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…

Waiting

Don’t you hate when you have to sit and wait at home? It makes one all tense and irritable. However. My car is being collected in a few minutes and towed to the garage, and thankfully I don’t have to go with it. Which means my morning is relatively free, until I have to go to my naughty boy course. I’m taking the bike – it’s OK on trains I think, and means I can explore a little further afield. Expect relevant Tumblr updates.

It’s one of life’s bizarre truisms that a day off work will inevitably, unavoidably fill up with difficulties and work. Nevertheless the challenge remains in facing the problems and squeezing the enjoyment out of them and while there’s little chance of any enjoyment coming from a new clutch (although the car should drive a little better now…), I don’t altogether object to an afternoon out of the house. Better to be kept out of mischief, really. 

So, we’ll see what Chelmsford has to offer – not just in terms of presentations and interactive workshops (hmm…) but I’ll keep a sharp eye out for charity shops and other visitables. You, dear reader, will no doubt be updated forthwith.

Whizz……….

 

Lomo cycling by fabbio

Lomo cycling by fabbio

I cycled the whole way into work today. Blah blah blah, you say, it’s not all that. And reasonably so, yet I’m still proud of the fact. And here is why.

 

When I was young, I was quite the athlete. I was centre of defence in the (almost) all-conquering 1993 season Owslebury County Primary School football team (under the management of the Keegan-esque svengali Ian). True, I wasn’t all that good, scoring more goals in my own net (2) than in the other team’s (0), but that’s not really the point here. I won the sprint at Sports Day leading to a famous Robin victory over the Yellowhammers (it was a countryside school…), and was active in all the right ways.

Then one year, at cub camp somewhere near Oxford, I fell off the monkey bars onto my backside, and I mark this as the beginning of the end. Although a glorious comeback was completed with said sprint victory, there was always a soreness in the posterior, which swiftly led to excuses, and general withdrawal from the world of sport. By secondary school, the cricket/football teams could do without me easily enough, and my burgeoning basketball career never made it past a sympathy spell as captain in the inter-form tournament, and a near career-ending, wrist-breaking body tackle on Smith. I never looked back, and sailed into a sea of physical apathy, full steam ahead.

Throughout sixth form, I can’t remember a single incidence of physically strenuous activity, yet I plied myself with a daily canteen hotdog (red and white wrapper) or barbeque rib dog (green and white),  as well as a Galaxy Caramel. A gap year job saw me eating both a full dinner (with hot pudding) at lunch, and my mum’s full dinner in the evening. Weight was gained.

Moving to London saw a cut in the quantity of food perhaps, but more pertinently the quality. Pot Noodles were consumed at not irregular intervals, and breakfast turnovers from Costcutter, North Road N7, after all night recording shifts were a frequent feature of my culinary life.

On starting work my exercise was limited to the occasional walk to Southgate (20 minutes), or from the office to Finsbury Park (20 minutes), very occasionanally further. The odd game of badminton told me that my calves were not really in a position to compete. 

I’m not a very fat man, and I’m not heroically unfit, however, I’m not a very fit man, and I’m not anywhere near an athlete. So cycling to work represents something of a triumph for me – will I soon be rid of tubby, short-of-breath Simone for good? If I get up to riding a full 15 miles a day, I think so. 

You can get the blow-by-blow account on my tumblr page. Some good blogs for cycling: onionbagblog, Urban Velo.

Updates

Just FYI y’all… I’ve updated the blogroll with a couple of new comics, and some more…

1) Celebrations: new toaster at work, this is going to revolutionise my life.

2) I’m keeping track and maps of my cycling on my Tumblr, so you can see how slowly I’m progressing – come along and buck me up.

3) I added Pictures For Sad Children and Alien Loves Predator and Sky First Then Shoes and Kottke and Boing Boing to the blogroll.

4) New Used Adventures In Hi-Fi over at No Ripcord.