Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Highway Code Is Changing. Any Comments?

The Driving Standards Agency (DSA) are currently conducting a Highway Code Consultation, for proposed updates and changes which we will all have to follow. Below I have analysed the rules particularly relevent to cycling.

Get your opinion in to the DSA now! - consultation ends 10th May '06.

Whatever is documented in the Highway Code is absolute black & white. Disengage your reasonable braincells for a minute, because the Highway Code will be interpreted literally, from any number of different viewpoints.

Be it a copper with a headache and a book-full of technical infringements you may have just commited unawares. Or a lawyer defending the car driver who knocked you off your bike, and is seeking to highlight any technical rules you may have broken, in order to get the car driver off the hook.

My aim here, is to help make the Highway Code as cohesively and realistically workable as possible.


RULE 57 - (Agree) Have lights front & back, flashing lights permitted. Hooray! Common Sense prevails.

RULE 58 - (Disagree) "Use cycle facilities where they are provided." No. Cycling exactly within designated cycle facilities it is often much more dangerous than riding realistically, using roadsense to decide the safest option.
For example, by riding in a cycle lane situated next to parked cars, the Highway Code is instructing you to ride IN the door zone, how dangerous is that!

RULE 59 - (Disagree) "When using segregated (cycles / pedestrian) tracks you MUST keep to the side intended for cyclists as the pedestrian side remains a pavement or footpath."

No. Pedestrians are forever wandering obliviously all over the cycle side of the "segregated" paths. I have no problem just riding around them, but don't make me a law breaking criminal because I had to pass the pedestrian on the side with legal pavement status. "MUST" should be changed to "should".

RULE 60 - (Disagree) "Keep within cycle lanes wherever possible." No. I will be out of the cycle lane for a variety of reasons when legally I could be kerb-hugging in a cycle lane.

E.g. I will move to the centre of a lane to discourage dangerous overtakes, I will regularly leave the cycle lane to overtake cars parked in the cycle lane. I will plan ahead and join the turn-right lane, if I want to turn right, rather than undertake on the left and scurry across the front of impatient traffic at a Advanced Stop Line. Omit: "Keep within the lane wherever possible."

RULE 61 - (Disagree) "You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement." Sure, in a busy town centre this is obvious, pavement riding is statistically more dangerous anyway. But say you are taking your 5 year old daughter out for a ride on her trike - the Highway Code says you should be on the road.

I know of many footpaths which previously were legally forbidden to cyclists, and a year later had some nice blue signs installed and became cycle paths. So I'm not going to wait for permission to take a safer route today. Also see RULE 59 comments - overtaking pedestrians in a segregated cycle path, requires you to use the footpath, which has legal pavement status. So to say "MUST NOT" is impractical. It should be a more flexible "Should not", and stress the main users of pavements, does not include cyclists.

RULE 62 - (Agree) "Most bus lanes may be used by cyclists" A cheap policy decision which in one hit successfully allows decent space for cyclists to overtake each other, and be allowed a safe gap when being overtaken by cars.

RULE 63 - (Agree - except:) "Not carry anything which will affect your balance."
Lawyers would have a field day here! OK, common sense check please: - If I carry ANYTHING , it WILL affect my balance & the handling characteristics of my bicycle. Fact. (panniers, saddle bag, trailer, even a ruck-sack.)

I guess the DSA are trying to get at: "don't cycle and carry a ladder under your arm, or something similarly extra-ordinarily. Omit this impractical line totally please.

RULE 64 - (Agree) But note how the good safe riding advice in this rule, is contradicted quite widely by the actual real-life cycle facilities.

E.g. Road narrowings with cycle markings which DIRECT you to swerve in to the flow of traffic. E.g. RULE 64 says "Leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles" (avoid the door zone). Yet conflictingly, RULE 58 dictates you should ride in facilities including some badly designed cycle lanes, which are situated in the door zone next to parked cars!

RULE 65 - (Agree) Cyclists, don't be stupid, basically.

RULE 66 - (Agree) "You MUST obey all traffic signs and traffic light signals."

RULE 67 - (Agree) Park your bike sensibly.

RULE 68 - (Disagree) "You MUST NOT cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red."
It is clear that cyclists stopping ahead of vehicles at red traffic lights in full view of the driver behind, is much safer than being squashed along side vehicles. Hence the Advance Stop Line benefits.

