Monday, 28 October 2013


Blind corners and overtaking on country roads. This is a subject I have experience of. Feel free to look through my videos. You'll find plenty of recent examples.

Here is one.

As I've mentioned before, I am a driver as well and have driven this road many times. During that time I have come across other cyclists, cycling exactly the same way I do. I can therefore confirm that there is no way in the world I would overtake at the locations that these drivers overtake. I also know that my wife, who also drives these roads feels exactly the same way I do.

The video linked above are all on a section of road that has a 30mph speed limit, which in general is ignored by most road users. If you drive at or within the speed limit (which I do) you just get tailgators. Often road users see the speed limit, not as a limit, but as a minimum speed.

How dare anything rob me of my momentum!!

Thus I felt particularly angry at a recent court case where a driver who was tried by jury was found not guilty of killing a cyclist.

Just today the cyclists family wrote a very moving letter to a local paper. It really is worth a read.What is especially worth noting is the bias that the family witnessed. They were not able to represent their daughter the way they felt they should. I know for a fact that this is not a problem isolated to this case.

I'm not going to discuss this letter though. It stands very well on it's own and I don't feel I need to add anything. I'm going to focus on the incident itself and the bias that I feel is present in every case of cyclist/bike against driver/car.

From here on you need to remember that we don't have all the facts. We don't know the exact location (if anyone does, please let me know and I will update this blog), we don't know the road conditions at the time, we don't know how much space the cyclists were all riding from the edge of the road etc. I can only discuss the evidence that has been released in the press.

It is also worth pointing out that articles often hold inaccuracies

With that in mind, let's look at what we have been told. Here is a summary:

The driver overtook two cyclists who were riding two abreast. She overtook them on a bend. We know the accused was 'surprised to see two cyclists suddenly appear around the bend, coming the other way. The driver had to 'make a decision of what to do' (travelling at between 30-50mph) and felt that the oncoming cyclists had enough space to pass. The first oncoming cyclist thought the overtake was unbelievable and had to aim for a small gap to continue safely. The second cyclist appears to have swerved in reaction to the proximity of the oncoming car, and unfortunately crashed as a result. It is disputed as to whether the car hit the cyclist or not. The cyclist unfortunately fell to her death.

In defence the driver, who claimed to be a 'keen cyclist' said, 'I can’t help it if a cyclist, with all due respect, falls over as I’m approaching them and comes into my line of travel....I would expect cyclists to generally remain upright as the first cyclist did.'

We don't know exactly where on the B480 the accident happened on the reports, however, the local article suggests it was in or near Stonor. The car was travelling at 50mph and yet no mention was made of the driver breaking the speed limit. The speed limit in Stonor is 30mph, therefore it is likely to be outside it, but close.

View Larger Map

The above map shows the road in question just to the north of Stonor. This particular section is straight and has a good view. I have chosen this section intentionally as we do not know which bend in the road the accident happened. Therefore, the section above represents an absolute best case scenario.

From Google maps it is possible to determine the width of the road. Overall width is approximately 6.5 metres. Therefore each lane is about 3.25 metres wide. We do not have any information on what car the driver was driving but assuming it was a Ford Fiesta (a fairly small car) with a width of about 1.98m, that leaves 1.27m within the lane.

Two cyclists riding abreast are likely to take up (conservatively) 1.5m of a lane. Let's assume that the driver gave the cyclists the minimum acceptable clearance of 1m. Thus the edge of the car would be (at a minimum) 2.5m from the edge of the drivers lane. Add on the width of the car and we are left with approximately 2 metres of space in their lane. Now assuming that the cyclists coming the other way are as they should be, about 1m from the edge of the road. That leaves us with 1m between the oncoming car and the cyclist that was killed.

1m is the minimum, MINIMUM overtaking distance for a car overtaking a cyclist going the same way as the car in ideal conditions. It is not a safe distance to pass a cyclist when you are travelling 30-50mph heading in the opposite direction.

Remember all of the above is on the road illustrated above. I would suggest that any driver overtaking on this straight road under perfect conditions in the way I have described above would be driving carelessly.

Would you agree?

Now lets look at a gently curving section of this road (not the sharpest bend).

