Tuesday 31 December 2013

Good, Bad, or Ugly? What Was 2013?

Yup, it's that time again, where everyone takes a step back and has a look at what has happened over the last 12 months. Not wanting to disappoint (actually I'm not sure many would be disappointed!) I thought I'd have a wee glance at my own 12 months. OK, I should qualify that....I'll look back at my 12 months as a cyclist. I do have a life outside this as well, don't you know!

It started off really well for me, with a wee trip to Amsterdam (part 1 and part 2). That was a real eye opener. Not because I saw anything that surprised me, but because it really was as good as I had read about. I'm determined to go back at some point in the future. Who knows maybe even in 2014 if I'm lucky.

Of course, not all was good about the follow up from my Amsterdam trip as the BBC studio guest rolled out all of the usual anti-cycling tripe. Mind you, he was willing to meet up afterwards for a chat. Did Alan change his mind? Not really. In fact I heard recently that he was on Radio Scotland recently, rolling out the same old tripe as before. In any crusade there will always be lost causes....

A theme I visited a few times over the year and a theme that I think ran through cycling generally over 2013, was justice. That is, the lack of it. There were plenty of excuses that drivers could use to excuse the killing of cyclists with the sun being a major culprit. The Gary McCourt case certainly brought my anger to boiling point. This led me to ask that we adopt a culture of responsibility, something that is severely lacking in road incident cases. Part of the problem is that as well as believing in Santa, many people appear to believe that accidents are just....accidents. Nothing will change until we accept that driving is not a right, and that the 'there but for the grace of God..' defence is not acceptable.

Then came.....oh dare I say it....I suppose I must.....the Nice Way Code. Uuugh.

I was given a heads up about the launch of this 'safety campaign' and after much internal consideration I decided to pre-empt the launch by posting about it a day early. Why did I do this? I suppose I felt very, very strongly that the campaign (as I knew it then was wrong) and that I had to lay my cards on the table early. I am glad I did as it was in the end worse than I thought it would be. In fact it was bad enough that I ended up calling for Keith Brown to step down. I stand by what I wrote there. Whilst there has been a small amount of progress the 'political culture' hasn't changed. The motor car is still the priority. I don't think this will change until there has been a change of guard. I challenge Keith to prove me wrong.

Another issue that dominated my cycling thoughts was the issue of collective guilt. That is, the fact that me, as a cyclist always appear to be guilty of the sins of others. Even famous cyclists think cyclists are their own worst enemy. So I tried my best to explain the reality as simply as possible, that we are all individuals and that just because cyclist A does X does not mean that cyclist B is also guilty of X. Unfortunately it didn't filter through. So I had to simplify it even more for one particularly advanced road user

I'll be honest and say that 2013 wasn't the breakthrough year for cycling that I had hoped it would be. However, it wasn't all angry. Sometimes the drivers weren't actually trying to kill me, despite appearances. Occasionally the police and the Procurator Fiscal did their jobs properly. Pedal on Parliament 2 itself was an amazing success with over 5000 cyclists asking for better conditions. I also had great fun trying out the Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome and hope to do more there in 2014. I even got to star (for a few seconds) on BBC Breakfast, although there was some buffoonery involvedMy YouTube videos have had more likes (3291) than dislikes (1639) which suggests I must be doing something right!

Throughout the year I've met some fantastic people who have inspired and continue to inspire me. I've had some incredible experiences and I've been on a terrific journey (not just to and from work!). Despite all the setbacks and obstacles, I am still 100% certain that Scotland and the rest of the UK is set on a path of safer roads for everyone. Is it happening at the rate I wanted it to happen? No. But will it happen? Yes. We all just need to keep up the pressure and continue to increase the volume.

Let's make 2014 the first year that Scotland becomes a cycle friendly nation.

Monday 30 December 2013

It Wasn't Simple Enough.

Followers of this blog might remember a while back I posted a blog called Let's Keep It Simple. Feel free to read it, although it probably isn't worth it. It would appear that it was not simple enough and thus failed catastrophically in it's aim.

That particular blog's aim was to point out....and I'll try explaining this a few different ways......

  1. Cyclist A is not guilty of the sins of cyclist B. 
  2. Cyclists do not suffer collective guilt.
  3. Just because that bloke in Lycra jumped a red light doesn't mean just because I wear Lycra that I will jump a red light.
  4. Not all cyclists rob and assault 78 year old pensioners
  5. Not all cyclists are in fact cyclists, often they are just people riding a bike, just as drivers are just people driving cars. Some make more mistakes than others.
I fear though, that the above further simplification may have come too late. 

Cyclists must exercise responsibility if they want to be taken seriously as a mainstream form of transport.


