Tuesday, 4 June 2013
A short post about a ride I did a few weeks ago.
View Blewbury to Ginge Ridegway Circuit in a larger map
The idea is to get away from motor vehicles as much as possible and there's plenty of chance to do this here.Of course, along with many more wild environments, there's a bit of "up" involved. I start at around 60m above sea level and at the top peak out at just over 200m. This isn't a particularly hard or big in comparison with other parts of the UK, but with some of it's off road nature can be a bit challenging.
So here's the clip of the full route described below.
Or look at it in YouTube.
Starting in Blewbury a small detour round the village to avoid the main road as much as possible. I allude to why in this post and especially at the end of the clip above you'll see the issues with traffic, further analysed here.
After a short, sharp bit of the A417, it's up to Churn along Bohams Road. This road is a tad rough, but perfectly usuable all year round. At Churn, as the road runs out you go over the old railway. There used to be a station here accompanying an old soldiers camp. The track to the west starts to get a bit rougher and a final turn up Gore Hill to the A34 crossing gets you to the ancient route of The Ridgeway.
You've done most of the climbing by now, but thanks to the rough surface and prevailing headwind the next few miles can be invigorating. They are certainly exhilarating with long views either way.
After topping out at Ginge Down, there's a right down a track. After letting go for a short while I was quickly on the brakes. Tracks round here can be covered in large lumps of flint which, aside the form the odd puncture worry, can throw the wheels sideways without as much as a "How's yer Father". And then the track corners sharply. Yet, more exhilaration, but with a soupçon of "please let me live".
At the bottom, you join the cycle route NCN544, going the other way, if you see what I mean. The road is very quiet and leads to East Lockinge followed by West Lockinge, which are two very pretty villages. Clearly money here comes from horses, with a statue on the village green.
Turning back through Ardington and then almost back on yourself and up the hills again gives a good sense of the unachievable circle. Just before closing the loop, there's a track back east which saves you the hassle of going a bit higher up the hill onto the cyclepath. Well, just consider that for a moment. Surely there's a reason the cyclepath is up there? Well, yep, as my backside will attest. It's fun, I'll give you that, but it's not really for bikes, and there's a clue in the last paragraph.
This route is clearly used by horses. Their hooves put cross-direction grooves in the mud in teh wet of spring. Later, these lumps harden to rock (well, almost!). So this track consists of lots of 1-2inch striations across the path making every second a bumpy, lumpy, rumpy affair. True, there's some relief at Ginge Brook as you have to get off to get the bike up the slope although it's a bit of a shame to see why it might be difficult.
After another mile of gluteus maximus massage, the cyclepath comes back down the hill and a great flat surface greets you like a smooth banana sundae. Ahead a few strange buildings appear on the horizon. It gets bigger and stranger the closer you get and you'll find yourself able to ride through the continuing scientific centre at Harwell, the reason I grew up nearby.
At this time they're building so there's a diversion round the campus. But then, it's offroad again along a decent track towards Hagbourne Hill. Again, the views are great, although you might want to block out Didcot Power Station.
The final bits are road based and quite nerve racking. The first lane is actually listed as on cycleroute NCN544. I'd only ever ride it this way as it's narrow, twisty, limited vision, and has a slope to it. I'm happy going at around 30mph downhill as I feel I'm not going to get a car behind me too quickly. However, the other way where 10mph may be the maximum leaves you feeling very vunerable to people driving at over 40mph up behind you withotu being able to see properly.
The second bit, from Upton, is the deeply unpleasant A417. I've written about this here and further analysed here.
Yes, it's that favourite little blue rectangle, the "Cyclists Dismount" sign. Here it is in all it's glory.
I'm not quite going to say
"Never in human history has any sign been as misunterstood as much as this one"
but it can't be far off. And it's mainly due to the wording really, isn't it. Anyone reading that would quite rightly think it's an instruction to anyone riding a bike that they must get off the bike and push it. But actually it doesn't mean that at all.
The big clue is that it's on a blue background rectangle. These are referred to as "information" signs in the Highway Code. So, this sign is advisory only, it's not an instruction to do as the sign says. In fact, nowhere in the Highway Code, the Road Traffic Acts, or the The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 will you find this sign with the instuction that "A cyclist MUST dismount".
The sign that requires a person cycling to stop is this one.
This is an stop "instruction" sign, with it's familiar round red circle on a white background. Speed limits appear the same, so we all know the format well.
There are several irritations about the sign, from a lot of different angles. One irritation to people riding is that there rarely is another sign saying "Remount". Another is it's a catch-all to reduce liability on the road owners in the event of an collision or other accident. An irritation as well is that some people seem keen to tell anyone who is cycling that they shouldn't be doing so.
