Wednesday 29 February 2012

Safe Cycling Scotland - Update

Only a few days ago I was daft enough to stick my neck out and suggest we should have a big ride in Scotland on the 28th of April. That ride would be a demonstration that  Scotland's, cyclists, potential cyclists and pedestrians felt that it was time that their needs were taken seriously and catered for by our institutions. 

London is planning a ride, and I felt Scotland should not be left behind. It is time to take the message directly to the politicians in Holyrood.

Well I can confirm that a fantastic band of volunteers have been brought together to bring this to reality. I once was taught 'Surround yourself with people who are better than you'. That has been achieved! (No comments about how easy that would be, please! )

There will be a ride in Edinburgh on the 28th of April! 

Of course a lot of work needs to happen between now and then. We need a dedicated website, we need a route, we need publicity, we need a manifesto.

It's all coming. There will be a website, a Facebook page, a twitter account etc.

Of course we always need more help and more support, so if you think you can helps us in any way (ranging from strategic planning right through to handing out leaflets) let me know via my contact page.

I'm looking forward to meeting you all on the 28th of April!

Friday 24 February 2012

Safe Cycling Scotland

The vastly overdue revolution in UK road use has begun. It has been coming for years now and many of us (I'd like to think I played a teeny weeny part) have been pushing for this for many years.

However, revolutions do not happen by themselves. They only happen through the will of the people. The Times Cycle Safe Campaign has been been an excellent catalyst over the last few weeks, bringing together all the many campaign groups and cyclists under one single campaign. Cities Fit For Cycling.

Yes, the campaign is not perfect, it needs moulding and tweaking. That's fine, and that is where the hard work will be over the coming years. However, it is a great starting point and a springboard for radical change.

The LCC has made a call  for cyclists from across the UK to congregate on London to show support for 'safe and inviting streets for cycling'. I fully support this. However, having look at the train fares and considered my options for getting my bike and self to London as cheaply and easily as possible I have admitted defeat. I just can't do it.

However, that does not have to be the end of the story, or the end of the story for anyone else too far north to get to London. Scotland has it's own parliament, it's own funding, it's own priorities. The worry is that unless we do something ourselves, the events of our more southerly friends will pass us by.

So, lets not let it pass us by. Let us ride on our parliament in Edinburgh. Let us show politicians north of the border that our appetite for better roads, roads for people, that people want to use, is as strong as it is in London and England.

Glasgow in 2020?

So lets ride on Hollyrood on the 28th of April to show the strength of supporting Scotland for safe and inviting streets. Not just for cyclist, for everyone.

Of course this is just the start of an idea for now. There are already other campaigners willing to help take this forward, who you will also hear from soon. However, we will need help. So if you are able and willing to help let me know via my website or twitter.

Lets show the politicians of Scotland that it's time to give the roads back to the people.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

The One Percent

I absolutely love cycling.

99% of the time cycling is a joy. Even when the weather is poor, it can be great fun. The last two days have unfortunately been part of the 1%.

There I was yesterday happily cycling along on my way to work, enjoying a typical commute in, when something started happening with the bike. Every so often it would feel like the chain was slipping. Was a link sticking? Had some muck started interfering with the chain? It would have to wait as I was riding on a busy dual carriageway with no paving at the side.

I stopped at some lights on the up-slope of a hill, and had a quick look down at the chain. I couldn't see anything obvious. Before I had a chance to look any further the lights had changed, and having traffic and another cyclist behind me I felt compelled to pull away from the lights as normal. Off I went standing on the pedals to gain some momentum. 10 metres later and I felt the first CRUNCH.

Oh dear. That didn't feel good. CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRRRRRRUNCH!

I came to an abrupt halt. Luckily the traffic and cyclist behind me were all behaving nicely and paying attention and managed to avoid running over me.. In fact the cyclist seemed to be paying a lot of attention to my rear wheel. He looked up at me with an 'oooh, your bike's a bit messed up' sort of grimace.

