, perhaps we can shift that distribution towards excellent a little, but there will always be road users who are dangerous. We are all human and so this is a fact of life.

Let's give up then?

Quite the opposite. We just need to step back and look at the bigger picture. Why is it that road users don't always get on?

Road design.

It really is that simple. Almost since the introduction of the car, roads (which were there before the car) have been designed for cars and their drivers. They have been designed to make it safer to drive a car, so that cars can drive quicker, so that cars can flow more smoothly, so that cars have somewhere to park, so that cars can get to the shops, so that cars can take us on short journeys, so that cars can take us on long journeys, so that cars can take kids to school, so that cars can cross rivers, so that cars can take you right up to the counter of MacDonalds.....the list goes on.

Life does not and more importantly should not revolve around the car. It's a tool. At times it is a very useful tool, and on rare occasions it can be a very enjoyable tool to use, but it is just a tool. Rather than using the tool for situations it is best suited for, we have designed the situations, that is our cities, to suit the tool.

It's time to change that. It's time for us to look at the other tools at our disposal, i.e. our feet, our bikes and our public transport, and redesign the environment so that we can use these tools when it is and should be appropriate.

So those of you who are reading this, who are cyclists, when you are riding your bike and a driver leans out of his car and shouts,

'Get off the road...roads aren't designed for bikes!'

an appropriate answer would be,

'You are absolutely right, they aren't. It's time we changed that'

The real war, the only true war we face is with our politicians, our councillors and our urban planners. We must fight to make them see that the time for car worship has ended. It is time to claim the streets back for people.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Giving up cycling

Today I received an e-mail from a fellow cyclist in Glasgow who commutes to the same place I work. Unfortunately, she has decided to stop cycling to work. I had asked her why she had stopped. Here is her answer.

Thanks for your email, much appreciated. Unfortunately the route I go through is via the Southside and though I've managed to re-arrange the majority of the busy sections, the route from Bellahouston Park through Ibrox/Shieldhall is terrifying - I'm compensating saving money and health benefits for safety; I'm not too happy about that but for the timebeing I feel as if I have no choice. My original route would take me 35 minutes through Shawlands and was quicker than by car, however, the volume of traffic was insane and it was a pretty intimidating route so I re-routed and went a slightly quieter route which adds a staggering 25 minutes onto my journey. At a push I could lengthen it even further but then I doubt I'd have the energy to do a full day's work. It's such an infuriating situation to be in; I love cycling and if the environment allowed it I'd cycle every day. But due to the current road layout I just don't think that's possible: I have a very timid and unassuming style of cycling that doesn't fit with the arrogance of the roads. On many occasions I feel as though I'm being bullied onto the pavements and it's now at the point where I dread my commute. So for the time being, and for the sake of my personal well being and safety I'm opting for the car.

However I'm by no means a hardcore cyclist so if this is the experience of somebody who has a genuine love of cycling, what chance is there of attracting newcomers to opt for the bike over other forms of transport?


So Glasgow has one less cyclist and one more driver. I don't blame her. Glasgow and many of our towns and cities are not cycle or people friendly. It took me five years to dare cycle on some of the busiest roads around me, and I'm no shrinking violet. How long until our politicians realise that without significant funding and as my friend suggests, new infrastructure, people will feel too scared to cycle on our streets.

Asking drivers to give us more space, painting strips of paint on the road, or training people how to ride assertively isn't the answer.  Cycling should be as easy as, riding a bike and with the right infrastructure it can be.

Let's be bold. Let's show the world that we want to make Scotland not just a cycle friendly nation, but a people friendly nation.

Friday 2 November 2012

Cycling? What's that?

I receive comments on my YouTube videos all the time. Most I ignore as they are often abusive (I know how to make friends!). Occasionally though there are comments that are worth replying to. Recently when I went online to reply to a comment an advert began playing at the start of my video. This one caught my eye.

It was a video advertising the company Tarmac, and discussing work they did for Transport for London on a particular junction. The video can be found on YouTube and is embeded below. It is worth a watch.

I was surprised to have a video advert on one of my videos discussing safety improvements at a junction. However, what surprised me the most was what was completely missing from the video. Cycling. It wasn't once mentioned, and when you look at the junction on the video there is not one piece of cycle infrastructure there. Not one. Not even a badly designed bit. You also didn't see one cyclist on that road during the whole clip.

Actually the above isn't entirely true. If you watch the clip closely, you will have seen one cyclist who appeared to be using the path. That, along with some some other (difficult to see) evidence suggests that there might actually some cycle infrastructure there. It looks like the dreaded shared use paths. Far from ideal for either cyclists or pedestrians.

Of course I know absolutely nothing about the area (I'm sure someone will come along to help me there) but I can't understand how major works at a junction like that could be allowed to go ahead without any consideration of cyclists who might not want to use convoluted shared use paths. Cycling should be made easier, not more difficult!

They pointed out that the improvements had reduced congestion in the area, which is good of course for local residents. Crossings had been improved. Great. However, am I the only one looking at that video feeling that they have entirely missed the point?

Yes, congestion is less of an issue now. What they have done is improve the junction in such a way as to allow traffic to move faster. In effect you will have more traffic passing the junction within a specific time period. So drivers who may have taken different routes to avoid the congestion will realise that they are now quicker going through that junction.

Induced demand.

So by smoothing the flow of traffic, instead of reducing traffic, this junction is likely to increase traffic. Yes, it will be travelling quicker than before....but wait, does that actually improve the area for residents? Less snarled up traffic, easier crossings, but more traffic.

Is that better?

Perhaps someone who knows the area might want to comment.

Was there another option here? As I've said, I don't know the area, and perhaps there are other reasons that cyclists don't go here (I saw only one on the video, but hundreds of cars), however, this junction even after the 'improvements' looks hostile to cyclists. It looks like a barrier. For all I know there could be wonderful cycle paths either side of this junction, but having that junction in the middle would put many off. Shared use paths requiring cyclists to make multiple crossings isn't going to encourage

Imagine though that the area had good quality cycle infrastructure leading to it and through it. Imagine that 10% of the traffic in that video was replaced with people on bikes. Imagine how big the improvements in air quality would be. Imagine how much more pleasant the area would become.

