Friday 29 November 2013

Helping Heros

I'll bet most of us can remember our first bike. I can certainly remember mine. It was a Raleigh Speedway. I distinctly remember the racing number plate on the front, and thinking it was really cool.

As I grew up in Erskine, a place with many sheltered paths to cycle on (yes I did cycle on paths...sorry!), I progressed through a couple of bikes. My next was a Trak Trail (big gold bike with heavy front suspension on it...would love to find a picture of that!) and then a Peugeot Racing bike (sky blue).

I happily remember cycling along canal paths up and back to Loch Lomond on my Peugeot bike with my friends. Happy days. Cycling though was not a major passion of mine and as I moved through high school my interest waned and I didn't cycle again until 2005 when I started commuting by bike. When I did do it as a child, it had to compete with playing sodgies (pretend soldiers), computer games, or football (I was bad at football!).

Although cycling didn't become a passion until much, much later I do have one more memory of cycling from my childhood that I can clearly recollect . It wasn't watching the Tour de France, I hadn't heard about that until I started cycling again, it was a battle between two cyclists. I remember being fascinated hearing about an unknown Scottish cyclist, who built a bike out of a washing machine who was trying to cycle further in an hour than an English cyclist riding a multi-million pound bike (yes I know it wasn't multi million, but I was very young...). I found it inspiring that a bloke who built his own bike, could take on the world.

I am of course talking about Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman, two legendary cyclists.

I admire Chris for a number of reasons, not just for his incredible career in cycling, but his continued passion for it after retiring, commentating and more recently campaigning for cycling safety. However, in my eyes there is no greater legend than Graeme.

Graeme's life has been documented and written about extensively, so there is no point in me recounting it here. To summarise, he has broken records, created amazing innovations, he has spent probably the shortest time of any cyclist as a pro rider, he has circumvented rule changes that banned his innovations, he has had battles with mental illness and depression, he has dealt with issues surrounding his sexuality and finally, he has come through it all to be one of the most engaging, intriguing and inspiring people I know and have the pleasure to meet.

Graeme is in my mind the perfect example of a true champion.

So why am I waxing lyrical about Graeme? Firstly, he deserves my thanks as he is a strong supporter of Pedal of Parliament and all it stands for. For that I am very grateful. He even came along and supported POP 2!

However, there is another reason. Graeme needs our help. Graeme has another story to tell (he has many, many stories to tell!). This story is of his battle with a beastie. This time it's not the beasties from within, but with his new innovation, a human powered vehicle called Beastie. Graeme took on another challenge to break a world record with Beastie and his journey along the way has been filmed by David Street, an experienced filmaker and producer.

The problem with Graeme is, that if you aim to film him for 50 hours, he'll talk for 200, and that is exactly what happened! So to tell this story, and to edit the documentary/film, David needs some financial help. Thus he has set up a kickstarter project asking for help to raise the £20,000 needed to tell Graeme's story.

I've committed some of my limited funds to fund this project, and I'm sharing this with you because I really think this is a film that needs to be made. I am absolutely certain that is is something that will amaze, inspire and captivate. So, if you can, help a hero tell a story, in his own words.

Help fund the Kickstarter project here. I suspect we won't be disappointed with the outcome!

Wednesday 27 November 2013

Glasgow Starts a Conversation

It's time for a confession. I've been jealous. But it's worse than that. Much worse. I've been jealous of.......I can't barely bring myself to say it......yes, I've been jealous of Edinburgh.

Yes, that is a big thing for a Weegie to say, but it's true. Life isn't perfect on the east coast, and to be honest it's a bit cold and less fun over there, but until now they have had one thing that Glasgow didn't have.

A busy cycling social scene.

Edinburgh has over the years built up a large group of city cyclists who get together, a chat about this and that, and sometimes this and that includes the cycling issues that Edinburgh faces. Sometimes it helps to lead to great things. Whilst POP may have originated from an e-mail I sent two other cyclists, it most certainly couldn't have got anywhere without the cycling social scene of Edinburgh.

These cyclists don't just meet in cafes and pubs. In fact most of the cafe and pub meetings are arranged elsewhere. They are arranged at City Cycling Edinburgh (CCE). CCE is an online forum where people talk about cakes, beers, bikes and occasionally mass demonstrations. It is a place where politicians sometimes frequent, as well as the grass roots cyclists and people who only dream of cycling. It's a place where people share ideas and ideas grow.

