Friday, 30 August 2013

My Message to Laura Trott

Dear Laura,


Ok. It will probably take a few more words than that, but the above word pretty much sums it all up.

Laura you are undoubtedly an amazing track and road sports cyclist, one that me and my family were shouting for at the top of our lungs at the recent Glasgow track World Cup event in Glasgow. Today you told us that cyclists are muppets and that the only way to protect muppets is to get the muppets to wear helmets.

From Toy Nerd wesbite
I suppose it will protect from Miss Piggy's violent tendencies.

Seriously though, let's get one thing straight. Helmets are NOT the answer. Helmets, will not make our roads safer. Helmets will not save people lives.

Sure, we've all heard it...

I fell off my bike my helmet cracked! I'm only here because I wore my helmet!


I'd really love to know how you know your sister was saved by her helmet? 

You know what, I can't actually be bothered getting into the science of helmets, the fact that if they are cracked that they have actually failed in their protection, the fact that they are only rated in a collision with a very particular type of impact at below 12mph. The fact that by increasing the cross-sectional area of your head it can actually increase the likelihood of your head hitting the ground in a crash.

I'm not going to even link to any information from experts that show that at best the jury is out on whether helmets actually improve outcomes or make them worse. Yes, that's right, it is possible that helmets could actually lead to more deaths and injuries.

I'm going to do one thing. I am going to post a link to this video and I am going to ask you to watch it. After you have watched it I am going to ask you one question. Watch it closely.

Ok. My question is many cyclists were wearing helmets in that clip?

Remember this is in rush hour. Not only that, but some of these cyclists were weaving in and out of other traffic (yes cyclists are traffic), and....yes I know it's terrible, some of them even ran red lights...the scoundrels.

Yes Laura the answer is none.

So is Amsterdam (the place that this rush hour video is from) awash with cycling deaths and injuries? Are these cyclists taking huge risks with their lives by not wearing a magic piece of plastic?


Oh, look, I've come to the same word I started off with.


Do we need helmet compulsion?


Will forcing people to wear helmets make cycling significantly safer?


When you look at helmet adverts in the magazines do they ever focus on how this helmet is better than any other helmet, not because it has better ventilation or it's a pretty shape, but instead because it is safer than it's competitors?


Did Amsterdam, the rest of the Netherlands, and a growing number of enlightened nations and cities make cycling safe for it's citizens by calling cyclists muppets and forcing them to wear polystyrene on their heads?


Let's end all this nonsense once and for all. We do not need helmets.

We do not need people who happen to be able to make bikes go faster than the rest of us, but who obviously haven't spent a lot of time researching cycle safety (sorry Laura, but that is blatantly obvious), telling us that we need helmet compulsion. The problem is that because you can ride a bike faster than the rest of us, people listen to you. Therefore, you have a responsibility to us all to research your comments on safe cycling before you make them. If you had, you would realise what we really need is  investment in our streets to make them cycle safe, just as Amsterdam has done and continues to do. Yes, you mention this, but mentioning it at the same time as helmet compulsion....well.....the article is only going to go one way, isn't it?

Laura, I beg you, if you really want to make Britain a cycle friendly nation, put pressure on the government to invest REAL money in cycling, and take a step back from the victim blaming helmet nonsense. Support #space4cycling, support Get Britain Cycling, support us at Pedal on Parliament up here in Scotland and write to your MP.

Please, please, PLEASE don't mention helmets again.

Many thanks


P.S. Please don't support the Nice Way Code either.....

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Tyred of Hearing About Red Light Jumping?

Edit: Looks like I didn't notice the ahead only filter lights. Oops! It may not have been a red light after all. Oh well. I'll leave this here as a sign of my stupidity. :-)

This is not about the Nice Way Code (NWC). Honest! It is about an advert, but it's not about that now infamous NWC advert that suggests that it's only cyclists that run red light. So please don't flick to another web page, as I understand that we are all NWC fatigued.

This is about a completely different red light jumping advert, one that you might not expect....

YouTube makes its money by selling adverts. Companies make adverts and then pay YouTube (Google) money to place adverts at the start of videos made by other people. It's quite  money maker for Google I understand. Of course, the people who make the YouTube videos get a very small slice of the pie for allowing the videos to be there, so everyone is happy.

It's even smarter than that though. The advertising videos are placed on YouTube videos with related content. The idea is, if you're watching a video about fridges (for example it could be an advert for this really cool fridge), then an advert for a fridge at the start of that video is more likely to result in a converted sale.

All good.

Of course the system isn't perfect. Sometimes it links the wrong videos with the wrong content. I personally find it amusing when car adverts are placed at the start of my videos, especially when the adverts that show cars swooping through winding Californian empty roads, where the sun is shining and there are no damn cyclists holding them up. I love it especially when the advert is at the start of my filtering videos.

Anyway, I digress....

Yesterday, when looking at some comments on one of my videos the following advert started up at the beginning.

Ok, so this one isn't actually advertising a car, it is advertising car tyres, but the principle is the same. Sweeping road, swooping through.......oh's not all California. At least from 25 seconds onwards it's not all California. In fact some of it is in London!

The advert makers have been smart though. They've managed to avoid the London congestion long enough to make a video. They have even managed to make it look swooping. OK, they had to speed the footage up considerably to make it look swooping, but, you know what, if we could all manage to drive around at x5 even Glasgow might look swooping.