Is the best way to deal with heavy traffic to make it quicker for that traffic to pass, inducing more traffic or is it better to deal with the root problem? If we don't start solving this problem at the source, we will be continuing the spiral of ever more congestion and ever more pollution.

It's time to think beyond the car.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Scotland's Roads, Safer?

Please Note: This is not a rigorous statistical analysis! 

I've written before about safety. Not only real risk, but perceived risk as well. However, today Transport Scotland released detailed figures for road casualties and headlines followed suggesting that our roads are getting safer

They are getting safer, so long as you drive a car.

In fact the increase in safety is quite impressive. The numbers killed have dropped 11% in a year and the numbers seriously injured have dropped by 5%. That's excellent news and should be applauded. However, delve a little deeper into the report and a worrying trend becomes apparent. Whilst a new dawn of safe driving is almost upon us, that is not the case for cyclists.In fact this year there was an increase in cycling deaths and casualties. Overall there was an increase of 6% since last year.

I decided to have a quick play with the figures which can be found here. I was particularly interested in the urban figures, as that is where most people do their cycle commuting and where there is the highest density of car/cyclist interactions. So what happens if you compared the number of car occupant casualties and deaths with cyclists casualties and deaths over the period of 2001 - 2011? What relationship do you get?

So I plugged the figures into Excel and did a bit of trendline fitting. Here is what I got.

 I looked for the best fit trendline, and the best was a polynomial (not a straight line!). Effectively this is plotting the relationship between driver injuries and deaths, and cyclist injuries and deaths. As time is going on, we are heading to the left of the graph, with a reduction in driver injuries and deaths. However, instead of a reduction in deaths, and extrapolating the best fit line, we have, and it looks like we will have an increase in cyclist deaths.

Of course this year could have been a fluke year, and perhaps if we took this years data out of the graph things will improve.

It improves a little, but not much.

So are we saving lives at the expense of cyclists lives? Of course, it's not that simple. You need to look at rates of cycling and rates of driving to see if relatively cycling is getting safer or more dangerous. It could just be that there are more cyclists on the roads this year than there were last year, meaning exposure is greater. However, the very fact that there are more cyclists (possibly 2% instead of 1%) means that we should act now before the predictions of the above graphs become true (and they are of course just rough predictions).

The government wants more cyclists. 10% by 2020 is the governments own target. So at the very least there will be 5 times more cyclists on the roads if the target is met. Now look back at the graphs and imagine that we start extrapolating a little further towards 2020 and to 10% of cyclists.Also imagine that the government has continued on the path it is on now with tiny amounts of funding spent on bits of infrastructure here and there. No plan. No real funding.

If we want that 10% of trips by cycling, and if we want it as safe as it can be, then we need to start investing and investing significantly. Not next year, not in 5 years time, but now.

If you haven't already, please, PLEASE contact your MSP's and tell them that the time is now for a step change in funding.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

British Cycling: The Truth Behind the Performances

We have rounder wheels than everyone else!

That was the response from British Cycling when others questioned the amazing performances on the road and in the velodrome this summer. If this was the case it might well explain the multitude of medals and a Tour de France victory.

Of course this is blatantly not true. British Cycling would never give away the secrets of its success. The only thing we can be certain of is that it wasn't drugs and the wheels weren't any rounder. However, anyone who has followed this blog over the last few years will know that I like to seek out the truth and I am not afraid to say what needs to be said.

I've been spending lots and lots of time in darkened rooms watching cycling footage in minute detail, scouring the newspapers for secret messages and looking at white noise on our very out of date analogue TV (the government wants you to think it's random....). As a result, today I can reveal the truth behind the success, and in the interests of fairness I feel duty bound to share this so that when we head to Brazil in 2016 other teams have a chance of some medals.

The breakthrough is.......Breathing.

Yes, you read that right. Breathing.

No, don't be silly, I'm not suggesting that British cycling breathed whilst everyone else didn't, although that would certainly confer significant advantage, it is the way they breathed.

Imagine you are cycling along and trying to go as fast as you can. You breath. In and out. In and out. The problem is that up until now, everyone has been doing it wrong. As is often the case the explanation is incredibly complex, fully of mind boggling equations and only the brightest of boffins and geeks would understand if I explained it in full (I have a degree in physics, don't you know). Luckily I am a geek and have worked tirelessly to simplify the explanation so that mere mortals may understand.

So here it is.

Are you ready?

Then I'll begin.

So you are cycling along, trying to win a gold medal in a time trial. You set off and due to your exertions you have to breath.

Breath in through mouth

Breathing in is good of course, but the best way to breath in is through your mouth, not your nose. Breathing in through your mouth makes you go faster. As you suck air in, you suck it from in front of you, thus pulling air backwards. Due to Newtons Laws (just trust me on this) any action must have an equal and opposite reaction, thus sucking air from front to back (air going backwards), pulls you forward. Furthermore, as the air heads down into your lungs, the downward movement of the air (again thanks to our friend Newton) lifts you up a bit, effectively making you lighter (air goes down, you go up).

Breathing in through your nose, does not work as well, as your nose takes in air from below and moves it upwards into your nostrils. That doesn't pull you forward, and it effectively makes you slightly heavier.

Breath out through nose

What goes in must come out, so you have to push it back out. Pushing the air out through an open mouth causes problems as the opposite reactions occur to breathing in, i.e. you effectively slow down due to pushing air forward (air forward, you go back), and you'll be heavier due to pushing air up(air up, you go down). Unfortunately there isn't much you can do about the air going up the way out of your lungs, but you can stop the slowing effect of breathing forwards. So good old Newton, suggests (he didn't actually suggest it, but if he was around he would work for British Cycling, of that I have no doubt)  breathing out through your nose.

Hopefully, you'll have worked out the logic now. By breathing out your nose, you aren't pushing air forwards, instead you are pushing it downwards. Thus there is zero force slowing you down, and you will effectively be a little lighter.

Are you still with me?