Stuff happens because of CCE.

If we are honest, up until now not much has happened in Glasgow. We are miles behind Edinburgh when it comes to cycling. You just have to look at the latest proposals of cycling infrastructure in Glasgow to see that the counsil wants to give us.....more shared use paths, more ASLs and the odd bit of segregation to keep the zealots happy. Oh and that is only if we can find some money from somewhere else...we don't spend out transport budget on cycling.

So, at a recent social gathering of campaign minded cyclists in Siempre recently, a decision was made. The decision was......

City Cycling Glasgow!

Yes, we now have our own forum, and, at the time of writing, less than two days after it going live, we already have 42 members. Well done Darkerside on setting this up!

Yes, it's early days, and yes it will take time to build, but it is and will be what we make it. If we all start talking this could be the start of something big. I've seen it happen. Talk really can lead to action and results.

So come and join us. Say hello, and have some cake. Let us know what you think of cycling in Glasgow.

With your help, we can make Glasgow a safe and more social place to cycle!

Friday 22 November 2013

Inspiring or Depressing?

Today a fellow cyclist passed me on a link on Sustrans website. It's certainly worth having a look at the article, but pay particular attention to the video.

So what do you think of it? I'm curious.

The cyclist who sent me the link thought that it was a very positive video and indicated that there was hope for the future. I can see where he is coming from. We have a video of a father who, rather than do as the majority do and drive his kid to school, has found a way to get his child to cycle safely to school. This is despite living in a built up area with traffic.

I have to say, that is good. I applaud that cyclist and his conviction.

But wait. (you knew that was coming didn't you).

The article and the video leave me feeling rather depressed. In fact I think this video demonstrates with exceptional clarity exactly what the problem is. Look at it again.

The dad, is not your normal dad. He is a Sustrans Schools Officer who works on the Bike It project. His job is to encourage children to cycle. Therefore, he is highly motivated and highly skilled when it comes to providing on road cycle training. He is in effect, an expert.

The video shows this expert taking his child on some 'relatively' quite suburban roads to his school. During the video you can hear the dad instructing his child what to do at junctions, when to look back, and when it is safe to proceed etc.

Hmmm. I've done similar with my oldest (who's 8) on some roads near us.

Then they come to a busier road and at this point the dad admits defeat and takes his child onto the pavement. Officially this is of course, illegal, but who can blame them. they do of course ride very carefully on the pavement.

They are at school and the video ends.

....we thought it would be a great video blog to share with other parents who are considering riding to school with their children
 Hmmm. This just isn't right. So what is my problem with this?


I personally have a lot of respect for Sustrans. I know not everyone does, but I have some insight into the problems they face and I think, when it comes to infrastructure, they do a good job in difficult circumstances. A lot of the infrastructure isn't great, but with better funding and more time I'm sure they would create some great infrastructure.

I think, on this particular blog, they have completely missed the point. Is it inspiring that to get a child to cycle safely to school you need someone who is 'expert' in cycle training? Yes I know others do take their kids on similar routes, but I'll bet the majority of those people are expert in cycling, in some way. This is not something that most parents have the skills, or the time to do, and by that I mean the time and skill to practice cycling on local roads to build up the child courage, especially when many adults themselves don't even have the courage!

What is even more depressing is that this expert dad had to give up at the end. He had to 'give in' to the traffic. What chance do non-expert parents have if even expert parents feel that cycling in some areas on the way to school is too dangerous?

If you want to see inspiring, look at the videos of kids cycling to school in the Netherlands.

There are plenty more like it.

What this video tells me, is that some parents despite the conditions, if they have the skills and time can help their children to cycle most of the way to school legally.

The very fact that cycling organisations think this is an inspiring video, is a wake up call to us all.

Thursday 21 November 2013

ASLs: A SimpleTruth

Oh, here we go again. Magnatom is in the news again. What's he saying this time?...oh, he's called ASLs (or ASZs) the Spawn of Satan......what a muppet he is.....

