Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Cycling-London Blog Is ONE!

On 28th February 2006 I decided to wheelie in to the blogging world and start writing. Today celebrates Cycling-London’s 1st birthday!

Despite having increasingly less time to contribute to Cycling-London, I really enjoy creating new blog posts and sharing the thoughts of the moment.

It is also an appropriate time to give a big thank you to the regular visitors who read Cycling-London! Thank you also for expanding and colouring the content further, with your comments and views.

A retrospective of some choice entries from this year:

Technorati Tags:

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, February 25, 2007

What A Plonker!

Standing at a crossroads (not metaphorically), I observed a highly populated cycling commuter route at 6pm on a Tuesday evening.

Firstly what struck me was the immense frequency of cyclists passing through this junction, and I was impressed by the scale of allegiance to pedal power. Good to see that us Brits have adopted a hardy weatherproof attitude, facing whatever the climate-changed winter can throw at us. (Mini Hurricane, anyone?)

On this occasion vehicles were well behaved, for example; stopping at traffic lights BEFORE the cyclist’s Advance Stop Line, (not IN the cycles green ASL box). Taxis were patiently queuing in traffic, leaving space for cyclists to pass. All was well, good karma prevailed.

Disappointingly it was the rare cyclist who stood out as the naive, disregarding chancer. Most other responsible riders shared the road and practiced the amnesia-friendly; green for go, red to stop format:

The chancer in question, was noticeable for a few reasons which set him apart from competent cyclists.

His riding style was akin to a dazed hippy drifting through a field of rainbow coloured flowers: No apparent assertiveness or decision making, just total reliance on undiluted hope.

Financially he seemed only prepared to invest as far as the bike starting point – lights & visible clothing not viewed as a necessity. (!)

Finally, he stood out for a pathetic attempt to disguise a red light jump (RLJ), by rolling “cunningly” passed all the civilised stationary traffic, then “sneakily” through the actively crossing pedestrians, in a feeble effort not to be noticed RLJ’ing.

Feeble, because people did notice. No horns blasted, no abuse shouted, but observant road-users unconsciously notch another mark in the “against” column. Perhaps to be totted up in the future? Perhaps very subtly influencing how the drivers view and interact with cyclists in future? Or perhaps to be criticised in a blog here or there...

What struck me as stupid was the fact this drifter ambled passed the ASL, continued passed the traffic light Stop line, and on to the middle of the cross roads – and had to stop there anyway! (To avoid being hit by legitimate cross traffic.) In this position the traffic lights are not visible, so he has no idea who has the green light and right of way. He looked lost, and could only guess at his next unimpressive move.

The mass of competent cyclists waiting with traffic at the red reminded me of the Critical Mass slogan: “we ARE traffic” (is it the case that cyclists demonstrating the behaviour of legitimate traffic, slowly gain respect to be treated as legitimate traffic?) These riders, me and other onlookers of the dazed hippy, collectively and silently remarked; “what a plonker!”

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, February 16, 2007

Do You Value Life?

What a big question that is. What criteria to use? In who’s opinion? How is it demonstrated?

It is a given that most people value their own life – there are inbuilt human mechanisms for survival. For example getting nervous when climbing high ladders is the body’s message to be careful or face DEATH!

Or alternatively why babies give a cringing expression of bitter taste and spit out food which spooks their taste buds, is precautionary to guard against accidently ingesting anything poisonous or harmful.


So the question really is how much do people value OTHER people’s lives. Because with strangers, there is no connection or commitment to that unknown individual directly.

A relevant demonstration of how much a person values a stranger’s life, can be witnessed everyday cycling on London roads. The decision (for the vehicle driver) is how to overtake a cyclist. There is much more depth to this decision than the rhetorical; “well you just go past ‘im, innit!

Most of the time however, with an adequate road layout, space between cycles and overtaking vehicles is roomy enough not to even invoke this question. And drivers can rumble on their way without the “stress” of decision making.


But often circumstances present a situation, where the driver has to choose between their own perceived gains (time, making progress), and what risks their actions might pass on to the cyclist being overtaken.

Typically this dilemma arises in locations such as road narrowings, pedestrian refuge islands, limited space from parked cars, and the like.

My theory is, a driver who does not value life (of other people), will overtake regardless, blasting past the vulnerable cyclist in a questionably tight gap, with little adjustment to their speed and road position. The driver willingly CHOOSES to take a risk on behalf of the cyclist.

Therefore the driver doesn’t value (a strangers) life very highly. Often it could be a deluded arrogance towards their own driving skills which clouds this decision. But the fact remains that wherever there is human judgement, there is human error.