Amazing, isn't it. It's a bit like a paper clip. Once you've seen it, it's so obvious, but only once you've seen it. The same goes for this theory (though it's no theory as the results speak for themselves). One you know it it becomes blindingly obvious.

Of course, it's not quite that simple. There are situations where the breathing technique needs to be adjusted. For example when you are climbing a very steep hill and your are off the saddle with your head down (parallel to the ground). Breathing out through your nose certainly works, but breathing in gets complex. In fact finite element calculations suggest that using the bagpipe playing technique of breathing in and out at the same time might be best in this situation. Analysis is still ongoing, and this lack of hill climbing advantage played a part in Mark Cavendish's failure to take the road race gold (there were too many hills).

Of course, with any ground breaking reveleations such as these, there will be doubters. In fact I am sure that people will go and look at the footage and claim,

'Bradley Wiggins had his mouth closed when he should have been breathing through his mouth!'

But remember, British Cycling only held this advantage whilst the other teams were in the dark, so subterfuge was critical. In fact, when Bradley looked like he had his mouth closed, he was in fact breathing through a specially designed prosthetic that was hidden behind his lips most of the time, but occasionally dropped to make it look as if his mouth was closed.

I expect these to be banned by the UCI very soon.

So there you have it.

I expect you will all now adopt this breathing technique. In fact the ultimate way to breath for any budding Bradley Wiggins is to combine this technique with Graeme Obree's breathing technique.  However, that is quite advanced and you should probably talk to your doctor before attempting to combine the techniques.

 Of course science and cycling don't stand still, and next year British Cycling will have upped its game. There are suggestions that this will involve manipulating pulses, but that's just an idea that's blowing in the wind.....

Sunday 14 October 2012

Someone elses problem

10% of journeys will be by cyclists by 2020.

That's quite a target. It's not a target set by me. It's not a target set by Pedal on Parliament. In fact it wasn't a target set by a cycling organisation or campaign group. It is a target set by our current government.

All the more impressive when you consider that John Swinney in his latest budget speech specifically pointed out that the current government hits its targets. So we should expect that the current government will do everything in its power to hit the 10% by 2020 target.

There is a problem though. The time scale.

Politics works within relatively short time scales as generally there are elections every 4 or so years. In fact on this occasion it will be 5 years, and the next Scottish election is to be held in 2016. In fact the issue is further complicated by the likely independence election in 2014. So we have a target that is 8 years away which will only be reached after a vote for independence and an election (or possibly a election of the first independent Scottish government). 

Imagine now that you are a politician in the current government......

You have heard that cyclists are asking for more money to make the roads safer, however, it's a difficult time and there are many other pressures on money. Of course the case for investing in cycling is very strong, it could help Scotland in so many ways, health, socially, economically, and environmentally.

Mmmm. You look at the date that the target is set for, 2020. You do a quick bit of arithmetic and work out that there is eight years until you reach that target date.  Eight years is a very, VERY long time in politics. Mmmm. You don't know too much about what is actually needed to get 10% of people in Scotland cycling, but you can't be that hard. Surely it won't need 8 years worth of significant funding. 

You like cycling, you support cycling, but it's far enough away and costs too much that it is probably better to leave it until after, at the very least, the independence election. Let's give cycling a small pot of cash, say £6m to show that we like the idea and to keep the cycling 'noise level' to manageable levels.

So we are at a loss aren't we? We are doomed to have small pots of cash?


The fact is that 8 years is not long at all. To get 10% of cyclists cycling by 2020, we need a step change in attitude and funding, not in a few years time, but now. It takes a lot of planning, building, publicising, designing and consultation to build the infrastructure that will get more than a few percent cycling. Effectively if the government doesn't take action NOW, John Swinney is admitting that they are a government that hits targets, unless the target is far off enough that it will become someone else's problem.

Effectively cycling is or will be someone else's problem. So how do we make it the current governments problem?

Noise. Governments don't like noise. Running government successfully is all about keeping the noise level as low as possible. So quite simply we need to make as much noise as we can possibly make. We've had a successful demonstration, now we need you to write to your MSP. Tell them that cycling is not a problem that needs to be solved in eight years time, it needs to be solved now.

Health is a problem now.
The environment is a problem now.
Pollution is a problem now. 
Congestion is a problem now.

Please write to your MSP (click here). It really is incredibly easy to do, and only takes a few minutes. It is incredibly powerful. Politicians do pay attention to their mailbags (or inboxes).

Without your help we won't be able to make Scotland a cycle friendly country!

Monday 8 October 2012

Now is the Write Time

Back in April the cyclists and potential cyclists of Scotland made a statement. A very clear, bold statement.

It's time to make Scotland a cycle friendly nation.

There can be no doubt that politicians sat up and took note. Since then the organising group of POP have been invited to the All Party Cycling Group, we have had personal discussions with Keith Brown, we have been invited to give evidence to parliamentary committees and we have in discussions with politicians from all sides of the divide.

We aren't alone in making progress of course, other organisations and individuals are working tirelessly as well for the same aims, but there can be no doubt that the event in April opened many doors. Yes, we at POP central can take some credit for organising the event, however, the real power comes not from us, but from you. It was because you turned up in huge numbers that we gained a seat at the table.

We are now at a critical point in our campaign. Politicians have started the process of setting out parliaments budget for the next financial year.

Budgets, financial settlements, funding, balance sheets? Boring isn't it?!

Far from it.

To get Scotland cycling needs money. It needs investment, and anyone who cycles at the moment will tell you, it needs significant funding. The government has announced £6m of extra funding this year. Unfortunately, this (split over two years and further split over different projects) is but a drop in the ocean. We have quite clearly stated what the funding needs are, with cycling needing 5% oft he transport budget (about £100m) a year to start the process of transforming our streets.

Yes, that's a lot of money, but small change compared to some of the huge spends on some infrastructure projects planned over the next few years. As it stands cycling is still not viewed as a serious mode of transport by our politicians.

It doesn't have to be like that, and with your help it won't be.

We need you to write to your politicians. 

