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The Hedge-blog has news and opinion on all sorts of matters cycling-related. 

5 thoughts on the N-S Cycle Superhighway

A Santander bike hire station near King's Cross

I visited London on a work trip in November, and it was the opportunity to test out the North-South Cycle Superhighway (CS6). My impressions are necessarily superficial - those of a two-journey Big Smoke bicyclist, not a local. Read my 5 thoughts on CS6, and the experience of cycling in London.

Dear Andrew Jones, cycling minister

28th September 2016

Andrew Jones MP opening a road

Andrew Jones MP opening a road, by Highways England, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

An open letter to Andrew Jones, MP for Harrogate & Knaresborough, and minister in the DfT with responsibility for cycling. Two months in, and we have a 'head in hands' moment. Anyone who rides a bike and has seen your crass and offensive 'cyclists hang back' video will be dismayed. It's unclear about the story it's telling, makes a joke out of violence, gives highly dubious advice, encourages bullying of vulnerable road users, and alienates cyclists instead of persuading them. Read an open letter to Andrew Jones, cycling minister.

Overheard on the Nidderdale Greenway

25th July 2016

View from the Nidd Viaduct

'Oh my God, this is the best place ever,' I overheard on the Nidderdale Greenway. 'I really want to come down here with my camera.' There is something special about the view from the Nidd Viaduct, and the fact that a younger generation appreciates it too is encouraging. Read about overheard on the Nidderdale Greenway.

5 thoughts on riding in hot weather

20th July 2016

Road across Dallow Moor

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far. It was more than 30 degrees celcius in North Yorkshire, which can't be right. I went for a bike ride, thinking I'd get a breeze, and everything would be fine. I did get a breeze, but the abnormally hot weather made a difference in various ways. Read my 5 thoughts on riding in hot weather.

Gerra bell - an encounter on the Nidderdale Greenway

10th July 2016

Shared path sign on Nidderdale Greenway

I was out for a Sunday morning ride, and when passing a dog-walker, apparently in a civilised and amicable fashion, he growled 'gerra bell' at me, even though I had a bell and I'd used it. What lessons can be learned from this encounter (or are there no useful conclusions which can be drawn)? Read about gerra bell - an encounter on the Nidderdale Greenway.

Cycling Embassy of Great Britain's design principles

14th March 2016

Spanish cycle infrastructure

The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain published draft design principles for mass cycling last month. They suggest categorising roads as 'through', 'distributor', or 'access', and providing for cycling according to the road category. Read more about the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain's design principles...

Inconsiderate driving and abuse on a residential street

18th September 2015

I experienced impatient, inconsiderate driving, and abuse, on a residential street in Harrogate today, from the driver of Mitsubishi Warrior YG55ZVN. I wondered if there's anything that can be done to make the streets where we live less dominated by vehicles. Read about inconsiderate driving and abuse...

How to choose a bike multi-tool

8th September 2015

Crank Brothers gold multi-tool

What is a multi-tool needed for? What tools should it have? How much should it weigh? Which are the best multi-tools? Read what we think, and add your own ideas, in how to choose a bike multi-tool...

Hedge-blog: Londoners waste 96 hours a year in traffic

25th August 2015

Queueing traffic in London

Londoners wasted an average of 96 hours stuck in traffic in 2014, making our capital city the European Congestion Champion. 96 hours is 4 days! The Hedge-blog wonders, what else could you do with 96 hours if you didn't spend them in a jam? Read Londoners waste 96 hours a year in traffic...

Hedge-blog: anti-cycling letter to Yorkshire Post

23rd August 2015

The Yorkshire Post today published an anti-cycling letter, calling for amateur cycle races to be banned from public roads, but with a litany of more general complaints about road cyclists. Read more about anti-cycling letter to the Yorkshire Post...

Which are the best chain cleaner kits?

18th August 2015

LifeLine chain cleaning kit

I've always cleaned my bike chain with bike cleaner and a brush, but I wondered whether I should use a chain cleaner kit with a special chain cleaning device. What kits are available, how much are they, and what do people think of them? Read which are the best chain cleaner kits?

Mercedes driver shaving at the wheel - I wasn't impressed, and I didn't buy the company

16th August 2015

I've seen plenty of people messing around with their phones at the traffic lights or while driving along, but this was a new one on me: the driver of a silver compact Mercedes shaving his chin with an electric shaver at the traffic lights. I wasn't impressed and I didn't buy the company...

Hedge-blog: 5 Live Daily cycling debate with Carlton Reid & Mr Loophole

10th August 2015

Adrian Chiles hosted a debate on cycling on this morning's 5 Live Daily, following the 'clown takes a pratfall' video. Carlton Reid and Mr Loophole were the invited guests. How did it go? I listened, so that you don't have to! Read about 5 Live Daily cycling debate with Carlton Reid and Mr Loophole...

Hedge-blog: Northern Rail's bike policy

9th August 2015

Steam train

Northern Rail only take two bikes per train, or none at all if the conductor decides the train is too busy. That means it's impossible to plan to take your bike on a train. Is this reasonable? How does their policy compare with other train companies? Read about Northern Rail's bike policy...