However, when (and it OFTEN happens) vehicles stop in the big green box with a cycle logo in it (Duh!). Then I (Cycling) will retain my safe position ahead of the vehicles, even if this means stopping ahead of the stop line, as a consequence of "Mr Dumb" stopping IN (instead of behind) the Advanced Stop Line. The point is, I won't go through the red light, but I will cross the stop line if that guarentees I can be seen clearly by drivers when setting off. Ammend to: "Do not pass traffic lights when red."

RULES 69 to 73 (Agree) Various.

RULE 74 - (Disagree) "You may feel safer either keeping to the left on the roundabout."
Counter-productive, irrisponsible & dangerous advice. To be fair, the Highway Code does then point out the high risk nature of Rule 74's advice:

  1. Drivers look for traffic in the centre of the road, not in the gutter, drivers often won't see you, and will pull out in your path.
  2. Drivers may wrongly assume that any cyclist on the left, will automatically be taking the next exit, when the cyclist continues on the roundabout and the driver exits the roundabout, an obvious collision can occur here.
  3. Vehicles entering & leaving the roundabout will do so as normal, often not taking in to account a cyclist riding such a timid road positioning (in the gutter).

Better advice would be to ride a roundabout as any other vehicle does. If the traffic density is prohibitively high, then segregated cycle facilities and crossings should be provided.

RULE 75 - (Agree) "Give plenty of room to long vehicles on the roundabout."

RULES 76 - 79 (Agree) Crossing the road. But note that in future, if there are adequate cycle routes, the need for cyclists to cross from pavement to pavement should be rare.


RULE 160 (Expand) - "DO NOT overtake if there is any doubt, or where you cannot see far enough ahead to be sure it is safe. e.g. a corner or bend,a hump bridge, the brow of a hill."

Expand to include: "Do not overtake cyclists where insufficient space makes such a manouvre unsafe: E.g. Road narrowings, pedestrian refuge islands, keep left signs, speed cushions, speed chicanes, central road islands, etc. "

RULE 172 (Expand) - Advanced Stop Lines (ASL): "Motorists, MUST stop at the first white line reached"

This seems to generate confusion for some motorists, who will purposely drive in to the ASL box, designated for cycles, regardless if cyclists are present or not.

Some drivers treat it as "optional" and will park in the ASL box when no cyclists are in front. Which means when cyclists filter to the front of traffic lights, they are presented with no safe ASL box to stop or turn right in.

Any argument that drivers need the box for additional braking is rubbish. Modern brakes halt cars well within the Highway Code's stated stopping distances. Regardless where the stop line is, it is a driver's responsibility to judge on an amber light if it is safe to stop or not, this is a yes or no decision.

See RULE 68 Comments. RULE 172 Needs to be made clearer: i.e. "Motorists MUST NOT stop within the Advanaced Stop Line area designated for Cyclists, at any time."

RULE 176 - (Expand) "Do not overtake just before you turn left"
This direction is frequently disregarded everyday. Causing cyclists to react and avoid collisions arrising from a motorist's erroneous judgement & timing, turning left across cyclists, immediately after just overtaking the cyclist! Perhaps it requires stronger emphasis; replacing "Do not", for MUST NOT "

RULE 205 - (Expand) "Be especially careful when turning or changing direction. Be sure to check mirrors and blind spots."
Agree, but could rephrase to: "Be sure to always check mirrors and blind spots." To convey the importance that purposeful mirror checking, is inherrent in a safe system of driving skills. Not just something drivers have to do on their driving test to impress the examiner.

RULE 233 - (Disagree) On-road vehicle parking - "you MUST ensure you do not hit anyone when you open your door. Check for cyclists or other traffic"
This is one of the biggest & most underated cause of accidents, particularly involving two wheeled transport.

Read this with a Lawyer's head - If a cyclist rides past and you hit her with your car door, as you open it, the driver is at fault.
However if the car door is opened first, THEN the cyclist hits the door, is the cyclist at fault? Even if it was 0.1, 0.5, or 1 second before impact?

