To my surprise my local area (Cowley, Oxford) where I live has implemented a low traffic neighbourhood. It involves putting
Bollards on some roads to block traffic
Implementing bus/taxi gates where the road is still open, but taxi’s, buses and emergency vehicles can pass through. (Also quite a lot of cars ignore the signs.)
A few months ago, the council sent a consultation pack through the post, and then this spring, it was implemented in a wide area of Cowley.
It has made quite a big difference to the volume of traffic on the road where I live. It has fallen quite a lot. There is more traffic on the roads around the LTN because it has cut off many ‘rat runs’ (short cuts).
The case of a cyclist Robert Hazeldean who collided with a pedestrian – whilst she stepped out onto the road whilst looking at her mobile phone has created a lot of media interest – especially with Hazeldean facing a legal bill of up to £100,000
It touches on a few trigger points for modern life.
People distracted by mobile phones.
Litigation culture which encourages people to sue, even if they are wholly or partially to blame. (and penalising those who fail to counter-sue)
Conflict on the roads between different groups – cars, pedestrians and cyclists.
As a cyclist, you might assume if you follow the rules of the road and if a distracted pedestrian steps out in front the law would protect you. But, in this case, the judge ruled that cyclists
“must be prepared at all times for people to behave in unexpected ways.”
Third Party Insurance
The easiest take away from this case, is the desirability for cyclists to get third party insurance. One of the easiest ways is to get it through membership of a cycling organisation like British Cycling or Cycling UK. I used to be covered through British Cycling, but since I am not racing, I have allowed my membership to lapse (though I could have got their commuter license). As a direct result of this case, today I signed up to Cycling UK. £46 a year seems a reasonable investment, and you get to support a cycling advocacy organisation too.
It’s difficult to accurately pass judgement on a case, where you only hear third party snippets. But, I instinctively prefer to side with the cyclist and not the pedestrian distracted by their phone. However, whatever the fairness or justice of the case – it is a reminder that, as road users we need to be careful.
The judge also made the comment
“Even where a motorist or cyclist had the right of way, pedestrians who are established on the road have right of way.”
Over the years of cycling, I have developed the habit of shouting ‘careful!’ at any danger, annoyance or inconsiderate user of the roads. There are a lot worse things to shout out. It gets the point across without being too confrontational. It has become such an ingrained habit, it happens without thinking. On many occasions, it is really important to shout to raise awareness. A bell can be too slow or quiet. But shouting “Careful!” has definitely woken up some drivers, pedestrians or other cyclists who weren’t paying attention. Mostly, it goes down quite well. The other day I was cycling through town, I shouted ‘careful’ at a driver, and she stopped and waved to say thank you. I am always pleasantly surprised when people thank you – rather than shouting back.
It doesn’t always go down perfectly. I was cycling in Headington and a cyclist was cycling the wrong way the road. I had to swerve out into the road to miss him, so I shouted ‘careful’. In response, he very nicely said: “**** off”.
I inwardly said to myself ‘Welcome to Brexit Britain!’ – which kind of made me laugh so I didn’t get too annoyed. It is a funny trait of human nature that when we wrong somebody – we can simultaneously blame them and be angry at them – even though it is our fault. The worst abuse I have received on the roads is from people who have nearly run me over because of their lack of care. I should say this is very rare given the kilometers I have cycled over the past few decades.
I was hoping to make, at least, one race this season – Burrington Combe hill climb promoted by Bristol South is often a favourite pre-national warm up. But, with no progress on the injury front, I mentally called a halt to the season.
In the past several weeks, I have been averaging one or two rides a week. A ride consists of 25 miles to Brill and back, with maybe one half-hearted interval up Brill Hill.
The one thing I’ve learnt from this season is that if you do one interval per week, you find that you get marginally slower and slower. It’s a bit demoralising; in fact, I was rather happy when my Garmin broke. It’s sometimes better to ride without a Garmin reminding you of the laws of nature. I might be able to mend the Garmin if I put my mind to it, but I have no inclination at the moment.
Yet a few days after mentally writing the season off, I was waiting at a traffic light in Oxford by Folly Bridge (with about a five-minute wait) when also patiently waiting in the advanced stop area was – non-other than Angus Fisk – the organiser of the upcoming Oxford University CC hill climb at Wytham Woods. The lights were so long; I managed to find out who won the recent Walbury Hill climb and also learn about a hill climb in a couple of weeks. It is not in the CTT handbook, so I wasn’t aware of it. But, it is an Open hill climb on a private road in Wytham woods (closing date Tues).
If you watch Inspector Morse et al., Wytham woods is a favourite scene for dead bodies to be buried. But not only does it make a good spot for a bit of murder mystery but apparently there is a fairly decent climb – 2.0 km or so at an average of 6% with a few steeper kicks and the odd speed hump thrown in for good measure.
Yesterday, I was riding on a small lane from Bolton Abbey to Burnsall. It’s a fairly idyllic location and, as it was a recovery ride, I was taking it fairly steady. At one point a car came towards me on this narrow stretch and didn’t slow down even a fraction.