I managed to hobble over to the side of the road (still no path, just a ledge next to a stone wall) and take a look. Yes indeed, my chain (front to back connecty thingy) had snapped. Unfortunately my chain had decided that it wanted to go out with a bang and take some other parts of my bike with it. My rear dérailleur (gear changey thingy) had been ripped apart, the gear hanger (gear changey thingy, attachment thingy) was badly bent, and the gear cable (gear changey thingy, pully thingy) along with the derailleur was wrapped around the rear wheel (spinny thingy that turns at a speed depending on how much the pully thingy, is pulling the gear changey thingy and how much force my legs are putting through the front to back connecty thingy).

In technical terms my bike was fecked.

Umm, err, this is supposed to be attached to my bike, isn't it?

The other cyclist did offer some sympathy and a lock, if I needed to leave my bike nearby, but there was little that anyone could really do. I found my way to a safe spot and removed the main damage. With all the main damage removed, I effectively had a  a scoot bike. This was where my luck turned....a little. There was a taxi rank about a mile away and it was pretty much all downhill to the taxi rank in Anniesland. So off I scooted. I should point out that I scooted on the pavement. technically speaking I wasn't cycling as I didn't actually have a whole bike.

Maybe I can just glue it back on...

Upon reaching the taxi rank, the taxi driver was happy to take me on to work. Mind you,  he didn't really want to chat. I'm not sure he liked cyclists......especially ones with cameras on their helmets.

So today, having left my bike at work (and got a lift home from my dearest wife the day before) I decided to take my winterised bike in today. It's a beast of a hybrid with winter spike tyres. Not a great fact, a damn hard ride, but it would still be more fun than the car. So the lights were transferred and off I toddled to work. The headwind and the spikes made it hard work. Mind you, even HGVs approaching roundabouts at speed would have been able to hear me coming. Mmm, a new safety feature perhaps?

It was a few miles into my commute when I realised that I hadn't brought any replecement tubes for this bike. Not a problem, thinks I, I have a puncture repair kit. Mind you, what use would a puncture repair kit be? I'd also forgot to bring the appropriate pump. Oops! No problem, the chances of a puncture are very remote.....

It wasn't too far into the urban part of my commute when I noticed that the cycling was getting hard. That's strange... The back end of the bike was also starting to feel extra bouncy. Even stranger....

Yes, you guessed it, the puncture fairy had paid a visit. Poooh....or words to that effect.
Scooting was out of the question this time. Scooting on a flat tyre has a tendancy to rip apart tyres, especially expensive winter stud tyres. So I started that walk that every cyclist dreads....tthe 'Look at me, I've got a flat tyre and no way of fixing it walk'. I held my head in shame. Of course this walk can only be conducted properly when all taxis in the area have been informed to stay away from the cyclist. There must be no easy escape from the walk. So I set off for the Two mile trudge in the wind and rain (in my face of course) for the taxi rank I caught the taxi at the day before. Two miles is the minimum acceptable distance for the walk of shame.

Two consecutive days cycle commuting. Two different bikes. Two different 'mechanical failures. Two Taxi rides.  Never in the six years of cycle commuting had I had to end a ride and take a taxi, end yet two days on the trot that is what happened.

I hear things tend to come in threes......

Friday 17 February 2012

The Use of Weapons

Shocking. Utterly, utterly shocking.

That is the only way to describe the Bristol incident that has recently made the news.

Whilst it is certainly true that the cyclist may not have reacted in the best way to the original incident, especially propping his bike up against the bus and pulling on the wipers, however, that in no way justified the actions of the bus driver.

What is equally as shocking as the incident itself is the sentencing handed to the bus driver. Seventeen months in prison (he is likely to only serve a fraction of that) and a driving ban for two and a half years. It is also worthwhile noting that the judge commented on how the driver used the bus, 'as a weapon'. The shock, of course, is the leniency of the sentencing.