It would seem that some muppet on the internet, and yes, there are quite a few, hasn't quite got it yet. This 'Troll' is suggesting that, if we cyclists (I'm sure he really means people who ride a bike and not just Lycra warriors like myself) want to have investment in safety aimed at users of those/we dastardly, unmotorised, two wheeled killing machines, that they/we should damn well start behaving ourselves. Otherwise we/they should be sticking to stabilisers and Centre Parcs.

Effectively this troll is shouting very loudly from his very, very large virtual car...


Of course we all know that the bottom half of the internet and the Daily Mail is best avoided if we want to take part in reasoned discussion about such topics....But wait....This wasn't in the Daily Mail, and it wasn't in the bottom half of the internet. In fact it came from someone who by definition is an advanced user of our roads. Not only is he an advanced user, he is the advanced road user in charge of setting policy for lots of other advanced road users. He has a BSc and MSc that suggest that he is the very guy who knows what he is talking about when it comes to making our roads safe........

Who is this troll.....I mean expert?

This chap.

Yes, he is Neil Greig the Director of Policy and Research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

So here (and here is the article in the Herald) we have someone in a position of responsibility suggesting that cyclists need to behave...or you can forget being taken seriously.

Fantastic. Well done. Bravo.

It's about time that someone took the 'bull by the horns' and suggested that road investment should be linked to the behaviour of each group that uses the road. I think this could work. First, we will look at the percentage of drivers who don't break the speed limit. That's a good place to start isn't it, as speed is definitely a contributory factor in accidents and the severity of the outcomes. ( I await a visit from the Safepeed forum....)

Let's look here.

According to RoSPA (did you know that Neil use to work there....) about 50% of drivers routinely go over the speed limit. About half. Not a few, but a half. (I suspect this is under-reported). 14% routinely speed excessively. That is, and this is what the report says, Excessive speeders normally ignore the 30 mph limit, and often by a wide margin. 

These drivers aren't just speeding they are completely ignoring the rules, and by a large amount.

14%. About 1 in 7 drivers are downright dangerous.

Hold the press!!

What Neil is actually suggesting is that we shouldn't take a mode of transport (I'm assume he is a fair man and wouldn't be biased.....) seriously if the users of that mode of transport don't take the rules seriously. So, without even having looked at mobile phone use, red light jumping, drink driving etc, we have already established that a large proportion of drivers routinely flout the rules.

The headline in the herald article should not read:

Motoring groups welcome 25% rise in fines for cyclists

It should read:

Motoring groups call for halt in motoring investment until motorists behave.

Is there a fault in my logic here?

Ok, let's bump back to earth for a reality check. Neil  is quite simply applying double standards. People driving cars misbehave or make mistakes. People riding bikes misbehave or make mistakes. People walking across the road misbehave or make mistakes. These are fact of life and unfortunately, facts of life that cannot be eliminated. What we can do though is make it harder for people to misbehave either by enforcement or by design.

Enforcement is certainly part of the answer and yes, this applies to cyclists as well as drivers. However, what is not mentioned at all in this article is difference in risk that each road user represents to others. No matter what way you look at it, drivers are a much greater risk to anyone on the roads than cyclists or pedestrians will ever be, so when pushing for enforcement that needs to be taken into account.

So what is the real answer?

The real answer is design.

The positive effects of road design are something that road designers have known for many, many years. If the road is designed in such a way to make it difficult to drive dangerously then the road is intrinsically safer. If the road is designed to help an guide the more vulnerable road users, then again it is safer. The problem at the moment is that safety, and also importantly, convenience are all designed around the motor car. In fact, it is often the case that people on bikes behave badly because of that very fact.

So Neil, stop talking about a link between behaviour and investment. That's a red herring and you know it. Let's start being constructive about how we can make our roads safer and nicer places to be for everyone (including your members) by looking at how we can make the roads safer and nicer for people who aren't just in a motor vehicle.

Oh and Neil, perhaps it's worth experiencing things from the other side as well. I'm more than happy to take you on a bike ride around my commute. Let me know if you are keen.

Thursday 19 December 2013

Sony ASL30V: Mounting Option

I recently invested in a new helmet camera, the Sony AS30V camera. My main reason for buying this was because I was getting frustrated by the poor quality of my Contour Roam 2 at night. Some of the roads that I cycle on are pitch black, and despite by powerful lights, the camera picked up very little.

I  had read some reviews of the AS30V which suggested that it was good at night time filming, so when a 25% off offer became available (sadly no longer available) I dusted off my wallet, found my credit card and took the plunge.

I've been using it for a while now, and I am impressed with the night capabilities. Here is a wee sneak preview that shows that you can (not always....but far more than with a Contour) see a registration on an unlit country road!

