Archive | commuting

10 reasons to love cyclists

I don’t know why but apparently, there are some people who hate cyclists . I can’t understand. As a motorist I find many excellent reasons to love cyclists. Here are a few, I’m sure you can add a few more.

1. Target Practise – A cyclist helps develops our advanced motoring skills. For example, how close can you get to a cyclist without knocking them off? This is quite an art – best practised in a white van whilst travelling 15mph above the speed limit and with mobile phone in your right hand. You have to be careful though because occasionally, cyclists may make ‘dangerous manoeuvres’ like move 10 cm to the right to avoid a pothole in the road. If they have the audacity to move more than 1 foot from the edge of the road see no.2.

scarf

2. Practise Your Musical Rhythms
. If you see a cyclist in the road, this is an excellent reason to practise sounding your horn. You can practise the art of playing your horn very loudly or you could just practise a simple rhythm like repeatedly holding the horn down. Unfortunately, this can often lead to disappointment as for some reason, beeping a horn is insufficient to make a cyclist disappear from OUR roads.

3. Feeling of Superiority. Now, some cyclists can having that annoying air of self-righteous superiority. They think they are saving the planet by eating home grown leeks and cycling to work. But, whilst we can tolerate their imaginary fantasies, we actually know it is us motorists who are saving the environment because of our decision to use unleaded petrol and occasionally buying 40% recycled plastic in our car air fresheners.

4. Funny To Splash People. This is related to no.1 but actually more fun. With driving over a puddle we get to see more physical evidence of our driving skills. When the road is waterlogged if you drive really fast over a puddle, a big stream of water gets sprayed over other road users and pedestrians. Just watch the face of a cyclist after he gets soaked with your puddle – priceless!

5. Odds Are in Our Favour. Crashes are inevitable on our roads, well at least they are inevitable if we don’t pay attention whilst driving and try to send a text or fall asleep at the wheel. In fact vehicles on British roads kill over 3,000 people a year, but, when you do crash into a cyclist, the odds are heavily in your favour. Their lycra shorts may make a dint in our paintwork, but, this can usually be fixed. Just image if cyclists drove Sherman tanks – when we knocked them down we would have more than a bit of dinted paintwork to deal with! Now that wouldn’t at all be fair – so we should be grateful to cyclists for not threatening our reinforced steel SUVs with nothing more than a thin layer of slightly ridiculous lycra.

6. Humour. Driving is a pretty boring affair. I mean we get stuck in endless traffic jams and it can take one hour to travel just a few miles in Central London. Now it’s pretty annoying that cyclists don’t get so caught up in the traffic congestion – often sneaking up on the inside in these ridiculous cycle lanes. But, next time your stuck in a traffic jam feeling miserable that other people won’t leave their car at home, why not pass the time laughing at other road users. Cyclists are bound to be wearing some ridiculous clothing, or maybe they’re just getting wet. Look on the funny side of these absurd cyclists and suddenly those interminable traffic jams will fly by!

7. Cyclists don’t Wear Down the Road.

No one like potholes, (unless you have one of those 4*4s and like to show off your off-road skills). But, cyclists don’t wear down the road because their bikes weigh very little. Nevertheless, even though cyclists don’t create negative externalities, we can still complain cyclists don’t pay road tax (the fact it was abolished in 1937 doesn’t really matter, having a go at cyclists is usually a pretty easy way to get a contract with a major newspaper, even if you are just a half baked TV chef…)

8. Cyclists don’t Pollute the Environment.

No one likes the exhaust fumes created by cars. It is unpleasant and can cause health problems like asthma, not to mention the problems of global warming. But cyclists don’t create any pollution, at least if you don’t count the by product of all those organic baked beans, these hippie, sandal-wearing cyclists often eat.

9. Cyclists don’t take up Valuable Parking Space
space
(space taken by cars and bikes)

Try parking in Central London, – a nightmare. You can spend hours driving around looking for a spot. Just imagine if every bike took the space of a car. We would never be able to park!

