Here’s my idea for shutting down organised bike theft

I am lucky enough to have, so far,  never suffered the horror of returning to get my bike from somewhere, only to find it has gone, half-inched, nicked, stolen. I live in constant fear of it happening though.

Wheel sans bike :-(

Wheel Sans Bike - image from Flickr by Romana Klee - posted under a Creative Commons license

I read this article today on the Guardian’s Bike blog. About how there is a new Police taskforce being set up in London to tackle cycle theft. The idea is to try and find the nicked bikes as they are being sold on via websites and various other channels. I think this is a good idea – not sure how effective it will be.

Here’s my idea, and errr this is a brainstorm so all ideas are valid. Police work with a large group of volunteers who between them own a range of bikes of different costs, conditions and styles. This are geotagged with powerful transmitters (possibly powered by the bike itself?) which push out the bike’s location as it moves (I only say as it moves, as I’m not sure the battery would last long on a transmitter if it put out location while stationary). Or it may switch on and send only once every ten minutes or half an hour. The bike owner then just goes about their normal business. It’s not really a honeypot operation as the bike is not looking to be deliberately nicked. The advantage of using actual bike owners bicycles, is that pro-thieves will have learned the patterns of the owners habits. If the bike is stolen, Police then take over and track the bike to its location for surveillance and recovery – hopefully with the result that they nab a district fence in the process.

In the meantime, not even a really good lock may be enough to deter thieves. Maybe the answer is to have a crappy runaround bike for when you need to leave it locked up somewhere, and save your lovely machine for those rides where your cheeks never leave the saddle save on a long and lung-bursting climb.

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 1:54 pm  Comments (1)  
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Cycling Satire

The usual winter illnesses, dark nights, no time and a host of different things have led to me not cycling at all for a while. Every excuse possible really. No matter.

I follow Tim Beadle on Twitter  http://twitter.com/t1mmyb a local cyclist and a bit of an activist, he also has a blog here http://www.timandkathy.co.uk/journal/ he recently tweeted a link to traffic and transport psychologist Ian Walker’s blog. I’m sure if you’re a UK cyclist you’ve seen or heard about Ian’s work at some point – he produced the very enlightening and thought provoking 2007 study on drivers overtaking cyclists that was widely reported on.

Dr Ian Walker, photo: University of Bath

Dr Ian’s blog is full of very interesting material for cyclists who ride on the UKs roads, but at the time of typing, his last post (dated 22nd October) is causing me mirth. I’m sure that you have seen plenty of vitriol in the mainstream press towards cyclists – mostly from car drivers – at first I used to get angry at the sub-clarkesonesque rantings calling for piano wire to be strung across cycle paths, or gleefully imagining a ‘lycra-lout’ bouncing off the bonnet of the columnists BMW. But now they are trotted out so regularly that their power to shock and annoy has diminished. Dr Ian has produced a marvelous and wicked piece called Why I hate pedestrians. Sample quotes:

“The thing is, it’s not just that pedestrians are all smug and annoying when they bang on about “health” and “pollution”. ”

“…have you noticed that even though pedestrians walk millions of miles on our road system every single day, they contribute nothing at all to the cost of that road system? ”

Read the whole thing and enjoy.

Published in: on December 16, 2009 at 10:59 am  Comments (3)  
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Moving Kids around Town with a Trikidoo

Now this is great. My colleague has just got hold of a Trikidoo, (just before the price went up as well), essentially a pedal rickshaw for children. It’s in a princess pink to please her two girls and it just looks great. She was determined not to use the car to drop the children off at school and nursery, but both locations are quite a reasonable walk from her house. In the forthcoming winter weather, the prospect of long walks in the cold with tired out children and a dog was pretty bleak. Now with this marvelous piece of pedal-powered people transportation, she’s going to find it so much easier and certainly much more fun.

Now my colleague is keen to customise this fine trike further, I have one of the famous Rivendell best bike bells in the world to give her, she’s looking into a front mounting basket for the doggy (at the moment he runs alongside) and a must for this caffeine addict, a cup holder. It already has a cargo bag under the back seat, but there’s loads of things that could be added – umbrellas, flags, extra bags – oooh, what about a trailer?

It certainly adds a much needed dose of cycle chic to the streets of Salisbury, it’s bound to be a talking point, and hopefully we’ll see a lot more of these around our towns soon.

And they're off. Note dog on left running alongside.

And off they go. Note dog running along side at the left.

Ting ting!