There are two things that politicians take note of. Large demonstrations is one of them. We've done that. They also take note of letters from constituents. In fact it is often said that for every letter that a politician receives with a particular view expressed, suggests that at least 10 other constituents feel the same way. So every time someone writes a letter to an MSP, it multiplies 10 fold. Letters are powerful.

Therefore, we are asking you to PLEASE write to your MSP. You can do it very easily here. Tell them how passionate you are about cycling. Tell them if you don't feel safe enough to cycle. Tell them that you would love your children to cycle, you could even get your children to write to them!

Make your voice heard.

We have an opportunity here and now, to change Scotland, be it independent or part of the British isles, for the better. However, we cannot do it alone. We need you and your voice, just as we needed you out on the streets of Edinburgh.

I've written to my local and regional MSPs and I've copied the e-mail I have sent below. However, use your own words. You don't need to say much, just let them know what you want them to do.

With your help, we can make Scotland a cycle friendly nation.

As you may be aware I am one of the organisers of Pedal on Parliament (, which is a grass roots movement that is asking for the Scottish government to make cycling safe for all. Our manifesto ( among other things, asks for a step changing in funding for cycling. Investment in cycling is not only necessary to make our roads safer and to get more people of all ages cycling, but also necessary to help the government reach its target of 10% of journeys by bike by 2020. 

Our manifesto not only gained the support of 3000+ cyclists, of all ages and walks of life at our event in April, it has also gained the support of many other cycling organisations, a growing number of politicians and a number of Scotland’s more famous cycling heroes.  Mark Beamont, Graeme Obree and Sir Chris Hoy all encouraged people to join our campaign to make Scotland’s roads safe for all. In fact Sir Chris Hoy has gone further, and in his recent interview with the Herald he said,

“It's not just for one reason either, such as cutting down on road congestion or reducing carbon emissions. It's about the obesity issue and improving people's health. It's a social issue, too….. It's about making cycling an easier and more pleasant thing to do. If you make things easy then people will do it…. creating clear bike lanes that are actually meaningful and not just a bit of paint on the side of the road which other road users aren't really aware of.”

Sir Chris, is absolutely right. The benefits of cycling are wide ranging. Scotland has significant issues with pollution and carbon emissions. Glasgow for example has been cited recently as one of the most polluted cites in Europe. ( Cycling can play a significant role in reducing these emissions.

Our roads are also congested as I often experience myself on my daily commute through Glasgow ( Research has shown that if only 10% of these cars were replaced by cyclists the roads would flow freely again.

Glasgow and the West of Scotland have serious issues with obesity, diabetes and heart disease.  It is widely accepted that sedentary lifestyles are a root cause and that cycling, as a mode of transport and recreation, could play a significant role in improving our nations health.

Social deprivation is also a significant issue in the West of Scotland. With 30% of households not having access to a car, opening up our roads to safe cycling provides new opportunities in these areas, as well as helping the local economy with cyclists tending to spend their money locally benefiting the local economy.

In the economic climate that we find ourselves in money is tight. Spending needs to be focused in areas that provide the greatest benefits. The economic benefits of cycling are significant. It has been shown in rigorous studies that the benefit to cost ratio for investing in cycling in the UK is 19:1. Spending on cycling is investing in the health and prosperity of Scotland.

The evidence in favour of investing in Scotland’s cycle infrastructure is substantial, and is detailed here in our parliamentary budget submission ( However, without a significant step changing in funding above what is currently proposed in the draft budget, we will miss this opportunity for a true Golden Legacy from the Olympic and Commonwealth games.

Please could you do everything in your power to ensure that cycling does receive the required step change in funding in this years budget. With your help we could make Scotland a healthy, happy and prosperous cycle friendly nation.  

Monday 1 October 2012

Standing in the Shoulders of Giants

Cycling was not my first sporting passion. That belongs to judo. In fact I took part in judo, and was fairly handy at it, from the age of eight until I retired a few years ago. The sport and the people who did it with me will always be close to my heart.

Anyone who has done judo for any length of time will know how important respect is within the sport. Not just the respect that you should always afford your opponent, but the respect for those senior to you.

When I first joined the university judo club having done judo since primary school in a small local club, I remember looking at some of the older members there, and some of them were very old to be on a mat (or so I thought), and wondered what they were doing there. Their sporting careers had obviously seen better days, and some of them due to injury or just wear and tear, found it difficult to move freely and fight properly.

Is it not time for them to hang up their judogi? (judo kit)

Of course, I soon learned that not only was their being there justified, it was absolutely critical.

One of these older judoka (that's what judo players are called) was Doc. When I first met him Doc was in his 70's and his knees and hips were failing him. He'd started his judo in his 40's which was late to start but that still meant he had being doing judo from before I was born. Whilst he wasn't a world medallist, he was a black belt and when you took grip with him you could tell he knew his way about a judo mat.

It wasn't his judo skills, though that were the most impressive thing about him. Doc, and a few others like him at the club were hard men. Hard men? Does that mean they went around bullying others? No. Not in the slightest. In fact Doc was one of the most generous, kind and fun loving individuals that I have had the pleasure to know. My wife on first meeting him pointed out that he had a very bright twinkle in his eye! Doc would do anything he could for you and was always happy to offer advice.

No, Doc was a real hard man. He did judo at a time when it wasn't an olympic sport, when mats weren't health and safety tested, when gyms weren't air conditioned (or sometimes properly heated) and floors were more likely to be concrete rather than sprung. He did judo, not when it was easy, but when it was hard. This showed when you met them on the mat. It didn't matter that he probably needed a knee replacement (and he had a few), he would get out on the mat and get on with it as best they could, and he would enjoy it and contribute positively.

So why are people like Doc so important?

They show us, and they certainly showed me, that if you have a passion, and if you are determined enough, you can get out and do it, enjoy it, and as Doc and many others did, contribute to the growth of the younger players. I learned a huge amount from Doc and others like him, with the most important lesson being respect. I cannot express in words how much respect I had for Doc. I hope he understood that.

You may notice that I say, 'had'. Unfortunately, I found out that Doc passed away at the weekend.