But wait!!

Something is very amiss with this advert. Very amiss, and I'm quite chuffed I spotted it in my first watch through. Did you see it? No?

Ok then, go back to the video and look closely at the section from about 40 seconds until about 47 seconds. Have you seen it now?

Whomever was filming this sequence for YOKOHAMA appears to have ran a red light. Go on, look again!

Yes, the car, and we have to assume that this is a car, as it is an advert for a car tyre after all, went straight through a red light that we can see other traffic stopped at. It looks like they might, just might be slowing down for the second set, but it cuts before they reach that set so we will never know.

Hmmmm. Perhaps as the NWC suggests (sorry I promised not to mention that didn't I?), it wasn't filmed from a car and was filmed from a bike.

It's certainly possible, though the footage does look pretty smooth (bike footage tends to be a bit bumpier), the camera is keeping up with traffic (bikes can never do that....can they?!) the camera is in the middle of the lane (bikes aren't supposed to do that.....are they?!)....oh and in some shots you can actually see the shadow of the car.

It'll be a car then.

So well done, Yokohama (a make that I had never heard of until today and will never buy), not only does your advert suggest that your tyres are so damn good that you just don't want to stop at red lights, and that they are probably grippy enough to help you outrun the police if they happened to see you do it, but you've dispelled the myth that it's only cyclists who run red lights.

I wonder if this advert was produced by the same advertising agency as the NWC.....

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Fit for the job?

As you may have already discovered I had a bit of an incident with my Ribble bike the other day.Yes, my frame split completely. You could pull two ends of the downtube apart quite easily. I was lucky, it happened at a non-critical moment and there was no harm done to me (I'm sure a few of my readers will be disappointed).

The bike was bought in December 2009, so I've had it for 3 years 8 months, so it wasn't old. To be fair though I've probably done quite a few miles on it. It was my "not so great weather' bike, so living in Glasgow that meant it got used a lot. At a rough guess it has probably done about 13,000 miles. A fair mileage.

Is 13,000 miles a reasonable distance for a bike to fail at? That's a good question. If there are any specialists out there I'd quite like someone to have a look at the split to see if it was just lifetime fatigue. Anyone?!

Obviously I contacted Ribble to let them know about the incident and to see if they would replace the frame. Here is the response I got.

Thank you for your email and attachments.
Our alloy frames do have a 12 month warranty and as your bike was purchased in 
2009 this warranty has now expired.
As you are no doubt aware, all frames no matter the material will wear over time 
and usage and I can see from the image you have forwarded that this bike has 
covered a considerable amount of miles. 
Ordinarily due to the age and usage we wouldn't offer a refund or replacement, 
however under the circumstances we can agree to send you a replacement frame. 
This frame is brand new and unused, however the down tube bottle cage bosses are 
slightly out of alignment but I note from your video that a bottle cage is not 
currently being used on your Ribble Audax
There is no manufacturing defect to be concerned about as we have sold thousands 
of this particular model and this is the first instance of a breakage of this 
type being brought to our attention.
Please let me know where I can arrange to have your replacement frame delivered 
To be completely fair to Ribble, this is actually a reasonable response. Legally they didn't have to offer me anything, as the frame was only guaranteed for a year (I didn't actually know that). OK, they have offered me a slightly, 'soiled' frame, but they are right, I don't use a bottle cage. I could just take the frame and either build it back up (although I'd need to buy a few new bits and get an bike shop to install some of it..) or I could sell it on.

But wait.

I re-read the e-mail and it started to concern me. They didn't seem in the least bit surprised that my frame had failed, after all, I had done a reasonable amount of miles. Hold on though.....shouldn't a bike frame be able to last a reasonable amount of miles?! Are my distances really that excessive? Was the tool really fit for the job?

Let' be honest here, I bought the Ribble back in 2009 because it was pretty cheap. It had reasonable specifications for the price and it looked like it would do the job. It did until yesterday. However, I bought a  bike that the manufacturer was only willing to guarantee the frame for one year. That has to say something about the quality.

I'm not saying that Ribble are a bad company. I'm pretty sure they do good bikes, but thinking about the riding that I do, can I really ever trust a bike again that's frame only has a one year guarantee?!! The company obviously doesn't trust it much.

I could still accept the frame and sell it on, couldn't I? No. If I can't trust the frame, how can I sell it on to someone else? How can I know that the person I'm selling it on to isn't going to ride it in a similar way to me? Being an honest person (I do try!) I'd have to be honest about why I had the frame to sell. It probably wouldn't be the best sales pitch.

That's it then. I'm stuck. I don't want to use the frame and I don't want to sell it, but Ribble have been reasonable. There is only one solution ....politely decline the frame and grin and bare the expense of another bike.

I've certainly learned from this episode. If a company only offers a one year guarantee on the frame, that bike is unlikely to be suitable for my type of riding. Sure, it might be fine for a rider going on the occasional winter training ride, but not a daily commuter, and certainly not in Glasgow with it's particularly potholed roads.

Perhaps, there is a bigger lesson here. Perhaps we, as consumers shouldn't accept bike frames that only have a one year guarantee. It really doesn't inspire confidence if the manufacturer doesn't have confidence in it.