Lots of wording has been suggested in campaigns to change this, although my favourite would be as follows.
I favour this for a few reasons.
- It tells people riding that they have a responsibility to others by going slow
- It also tells people to give way to those in a more vunerable position
- It also is not grouping people as "cyclists" or "pedestrians", we are the same people. This reduces the "Us and Them" contentions that often plague these kind of interactions.
So, what do you do when confronted by a quick throwaway comment that is less informed about the "Cyclists Dismount" sign. Here's an example.
Often the person is past and going on before you've had a chance to react. Shouting afterwards is not a pretty sight and can make you look like a bolshy bloody cyclist. Something that's unlikely to educate the incorrect statement by the other person. And more likely to leave an unpleasant taste in their mouths that leads to further antagonisms. We have to get people on our side, not fighting with incorrect knowledge!
So you really do have to be quick. As you can hear, I do quickly get in the words "Yeah, it's advisory", but he continues his conversation, possibly without hearing me. He does point out it's busier on a Sunday, but I didn't get that until later. I'd agree, but that's not really the point.
I think my favoured words would still be "It's advisory only", dropping the "Yeah" but including "only". And said calmly and with a smile. Indeed smiling from the start is always my thing on these interactions. And you'll also spot that I stop and hold up while he passes.
Anyway, there are more interesting comments on the clip. Some discussion about whether a mounted bike riding slowly takes up more space than pushing it. I still go for the former.
Anyway, let's have a look at some of the more ridiculous use of these signs. This is a classic in Harlow, Essex brgouht by the inimitable Warrington Cycle Facility of the Month.
And perhaps we should be looking to the world leaders of cycling facilities, where David Hembrow reliably informs us these signs hardly ever exist.
A separate issue around the "Cyclists Dismount" sign is the red sign with white wording that accompanies roadworks. Here's an example from Oxford uploaded to Cyclestreets.net.
The text under the photo rightly refers to the guidance on road signs like this that say they should NOT be used. On page 6, it says as follows.
Where access is permitted for motor vehicles, "Cyclist Dismount" signs should not be used.
Of course these signs do have a purpose, here's an example of the correct use from Cambridge on Cyclestreets.net. It's real only use is to allow people to walk their bikes along a pavement where a road closure has taken place.
So, what sign should be used when roadworks come into the cyclelane or restrict the road without closing it to through traffic. Here's a start again from Cambridge from Phil Rodgers.
Wednesday, 22 May 2013
Its a little sad that the BBC seem to be completely failing to debate the "Tweet and Run" event very clearly or in any informed manner. They have a policy of getting the random person on the street to respond. Here is a classic example of someone who has some understanding of the underlying issues ending up against someone who seems to believe that if you say things loudly enough they become true.
Here is the Jeremy Vine Show where Jeremy saw the important thing was to keep goading people into shouting others down, almost as much as he did. He seemingly wanted to get stuck in the tittle-tattle of the debate, and not go anyway near trying to find and inform some of the more cogent points. That is getting the UK into a place where we have mutual respect for our individual transport mode choice.
First, if you haven't, sign The Times Cyclesafe petition. If you are a taxpayer, parent, driver, or commuter it'll help you as well.
There are some simple things around this debate.
- There is no 'road tax'. It doesn't exist. The tax disc on vehicles is designed as a tax on pollution caused. The money it raises does not pay for road maintenance. Council tax and government grants do.
- 'Car tax' does roughly raise the same amount of money that the NHS spends on assisting with poluution-caused illnesses. If the same tax was levied on bicycles, they would be zero-rated, just like many low-emission cars already. And would cost millions to administer, paid for by those with polluting cars.
- Actually driving a car is subsidised in this country. Looking at all the costs caused by motor vehicles (including pollution, other health issues like obesity, road damage caused by cars, congestion) against that raised by driving and there's a £10bn shortfall.
- Money spent on cycling infrastructure saves vasts amount of money. In the short term it invigorates local businesses and reduces congestion. In the long term it makes massive health savings.
- Most people (over 80%) who ride a bike, also drive a car. In fact, a higher percentage of people than the general population.
- People driving kill and seriously injured 100 more times than people riding bikes. We need to train ourselves better, especially when in control of heavy, fast machines. Or even better, decide that segregated infrastructure will save and encourage more.
- As a percentage, people driving go through red lights just as much as people riding but kill and injure many more.
- People want to cycle but find the road environment far too scary. They ride on the pavements. Many pavements have been converted for shared-use which makes it legal in those places.