Or howabout when a car door is opened thoughtlessly, and a cyclist has to take avoiding action, does not HIT the car door, but results in a separate collission, how is culprability tracked back to the originator, who opened the car door?

Realistically, it is the drivers obligation to be certain it is safe to introduce their large metal obstruction in to the traffic flow, responsibly. The wording should be revised to reflect this fact.

Suggested revision: "You MUST wait until there is a safe gap in traffic flow, in which to open your door. You MUST check for cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians before opening your door. You MUST NOT cause an obstruction to traffic, by opening your door."

RULE 234 (Ammend) "You MUST NOT stop or park on a cycle track"
Add: "or any cycle lanes." The logic behind no parking in bus lanes, (aside from the fines revenue), is to improve the attractiveness of busses in terms of speed, priority and service.

Cycle lanes deserve the same status from parking abuse. Not only could it be a huge new scope for parking fine revenue income, but cycling deserves to be given the highest status, promoting to potential new riders all the personal health and environmental benefits cycling delivers.


If you agree with the above suggestions, or have other opinions you would like to voice, get in touch with the DSA here, and make your opinion count. I have no problem if you want to cut & paste the above and send it to the DSA, with your own comments on.

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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Warmer Weather = Cycling Newbies. Problem?

During April '06, the dry warmer weather has tempted many new riders on to their bicycle. But is there a problem with some newbies?

Overall it's a cause for celebration that more new riders are joining in the cycling experience.

But experience is exactly what is missing in some cases.

Sure, everybody has got to start somewhere, but I've witnessed a notable lack of road-sense from some new adult commuting riders.

How can you distinguish a new rider?

  1. Wears conventional dark clothing, camouflaging themselves amongst the tarmac.
  2. Rides with an attitude of invulnerability.
  3. Part-time pavement rider.
  4. Assumes bikes have some kind of magical priority in all traffic situations.
  5. Their knowledge of the Highway Code = "Probably something to do with the Robin Hood era."

All the above traits are a giveaway to spot an inexperienced (adult) rider.

Here's my take on the above:

1/. Cyclists are about 20% the width of cars, and seeing that some drivers manage to crash in to big easy-to-spot cars, cyclists need to make every inch of their presence highly visible.

2/. In any coming together of rider vs. car, rider vs. bus, rider vs. motorcycle, the cyclist will suffer most of the injury & pain. Riding defensively and ultra-cautiously should minimise the risk of this happening.

3/. Pavements are for pedestrians.

4/. A bicycle is a vehicle equal to any other. Cyclists should have the rights equal to any other, but have the obligation to follow the Highway Code equal to any other.

5/. The only way hundreds of thousands of people on the roads every day manage to not crash in to each other, is by knowing the agreed procedures set out in the Highway Code. This essential £1.99 document provides guidance & rules for all vehicles & even pedestrians.

Rather than a "pedal & pray" introduction to cycling, perhaps these new riders commuting in busy traffic should acknowledge a learning curve does exist, and consider sharing a ride with a helpful seasoned rider, or investing in some rider coaching. Before they spike the accident statistics.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What Causes Traffic Jams?

A pleasant sunny day, 13 degrees C where I cycled to work today. Again having to filter past substantial tailbacks of nose-to-tail traffic jams. But what causes this overcrowded delay?

Creating a checklist of usual reasons for such long traffic jams, I noticed none of these were the cause:

  • Road Traffic
  • Roadworks
  • Temporary Traffic Lights
  • Lane Closures
  • Extraordinary Sized Load (e.g. escorting a boat)
  • Police Road Closures
  • Mechanical Breakdowns
  • Punctured Tyres
  • Traffic Lights Not Working

So basically everything was perfect, nothing individually was going wrong or failing. Yet overall many drivers' journeys were very delayed, because of one factor.

The only cause of all these constant traffic jams, was the simple fact of too many vehicles in the same space at the same time.

This chronic traffic problem sees no prospects for getting any better:

According to the 2001 Census, more people in Britain now live in households with two or more cars (29%), than zero car households (27%).

Strangely it seems, many drivers have dropped their expectations so low, that it appears quite conventional to accept huge delays as "a normal day's journey" burning gallons of increasingly expensive fuel, in an inefficient exercise to crawl 5 miles in 1 hour.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Bicycle Air Horn - First Use

So here is the situation. Car turning right, car behind that can squeeze through the gap in front, just. Behind all this stationary traffic is me, slowly filtering up the side.

