Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Cycle path

    As a winter reluctant to leave us has turned into spring, I've been getting to know my new bike. I can now do the twenty miles or so from our flat to my parents place in an hour and 45 minutes, which I consider to be a reasonable performance.
    It's been interesting, returning to cycling after a few years away. I used to ride to work, back when I worked at the opposite corner of my town.
    There are more cycle lanes, for one thing. Some of them are rather good, others are the usual array of pointless road markings whose only purpose is to help the council reach their sustainability target. I find I can use the good ones and minor roads to the extent that the whole twenty mile ride has only a few hundred yards shared with heavy traffic.
    I can't say I'm impressed with my fellow riders though. I guess I've ridden a couple of hundred miles or so over the last few weeks, and I've quickly learned that the greatest hazard comes no longer from the motorists but from other cyclists. I guess as a motorcyclist I take care with observation as I ride, as far as I can see many others exist in a little bubble of their own and express shock and surprise when the lane they decide to veer across has someone on a Brompton bearing down on them.
    As a commuter I never encountered another class of cyclist, the Cycling Enthusiast. But as a weekend long distance rider I meet them on every ride. They enjoy being contemptuous as they pass, after all I am on a folding bike and I'm not wearing funny coloured Lycra. And it seems neither do I insist on being a roadblock in heavy traffic alongside one of the best cycle paths in the county, all wide and straight and flat. Do these people ever wonder why some motorists dislike them?
    My ride takes me alongside a trunk road on a cycle path, then through minor roads and a neighbouring town. I'm used to the minor roads where I grew up, away from traffic and population, so I've been surprised just how much waste lines these roads. An afternoon's litter picking could probably yield a decent non-ferrous scrap haul, such are the numbers of drinks cans on the verges. And old tyres, there's the effect of a bit of misguided environmental legislation. In the UK it costs a few quid to dispose of a tyre, it's a so-called "green" tax. The result is that minor roads around centres of population seem almost to be lined with them, nestling in the leaves at the bottom of the ditches, dumped by people for whom a few quid seems like too much. In some places the council has put up signs warning of CCTV surveliance, wasted money as far as I can see.
    I'm happy to see that the tyres and litter haven't bothered the wildlife though. A very surprised fox didn't see me coming, he was probably waiting for some of the pheasants or rabbits that are everywhere at the moment. Otherwise there are spring flowers aplenty, I pass blackthorn blossom, cowslips and violets, and those are just the ones I've noticed from a ten mile per hour viewpoint.
    So I've fit back into being a cyclist quite easily. My legs feel stronger and I hope the exercise is helping with my weight. I can't say it's an efficient way to travel twenty miles, but I guess that's not really the point, is it.


  1. I tried riding on Oxford half a lifetime ago whizzing in from Whitney and clearly surprised most folk on bikes by zooming past at there or four times their speed always wondering if they were going to veer into my path without looking...

    These days I doubt that I could keep up with you!

    BTW is your email working?

  2. I am convinced I am a better driver since I started riding a motorbike, and a better driver and rider since I started driving vans and trucks, however I have never been able to feel safe on a push bike ~ maybe it is just a factor of living in London.

    The cost of tyre disposal is not about being a "Green Tax" end of life tyres are a major environmental problem and are no longer allowed in landfill without treatment, this treatment means as a minimum the striping out of all the steel wire and crumbing the rubber. Sometimes the crumb can be used as fuel for cement Kilns and the like, whole tyres can be used alongside race tracks and docks but there are so many tyres that need disposal and the costs of disposal are higher than the value of the recoverable materials. Add to that the cost of licensing to carry, treat or store waste and there is a reasonable, but substantial cost, retailers have chosen to pass that cost on too the customer as a separate charge, even though in fact it is part of the cost of replacement.
    Because there is a cost to disposal there is an added attraction to unscrupulous traders in dumping. Although there may not be an apparent impact on the wildlife tyres are a genuine bio-hazard and this is a major problem.

  3. Please don't begrudge other cyclists it's unbecoming. They may have different priorities to you but are still cyclists putting bums on seats. For someone with good knowledge of other oppressed minority groups I would have thought you'd have been more understanding.

    As one of those that you've admonished for not using cycle-structure I'll take a moment if you'll listen to explain why I often don't use such.

    I consider myself a long distance rider, 20 miles to me is a short one hour training ride. This wasn't always the case, I started where you are and very much enjoyed my time on the bike. I fondly remember the achievement I felt riding 30 miles using the tow paths of the Lee Valley.