- Helmets and Hi-viz do not make people riding any safer. Helmets would make car passengers safer though.
- Lorries turning left at lights is a disproportionate cause of urban cycling deaths. Usually it is the drivers fault failing to indicate or properly look.
Multiple sources from my page: http://radwagon.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/common-misconceptions-on-road.html
I Pay Road Tax: IPayRoadTax.com
The Times Cyclesafe campaign: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/public/cyclesafety
The Guardian Bike Blog: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog
The Telegraph Recreational Cycling: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/active/recreational-cycling/
European Cyclist's Federation: http://www.ecf.com/
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
On Wednesday April 24th, the Get Britain Cycling parliamentary inquiry will submit its crucial report to the Government.
If Britain is to realise the potential benefits of promoting cycling as a healthy and affordable mode of transport (details below), then it is vital that the Government and the Prime Minister take this report seriously and implement its recommendations in full.
- The Times launch an e-petition on the Downing Street site, calling on the Government to implement the recommendations in the Get Britain Cycling report.
- Please support it at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/49196
Several major cycling and motoring groups will be joining with The Times in doing the same.
Full details of the report and its recommendations will appear in Wednesday's edition of The Times and will be available to view (for free, as always) at http://thetimes.co.uk/cyclesafety.
Many thanks indeed. If, together, we can reach the 100,000 signature mark, we stand a very good chance of a full debate in Parliament and forcing this high up the political agenda. We will do all we can from our end at The Times to put pressure on at the highest level.
Investing in cycle infrastructure actually saves money. A lot of north European countries now work on a economic model that talks about money saved per kilometre ridden (and the costs associated with every kilometre driven). This is made up a several contributing factors.
- Obesity is a growing problem is this UK and has some very high forecasts for the longterm costs. Right now 20% of early teens now face this problem. In countries where cycling rates are high, the rates are near 2%. Physical inactivity is said to cost around £10bn a year.
- Pollution is still killing us early. 5.6% of all deaths in England were attributable to long-term exposure to 'man-made' air pollution in 2010 alone. A considerable part of that is down to motor vehicle emissions. The cost to the public purse is around £8bn (about the same amount as raised by car tax).
- Congestion on our roads slows everyone down to the tune of around £10bn a year. This is caused by too many people driving. The space a car takes up is 4-6 times that of a bicycle. 69% of all car journeys are under 5 miles, and many of those journeys can be ridden easily by a large proportion of the population. This includes partially able people as well.
- Accidents cause a considerable financial impact on the country. This is estimated at £8.7bn.
These are only a short summary of all the effects our car-centric transport system has created for us. There's a long list with a lot of costs on one side and a lot of savings on the cycling side.
At the moment we spend a tiny amount on cycling infrastructure if looked at the overall spend on transport. This has to change and we have to start making smart choices (not like this) rather than following what we've always done expecting something to somehow change.
In a country where we seem to constantly talk about saving money, this is a no brainer. But it's not just that it saves money. This enriches us, makes our lives more pleasant, and increases our enjoyment of our public spaces (as Jeremy Clarkson said). Cycling is known to increase happiness. This cannot be underestimated.
And as a final point, helmets, hi-viz, or any other type of specialist clothing has been proved pointless or even worse in road safety. They are just a distraction. This is also true of red light jumping and pavement riding discussions, both of which are done more by people driving.
Common Misconceptions on the Road
The Bicycle Dividend
The Cost of Motoring
Cycling and Health (PDF)
Cycle Safety Statistics
British Medical Association Report on Healthy Transport
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
A completely mapped cycling video guide to Cambridge roads with description & tips, cross referenced indexing, and video embedded KML files by area for download.
On uptake of video clipping my cycling, one thing I was keen on doing was to create a view of the cycling in my area. This wasn't a judgement thing. It's not "the cars are bad, cyclists are bad, the roads are awful" concept. The idea was to simply show how it is. To allow people to look, make choices, and cycle safely in known conditions. In some kind of vain notion that others might want to take a look before trying a route.
To that end I've organised a large number of clips with geographcial KML data and indexed it in multiple ways and allocated a notional quality status to them.
Here's a full map of the coverage including the KML for the whole picture. The KML data is best viewed using Google Earth (download), especially in conjunction with the Excel tool, but still can be accessed using Google Maps through any web browser (although this shows a limited number of routes per map 'screen').
View Cambridge Video Routes Guide in a larger map or Download KML directly
Inevitably, keeping my opinion out of the state of the roads isn't easy, and it has crept in at times. Although maybe there's a hint as to why I think as I do when riding on the road. At the same time, this has had a long-running effect on my driving, calming my decision-making and helping me understand that rushing in a car is a dangerous action. The best mechanism is mostly to calm down, slow down, and let others have space.