Yes, it's true. I have made it into today's paper, and you can read the article here. Yes, I did say that ASLs are the Spawn of Satan. As is often the case, though, there's always more to a story than the newspaper suggests. Don't get me wrong, I don't blame the reporter (Alastair Dalton) for writing the article the way it is written. It's fine. The problem is, that in a short article like that you cannot get across the detail behind the assertion.

To learn more about where my assertion comes from, have a read of this blog here.

So I'm going to assume you've now read the article. If you haven't do it now. Go on. I'll wait.

Right. Now that you have definitely read it, I'm hoping that my muppet level rating has reduced a little. My whole argument was based on logic and the fact that it is better not to have infrastructure that encourages dangerous habits in inexperienced cycling road users.

I absolutely stand by everything I say in that blog and I'm happy for anyone to challenge the logic and to tell me I am wrong.

I do though understand the approach that Spokes takes and that they can in certain circumstances be useful, and it is nice to hear about the police taking cycling more seriously. I just think that we need to focus all of our efforts on designing junctions and roads properly.

One of the big issues with ASLs is the conflict it encourages between cycling road users and HGVs. In fact the Netherlands is not immune from this issue either as this (translated) article demonstrates. Luckily the lady involved in this incident survived, and I wish her well.

The reason I have mentioned this particular incident is demonstrated below in the google map of this particular location.

Grotere kaart weergeven

It happened at an ASL with a feeder lane, something that is a rare sight in the Netherlands. The Dutch are in the process of removing ASLs and I suspect that following this incident this one will be removed soon.

So yes, I am against more ASLs, but only because I think we deserve much, much better.

Monday 18 November 2013

Bus Company Attitude (Henderson Travel)

With recent tragic events in London demonstrating the issues of HGV/bike interactions (or large vehicles generally), it is more critical than ever that companies that own and run such large vehicles take safety very seriously. Any collision, no matter how slight, between a large vehicle and a person riding a bike can result in the bike user being seriously injured or killed. Yes, that means that road users that cycle need to be very wary of large vehicles (we need to be wary of all vehicles!), but the onus of responsibility is, and must be with the person in charge of the large and potentially dangerous vehicle.

Whilst the driver has ultimate responsibility for how the vehicle is driven at that time, the company that runs the vehicle and employs the driver must also take some responsibility. Any responsible company should have safety of other road users as a top priority.

With the above in mind I am personally appalled by the response of a local bus company to an incident I posted on YouTube recently. Here is the incident.

Let me clear up a few misunderstandings about the above incident before I move on.

  • I am not complaining about the overtake itself. The driver give me enough lateral space.
  • The absolute...ABSOLUTE safe stopping time behind any vehicle is 2 seconds.
  • My rear camera has a field of view of 170 degrees. This makes things in the centre of the image look further away than they are.
  • Using marks on the road etc I calculated that the bus was (after approaching me) at best  0.5s behind me.
  • Just before he overtook me he moved up to 0.2s behind me (1.8m)
  • I was travelling at about 20mph here (measured by GPS).

If you happen to have a tape measure, why not measure 1.8m from a wall. Stand there and look back at the wall. Now imaging that the wall is not a wall, but a bus that is accelerating towards you.....

So I wrote the following e-mail to the company:

Unfortunately I am having to write to you with a complaint about the driving standards of one of your drivers.

I am a cyclist who regularly commutes from Torrance to my work at the Southern General Hospital. As part of my journey home I sometimes cycle along Balmore Road between the Auchenhowie roundabout and Torrance itself. It's not my favourite road to cycle on, and I do try and avoid it when I can (taking the back roads), but I do usually use it a couple of times a week. During those commutes I often interact with your 47A (arrives Torrance at 18:17).

Most of the time I have no issues with the driving of that particular bus. However, I have noticed on occasion when the bus has been stuck behind me for a short while, due to oncoming traffic, that it comes too close to my rear. I have on a couple of occasions in the past indicated this to the driver (with a pushing back hand signal).

Unfortunately this Tuesday evening (22/10/13) the driving fell way below the standard that is acceptable.

Due to issues I have faced on the roads in the past I video my commute on two cameras, one on my helmet and one on my bike facing the rear. I post these videos on Youtube for educational purposes and to demonstrate to others what it can be like cycling on Glasgow's roads. I have placed the video pf the incident in question on my site and you can watch it here ( It should be remembered as the camera has a wide angled lens it looks further away than it is. That is why, using references form the road I calculated the gap.

