Friday, 4 April 2014

End the silence


Actually, I'm not entirely sure what I am apologising for. The fact is that many people might have been pleased that I've been.....a little quiet recently. I am a whiny lil sh!t according to some YouTube commentators after all (whatever that means!).

Why have I been quiet?

A number of reasons really. I've certainly been busy. Busy with family and very busy with work. Oh and my home laptop decided to die on me as well, which didn't help. That's not the whole answer though.

The truth is that sometimes doing what I do, helmet camera vloging and cycle campaigning, is hard. It takes a bit out of you when you follow the links in your web statistics and read why some commentators are linking to your site. Sometimes people link here because they agree with me, sometimes because they find my arguments interesting, and sometimes because they disagree with me. That's all perfectly fine and part of healthy debate.

What I'm not always so happy about are the personal insults and the general hate that doing what I do sometimes stirs up.

...a prize prick who is only making things worse for all of us. Dooring is too good for him
 'Magnatom : Fannybaws' is a T Shirt I would definitely buy into.

Yes, I know...the bottom half of the internet is best ignored and 99% of the time I generally do ignore it. Just sometimes, if you've had a tough week for other reasons, coming across people talking about you like that.... just gets to you, especially when these people are cyclists from Glasgow. 

However, every cloud has a silver lining.

...he continues to paint Glasgow as a dangerous place to cycle in. Which is rubbish

The above comment from the same pages stuck in my mind for some reason and it was only a day later when commuting home and I saw a cyclist cycling on the pavement that it became clear to me that the above comment was, whilst not insulting in any way (a difference of opinion which is fine), just didn't make any sense.

If you have 22 minutes to spare you can actually hear me thinking about the logic I use in this post, in this video.

Oh, you don't have a spare 22 minutes?.....Oh, OK, read on......

Why, if the roads aren't dangerous (or perceived to be dangerous) in Glasgow, do people ride on the pavement?

I'm not the first person to come up with this insight, but it's power at that moment (see the video above) wasn't any less because of that. Sometimes an idea just slots into your head and it makes perfect sense. A moment of clarity.

If the roads were truly safe, and felt truly safe, then why would anyone want to cycle on a pavement, where you have to contend with pedestrians, kerbs, uneven surfaces (I think they are worse on the pavement than on the roads!), people walking dogs, lampposts, street signs, etc? Pavements, like everything else, are designed not for people, they are designed to not get in the way of the roads.

Cities are designed around roads, not roads around cities.

Therefore, if you want to cycle the quickest way from A to B then your first choice would be roads. Only very occasionally will a path be quicker than a road. Roads are designed for convenience, yet, many cyclists still chose to cycle on the pavement.


Well, the answer is obvious.

Yet, there are some cyclists who insist, just as the poster above did, that,

The roads are fine. I have no problem on the roads!

Yes Mr Poster but you and I have built up, over a long period of time, skill sets to deal with the conditions that we face on the roads. Even I, 'Magnatom: Fannybaws' took a long time to build up the courage to cycle on some of the roads that I routinely cycle on now, and I'm no shrinking violet. I certainly wouldn't have cycled on the roads on that video above when I first started.

So yes, the poster might be right, the roads might well be fine for him. It might well be fine for him and another 0.9% of the population who are willing to fit in around the motor car in far from ideal conditions.

Congratulations. I applaud you. Seriously.

I used to think like that to, until I had kids. As they grew older and they learned to ride their bikes, I realised that the only way they could ride anywhere except our cul-de-sac, a few quiet local country roads, and a canal path, was if I spent an awful lot of time teaching them the methods I have learned over the years.


Not acceptable.

That is the difference between me and the poster. I've chosen not to accept the status quo. I've chosen not to accept that we have to ride defensively everywhere we go. I've decided that cycling needs to be easy and to feel safe, and I'm sorry, to the overwhelming majority of people, IT DOES NOT!

That's why I ask drivers why they have driven too close to me. That's why I will not accept someone driving a bus too close behind me. Most importantly, that is why I am 100% determined to make our roads safer with the help of the other organisers of Pedal on Parliament and with your help.