Hedge-blog: broken spokes and what to do about them

8th August 2015

Spoke wrench

As I was absorbed in a bike ride in the countryside, the 'ping' of a spoke broke my flow. A front wheel spoke had broken. Why do spokes break, what should you do on the roadside, and how do you replace a broken spoke if you decide to do it yourself? Read about broken spokes and what to do about them...

Hedge-blog: driver attitudes in Utrecht and Harrogate

31st July 2015

Cyclist in Utrecht

I recently cycled in Utrecht, then this week, in Harrogate town centre between 5 and 6pm. The difference in driver attitudes was striking, with Harrogate's drivers in 'warrior' mode, and determined to get past immediately, regardless of safety and the Highway Code. Read more about driver attitudes in Utrecht and Harrogate...

Hedge-blog: painted 'no cycling' signs on the Stray

22nd July 2015

No cycling sign painted on path across Stray, Harrogate

The timing was unfortunate. It was almost exactly a year after the Tour de France in Harrogate that the council painted huge 'no cycling' signs onto paths across the Stray. Why did they do it? Read about the painted 'no cycling' signs on the Stray...

The case for recreational cycling in Harrogate

1st July 2015

The cycling statistics released by the DfT last month show that Harrogate has the seventh highest rate of recreational cycling in England. Although nearly all political debate in the last few years has been focused on 'hardworking people' making money, that's not all there is to life. It is also valid to have a nice time with recreational cycling in Harrogate...

Cycling Ambition Downfall video

25th June 2015

As a rule, Hitler should be left out of modern political debate. However, there are exceptions, and Cycling Joe's Cycling Ambition Downfall video is one. It recruits a Hitler rant from the film Downfall for a funny take on the problems with Cycle City Ambition...

Does the cycling delivery plan deserve its name?

18th October 2014

The government published its draft cycling delivery plan at the end of last week. It's supposedly a 10 year plan for cycling in England, but it contains virtually no details of actions to be taken, and no funding commitments. It also mis-analyses the dangers putting people off cycling. Read the Hedge-blog on the government's cycling delivery plan...

How to drive considerately around cyclists

15th September 2014

Parked cars

When cycling, I've rarely if ever thought that a driver was deliberately putting me in danger. And yet, every time I go cycling, I do experience intimidating or dangerous driving behaviour. So do lots of people just not know how to drive around cyclists? These are my suggestions for how to drive considerately around cyclists...

Vuelta coverage: will we miss Phil & Paul?

23rd August 2014

The Phil & Paul double-act will be absent from ITV's coverage of the 2014 Vuelta, starting today. For anyone who will miss them, we have some of their 'highlights' from the Tour de France. Read about will we miss Phil & Paul at the Vuelta...

Memories of the Tour de France in Yorkshire

19th July 2014

Tour de France riders arrive at Harewood

In the build up to the Tour de France in Yorkshire, there was a lot to plan and write about, and little time to pause and reflect. The weekend itself involved busy days cycling to watch the action, and evenings with friends talking about what happened over good food and beer. A couple of weeks later seems as good a time as any to look back and ask, what impressions did the Tour de France in Yorkshire leave?

Cyclist passing distance signs

18th July 2014

Cyclist passing distance sign

The French have a road sign which asks drivers to give a specific amount of space when passing cyclists. The one in the photo above is in the countryside, and the passing distance is 1m50. The distance in towns, where the speed of vehicles is lower, is 1m. Could we adopt a British version of this sign? Read more about cyclist passing distance signs...

Is there any substance to Cycle Yorkshire's Tour legacy?

13th July 2014

Now the Tour has been and gone, it's time for the Yorkshire cycling legacy we were promised. A key part of Cycle Yorkshire's plan was founded on local authorities' cycling strategies, which Cycle Yorkshire said had been created. So far, though, I've been unable to find out which local authorities are involved, or where I can read their strategies. That's what makes me ask, is there any substance to Cycle Yorkshire's Tour legacy?

Bike maintenance course

12th July 2014

Bike maintenance course, Dalby Forest

I went on a beginners' bike maintenance course at the end of June, advertised by Welcome to Yorkshire as part of the Tour legacy, and run by CTC. I learnt a lot in a day, and got my hands dirty. We began with a challenge to draw and name all the essential parts of a bike. Read more about the bike maintenance course...

Chris Froome and his TUE

1st July 2014

Interviewed by Paul Kimmage in the Irish Independent, Chris Froome discussed a number of topics. The Hedge-blog picks up the issue of Froome's Therapeutic Use Exemption, granted during the Tour of Romandy. Team Sky had said they wouldn't apply for TUEs, so did the policy change? Read more on Froome's TUE...

Cashing in on the Tour de France

15th June 2014

What are the worst deals available to cycling fans during the Tour de France? Or at least offers that, at first glance, look expensive. The Hedge-blog looks at a trike tour, cafe, merchandise, and more in cashing in on the Tour de France...