So yes, I'm on the look for a bike. I think I've found one. I'm going against some peoples advice and considering an aluminium bike again. Am I mad?! Perhaps....but this one has a lifetime guarantee......

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

A little fatigued

It's been a hard time being a cycle campaigner over the last few weeks. Nice Way Code has taken up a lot of our attention, so we could all be forgiven for being a little fatigued. However, I didn't realise that this feeling could be transmitted to the bike....

It was a normal ride home. Nothing particularly unusual.....actually that's not entirely true. It was a little unusual, as at one set of traffic lights 3 cyclists came together at once.


Readers from places like London, Amsterdam and even Edinburgh might be a little confused by my above statement, but anyone who cycles in Glasgow will know exactly what I mean. Cyclists are a scarce sight on the roads of Glasgow, so having three converge in one place at the same time, going the same way is cause for celebration.

We have our own wee peloton!

I couldn't help making a wee joke out of it. The two other hardy cyclists (again this is Glasgow) smiled, and we set off a short distance only to meet again at the next set of lights. One of the other cyclists at this point, upon arriving with 'the squeek' commented on his noisy brakes.

At least the cars will hear you!

That was my retort as we set off from the lights. I do love these little momentary conversations that you can have with other cyclists, something that I don't think I've ever seen happen when two cars pull up next to each other. Cycling really is an incredibly social activity.....except for the majority of the time in Glasgow of course.

Unfortunately for me things went downhill rather quickly from then on.


It was a strange kind of clunk, but I put it down to a minor shifting issue I have with my gears at the moment, so I carried on.

That's strange....

Something wasn't right though. Something just felt a little odd in the bikes handling. Instead of pulling past the cyclist in front (I had been catching them up until that point) I kept my pace steady and started 'feeling' the bike in the hope of diagnosing the issue on the move.

The bike just felt a bit....bouncy. Yes, that was it, bouncy. That suggested to me that the rear tyre had a puncture and was probably in the process of deflating. I wasn't sure though, so I kept on going a bit, just to see if the tyre did indeed deflate. It didn't appear to, but I decided to stop anyway just to check. Perhaps I was just imagining things.

A quick stop and a quick feel of the tyre confirmed that the tyre was indeed fully inflated. Perhaps I was imagining things, so I shrugged and started pulling away again. That's when I could really feel something was wrong. As I started applying the pressure to the pedals it almost felt like the bike was waving from side to side. Very strange!

I stopped again.

Once again I looked at the tyre. Still fine. Perhaps the rear wheel wasn't seated right for some reason. Nope, it felt tight. Could it be the front wheel? No, that to was fine. I was puzzled. When all else fails in bike fault finding there is only one thing left to do.....bounce the bike of the ground a few times. So I did.


Ooohh. That didn't sound good.

Something at the front did not sound to healthy, but what? Extreme situations, called for extreme measures. It was time to wobble the bike from side to side....

That's when it became blatantly clear that my bike had ridden it's last mile. I spotted this. 

Eeek!....or words to that effect.

Somehow my downtube had decided that enough's enough (blatant connection to my previous blog which is worth read!). It was sick of all the bumping and bashing it received from Glasgow's potholed roads and it wanted to split.....literally.

Thank goodness this didn't happen when I was speeding down the Clyde Tunnel only 10 minutes earlier!

I stood there, swearing slightly, and completely shocked at the full seperationism of it all. A segregated bike, if you will. I was only brought back to reality by two lovely cyclists who stopped, oooh and aahhhhed in all the right places and very kindly offered to give me a lift home in their car, as they lived just around the corner (see cyclists do have cars!). I declined as it would have been a fair distance for them to drive (probably about 6 miles) and walked in the light drizzle for about 15 minutes until I managed to hail a 'taxi of shame'.

Boo Hoo!

Here is the video, if you'd like to see my pain

On close inspection at home, after my wife and kids ooohhed and aaahhed in all the right places it looked very much like it was a metal fatigue issue, probably propagating from the top of the downtube. I hadn't even spotted when I serviced my bottom bracket at the weekend.

Just one of those things?

Well, no. Yes it's done a lot of miles, and yes it's done a lot of weathers, but I only got it in December 2009, so it should have lasted a lot longer than that. I'll see what Ribble say. Mind you, I'm not entirely sure I can trust one of these frames any more. Sure I'll see if I can get a new frame from Ribble, but a few of the components are being used to destruction, and a few of those are close to it already. Worn components on a new frame when I don't have all the tools and time to take them off the old and onto the new?

So, at a time when money couldn't be much tighter (damn those kids and their birthdays, damn the house needing some urgent work to it, and damn the lounge TV going ping and needing replaced), a replacement needs to be found. I do have another bike, but it's a nicer bike and it would just get eaten up by the Glasgow weather (damn those kids again for taking up my bike maintenance time...)

That's confirmed then. I need a winter friendly bike that will last, that's not to heavy (I have hills and a bit of distance), and won't break the bank.   So which bike shops offer credit......?

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Enough's enough.

Enough's enough.

That's what I said to myself after my last post about the Nice Way Code. I'd said what I needed to say. I finished  up recently with a video that demonstrated why the advice to 'ridicule' cyclists who cycle on the pavement was not only bad advice, but completely missed the point of why people often choose to cycle on the pavement.