Additionally, a fair amount of commentary is telling people cycling to take care and look out. This is mostly due to lack of awareness of others in the roadspace rather than a call to reduce the right of way of the person cycling. It's better to be safe than throw yourself into dangerous situations created by others.
Throughout these pages and clips, I've tried to stick to describing what people do and not defining them by it. So I try to use the words people driving, people cycling, or people walking rather than drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. I'm not a cyclist, I'm someone who drives, cycles, and walks. Defining ourselves by what we sometimes do is a gross oversimplification done by people not thinking.
There are a few does and don'ts listed at the bottom of this page.
At the moment, I've based this in Cambridge. But there's no reason why the code can't be replicated and data set updated to reflect other places.
Anyway, the result of quite a bit of work is a Routes Database linking to YouTube clips of road conditions. This database is reasonably well thought out (IMHO!), although I'm aware lots will feel it's in the wrong format. It links directly into Google Earth (so download it for free if you haven't already), but actually is updateable and will grow as more clips get added.
Effectively there are 5 inter-linked elements to this mechanism.
- KML routing data (or full downloadable file), allowing the selection and creation of routing files by street, route, and area all readable in Google Earth (download or other KML browsers)
- The Streets Index page, listing in street order with route clips with start times and local area KML files for use and download
- The Routes Index page, listing in route order showing streets used with detailed description and local area KML files for use and download
- YouTube clips, accessible from both indexes and within the KML routing data
- An Excel tool (sorry, non-MS peeps) to allow selection of routes and clips in Google Earth (download) as well as create KML files to import into Google Maps.
The clips are made up of two sorts: a short clip usually of one or two streets taking around a minute; and a longer clip of a full route taking a few minutes. Both are sped up and the later usually is done with some kind of soundtrack. All clips have links to street start points which are clickable.
Using the two index posts gives access to the clip footage. The Streets index lists them alphabetically and shows their area and cycling suitability. The route links into the YouTube clip and gives the approximate time on that clip. The Routes index again lists alphabetically, gives some commentary on the route, and gives the approximate times for streets on that route. On both you can link to the area KML data. Sadly, only the Excel tool, with it's auto-generated KML can do more detailed level output.
On YouTube, a much fuller commentary is repeated along with the street timings. Here using the time links will jump to the right point in the clip.
The full KML file links all the above details together in a geolocated manner.
The Excel tool allows the KML to be restricted to selected streets or areas. The mechanism has not used macros (to enable easier, more confident access) so relies on the uses being able to select what they want, copy data into text file, then save and open that file as they want.
I'm going to be adding routes and updating the online resources whilst I do more cycling. So this tool with grow as I keep adding routes. This will help develop a good number of indexed clips showing different conditions (like seasons) as well as emphasising the routing statuses. The more blue a route gets, the more friendly it is, conversely red routes are worth avoiding if you can!
But that's not entirely what I mean when I say "What Now".
I've put this up with the idea that this could go further. Many people have access to GPS devices that record routes, many people are recording their cycling footage. Combining the two would give a whole host of people the ability to record the same as I've done here, either area by area, or even nationally. Of course the whole mechanism would require rewriting form the ground up. First in a database appropriate for all users and second to use the databases already in the global cloud for geo-located information. At the end of it, an App? This is where I disappear off as it's not really in my training, but I can see this being useful.
On a number of this clips you'll see some interesting behaviour. Here are some rules which I ride by to keep me and others safe on the road. Please review the British Cycling training for more details.
Don't Assume. The most important thing is to assume everyone else is capable of stupid decision-making. Don't just assume that a person driving will continue in a straight line because that's what the past 50 people have done. Equally don't assume someone walking will know that you are about to pass them on the right side. They can easily suddenly change direction without thinking about you. One really useful thing to do is gain eye contact. That way you know whether the other person has seen you and it can give you some indication as to what they intend to do.
Give Space. Never cycle close to pedestrians, especially from behind. Give them space and slow down, just as you'd expect a driver to do for you. Of course this can be difficult on shared paths. Effectively shared paths are a trade-off, you gain safety but lose speed.
Give Way. Always Give Way appropriately and be polite, like when riding along a shared-use path or joining a new road from a road or a path. Use eyes and ears to ascertain what is going on and if any doubt, do not proceed. Conversely, "Give Way" does not mean "Stop" and don't let others tell you to do so when it's not necessary.