BeSpoke interview Michael Hutchinson

12th May 2014

In the April edition of BBC Radio 5's monthly cycling magazine show, BeSpoke, presenter OJ Borg visited the University of Brighton to take a test set up by Michael Hutchinson, former national time trial champion. There's an interesting video of Borg being put through his paces here.

Hutchinson has written a book called 'Faster'. He gave BeSpoke some tips for riding faster. They include making your training match the event you're training for (so for example riding uphill if you're training for climbs), eating properly, and having a bike fit done. 

Another tip is that 'aerodynamics is for anyone who rides a bike'. It's worth wearing a tight jersey, getting a more aerodynamic helmet, and using an improved bike position, as this can make a difference of 1 or 2mph.

Ticket prices for the Tour Team Presentation

24th April 2014

An article in road.cc yesterday reported on the 'outrageous' prices for the Team Presentation before the Tour de France. Published ticket prices are from £45 to £85. Most commenters below the line of the article thought these prices were too high.

However, it turns out that the prices are not the prices. When you actually buy tickets, more money is added on, justified as a 'booking fee'. They even charge you to post the tickets to you. Are these Ryanair-style hidden extras justified? The Hedge-blog debates hidden extras on the Team Presentation ticket prices...

Contemplating cyclists' deaths below the line

22nd April 2014

Too often, under cycling articles in non-specialist publications, there are comments by anti-cycling trolls, which the follow this formula: 'if you don't do x [wear hi-viz/helmet/get off the road], you'll end up dead, and you'll deserve it.' These comments are not specific death-threats, but they go too far. They are not made out of concern, they are a form of bullying. They're usually not deleted, so apparently they're not against the publications' guidelines. Is it time the guidelines were changed? Read the Hedge-blog on contemplating death to cyclists below the line...

Is a cyclist without a bike still a cyclist?

19th April 2014

Train

As we report today in Tour de France news, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) is asking people not to take bikes on busy trains during the Tour de France. This is unfortunate, to say the least. The roads are going to be busy enough without discouraging people from going by train, and cycling will often be the best way to get to a good viewing point. Besides, asking 'cyclists' not to take their bikes raises an existential question. Read HedgehogCycling's thoughts on bikes on trains during the Tour...

Real and perceived dangers of cycling

6th April 2014

Why are our politicians so keen to talk about the perceived dangers of cycling, not the real ones? Could it be that it gets them off the hook? If most of the danger is perceived, not real, then it's the fault of the stupid cyclists, who don't understand, not the clever politicians, who have much more insight. Perceived dangers don't cost money to fix, whereas bad road design does. Is it time we told the politicians to stop trying to pull the wool over our eyes? Read the Hedge-blog on real and perceived dangers of cycling...

Spring, Lennon, laminate flooring, and Cav

16th March 2014

There's something about spring that for me brings a certain poignancy, a feeling of aching melancholia, one that many feel when confronted with the fragility of life, the transience of beauty - like a rose pressed between the pages of time, or the latest series of Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. Perhaps it was the drawing out of the night, the appearance of Wordsworth's Daffodils. For a pound a bunch. In Tescos.

Read more of the Peeky Rider's spring, Lennon, laminate flooring, and Cav post...

Southampton's bad cycle infrastructure design

1st March 2014

Southampton has produced a spectacularly bad piece of cycle infrastructure at a redesigned junction. They have made a video to explain how cyclists should turn right! They claim it is Dutch-style, which it almost certainly is not. Read more about Southampton's spectacularly bad cycle infrastructure design...

British Cycling's Time to Choose Cycling manifesto

15th February 2014

As HedgehogCycling reported a few days ago, British Cycling has launched a 10-point manifesto.

It makes the irrefutable argument, that more cycling will help solve many of Britain's problems - problems such as inactivity-related illnesses, congestion, and pollution.

The ten recommendations won't be new to anyone who takes an interest in cycling - they are well-established campaigning issues. They include making the roads safer, to encourage the 64% of people who are not confident of cycling in traffic to get on a bike. The manifesto calls for cycling spending of £10 per head, rising to £20 per head. It demands improvements to the justice system, to better protect vulnerable road users; and it urges improvements to the Highway Code, with better provisions on leaving sufficient space when overtaking cyclists, and the removal of recommendations to wear hi-viz and helmets.

Was it worth publishing, and will it make any difference? Yes, and probably not straight away. 

I believe it is important for the national cycling body to make a statement of what's needed to make the UK a cycling-friendly place. Even though cyclists have been asking for much of what's in the manifesto for a long time, mainly without success, it is worth making the requests again. 

Nothing has changed in the immediate aftermath of the publication of 'Time to Choose Cycling', which is to be expected. Attitudes in government, at the Highways Agency, and at local authorities around the country, are entrenched. They are overwhelmingly negative to cycling. To most managers in these bodies, cars are serious, bicycles are not. 

These managers are wrong. The arguments in favour of cycling are logical, and impossible to refute. But we have to accept that it's going to be a long battle to achieve change - trench warfare, not a Blitzkrieg.