As you may be able to tell from the video I felt very intimidated by the driving in this video. The driver, at best was about 0.5 seconds behind me and at worst 0.2 seconds. During the episode I signalled to the driver that I felt he was too close, and yet he continued to remain close to my back wheel. In fact as he overtook me it felt as though he drove the bus at me to make a point. Of course, I cannot prove this. Nonetheless, driving of that nature was at the very least totally unnecessary and very careless.

I would be very pleased  if you could look into this incident and at the very least remind the driver that driving of that standard is not acceptable.

I am also  a co-organiser of Pedal on Parliament (, an organisation pushing for safer roads for cyclists.  In that regard I would be very interested to find out what driver training that you provide you drivers, especially in relation to cyclist interaction. In general bus drivers are excellent. The vast majority of the bus drivers I have interacted with have driven very safely. However, it only takes one driver driving like this to cause a serious accident.

I look forward to your reply

Two weeks past and I did not receive a reply. Therefore, I wrote again.

It has now been over 2 weeks since I wrote to you with regards to the driving standards of one of you drivers. I have not had anything back from you with regards to this. I would have at the very least expected an acknowledgement. Has this incident been investigated at all?

The next day I received this reply. This reply is copied exactly as it was sent to me.

Good morning David

sorry its been so long getting back to you

however i have viewed the tape attached to your complaint i do not see what our driver has done wrong

looks like he has stayed behind you till the road ahead was clear before making his manouvre to pass you safely
Henderson Travel Operations

visit our website : 

I decided to ignore the terrible grammar (yes I know mine isn't great, but I am not writing on behalf of a company in relation to a complaint), the spelling mistakes and the lack of punctuation. This was my reply.

Dear Tony,

Thank you for your reply.

Can I just confirm this, you do not think that driving 0.5 seconds behind me is wrong? You also do not think that driving to within 0.2 seconds of my back wheel before executing the overtake manoeuvre is wrong?


 My reply was sent about a week ago and I have not been sent a reply. I suspect I am not going to get one (though this blog may elicit a response). It would have been very easy for the company to have sent me a standard response to this incident.  

We are sorry to hear what happened to you.....we will investigate this further and deal with the driver as per our standard procedures.... due to confidentiality issues we cannot disclose the nature of any action taken.....

They chose instead to provide us all with an example of the complete lack of professionalism within the company, and an insight into how seriously they take the safety of other road users.

Well done Henderson Travel. Well done.


Saturday 16 November 2013

BBC Breakfast Buffoonery

Yesterday I was contacted by the BBC...... A few years ago that would have filled me with excitement.

The BBC....want to speak to me?!? Wow.

I am of course a little bit longer in the tooth now and treat every approach by the media, who want me to talk about cycling, with caution. In fact I was recently contacted by a media company who were keen on 'doing a documentary based on my videos'. When I wrote back pointing out that I would want details of the scope, the narrative, and information on who else who would be taking part in the documentary.....I never heard from them again.

BBC: We would like to discuss the issues surrounding the recent cycling deaths in London.

Tragic. Absolutely tragic. Five people who happened to be cycling dying in the space of 9 days is a terrible statistic. Yes it may be a statistical anomaly that they have been group together in such a small time frame, but each death is a terrible loss, and five at once only serves to strengthen the feeling that much, MUCH more needs to be done to make cycling safer.

Mmm....I thought....this is the BBC, surely they would take this issue seriously considering the gravity of the situation. They wouldn't fall into the cliché of victim blaming....would they?

So on Friday morning I dragged myself out of bed early, left the bike behind (such a shame as it looked like a nice morning for a cycle) an hopped into a tax payer funded taxi, on my way to the BBC Scotland studios for my remote link up with the BBC Breakfast studios in Salford. On the way I noted how much the taxi driver loved being very, very close to the vehicle in front. Luckily he never came across any cyclists as I only saw one cyclist, and he was going the other way....

Once at the BBC and once they realised that, yes, I was actually supposed to be there (to be fair the chap on reception was very nice!), and after I remembered that today was Children in Need (which explained why a few folk were running around looking stressed), I was whisked off upstairs to the surprisingly open studio.

My dreams were shattered when I saw that the view of Glasgow behind Glasgow interviewees was not a window, but a camera feed.....

