Monday, 29 December 2014

Facing Your Worst Fear

When it comes to cycling, what exactly is my worst fear?

Well, that's probably a pretty easy question to's being knocked off my bike by a large vehicle and perhaps being seriously injured or killed. I pray that it never happens.

Is that really my worst fear though when it comes to cycle safety?

Perhaps not.....

There is possibly something worse than could happen (though not necessarily worse for my family). Imagine if, when driving my car I was involved in a collision with a cyclist that resulted in me severely injuring or killing them.

That would be absolutely horrific! 

Umm, errr, hmmm......

Don't panic, I haven't been in a collision with a cyclist when I was driving, where they have been seriously injured or killed, thank goodness! I have though, been in a collision with a cyclist....


Umm, err yes. A month or so ago whilst I was driving my car I collided with a cyclist who came off his bike, and fortunately, was only slightly bruised by the incident. Let me explain....

Early Saturday mornings are usually a rush in the Magnatom household. My wife is getting my daughter ready to take her to her dancing class (I'm hoping she'll change that for cycling one day!) and I'm getting the two boys ready for the cycling club that we attend. This Saturday was a little unusual though. We were early!

So there I was in the car, switching the engine on, wondering what to do with all this new found time. I ask the boys, 'as we are early, shall we go the high way?'....'Yes!'.

The 'high way' is the name I gave once to a route that I very occasionally cycle to work, and even less occasionally drive. It takes in some lovely single track road. The roads are narrow (as single track suggests) and it is quite a windy road. It also has a fairly steep gradient at about 17% at one point. However, the views from the top are worth it. In fact, I have a video of me cycling up that very road.

It's lovely isn't it?

Anyway, the boys and I were all togged up in our cycling gear with the bikes attached to the back of the car all ready for some fun on the bikes.... so I take the right turn up the hill and drop gear down to second to get me up the steep section. I'm not 100% certain what speed I was doing up there, but it was certainly less than 20mph and my best guess was about 15mph.

What could possibly go wrong...

Then it happened.

Just as I was coming around one of the corners, (I can't remember exactly which one as that didn't seem relevant at the time...) a cyclist appeared coming the other way. This shouldn't really present a problem of course...I'm happy to slow further and move over if needed to let him pass....however, there wasn't going to be time for that!

He was!


I'm pretty sure I managed to turn the wheel to the left, the car did stop with its wheels on the left verge. I'm also pretty sure that I quickly hit the brake and stopped pretty quickly after that. However, before any of that had any chance to take effect, the cyclist had collided with the drivers wing-mirror, scrapped along the side of the car and went flying into a bush behind me!

Eek (or words to that effect)!

It's in moments like that that time seems to grind to a complete halt and I'll admit it felt like ages before I actually fully registered what had happened and started getting out of the car. It probably was only a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

Oh no! I hope the cyclist is ok!!

That was honestly the very first thing that went through my mind. Whilst I didn't actually see his 'dismount' behind my car I could tell from the speed he was going, the bang that the collision had made, and the squeals of my two boys, that he had taken quite a tumble. Those few seconds were a few of the worst seconds of my life. It was therefore a huge relief for me when as I started to get out the car I saw the cyclist climbing to his feet and starting to brush himself off....

Are you OK? Oh my God, are you OK?!!!!!

Amazingly he was! Miraculously he escaped his 'close inspection' of my car and resulting tumble with only a few minor cuts and bangs, the worst of which appeared to be to the front of his hip. I didn't take a photo, sorry!

My next question was....Is your bike OK?

Anyone who cycles knows how important this question is, and is rightly only second to questions regarding serious injury. Amazingly the bike also appeared to have suffered only minor scratches and was in full working order.


It was only at this point that I turned towards my car. I knew the wing-mirror was busted open (it's one of those movable/heating up electric jobbies that would not be cheap to replace). Indeed, initial inspections did not look to good and my roadside attempt to put it back together failed miserably. It was only a minute or so later that I noticed the big gouged scratch down the drivers door that only ended on the rear drivers door.


It really was only once we were 100% certain that the cyclist was OK that this became an issue.

I'm really sorry mate, it was entirely my fault. I'll be honest with you, I was day-dreaming as I was coming down the hill fast and I wasn't paying enough attention. I'll cover any damage to the car.


Now if I'm honest, I wasn't surprised because 'I felt I was at fault'. I didn't think I was. Going 15mph up this hill was a reasonable and considering the size of the car, it's hard to miss (so it would seem...). However, we were out in the middle of nowhere, my only witnesses were my kids (9 and 7), and I just assumed that because of this, I was going to have to take the hit (pardon the pun).

Not at all. The cyclist was a complete gentleman. He owned up to fault, was happy to give me his details, and suggested he would cover all the repair costs. I was shocked by his honesty. I really shouldn't have been shocked, but having dealt with many other road users over the years who have...well...denied any wrong doing.....I was shocked.