10. Cyclists don’t Cause Congestion.

Congestion would be even worse if cyclists started driving. Every cyclist means quicker journey times for us.

Next week – 10 Reasons to Love Motorists

 

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The cost of congestion in the UK

 busy-cyclists-high-street

Congestion in Oxford encourages people to take an alternative. Cycling into the centre is significantly quicker at rush hour. Will the forecast increase in congestion lead to a rise in cycling rates in the UK?

crowded-roads

No one likes sitting in a traffic jam, cycle lanes help avoid the worst of the congestion.

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Traffic congestion costs include:

  • time lost
  • increased vehicle operating costs (brakes, fuel costs)
  • Stress of sitting in traffic jams
  • There are both internal costs (to driver) plus external costs to other road users and society.

The CBI estimate that traffic congestion costs the UK economy £20 billion a year. (link) Other estimates of the costs of congestion widely significantly, but you don’t need to be an economist to realise traffic jams going nowhere are an inefficient use of resources.

The big concern is that congestion is expected to increase over the next 20 years, due to rising population and increased use of cars.

Road use and time lost due to congestion

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CBI – UK Road congestion

In 2010, an estimated 19 seconds per mile were lost due to congestion.

By 2035, this is estimated to rise to 32 seconds per mile. This is a 68% increase in congestion from today’s levels.

Solutions to congestion

1. Build more roads. This has been the primary objective of government transport policy from the 1960s to 2000s. The number of roads has increased. But, the limitations of this approach include: Continue Reading →

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10 things that annoy the cyclist

A random selection of 10 things that can make life difficult for cycling on the roads.

1. Mobile phone user

waiting-narrow-road-parked-cars

You better not be using a mobile phone when you get to end of road

Last Saturday, I was feeling in a good mood, so pulled over to let a van drive on a narrow road passed many parked cars. He was driving on wrong side of road, but, sometimes it’s good to give way. After waiting for him to pass down the wrong side of the road, I looked into the van to see if he might acknowledge my action. I’m not desperate for thanks, but a brief wave is a nice gesture. Alas, the driver was completely oblivious of my presence on the road, being more interested in his mobile phone call. It’s probably a good job I did wait on the pavement as he had no concentration on the road.

2. The slam dunk

 

car-turning-left

Another thing that annoy me is when a car overtakes you and then turns left (or slams on the brakes going down hill) You have to be pretty alert for things like that. Bicycle brakes are not always as powerful as advanced car brakes.

3. The cycle path to nowhere

This cycle path could easily be continued straight on. Instead you’re force onto a road with cars coming off a dual carriageway roundabout at over 30mph.cycle-paths-to-nowhere

 

Integrated transport is a buzzword rarely applied to British cycle paths.

4. Give us room

big-bus

When big vehicles get too close breathing down your back, tailgating is the technical term. Give us space to brake

5. Passing too close

oxtube-bike-passing-too-close

 

This happens everyday, all the time. It’s worse when the vehicle is fast moving and large. What happens if the cyclist needs to swerve to avoid a pothole? Continue Reading →

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A traffic jam of cyclists

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I’m impressed at the patience of these Oxford cyclists in rush hour. Who says the British can’t still queue?

I have to admit I would have a temptation to sprint along the inside and then sprint away from the lights. But, when everyone is so well behaved it wouldn’t feel right to spoil the good natured patience. I tend to avoid the ‘cycling queue’ by going straight on and turning right later on. Definitely, when you see people acting courteously it influences other people to do the same. Similarly when some start flouting the laws it has a big influence on other people.

many-cyclists

Right hand lane waiting for lights to change. Left hand lane is straight on up the high street.