View Larger Map

 The above road gently curves. The road here has the same dimensions as I described above. The big difference is that the view is no-where near as good.

Would you overtake two cyclists riding abreast on this road at 30-50mph? Is that 1m gap good enough here?

I know I wouldn't ever consider overtaking here. It would be....dangerous, and this is one of the gentlest bends on this road.

Remember, the driver has admitted that she was surprised to see two cyclists coming the other way. Effectively she is saying here, she didn't see them. Why is this? Either, she wasn't looking properly, and thus she was driving dangerously (carelessly according to the court of course), or the bend was perhaps sharper than this and the drivers view was obstructed? I'd suggest if that is the case then there is no doubt it is dangerous driving.

How can this in any way not be death by dangerous driving?

This is where the problem arises. We are all drivers. Very few of us are cyclists. Imagine you've never ridden before and you hear the facts of the case. I don't know if it happened, but I suspect no-one looked at the detail of the incident like I have done here. I could be wrong, but I suspect I am not.

So you are a member of the jury and you hear that there probably was no collision. You hear that the cyclist fell over. You hear how wonderful the driver is, and how they are a church goer, a leading scientist, and a general all round good soul. You, as an experienced driver, with no experience cycling think.....hmmm, that could be me. I could have driven like that (and many do). The cyclist did just fall over after all......

Not Guilty.

That's how it happens.

It could have happened to any of us.

No it bl**dy well couldn't have. There are people who might well be lovely otherwise, but, when they enter their car,they change and they switch off to the needs of rest of the world. They are protected in their bubble. They feel safe, they feel warm, they feel happy. Then, something unexpected gets in the way. A couple of cyclists. Hmm. But I'm late to watch Coronation Street. I need to get home to feed the fish. I need to get the dinner on.

Oh, I'll be fine overtaking here......

I'm not saying that this happened here. I don't have the facts and I can't read the drivers mind. However, I'll bet anything that in many incidents like this, the absolute last thing on the drivers mind is the lives of the people they are risking. In fact, they don't even perceive the risk. They just perceive an obstacle to get past.... an irritation. A metaphorical fly that needs swatting. Must get past that cyclist.

And here we are with a life lost and many lives shattered by a tragedy and no-one is found to blame, because, it could have been me.

We have lost all sense of proportion. The car is so easy and so safe that we have all forgotten that what we drive can be lethal and that we DO have responsibilities that override any need to feed the fish on time.

That is why it is, and should always be important that in cases like this the families of the deceased MUST be allowed to represent their loved one. They MUST be allowed to humanise that cyclist. The jury must also been put into the position of the cyclist. They must be made to understand the vulnerability, that we cyclists don't have a roll cage.

It is time that we as drivers take responsibilty for our mistakes and realise that if we do something in our car that results in the serious injury or death of another that we will not just get a slap on the wrist.

It's time for justice.


Thanks to some help from Twitter we have now pinpointed the location of the accident using Crashmap. I would indeed appear that the accident happened at a more severely curving section of road than either of my examples. Here is where it occurred (within 10m according to Crashmap)

View Larger Map

There is no way, ABSOLUTELY NO WAY, that I would ever consider overtaking an individual cyclist, never mind two cyclists riding two abreast in this location (unless they were fully stopped for some reason and even then it would be done with extreme caution). If I did so, and if as a result of that action another cyclist died, whether I hit them or not, I would expect to be found guilty of death by dangerous driving.

Was the jury actually shown this or a similar image? Were any expert witnesses asked if it would be safe to overtake on this bend?

The more I look into this incident, the more I am utterly disgusted that the justice system has completely failed to uphold any justice on behalf of Denisa Perinova and her family, her boyfriend and her friends.

Can we really go on accepting injustice such as this?

I Want to See Double...At Least!

It's ages away from Pedal on Parliament 3. We have already started the process of organising the POP3 demonstration and we will obviously share details with you when we can.

What though, do we do in the mean time?

Yes the government has recently given cycling more money and yes it is welcome. £20m over two years is a start. It is though, still a drop in the ocean when we have already pointed out that £100m per annum is required if we are to make cycling a realistic prospect for all.