Dismount Signs. Do note that blue "Cyclists Dismount" signs are advisory only. It is not necessary to get off your bike. These signs are erected to warn people cycling that they are likely to encounter people walking in a tight space. There has been a campaign to change them to read "Take Care of Pedestrians" or other wordage which better expresses the requirement. There are a lot of instances where these signs are misconstrued and people riding through them get unnecessary hostility. In all occasions take a lot more care when riding and slow right down.
Door Zone. The door zone is the space next to parked cars which would be blocked if a door is opened. Always ride outside of the door zone. Sometimes it's possible to see into the car and see no-one in hte appropriate seat. Sadly, this often cannot be done in the time needed to make a decision as to where to ride. Hence it's not worth the risk. On to of that, it's perfectly possible for someone to not be visible (bending over or kids in the back) as to still open the door.
Road Positioning. British Cycling recommends using the primary and secondary riding positions for many good reasons.
- Secondary is the normal place and is about 1 metre out from the kerb or verge. This is to avoid road edges and to give manoeuvre space around hazards that appear more at the side of the roadspace. It also makes you more visible to people driving than if you squeeze to the left side.
- Primary position is sometimes called taking the lane as it is the middle of the lane. This is used when passing side roads, passing parked cars, to stop close overtakes especially with oncoming traffic, or other hazard avoidance. If effectively means you control the lane for a few seconds but must be used carefully. Never just ride into the middle of a lane without planning it first. Also, if holding back traffic a lot, do seek a way of getting people driving past you. Again, do this in the best way for you and your safety rather than giving way to traffic behind you. Remember an impatient person with a ton of metal is safer in front of you than behind.
Cyclelanes Aren't Safe. On road cyclelanes are often not very safe. Do not assume you will treated with care whilst using them. Sometimes people driving think of the cyclelane as just another lane and pass within a foot or so, despite Highway Code rule 163 requiring them to be further out. Highway Code rule 163 is about dealing with cars and lorries airwash and that sometimes road debris and potholes can require avoidance or sometimes throw people cycling off. Also, in a number of cases, cyclelanes are placed in the door zone of parked cars, either on-road on on the side of the road. In this case, do not use the cyclelane.
Filtering. Negotioting between parked cars and slow moving traffic (or filtering) has a level of danger associated with it. Again, British Cycling training has good tips on this. Done sensibly and carefully it is a good way to avoid the blockages larger vehicles create for themselves. Always be aware that anything could change rapidly and plan ways out (like being able to stop dead or change direction instantly).
Traffic Lights. There's only effectively one type of traffic light when in the normal roadspace, and you must stop when at red. There are two types of traffic light on the cycling infrastructure, with quite a few variations of them.
- First, there is lights that look like normal car-based traffic lights, 3 round bulbs aligned vertically. These are for cycles-only crossing, so the signals MUST be obeyed by law. They are often in places where crossing traffic is very busy so it is inadvisable to go when they are red anyway. Although should it seem to be clear, gettting off your bike and pushing it across will ensure you are not breaking the law.
- Second, there are the lights, often at hand level, which combine cycle and walk crossings. These are fine to ride across when on red. Again, if not comfortable with this, gettting off your bike and pushing it acrossis still possible.
Contraflow Issues. If riding down a contraflow cyclelane and you find it blocked, you shouldn't really cycle into the oncoming lane. You are then riding the wrong way down a one-way stree and that is an illegal manoeuvre. Really you should dismount and walk along the pavement past the obstruction. Obviously, this is highly irritating if the obstruction is a parked or stopped car.
Types of Path. When riding off road, it's important to know the differences between different types of route.This is done in great detail at BikeHub.
- A bridlepath or bridleway is freely open for people to ride bikes and horses, but not drive, unless it's local farm traffic.
- A footpath that is not next to a road is not necessarily barred from use by people cycling. However, there is no right of cycling it's just not against the law. Always take care of people walking and not to damage the route. In those two circumstances you could fall foul of the law. This may include routes through housing estates. Again, be careful as this may by countered by local bylaws.
- A footway (or often called a pavement) is a separated section alongside a road for people to walk. Here, unless otherwise defined, is illegal to ride a bike or horse and drive a car.
- A cycletrack (or cyclepath or shared-use path) is a defined area, usually on a pavement, that allows people to cycle on it. This is defined by a Traffic Regulation Order and should be properly signed with start, end, and repeater signs. However, this can be poorly done, so take great care.
Legal Note. The opinions expressed here and throughout these pages and clips have been checked against the relevant legal codes to ensure accuracy. However, I offer no guarentee that they are all 100% correct.