Robert Goodwill and the 'Lycra mob'

16th January 2014

Cycling minister Robert Goodwill wants to encourage more everyday cyclists. So far so uncontroversial. But in an interview, he went on to rail against cyclists who wear Lycra, and bikes without baskets. Read more about Robert Goodwill and the Lycra mob...

UKIP grumble about Cambridge hosting the Tour de France

11th January 2014

Paul Bullen, a member of UKIP and a Cambridgeshire County Councillor, has been grumbling about a small amount of money allocated to celebrations during the Tour de France 2014.

As we report in our Stage 3 guide, Cambridge is hosting the race without paying the costs. The money needed to stage the Tour de France is coming from central government, local authorities in Yorkshire, and Transport for London - see our article on TDF Hub 2014 Ltd

UKIP's complaint arises from the allocation by Cambs CC of £20,000 from existing budgets, to support activities or events linked to and inspired by cycling or the Tour. Grants are available for activities which 'involve and motivate people to create a lasting and positive legacy' from the Tour, reports Cambridge News.

Mr Bullen is quoted as saying, 'This money could be spent on the frontline, doing what we have to do like looking after the old and vulnerable and young, not on some project we shouldn't be contributing to at all.' One of Mr Bullen's UKIP colleagues suggested that the money should go to the Cromwell museum in Huntingdon, which is faced with closure.

I can see why UKIP hate the Tour de France. It involves France, and the French - boo! And it involves a non-polluting form of transport - boo! (Of course the Tour de France does pollute, with its vehicles and helicopters, but that's another matter).

UKIP are wrong. The Tour de France is a fantastic event. It is a priviledge to host it, and it will bring huge benefits to Cambridge. It will be seen on TV by 3 billion people, which is publicity that you can't buy. Cambridge is perhaps the UK's premier cycling city, so is a perfect host for the race.

Nobody objects to looking after the old and vulnerable, but you could say that about any item of expenditure - on parks, roads, the Mayor's salary. In any case, £20,000 is an insignificant sum, in terms of local authority budgets.

UKIP are a horrible lot, who have narrow-minded, ill-informed views on almost every issue. If they have nothing positive to say about the Tour de France, il faudrait qu' ils se taisent.

Victoria Pendleton on a baking programme - does it amount to sport?

4th January 2014

On 1st January, the Guardian published an article about cyclist Victoria Pendleton's impending appearance on television, making cakes and biscuits. It appeared in the newspaper's sport section (sub-category cycling). 

Ha!

If Alan Titchmarsh gets botox treatment done, is it gardening?

UK Cycling news

Cycle Superhighway, London

Reports on cycling in the UK, including national policy and government actions, and significant developments locally in different parts of the country. Read the UK cycling news.

What should the weekend cyclist choose as fuel? Guest post from the Peeky Rider

14th December 2013

In the process of dropping Jr Rider’s dinner money off at his primary school reception, I couldn’t help but notice the sign on the window “You are welcome to breast feed here”. A short and, I felt, overly terse discussion with the receptionist clarified the situation. You could say she gave me a right mouthful! Though of course she didn’t, not even enough to whiten my Costa. It just goes to show what a fine line it is between what’s advertised as being good for you, and what can result in a hefty fine and a banning order. 

Read more of the Peeky Rider's nutrition post...

County Council's highways report on Penny Pot Lane housing development

14th December 2013

As HedgehogCycling reports in Harrogate cycling news, North Yorkshire County Council produced a report on 5th December 2013, on the traffic and transport issues raised by Persimmon Homes' application to build six hundred houses on land at Penny Pot Lane.

Buses and cycling are covered in a single paragraph, under the heading 'sustainability'. Essentially, the developer will build a route from the site to the Jenny Fields estate, that can be used by buses, cyclists and pedestrians. The report states, 'This will provide connectivity from the site to the town centre.'

The problem is, the Jenny Fields estate is not the town centre, nor is it in the same direction as the town centre. 

Will anyone use the cycle route to Jennyfield? Probably, if they're going somewhere in north Harrogate - the swimming pool perhaps. Probably not, if they're going to the town centre. Cyclists prefer a direct route to a roundabout one, especially when cycling from Jennyfield to the town centre involves a steep hill and a busy junction.

Will anyone take a bus to Jennyfield? Probably, if they're going swimming. But what does the innocuous phrase, 'this will provide connectivity to the town centre' mean? I suppose it means you have to change buses, and get a second one to go into Harrogate.

The report makes me think that the council has put in a section on sustainability because it has to, but it's just going through the motions. From the report, it does not appear that they have considered seriously whether they could put in proper, direct, attractive cycle routes, that people would be happy to use as an alternative to driving.

I suggest that the only form of transport the council takes seriously is the car, and we can expect yet more vehicles clogging up Harrogate's roads, if this development goes ahead.

Yes, the Tour de France is coming to Harrogate in July 2014, but it seems that the talk of a cycling legacy is just talk.

What about putting in a safe, separate, cycle route along Penny Pot Lane and Cornwall Road?

Transport select committee hearing on cycle safety

3rd December 2013

Yesterday the Transport Select Committee held an inquiry into cycle safety, following the recent spate of cyclist deaths in London. Witnesses included a representative of the London Cycling Campaign, and Andrew Gilligan, the London Cycling Commissioner. Read about the Transport Select Committee hearing...

