Archive | commuting

Public bike pumps which don’t work

This summer has been the best cycling weather since 1976 (the year of my birth). But, for the past five weeks, I have had a virus/bad cough so no cycling, apart from a slow meander into town. The idea of racing a bike seems hard to conceptualise at the moment. But, there is just enough competitive spirit to get a bit fed up with getting overtaken by 50% of commuters on the way into town.

Since I have not pumped up my tyres for several weeks, I decided this must be the source of my slowness. So I thought I would make use of a public-spirited free bike pump on Magdalen Bridge.


It’s an excellent idea to provide free air. As you can often need a bike pump in town. Anyway, I attached the tyre, but all it succeeded in doing was letting all the air out. Unfortunately, it didn’t work at pumping air back in – so I was left with a flat tyre. Public goods, free at the point of use is a great concept – even if leaves you stranded in town. You half expect to see a bike pump with requires a credit card payment for 50 seconds use.

So I had to walk all the way to the other end of town to the ever generous Bike Zone who kindly lent a pump, which enabled me to get home.

If you’ve wondered why I have only written five cycling blogs this year, this episode of a non-working public bike pump is about as interesting as my cycling experiences have been.

It seems my cycling friends are managing epic rides. Team-mate Vilas Silverton cycled 5,000km+ across the continent of Australia. Michael Broadwith did a short ride too.

I did toy with writing about procycling, but the bandwidth expended for Chris Froome’s adverse analytic finding which was dropped – has always been much more than enough already. I think the episode could be summed up by C.Prudhomme’s “All that for this?”

I am still doing a bit of exercises (egoscue) to try and cure the long-standing hip problem. I have also found some yoga exercises called the “Fountain of Youth“. It is supposed to keep your body young so if I ever get round to racing as a veteran I will have the body of a 30 year old, marvellous!



Cycling to exams in the heat

It is 30 degrees plus here in Oxford. It is also exam season with many students making their way to exams on the High Street. Some cycle in sub-fusc to save a few minutes for extra revision. I always remember cycling to exams. Walking from LMH was too far.

texting on bike

Last minute revision or getting a good luck text?


Good to see Oxford Professor’s on their bicycles, but I don’t know what Drag2Zero would make of those cycling clothes.

oxford studentyoung, old and students. Continue Reading →


Getting rid of traffic lights


One of my favourite spots for taking photos of cyclists in Oxford is on Broad Street, in particular this crossroads by the Bodleian library. The reason is that through traffic is prohibited so over 50% + of traffic are cyclists.


There are a few delivery lorries, so it’s not quite a cyclist paradise, but compared to your average inner city road it is quite peaceful.


It is interesting to just listen. Sometimes a few minutes can go by without any vehicular traffic, and you just hear the whir of bicycle wheels –   very civilised!


Previously the junction was controlled by traffic lights, though traffic lights felt a little over-bearing given the nature of the traffic on the road. Continue Reading →


A free ride into town

I was ambling along into town this morning, when two serious looking cyclists overtook me. I got on their wheel and enjoyed a faster commute into town than normal. Even at low speeds, you get a bit of benefit from sitting behind.


The two cyclists were joining up with a big group, meeting in centre of Oxford who were going for a long ride. Continue Reading →


Congestion and cycling

Congestion is already a major issue in the UK, but with a rising population, lower oil prices and economic growth, congestion is set to increase significantly over the next few years.

  • By 2031, Transport for London estimate a 60% increase in congestion in the capital (link)
  • UK Gov (2015 report) state they predict road congestion to increase between 19% to 55% growth between 2010 and 2040.

The UK (especially in South) has a high population density. Building new roads is either not possible or undesirable because of the desire to protect remaining green spaces. With limited supply of roads, rising demand for travel – both car and HGV use will see congestion rise significantly.

Costs of congestion

Already, the UK economy experiences high social costs from congestion. These include

  • Longer journey times, which has both economic and time cost for business and consumers.
  • Air pollution from burning fuel in jams.
  • Lost business for city centre shops who see customers put off travelling due to congestion.