    Now though, long distance to me is upwards of 100 miles. To be able to complete such distances in a timely fashion a strong pace must be maintained. Often cycle-structure is not conductive to such riding especially with it's recommended speed limit of 15mph and no faster than 18mph. When the path is wide it is also often shared use thus increasing the danger element and requiring even slower riding around pedestrians and their animals/children to ensure safety for all.

    Personally I don't feel segregation is the right way for the UK. If it's an encouragement to those less willing to cycle on the road why not just legalise riding on the pavement? Segregating doesn't lead to an increase in driver/rider experience so they're likely less able to negotiate road infrastructure safely together when no cycle-structure is available. For the record I'd not oppose such infrastructure but I do grumble about it as it often narrows the roadways. Segregation is the solution to a cause but what I feel needs to be addressed is the cause rather than separating the groups. Reduced speed limits? Better driver training? Less urgancy and more understanding from vehicle users?

    Finally, I understand what you mean about other cyclists that don't acknowledge you. I presume they don't have the time and that they are on a training ride as often they are wearing team kits. Personally I nod, wave and greet each and every cyclist I come across even the kids riding on the pavement with their kickbikes. I am often the one that initiates such a greeting though.

    Anyway, keep up the cycling. As you lose weight and gain fitness you'll gradually seek kit that will enable you to be comfortable over larger distances and before you know it you'll be wearing lycra heading out mid winter to ride 60 miles just for the cake and camaraderie.

    Abs x

  4. I'm not sure where to begin with this last comment, I am afraid I have huge problems on so many levels with the description of cyclists as an oppressed minority group.

    We cyclists are overwhelmingly from extremely privileged groups, well-off enough to afford very expensive cycling equipment. We are articulate and loud-voiced, we have a well-oiled political lobby and we benefit from huge government investment. We have an inflated sense of entitlement and and a sense of victimhood unwarranted by our experience.

    We happen to take part by our own choice in an activity that is dangerous. We do so with almost no training, very few of us take appropriate safety precautions, we carry no insurance and pay nothing towards our infrastructure other than what everyone pays through general taxation. And yet all our misfortunes are somehow everyone else's fault?

    As well as being a cyclist, I am also a motorcyclist. Another dangerous activity. To become a motorcyclist I had to take a lot of training, pay a lot of tax and insurance, and have safety kit that cost more than my bike. Maybe it is that experience talking, but I do not consider myself a member of an oppressed minority merely because I choose to do something that involves mild danger by cycling.

    I appreciate that this comment will not be received well. But please, before you prepare your blistering retort, take a moment to think of some real oppressed minorities, and whether they might swap their experience for that of being a British cyclist.

    1. Fair enough point about minorities and an admittedly poor choice of words on my behalf. Vilified would have been more appropriate. As to the rest of your reply I can see that you are foremost a motorist and not a cyclist. I do not wish to retort in a blistering manner as doing so is never valuable but if you'd care to read then I'd like to address four of your points; danger, training, tax and insurance.

      Cycling isn't dangerous. Motorcycling is only dangerous through the speeds that can be achieved. If either are left to their own devices unmollested by other road users then the only danger is our speed when interacting with startled colourful wildfoul and slow moving fluffy white sheep. Danger comes from our interactions with other road users and oft our accidents are caused by others lack of vision or poor judgment of our speed.

      As you state cyclists are often from other priviliged groups. These groups are the very same groups that have often been through the same training as yourself and I and also drive their own vehicles. In your original post you bemoan cyclists that swerve as you pass but as a trained motorist you should be aware that when passing any other road user 1.5m/3ft should be the passing distance. As a trained motorist you should also be aware that the duty of care during an overtaking manouver belongs to the person overtaking. Yes there are cyclists that ride poorly on the road but there are also plenty of fully trained woeful drivers as well. Personally I'd love to see the return of cycle training in schools country-wide but currently such training is at the behest of individual schools not the authorities.

      Our road infrastructures are paid for by each and every tax payer and not by the tax on your bike/car. Road Tax doesn't exists and hasn't existed since 1937. Any tax you pay is on your vehicle not on your road use. This trope has been utterly done to death. If you care to know more visit http://ipayroadtax.com/

      With regards insurance you'll find that many if not all of the serious cyclists, road and touring alike have insurance through membership with British Cycling and or the CTC. Some often also have their own comprehensive insurance as I used to. Now I agree that your average weaving cycling commuter isn't likely to be insured but it seemed that your ire was directed at the "Cycling Enthusiast" as you put it.

      It was your declaring yourself a cyclist whilst effectively stating "bloody tax dodging road hogs" that prompted my initial response. I hope that you are not disgruntled by my reply as I'm not the wordsmith that you are and my intention was to be informative rather than confrontational. I follow your blog due to the eloquence you've had with trans issues but as you can see cycling is also one of my passions.

      All the best,