As I mentioned earlier, I stopped judo a few years ago. I wasn't as tough as these guys. Having had three knee operations I decided that I needed to keep my body going for my kids. That meant I hadn't seen many at the club, including Doc for quite a while. Obviously I feel sad about that, and wish I had one last chance to tell Doc how much I appreciated everything he did for me.

However, that's not the end of the story. Doc continues to teach me lessons. Doc was, in my mind, a giant of judo. He truly was a pair of shoulders that I felt I stood on throughout my adult judo career. However, today I am not doing judo any more, cycling is my passion. Not only do I take part in cycling, I passionately campaign to make it safer. So how does Doc's legacy help with my cycle campaigning?

I have been lucky. I have come along at a time when campaigning is getting easy. I helped to organise Pedal on Parliament at a time when the media were starting to look positively at cycling, when politicians were starting to realise that cycling could be a realistic solution to many of Scotland's ills, and when people were starting to look for an alternative to the often soul destroying daily grind to work in a car. I'm not saying that it is certain that POP will succeed in making Scotland a cycle friendly nation, far from it, there is much work and campaigning to be done. It is, however, just a much better environment to campaign in now.

My experience with Doc taught me that Pedal on Parliament only exists because of the tireless, thankless work that many campaign groups and individuals have done before. Without their hard work and dedication when the media was anti cyclist and when politicians thought that cycling had had it's day, is far more impressive that anything that POP has or probably ever will deliver. To all of those groups, many of whom are still working away in the background, I have the utmost respect for. I'm almost certain I would not have had the energy and determination that they have had over the years.

In the world of cycle campaigning my personal aproach focuses on raising awareness of issues publicly, being honest about where we are now, and what needs to be done, and I attempt to put external pressure on politicians. In fact I have found that politicians understand and often appreciate the need for such approaches to campaigning. How else would they know that people care about cycling if we didn't have 3000 people out on the streets or cyclists sending letters to them?

Not everyone agrees with my approach of course. Some prefer to work within and to build from the bottom up. Whilst I certainly respect that opinion, and I agree that we have needed in the past and continue to need a bottom up approach, I think new opportunities, both nationally and locally have arisen.  I think we should focus on and push strongly for a step change in the attitude towards cycling and cycle infrastructure funding.

This has to happen both locally and nationally.

In judo I didn't always agree with Doc. He would on occasion suggest a move or a technique to me that I didn't think would suit. He wasn't always right (and neither was I!). That, of course, in no way affected the respect I felt for Doc. Likewise, because I don't always agree with other approaches to campaigning, does not in any way detract for the respect I have for them. We need people to keep plugging away at the coal face.

However, if we don't reach for the stars, we'll never get to Mars, and so it is with campaigning.

We are at a critical time in the growth and maturity of cycling as transport. We owe it to the giants, past and present to ensure that we do everything we can now to make cycling safe for all. We must grasp the opportunity whilst we have it.

We owe it to the real campaigning hard men.

In Memory of David (Doc) Campbell.  My thoughts are with his family at this time.

Friday 14 September 2012

Starting a Conversation

I've written a bit in the past about the situation in Glasgow with regards to cycling, and how we are behind Edinburgh in cycling terms. I've also written a letter to Glasgow's new cycling czar Frank McAveety making the point that a lot needs to be done to set Glasgow on the right path.

Frank did get back to me. Here is his reply.

Dear Mr Brennan

Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding cycling in the City.

I will be developing some ides for the City relating to cycling - as a general mode of transport, as a recreation and as a sport.  I hope to pull together some ideas for the period ahead that will benefit the City in the long-term.

I look forward to sharing ideas with all interested parties.

Best wishes.

Councillor Frank McAveety

I must admit I wasn't overly impressed with the reply, it came across as a standard reply and suggested that he would be formulating plans without actually listening to the opinion of cyclists. However, I understand from cyclists that have met him that this is not the case and that he is interested in listening and working together, so we should extend the benefit of doubt to Frank.

Of course Frank and Glasgow city council can only act on what they know. They need to hear our thoughts about cycling in Glasgow, about what needs to be done and how best to accomplish it. My view and the view of Pedal on Parliament (and many others) is that to effect change in our urban environments, to actually get 10% or more of people cycling in our cities requires investment. We need to make our roads safer, and feel safer.

To help start the conversation, we at POP are holding an event this Sunday (16th September) where we ask you to fill in a postcard and send it to your councillors (or here in Glasgow perhaps Frank) stating what you think Glasgow should be doing to get it cycling. On the day we ask you to post that postcard and take a picture of you posting it a let us know about it, either via twitter (#goldenlegacy) or e-mail (or my contact page).

Another option is to come along to one of the posting events we have organised. In Glasgow it will be outside the Veleorome on Sunday at 3pm. We will be bringing along our own Golden Postbox to post your cards in.

We will have some postcards that you can fill in, but we are limited in numbers. If we run out, you can always fill a postcard in later.
Are our politicians just along for the ride?

If we let our  politicians and councillors know what the people of Glasgow want, then we stand a better chance of getting it. So come along to the Velodrome on Saturday (or to the other similar events elsewhere if you aren't from Glasgow). write your postcard and pass on your thoughts to your council.

Together we can make Glasgow a cycle friendly city, and Scotland a cycle friendly nation!

Thursday 6 September 2012

Tesco Demonstration On How Not To Reply

I recently had the misfortune to see some pretty shocking driving from a Tesco driver recently. You can see the video below

I honestly believe that if I had not put my hand out to discourage him from overtaking, there would have been an accident there. Look at the rear footage and see how quickly after the Tesco driver decides to pull back in that the car coming the other way passes. His final overtake was dangerous too.

So I decided to write a letter to Tesco:

Dear Sir/Madam,

Unfortunately I am writing to you to complain about the very poor driving I experienced from one of your drivers.