cyclist-feeder-lane-between2-lanes

The only problem with this feeder lane is that cyclists are coming up the middle between two lanes of traffic. But, at least the traffic is usually slow moving around here. (20mph speed limit, which isn’t exceeded by too much)

bus-wanting-to-squeeze-into-left-lane

This is a dangerous possibility. The huge and very long London Tube bus was wanting to get in the left hand lane, but cyclists were squeezing through on the inside (along the dotted cycle lane). It’s not clear who has right of way or who should give way in this situation. Eventually the bus driver got frustrated with waiting and started beeping his horn, hoping some cyclists would stop allowing him to get in left hand lane. But, if one cyclist goes on the inside, other people often follow suit. (same principle with car drivers overtaking  on the wrong side of road) Continue Reading →

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Cycling on pavements – problems and solutions

I have been reliably informed that if there is any discussion of cycling on internet, it is inevitable that, some poster (or several) will bring the conversation around to the stock comment – that cyclists use the pavement and are a real nuisance. It can be about any topic related to transport, such as improving road safety, the dangers of using mobile phones. But, the fact that some cyclists use the pavement is used ad nauseam – as a sweeping statement to tarnish all cyclists and negate any sensible discussion. I’m sure that somewhere in the Bacchanalian depths of the Daily Mail comment section there is the logic that since some teenagers cycle aggressively on the pavement we should ban all cycling on the road.

sheldonian-pavement

I have no idea why the guy on a foldup is using the pavement. There’s hardly any traffic on this road.

The law on pavement cycling

Firstly, it is against the law to cycle on the pavement, unless it is a shared footpath

It is illegal to cycle on the pavement, unless there is a sign indicating a shared use cycle path. Cycling on footways (a pavement by side of a carriageway) is prohibited by Section 72 of the Highway Act 1835, amended by Section 85(1) of the Local Government Act 1888.(Highway Code)

This includes children. Children are not allowed to cycle on the pavement. Though the police are generally advised to use their discretion and not prosecute in this instance.

Why do people cycle on the pavement?

  1. Safety. Many roads and junctions are dangerous to cycle on. Cycling on the pavement can be a way to make a journey safer for the cyclist and avoid dangerous roads / junctions.
  2. Ignorance of the law. A study by researchers at Lancaster University found many people (especially children) were not aware that cycling on the pavement is illegal.
  3. Laziness / impatience. Sometimes you see people cycling on the pavement because they want to get their quicker and are too impatient to wait at a light or they see the pavement as a short-cut. This motive may be mixed in with the first motive about safety. Also, you get the impression with some road users that they just don’t care if they inconvenience other people.

Problem of cycling on the pavement

  1. Cycling on the pavement is one of the most frequently raised local issues to the police. Many people really dislike having the pavement space threatened by fast moving cyclists. Even if there is no accident, old people can feel uncomfortable when a bicycle passes by at close speed.
  2. Accidents. Accidents can happen when fast moving cyclists collide with pedestrians. In rare cases it can be fatal or lead to serious injury. Very roughly, on average one pedestrian is killed by a cyclist per year.
  3. It creates ill feeling towards other cyclists. When a drunk driver kills a pedestrian because he is speeding and loses control, we don’t go around hating other drivers. But, it does happen with cycling on pavements and it is a problem because it exacerbates tension between different road users and makes non-cyclists less sympathetic to any cyclists.

Sense of Perspective

In terms of fatalities and serious injuries, it seems that the threat posed by cyclists is exaggerated. Pedestrian and motorists are quick to complain about nuisance cyclists, but it is motor vehicles which are responsible for the vast majority of serious accidents. In 2011, there were 480 pedestrian fatalities. (cycle stats) These were not caused by cyclists on the pavement. It’s not just cyclists which invade pedestrian areas, but also parked cars and cars which lose control.

Continue Reading →

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Patience is a virtue on the road

One thing about being a British road user is that it teaches you patience. Well, it’s either you learn to be patient, or you become really quite angry and irritable. I was dropping my bike off at Beeline this morning to re-fit a power meter. It took a long time to drive the one mile during rush hour; it’s so much slower than cycling. I realised now why I never drive in Oxford, unless I can avoid it. It takes considerable patience to drive the one mile down Cowley Road. The problem is that most of the roads around here were not designed for two rows of parked cars and heavy traffic.

waiting-narrow-road-parked-cars

They were designed in the halycon days of the 1930s, when everything was in black and white and people couldn’t afford a motor car.

cyclists-leaving-work-bw

The good old 1930s. Workers leaving factory. What happened when all these workers bought a motor car?