The second car decides she can fit past the car turning right, so swings left without checking her left mirror first, and without indicating. This manoeuvre would have crushed anyone unfortunate enough to be on her left, against some street posts by the kerb.

I was fortunate to be watching this simple but dangerous error, from behind. My defensive approach meant I anticipated this COULD happen, so hung back cautiously, avoiding any impact.

Had the driver checked her mirror, she would have seen a queue of cyclists trying to filter past.

To awaken the driver and encourage her to be more aware, she was the 1st ever person to receive a toot on my air horn.

The air supply was running low, because work colleagues have had great fun shocking each other with a blast of my 115db bicycle air horn. So the blast wasn't particularly loud, but it had a very positive effect - mirrors finally were checked, and an amply wide space was generously created, for cyclists to continue passing.

So does this mean that there have been NO cycle incidents from 18th March 06 until now?
No. Far from it. The reality is when drivers have done something thoughtless, given the millisecond timescale involved, I'm primarily interested in grinding my brake discs, to avoid the crash. Plus I've been used to riding without the horn previously, perhaps I'll use it more, I'm not fussed.

I'm currently awaiting the art commissions to start flooding in, demanding my fantastic paint.exe skills. Lol!

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Traffic Jams - No Problem

Ride to work today was mainly filtering. Huge traffic jams all around my route, I don't know why.

Felt sorry for the drivers stuck in their cars. I've driven on days like that, and it fields the question; how can it take SO long to go such a short distance?!?

For me, the reduction in cycling speed for filtering past traffic was traded off, by an uncommonly good string of green traffic lights in my favour. Yipee!

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Improving Driving Skills

I both cycle and drive a car. Time spent as a more vulnerable two wheeled road-user has benefited my driving, to be more understanding and safer (for me and everybody nearby).

A lot of drivers only experience one perspective on the road - driving a car. Understanding ALL the other types of road-users who share the public road network (e.g. HGV's, cyclists, motorcyclists, bendy-busses, horses, etc), makes for a more considerate driver in my opinion.

Dear Drivers...

Most common driving mistakes you make, which endanger my life while cycling:

Source: Opening your parked car door without fully checking what's coming.
Why is it a problem?

  • a) The cyclist will crash in to your hard metal car door and be seriously injured.
  • b) Sometimes the thoughtlessly opened door is the beginning of bigger accidents; (e.g. cyclist clips your open car door sending them off-course, to a head-on fatal impact with on-coming traffic.)
  • c) If a passing larger vehicle (e.g. bus, lorry, van, etc) hits your door, it will be smashed from its hinges.

2/. Forgetting to check your mirror for the cyclists passing either side of your car, before turning in to a road.
Why is it a problem?

  • a) Because the cyclist will crash side-on in to your car as you turn.
  • b) Or you will run over the cyclist if he travels just in-front of you as you turn.

3/. Overtaking too close to cyclists.
Often this happens when you fail to plan-ahead for road-width narrowings caused by; parked cars, pedestrian refuge islands, keep left signs, speed cushions, etc. Why is it a problem?

  • a) You're guessing - Passing things on your right hand side, you have much better judgement of space available, because in the UK drivers sit on the right. Passing things on your left hand side (cyclists), you can never be certain of the exact space available, side-by-side between the cyclist & your car. You can (& often do) misjudge the gap between overtaking cyclists.
  • b) It is intimidating, and often an unnecessary risk, because you are only heading to the next red light anyway.
  • c) Wind - A strong side wind can shift cyclists 2 or 3 feet off line quite easily, so leaving a wide gap while overtaking a cyclist, allows a margin for this to happen without incident.
  • d) Clip another car & the wing mirrors bend back. Even the slightest clip of a cyclist will result in loss of control of the bicycle, causing an unpredictable outcome - possibly crashing in to street furniture, possibly under the wheels of the following car, possibly off-course injuring pedestrians, possibly crashing in to your car.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Who Are You & What Do You Want?

Looking at the web stats (by the most excellent, It's good to read that this blog is getting steady hits, and a few of you are regular returning visitors.