Unfortunately, it is becoming more and more criticical that we fight harder for the needed investment. The recently released government statistics show that cycling, rather than getting safer is getting more dangerous, with an increase in deaths and killed and seriously injured once again in 2012. This isn't a blip, but an ongoing trend, at a time when driving a car is getting progressively safer. Not only that, but we already know that the death toll for cyclists on Scotland's roads is worse this year than last, with just over 2 months left.

Investment in cycling is more pressing than ever.

So POP3 is ages away, what can we do?

Yes, we all need to keep writing to our MSP's, but there is something else you can do. Something more direct.

This Wednesday in Edinburgh there is a chance for you to demonstrate your support for investment in cycling and active travel by attending the We Want to See Double Demonstration.  The call is out for anyone who wants to see safer streets for all to meet up on the 30th October at 1pm outside St Andrews House, Edinburgh, to go along and make your feelings known.

Of course, not all can make it (I can't unfortunately) as it is during the working week, but that is a strength as well as a weakness. Unlike at POP which is held at the weekend, politicians will be at work on Wednesday and thus are more likely to actually see this demonstration (and not just read about it in the newspapers).

So, if you are anywhere near Edinburgh, and you have half an hour to spare at lunch time on Wednesday, please go along to the demonstration. It is as a direct result of POP and other similar events (and of course the work of other groups) that we have been given the recent extra cash, so we know that more noise does work.

With your help, we can see double (at least!) and we can make Scotland a cycle friendly nation.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Making a Point with 1000kg

Sometimes I may do something another road user doesn't like. Sometimes I may make a mistake or inadvertently do something that annoys others. If I do, I am sorry. Even if I don't think you are right in disliking what I have done, even if I think your anger is borne of ignorance, I am still sorry.

I'm sorry you feel that way.

My apology, whether it is required or not, though, does not in any way justify direct action from you if you are driving a car. Sure, if you want to stop along the road and shout a few expletives, go right ahead. If you want to argue that I am wrong and you are right, feel free. Everyone has an opinion (including me) and if you feel the need to share it, that's fine. I probably won't agree with it. I'll probably tell you where you logic falls down, but that's all good and dandy.

What none of this does, is excuse you trying to frighten me by hitting the horn as you draw alongside, or drift your car towards me. Even if only slightly.

I am made of flesh and blood. I am about 85kg. My bike weights about another 10kg and my bag and clothes perhaps another 7kg. about 100kg in total. That 100kg is surrounded by air. Nothing else, just air.

When you feel the need to make a point, and you feel the need to make that point as you are passing me too close, and moving closer towards me, and you are hitting your horn, remember that that 100kg of unprotected person, bike and personal belongings, is up against you in your 1000kg of car. Remember also that that 1000kg of car is mainly made from hard metal and glass, metal and glass that have been designed to protect, not me, but you. You have crumple zones, air-bags, ABS, ESP, and many many other safety features that will keep you safe.

What do I have? I have my wits, my experience of cycling on the roads, my knowledge of particular road trouble spots and a wee bit of plastic on my head. Even that wee bit of plastic doesn't really provide any protection (it just provides somewhere to put my camera) and it certainly doesn't protect me against 1000kg of car.

So, when you see a cyclist up ahead making a friendly gesture to a driver that has just passed him, asking him to give him a little bit more room next time he passes, don't take that as a personal insult. Don't fall back into the 'bloody cyclists' rage that burns within you. Imagine yourself in my position, and ask yourself, am I gesturing to drivers to piss them off? Am I riding that far out of the kerb just to bring about confrontation?

Ask yourself, who would win when it's 100kg against 1000kg?

I'm just trying to get home as safely as I possibly can, and perhaps trying to enjoy the process at the same time. So please, don't do this.

Monday, 14 October 2013

I'm a Cyclist Myself....

How many times have you heard it?

You are cycling along the road, minding your own business enjoying your cycle to work. Suddenly a car sweeps past too close, or cuts you up. Their rush to get past you is thwarted by the queue at the traffic lights 50m ahead. A conversation is struck up about the quality of the driving. There is no swearing or shouting, but a slightly heated exchange about the driving in question.

Road user who is cycling: Do you realise you were too close?

Road user who is driving: No I wasn't.