 (Make sure you switch captions on, you may need to view it on YouTube itself)

I was going to leave it at that. Enough had been said, by enough people about this mess of a campaign.

Then @greendadtwit shared this picture on Twitter earlier today.

 I was literally gobsmacked, and said so on twitter.

This advert was in the Sunday Herald, a respectable Scottish Sunday paper.

So what is wrong with this advert (do I really need to write this!!). First off it contains an obscenity. OK, I'll admit, it's not the worst in the world, but it's not the sort of thing I'd want my 3 year old daughter coming across if she happened to look over my shoulder. (She does this surprisingly often for a 3 year old!)

What does that sign mean daddy?

But it's not really about the children, at least it's not about me trying to keep them sheltered from profanities that they will come across themselves soon enough. No, its the fact that this campaign is supposed to be encouraging us to respect each other more on the roads than we currently do. It's supposed to be teaching us all to live in harmony. Live and let live. Yet, here we have yet another advert from this campaign that is actively supporting the assertion that cyclists are angry. That cyclists are agressive. Cyclists are bad people.

Oh yes, I fully expect the NICE people to tell us that this advert, like every other advert, apparently, is not aimed at one group in particular. It's aimed at all road users.


It has hand signals in it, and I have never, ever seen a driver make any hand signals on the road...that is except signals similar to the third one. The only group that use signals like this are cyclists.....oh and wait a riders as well....ah a connection......Hmmmm.

I'm going to hold my hand up and admit, yes, I have used rude signals when on the road, although I tend to use the much more refined coffee shaker hand signal. I try not to use them, and actually, I think I am pretty good at not using them. Why do I use then at all though? Am I just another bloody angry cyclist? Well.....let me write this in capitals just to make sure you don't miss it...


....and breath.....

So yes, I felt compelled to put finger to keyboard just one more time.

I could not be more disgusted with this campaign. 'Give me Cycle Space' was misguided and a bit misleading. However, at least it didn't set the image of cycling and cycle campaigning in general back at least 5 years and possibly more.

So, I think it is time to make a personal plea to a few organisations....

Sustrans, CTC (UK), the AA, and all the other supporting organisations of this campaign, please, PLEASE withdraw your support from this mess. We need to send a clear message out to the general public that this isn't right and that the messages that this campaign sends out are wrong. Please put aside your political allegiances and agreements and think about the damage that this campaign is doing. You have to do the right thing.

Nice Way Code: Just stop. Now. You've done enough damage. Enough's enough.

Scottish Government: ........

I've been really biting my tongue over this one for a while, but I think it's time that someone took responsibility. I say the following as an individual and not as a member of any organisation.....

Many of us have been saying that leadership has to come from the top. For transport that means that we need leadership from the Scottish Government....from Keith Brown. We haven't got any.....until now. The government are the ones who asked for this campaign. The government are the ones that are paying for this campaign and the government are the ones who have lead this campaign. We now know what Keith Brown's leadership looks like and frankly, it stinks.

I've come to the conclusion that we will not have a safer cycling in Scotland with Keith Brown as minister for Transport.

I for one ask that Keith Brown steps down. Enough's enough.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Open Letter: Nice Way Code

The following letter has been sent to Alex Salmond and others concerning the Nice Way Code. It has been signed by over 80 cyclists from Scotland (and beyond). If you agree with the sentiments of the letter please copy it and send it on to your MSPs along with a few words of your own.

The Nice Way Code is failing in its own terms

At the launch of the Nice Way Code, Transport Minister Keith Brown said, "The Nice Way Code campaign seeks to build a culture of tolerance and patience between cyclists, motorists, pedestrians and all other road users across Scotland." However, everything that has come out of this campaign - which was paid for out of the active travel budget - seems likely instead to create conflict, reinforcing divisions between people based merely on their mode of transport. One advert encourages cyclists not to run red lights simply in order not to give other cyclists a bad name (and not because it's dangerous and discourteous, not least to pedestrians) - lumping all cyclists together and implying bad behaviour by a tiny minority justifies hostility to everyone who chooses to ride a bike.

As cyclists we are used to hearing from a few uninformed drivers that 'all' cyclists run red lights, ride on the pavement, hold up traffic and generally deserve to be treated like obstacles on the road. But we never expected our own government to run adverts saying the same thing. As nine cyclists have died on Scotland's roads already this year, it's unsurprising that this campaign seems to have angered almost everyone who regularly rides a bike.

Safer roads will not come from lecturing people and pandering to stereotypes. We believe they will come from rethinking our current emphasis on designing roads purely for motor traffic and redesigning them to remove the sort of conflicts these adverts reflect. Pending that, it's clear that many people who don't ride bikes themselves are unaware of the needs of cyclists on the road. A campaign that really aimed to build a culture of patience and tolerance could have helped to educate them about these things, and to get cyclists, drivers and pedestrians to see things from each others' point of view. Calling cyclists names is not it.

We urge the Scottish government to recognise that it has made a mistake and to pull this campaign before it ramps up tensions on the road even further. We suggest that it takes this opportunity to start a real dialogue between road users about how we can recognise that we are all people, and behave accordingly.