So firstly let me thank you for stopping by this blog, and secondly help me find out what you like reading here:

What do you want to see more of?

  • Opinion?
  • Experiences?
  • News?
  • Eco-Themes?
  • Products?
  • Comment?
  • Humour?
  • New Rider Advice?
  • Other? (please say)

Please let me know.

I'd like for this blog not just to be a one-way street of me posting stuff AT you. There is a great comment system on blogger, and anyone can add their opinion, you can even post comments anonymously if you prefer.

Come on, with canine instincts; you know you want to raise your leg and leave your mark on the tree trunk of this blog!

Feel free to email me also, for any feedback or suggestions you might have, I welcome it!

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Folding Bikes Are Fine...

Folding bikes are fine, as long as you remember to tighten the seat post!

Source: (Tim Pestridge)


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Saturday, April 15, 2006

London Cycle Routes - Maps & Resources

Whether you want to check out a new cycling route to work, or are just curious of any undiscovered cycle routes in your location, here are a collection of cycle path and cycle lane resources online.

  • Camden Cycling Campaign's London Route Map - Google maps showing official TfL cycle routes, park and canal routes and other recommended cycle routes throughout Inner London. Locations of bike shops, cycle parking and hazards to look out for.

  • London Cycle Network Webmap - Zoomable London cycle map, with added descriptions labelling numbered cycle routes / off road routes / quieter roads, etc.

  • TFL Journey Planner - I have to give this new facility a mention. The TFL Journey Planner has been expanded to cater for cycle journeys. However, a computer generated route suggestion will never be as good as the common-sense of a local human suggestion. But worth a link.

  • Sustrans Plan Route - Use the plan route facility to find cycle routes in your chosen area. Searchable by postcode.

  • Cyclemaps 1 - Non-zoomable computerised minor road route suggestions.

  • Cyclemaps 2 - Non-zoomable computerised direct route suggestions.

  • BUPA - BUPA's brief list of cycle route resources.

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Expanded and updated, please see the new article: London bike ride and bike routes, for ideas, maps, and the best places in London for commuting bike trips and leisure bike rides.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

Envious Engineering Efficiency

For a change, I got out for a cycle away from London, towards the countryside.
I saw a beautiful pheasant had been mauled by drivers, (probably accidentally, but try telling the pheasant that now.) It got me thinking:

How all the pheasant did was unknowingly put its trust in humans. Car driving humans. Speeding, polluting, inattentive, oil-addicted humans, that's us.

How the pheasant spent its life taking only what it NEEDED to survive. It didn't plunder the natural resources it was surrounded by.

How it flew effortlessly from A to B, powered by its own energy: No carbon footprint or damaging pollution problems.

How envious we should be, of its engineering efficiency.

So I read the above again, and realised parallels can be drawn with cyclists, and this pheasant:

Trust, efficiency, own power supply, no pollution, and something to be envious of - all apply to cyclists too.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Road Glass Mystery

Glass - It seems to be everywhere on London cycle lanes. With the assistance of road camber sloping towards drains, broken glass gets swept by the air currents of fast moving cars, in to cycle lanes. Where did it come from? And what can you do about it?

Types of Glass

  • Smashed bottles
  • Shards from car crashes
  • Smashed car windows, theft from cars
  • Tiny millimetre sized sharp glass pieces, hard to spot.


The 1st line of defence has to be avoiding riding through broken glass, but that's often not an option, especially with the millimetre sized glass.

2nd line of defence is a proven brand of tyre, with a specific anti-puncture design or guarantee.

The 3rd line of defence I've found to be pre-emptive maintenance after every ride. Religiously fingertip checking each tyre for any embedded glass, it only takes a few seconds.

Sometimes an embedded piece of glass can stay in a tyre for a while, awaiting the final incision through the inner tune, at a time least convenient to you.

Sods Law

The omnipresent Monsieur Sod is not a nice man, and punctures fall within his scope of activities. Likely scenarios Mr Sod prefers:

  • It's raining.
  • You're late anyway, then you get a puncture to make you REALLY late!
  • Your ride passes through a posh area, a suburban area, and a high-crime sh*thole. Guess where you're gonna get your puncture?
  • All of the above combined!

Puncture info here.


Where does all this glass come from???

