Queen – Bicycle Race

11 months and 13 days after I last rode my bicycle, I picked it up yesterday from North London Auto Cycles yesterday and rode home. Plenty has happened since last I hopped on the oddly-narrow saddle (which is now replaced with a broader, ventilated model) and attempted to ride home. Including:

  • Flying through the air from the handlebars of said bike immediately after last riding it.
  • Landing with a thud on my hip
  • Very first trip in an ambulance to the very pleasant Whittington A&E (subject of scurrilous and strongly-contested closure plans)
  • Very first x-ray
  • Very first operation (dynamic hip system, don’t you know)
  • Very first overnight hospital stay
  • 8 weeks off work!
  • Quitting work!
  • Commencement of MA at King’s College, London, and pretty much continuous study since then.
  • First essays for about ten years.
  • Good times in all things.

No more bicycle races though: no timing my journeys and mapping them on Tumblr, no more Blackstock Road. Instead, I spent lunchtime cycling like some sort of hippy around Tottenham Cemetery looking for the grave of John Eliot Howard. I found it!



Trust kottke to come up with something truly ace for a Monday: the first recorded bike tricks, recorded no later than 1899 by one Thomas Edison.

Via kottke.org

Saving grace

As I have considered recently, the Global Economic Crisis (tm BBC) is causing everyone to think about cutbacks and so forth, so here’s what I’ve been doing.

  • Plan is to switch my ISA to Natwest in the new tax year, then link it to my current account so that I don’t go overdrawn.
  • I insist (almost always) on making coffee in the machine in the office, rather than the admittedly cheap LSE Garrick. 95p per day saved, £1.49 spent every two weeks or so, overall saving £4.00/week.
  • As the coffee is always accompanied by some sort of tasty treat, I’m on to bagels as a replacement. £1.16 spent per week (or per fortnight when bagels are on 2-for-1) against £1.45 per bacon roll, net £6.09 saving.
  • Cycling to work is the big one. Despite many complaints from my thighs I’m now up to biking every day to work. My annual travelcard, bought through work and therefore cheaper than it would be was costing me £94/month, which is £94 extra I’ll get to keep in my payslip, minus whatever I have to pay for the odd occasions I use the tube.
  • Cycling also removes the temptation of snacking on the way home (my waistline thanks me as well), so that’s a minimum of 60-65p saved (the cost of a Wispa in central London) per day, possibly more (£3 a week)
  • Saturdays are still spent in charity shops rather than Bluewater, flexing my thrift muscles rather than lounging in boutiques or Borders. Still, we’re cutting back there too: now we’re aiming for mostly just one place each weekend, with added lounging around in coffee shops rather than frenetic bargain-buying exploits. 
  • What’s better than buying cakes? Making cakes! So far I’ve learnt to make victoria sponge, bread pudding, cheese scones and muffins and I plan to learn more (fruit scones, rock cakes, lemon drizzle, apple, coffee and walut, carrot…). It’s about a billion times cheaper than buying them out. Soon: patisserie!
  • Driving more efficiently (according to Martin Lewis’ instructions) and finding the cheapest diesel around at PetrolPrices.com

Some good’ns here, although there’s plenty more to do. I’m still reeling a little from a whacking great car bill over the new year, but I’m recovering and will soon be paying off the overdraft…

I’ve got a bike, and I’ll ride it how I like


Bike / Meter, under Creative Commons by hey mr glen. Click pic for link.

Bike / Meter, under Creative Commons by hey mr glen. Click pic for link.

My argument for the day: red lights should be ‘give way’ for cyclists.


This Velorution article gives the precedent in Utah, where cyclists can treat a red light as a ‘Yield’ sign, and go even if cars have to be stopped.

Some cyclists do not show consideration towards pedestrians; many others do not always stop at red lights. The first group is asocial and needs to be dealt with. Irked about the latter? Just change the law to say that cyclists have to stop and yield at red lights, like in Utah.

Is it fair to treat cyclists as two distinct groups? There’s only one set of rules for cars, or for pedestrians? But the fact of the matter remains that there are at least two mindsets of cyclists, more like three: those who take every light seriously, who wait in their place in the queue (newbies and wusses); those who hop the odd light and weave to the front of the queue (such as myself and Adam Buxton); those who cycle aggressively paying no attention to rules or people (mostly couriers).

The latter and the first can be applied to drivers too, of course, there’s a distinct, um, distinction between normal, Johnny Sensibles and the boy racer set. But the same rules apply to each side. Why should cycles be any different?

  • I’m a lot more vulnerable on a bike than you are in your car. If I have to weave to the front of the queue then I will, because it’s that much a safer place to stop.
  • I’m a lot slower than you are in your car. I pull away as early as I can, even if it’s still red, because I need to get going so I’m not run over, or holding you up.
  • I’m a lot heavier (relative to power) than you are. It takes me a lot more effort to keep stopping than it does you pressing on button on the floor.
  • I’m sensible. It seems a silly thing to have to say, but I’m a sensible driver, pedestrian and cyclist. I’m not going to take unnecessary risks to my own person, and I’m certainly not going to endanger anybody else with anything I do.