Published in: on October 24, 2008 at 6:48 pm  Comments (3)  
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Bristol to Rode by Brompton Part I; The Agony

I’m not sure how it happened, but I ended up cycling home from Bristol on Friday. I’d taken my Brompton in as I couldn’t be bothered to drive to Bradford-on-Avon, plus I needed to be at the studio I was working at by 09:30-10:00 and the train times didn’t quite add up. I figured that if I rode to Bradford on Avon, then trained to Bristol, I could use the Brompton to ride to Old Market where the studio is. The ride to Bradford was a bit harder than I thought it would be, it’s only about 5.5 miles but the wind was against me and before nine o’clock everyone was driving stupidly fast, very close to each other and not pulling out enough when overtaking me. Rather than have to slow down, cars were attempting to slip past me while traffic was coming in the other direction. Needless to say, the drivers in the opposite lane were not liking this and beeping at the overtakees. It happened four times. Why are people in such a hurry to get to work? Are their jobs so stressful, so cut-throat that their boss will fire them if they are thirty seconds late having been ‘stuck’ behind a cyclist? And what’s with this thing of everyone just following the first person that overtakes without even looking to see if the road is clear? I’ve seen that happen a lot while I am driving. Four cars behind a lorry, the first driver checks the road, overtakes, the second follows, and then the THIRD pulls out and starts overtaking with no way of knowing if the road will be clear or even if there will be enough room in front of the lorry once the first two cars have overtaken. How does the third driver know that the first driver isn’t going to relax and ease off the pedal once they are past the lorry? I’ve watched it happened so many times, it often ends in flashing lights and beeping horns, if not from the oncoming traffic, but from the lorry that has to brake hard to let the idiot third driver in. Anyway that was happening a lot too, streams of traffic overtaking me without checking the road, sometimes on blind bends. At one point I was on a bend and heard the car behind revving up to overtake just as a truck came round the corner. I put out my right hand to tell the car to stay back and thankfully they dropped back, just in time to miss the lorry. Then with the road clear I motioned them past. They waved in acknowledgment that I had spared them from being smeared over the front of the oncoming truck.

Ahead of me in the road I could see the mangled corpse of a pheasant. The cars were all running over it, and as I got nearer I could see that the head and body where smashed into a mush, smeared over the tarmac. The wheels had missed one of the wings which, still attached to the mashed up remains of the torso, was flapping slowly back and forth in the slipstream of the passing traffic, beckoning like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick. Another car impatiently roared past me, narrowly missing my elbow.

It annoys me because it makes me feel guilty, that perhaps it’s my fault that these people just can’t wait even those twenty seconds to check the road is clear. If I wasn’t there then surely it would be okay and these drivers wouldn’t be putting their lives at risk. I have a right to be on the road (more than cars do, they are allowed on the road if they have MOT, insurance and excise duty paid) and bikes have been on the road for a generation ahead of cars, but I hate, really hate that I feel in some way responsible for putting the lives of people who can’t drive safely at risk. That’s why I just don’t like riding country B Roads anymore, it’s pure transportation to me, I just can’t get any pleasure out of it now.

I rode on, longing to get off the road and on the train, I felt thoroughly miserable.

Duskriding: Of turnpikes, the Gnashermakers, dead badgers and being out of bounds

Daguerreotype of Lemond Etape Racing Bike

Monday evening stayed dry and bright, there had been a fair few smatterings of rain around, and as I pointed the Lemond towards Warminster I could see the dark sheets of a downpour hanging below distant black clouds on Salisbury Plain. A side wind was blowing them towards Shrewton, I felt little concern at the prospect of being rained on as I gently eased the bike up Black Dog Hill. At the top I took the time to examine two posts next to the flyover bridge at Dead Maids Junction. The smallest post was a milestone, similar to others in the area, carefully crafted, smooth and carved with great skill. The larger post turned out to have three small holes, perhaps for bars, and the words ‘Warminster’ and ‘Bath’ in a beautiful 18th century script. I think this must have been the post for the tollgate on the turnpike.

I traveled on towards Warminster, pausing at the garage on the outskirts to replace the batteries in my front light, although the sun was still up, it was slowly heading for the horizon, dipping into low lying clouds and setting them on fire. I went through the centre of Warminster itself, noting some thick redwood trees around the area of the church. These will have to be investigated at a later date. Two shops stood out in the town, both on the Salisbury side of the town centre, the first was the superbly named ‘Gnashermakers’ home of the Warminster Dental Laboratory. What kind of crazy dental maverick runs this place?

the sign of the gnashermakers

For a photo of the lab front click here.

The other shop was called simply ‘Ripoff’ and seemingly deals with bankrupt stock, catalogue clearance and Lord only know what else. The windows were blocked out, perhaps the shop has closed down but I rather suspect that the occluded views hint at nefarious goings on out of the public gaze. The layby in front of the shop was packed with motorbikes, mopeds and trailers. See picture here.