Adrian Roberts, Dalkeith
Alan Munro, Pedal on Parliament, Glasgow
Andrew Lamberton, Edinburgh EH6
Andrew W.D. Smith
Andy Lulham, Crawley
Andy Preece, Glasgow
Anthony Robson, Edinburgh, EH15
Barnaby Dellar, EH15
Barry O'Rourke EH23
Ben Cooper, Kinetics, Glasgow
Bill Kennedy, Currie, Edinburgh
Bill Telfer, Langholm
Brian Mackenzie, Inverness
Bruce MacDonald, Edinburgh, EH11
C.A. Looby, Edinburgh
Chris Byrne, Edinburgh
Chris Hill,
Christine Helliwell, Edinburgh
Colin Davidson,
Colin Lindsay, Edinburgh
Dave du Feu, Linlithgow
Dave Holladay, Glasgow, G3
David Brennan, Pedal on Parliament, Glasgow
David Edgar, Glasgow
David Gardiner, Laid Back Bikes, Edinburgh
David Hembrow, Assen, The Netherlands
David McKeever, Glasgow
David Monaghan, Edinburgh, EH10
David Morrison, Edinburgh, EH6
David Wilcox, Bristol
Davie Park, Edinburgh, EH11
Denise Marshall, Falkirk
Diana Laing, Edinburgh
Diane Adams, Edinburgh, EH10
Dougie Overbars, Edinburgh
Duncan MacLaren, Edinburgh
Duncan Wallace, Edinburgh, EH11
Eva Viktoria Ballin, Edinburgh
Fran Henderson
Garry Dawes, South Shields
Graeme Hart, Hart's Cyclery, Edinburgh
Grant Mason, Edinburgh
Heidi Docherty, Edinburgh
Henry Whaley, Edinburgh, EH12
Hugh Thomas, Pedal on Parliament, Edinburgh
Ian Bruce, Edinburgh
James Thomson, Kinross
Jemma Smith
Jenny Wilson, Edinburgh
John and Rosie Rutherford, Dumfries
Karen Sutherland, Gorgie, Edinburgh
Keith Walters, Dumfries
Ken Murray, Edinburgh
Keridwen Jones, Edinburgh, Spokes member
Kim Harding, Pedal on Parliament, Edinburgh
Lee Kindness, Edinburgh, EH15
Lynne and Ian McNicoll, Edinburgh
Mark Macrae, Edinburgh
Mark Treasure, Chair, Cycling Embassy of Great Britain
Martyn Wells, Edinburgh, EH10
Neil Bowie, Carse of Gowrie, Perth
Niall Anderson, Edinburgh
Nigel Shoosmith
Paul Jakma, Glasgow
Paul Milne, Dunbar
Philip Ward
Richard Pelling, Fyvie, Aberdeenshire
Robert Gormley, Edinburgh
Ronald Brunton, Edinburgh
Rory Fitzpatrick, EH11
Ros Gasson, Edinburgh
Ruari Wilson
Ruth Kirk, East Kilbride
Sally Hinchcliffe, Pedal on Parliament & Cycling Dumfries, Dumfries
Sara Dorman, Pedal on Parliament
Scott Hutchinson, Edinburgh
Scott Simpson
Sean Allan, Edinburgh EH8
Shan Parfitt, Aberdeen
Shaun McDonald, Edinburgh / Ipswich
Stephan Matthiesen, Edinburgh
Sweyn Hunter, Kirkwall, Orkney
Tom Orr, Edinburgh EH21
Tom Russell EH15
Tony Stuart KY11
Verity Leigh, Edinburgh

Monday, 12 August 2013

Ironic but nice

Having had a week off work to spend time with the kids (not hard work at all, honest!), I was back at work today. This meant I was really looking forward to getting back in the saddle. The weather was dry-ish, which was good and the wind, though in my face, wasn't too stiff. Happy days.

It was in fact quite a happy ride, like most of my commutes are, except for one thing. I was bought crashing back to earth as I passed through Milngavie and spotted this.

A frame grab of my helmet cam

To anyone who follows this blog or has been following the 'discussion' about the Nice Way Code this image will look familiar. Here's a better look at it.

The poster has the smaller writing replaced with the Nice Way Code sign.


I am waiting for my first comment from a driver of 'shouldn't you grown out of cycling...'. That'll be nice....

But, I am not here to bash the campaign any further. It's been pretty much done to death now, so there is little mileage in that. What I am here to bash is the irony of the fact that the government is happy to invest in adverts like this when the conditions on the road are such that many people feel the need, rightly or wrongly, to cycle on the pavement.

The above picture was taken from a screenshot of my helmet camera footage. Let me rewind a few seconds and show you the poster from just a little bit further away.

If you look carefully you can see the Nice Way Code poster in the distance. In the foreground is a pedestrian crossing and on the right of that you can see a number of traffic cones. It's the traffic coned area that is of particular interest. That's a new area of pavement that juts out from the right. The road there used to be wider, now it has been narrowed. The coned area is all new pavement. You can see what it used to look like below.

View Larger Map

This road is the A81 which is undergoing a number of  road 'improvements' utilising SPT funding. These road 'improvements' went out to public consultation, and if you have the time you can read it here.

In summary it says; blah, blah, blah, active travel, blah, blah, blah, public transport, walking and cycling. Blah, blah, blah, improved parking facilities (oh great), blah, blah, traffic engineering.

