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
Read more of the Peeky Rider's nutrition
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
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?
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
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
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
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
blog in the Guardian cites studies which suggest that my
anecdotes are backed up by research.
A Californian study was reported
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
The Think! safety campaign and passing
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
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
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
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' -
'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
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.
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
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
But you've got to start somewhere, you can't have a complete
network instantly. And with luck, the path will be extended soon!
(*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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
Increasing success of cycle to work scheme
11th September 2013
The number of employees taking advantage of the 'cycle to work'
scheme is up 22.5% in the last year, reported
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%.
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