Study on different cyclist outfits and passing distances

2nd December 2013

Ian Walker, famous for cycling wearing a long wig, to look like a woman and see if it had an effect on driver behaviour, has produced a new study. Together with Ian Garrard (who did the cycling this time) and Felicity Jowitt, he tested passing distances on a 26km (each way) commute in Berkshire, using seven different outfits. These outfits were called commute, casual, hiviz, racer, novice, police, and polite.

Read more about the study on passing distances...

Expensive cars and driving psychology

20th November 2013

Range Rover in advanced stop zone

I was crossing the road at the same time as a pretty, young, blonde girl - to the pedestrian refuge in the middle, then to the other side, crossing two lanes of traffic each time. All the drivers stopped and waved us (her) across. When it's just me, this doesn't happen.

I watched an expensive Mercedes glide right into an Advanced Stop Zone reserved for cyclists, and come to a hault at the second line. Typical of a Mercedes driver, I thought. I'd think the same if it was a BMW. When you buy a BMW, I assume that as well as the standard DVLC vehicle registration document, you get a certificate of ownership of the road.

But are these are just my prejudices? There's no data suggesting that drivers are more respectful to women, or that drivers of expensive cars take more liberties with the rules of the road, is there? A recent Headquarters psychology blog in the Guardian cites studies which suggest that my anecdotes are backed up by research.

A Californian study was reported by the New York Times. It looked at driver behaviour at a four-way junction where vehicles were expected to go in turn, and at a pedestrian crossing where drivers were required to allow pedestrians to cross. Over a period of a week, researchers noted which vehicles followed the rules, and which infringed them. They found that eight out of 10 cars did the right thing. Drivers of the lowest value cars (rated one on a scale of 1 to 5 by the researchers) never infringed during the survey; drivers of higher value cars were much more likely to do so. BMW drivers were the worst offenders.

The researchers also found that women were more likely to stop for pedestrians than men, and all drivers were more likely to stop for female pedestrians than for male pedestrians.

Another study reported by Headquarters shows that drivers more readily dehumanise other drivers and pedestrians, in ways they wouldn't if interacting in person. This won't surprise anyone. If two people get in each other's way in a supermarket, usually they both apologise; on the Nidderdale Greenway, cyclists and pedestrians nearly always negotiate their way past each other in a friendly and polite way. Something seems to happen to people when you put them in a metal box. Is it because drivers don't always see the faces of other drivers, or pedestrians? Or is it that when we're in cars, we think we'll be able to drive away, and won't have to explain, or face the consequences, of impolite or aggressive behaviour?

Another interesting aspect of the psychology of driving mentioned in the Headquarters blog is that we tend to drive less carefully and more aggressively when we're alone, rather than with other people in the car. The study cited also shows that aggressive driving is more frequent in men, people under 45, and at rush hour.

London Mayor's idiotic comments following five cyclists' deaths

15th November 2013

A cyclist was killed in London yesterday, taking the total to five in 9 days. This was Boris Johnson's reaction, speaking on LBC radio:

'You cannot blame the victim in these circumstances. But what you can say is that when people make decisions on the road that are very risky - jumping red lights, moving across fast-moving traffic in a way that is completely unexpected and without looking to see what traffic is doing - it's very difficult for traffic engineers to second-guess that.'

There are so many errors of fact and thinking in these statements that it's hard to know where to begin. 

First, if you start by saying you can't blame the victim, then spend the rest of your remarks blaming the victim, that makes you dishonest.

Second, the facts of these five cases will be established by police investigations, and perhaps then by courts in criminal cases or inquests. Johnson will not be the person investigating. He certainly does not have the results of investigations at the moment. It is wrong and outrageous for him to pass judgment - on all five cases in a sweeping statement - because he is not the person qualified to do it, and nobody can do so now in advance of the investigations.

Third, Johnson has form in this area - blaming cyclists for being responsible for their own deaths in 62% of cases, when this was a made up statistic with no basis in fact. Statistically, cyclists are at fault in about 6% of cases. 

Fourth, London's is not the best cycle infrastructure in the world. Many places have much better cycling facilities, particularly the Netherlands. Such infrastructure does make a big difference to cycle safety. To say these accidents are just down to the stupidity of the cyclists is appalling.

Whatever Johnson may be doing for cyclists in London, he needs to stop making such outrageous and offensive remarks. Whether the cause is accidental stupidity, or a calculated attempt to appeal to taxi drivers, this has to stop.

Oi Wiggo! Post from guest blogger the Peeky Rider

6th November 2013

“Oi Wiggo! Slow down!” So bellowed the builder as I hurtled past on the morning commute. Never sure on how to respond to the working class since becoming upper working class, I gave a cheery wave and swore loudly. Its July 2012, Sir Bradley had just become the first Briton to win the Tour de France and with the Olympics just weeks away the sporting imagination of the British Public was captured. Meanwhile, all bases covered I continued on my way, the screen goes wavy and we find ourselves back in the present...