Much cheered by these unexpected shops, I pedaled out of Warminster towards the A36. Still no sign of that rain and the light was still good. As usual for evening rides I had my reflective vest on and my customised helmet stickers which make me look like I am from TRON. There’s a nice bit of open field on the lead out from Warminster, I was drawn off the road onto a chalky track up to an old red-brick railway bridge. The way across the bridge was barred by steel poles, the ground around the structure was crumbling and the whole thing looked very precarious. Now the sun was going right down, the fire on the horizon was spreading, already in the East I could see darkness and stars, the moon was almost half full and high in the sky. Back on the road, I elected to go a little further, here the tarmac was wet and slick from a recent shower, the tyres hissed over the surface, the road-smell after the rain. Left at the roundabout onto the A36, now I was entering the deathzone. Crashes abound on this road, crystals of shattered windscreen piled up in small drifts, tinkling beneath the wheels, here and there a wing mirror, a hubcap, a section of bumper, testament to speed beyond the capability of the driver. Hard against the verge, inside the white line almost 3ft across I hammered the road while the cars screamed past at excessive speed. Black skid marks, the scent of burnt rubber still lingering in the air though the incident had happened earlier in the day, etched into the road , a memory of sudden panic. All too happy to take the left at Knook camp where the road goes off over the plain. Here I decided was the turn back point of the ride, the corpse of a badger served as a warning, its mouth bore the remains of a snarl though I could see no other damage on its body. Fur slicked with rain, eyes almost completely closed, a melancholy sight. Behind me on the side road I had freewheeled down, there was a simple circular sign ‘out of bounds’. I took a photo of the long shadows drawn out over the landscape, mindful of the last half hour of the day’s light. There was no activity in view at the camp, only the hum of the main road behind the trees broke the stillness of the evening. I turned back, crossing the A36 as the dusk overtook me. Now I was cycling through the magic hour, everything seems faster in the gathering darkness. With the sun just out of reach, the air cooled rapidly making me glad I had long sleeves on. With the traffic thinned out, it was easier to ride home, even the artic lorries were a help, pulling me along with their slipstreams, the welcome warmth of a passing diesel engine running hot as it guns the gears to take the roundabout, the glowing-coal red of the tail lights I am chasing. Back on the country lanes, blackbird alarm calls, a single staccato note repeated over and over as I pass Yew Tree Farm. Then into Warminster itself, queues in the chip shop and the chinese, smokers standing outside the doors of the pubs, sharing their exile, Marlboro Country. Out the other side of the town, labouring up the hill under the sulphur yellow light of the street lamps. Now the slow gentle gradient up to the top of Black Dog, then down, down, down. Hands on drops, tucked in, mouth practically on the bars to achieve 41mph. I sat up at the end, opening my arms to slow myself down, for some reason I felt the need to shout “AIRBRAKE!” as I did it, there was no one around to hear me.

Lorries pulling over into laybys, bedding in for the evening, some with curtains already drawn. Then into the village, cycling alongside Cousin Philippa on her way back from her mum’s (age 93), she doesn’t recognise me at first, taking me for a friendly chatty cyclist. Then she laughs as she realises who I am. We amble into the village talking about bikes. She rides her hybrid in wellies, it’s served her well for years and she racks up the miles going to her mum’s every day. We bid each other a cheery goodnight at the top of Lower Street and soon I am back at the house. 26.5 miles.

Novemberfive Bike Indicators

Legendary Engineer Jez of Novemberfive has pulled off a neat new project. It’s an indicator light system for his bike! Awesome work, I can’t wait to see it in action.

jez's bike indicators

Check it out here.

Sainsbury nee Budgeons: “Lard, be gone!” and Bastard, Bastard, Lorry.

Imagine my surprise and alarm on discovering this morning that I appear to have a tractor tyre round my middle. I knew I’d put some weight on, but the nature of the blubber had not occured to me until now. By my reckoning, I would do well to lose about one and a half stone. To this end, I have decided to ‘do some running’, Jez reckons that it should take two weeks of running three times in seven days to start losing the lard, I’m giving it a go.