So, effectively through traffic engineering the council would use the trunk road money to improve transport infrastructure.

Actually, that is good (apart from the parking bit...). In fact I was at a meeting a number of months back in East Dunbartonshire where the council suggested that it was going to use the available money to build proper segregated cycle lanes along this route.


Yet, my eye is drawn back to my picture above.  To put this picture into context, just to the left of the picture beyond the traffic lights is Hillfoot railway station. So this is a fairly busy crossing for people coming from the station. Therefore, it is safe to assume that the narrowing is there to help pedestrians. Helping pedestrians is definitely good.

I am not a road engineer, but I strongly suspect that if you are trying to improve the road landscape for one group of vulnerable road users, you should not make it worse for another group of vunerable road users. Yet, what we have here is now a classic pinch point.

Anyone who cycles regularly on busy roads will have plenty of experience of pinch points. That is a point where the road narrows suddenly. In an ideal world these pinch points shouldn't be a problem. However, the reality is that it brings cyclists and drivers into conflict. We all know that some drivers just have to get past cyclist and some of them aren't always the best at forward planning.

Must get past cyclist.....there is enough space here to get past as they only need 50cm starts passing...ooooh, I forgot the road narrows here......crunch.

In the direction I am facing in the above photograph it isn't quite as much of an issue, as the road is fairly narrow coming that way anyway with the newly created parking bays, however, coming the other way it is a big problem. You have to keep a very strong position coming down the hill to avoid being 'pinched'.

There are a number of important points to make here. First, why was the pinch needed? Why did the road need to be narrower? perhaps it shortens the crossing time, but why not just extend the pedestrian phase if that is an issue (oh wait that might hold up the traffic a bit...). Perhaps it is there as a traffic calming measure? This road is a 30mph road and I have to say speeding really isn't an issue here. There are a number of junctions, lights, parked cars, a petrol garage and pedestrians around that keep the speeds pretty low. Generally I can keep pace with cars on this road.

So why is it there? Who knows! Ticking boxes, perhaps?

More importantly, you might remember me mentioning above, the planned cycle infrastucture on this exactly where is it going to go here? Having now built this pinch point, where exactly are they going to put the cycle infrastructure?

It gets worse though. I've heard from a reliable source that in this section of the road, this pinch and the surrounding shops are not to get any cycle infrastructure. The road either side of it will, but this section wont.

Feel free to slap you palm to your face at this point.

Yes, that's right. at the foot of a poster from our government telling us to grow up and not cycle on the pavement, is a section of road that will not have any cycle infrastructure on it. Cycle infrastructure will lead up to it from both directions, but it won't exist here. So what should inexperienced cyclists do here? Deal with the issues that a newly produced pinch point creates, or...dare I say it.....

Cycle on the pavement?

In effect, the picture above is glorious in the irony it contains. It contains a message to anyone using a bike to get on the road whilst at the same time demonstrating why some people actually chose not to cycle on the road.

I think this picture is cycle infrastructure equivalent of the recent Usain Bolt lightning bolt picture, without any victory.

So when you are out cycling, walking, or even driving around, have a look for these posters, and if you see one, take a picture of it and its surrounding cycle infrastructure. I suspect that that there could be many more like mine.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The Infrastructure is fine....

I don't always get there fast, but I do usually get there.

No, I'm not talking about my cycling, I'm talking about the way my brain works. I don't even notice my brain working away in the background, but I'm pretty sure it usually is. It's the only way I can explain the fact that the idea for today's blog come into my mind, out of the blue, whilst I swept the kitchen floor.

The infrastructure is fine.

To be fair I'd been working towards the idea from earlier in the day. It started when I tweeted a question to @nicewaycode.

Hi I wonder what your thoughts are on a blog I wrote about ASLs quite a while back. They are a danger.

It's funny, at the time I wasn't even entirely sure why I tweeted that question, except for the fact that I knew that the Nice Way Code encouraged drivers to keep out of ASLs. As you'll see from the above linked blog, I'm not their greatest fan.

Only later, whilst seeping up the various bits of tonight's dinner off the floor, did the whole thing come to me.

The biggest problem with Nice Way Code, and any campaign that tells cyclists what they should do on the UK's roads, is that they all assume the infrastructure is fine.

It isn't.

Let me explain. Let's take the ASL advert above. This one isn't actually aimed at cyclists, it's asking drivers to keep out of the ASL. However, the logic holds.
You will of course have read my ASL blog by now and know that I am not a fan. Of course, I am only one person, but I know from feedback from that particular blog that I am not alone in thinking they are bad for cyclists. In fact, in any civilised cycling nation, i.e. ones that have 60% cycling modal share within their large cities, they just don't exist. There are other more elegant and far safer ways of dealing with cyclists at traffic lights. So the campaign is trying to ask drivers to respect something that isn't fine. ASLs aren't fine.

The red light jumping advice is similarly flawed.