I am a cycle commuter and I commute between my home in Torrance and my work in Glasgow. On this particular occasion I was on my way home and was cycling along Boclair Road (B8049) toward the Auchenhowie Roundabout. The incident happened at approximate the location shown on this google map (

As I am a cycle safety campaigner and I have had a few dangerous incidents occur when commuting to work, I routinely video my commute to work with a helmet camera and a rear view camera attached to my bike. Therefore I have video footage of the incident which I have placed on YouTube here (

As you can see from the footage which was taken at approximately 5:40pm on the 29th August, the Tesco van (BG12 FRR) attempts to overtake on a blind bend where there are double white central lines, when a car is fast approaching. The driver only pulled back from the manoeuvre when I signalled for him to stop with my outstretched arm. Had he not stopped I am in no doubt that this would have resulted in a very serious accident. There was never enough time to contemplate an overtake and there is no way the driver could have seen that the road was clear enough to complete it.

Unfortunately he did not learn from this initial incident and overtook shortly afterwards, again on a blind corner with an approaching car. This time he had just enough time to complete the manoeuvre.

It is as I am sure you are aware,  to overtake any vehicle travelling over 10mph when there are solid white lines. It is especially foolish to do so on a blind corner when a car is approaching the other way. As my helmet camera also records GPS I know I was travelling 18mph at the point of his first attempt and 22mph at the point where he actually overtook me.

Please could you investigate this incident and remind your drivers, whilst they might be on a tight schedule for deliveries or are keen to get home early, that they should not compromise the safety of other road users. Had there been a collision on this occasion it was very likely that not only the occupants of the oncoming car would have been seriously injured, but I may have been caught up in it too.

Many thanks for your help in this matter.

Best regards

So I waited for a reply. It came a few days later.

Dear Dr David Brennan

Thank you for taking the time to contact me and please accept my apologies for the delay in responding.

Further to your email, I’m appalled to hear about the driving of one of our employees which you recently witnessed. I can appreciate how annoyed you must’ve felt and would like to thank you for bringing this to my attention.

Please be assured this matter has now been escalated to the Store Manager Mr Billy Gardiner in the St Rollex store. I’m confident this will be fully investigated and the necessary steps taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

Many thanks for making me aware of this driver and if I can be of any further assistance please don’t hesitate to contact me. 

Kind regards

I must admit I was left feeling a bit flat after this response, but it was possible that this was an initial response and I would get a proper response following the store managers investigation, so I wrote to ask if I should expect any further correspondence. 

Dear David

Thank you for your further email.

No you won’t receive any further correspondence regarding this matter as we’re unable to discus any action that has been taken with a member of staff.

Although, please be assured this will be fully investigated.

So that is it. I have to say I am not impressed with this reply. Let me explain.

Firstly, the main reply to any complaint should come after the investigation is complete. Yes, an early acknowledgement letter should be sent out, but that should not be the only correspondence.Yes it is good to be reassured that it will be fully investigated however,  by only replying before any investigation I have no evidence that this is indeed the case.

Secondly, the response is very obviously a standard response. The responder was appalled to 'hear' about the incident in question. This to me suggests that the responder at no point has looked at the footage (and they certainly don't mention it) and so at that point has absolutely no idea as to how minor or serious the incident was. Thus, it comes across as a downright lie when the responder suggests that they 'can appreciate how annoyed' I felt.

The whole letter has a very hollow ring to it.

Finally, and this is the most annoying part of all of this, is the fact they take the usual 'sorry can't share any information with you' line. Now, I am no lawyer, I've even spent years spelling the word lawyer wrong and been thankful for spellchecker. I am, however pretty certain that no human rights would be infringed if, having spoke to the driver, asked him for his explanation of event, etc that the company could not come back to me with further information. I am not looking for the drivers name or address, I am just wanting an explanation about why he did what he did, if he was sorry about what he did, and an assurance that he would be disciplined in accordance with the companies procedures to ensure that an incident like this would not occur again.

Perhaps, and this would be the icing on the cake, perhaps the company could describe a little about what driver training is available to the drivers, and what procedures it has in place to ensure that the companies driving standards are constantly kept up to scratch.

Yet all I recevied was one pretty poor and hollow sounding letter, not actually apologising for the drive that I saw. The only apology the letter actual contains is for the slight delay in responding. Perhaps that is the problem. Perhaps time delays are bad, bad driving to reduce time delays are ok. That's certainly the feeling I get.

Am, I asking too much? No. I have had replies even better than this in the past. First Bus invited me around for tea cakes and a tour of their facilities! Now I am not expecting every company to invite me to visit their facilities. All I and other cyclists (or other road users) ask is that our complaints are taken seriously, that we get enough information back to know that our complaints are taken seriously, and that companies in general realise that road safety needs to be taken seriously.

If a company like Tesco can't get it right, what chance do we have of making our roads safe for everyone?

Friday 31 August 2012

iDRIVE Result

I'm sure most of you will have read my recent blog on the comments I received from an a learner driver school's official YouTube channel. It can be found here. The comment was quite shocking.

However, I have been very pleased with the response from iDRIVE themselves. I received a very quick initial response and after they had investigated the issue they replied to me in detail (without compromising confidentiality).

It turns out that it was an admin employee who had access to the YouTube, Facebook, e-mail accounts etc that sent the comment. I can only assume it was done when the employee thought he was logged in to his personal, anonymous account.

The employee was interviewed the following day. This is a quote from the owner of iDRIVE

I am unable to discuss with any third parties in detail about the contract breaches made, all I can say is that 7 breaches of the contract were found and for that we can thank you, and your viewers who brought it to our attention.
 ...however after a interview with the person in question, we found very little sympathy towards the comments made.
 So it would appear that the person in question had little remorse over the comments that he made and as a result is no longer employed by the company.

This is an unfortunate outcome, and one that I personally take no pleasure in. I was hoping that the person in question would have had some remorse and apologised for what they had done. As this was not the case I can fully understand the decision to let the person go.

It is a sad outcome.

However, I am very grateful to iDRIVE for their help in this matter and I wish them well in the future.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

iDRIVE Cyclists Off the Road

Please read the following follow up blog to the original blog I wrote below. I was very pleased with the companies response to this incident.

A Quality Service, Friendly, Reliable & Professional

That's a quote on the iDRIVE driver tuition website and reading the website you would have no reason to doubt the quote. The site, whilst a little over complicated seems reasonably professional. 

Why though would a prospective driver chose to learn with iDRIVEdt? 