Competent Raw Belief

The noticeably competent driver however, deals with the same situation differently, and more positively:
This driver trades off the 3 seconds time advantage which would be “gained” by blasting past the cyclist at a narrowing, (with traffic lights, such negligible time becomes irrelevant anyway).

The driver slows down, follows the cyclist through the narrowing, leaving enough distance from the cyclist’s rear wheel, not to spook or intimidate the rider – why? Because this driver cares about other people, they have the personal quality of being able to empathise with how a stranger would feel, on receipt of their driving decisions.

The driver asks internal questions to put themself in the stranger’s shoes, such as; “would I like 1,500Kg’s of unforgiving metal being thrust towards my pedalling legs? No, no I wouldn’t” and “would I appreciate wing mirrors practically striking my handlebars if I were the cyclist? Again; I’ll decide against thanks”

After navigating the narrowing, the driver executes a safe overtaking of the cyclist, leaving plenty of respectful space side by side.

Everything about this competent drivers’ decisions, trace back to the raw belief that they value OTHER people’s lives.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Road Pricing A Good Idea?

There's been lots of fuss about pay-as-you-drive proposals recently. Is this because drivers are being bullied by the tax man? Or is there a justifiable reason to put a price on motoring?

Road Pricing sounded like a welcome mechanism to abate the increasing sprawl of traffic and traffic jams, when it was suggested a while back.
With the emergence of proposals in the national road pricing scheme, this now raises some concerns.

Primarily, unadulterated surveillance appears as a most frightening motivator of reaction. Add in the increased cost deterrent of pay-as-you-go driving, and it is unsurprising that the car-owning British majority don't fancy paying more to drive, or change their vehicular habits in any way, given the choice.

This is reflected by the 1.5 million people (and growing) who have signed this petition against road pricing, assisted by momentum of email circulars and media exposure.

Personal privacy is a contentious issue, nobody wants to be surreptitiously watched, especially not criminals. The wide-scale deployment of Electronic Vehicle Identification (EVI), and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technologies is understandably likely to evoke a hair-raising Orwellian fear, because the future capabilities are comprehensive: Knowing exactly where a driver is, could be use to "catch out" a typical driver in various ways. People don't like change anyway, and road pricing is clearly going to be a Weapon of Mass Taxation, but as a trade-off for being watched all the time, could there be benefits to such a system?

  • Deterrent for stolen cars / joy riders to avoid surveyed areas?
  • Evidence & facts of vehicle movement data to use in court?
  • Speed limits actually enforced? Making for less intimidating cycling conditions.
  • Theoretically, stolen cars easier to identify and locate.
  • Challenges the mobility of criminals (e.g. stolen car used in bank robbery has its route tracked, and occupants observed by CCTV?)
  • Expense of driving making drivers begin to consider which journeys NECESSARY to drive, not just EASY to drive.
  • Potentially less vehicular congestion, as car use is positively affected by increased cost.
  • Knock on impact of less carbon emissions, from some reduced vehicle use.

ANPR cameras already in use in the UK e.g. in key routes around Birmingham, London's congestion charge zone, and on fuel forecourts.ANPR already in use.


Why do we need road pricing anyway? The well documented answers include the intolerable inefficient traffic congestion on the roads, and the collective decision to ignore the fact that vehicles output pollution, willingly overlooking that inconvenient truth.

Let's face it, personal vehicles are comfortable, air-conditioned, personalised, isolation pods, which GO quickly, but don't necessarily get to places quickly.

Cars are shiny, attractive, desirable; everything the driver is not - after years spent flopped at the steering-wheel nibbling travel sweets!

My alternative viewpoint to the question Why do we need road pricing anyway? Is this; There needs to be some kind of consequence to the effects of driving, which currently are not taken in to account in any significant way. For example

Human Error - the 3,000+ deaths and 270,000+ casualties each year (over 5,000 every week!) are a direct result of driving, and there is no REAL sense of punishment or consequence because UK courts are notoriously too lenient on British drivers as a trend.

Environmental - Yes the road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty) has a scale based on CO2 emissions g/km, but as argued in this Proposed Road Tax post, there is currently nowhere near enough disincentive. At present Vehicle Excise Duty is completely impotent at pushing its CO2 message.

Health - Childhood asthma caused by traffic - How does each driver face the responsibility of their contribution to these health problems?

The above are sometimes indirect products of vehicle use, and thus hard to pin down, locate, and make the originating driver accountable.

At least with road pricing there is SOME kind of consequence to the chosen quantity of individual vehicle use.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, February 12, 2007

Still Here...

Although my appalling lack of posts suggest otherwise, I am still here. Bike & rider are doing just fine!

Managed to scrape 5 minutes to scribble this, because I am swamped with some large activities which are dominating my free time, to the displeasure of this blog!

I hope to post some stuff in the near future.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Google Search