But, if you start off with the mindset of being patient and expecting it to be slow, it’s much easier to retain some equanimity. If you can’t enjoy the drive into town, and least at doesn’t leave you agitated.

As a cyclist, you often have to be patient. You could look at the top picture and get annoyed. Why are cars taking up so much space? If the other person was on a bicycle, there would be no delay.  “Why can’t you be nice and thin like me?” But, if you start thinking like that, you don’t end up in a good place. A little patience goes a long way; sometimes you have to wait a few seconds for a 4WD to carry its great hulk through the road. But, that’s fine, we all share the road – even Chelsea Tractors.  Continue Reading →

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Tips for commuting by bike

Commuting by bike has several advantages, it can save money, get you there quicker, plus give a useful bit of exercise. I’ve been commuting into Oxford for the past 13 years. It’s not a long commute  – only about 2.5 miles each way. Despite the stress of dodging Oxford buses and taxis,  commuting by bike is a great way to start the day. Even when I started working from home, I found in practise I preferred to keep commuting into a city centre cafe – rather than stay at home. More than anything a 10 minute cycle ride is a great way to get the brain working.

Over the past 13 years, the main change I’ve noticed is that I’ve become a slightly slower and more patient commuter, but as a result probably enjoy the experience more.

These are my top tips for commuting by bike.

1. Patience. Depending on the city, commuting by bike is likely to be significant faster than most other forms of transport. To a large extent, you can escape the traffic congestion and queues of traffic.

several-cyclists-junction

However, it is not a race, if you have a little patience, you can make the ride less stressful and safer. Running red lights is dangerous and can end up leaving you with a fine. You will also annoy a lot of people – both motorists and other cyclists. If you give yourself a little more time, you won’t feel the need to push on regardless. Similarly, if you have a little patience, you won’t take unnecessary risks like squeezing inside buses to save a few seconds. It’s potentially very dangerous. Having a little patience also make the commute more enjoyable. If you treat the commute like a time trial, you are creating unnecessary stress, and you will probably end up riding like an idiot. I’ve nothing against cycling fast, but doing it up the High Street with buses and  innumerable traffic lights, is not the best of places.

2. Check different routes

cyclist-up-hill

The best cycling route is often different to the one you would drive. Slow minor roads can often avoid busier junctions

Any commute can be made a little safer and more enjoyable by seeking out quieter roads and better journeys. If there is a nasty section of road or junction, investigate whether it is worth a detour. Planning alternative routes may add a little to your journey distance, but if it makes it safer and less stressful, it is worth it.

Be seen

weight

In an ideal world, cyclists wouldn’t have to dress up like a Christmas tree to be seen. I’m not a fluorescent yellow evangelist, but it does worry me when I see cyclists wearing only dark clothes at night without lights. If you ride on the road without lights and in dark clothing, it really increases the risk of an accident. Also it annoys other road users. If you spend any time driving, you will understand the importance of cyclists being visible.

Be a considerate road user

In any commute, you will come across irritating and inconsiderate behaviour. This will be from any road user, be it pedestrian / car / bus / lorry driver / cyclist. You can not influence how other road users behave. But, the best thing is always to be considerate yourself. If you are considerate and use your common sense, you won’t get into needless dispute, but find it is quite easy to obey the highway code.

Dealing with road rage

Unfortunately, being a considerate road user doesn’t insulate you from all problems. If you commute anywhere in the world, you will face dangerous moments, which are out of your control. It is easier said than done, but there is a lot to be said for keeping calm and not getting drawn into arguments you can’t really win. My general philosophy is generally to have low expectations and let little irritations go. Of course, it is different if you are involved in an accident. In that case, you should take down all the details you can. But, I never expect the advanced cycle boxes to be free. I expect cars to turn into the road, making you slow down. I’m half expecting cars to be on the wrong side of the road. This is all the downside of commuting into town. But, it’s a lot easier to accept as long as you don’t feel it is your responsibility to educate all the car drivers in your city because you won’t be able to!