Pub carelessness and drunken glass smashing is definitely a factor.

Perhaps the rock salt winter gritting lorries contain some unintended glass, but that still doesn't explain it in the summer...

Curiously "glass grit" is blasted at high pressure for cleaning purposes, e.g. graffiti removal, or stone cleaning. This could be another potential source.

Also, White line road markings include glass beads on the white line surface - for reflective qualities. Could this be a source?

Clean Sweep

And to think the solution is as simple as a day's road sweeping every now & then, to maintain arterial cycling routes in your local area.

We're not talking big costs either:
A big road sweeper to hire, is around £300 for a day.
A little road sweeper to hire, is around £45 for a day.

It is not inconceivable, that during just one 8 hour day, of solely driving around, a sweeper could easily cover all the main cycling routes in your area. Good value for money if you ask me.

But when was the last time you saw a road sweeper?

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Sunday Freedom

I got out for a road ride yesterday (Sunday 9th) on my usual commuting bike.

Motivated enough to set-off in the morning (I do like a lie-in at the weekend...) the weather rewarded this decision with sunny / cloudy / dry 11 deg. C, pleasant riding conditions. And just to spite any late-starters, rained in the afternoon.

Sunday morning cycling has to be one of the best days to be on the road, purely for the reduced traffic quantities. It is so nice to (depending where you are) enjoy moments of traffic-free peace, where the only sounds are of high speed rubber whirring on tarmac, and the successful clonk of the next gear.

I can totally understand why cycling clubs begin their rides at 7am or 8am in the morning; the absence of other traffic must be fantastic!

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Cycle mph Average Speed In London

What is the average speed of a bicycle in London? And what is the average speed of a car in London?

"The average speed in London is 9mph - slower than in the horse and cart era"
Source: BBC News


Further surveys of car average speeds correlate the facts that after waiting at traffic lights, queuing at junctions, and traffic jam delays are taken in to account, despite the expense & advanced technology of modern cars, the average speed in real terms is very, very low.

Racers Potential

Road racing cyclists intent on setting fastest race times as shown here, can achieve average speeds of 30 mph sustained over distances of 25 and 50 miles. Considering that is the average speed overall, including any gradients and wind factors, for pure human power, 30 mph is seriously impressive!

The road racing is just an example, to demonstrate the kind of average speeds cycles can achieve. But it's not realistically comparable with urban commuting.

My Average Speed

On a daily cycling commute to & from work in London, my priorities rank safety above speed or journey time. Yet with little exertion, not trying too hard, I still rate better than the 9 mph car average. Here are my typical statistics:

  • My average traveling speed (as in; the speed I often cycle at on flat tarmac with no positive or negative wind assistance) is: 20 mph
  • My average speed (as in; total time spent riding, divided by distance covered - includes stopping for traffic lights etc, slowing down & accelerating, and cautiously filtering passed queues of traffic jams) is: 13 mph

Distance = Speed x Time

In an urban environment, where pedestrians, parked cars, junctions, and all traffic are compressively close together, cycling is unsuspectingly fast. However, this is both good and bad.

Yes the mechanical advantage of a bicycle allows a human to move say 8 times faster than that same human just walking.


  • at 10 mph, I cover 4 meters every second
  • at 20 mph, I cover 9 meters every second!
  • at 30 mph, I cover 13 meters every second!!!

I have to remind myself sometimes of how many meters I travel for each tick, tock that passes. Because, if some lame-brain in this distance should swing a car-door open, or a walk out in to the road, I literally would have 1 second until collision impact.

Which is why you'll find me riding well away from the door zone of parked cars, and avoiding the kerb edge of the road where pedestrians like to launch from.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Cycle Incident: Red Van Man.

Red Transit van, cuts left across cycle lane in to a side road. No left turn indication, no checking of mirrors. Unfortunately I was in the cycle lane just as this happened.

The van's left turn was instantly on top of me, making braking a non-option. Fortunately because I was filtering slowly, and the traffic crawling even slower, this speed (10-15mph) allowed me to sharply steer left in to the side road to avoid an otherwise certain collision, with this vehicle type which weighs between 1.6 tonnes to 4.25 tonnes (dependant on load & model).

The fact me & my transport weighs an efficient 0.09 tonnes, means I don't fancy my chances in a collision!