Read more from the Peeky Rider...

Chainsaw but no massacre

5th November 2013

It feels as though there's a lull in the Tour de France build up. There was a lot of excitement in January, when it was announced that Yorkshire's bid had succeeded, and again in October, when we got the full route. The festival of events leading up to the race begins 100 days beforehand, but from now until Christmas seems likely to be quiet.

That's why it was nice to read about the Tour de France wood sculpture being created by Mick Burns on an elm stump in Harrogate at the end of last week. It was something tangible, to keep interest in the race building.

Nevertheless, the Harrogate Advertiser's report this week contained a worrying update: 'Due [to] an injury chainsaw sculptor, Mick Burns was unable to complete the sculpture on Friday as planned, but is due to finish the piece tomorrow.' 

In most professions, if you hear that a practitioner is away ill or injured, you don't worry too much. However big an accountant's calculator, he or she is unlikely to have been crushed by it. An IT worker may have torn part of his hair out, due to Microsoft's latest idiotic update, but it's probably nothing a trip to the barber or toupée shop won't fix. 

A chainsaw operative is a bit different, though, and the vague nature of the Harrogate Advertiser's article did nothing to reassure. So it was a relief to see Mr Burns on Tuesday, with four limbs, and wood sculpture completed.

TDF tree sculpture

The Think! safety campaign and passing distances

26th October 2013

As we report in UK cycling, the Think! cycle safety campaign has been extended from London, to five other English cities. It includes six tips for drivers, and six for cyclists.

The campaign is welcome, particularly the posters which seek to dissipate tensions between 'drivers' and 'cyclists', by pointing out that they are often the same people. The tips are mainly very sensible. But tip 3 for drivers is 'give cyclists space - at least half a car's width. If there isn't space to pass, hold back.'

Impatient drivers squeezing past, not leaving enough space, is probably top of my concerns. But where does 'half a car's width' come from and is it correct?

It doesn't come from the Highway Code. There, the advice is to give 'plenty of room' when overtaking generally, and to give cyclists 'at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car' (Rule 163).

There is guidance on the ideal minimum distance to allow cyclists when overtaking, in the government's Cycle Infrastructure Design. It suggests 1.0m at 20mph, and 1.5m at 30mph. It notes, 'As the speed differential between cyclists and motor traffic increases, greater separation is required.'

How much is half a car's width? A Vauxhall Astra is 1m81 wide, or 2m including the door mirrors. So half a car's width is approximately 1m - about right for 20mph. 

Average traffic speed in London is 18mph. The advice of the Think! campaign is about right, for traffic moving at average speed in London. However, it shouldn't be taken as a good guide for traffic going at 30mph or faster.

TfL probably wanted to keep their tips simple, which is fair enough. Further, their advice is to give at least half a car's width. So the tip is not objectionable in itself, but it is important that this simplification doesn't become accepted as the rule in all circumstances.

Tour de France 2014 - le disgruntlement across the Channel

23rd October 2013

Today has been an exciting day, with the announcement of the full route of the Tour de France 2014 at a press conference in Paris. Nothing could mar such a wonderful day....or almost nothing. 

Anyone unwise enough to read below the line in L' Equipe's articles about the Tour will find that the theme of the majority of comments is rancour at the fact that the Tour is starting outside France. This selection gives a flavour of the debate:

'Soon it will be called 'Le Tour d' Europe' - lagone35

'With the suspicions that there are about Froom and his English team, it's completely stupid to make a detour to England. It's as though we were paying homage to them and pledging allegiance' - Magiq.OM

'It's time to stop with the nationalist complaints... le Tour is opening up to other countries, in the same way that France is...at least for those of us who are more evolved...' - Aurel911

I've put in two negative comments, and one positive, but that's not the ratio - it's overwhelmingly negative.

What are we to make of this?

First, l' Equipe does not necessarily reflect the whole of France. There are more chauvin commenters amongst the male sports fans who make up its readership, than in the nation as a whole. Anyone who has read l' Equipe during the last two Tours, and the 2012 Olympics, already knew that there was a great deal of antipathy amongst the readers of l' Equipe for any British athletes - especially those who have the cheek to do well.

Second, nobody who follows cycling thinks it's 100% free of doping. The problem with the readers of l' Equipe is that their suspicions and accusations are based on nationality, not evidence. This comes from bitterness at the relative lack of success of French riders. As long as there is no evidence at all against Froome, it's wrong to accuse him of cheating. As it happens, my personal opinion is that Dave Brailsford is an honest man, who is sincere when he says that his goal is to run a clean team. 

Third, the reality is that the Tour is probably coming to Britain for financial, not sentimental reasons. There's a big market for sponsors, and huge interest from the British public, who will go out and watch the race. 

Should we worry about those French cycling fans who are disgruntled? No. Most French people will be pleased that the race is coming here. They'll enjoy seeing the race on TV, and some of the 400,000 French people who live and work in London might even go and watch Stage 3 when it reaches the Mall!

Cyclists give way (more than anyone else?)