Maximsing safety

The perceived safety of cycling is often the biggest deterrent to cycling in cities. To some extent you can reduce certain dangers and risk. The big ones include:

– Avoid undertaking buses and lorries – unless you are very certain they are going to be stationary.

bike-bus

– Learn to look over your shoulder and signal before manoeuvring out into the road. Continue Reading →

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The simple joy of cycling into town

A week last Friday, I spent all day on my back, only struggling to the bathroom with the greatest difficulty. It’s not the most fun way to spend a day, and you do start to fear how long this incapacity might last.

But, fortunately the muscle seems to be healing quite well. After a few days of going crazy staying inside watching the ‘best’ of Christmas TV on BBC iPlayer, I was relieved to be able to get out of the house. This time, of course, taking very great care stepping out of the front door. Didn’t want to go rolling into the rose bushes for a 3rd fall of the week. Those kind of things are only funny when you watch them happening to other people on Youtube.

bus-overtake-summer

Quite slowly and carefully, I was able to cycle into town. It’s only 3 km or so, but it feels quite satisfying after just a few days of inaction.

My Portugal experience has been rather clouded by getting knocked off bike at 50km/h by rabid / crazy dog. But, the simple commute into Oxford did have me nostalgically looking back to those very quiet and wide roads of the Algarve.

road

I soon forgave Portugal all its crazy dogs after being reminded of what it’s like to cycle around Oxford.

There may be no dogs in Oxford, but I got passed (closely) by more double decker buses in 5 minutes of cycling around Oxford than I did in two weeks of ‘idyllic’ cycling around Portugal.

Perhaps, because I’ve just recently been brought crashing to earth, I’m a little more sensitive. But, it is was a stark reminder that Oxford is no cycling paradise. Too many big buses and cars for my liking. Nevertheless, I still really enjoyed the simple sensation of cycling into town, viewing the beautiful spires and seeing the flooded plains. Continue Reading →

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Cycling in Leeds

bike-path-end

Recently I was in Leeds during the rush hour. I took a few photos of cyclists and the basic cycle infrastructure.

Leeds has a fairly low % of residents who cycle once a month. According to the Department of transport just 11% of residents cycle at least once a month. It’s not the lowest rate in the UK, but it lags behind other cities.

cycle-rates-major-cities

Leeds cycle facilities

In the city centre there are some dedicated cycle facilities. It’s not much, but they seemed to be well used during rush hour.

bike-path

Dedicated cycle pathcyclist-path

A temporary brake in the cycle path. The cyclists I saw used their common sense and were cycling at low speed to avoid any problems with pedestrians. But, it does seem to sum up the patchy cycle lane provision.

Leeds cycling campaign.

The Leeds cycling campaign is working with the city council to try and improve facilities for cyclists and make the city more attractive place for cycling. (Leeds Cycling Campaign)

leeds-campaign

Proposals for better cycling facilities.  Cycle vision for Leeds

Continue Reading →

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Cycling through London and a visit to Rapha

Last Monday, I went down to London, hoping to do a bit of Christmas shopping by bike. The day before I signed up for the Brompton hire dock. For £1 annual membership, you can hire a Brompton for £5 a day. It is available from quite a few train stations, such as Oxford. It sounds a fantastic idea. Get a train and then cycle around the city. In the end, I decided not to hire a Brompton. I got put off by the notice you had to carry it with you at all times; they don’t allow you to lock it up outside whilst you go into shop. In the end, I thought I might as well take my battered old commuting bike. Save £5 and less worries about getting the bike stolen.

hyde-park-bike-lane

Hyde Park, London

From Paddington, it’s a short stretch to Hyde Park. It was quite pleasant cycling around Hyde Park. There is a decent bike path, with enough room to have a separate path for pedestrians.  At one point though, I saw some signs to say bike path was closed because it was Christmas, I couldn’t quite work out why. The shared bike facility works well, if you’re not racing and have a little patience. One or two cyclists came flying through a busy intersection with bell ringing loudly hoping people would jump out of the way; it’s the kind of approach that doesn’t really help to get more shared cycle facilities.