After a slight mix up, when the technical people thought I was in the studio on the floor below and had hooked up the wrong studio.....I was linked in and could hear that my item was starting. The piece itself started off as expected with a question to the British Cycling chap in the Salford studio first and then the inevitable showing of my 20cm from Death video with me talking through it. I knew this was of interest, but I didn't want to talk too much about it. I wanted to leave time to say the important bits .... infrastructure .....people not cyclists...etc.

And then I heard Charlie utter the word 'but...'

Instantly both myself and the British Cycling chap (Martin Key) knew what was coming. The, 'yes it's all very good that you want to be safer, but we car drivers are more important' rebuttal. The only question was, which rebuttal would oor Charlie (I feel like I'm on first name terms with him now...) use.

.....but......cyclists often run red lights.....blah, blah, blah....

Oh well, at least it wasn't road tax.

The BC chap took the brunt of it, and I was left to fume a little off camera, frustrated by the fact that I was far to far away to point my finger angrily (yes I am avoiding thoughts of violence...) in wee Charlie's face, whilst pouring scorn on such an insulting comment. By the time the question had come back around to me my logical brain had kicked in and I rebutted his rebuttal with what I hope people think is common sense.

Here is the video.

Was my form of reply the best approach? Probably. Did I want to to turn around to Charlie and point out that in fact we have no information on the cause of the recent deaths, and that it was frankly insulting to insinuate that the cyclists were at fault when in fact there was no evidence of that, and he was in fact falling into the same old prejudices that many commentators do?


I didn't, but that's why I'm glad I can say it here.

So how do we combat this prejudiced approach to cyclists?

Did you see what I did there?

I gave you a clue in the question. I used the word cyclists. We have reached a situation when the word cyclist is synonymous with 'red light jumping', 'pavement cycling', 'Lycra louts' and any other prejudice bingo term you'd care to mention. We need to stop talking about cyclists, we need to stop talking about drivers, and we need to stop talking about pedestrians.

We need to start talking about people.

Start talking about people, and start talking about people who are road users. Yes, some of those road users are using different forms of transport, but each one has a equal right to use the roads, and each one has an equal right to safety. We also need to recognise that all of these transport choices are not equal in other ways, that is their effect on the environment, their effect on pollution and most importantly their effect on the safety of other road users. Then we need to look at each and every road and work out how we can level the playing field so that everyone can be, equally safe.

Look at the BBC Breakfast video again. Watch it closely. Watch the video of my incident and the video of the 'cyclist on cyclist' incident. There is one very big difference. Firstly, in my incident there was no collision. Thank God for that. Had there been, then I would likely have been a statistic, my children would have lost their dad and this blog would never have existed. In the other incident, the two (and I'll revert back to my preferred nomenclature here) road users on bikes, actually do collide and at a reasonable speed. Yet, both of them remain standing, both of them probably didn't suffer a scratch and both of them can walk away and tell the story about what an idiot the other road user was.

Has there ever been a clearer, unintended, media example of the differences in risk associated with different forms of transport? The cycling road users posed only a very small risk to each other. Yes, one of them was a complete idiot, but the greatest risk he posed was to himself, should he have come into conflict with a larger road user. The HGV on the other hand could have killed me with even the slightest of contact.

Should we ban HGVs from the roads? No, though London does have some short term issues to deal with in that regard. Should we waste our energy blaming cyclists for running red lights when in fact they risk almost only themselves? Or, should we perhaps move past these petty playground arguments and face the reality that our roads, as they stand are not designed for cyclists and just get on with the job of rectifying that anomaly?

What do you think Charlie?

Monday 11 November 2013

Cycling Scotland Conference: Thoughts

It was the Cycling Scotland Conference this week, an event that last year was quite inspirational. There was lots of talk about top quality cycle infrastructure, significant investment in cycling and an astonishing modal share of cycling. Of course this all came from last years visiting Dutch delegation. This year we were on our own. Would we hear evidence of a step toward a safer cycling Scotland?

The day, which was in the impressive surroundings on the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome, started with an introduction by Jon Snow. It's always good when you get interest from a big name to host the event, and especially one that has a big interest in cycling. Jon didn't say anything controversial except for one small thing....he commented that he saw more segregated cycle lanes on his way to the Velodrome from Glasgow Central station. Hmm. This is what he will have passed. Hardly connected or well designed, but credit where it's is a start....