Road user who is cycling: You might not think so inside your nice safe metal box, but I can assure you that was too close.

Road user who is driving: You were wobbling all over the road.....anyway....

(and here comes the doozy)

Road user who is driving: .....I'm a cyclist myself.

I'm a cyclist myself.

If I had a penny for every time I've heard that phrase I'd be rich....ok not rich as such, but I'd certainly have a few bob more. I'm a cyclist myself seems to be a magical phrase that is used by road users who are driving as a, protective force field. They think that by using that phrase the road user on the bike will suddenly think to themselves,

Oh wait a minute, that person in the car has sat astride a bike before, therefore they know exactly how much space a cyclist needs and my impression that the car was too close must be totally wrong. How silly of me. Time for a big apology.....

Err, no.

As people who drive and prefer to associate themselves with those that drive, rather than those that cycle (have you noticed I'm avoiding using driver and cyclist as my own descriptions) often suggest, some people who ride bikes are rubbish. In fact some people on bikes have absolutely no idea whatsoever how to cycle in such a way to keep themselves safe on the road (they shouldn't have to of course, but that's another issue...). I have seen plenty of examples of people who are on bikes, where they are completely unaware of how close a pass was, or how close they were to being knocked off. In fact one of my very earliest videos provided a good example of this.

This cyclist was completely unaware and completely disinterested that they were very close to being knocked off.

Some road users who cycle are pants.

So when a driver mentions to me that I'm a cyclist myself it means diddly squat with regards to their comprehension about what a road user on a bike needs or doesn't need with regards to space, time etc. The information I need to know is, are you a good road user or are you a bad road user. I have no interest in whether you once rode a bike at Centre Parcs.

The above video has been made private as requested by the driver in the video. The driver proved to me who they were, and the reasons for the request were reasonable. Unfortunately I cannot provide any further information on the reasons that the driver provided for it's removal.

So when this lady recently said to me I'm a cyclist myself I pointed out to her, that she is also a driver, but that doesn't mean she is a good driver. The lady in the above clip made a couple of accusations, one of which you can actually hear at the very end. She claims I pulled out. She also earlier claimed (though you can't hear this) that I did not shoulder check. I think it is pretty clear from the footage above that I didn't pull out (in fact I swerved left into a pot hole) and that I was shoulder checking a fair amount.

Was she lying? Possibly not. I suspect that she thought that what she said was true. Remember, she was nice and safe and snug in that warm metal box. I suspect that she wasn't paying quite as much attention to her surroundings as I was. I suspect that she only became aware of an issue after I shouted at her. I suspect that at that point her brain, devoid of any detailed information from the proceeding seconds found that it needed to justify her actions and did so by suggesting to her that I must have pulled out and I must not have been looking.

It must have been my fault. I am a cyclist after all.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Glasgow - Dear Green Place?

I love Glasgow. It's a vibrant, friendly and exciting city. Unfortunately though it residents suffer from a number of problems. Many suffer from deprivation. Many suffer from poor health. Glasgow also suffers from pollution issues and ever increasing congestion.

Glasgow's problems are complex and work is ongoing to try and solve some of these issues. However, transport (including transport deprivation with less than 50% of Glasgow households having access to a car) is not an issue that Glasgow is tackling at all, at least not in any significant and meaningful way. The only significant spends on transport in recent years are on more motorway building. £692m for a 5 mile route.

Glasgow's transport arteries are clogged at the best of times. I have posted many congestion videos in the past. However, Glasgow's arteries are getting worse and are now critically blocked. There is little room for 'collateral flow'. It only takes one road 6 miles away being reduced from two lanes down to one to cause complete traffic chaos and transport meltdown.

Here is my experience of my commute this morning to the Southern General Hospital on one particular 2.4 mile stretch of road. I'm on my bike and cycling from north west of the city towards the south.

A quick calculation suggests I was travelling at just over 3200 cars an hour.

With the new Southern General Hospital currently being built south of the river (I work in the old part) many jobs are being transferred from elsewhere to this one location. Is this traffic a vision of Carmageddon that will affect this area more regularly in the future? With the government solution to congestion being to 'build more roads', which in turn induces more demand for the car, what will become of this area in years to come? Where is the space to build these new roads? Will public transport be the answer?