I came across some tourists who had just had hired some Boris bikes. They obviously had a few difficulties with handling the 25kg bikes. One tourist veered impeccably across my path completely unaware of where she was going. Fortunately, I had a little bit of that generous Christmas spirit; I was going relatively slowly and could anticipate the random movement. It would have been different, if I was cycling at top speed.

hyde-park-bike-lane2

As much fun as it was to go round and round Hyde Park, I needed to venture into the hectic world of central London and try and find a nice cafe to eat, and possibly a few shops to visit. Although, the media can exaggerate the dangers of cycling; it’s hard not to be conscious of the recent spate of serious accidents in London. November was a grim month for London cyclists, no matter how you look at it. I was cycling in defensive mode. –  trying to anticipate dangers, not in a rush, following rules of the road, not taking any unnecessary risks.

If I was a Londoner, I might be able to find the best cycle route East across London, but I didn’t have the patience to examine multiple maps, so I just headed West, trying to follow suitably looking quiet roads. The cycling can best be described as stop start; it’s a bit of a jungle out there. It’s definitely hard work cycling through London, I don’t really envy London commuters, though it’s not as bad as recent headlines make out. The main problem is that you are sharing roads with innumerable buses, lorries, vans. On one occasion a van did a quick three point turn in the road. It was a good job I was on my toes, I had to reverse onto pavement to make sure he didn’t reverse into me. But, apart from that, it was relatively incident free. But, you have to ride with a heightened sense of awareness more than anywhere else. For what it’s worth, I would never dream of cycling around London with headphones on.

rapah-outside

Even the bikes parked outside Rapha have a certain class

I always go to London with the great intentions of having a fantastic time, visit loads of shops, find a great cafe. But, after 20 minutes of cycling towards Covent Garden / Soho, the London experience was already getting a little tough. I had no idea where I was, just going from side street to side street. You pass so many cafes, you keep think you’ll find a better one; so end up going past many.

After several cafes came and went, I was investigating one cafe, only to notice it was the Rapha cafe! I know Rapha from somewhere, O yes! the cycle team and cycle clothing company. Sometimes, it does work out just rambling through London. I went into the Rapha cafe and shop. I eyed a very attractive winter jacket; it looked superbly designed and made. Though it didn’t have a price tag, and I was too shy to ask. It would make an excellent Christmas present, if Santa Claus reads this blog. It was a good place to hang out though. Lots of cycling memorabilia and magazines and a good cycling feel.

pinarello-battered-merckx

The shop has a convenient rack to hang a bikes. I couldn’t help but notice these two bikes next to each other. 1 an immaculate Team Sky issue Pinarello Dogma. The other, the most battered old Merckx commuting bike you could imagine. And the battered Merckx is probably the best choice for cycling in London!

After a good lunch at an excellent nearby cafe, Bills, I started to head back to Paddington. Though, I thought I ought to make a cursory attempt at shopping. I chose a five floored Waterstones in Picadilly, but my heart wasn’t really in it. London is too big a place to shop. And I was thinking more about the vague cycle route back to Paddington.

rapha-outside

Rapha Cafe and shop. The Rapha Festive 500 is a challenge to ride 500km between Dec 24 and Dec 31.

Taking the bike on the train was fine, and it was good having a bike to get from Paddington into Central London. I thought it was difficult cycling into Oxford, but after a day in London, I realise there are much harder places to cycle. It’s hard to add anything to what has already been said about cycling in  London. Except, it would be great if London could be made more accommodating for cyclists. It was an interesting experience and I was glad to come across the Rapha shop and cafe.

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