Congestion and growth of cycling

  • The growth of cycling in London is at least partly driven by gridlock on London roads. For commuters weighing up different options for travel to work, the higher the time lost through traffic jams, the more attractive the alternative cycling is.
  • Congestion at peak times in Oxford is a big incentive to cycle into work. This is helped by a a limited and patchy offering of cycle lanes. (I wouldn’t call it a network as that would imply it is fully integrated). But, in some places it is just enough to help cyclists avoid the worst congestion.

congestion Continue Reading →


Two cycle paths which don’t particularly appeal

London Cycle path

London Cycle paths.

Spotted in London. Two cycle paths next to each other.

Take your choice. Share the pavement with pedestrians and dogs on leads, or share the road with taxis and lorries passing close by.

Neither seem particularly appealing from this photo.

I tend to avoid shared cycle paths on pavements because

  • I like to cycle relatively fast. On shared pavements, you feel out of place going above 10 mph.
  • You often get pedestrians in the middle of shared pavements, and they rarely have a sympathetic view of cyclists.
  • The path on the left looks a little dodgy in the wet navigating the change of surfaces. At least they haven’t built a lampost in the middle of the cycle path.
    Book Cover
  • Crap Cycle Lanes at
  • The main reason I avoid shared cycle paths are all the junctions which go through the cycle path. I’d never trust a vehicle to respect the cycle path. So effectively you have to give way all the time. You can see what I mean on Botley Road.

Continue Reading →


Rucksack vs pannier for commuting

When I first started cycling into town, I used a rucksack. It wasn’t a conscious decision. I already had a rucksack, so it was easiest to just use this for cycling. After a few years, I was tired of carrying a heavy weight on my back so bought some panniers. It was a great relief to get the weight off the back and onto the bike, and I’ve never gone back to rucksacks, unless I can help it.

Cyclists -backpacks

Looking at cyclists in Oxford, there seems to be a rought 70/30 split between rucksacks / other-bags and panniers.


If you can tell such a thing, the more ‘serious looking commuters’ are more likely to have panniers. The more ‘casual looking cyclists’ are more likely to have rucksacks. In a way this is what you would expect. When I started cycling, I use a rucksack for convenience, but as I spent more time cycling, you start to think of investing in better equipment – panniers and pannier rack was one of the first investments. Continue Reading →


Ortlieb Back Urban Pannier Review

The Ortlieb urban pannier is a sturdy construction of waterproof materials. It has a 20 litre capacity and even can be adapted into using as a rucksack.

ortlieb-panniersThe bag is well made and looks quite good. As commuting bags go, the coffee linen material is quite stylish.

Ortlieb panniers come with quite a high price tag – £65, but as a compensation it is well made, although I’ve only had a few weeks, it gives the impression of being long-lasting.

With 20 litres capacity, you can fit quite a lot of shopping in there. The above photo was taken with just a laptop inside. It looks a little floppy.

I use a pannier back for commuting into town. I often fill it up with shopping so am looking for a robust pannier bag, that you can also sling over your shoulder.

Height: 42cm
Width: 23cm
Depth: 17cm
Weight: 850 g
Volume: 20 Litres
QL2.1 mounting system for racks with max. 16 mm tube diameter
Full with shopping.

Attachment to panniers


To attach to the panniers there are fixing hooks which slide onto the top of the pannier. When you lift up the bag, it automatically unlocks these hooks. That is quite ingenious and useful for a quick getaway. The downside is that sometimes these locks stop the bag sliding onto the pannier in the first place, and you have to make a quick adjustment. Continue Reading →


Congestion in the bicycle lanes


Since the end of the racing season, I’ve been paying a little more attention to the other aspect of cycling – Commuting. If you like dividing cycling into different tribes, I’m proud to be a member of most cycling tribes. Commuting has a very different mindset and rhythm to racing.