With the hospital build comes a number of new multi-story car parks and a small spattering of cycle parking (at least I assume there will be some cycle parking...). A small budget has been set aside for some cycle infrastructure close to the hospital. Unfortunately, the only draft plans I have seen focus on paint on the road, shared use lanes (shared with pedestrian ) and improved lighting. 

That'll do it.......hmmmm.....

Even these inadequate plans do not extend beyond a kilometre or so of the hospital and there are no plans for any cycle infrastructure on the stretch of road in the video, so scenes like this are set to continue and probably to get worse.

I have been accused of being negative in my campaigning by some. I think those commentators are probably right. If I look back at the tone of my blog posts and average them over time I am certain the tone would be generally negative.

Cycling is fun, it is healthy, it does in the long term save lives. I nearly always enjoy my commutes to and from work and I gain huge amounts of joy from seeing my children taking their first pedal strides on their own journeys towards independence. 

Let me be quite clear, I love cycling and feel very positive about it, and it's future. There would be no point in campaigning if I didn't.

My critics, however, rarely come from Glasgow. They very rarely cycle on the streets that I ride, day in day out. They don't generally understand that my negativity is borne out of frustration. I know what the road conditions could be like, compared to the reality I currently face on the street. They also don't understand how big a mountain Glasgow has to climb to become anywhere near a cycle friendly city.

But! And this is an important but. That does not mean that I throw my hands up in the air and say,

It'll never happen. Why bother!?

Glasgow and Scotland will one day be cycle friendly. Of that I am certain. Yes, it probably won't exist for my children, but if we start now, and we really put our hearts and souls into it, it could be a reality for our children's children.

So I ask you to share my video from today, and when you do, ask those you share it with, is this the future for Scotland's and the UK cities? Is it time to for change?

Unless we all believe that that we can change the landscapes of our cities then we are doomed to have cities that will never again be called, Dear Green Places.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Woo Hoo!

You may have noticed I've been a bit quiet recently. It wasn't intentional, but sometimes you need to take a break from it all. That's not to say I didn't intend to write some blogs, I did. In fact I have about three blogs all partially drafted, but none of them ever got finished. I think the energy was lacking.

Energy is always a bit short when the majority of what you have to write about isn't positive. Oh sure, there are those that suggest we should be more thankful and more positive, but when more cyclists are dying, and every cyclist (and person who would cycle but doesn't feel safe enough to do so) I chat to is feeling generally negative about the lack of investment, then it is hard to see things in a positive light.

That's not to say everything is bad.

In fact yesterday I had one of my most enjoyable experiences on a bike......EVER! Ok, I'm cheating a little, as this cycling wasn't on the roads, in fact it wasn't even outside. It was in:

The Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome!

Yes, I had my first ever go at cycling in a velodrome....oh and what a velodrome! With banking that has an angle of 44 degrees, it's one of the harder velodromes to ride least that's what the instructor told us, reassuringly at the start!

Would I make it around without falling off? Would I get up on the curve banking? Will I be at Rio in the British team?

I arrived nice and early having cycled from my work to the velodrome. I think I was the only one to cycle there for that session. Whilst this made me feel a little virtuous, it did mean my legs weren't quite as fresh as the others. Oh well, at least I had the right kit on from the start.

Upon reaching the desk to pick up the equipment the employees first question was, does that come off? Unfortunately he was talking about my helmet camera. I wasn't allowed to have it on whilst cycling on the track. There went my chance of YouTube fame as I came crashing down the track! After wiping away my tears of disappointment, I was given a pair of shoes (I have the wrong cleats), and a track bike.

Track bike?! Eek! Having never ridden a fixed gear bike before, and having heard horror stories about what happens if you stop peddling on a bike that you can't freewheel on, I was a little concerned about how I would get on. Still, nothing ventured nothing gained!

Having got there early it meant I had a chance to chat to one of the other riders. Yes, I made sure I told him about Pedal on Parliament, and who knows he may even end up reading my blog, so...hi John if you are reading! He was in a similar situation to myself, being a pretty experienced road cyclists, but not having ridden a velodrome before. In fact, no-one in the class had done this before. We were all in the same boat....ummm I mean velodrome.