Then came Frank McAveety. Frank is the appointed 'Cycling Czar' for Glasgow, so I was hopeful of a good speech. Actually, his speech was reasonable and he talked about Glasgow needing, a 'New Vision of Cycling'. Lots of good and encouraging words. However, these need to be put into context. Despite the Cycling Scotland national assessment document suggesting that Glasgow was one of the top authorities on 'leadership and commitment towards cycling (that raised more than a few eyebrows, including both of mine), Glasgow last year did not invest one single penny of it's own transport budget in cycling. Not one. Glasgow is in fact very good at spending other peoples money, but not their own. Is that a sign of a council truly committed to cycling as a mode of transport?

One other thing that Frank mentioned really concerned me; ASLs. Frank mentioned as requested by cyclists in Glasgow they are looking to further impliment and improve Glasgow's Advanced Stop Lines. At this point my face and hand met in a slapping action. Considering this was the only actual cycle infrastructure that Frank made any specific commitment to, my heart sunk a little.

Next up was Keith Brown MSP, minister for transport. It was actually a positive step forward for Keith to attend this years event. Last year we only got a video message. In fact, Keith was supposed to cycle part of the way to the conference. However, he explained that this was cancelled last minute as his son had taken the bike out of the garage...apparently.

The speech itself, well, if I'm honest, I can't really remember much of the speech. It was notable for it's total lack of content. It said absolutely nothing new. Yes there were some teeny, weeny wee signs of progress.

He did use the word investment and cycling in the same line.
He did agree that the government had a leadership role in investment.
He was completely unapologetic about the Nice Way Code.
Not progress, but probably best to move on...
He agreed that cycling could improve local trade and businesses.
He suggested that large road infrastructure projects were vital, though there were to be no new major projects in the near future. He also suggested that yes investment in cycling was vital, but that significant cycling investment would need to wait until after the big road investments which were already in the pipeline had been completed.
Oh bu&&er.

Yup, cycling is worthwhile but you will need to wait until the new Forth Road Bridge is completed and the A9 has been upgraded before you get it. In the meantime it's bits and pieces.

Unexpectedly there was a chance for a few questions and very unexpectedly I had a chance to ask one. I must admit this for me was the most bizarre moment of the conference.

Question (Me): Do you think that we have a chance of reaching the target/vision/ambition (at the conference he used ambition) of reaching 10% BY 2020?

Answer (KB):   ...and as for the question from David who has a habit of sending me abusive tweets....(Jon Snow: Perhaps you two should meet for a chat)....KB with a grimace...oh....we've met alright.....

He then went on to talk around the answer...point out that councils have a responsibility.....point out that the focus needs to be commuting journeys....and finally.....

KB: .....yes, I think we can reach the target by 2020.

It was later at coffee break, after a few people commenting to me that Keith really reacted in a very 'strange way' to my question, almost as if he was annoyed.....I headed off to the loo. It was on this journey that someone patted me on the back smiling...

Did you hear what he said there?

I hadn't. I hadn't noticed that he had accidental mentioned the word target, instead of vision or ambition. It seems that even Keith is getting confused....

Ian Aitken (Cycling Scotland) got up and talked. Again, nothing too controversial, except for his comments on the Nice Way Code (I hate mentioning it, but I never brought it up!). He had some results back from the surveys and apparently they suggested that cyclists felt that they were being treated better as a result of the NWC. Ummm. They never talked to me then! I await the publication of the results with interest.

Andrew Gilligan gave an excellent talk, but as he pointed out, it was very easy for him to do that, considering he had a budget of nearly £1bn to spend on cycling in London! (That would keep us going for 10 years!) Most importantly though he mentioned people. He mentioned that cycle infrastructure was not for cyclists, it was for everyone.


London has got it and I can see a bright future for cycling in London. Yes, Andrew did mention that it wouldn't be perfect and that some expectations wouldn't be wouldn't be Amsterdam.... However, they are a million miles and nearly a billion pounds away from the situation in Scotland. I did love this comment he made:

Doing something badly is not an option.