I don't jump red lights. I do admit that some cyclists do. In fact in the past I have chastised cyclists myself, and have used the argument that it reflects on all of us. I actually saw the light (pardon the pun) on that one a while ago. I realised that I do not have any responsibility for other cyclists, only myself, just as I don't have any responsibility for any other drivers when I drive my car.
Some cyclists are, though, idiots (as are some drivers) and they do jump reds unnecessarily.  However, as much as I hate seeing cyclists red light jump, some do it for another reason. By far the biggest proportion of cyclists jump reds just before they start turning green. For them it feels safer to get away before the mad rush behind them as soon as the light hits amber. Personally I don't feel the need to 'leave early'. However, I am not your standard cyclist. I have cycled almost non-stop for eight years. I've cycled on busy roads. Even before I started, I looked up safe road cycling techniques. I learned a set of tools that made me feel safe at most junctions from the start. Mind you when I first started I didn't feel safe everywhere and as a result I avoided some of the busy roads and busy traffic light junctions by....

...riding on pavements.

Yes I fell foul of the next Nice Way.

Some less experienced cyclists choose not to use the pavements. Instead, their safety mechanism is jumping the light a bit early. Why?

The infrastructure is not fine. Cyclists feel the need to get away from the mad rush because they don't feel protected.

I could keep going with nearly all of the slides (perhaps you can do it for me). For example, the don't pass on the left of HGV slide...this one...

..offers some good advice. I never pass down the left of an HGV or large vehicle. But....look at the infrastructure we have (and I'm coming full circle here) and ASLs direct you to pass on the left at the very junctions that you should not pass on the left.

The campaign, no matter what it said around these subjects, was bound to fail. We don't have the infrastructure in this country which is consistent enough or safe enough to base a safety campaign around. What is sound advice at one junction is downright dangerous at the next. Safety for cyclists has been designed out of our roads, not into it.

Sure, you can tell a driver to give a cyclist a bit more room as one of the slides does, but yet again, without proper enforcement it becomes meaningless. How many of us, even with helmet camera footage have been told by the weren't hit, so there is nothing we can do (that's rubbish by the way).

Things are different if you pop over to the Netherlands. You wouldn't have the ASLs for a start. It's rare for people to ride on the pavement over there, because the cycle paths are so damn good you can't help wanting to use them. People rarely cycle down the right (wrong side I know) of an HGV because they are, for the most part, kept separate. Perhaps the only one that would still stand (at all) over there is the red light jumping one. I've saw people jump red when I was over there. However, the Netherlands understands the vulnerability of cyclists and protects them by law, even when they have been daft. Why? Because the benefits of cycling, and putting up with the odd red light jumping cyclist far.....FAR outweigh the downsides.

The whole argument over the Nice Way Code has been pretty heated. Emotions have been, understandably, very high. But in the cold light of day, when you apply a bit of logic I think it is pretty clear. Spending on education just won't work where the environment is designed with only one mode of transport in mind. Get some real investment in proper infrastructure going and yes, advertise away. Then you would have something safe to advertise about.

Monday, 5 August 2013

I've run out of nice titles....

If you are reading this....well done. Today has been a tour de force of comment on the NiceWayCode. Rightly so of course. Today is the day when the NWC joined me on YouTube, and what a day that's been.

Two videos appeared, one called Think Horse and one called Name.

Also interestingly a slide show providing an overview of the campaign appeared as well here.  It's well worth a look, and something I'll no doubt comment on later this week.

I'm going to focus on one of the videos, the one called Name. Hopefully the reason will become clear. By not mentioning 'Think Horse' I'm not suggesting it is a good advert, just that it isn't quite as bad. In fact my wife was particularly annoyed by it, having ridden horses a lot in the past, but it doesn't, in my mind, quite reach the levels of Name.

I must admit, I find it really hard to know where to start with this one. Let me start with another video.

If you hung on until the end you'll hear I made a joke with a driver.

I thought it was only cyclists who run red lights

I made that joke because, drivers generally have the perception that it is indeed only cyclists that run red lights, and so catching a driver blatantly doing it was funny to us both.

But it isn't funny, certainly not for cyclists. What is funny is that I could, if I had the inclination....I don't.... I could be publishing videos aplenty of cars cutting through lights late, sneaking through early, or when they think they can get away with it, going through on a blatant red.

Do cyclists go through red? Of course they do, but many studies have shown that not only do far fewer cyclists run reds than you might suspect, but that often the proportion of drivers doing it is higher. That's not even mentioning the relative differences in risk when you compare cyclists and drivers doing it.

So this begs the question, why does this campaign focus on the issue of red light jumping cyclists, and not red light jumping drivers, or for that matter mobile phone using drivers, or speeding drivers, or drunk drivers or.....

There are a number of reasons, but I think the main reason is 'Clutching at Straws Syndrome'

I know for a fact that the campaign brief stipulated that it had to include all road users. I know that this brief did not come from research up, but from top down. This campaign could not just focus on the poor hard done by, over taxed, stressed car driver. Car drivers wouldn't like that, and it would therefore loose votes (there are still more car drivers than cyclists, remember).

It was easy to come up with things that would target the drivers in relation to cycle safety. Close passes, tailgating, left hooks, pulling out in front of cyclists at junctions etc. In fact there were too many, so Cycling Scotland fell back onto what they knew best. Close passes. They had after all had very successful campaign in 'Give me Cycle Space'.....ahem.