On the positive side he didn’t knock me over into the ditch. But, it was passing at speed far too close for comfort or safety. At this point it is all a familiar tail of woe – something most cyclists can relate to. But, a minute later I saw another car in the distance. Firstly, you start to fear a repeat performance, but this car came to a stop. It was quite a generous wait – because I still had a considerable distance to where he was kindly waiting.
In a spirit of mutual good deeds. I got out of the saddle, rocked from side to side and pretended to sprint to where the car was waiting. I may have been pulling a few Tommy Voeckler style gurnings into the bargain. When I got to the car, the driver was literally rolling around with laughter. He was mimicking my shoulder rolling and giving me a big thumbs up. I wish I could have taken a picture of his face, I’ve never seen such a happy motorist. He really thought it was funny that this cyclist was sprinting along to speed up his wait. (I wasn’t going fast at all.)
It just struck me the different attitudes you can meet on the road. For the sake of 3 seconds, the first car refuses to slow down and just ploughs through as if I was an invisible cyclist. The second driver was happy to wait an extra 15 seconds for me to arrive. But, it was the second driver who got so much joy from the whole experience.
Alas I’m back in Oxfordshire. Just as Yorkshire / Calderdale was getting very interesting.
It seems there are no shortage of really hard climbs around West Yorkshire / Calderdale area. I wish I had stayed in Yorkshire for a few more days. Since posting about Trooper Lane – readers have advised of more tempting climbs and routes.
It’s no surprise people choose their cars. It’s safer than cycling or walking (though less than coach or train). But, importantly – it’s much cheaper than the train or bus.
Congestion on the UK roads have been estimated to cost up to £20 billion a year – and that’s before costs of pollution, costs of accidents e.t.c. But, congestion will continue to get worse. The recent temporary decline in car use, is almost certain to be reversed as we see rising population, falling petrol prices, economic recovery and a fall in the relative cost of motoring.
Cycle lanes come in many different forms – the good, the bad, the ugly and sometimes the downright bizarre.
In recent years, the number of cycle paths in the UK have increased substantially. In theory, they have the potential to make cycling safer, more enjoyable and reduce friction between different road users. However, because of the haphazard nature of creating cycle paths, there often seems little continuity in design and implementation. It means we have cycle paths ranging from the good to downright bad and some just silly.
More than anything, we need road planners to be bolder in actually designating more space for cycle paths. We widen roads to make dual carriageways, often all we need is a couple more feet to create a really good cycle path. Also a good cycle path is much more than painting a white line on a pavement and hoping it all works out fine.
Segregated Cycle Paths
This cycle path is separate from the road. It doesn’t conflict with pedestrians and is wide enough for dual way. This is an ideal cycle path for an inner city path. It is the kind of path which would encourage a huge range of new people to start cycling.
Reading a book – the History of Time trialling by Peter Whitfield I was struck by some statistics about the level of road fatalities, during the 1930s and 1940s.
Despite road traffic being only 10% of today’s levels. Road deaths reached nearly 10,000 a year. There were up to 1,000 road fatalities a year of children under 10.
Yet, despite these shocking statistics, there was a widespread acceptance of these deaths. Nearly all road fatalities were put down as ‘accidents’. It is quite a shock to learn that during the Second World War – 50,000 people were killed on British roads (Source: Time, Speed and Truth, P.Whitfield) – This was a greater number of fatalities than the blitz (where 40,000 civilians were killed in air raids)
Cycling can seem an expensive hobby. I am the worst culprit – just look at my product reviews Shimano Dura Ace Di2, AX Lightness saddle (69grams) e.t.c. Whatever branch of cycling you take up, it seems there is no limit to the amount of money you can spend. However, here’s a short reminder that it doesn’t have to be an expensive hobby. It’s quite possible to keep cycling very cheap.
1. Homemade mudguard flap
A cut off bit from a washing up liquid bottle is the perfect size for a mudguard flap. It’s surprising how much a bit of super-glue and reusable plastic ties can do for your bike. This is the old make do and mend philosophy. Don’t just buy something new, try fix and adapt.
2. Make do with one bike
24 hour record holder (541 miles) Andy Wilkinson is a true legend of long distance time-trialling. He deserves more recognition than he gets. How does he do such impressive distances? Well, for a start he only has one bike – a basic steel frame; on this one bike he does his commuting, training and racing. He says that only having one bike enables him to really get to know his bike, perfect his position and enables him to do better races. For those of us who work on the principle that the optimum number of bikes is N+1 – this is truly radical, (but, how much money would I have in the bank if I had followed this advice) It is a reminder that you don’t need to keep buying a new bike in order to do better.
3. Make your bike last
I went through a period of reviewing potential new commuting bikes – shiny single speeds, foldups, hybrid bikes, and lower end road bikes. But, when it came to the crunch, there seemed no point in spending money for only a relative minor improvement. My commuting bike has been going for 15+ years, and shows no sign of age; hopefully, it will last another 15+ years at least. It is true, a carbon fork would give a modicum of more comfort. Perhaps the braking power of disc brakes would improve performance 15% – but do I really need these? No. My commuting bike has already outlasted quite a few cars. When I try to work out the cost per mile of my commuting bike – it is incredibly low. My winter training bike cost £700 and has done (at a very rough estimate) 40,000 miles (0.0175 pence per mile). Is there any cheaper form of transport?