Alison Johnstone then gave a speech which Jon Snow described as 'the most inspiring speech he had heard from a politician....EVER!' It was an excellent speech. There can be no doubt, Alison gets it. Yes, Alison is a green MSP, she is bound to be pro-active travel. However, it goes beyond that. Alison really does gets it. She gets that cycling isn't just an environmental issue, she knows that it answers big issues in health and wealth as well. We need more politicians like Alison in all of the political parties.

Following Alison was the Panel. A number of questions were asked, but the one that interested me the most was the question of safety. By focusing on safety are we putting people off cycling? Susan Swarbrick from the Herald was asked this question first. She felt that the paper had a responsibility to report the news and that was what they do (to be fair the Herald's coverage is generally very positive!). Andrew Gilligan was a bit torn on this issue. He was a bit concerned. Personally I think we have to be honest whilst not sensational. I think POP has the balance right. What do you think?

It was now lunch and the networking started in earnest. To be honest, whilst I did chat with quite a few folk, the problem was that there were too many people to chat too! There is never enough time at these events. Mind you, having lunch in the middle of the velodrome with cyclists using it, is quite unusual!

The afternoon session started with a talk about the Commonwealth Games which is all good, though I do certainly have some issues with the cycle infrastructure being built in it's name.....another post another day....

The bikeability awards, and then Craig Burn the head of Scottish Cycling took the stage. I've had the pleasure of chatting to Craig a few times before and I like what he has to say. Yes he is focused on the sport side of cycling, but he can see the connection with utility and leisure cycling and certainly has an interest in making cycling safe for all. After all his future stars are our kids, and we need safe facilities for our kids, including the roads....

Then it was off to the workshops. I chose one on 'Cycle Campaigning in Glasgow/Strathclyde' first. It was a small group and there was some chat about approaches to campaigning. There was agreement that there are different approaches needed for different areas (i.e. rural councils are different from city councils), but there was some agreement that we need 'good cops and bad cops'. We do need people who work with the councils but we also need pressure.

My second workshop was very interesting. It was on the A81 corridor (East Dunbartonshire), and the potential for new cycle infrastructure on it. I'll save the details of this one for a follow up blog pos, but I am quite excited by this, considering it is part of my commute. There is a possibility of 2.3km of segregated infrastructure being built. Anyway, as I've said, more on this soon....

Following a break George Vincent, Project Manager and Design Manager, Land and Environmental Services, Glasgow City Council spoke about cycling in Glasgow before and after the Commonwealth Games. I must admit my heart sank when George said.....and I quote:

Cycle infrastructure in Glasgow is already very strong....

This summed up the rest of the talk. We were told about how great cycling was in Glasgow and that there would be a significant legacy from the games. If I am honest, completely honest, I've seen and discussed some of the legacy infrastructure before, and if I am's crap. Really, really really bad. With the the Games coming to Glasgow, we had a great opportunity to do something big and bold, but this speech only served to demonstrate that Glasgow still doesn't get it. Remember, Glasgow didn't spend a penny of it's own transport budget last year on cycling. Not a penny. Nothing, in the lead up to the Games.

Jon Snow then summarised, and I think was entirely correct in once again saying the best thing to come out of today was Alison Johnstone speech. It certainly was the highlight. Unfortunately, Alison already gets it and I didn't feel any major changes coming from anyone else. Little steps maybe, but certainly no step change, and we are desperately in need of major step change!

Overall, I left the day feeling, not dejected, the fact that so many were there was good in itself, but I certainly didn't feel inspired.

The mountain that we have to climb is still there. Someone has built a base camp, which is nice, but otherwise the peak looks as far as always. Rest assure though, this certainly doesn't mean we should pack up and go home. Far from it. In fact we have to shout louder and and we need more people shouting.

Perhaps, I need to annoy Keith Brown just a little bit more....

Monday 4 November 2013

Let's Keep This Simple...

Yes. Let's keep this simple.

It's a simple message, but one that doesn't seem to be getting through, even to celebrity cycle campaigners. I've talked about it before, but I suspect that words got in the way of the message. So here is the message:

I am not guilty of the sins of other cyclists.

 I hope that is clear enough, and should you wish you can stop reading now. The rest is far less important and wordy.

Ah, you're still here so I suspect you are looking for a bit of 'qualification' for that statement.