First we have the jail sentence. Seventeen months is far too short. Some has asked, why was the driver not charged for attempted murder? In fact, it probably would have been difficult to convict the driver for attempted murder, as you need to prove there was an intent to kill. That would have been very hard to prove. Notice how, after knocking the cyclist down, the bus stops and it is clear, even from the CCTV that the cyclist is still alive. Had the driver really wanted to kill the cyclist he could have turned the bus on him then. That, at the very least would be the defence.

So the judge was limited to how much he could sentence. The judge also has to take into account his early plea of guilty and his previous good character. Of course, you could argue that the evidence was overwhelming in this case, so he would have been crazy not to plead guilty. In situations like that, should a guilty plea make a difference?

The defence also used the moment of madness defence. In fact I completely agree that this was indeed a moment of madness. I have no problem with that. However, I am sure we have all faced situations where, without reasonable control, we could have all succumb to a moment of madness. The difference is, we don't. Any reasonable person knows what the consequences are of crossing that line and so restrain themselves. This driver didn't. It wasn't a mistake, it was a lack of self control, a lack of control that could happen again. So in my opinion, moment of madness is just another way of describing a criminal act, and is not a good justifiable defence.

It seems though, that the law is not capable of dealing with road crimes such as these firmly enough. Perhaps we need to define a new offence. Use of vehicle as a weapon. Defining such an offence with appropriate sentencing guidelines would not only deal with the leniency of the sentencing, but it would also send a strong message that drivers have a responsibility to use their vehicles safely and only for the purpose it was intended. Not as a weapon or as a method of teaching others a lesson.

The other shocking aspect is the ridiculously short driving ban. This driver could be on the roads again in two and a half years. In my opinion, if you use a vehicle in the manner he did, it should be a life ban. I mentioned this to a friend who disagreed with me. he felt a life ban was too hard. We all have a right to drive a vehicle on the roads. In fact we don't. We have to earn the right to drive on the roads. We have to prove that we are competent and capable enough to drive safely.

Imagine a situation where a man was walking along a country lane. He was a country gent and he had just got out of his car on his way to a grouse shoot. He had his trusty rifle with him, which he of course has a licence to keep and use. A cyclist comes along the lane and knocks into him as he passes. The cyclist then stops and hurls abuse at the gent. The gent, in a moment of madness aims his gun at the cyclists leg and shoots him. Do you think this gent would ever be allowed to hold a gun licence again?

And so it is with driving. A bus or any vehicle is a potential weapon, if you use it with the aim of hurting someone, you should loose your licence to operate one, for good, just as you would for a sports gun. Both have the same potential for serious injury or death, so both should incur the same penalties when used inappropriately. Only then would drivers truly consider the consequences of their actions towards more vulnerable road users.

Wednesday 8 February 2012

20sPlentyForUs Campaign

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a bit of a cycle campaigner.


Shocking I know but, over the last few years I've seen wrongs that I just want to right. However, I'm a minnow. A virtual campaigner. I just don't have the time to devote to getting out there and actually doing stuff. Maybe as my kids get older I'll get more involved.

There are plenty of real campaigners out there who I greatly respect and I got chatting to one of them yesterday, Mark Kiehlmann from East Dunbartonshire's Cycle Co-operative. He and his fellow ED Cycle Co-op members are real campaigners.

For anyone who hasn't heard of ED Cycle Co-op:

East Dunbartonshire's Cycle Co-operative is a not for profit community based social enterprise that aims to support children and adults get on their bikes. We have been pretty successful in this aim with an increase in cycling to primary schools in the local area from 3% (the current national average) to over 7% across 7 primary schools, with one, as high at 19%. We have also been successful in gaining significant political interest from parliaments in Edinburgh, London and Brussels. Our co-operative ethos is based in a holistic approach working with families and the community.