10th October 2013

There's a nice and fairly new-looking cycle path next to the A59 from High Bridge, Knaresborough, to the edge of Starbeck. It is very welcome, especially as this section is uphill, so that cyclists tend to go slowly, leaving them more vulnerable to traffic. However, in some respects, it could be even better.

You can get a good idea of the status of different road users, by looking at the priority they are accorded. On the A59 cycle path, cyclists are required to give way to vehicles turning across the cycle path three times in a short stretch. The most striking example is shown in the photo below, where priority over cycle path users is given to occasional farm traffic into a field.

A59 cycle way near Knaresborough - priority to tractors  Cycle path by A59 between Knaresborough and Starbeck

A first sight, the way this 'junction' is set out looks ridiculous. In practice, though, there's likely to be very little traffic into and out of the field, so it will be rare that cyclists and farm traffic coincide. Looking at it from the point of view of the owner of the field, they probably need to be able to pause there, in order to open or close the gate when entering or leaving the field with a tractor or other vehicle, which is perfectly reasonable. Whether it was necessary to paint white stop lines for cyclists to enable this to happen, is another matter. I hope that no cyclists would object to a vehicle pausing there to deal with the gate, and I can't imagine any conflict arising. 

A short way further up, cyclists have to give way to traffic turning across the cycle lane, at the entrance, and separate exit a few metres further up, of Harrogate Golf Club. Vehicles don't have priority when turning across a lane of oncoming traffic, but here they do when crossing a cycle path. This appears to show the status of cyclists in the eyes of the council - second class. 

In the Netherlands, cyclists have priority over traffic turning across the cycle path. The Netherlands is the gold standard for cycle infrastructure, and their system works, in encouraging far more journeys by bike - for example, 33% of all journeys in Utrecht. 

For the moment, there are not enough cyclists using this cycle path for it to be a big issue. But it is also part of a Catch 22 situation: there are small numbers of cyclists; therefore, they are given poor facilities; because the facilities are poor, few new cyclists use them. 

Priority over tractors and golf buggies is not the biggest problem with this cycle path. Many people are put off cycling because they're afraid of sharing busy roads with cars and lorries. If you want to encourage them to cycle, you've got to provide a complete cycle network. This path by the A59 starts a couple of hundred metres up from High Bridge*, then finishes on the outskirts of Starbeck. It's great for the stretch that it covers, but before it starts, and after it stops, you're back on the road. There's a risk that it will be seen as a bonus by cyclists who are confident enough to brave the traffic, but fail to persuade anyone new to use a bike. 

But you've got to start somewhere, you can't have a complete network instantly. And with luck, the path will be extended soon!

A59 cycle way near Knaresborough

(*It does look as though a start has been made on making the first part of the path, beginning at High Bridge, which would be good).

Cookson elected UCI President

27th September 2013

Brian Cookson today beat incumbent Pat McQuaid in the election for President of the UCI.

What a relief! Mc Quaid had almost no support amongst cycling fans, and didn't even have a proper nomination, yet still the suspicion lingered that he might somehow cling limpet-like to his post, through one wheeze or another. Thankfully, Cookson won by 24 votes to 18, and McQuaid will have to leave his office in Aigle, Switzerland. 

McQuaid had ended up on the wrong side of the doping argument, attacking people who were working towards transparency, in order to defend his own postion. He claimed to have made enormous progress in eliminating doping, but his actions never matched his words. The nadir of his presidency came when he set up a commission to look at doping in cycling, and the UCI's actions, only to disband it again before it could start work - as usual, blaming anyone but himself. There was no replacement for the commission. It's difficult not to conclude that cycling could never move on while McQuaid was in charge.

What now? We can make a fresh start with a new President. Cookson won't be perfect, but he has integrity, and he's starting in the right place, by working with WADA to investigate cycling's doping culture. He has a difficult job, but he deserves the support of everyone who loves cycling.

World Championships Time Trial

25th September 2013

Bradley Wiggins won the silver medal in the men's World Championships time trial in Florence today. His time of 1h 06min 22.74s was 46 seconds behind winner Tony Martin; Wiggins beat Fabian Cancellara by 2 seconds. 

Before the race, Wiggins told BBC television that doing 4, 5, or 6 hours on a bike felt easy, a sign that he was in good shape. He added that, at the time of the interview on the eve of the race, all he wanted to do was sit in his room and be quiet, but 'you gotta deal with all this - all these journos.'

It was a long course - at 57km, longer than the maximum 50km allowed by the UCI regulations. Chris Boardman, commentating on BBC TV, said that it wasn't technical, and was flat, apart from a slight incline after 7km. 

The weather conditions were bright, but not hot and sunny, and not too windy. Viewers could admire the work of Brunelleschi - not a young Italian bike rider, but the architect of the dome of Florence Cathedral - and the buildings of the city and the river Arno. Most of the roads looked good, although it was more difficult to ride on the cobbles near the Duomo.