I absolutely hate it when everyone from aggressive driver to should know better political commentator forgets or doesn't understand the above message. In any discussion or newspaper article that is on teh subject of making roads safer for cyclists we do not need to hear the phrase:

...of course cyclists don't always behave.....

or similar. We don't need it, and it isn't helpful. Were there similar discussions at the time of the implementation of seatbelts and the associated laws?

We really need to install seatbelts in cars, although we should remember that drivers do run red lights. and drink drive an awful lot....

No. They were just introduced because they were a damn good idea. It saved and continues to save countless lives.Why, oh why then when we discuss making cycling safer in our towns and cities (and our country roads!) do we need to qualify that with a statement about how damn naughty some of those dastardly cyclists are? Why not do something really radical instead? Why not actually work towards making the roads safer without pandering to the prejudices of those who do not understand the issues faced by cyclists (have you ever asked a cyclist why they pavement cycle..) ?

Let's keep it simple.

Friday 1 November 2013

Am I a Hazard?

Now there is a question....Am I a hazard?

I'm sure there are those that would suggest I am. I'm a vigilante. I'm out looking for trouble. I'm a menace. I've been called that and a lot worse. However, the question in this blog is more general.

Are cyclists a hazard?

It's a bit of a strange question really when you look at the definition of the word hazard. Looking here at the free dictionary gives a few different definitions, but they all seem to focus on the fact that a hazard is something that is a possible source of danger. It's something that represents some sort of risk to others.

Are cyclists really a source of danger?

I'm asking this question because I came across an article in one of my local papers that suggests that this might be the case. It's actually a good news article telling us about residents of a local community (Balmore) are wanting to force drivers to slow down on the local roads.


Seriously, it is good. In fact I commute on a very short section of that road and pass the church in the article's picture. Drivers do speed down that road, and it is tight and twisty.

What is interesting though is the use of language in the article. A quote from one of the local community council explains the issue and points out that the real menace are drivers who speed on roads that are not suitable for high speeds. That's spot on. However, the council representative then goes on to say,

Add to that the potential hazard posed by cyclists, walkers and even livestock on the road and it’s clearly an accident waiting to happen.

Oh good, it's not just cyclists then. Walkers and livestock are hazards as well.

Let's be fair here, I am absolutely sure that the community council spokesperson had the absolute best intentions when they made that statement, but it really is an interesting use of language.


Well, it gets to the very heart of what people think that roads are actually there for. They are there for cars. We have all become completely accustomed to cars taking the pride of place on the roads. Even drivers who speed and drive dangerously have more 'right' to be on the road.

Everything else is a hazard to the drivers.

This is actually so important that I think I need to reiterate this:

Roads are for cars, everything else is a hazard.

Being brought up in the UK, you, me , everyone here has been exposed to the motor cars dominance for all of our lives. We have grown up to accept that and to embrace that. Not only has the very environment that we live in been shaped and reshaped to suit the car, even our language has as well. Drivers don't crash, it's cars who crash. Drivers don't kill, it's cars that kill. Oh and I'm not a fan of the use of the word accident either.

Our language has evolved to take blame away from those that control the car and to place it firmly with the car itself. Read the article again. The article opens by telling us that it is not drivers speeding, it's cars that are speeding. Yes the article then goes on to explain that the car itself might not be at fault, and that they are controlled by a person, but the driver and the car are almost interchangeable when it comes to blame.

So who is the real hazard here?

The correct answer is not cars. Cars if left to their own devices are actually pretty tame creatures. They don't tend to do very much on their own.

Is it drivers then?

No, not really. I'm a driver, you are probably a driver, in fact most of us will be. We as a group are not the problem. The real hazard are people who, when they are in control of a potentially lethal weapon do not drive that vehicle with the respect it deserves. Those same people might sometimes cycle. The difference is that when these people ride a bike they are nearly always putting themselves at risk and not those around them (with rare exceptions of course).

What about pedestrians and sheep?

I think you'll know the answer to that one by now. They aren't a hazard, they are something that is to be encourages and respected.....well ok, I'm not sure sheep need encouragement or respect, but they do taste nice.

So people of Balmore, well done on your initiative. You have my full support. Just remember that the people on bikes, the people who walk and even perhaps the sheep, are not a hazard, they are your friends, or Sunday lunch.

Now where's the mint sauce.....