So I’m going to continue hopping red lights – where it’s completely safe to do so – and will nip around traffic to be at the front of the queue when I do stop. It’s sensible, it’s reasonable and from my point of view, the best way to cycle in London. So don’t swear at me if you’re not happy, got it?

Elementary Physics


Advanced Theoretical Physics, under Creative Commons from Marvin (PA)s photostream, click pic for link.

Advanced Theoretical Physics, under Creative Commons from Marvin (PA)'s photostream, click pic for link.

They had a theoretical physicist on the news this morning, a jovial chap. I like the idea of science that has no grounding in real life at all, grappling with the intricacies of string theory. Still though, some people (coughpedestrianscough) need some sort of basis in elementary physics.


OK: an object is at standstill – it needs a force to get it going. Once it’s going, inertia comes into play to keep the object moving, then an opposite force has to be applied to make that object stop. Friction and gravity come under this banner, just like they do with making the object move in the first place, as well as other, external forces.

OK: applied physics. I’m on a bike, at a junction, stopped. To get me going, I need some sort of external force – at a flat junction, that’s almost solely down to my thigh muscles. I’m a big chap, on a heavy bike, and I’m not all that fit, so the acceleration isn’t all that – I like to push off from lights as quick as possible to get into a rythm quickly.

Once I’m going then, gravity is a good friend of mine when I’m going down a hill, but less so when going up – my bulk causes this, but at 6’3″, there’s not much I can do about that. So I rely on inertia to keep me going so that my thigh muscles can get some degree of respite.

OK, still easy. What this boils down to is that when I am cycling uphill it is ideal for me to keep going, and not to stop. When I slow down or halt, I have to put that much more energy back into getting going again. That’s why I sometimes go through a red light on a pedestrian crossing if no-one’s there, and why sometimes I swerve around (a long way around) someone crossing the road at a zebra crossing. I’m in full control of my bike, it’s just that if I slow down it’s hard to get going again, and 5 miles into a 7 mile ride, I need to be conserving my energy.

I understand that this is against the highway code and the letter of the law, so I’m not particularly proud of it, but it’s totally within the spirit of the law, i.e. to provide safe passage through rights of way for all users of the road. It’s the job of all traffic and pedestrians to be vigilant and aware of what’s going on, and if you are, you have no problem. What it doesn’t give anyone at all the right to do is swear at me vehemently as I circle widely around you, thanks very much.

Matters of etiquette

Diamondgeezer’s post on spitting didn’t really register when I first read it, but yesterday I was on the receiving end of the subject at hand, and I was reminded. Now, I’ve been cycling home of late, and on my way back last evening, I was minding my own business wending my way speedily over the heights of Highbury. I’d been through the village and was about to descend Blackstock Road when a youth emerged from a shop doorway, casually looked around at me and, almost in slow motion, launched a flob at me. 

It didn’t hit me (it may have hit the bike, I don’t know). I was a bit bemused by the whole experience, and didn’t react, but it occurred to me after: this isn’t normal behaviour, surely? DG suggests that there’s all sorts of role models to blame (footballers for instance) and that in some circumstances it might be a cultural phenomenon. But as far as I know, outside of a particularly dedicated subgenre of punk subculture, spitting on someone has never been a nice thing to do.

In fact, if I was a more dramatic Romance type, I’d have squared up to the lank youth. I’m not talking a menacing hooded type of the sort I see hanging around the corners of the avenues in Noel Park (these never spit on me…), just a skinny kid with longish blond hair. If I’d have thought, I’d have backhand slapped him with my fingerless mitt and challenged him to a duel at dawn. Else, there’d be some sort of chest-first pouting and finger-pointing. 

I suppose this is one of those ‘what’s the world come to?’ kind of posts. What kind of world is it where it’s considered not extraordinary to launch a gobful of phlegm at a passerby? What’s next? Snot rockets from the bus window? Maliciously aimed toenail clippings aimed at unwitting pedestrians? You never get this on the ‘mean street’s of Tottenham or Wood Green, you know…

Bikes & Folks

I’m becoming a bit obsessed with two things, of late (and that’s excluding my £8 Xbox and Project Gotham Racing): (a) my bike ride to work, and (b) my family tree.

I’ve been getting quicker and quicker on my bicycle, to the point where last evening I made the 7.2 mile ride home in 39 minutes, which I don’t think is too shabby. I’m working out the shortcuts and the speedy bits (i.e. Blackstock Road), and cutting out one way systems, and the like.

When I’m not bicycling, I’m using my spare time at work (there’s loads of it, I promise) to check out my history. I got a bit, shall we say, involved – I blame the 1911 census, it piqued my interest no end. As such, I’ve got several sides of my family right back to 180-something, and I’m working on the rest. My mum’s side is almost entirely Hampshirean, but there’s an arm from North London. Even better, my great-grandfather’s second marriage was to someone from… Wood Green! Sunny Wooders, my own flesh and blood.

Now, to find a way to combine the two…