Archive | commuting

Small changes to road infrastructure make big difference

Back in 2010, I wrote a blog post (my old blog) about a lack of integration between two cycle paths. My complaint was that there was a good cycle path, but it ends at a narrow section of road where cars can come quite fast.

“The cycle path runs parallel to the Oxford Ring Road. It is a good cycle path for avoiding a very busy road. The cycle path then joins Iffley road, where the council have recently painted a cycle lane on. But cars often come off the roundabout at quite a high speed. At the end of the cycle path, you have to take great care joining the road, as it is quite narrow.”

If only the council would extend the cycle path a little, they could make it a much better transition to the on road cycle-path.

Nine years later

Nine years later, the council have done it! They have extended the cycle path along the grass verge. When the new cycle path ends, it is safer for entering the road. it is wider, and at this point, there is a cycle path painted on the road.

short-cycle-path

It makes for a seamless transfer from the cycle path which goes around the ring road and onto Iffley Road.

Sometimes as cycle bloggers, we make fun of short cycle lanes which don’t really go anywhere.

shortest-cycle-path

But, this one in Oxford is an example of a short cycle path which makes a positive difference.

Of course, I still think there is room to keep the cycle path going along the grass verge so you don’t have to go on the road. This might encourage more people to cycle if it is segregated lane – rather than integrated with road. But, then beyond the end of this picture, there is a junction where you would have to rejoin the road anyway.

It’s nice to be able to complement improved cycle provision – even if it is only a modest improvement.

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3 mins of high intensity exercise

In the past few months, I haven’t done any *proper* cycling (i.e. wearing lycra and clipless pedals)

All my cycling has been on my commuting bike within the Oxford ring road. It is mainly a commute into town. It has slowly grown from a 2.5-mile commute to a 4.0 mile commute (which makes around 8 miles a day). The extra 1.5 mile has made a big difference to the enjoyment of the cycling and benefits to fitness.

bike-path

Firstly, I took a detour to avoid the main roads and to be able to cycle on the excellent river towpath. It’s all flat, no traffic and wide enough. It also has fantastic views over Christ Church Meadow.

tree-lane-autumn

Back of tree lane in Autumn

However, the flat cycle path wasn’t quite enough. Almost unconsciously I found myself taking a detour up two short hills (around Rose Hill). The roads are very quiet and off the beaten track.

The first hill is called Tree Lane and then there is a descent down a bumpy private road. Then around the corner in Iffley Village, there is another hill called Adderbury Lane. Continue Reading →

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Race Blade Pro XL Mudguards Review

race-blade-xl

I’ve been a big fan of clip-on mudguards for many years. However, they do have a habit of breaking after several years of use. Parking bikes in Oxford is a bit rough and tumble, so these flexible mudguards tend to get a bit battered.

old-battered-mudguards

I got a few coats dirty using this depleted mudguard. Definitely time for an ugrade

With my rear mudguard snapped in half, it was a good excuse to upgrade to the latest model – Race Blade Pro XL. Continue Reading →

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River Cycle Path

With limited opportunities for cycling, I am enjoying the revamped cycle path along the River Thames.

bike-path

The path used to get very muddy in winter, making it unattractive as a place to cycle. Also, it used to be about two people wide. The council have widened the path by a couple of feet (making it effectively three people wide). They have also laid a new surface – tarmac with loose chippings.

Both improvements make a big difference. The chippings are not slippy (unless perhaps you were racing), but they do slow you down by 1 or 2 mph compared to smooth tarmac. But, given it is a shared path, that is a good thing. The extra two feet makes a big difference. As you can now pass a couple on the path without them having to move. The extra space is great for both cyclists, pedestrians, dog walkers and rowing coaches who cycle slowly along the path looking at the river and not where they are going.

 

I am trying to do more cycling, but usually don’t feel like a ‘proper ride’ So I have been getting more miles in by relying on cycling into town and around Oxford. I have started cycling to Iffley lock – which is in the opposite direction to town, but you then get an interrupted run along the river path all the way to Abingdon Road. It has increased the commute from 2.5 miles to 4.0 miles, but it hardly takes any longer. The shortest route has quite a few crossings and traffic lights. The longer way on the path is much less interrupted. I go at a steady pace on the path, but it is quicker because you aren’t waiting for minutes at lights and junctions. It’s not rocket science, but when we measure the time of a journey, we tend to look closely at a distance rather than average speed.

path-by-river

Old narrower path

The old narrow path

In this age of austerity, it is great the council are able to pay for a project like this. It is a relatively small investment but has made a big improvement in the quality of commuting. The biggest advantage of course is that you can cycle without any traffic. Sometimes you need to slow at pinch points – for when crews bring out boats to the river or if there are many people on the path, but I’m not in a rush and happy to go slow.

Views from the cycle path

The other side of the river

St Mary’s Church and Radcliffe Camera

Mid winter and frost.

Autumn at the Head of the River.

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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.

bike-pump

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!

 

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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?

oxford-professor

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 →

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Getting rid of traffic lights

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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 →

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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.

cyclist

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

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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 →

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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 Amazon.uk
  • 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 →

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