Then the call comes to enter the track. Up we all waddled (we have cleated shoes on after all) and line up next to the barrier standing next to our bikes. The instructor (very nice chap) talks us through what is going to happen, what to expect and what the bikes and the track are like. Then it is time to mount the bikes. Most of us have used clip-less pedals before so it isn't long before we are all ready to go.

Mind you....I thought the banking looked steep when I came to watch track cycling as a looks even steeper when you are considering cycling around it!

So off we go. First we cycle around the 'apron' of the track, the flat part near the centre. This is the important 'get used to the bikes time', and boy, did I need it! Having cycled free-wheel bikes all my life it came as a slight shock when I accidentally went to free-wheel and the bike and me jolted. Best not to do that at speed! I did that a few times until the legs started to let go of the normal free-wheel impulse and settled down into the rhythm.

Hmmm. It actually felt pretty good!

Then we progressed onto the 'Cote D'Azur' the light blue strip at the bottom of the slope. The slope is gentle here (probably like the breeze in Cote D'Azure) and this didn't feel too bad now that I was getting used to the bike. Everyone in the group (14 of us) were coping fine with this. You could sense that some of us wanted to go faster than others, but the no overtaking rule kept us all in check.

OK folks, start going up the banking on the straights.

And so we did, all filtering past the instructor as he slowly edged further and further up the slope of the track. This wasn't too bad, so long as you had a bit of speed, and we did all start speeding up a little, making sure we were looking back when we should. 

This is where it got interesting....

Right, now we will try and stay between the red and black lines all the way around....

Ah....this meant going up the banking. That banking. That, 44 degree looks awfully high at the top, banking.

Off we went.

This is where I started having free-wheel issues again. Every time I approached the curve my leg would jolt. It took me a few goes to work out why that was. For years I've learned that when you go around a corner you stop pedalling. You do this to stop your pedal from striking the ground, something that can have you off the bike in a jiffy. I was worried that I'd have a pedal strike.

After a number of circuits, where I did manage to hold the line, we stopped and I asked the instructor, is it possible to strike your pedal on the track whilst riding normally? The answer was reassuring. If you are in a position to strike your pedal on the track, you are already on your way off! That's all right then!

Now was the real test. The no overtaking rule was removed, as were the restrictions for how high you could go on the banking. It was moment of truth time. At this point I remembered a tweet I received earlier in the day where someone pointed out that the slope angle at the black was the same as the angle at the top. Effectively getting to the top was all about belief. Did I believe I could do it?

We were split into two groups and being in the first group we were told to....push off......

After a lap or two of building speed (and courage) I started to climb the track. First the black line, then the red, then slightly higher than the red, then towards the blue........getting there.....then slightly above the blue, then onto the advertising banners (they crackle as you ride over them!) and then.......above the banners and up to the top!!!!


It's a shame no-one was filming me at this point, I had the biggest, cheesiest grin on my face as I zoomed around (it felt like I was zooming anyway). It was fab! Out of my group I was definitely the highest on that go around, though in the second group there were a few riders doing the same as me! As we had all done well, and were ahead of time, we all got another go!!!

This time, having talked to the instructor, I did some swooping off the high banks towards the lower slope of the track.....sprinting style! It was an amazing feeling swooping down and picking up speed. I can only imagine what that is like when there are other riders doing the same around you! As the session progressed though, I wasn't getting quite as high as before. My old legs were starting to tire out. It was surprisingly hard work getting up the banking each time, which is why, I suspect that a lot of the action doesn't happen up there!

Then the session came to a close and we all pulled over to the fencing to stop. No-one fell. No-one really wobbled. Not everyone made it high up the banking, but everyone made it above the black. Turned out that meant we all passed our level 1 accreditation! Who knew!?

What a fabulous evening of cycling that was, and I was still grinning as I mounted my normal bike to start the cycle (nearly all uphill) home. The strange thing was, my normal bike now felt different.....I can free-wheel again!

As I cycled past thousands of supporters (not for me, for some football game that was about to start at Parkhead, involving Barcelona I believe) there was one thought in my mind.

Damn those velodrome instructors for making me pass level 1. There's no way I can stop there now! It's full accreditation or bust!