Congestion in the bike lanes

Since students have came back to Oxford, you notice a significant rise in the number of cyclists in the city. Cycling into town around 9am, and you get caught up in cycle lane congestion. As cycling problems go, cyclist congestion is a pretty good problem to have.

Needless to say, if every cyclist converted into a car,  there would be fundamental gridlock on the narrow streets of Oxford.


People streaming into town. And shorts in November, what is the world coming to!

Continue Reading →


Overtaking cyclists

Motorists often give too little space when overtaking cyclists. It is potentially dangerous and an unpleasant experience. Often is just a combination of impatience and unawareness. But, once you have been a cyclist yourself, you would always approach overtaking a cyclist in a different manner.

Car overtaking on Oxford High Street very close



Big buses. Very often cars/ buses pass so close that if you put your arm out and signal right you will hit the vehicle. lorry-overtake

Beware of lorries turning rightcyclists-buses-pass-with-care

Cyclists – Pass with Care! – Buses overtake with Care!


‘Narrow Lane Do Not Overtake Cyclists’

How much room should you give a cyclist?

The Highway code states:

“give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car (see Rules 211-215)”

Highway code

“As much room as a car” leaves some discretion, but, I would have thought three feet would be a good minimum. My grandma used to think the law was enough space for cyclist to fall off, without hitting the overtaking car. The highway code doesn’t quite say that but it seems a good rule of thumb.

Also the Highway code states:

“Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.”

This is an interesting one, as sometimes, if you deviate less than one foot from your line an overtaking car will beep aggressively. True, you should be looking over your shoulder, but, if a small deviation from line causes consternation, it is probably because the car is passing too closely.

Urban roads and Rural Roads

It is common for cars to pass closely on urban roads, but at least speeds are lower, and often cars are more ready to slowdown. It is a bigger problem on fast rural roads where cars can be doing 50-60mph + and motorists don’t have the mentality to be ready to slow down. 50mph speed limits can become like minimum targets. If a motorist comes across a cyclist, they are loathe to slow down so just keep on ploughing on.

Speed of overtaking

There is a big difference between a car overtaking close at 20mph and a car overtaking close at 50mph. There is also a big difference when a lorry overtakes you and it is so close the drag pushes you around.


SPACE from carltonreid on Vimeo.

3 Feet Rule


A car giving plenty of room to a young kid on Cowley Road (look how close the child is hugging the kerb). I wonder if the cyclists was wearing lycra, helmet and fluroescent coat, the car would have given less room?


Some countries have toyed with the idea of passing a law that motorists should leave 3 feet when overtaking. If this was the case, 80% of drivers would break the law everyday.

Doesn’t giving Cyclists Room mean an increase in congestion / time wasted?


I’ve lost count of the number of times a motorist has impatiently overtaken – squeezed through a gap which wasn’t there and then had to slam on the brakes because he’s approaching a traffic jam. There is a certain karma to then be able to undertake them whilst they are stationary in a traffic jam. But, you would think, people would look ahead. Squeezing through gaps which aren’t there rarely get you any quicker anyway.

Generally, cars should give more space, but all rules need some discretion. As a motorist I find it quite easy to give space to cyclists because I always think empathise with the cyclist that I am overtaking. I would give the cyclist as much space as I would want myself.

I really don’t understand why cyclists get such a bad press in the media. When I think of the 100,000 miles I’ve driven in the past 10 years – how much time have I lost by waiting for a good opportunity to overtake. It is completely negligible. Furthermore, I enjoy the process of slowing down and giving space – because I know the cyclist will appreciate it.

It’s just a matter of perspective – Get mad because you have to wait 5 seconds, or take a bit more time and get to the back of the traffic jam in a calmer state of mind. Life isn’t rocket science!

But Cyclists don’t wear A Cycle Helmet / Cyclists don’t pay road tax

  • Would you want to run-over a pedestrian because they don’t pay an obsolete tax, no one pays?
  • Would you run over a pedestrian just because they are not wearing a safety helmet – to teach them a lesson?


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