The BBC coverage was enjoyable, and it was a relief not to have to put up with ITV's idiotic commentator Phil Liggett. 1994 time trial world champion Chris Boardman provided his usual mix of intelligence and insight. We learnt that air resistance accounts for 80% of the work put in by the riders; that the Robbie Fowler nose elastoplasts sported by some riders were unlikely to be much help, as only 1% of air intake is through the nose; and that many of the competitors combining their national kit with helmets from their professional teams, were committing a 'fashion faux pas'.

The last three riders out were, in this order, Wiggins, Cancellara, and Martin. Cancellara was more than 20 seconds ahead of Wiggins at one stage, but Wiggins had timed his ride better, and came in just ahead of Cancellara. Neither of them could match Martin, who retained his world title.

Tour of Britain 2013

23rd September 2013

The Tour of Britain 2013 finished yesterday in London. Was it the best Tour of Britain yet?

Holding a cycling race in mid-September in Britain, you're almost guaranteeing 'mixed' weather. When the Tour began in Scotland on Sunday 15th September, the main ingredients in the mixture were wind and rain. It was a similar meteorological story during Stage 2 in the Lake District, when the riders climbed Honiston Pass (with a 24% gradient in places). Read more on the Tour of Britain 2013...

Nobody likes change

17th September 2013

Nobody likes change - or at least, that's what you'd think if you'd only read The Guardian's interview with Pat McQuaid, the current UCI President. In fact, he's probably the only person in the cycling world who thinks we wouldn't be better off with someone else in charge, but he's proving remarkably tenacious - or hanging on like grim death to his post. We can't thing of anyone else who is quite so impervious to criticism. He might make an interesting case study for a psycho-analyst. Would it be rude to call him the Robert Mugabe of cycling? He doesn't appear to have a valid nomination, but he 's seeking to change the rules, so he can be retrospectively nominated by federations other than his home federation. It'll be decided at the election on 27th September (or several years later in the courts!)

In a change that everyone can applaud, The Times (paywall) reported that bike sales overtook car sales in Spain last year. The Guardian looked into the story, and found that bike sales exceed car sales in all but four (and now three) European countries - Spain, Ireland, Italy, and Belgium being the exceptions. In the UK in 2011, 1.3 million more new bikes were sold than new cars.

Some things never change, and one of those is this: enter a fit Bradley Wiggins in a time trial, and he's hard to beat. That was the case today, when Wiggo beat his nearest rival and teammate Ian Stannard in the 10-mile stage of the Tour of Britain, by 32 seconds. It puts him in the gold jersey by 33 seconds, with a good chance of winning the overall race.

Cycling minister interviewed by Guardian

17th September 2013

The Cycling Minister, Lib Dem Norman Baker, gave a video interview to Peter Walker of The Guardian today.

Walker suggested to the Minister that, while everyone thinks he does a good job, he is fighting a losing battle in a government which is not that interested in cycling. Baker replied that the Prime Minister himself had made a recent announcement on cycling funding, showing commitment at the top of government.

On the Department for Transport response to the Parliamentary  report on cycling, Baker denied that it was disappointing. He said there was no need for a cycling champion.

Perhaps the key moment of the interview came when Mr Baker was asked if he and the government are bold enough, and have the vision, to dramatically improve and increase cycling in the UK. Mr Baker asserted that he and the government do have vision, and have made progress. 'Yes, we've got to go further, we intend to do so,' he said as his closing comment. 

Norman Baker is never very animated. That wouldn't be important if what his words were inspiring, but they are not. He does not appear to have the ambition to make the big changes which would be required to make the UK genuinely cycling-friendly, nor the drive to see the changes through.

Increasing success of cycle to work scheme

11th September 2013

Cycle commuter in Ilkely

The number of employees taking advantage of the 'cycle to work' scheme is up 22.5% in the last year, reported The Express yesterday. 

The figures also showed that in the first six months of 2013, 44,000 people joined the scheme, which can reduce the cost of a new bike by 42%. 

British Cycling and Paralympian Sarah Storey are helping to promote cycling to work tomorrow, Thursday 12th September 2013, which is designated as national Cycle to Work day.

Steve Wright softens anti-cycling stance

11th September 2013

Long-time BBC radio DJ Steve Wright yesterday softened his rhetoric, following recent anti-cycling rants. Whilst this may simply be a reaction to complaints, it is nevertheless welcome.

Wright frequently talks about his car and aeroplane journeys on the Radio 2 afternoon show, Steve Wright in the Afternoon, but generally shows no interest in or understanding of cycling. On at least two occasions in recent months, he has complained at length about the behaviour of cyclists in London. These diatribes were unbalanced, and likely to lead to an increase in angry, impatient drivers putting cyclists in danger. 

Yesterday, following a discussion on the increasing popularity of the government's 'cycle to work' scheme, Wright commented, 'I know we've had a bit of a moan recently about cyclists in London, in particular, but cycling is just a great thing, and I would urge people to cycle as much as they possibly can, 'cos not only is it good for the environment, it's also good for your health. It is, however, quite dangerous,' he continued, 'because it is my experience that us drivers do not respect cyclists as much as we should.'

Portrait bench on the Nidderdale Greenway Nidd viaductRiver Nidd at Limekiln Wood

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