Of course in my fluster I couldn't find a pen, and having broken my mobile phone a few days before, I didn't have a phone to take any details down. He didn't have a phone on him either. So, he told me who he was, where he worked and....we parted ways.

I took the boys on to the cycling, but I didn't do it myself that day. I wanted to get the car home, have a proper look at it, and call my insurance. Oh and that gave me a chance to check if I could find the cyclists details. I was honestly keen to find out if he made it back OK. So I dropped the boys off at cycling (they were OK now...) and took the car home.

Turned out the mirror could be clicked back together and worked fine. It had a couple of extra scratches, but otherwise it was fine. The was a bit of a mess.. The chaps details turned out to be 100% legitimate. In fact the photo of him on his works website confirmed that!

The call to the insurance was interesting. They listened and 'ummed and ahhed' and then told me that in 9 out of 10 cases it would go down as a 'at fault claim'.....unless the cyclist fully admitted fault.

He did admit fault.

Once I got in contact with the cyclist (who was, thank goodness, fine!) he contacted my insurance company, admitted fault and he offered to pay for the damage directly with me. A few quotes later (ranging from very expensive to downright reasonable), and the bodywork damage was gone and fully paid for.

Bloody cyclists!

Well actually, thank goodness there was no, bloody at all. The chap was incredibly reasonable throughout and I hope that in the new year, we might arrange a ride together, where I will be buying the cake! If we do I will of course blog about it!

2014 has certainly been a interesting year for me. Having never been in a road accident before with another road user, I was first knocked off my bike (and the driver there was incredibly reasonable about it all), and then I was collision with a cyclist whilst driving my car (this time the cyclist was incredibly reasonable)!


In both cases everyone was very reasonable about it, no-one was badly hurt, and all the damage was fully paid for.


I have no doubt that some reading this will be saying....

Ah that bl**dy he was at fault.....he never makes mistakes does he......blah, blah, blah...

Yes, I do make mistakes and I certainly have. I've been lucky that they haven't resulted in anyone else getting hurt or anything else getting damaged. If though, that time comes, I  hope that I approach the situation as well as both the other driver and the cyclist did.

For all the idiots out there on the roads, and there are plenty, we must remember there are some genuinely good souls as well. So thank you Mr Driver and Cyclist for helping to restore my faith in 'Road User Kind'.

I hope that 2015 will be completely accident free not only for me, but for all my readers, whether you agree with what I do and say, or not. So I wish you all a happy, prosperous and safe New Year when it comes, and I hope that perhaps 2015 will be the year when we start making all of our roads people friendly.


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A Wee Boost

Was I not just saying that I had had a wee crisis of faith? Well, I'm well on the road to regaining my campaigning mojo and yesterday I received a extra wee boost.

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you, this blog has indeed been nominated for the Trespass cycling blog of the year contest, thingy. Yes, yes, I know that I just blether on about stuff I'm angry/frustrated/infuriated about and so how could I possibly be considered for an award. To be honest I look at the other blogs in the list and they are, well.....umm...err, better presented, better written (yes this is typo heaven) and probably a whole lot more coherent, not to mention happier!

I have my suspicions how this happened....... someone at Trespass perhaps had had a few too many vinos one night. They were looking for entertainment videos on YouTube and stumbled on one of my videos. They wondered, who is this shouty clown?... and followed a link to my blog. At the same time they had a second browser window open, one that pointed to their latest project selecting good blogs. Whilst reading my blog they read something outrageous that I had written (or perhaps if they are a stickler for grammar they noticed one of my glaring mistakes...) and in a fit of outrage hit the keyboard. Unbeknownst (think that's the first time I've ever actually used that word in anger) to them, they had accidentally hit the add button on the work browser and I am.

They may yet correct the mistake....

Anyway, ignoring all of that, it's still nice to be part of the list. Will I win? Hmm, I suspect not. However, being one to take on difficult challenges (and helping make Scotland become a cycle friendly nation is one hell of a challenge!) I've decided that I will aim for....not being last.

Reach for the stars!!!

If you enjoy my blog, be you supporter or hater (mind you, as a hater I suspect you will vote for every other blog) or if you generally have some sympathy for underdogs, then pop along to the voting site, click on the cycling blog bit and put a wee tick next to Magnatom.

Thank you!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Losing and Regaining Faith

It's been a while, hasn't it?

What you haven't noticed!?

Yes, its been just over a month since I last posted a blog and even then, that blog was not my own words, but the words of Frank MacAveety. It's not like me to stop posting blogs, I normally have plenty to say, and if I'm honest, I haven't actually ran out of things to say.

So why the silence?

Good question. I certainly have been busy over the last month. There are things going on at work that are keeping me busy, I've been busy spending time and doing stuff with my wife and kids, I've had bits and pieces on my bikes that have needed fixed, I've had to look for tiles for a new bathroom....blah, blah blah...