ED's Cycle Co-op have a range of programmes. Here are some to give you a flavour of their work:

  • nursery interventions from 3 to 5years
  • primary school projects from 5 to 7 years in conjunction with their parents/carers;
  • after school clubs;
  • secondary school projects;
  • youth BMX Club;
  • women only group rides;
  • mechanic sessions for all;
  • community events that have won UK Bike Week 2010 and 2011.
One of the Projects Run by ED's Cycle Co-op

I'm considering going along for the mechanic sessions myself!

Now anyone who knows me, knows that I am not averse to using the media to highlight the odd issue. Mark and his team recognise the usefulness of using the media to win hearts and minds. Here is what they have been up to.

What really sparked my interest during our conversation though, was the fabulous work he and East Dunbartonshire Council have been doing to make Bishopbriggs (a town near me) one of the first areas to have blanket 20mph speed restrictions within the towns built up areas. (This might be a first. Does anyone know of a town that has done this before?)

Mark describes it in his own words:

With some of the highest levels of children cycling to primary schools in Scotland, based on the latest Sustrans, Hands up Survey data (2010), Bishopbriggs is soon to be Scotland’s first wholly 20mph town. East Dunbartonshire Council has been supporting the cycle revolution in Bishopbriggs through their Healthy Habits programme, delivered by community based social enterprise, ED’s Cycle Co-op. 

Rhondda Geekie, Council Leader said:

East Dunbartonshire is working closely with the Cycle Co-op to consider how to best bring forward a 20MPH restriction which would give confidence to cyclists.

This fantastic news is directly in line with The Times campaign for Cities fit for Cycling and the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland, produced by Transport Scotland, which aims to see 10% of journeys by bike by 2020. With an average of nearly 8% of primary children cycling to school, where all seven primaries have achieved the Cycling Scotland Cycle Friendly School Award, the only town in Scotland to do so, it has nearly reached the government target, 10 years ahead of schedule.

The 20sPlentyForUs campaign in Bishopbriggs is supported by a wide range of community leaders including:
·    All seven primary school parent councils;
·    All nine church leaders from Bishopbriggs Churches Together;
·    Local business leaders from Huntershill Village
·    Bishopbriggs Community Council and residents groups.

I claim to be a cycle campaigner, but this is cycle campaigning at its finest. East Dunbartonshire Council and ED Co-op are on the brink of something big. Something that if it can be made to work could be repeated the country over.

I wish Mark, the ED Cycle Co-op, East Dunbartonshire Council and all the supporting groups all the best in this new endeavour. I might even bring my three kids into Bishopbriggs to experience safe, on road cycling, once it's up and running.

Actually, there's a thought...

Mark!? Are there any plans to extend this scheme into Torrance......?

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Early Start at Traffic Lights....EEEK!

It would appear that there are plans in London for introducing an early start at traffic lights in London.


Eeek? Why the eeek? What the eeek are you on about?

In principle early start traffic lights sound like a great idea. To be fair they are a great idea. It does allow cyclists to get away from junctions before the mad rush of traffic rumbles across. Junctions are a dangerous place to be and getting across them quickly and without fuss is a good thing. They certainly do work in other parts of the world as well, there is no doubting that.

However, "early start" traffic lights must not implemented alone. There must be safe access to the front of the traffic queue that eliminates the risk of vehicle cyclist interactions. I've only just recently posted this blog on why I think ASL's are the Spawn of Satan. Part of the reasoning is that they encourage cyclists to 'aim for the front', often without thinking of the possible consequences of doing so.

Now, lets imagine a cyclist is coming up to the junction and they see that the Cycle Early Light has turned green. There are a few cars and HGVs between the cyclist and the front, but they, 'should be able to make that'. They filter down  the left of the HGV.

The HGV driver knows the sequence and knows that his lights are about to change, so sets off just as they start changing. The cyclist has misjudged the timing slightly and the HGV has went a little early. The HGV turns left......

So once again, we could end up with conflict, the very conflict that is the biggest killer of cyclists.

Of course, it doesn't need to be that way. There are probably junctions where the system would work and work well. My worry is that it won't just be implemented appropriately. Since when has infrastructure always been implemented correctly and with safety as the top priority?