The top reason is that they are committed to :

"high quality, reliable and professional training"

It all sounds very good, so I suggest you sign up quickly if you are looking for driving lessons.....oh wait a minute..... there is one small minor teeny weeny problem. 

They hate cyclists.

At least that would appear to be the case as I have just had the following comment coming from their official YouTube account (iDRIVEdrivertuition) on one of my videos (copied letter for letter and received at 19:58 this evening):

cyclists are fuckin dumbasses, kick em off the road. 

So there you have it. Until I hear any different (and I am contacting them for clarification) iDRIVEdt think cyclists are stupid and are suggesting that violence should be used to remove them from the road.

Remember folks, this is coming from people who are educating our young drivers. If driving instructors, those who are probably some of the most educated road users have this attitude towards cyclists do we really think that driver education alone will make the roads safe for all?

Edit: The comment has been removed from YouTube so he is a screenshot of the notification e-mail I received.


Monday 20 August 2012

Glasgow Cycling Czar

Today Frank McAveety has been announced as a 'Cycling Czar' within Glasgow city council. Here is a letter I have e-mailed to Mr McAveety on my own behalf and behalf of Pedal on Parliament.

Dear Mr McAveety,

First of all, please let me congratulate you on your appointment as 'Cycling Czar' in Glasgow City Council. I was pleasantly surprised by the news this morning that GCC had taken this step.

I myself am a Glasgow cyclist (from Torrance to my work in the south of Glasgow daily) and have been for a number of years a cycle safety campaigner. I started off by videoing my commute and posting incidents and things of interest on Youtube ( and also write a blog about cycling and cycle campaigning (

Most recently I came up with the idea, and jointly organised a protest ride and movement called Pedal on Parliament (POP) which attracted 3000+ cyclists to attend in April ( It also gained the support of well known cyclists such as Mark Beaumont, Graeme Obree and Sir Chris Hoy. It is POP's aim to make Scotland a cycle friendly nation which we believe can be achieved by following our 8 point manifesto ( Most importantly it is our belief to make cycling safe and increase numbers of cyclists significantly that there needs to be significant investment in cycle infrastructure. This will require funding streams not only from local council but from central government as well.

Glasgow's roads are unfortunately far from being cycle friendly, despite the suggestion of the fundamentally flawed Virgin money survey placing Glasgow 6th in the UK for cycle friendliness. Had the survey actually taken account of the numbers of cyclists, which is very low in Glasgow in comparison to other areas, then Glasgow would have been found somewhere close to the bottom of the table (see here for more details on how flawed the calculations were Despite the reality, there has never been a better time to invest in cycling in Glasgow. There is increased interest following our success at the Olympics, Glasgow will receive a further boost from the opening of the Velodrome, and Glasgow will be the proud host of the Commonwealth Games in 2014. Hopefully your appointment is the first step on this journey.

There is no doubt that investment at a time of financial strife is difficult, however, spending on cycling is truly an investment. Cycling brings about not only health benefits, something that is a very important consideration in Glasgow, it also brings reductions in local pollution and associated reductions in CO2 emissions, social benefits, economic benefits and reductions in congestion.  However, in the past money has been spent badly, and nearly all of Glasgow's cyclists will tell you that the majority of the cities cycle infrastructure is poor and at times dangerous to use. For money to be well spent the infrastructure needs to be fully FUNDED, properly DESIGNED, and properly CONNECTED.

As well as posting a copy of this e-mail on my blog (as I normally do) I have copied it to people from other interested campaigns (Go-Bike, CTC Scotland, Sustrans, and Cycling Scotland) who I am sure along with ourselves will be keen to offer advice on how best to take things forward in Glasgow. Therefore, I ask on behalf of myself a concerned Glasgow cyclist and and on behalf of POP for you to please invite us to have discussions with you on how to make Glasgow a cycle friendly city.

With both central and local government buy in, with properly target funding, and with the right advice, Glasgow can become a cycle friendly city.

Thursday 16 August 2012

Am I too Negative?

I had quite an interesting debate on Twitter recently. Unlike the 'discussions' that occur on my Youtube videos (the ones where people wish me dead) this was an interesting and well informed discussion. Both sides made a reasonable argument (ok....I hope I did!) and whilst we chose to disagree we did so on good terms.

The poster was suggesting that my approach to campaigning is too negative. To be fair I can see why people can think I am too negative, as quite a few of my more recent posts have been about the safety aspect of cycling.

Let me though dispel one misunderstanding. I do not think cycling is dangerous. If I did, I wouldn't do it. I have three wonderful young kids, and I would love to be around for them for a long time to come. I unfortunately lost my father at an early age, and I am determined to be along as long as possible for them. In fact part of the reason I cycle is to keep as healthy as possible.

However, what I do think is that cycling is significantly more dangerous than it should be here in the UK. To ride on many of the roads I ride on you need skills and confidence that very few new cyclists would ever have and many people would never attain.

For example, can you imagine a cross section of the population cycling on roads like this?

Would this road be safe for an 8 year old to cycle on? Be honest.

The road above could with a bit of thought and money be made safe for everyone. It just needs to be DESIGNED, CONNECTED, and FUNDED.

There are those that suggest that increasing numbers will lead to increasing safety. Will it though? Today the Department for Transport released it's latest figures on Britain's road casualties.

I'd normally post some statistics. If you want to see those you can look at the DfT report. All I ask is you look at the graph above. Look at what is happening to cycling casualties, rising significantly. Pedestrians don't fair great either.

What is important to mention here is that we are missing the denominator. We don't have the figures for the increase in cycling. There are probably more cyclists, thus leading to more deaths and injuries. It makes sense.

Is it inevitable though? If cycling numbers increase will deaths increase? Yes. If we do nothing. If we think that letting people cycle on our roads as they are is acceptable then we will have to accept more cyclist dying.

....Or we could do something. Do something before this gets out of hand. We could spend the money now to make our streets safe for everyone. It has been done, it can be done and with the right political will, it will be done. Are willing to watch that graph of cyclist KSI continue to rise next year, the year after that, and the year after that?

Am I being negative? Or am I being realistic? What do you think?