However, this is not a full review. That will come soon. This is a mounting suggestion for anyone who has an AS30V or an AS15.

Both the AS30V and the AS15 will fit the new waterproof cover. This new cover the SPK-AS2, whilst being less waterproof than the original cover than came with the AS15 (now only down to 5m, so just about ok for cycling in Glasgow!), is lighter and smaller on the outside. This it is a possible upgrade.

Unfortunately, a had a wee bit of an accident with mine and dropped it from a height on the floor. Oops. the front lens cover was damaged. However, this led me to a bit of a discovery. The front of the SPK-AS2 that covers the camera lens can be removed without damaging any of the rest of the case.

Front lens cover removed
Eh? Why would you want to remove the front lens cover? It would no longer be waterproof!!!

In my case, it was no longer waterproof anyway, so I had to buy another cover. Instead of wasting the damaged cover, I now have a cover that still holds the camera firmly, but doesn't reduce the video quality by having a waterproof plastic cover in the way (the full unaltered cover leads to slight blurring and reflections in the videos).

Effectively I now have a dry weather holder that I can use with my helmet.

So, if you are looking for a dry weather holder for your Sony AS30V or AS15, and you want the camera's lens free from covers that can degrade the image, and you don't mind modifying the SPK-AS2 (which does cost a few bob), then this is an option.

When I come to do my review I'll compare footage from the unmodified and modified holder.

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Flagged Down

Tonight on the way home I had an encounter with a driver.

I was cycling along a fairly busy country road as I often do on the way home when I noticed a car quite close behind me. In fact, as we went along the road (it was busy coming the other way so no overtaking  opportunities) I noticed the car getting closer behind me. It was now tailgating me. I didn't react at first, but it kept getting closer.

After a while I decided to make sure the driver knew they were too close and I gave a 'palm facing backwards' hand signal. Sometimes that encourages the driver to pull back. Not this driver. They stayed put. There was nothing I could do, so I just kept riding, hoping that an overtaking opportunity would arise. It did and the car passed. As it passed I recited the registration out of habit. Even as I did that I decided that this was one of those annoying encounters that wouldn't make it to video. I certainly don't post everything!

About half a mile later I noticed a car pulled into a lay-by  and I saw the driver getting out of the car. It was the driver of the car that was tailgating me.

Oh no. Here we go....

I decided some distance off that I wasn't up for an argument so I kept my speed up as I approached. It was at that point the driver started waving at me.

Oh no. I've got a real crazy one here. Definitely not a good idea to stop!

I went past the driver without slowing....but something wasn't right. The driver was waving a notepad at me. Eh? Correct me if I'm wrong but a crazed lunatic who wants to beat a cyclist to a pulp, doesn't normally do so whilst taking notes......

I decided to pull over.

I stopped and turned back, not entirely sure what to expect. I noticed, that the crazed lunatic didn't actually look like a crazed lunatic after all (what do they actually look like....). In fact it was an older lady, and the lady didn't look crazed.....she looked interested.....

Excuse me, I was wondering.....what lights are you running on the back? They look very bright!

Turns out the lady had actually followed me when she saw me (she went off her route!) and was tailgating me because she wanted to get my attention. She was desperate to find out what lights I had. Apparently her brother had been badly injured in a crash a while back (70 year old  in Milton....anyone know about this?). The driver had seen his flashing light,  not realised that it was a cyclist and....drove straight at it. Apparently the poor chap suffered a broken pelvis. This lady was keen to get him some decent lights, so when she saw some, she was desperate to find out what they were!

We had a nice chat  and she apologised for driving too close. What struck me the most in this whole incident was that when I asked her....what happened to the driver?... she replied...I don't know. You never find that out.

You never find that out.

So a gent in his 70's was seriously injured, through no fault of his own, and he was never informed about what happened to the driver?!?!


How can a system be called a, 'justice system' when the victim is never informed if justice was served?

I've had my fair share of dealings with the police and, as someone who never takes silence as an answer, I've always chased up either the police or the Procurator Fiscal. Should I have to chase though? Should I as a victim, or even a witness have to chase up the system out what has happened?

Worse though, even when someone is seriously injured, the system shows total disregard for the victim by not bothering to tell them what, if anything happened to the driver? Not everyone knows that you need to 'shout' to get information.

The justice system is broken.

I informed the lady that she could find out what happened to the driver, but she would have to chase the procurator fiscal (or police if it didn't get that far) up and find out what happened. She thanked me and we both went on our separate ways.

I was left shocked by this driver interaction, but I wasn't expecting to be shocked the way I was.


Here is a video showing what happened