Yes, let's all cheer at another victory on the road to making our roads cycle friendly, but let us employ a little caution in our praise. We need to sure that the infrastructure that is implemented make life safer and not more dangerous for the people it is trying to protect

Cycling and the BBC

Yesterday I received a message from the BBC to call them. It was with regards to an article that they were going to run today. They wanted to check that it was ok to use some of my footage. At the time I was busy cooking dinner for the family (a rare event), so I agreed, being assured it would be a reasonable and balance article.

Here it is.

Having the reporter/researchers e-mail address who contacted me, I decided to send the following e-mail.

I managed to watch the report this morning, It was reasonable in a lot of aspects. However, myself and a large number of cyclists feel that the balance is a bit skewed. This criticism is not aimed just at this article, but at a lot of similar articles on the BBC.

Would you be interested chatting about this at all?

The biggest problem is the victim culture that the BBC appears to support in this and in similar reports. In every report about cycling and cycle safety, red light jumping cyclists, Hi-Vis clothing and bike lights seem to get mentioned. It is indeed correct that some cyclists run red lights, they shoudn't. It is indeed correct that, 'in certain circumstances' Hi-Vis can help make a cyclist more visible. It is indeed correct that a cyclist should have lights at night.

However, if there was a hypothetical report on car drivers being bulled and put at risk by irresponsible HGV and bus drivers I am sure the article would not mention drivers using mobile phones, drivers speeding, and drivers tailgating. By focusing on red light jumping cyclists, hi-viz and lights (the cyclist in the piece was very visible despite not having lights) the BBC is blaming the victim.

'The victim didn't have hi-viz on, so they are partly to blame.....

This is where the reporting is skewed. By far the biggest effect on cycle safety comes from proper infrastructure such as there is in Amsterdam and Copenhagan (you don't see cyclists with Hi-Viz on there!) and from better driver awareness of what cyclists require, and better enforcement of the law with regard to careless and dangerous driving. Cyclists and of course pedestrians are by far the most vulnerable road users. We have every right to be there ( I won't even mention the 'Road Tax' argument.)

I was interested in the comments on lack of space for decent infrastructure, in fact this is generally not true. Look at how tight the space is in sections of Amsterdam!

There is a significant upsurge in cycling at the moment and this is likely to continue. However, if we are to truly see a significant increase in sustainable transport we need a change in attitude from all road users. It's not easy for many to stomach, but we need a change of focus, we need to make cycling easier and it will cost money. However, what we never seem to get across in the media is that one more cyclist equals one less car. More cycling, means less congestion. I'd really love if the BBC would show other videos I have (or parts of), such as these ( or

I think there is lots of potential for a follow up piece to this. I think the BBC has an opportunity to set the record straight and to take the debate further forward. I, and many other cyclists like me, feel that the time has come to stop blaming the victim and to start looking at how we can make the roads a better place for everyone to use.

As with many of the e-mails I send to companies and individuals on this subject I will be posting this e-mail on my blog (later). Rest assured though, that I would never post any identifiable information.

I look forward to your reply.

I'll let you know if I hear back.

Thursday 2 February 2012


Today I found out that a driver who I reported to the police has been successfully charged and prosecuted. I am very happy.

Very happy?!? Very happy about someone being prosecuted?!?

Yes I am. However, the reason I am happy is not because a heavy fine was slapped on the driver, or they lost their licence. In fact I am happy, because quite the opposite happened.

Instead they attended and completed a Driver Improvement Course. In my eyes, that is a result!

This is the incident in question.

What was interesting about the police follow up of this incident was the drivers reaction to the police arriving at their door.

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

According to the police that was the first thing they said. Apparently they then suggested that they had felt bad about the incident afterwards and were sorry about the way they drove. Of course, it is easy to say that when the police come to your door, but I suspect that it was genuine. After all, we can all (even I!) make mistakes.

I suspect that this is one driver who will give cyclists plenty of space in the future. That is the true measure of success.