A couple of seconds ahead or behind, and I would have been a) in a nasty side impact, I'm guessing my right leg & knee would have been worse off as the heavy transit van & it's momentum may have ploughed through the side of me. or b) Totally unharmed & not in anyway inconvenienced (just a bit disappointed:) as I view the left turning van occur a few meters ahead of me.

A driver checking mirrors before turning is a pretty basic process. And I recall after I learnt to drive this was a lax area which I needed to improve on as well. After focusing on using mirrors more, I found out of habit, it became an automatic "system" of driving. i.e. a logical process, like a flow chart. e.g.:

  1. To make a right turn >
  2. What's behind? Check Mirror >
  3. Indicate right >
  4. What's in front / oncoming? (Clear gap) >
  5. Can I fit in to the side road without blocking this main road? (No - wait for space) >
  6. What's behind? (A Filtering / Overtaking motorcycle?) Check Mirror >
  7. All Clear, Make the right turn.

Given that driving in the years after lessons & tests becomes mostly habit, if that habit is TO check mirrors all the time, then it is logical that Mr Red Van Man has a habit of NOT checking mirrors most or all of the time.

Which is worrying, because the same situation as above (or worse) will happen again & again unless a conscious decision is made by the individual to improve driving habits.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Car Brand Stereotypes Shortlist

My shortlist of best & worst car brand stereotypes, as judged in a completely biased and unscientific way, by me!

Whether we admit it or not, we all have in some way been influenced by the car manufacturers extensive efforts to communicate their car brand to our brains.

Perhaps it was the music in their advert? The nature of the sports event you saw their poster at? The expressions of the model's faces on their TV advert? The type of newspaper you saw their print advert in? Etc etc.

Given that each car brand tries to differentiate itself from the next car brand, manufacturer's advertising seeks to highlight particular attributes, trying to create association between those ideas and the car's brand.

Well Established Examples Include:

  • Volvo = Safety. Pioneered car safety as a main selling point of cars.
  • Ferrari = Racing. Manufacturer ONLY makes expensive supercars and competes on race circuits worldwide, e.g. F1.
  • Top Japanese Manufacturers = Reliability. Renound for pioneering mass robotic car production, with associated quality & reliability benefits.

And through part-advertising, part-observation, part-judgement, and part-bias, here's how I see certain car brands.

My Brand Associations:

BMW 3 Series = Competitive. Front runners in the rat-race, not a very noble victory to pursue.

Ford Fiesta = Dizzy driving. Mirrors used EXCLUSIVELY for make up checking.

BMW X5 = Drug dealer / un-informed school-run-mum. (Who, once she realises everybody thinks she is a drug dealer, looks to sell the X5 ASAP!)

Skoda Octavia = Minicab. Great car, I just only ever see these with a taxi badge on!

Volvo Estates = Best drivers ever. Considerate, patient, and co-operative.

Porsche = Demoralised owners in a race-ready (almost-) supercars, the childhood dream shattered by the reality of crawling through urban speed humps & traffic jams, continually paranoid about knocks, dents & scratches.

Vauxhall Cavalier = Criminal. Most often with a stolen TV in the boot.

Toyota Rav4 = Inattentive driving. More time spent choosing paint colour than spent learning to drive safely. 87% likely to crash *.

* Blatantly made up statistic.

Some true, and some a bit of fun.

So what are your car brand stereotypes?

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Monday, April 03, 2006

Heaven is a place in... (surely not?!?)

I think I want to start eating Schwenkbraten, and learn to talk German!

Oh my god, this sounds like heaven:

  • Voted most comfortable German bicycle city.
  • 3,000 space park parking facility at the main train station.
  • A complete network of wide bike paths and roads open exclusively to cyclists.
  • Rent a bike easily, typically £4.80 per day. (That is HALF the price of my equivalent train fare in London!)

No, I'm not dreaming, this is M√ľnster in Northrhine-Westphalia, Germany.

It sounds like the city has it's town planning priorities properly organized. The 3,000 space bike parking opened in 1999, and within the 1st year alone achieved 80% full capacity.

What can I say, these Germans are YEARS ahead of us! (Come on Ken... get on your bike mate ;-)

Muenster City

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