Monday 13 August 2012

Health and Safety

Cycling is safe. Cycling is dangerous. Cycling is safe. Cycling is dangerous.

It's a circular argument that has a tendency to do what circles tend to do....go around and around. I've certainly had reason to discuss the safety of cycling in the past (here and here).

There are definitely two camps, those that tell you that cycling is not only safe but that you are 746,654.543 times less likely to die young if you cycle. They will quote you figures for the distance travelled by bike, on foot, by car, by plane in canoe, etc and prove to you with statistics that per mile travelled cycling is the safest way to travel and safer than scratching your nose.

Camp two are the scaredy cats. The big girls blouses who roll up their trouser legs when walking just in case their leg shrinks, the trouser drops below the foot and they trip over. They are even, and this one is really crazy, even known to put some polystyrene on their heads in the belief that it would provide protection from a 10 tonne bus.

OK, I may be exaggerating just a teensy bit, but there are certainly cycle campaigners who would prefer us to play down the downsides to cycling for fear of scaring new cyclists away. The idea is that with more cyclists comes increased safety. The safety in numbers hypothesis.

I fall into a different camp (but I'm no scaredy cat!!). I think there is a reality that we need to face. Not that cycling is dangerous, (I'll not split hairs over the differences between the act of cycling and the act of interacting with other road users), but that it is more dangerous than it needs to be. I've discussed here, that if we compare cycling to exemplar countries, we can see a great disparity in the casualty figures.

As I have eluded to above, statistics are messy and can usually be twisted one way or the other. In fact it is not the statistics themselves that are messy, but the assumptions upon which they are based or the way they are calculated. For example there can be no doubt that cycling is a healthy activity. It reduces obesity, it improves cardiovascular fitness, and is quoted as increasing lifespan and making the cyclist look and feel younger. Let's be honest though, you don't need to cycle on the roads to gain those benefits. You could quite easily drive to the gym get on a gym bike and gain nearly all of the same health benefits as riding a bike on the road.

Cycling is healthy, but most forms of exercise are.

This is where the problem arises. Recently I had a discussion with someone on twitter who thought I was being melodramatic about the dangers of cycling. I tweeted back that ignoring the dangers was a bit like sticking your head in the sand. The tweeter replied '...cycling is 77 times safer than not cycling'.

Now I have no idea where that statistic was plucked from, the could well be some veracity to the comment. However, cycling is certainly not 77 times safer than not cycling. In fact staying at home, wrapping yourself in cotton wool, and living in a nuclear bunker without any other human contact is probably thousands of times safer than cycling. However, cycling is probably thousands of times healthier than living in that bunker.

That is the crux of the issue. Too many people mix up health and safety. Cycling is incredibly healthy. Most people would gain from it enormously if they took it up. Is it safe though? That, as always the case with safety, depends on your reference. No, cycling is not safer than living in that nuclear shelter (unless of course it is in a high radon area.....). Is it safer than driving? Not in the UK it isn't, but it is in the Netherlands.

So perhaps we shouldn't cycle, but all drive to the gym and go on bikes there?!


That is the beauty of cycling. Going to the gym is healthy, but it isn't good for the environment, it won't reduce congestion, and it costs lots of money. Cycling is good in so many ways that it makes so much sense. The solution is not to cycle less, it is to design our roads so that they make cycling safe so we can all share in the health and related benefits.

Until that happens we must be careful not to bury our heads in the sand.  If we do nothing, more people will die unnecessarily.

Saturday 28 July 2012

The Mind of Glasgow Council

I've written quite a bit about Glasgow recently and it's indifference to cycling and active travel as you can read for yourself here and here. As much as I love working in and living close to Glasgow from a cycling and active travel perspective I find it embarrassing to call myself a Glaswegian.

Despite this I was still shocked by an e-mail I received today from a fellow concerned Glasgow cyclist (who I know and trust). He'd received an e-mail from an employee of the council, who will remain unnamed.

The cyclist in this exchange was one of many who feel that the cycle infrastructure in Glasgow is generally appalling or in most cases non-existent. Thus, like many others he publishes some of the problems he faces online and then directs the council to the information. As I myself am only too aware, it is only through publicising issues such as these that councils/politicians etc actually get off their backsides and do something about it.

The e-mail from the Council employee was polite enough, but strongly suggested that publicising the issues was not the right approach. The employee suggested that such public posting might put new cyclists off. He was worried that future cyclists might see the online pictures and comments and feel that the roads weren't safe enough and thus decide not to ride a bike. This in turn would mean less cyclists on the road and, apparently, would translate into less funding for cycle infrastructure.


Let's look at the logic here. Concerned cyclist takes pictures of terrible cycle infrastructure. It is terrible because it is poor quality or even dangerous. A new cyclist looks online and see these images, and decides, mmmm, that looks dangerous, perhaps I won't go by bike. As a result there are fewer cyclists and therefore Glasgow City Council decides to spend less on cycle infrastructure!!

Here is the logic in a nutshell.

Someone points out roads are bad for cyclists, so there are less cyclists, so spend less on cycling, roads are worse,  so there are less cycling, so spend less on cyclists, roads are worse, there are less cyclists so spend less on cycling....

Mmm. That seemed a bit complicated. Let me simplify it...

Crap Cycle Infrastructure = Spend less on Cycle Infrastructure

Way to go Glasgow!

To be fair to the employee writing the e-mail, I suspect that he is stuck between a rock and a hard place, and almost said so himself. It sounds like has very limited resources and he wants to improve things, but he's stuck with the Glasgow 'Crap, so Less' funding system.

So Edinburgh council, whilst not perfect, has seen the light and understands that investing in cycling pays back in so many ways, Glasgow is caught in the Death Spiral of Doom.

And you wonder why Glasgow has some of the most polluted streets, has terrible traffic congestion has some of the worst rates of heart disease, and is often called the sick man of Europe.

It's actually quite ironic. I've heard politicians in the past saying we need to change the culture on the roads before investing in the infrastructure. That is of course the wrong way around. We need to make it safe before more will use bikes and the culture will change.

The irony is, that we do indeed need to change culture first. The culture within Glasgow City Council.