Yes, I've been busy and I've managed to find many excuses for not writing. Each time I considered writing something I had an excuse not to.....or so I thought.

It's was only now, with things quieting down a little bit as the year draws to a close, that I realised that even when I had time in an evening to put down some words, I wasn't. I started to wonder more deeply why that was. Then a couple of days ago I realised what had happened.

I'd lost faith.

Anyone who has read my blog over the years will know I'm not the quiet and unassuming type. In fact my blogs can often come across as angry/passionate/frustrated and perhaps a little shouty. This style of writing/campaigning doesn't though, actually reflect my personal attitude to life and to cycle campaigning.

To be a cycle campaigner you have to be optimistic. 

I am at heart an optimistic person, and that is exactly why I got involved in campaigning. I got involved because I saw a problem, I realised there was a solution and.....and this is the important part....I felt that with the right amount of pressure things could change. I believed that logic, sense, and ethics would win the day, and that the government and councils would see fit to invest in active travel.

Now, don't get me wrong, I wasn't wearing rose tinted specs, and I knew that change took time, but I felt that progress, even if slow could be made.

Unfortunately a few things happened recently that shook my faith. It felt that things were moving backwards rather than forwards.

The first was my discussions with my local MSP. I laid a case before her, backed it up with hard facts and figures and asked that she take this information to he superiors. It was dismissed outright. When I questioned this, I was dismissed once again, this time in one line. I certainly didn't and don't take these things personally, and that was not the issue. The issue was that this particular MSP has in the past suggested that she was cycling friendly, and had even become a member of the All Party Cycling Group in Holyrood.

She has never attended any of those meetings.

How could she get away with such dismissals? Well, she is an SNP MSP, and the SNP are now riding on the crest of the 'post independence vote' wave. What does she have to fear from some irritating local cyclist?! Seriously!?!?

Then I got this letter from Frank which was a follow on from the Cycle Friendly Glasgow Petition and from the resulting meeting. It's a letter that says, well, it says......hmmm....nothing really. It says, yeah we get it, cycling's good 'n stuff, and yeah we should be doing more.....and we will think about that and we might consider doing stuff and some later date...perhaps...maybe.....but it was good to meet you, really it was.

It was....bleh.

Unfortunately.....bleh.... was the last thing that we needed after the meeting I had had with them. At that meeting it was stated that Glasgow would not set aside any money to invest in active travel, that it was impossible, and that ....and this is what Alistair Watson actually said.....

'we will not be setting aside money for cycling whilst I am here'.

This was the same meeting where the cycling officers admitted that they couldn't plan ahead properly or run consultations because there was no funding, and thus no ongoing planning for future projects. They did stuff piecemeal and in reaction to small pots of cash becoming available. Cycling infrastructure had to be planned and implemented in a rush.

But!!!! Glasgow has spent more on cycling than Edinburgh....said Frank!

Ohh....pi$$ off!!

Glasgow really could look like this!

The truth is that Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games. Glasgow should have been shoveling in huge amounts of investment in the health and well-being of its citizens as part of the 'legacy'. The truth is for a couple of years it beat Edinburgh, a bit....oh and big chuck of the money spent wasn't even Glasgow's money at all. Don't get me wrong, in the odd place here and there Glasgow is improving things but there is no coherent plan, there is no commitment to ongoing funding, and there no political will to bring about change.

Glasgow shouldn't be extolling its virtues, it should be embarrassed!

The camels back was finally broken by the straw....or something like that....

I didn't realise it but having fought these two battles and to a great extent lost them, I felt deflated and defeated. Sure I wasn't expecting an instant agreement for 5% transport budget spending, but in both cases to make no progress at all and to feel like things were moving backwards......what was the point?!

I'd lost faith.

I'm back though, did I have an epiphany?!

Not really. Just like progress in cycle campaigning, my faith in a Glasgow and Scotland that can be cycling friendly has returned, slowly. I wish there had been some wonderful moment, perhaps cycling to work, seeing a mother and her children cycling happily to school, demonstrating that there is demand for safe cycling, rekindled my fire......but that didn't happen. Not many mothers cycle with their kids to school in Glasgow and I don't blame them.

No. I think just letting the frustration wash over me for a wee while has just allowed my energy levels to rise again. I think I've just come to terms with quite how big the mountain is to climb and how much work.....and that is combined work with many other like mind campaigners... it will take to move forward.

I'm just one of many people working towards better conditions for cycling and walking, but we do need more people and more noise to be made. I have some ideas about things that can be done, and I'll keep pushing in any way I can, but I need your help to.

If you have something to say, write a blog. If you want safer cycling, tell your MSP. If you think roads should be for all, and not just those in a car, tell your councillors. Most importantly of all, follow, spread the word and come along to Pedal on Parliament 2015.

My loss of faith was only a temporary blip. I feel reinvigorated by it. I am more determined than ever to do whatever I can to push for change, and if you join us, we CAN make it happen.