3. Homemade energy drink.
If you want to avoid paying £1.30 for every sachet of energy drink, why not make your own. Get some maltodextrin powder, fructose powder, a touch of salt, some orange juice and you have. Alternatively, you can just use ordinary table sugar. One simple recipe for a homemade energy drink. For 1 litre of energy drink, add:
60-80 grams of sugar
No added sugar cordial
A pinch of salt
topping up with water
4. Avoid the fashion labels
You can spend a fortune on Rapha clothing and the like. It looks good but comparatively expensive.
5. Buy from non-cycling shops
Often the cheapest place to buy cycling undergarments e.t.c is from non-cycling shops. Thermal underwear and wicking layers can be cheaper from clothes shops and other outlets. I got quite a few good thermal layers from Marks & Spencers – they do the job for winter training.
It’s the same with energy bars, often you can get same performance from much cheaper non-branded energy bars. I often go to my local Pound Shop and buy six Fruesli bars or similar (12p per energy bar, and if you look at the ingredients, it’s effectively the same percentage of carbohydrates.
How did Graeme Obree prepare for his hour record? Marmalade sandwiches; I bet that is not part of Team Sky’s hour record preparation for Bradley Wiggins, but it did the job for Obree. You don’t always have to spend a fortune on energy bars to get the best nutrition.
6. Get aerodynamics for free
If you really want to go faster, then the secret is to make yourself more aerodynamic. At 40kmph, 90% of resistance against a bike is air resistance. If you look at some pictures of time triallists, you will see how they can reduce their frontal area. The secret to reducing frontal area is not spending £3,000 on a time trial frame, but, getting the body into most efficient tuck. Even a cheap pair of aerobars for £20, will make a huge difference to reducing wind resistance and give you a good bang for your buck. You can spend a fortune on aerodynamic aids, but many of the key improvements can be made with very little cost. Tips for aerodynamics.
7. Do you really need it?
So often I’ve bought something because it was well marketed and looks nice, but I don’t really need it. There are some accessories you need like a lock and lights. But, for some reason, I’m always gullible for the latest light, which is brighter than the last. So I have a whole shed of different lights and components. When I look at my shed, I’m embarrassed about all the things I’ve bought thinking these will be good, but they hardly get used.
8. Ditch obsession with low weight / expensive components
This is a definite case of the kettle calling the pot black. Is there a worse culprit for spending silly money on silly weight saving components? (marginal gains hill climb bike) Probably not, but unless you miss a major hill climb championship medal by 1 second, those 500g weight saving is not essential. Even a bike 1kg heavier is not the end of the world. If you look at time saved from weight loss on a bike – it is less than you might imagine. 1kg up the Rake is worth 2 seconds.
If you really want to save weight, eat a few less chips; that’s the really cheap way to loose proper weight.
9. Buy the complete bike
It is amazing the equipment you can get on a sub £1,000 bike. If you spend £1,000 on a road bike, the constituent parts would cost you roughly double. Therefore, always try to buy the best bike you can and resist temptation to add expensive parts which only marginally add to performance.
10. Go down a groupset
The main difference between Shimano Ultegra and Shimano Dura Ace is about £500. The main difference between Dura Ace Di2 and Ultegra Di2 is about £1,500. If cyclists had to do ‘blind testing’ of different equipment, would we notice the difference? Probably not. I appreciate blind testing is difficult for bicycles, but if we were really honest, we would often struggle to notice the difference.
12. Do your own repairs
Rather than taking it down bike shop, and getting someone to do it for you, you can save quite a bit. Though with my experience is an amateur bike mechanic, this may prove a false economy. Also, compared to motor repairs, I’ve always found bike maintenance to be very cheap.
13. Ride the bike
The real way to get value for money from your bicycle is to ride it around town. Save money on the bus, save money on parking and petrol. Or even use a bike instead of owning a car. If you use a bike like this, it will pay for itself within a few months.
Cycling can be a very cheap method of transport. It is only in recent years, that we have been increasingly enticed to spend more on bicycles and bike components. However, I’m the worst culprit. I just like spending money on bicycles. Many times, I don’t really need to spend the money, but what else are you going to spend it on which will give as much joy? The only thing is if you’re on a tight budget, just remember the 24 hour record holder – a relatively cheap old steel frame. At the end of the day, it’s the human engine and not the size of your wallet, which makes a cycling champion. And if you’re not in the world of marginal gains, cycling can be very cheap indeed.
A look at statistics for fatalities and casualties on the roads.
The past decade has seen a divergence between the rate of accidents for cycle users versus other types of users. Overall, road fatalities and casualties are falling, but cycle users are seeing a rise in the number of serious casualties
In the past 15 years, there has been a trend for cycling fatalities to fluctuate between 100 and 120. Serious casualties have seen a 31% increase.
Number of killed or seriously injured cyclists 2000-2013
2013 Overall Fatalities
Significant fall in overall fatalities on UK roads.
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