Like me or loath me, it doesn't matter. What's not to like about a Scotland that is safe for all people on bikes, not just Lycra 'Fannybaws' warriors like me.

Join me and thousands of others on the 26th April at the Meadows in Edinburgh at 12pm.

Let's end the silence and lets make some noise.


  1. I think some people think of you as a whiny lil sh!t because you pick up on close overtakes/blind corners that the average cyclist ignores because it's so common and not 100% life threatening. A lot of times it's an incompetent driver who feels his mistake has been blown out of proportion. I've been there as a new driver, and when I realised how quickly you can go from clear road to killing someone at 60mph I decided to cycle everywhere. Most people just blame the obstruction. You should see people yell at people who dare to walk along a country road without a footpath, how dare people travel without a car!

    I had a little fame under an internet pseudonym once and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. To do it under your own name/persona makes you beyond a hero. Everyone has character flaws, everyone is a prick sometimes, but overall what you're trying to accomplish is truly noble. You can live in the knowledge that you're trying to make the world a better place, and you've got more balls, staying power etc, than the average guy out there who insults you.

    I'm hoping one day we won't have to live in a pollution cess pit, but humanity is pretty lazy and selfish. Many times I climb a hill and I think I can see why some people just jump in a car even if they'd walk away 1000x healthier. If you truly want to scare yourself look up the 6th mass extinction that is currently underway because people will rather trash their environment than sweat a few miles. But here's to hoping you find the chink in the armour that makes people want to install (surprisingly cheap) cycle lanes. Area where I live is currently getting lots of backing to dual carriageway a road to the tune of retarded millions (billions?). But if only you paid road tax all the nation would be paved with perfect cycle ways! ;) (So I hear)

  2. I have lived in Germany until my early 30s, and when I first moved to the Glasgow area, I kept saying to people, "I won't be able to cycle here - you CAN'T cycle here". Until then, I cycled every day, without helmet, mostly on cycle paths. I cycled 2km to my primary school from when I was 8, then 10km each to high school, to uni, etc. When I moved to Scotland, I couldn't believe how impossible they have made for people to use the roads for anything else but driving. It's not only cyclists who are the victims of this mad, crazy, out of control planning, but also pedestrians. The lack of traffic lights for pedestrians (how are kids supposed to cross the busy road to the football pitch with drivers ignoring the speed limits??), pavements that stop on one side of the road, forcing you to cross over to the other side repeatedly, without traffic lights. Drivers do not stop for pedestrians helplessly standing at the end of a pavement, desperately trying to cross. But is when you are on the bike that you feel truly exposed, at the mercy of any driver that comes along. The first time I cycled on the road, I was convinced that each car driver was out to hurt me. I used to wince when I heard an engine revving up behind me. And this is because most drivers simply cannot get their head round the idea that the roads are not just for them, and do not know who to handle this bike in front of them. It took me a long time to overcome my fears, and though I'm fairly comfortable now cycling on the road, every day, during my commute to central Glasgow, there is at least one moment where I think "Phew, that was close... I'm lucky to be alive, this driver could have killed me". I find this totally unacceptable. And I have to agree, though I love cycling, I can't see myself encouraging my two daughters to do the same. Not until they're much older. I love living in Scotland, but this is the one thing that really, seriously annoys me. I find it incomprehensible.

  3. No apology needed.

    Drivers make some roads ridiculously scary, and unrideable for all but the bravest.
    I've cycled for 30 years and STILL find narrow A roads packed with traffic at rush hour, and yes if there is an alternative I will use it as it allows me to relax and not worry that the next driver may be the bullet in the game of russian roulette.

    How we as a country expect anyone to buy a bike and start cycling under those conditions baffles me. Actually how we as a country just expect anyone to cycle under those conditions baffles me.

    We need safe space for people on bikes and foot, and allow them to feel safe. Having, and persisting with an environment where the only people that feel safe are inside tank like metal boxes is just so wrong.

    I may not be in Scotland, but I so applaud and support the hard work that you and the others are doing for POP

  4. So because you've spent a lot of effort on campaigning for safer roads you're a fannybaws? Well, the only conclusion I can draw is that it is a term of respect. I wish I was as big a fannybaws as you!