But what of these damn cyclists. Hmmm. Unfortunately, when it comes to 'mutual risk' cyclists don't really place drivers in much risk, as I described here. There is no mutual risk. So in a campaign that required 'balance' the powers that be had to find something that would at the very least annoy drivers about cyclists.

Red Light Jumping (RLJng).

The straws had been well and truly clutched.

Ask a driver, one who has never cycled except at Centre Parcs, what the most annoying thing that cyclists do, and RLJing would be at the top. Sure, wearing Lycra, being faster through busy traffic and at the same time causing traffic jams would also be high up there, but it would be very hard to justify a campaign based on those, even for the Scottish Government. So RLJing it was.

RLJing provided balance and Keith knew that he wouldn't loose the car drivers vote in the referendum as a result. Phew. But the government plan was far more wicked. They knew that this was controversial. They knew that some campaigns would go for it and some would not. They could split the cycling opposition and keep drivers happy all at the same time. Brilliant.

Unfortunately, it doesn't end there though. Imagine you are that car driver, with no interest or knowledge of cycling. You don't hate cyclists, but they are a bit annoying. Then you see the series of adverts. It doesn't have any great effect on you, but it's in the back of your mind. Then you come across an article online somewhere saying..

Cyclists annoyed at portrayal of cyclists running red lights in otherwise wonderful government campaign.

Eh? But they do run red lights. They are really annoying and they shouldn't do that. Damn I think I hate those cyclists.

The plan is complete.

Not only does this advert perpetuate the myth that cyclists are lawless no-gooders who freeload on society, it has the potential to set cycling campaigning back several years due to the very understandable reaction that it will generate among us campaigners. This advert is not only bad and poorly focused, it is a bloody disaster for those of us who have been campaigning for years to get rid of the 'us and them' mentality. It places a wedge firmly between us.

Should we continue to campaign against this marketing crap? Yes we should. We should though, also be aware that significant damage has already been done. I just hope that there is still a chance that my chilren will be around to see a happier safer, more environmentally friendly, healthier Scotland.

I'm just a lot less optimistic than I was before this whole episode started.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Nice but wrong.

I've been going through a rough patch on the roads recently. The last 6 months haven't been my best. Unfortunately in that time I've had to report 4 drivers to the police. I've mentioned this before elsewhere but I thought I'd mention it again.

1 driver has been charged, admitted guilt and was sentenced to a fine of £175 and 5 points on his licence for careless driving.

1 driver, mainly because they were a, in the words of a police officer, 'nice old lady' got off with a warning for a very close pass.

1 driver has been charged with dangerous driving (not careless). That case is ongoing.

1 driver was reported for a close pass and aggressive behaviour. I've still not heard if the police were doing anything.

Unfortunately the bad patch has continued over the last week. I've had countless bad overtakes, usually in the face of oncoming traffic, and I've had lots of tailgating, something that I'm getting more these days. There has been just too much for me to edit and publish on YouTube. I just don't have the time, energy or computing power.

This morning though I had an incident that felt really horrible at the time. Here it is here.

There was absolutely no need for that pass. Not only was it close, but it was very fast. I saw it coming and I started swerving out of the way before it happened, so to some extent I prevented it from looking worse. What it certainly did was make me angry. Funnily enough my anger wasn't solely aimed at the driver, my anger was also aimed at the Nice Way Code campaign.

The premise of the Nice Way Code campaign is that if everyone drives, cycles, and walks that bit nicer the roads will be a better place. Sounds reasonable. That is until you look at incidents like the one I suffered earlier.

There is no way in the world that me, on my bike, could ever put anyone in the same amount of danger as that driver did to me.

What about this incident.

There is no way in the world that me, on my bike could ever put anyone in the same amount of danger as that driver did to me.

What about this video.

Yes you have guessed it, there is no way in the world.....

Unfortunately I could have keep this discussion going. I have plenty of examples where I have been seriously endangered by the drivers of cars, buses and lorries. Yes, I've made mistakes. Yes, when I first started cycling I cycled on some pavements. Yes I have actually skidded into the back of a car through my own fault (it may have suffered a scratch). Yes, I've slid off on ice, or gone over the top (though the pothole didn't help).

Yet, in all of my eight years of cycling, my eight years of sometimes great, sometimes not so great cycling, I have never, ever put anyone else in anywhere near the danger that drivers, on an unfortunately reasonably regular basis, put me in.

So what is the governments response to this?*

We get a campaign that places an equal weight of responsibility on all road users to be nice.

There is a reason that car drivers need a licence. They are the ones (myself included when I drive) who are in charge of the potentially dangerous weapon. It is all too easy as my examples demonstrate above for a driver to seriously threaten someone's life or to whisk it away in an instant.

So yes Mr Brown, yes we are angry. VERY ANGRY.

At the moment I am sure Mr Brown is angry himself. I'll bet he is angry with the bloody ungrateful cyclists (he was angry with POP for not being grateful when we last met him. He told us so!).

We are doing this for them!

No you are not. You are pandering to your own prejudices. You are  attempting to patch up the disaster that is your active travel policy. You are thinking of your own survival.

Mind you, when it comes to survival, I'm beginning to have my doubts about you Mr Brown. I'm sure Mr Salmond doesn't want bad news leading up to the referendum, does he......

*( I know for a fact that they are the ones who stipulated that the campaign had to focus on all road users, it wasn't because of research...)