Archive | commuting

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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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.

panniers-waiting-cyclists

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 →

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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.

Specifications
Height: 42cm
Width: 23cm
Depth: 17cm
Weight: 850 g
Volume: 20 Litres
QL2.1 mounting system for racks with max. 16 mm tube diameter
ortlieb-full1
Full with shopping.

Attachment to panniers

ortlieb-fixing

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 →

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Congestion in the bicycle lanes

backs3

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.

shorts-nov

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

Continue Reading →

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