I made a start on the lardbusting today by cycling to the supermarket on the racer. It was bitterly cold, though the sky was bright and clear, so I found a lightweight merino scarf that belonged to my first born when he was just a toddler, and wrapped it round my head lengthways. Now with my ears covered up I could brave the elements. It took a little while to get going especially into the headwind, the Wingfield straight was murderous. Cars screaming by, overtaking in each other’s wake without even looking to see if the opposite carriage was clear. There was a close call as an SUV overtook me, narrowly missing an oncoming lorry and cutting into me, I was going 29mph in a 30mph area at the time. Away from the hidden dips and onto the straight itself things weren’t so bad, although the wind was searingly cold. By the time I reached the Farleigh, Trowbridge, Bradford-on-Avon crossroads I was feeling weary, but I’ve found something that helps. If when you first set off on a ride you start to flag, just stop for five minutes. I pulled over at the shrine by the crossroads and took a picture. As usual, the flowers were fresh.

Roadside shrine, Wingfield Crossroads

On getting back on the bike I felt refreshed and ready to go. I often find that a tiny break not long after setting off, perhaps two miles down the road, will get the energy levels up again. On towards Bradford-on-Avon, warming up nicely now, the cars few and far between. To my left the ditch had been recently dug out, a reminder of the recent floods, today the roads were dry, the Spring sunshine had melted the morning’s hard frost. I hurtled onto the roundabout on the Rode side of Bradford, hanging a right, then another, into the car prak of Sainsburys. Total chaos. The store is being extended and the carpark remodelled, traffic queued up everywhere. It wasn’t clear where cars should go, the arrows on the road bore no realtion to the current temporary layout. Not a problem for me on my bike though, I picked a clean line through to the new bike racks. It was pleasing to note that with my bike locked up, all the racks were in use, and someone had left a crazy looking folder or shopper in the foyer.

It didn’t take long for me to fill the backpack with grub from the shopping list my wife had supplied, then out on the road again, albeit somewhat more heavy-laden than the outward journey. I elected to go back via the Bradford-Trowbridge cycle path. Ah smooth, smooth tarmac. And just as well, I’d forgotten about the hill. Riding that stretch of cycle path is a real pleasure. It’s short but sweet, mixed use, but rarely do you meet another pedestrian, fields to the left and the smell of sewage when you reach the water treatment plant. Someone had written in pen on a sign “Polski Go Home!”, the directions to the recycling centre perhaps an odd place to choose to express one’s fear of immigration, but not as odd as writing the surreal message “Achtung Polski!” on the Wessex Water sign five meters later. The cycle path ends at the outskirts of Trowbridge, jettisoning the rider onto potholed crumbly tarmac. Heading into the roundabout a gravel lorry was in the left hand lane. I thought I’d better stay behind him, even though I was going right, because you never know…

..sure enough he was making a right turn without signalling. Actually he was going right the way round the roundabout, much to the surprise of a car waiting to come out of the Broadmead turning! The lorry driver could not hear the horn of the car, or move his hand to signal for one reason, and this became apparent as the cab swung broadside to me: He had his mobile phone pressed up against his ear and was using the palm of his left hand to spin the wheel. As an avid reader of The Moving Target messenger zine (I am not a fakenger, witness my photos and my ride – I could not be accused of copying neither courier style nor speed, I just think it’s one of the best cycling blogs out there) I am all too aware of the incredible danger HGVs present to urban cyclists* so luckily I hung back. If I’d have been in that right hand lane, looking to go right (and I could rightly assume that a vehicle in the left hand lane not signalling at a two exit roundabout is going straight ahead) I’d have been crushed, even at fifteen miles an hour, it would not have been pretty. The car that had pulled up short when the lorry passed in front was still honking his horn as he pulled out behind the lorry and followed it up the hill. Afterwards it occurred to me that I wasn’t shaken or surprised because I have started to get back into that cycling zone when you just ‘know’ when a vehicle is going to do something silly, and actually, that worried me because the last thing I want to feel is a complacency from assuming that I have some weird ‘bikey sense’ that tingles when something dangerous is going to happen. Got to stay alert!

Through Broadmead, up a different side of the same hill I’d just cycled down, and back along the Wingfield straight to home. A good ten miles in cold weather and, I feel, a reasonable start to the “Lard, be gone” campaign.

Tomorrow, running! Damn!

*Stop press, on picking up the link to Moving Target to place in this post, I saw that the latest post on MT concerns two Messengers , who did get hit by lorries. It’s sobering and very frightening, Buffalo Bill, the MT author writes “2 guys under lorries in the same day. Thank god you are both still alive.” and Christ, I second that, good luck to those riders, I hope they both make a speedy recovery.

Caught by the Fuzz

There is a very interesting and enlightening entry at bikeforall.net about bicycling and The Law. It’s worth a read, if only so you can quote Section 72 of the Highways Act 1835.

http://www.bikeforall.net/content/cycling_and_the_law.php A fine bit of bicycling journalism and very useful, particularly as regards the offence of cycling furiously. Something I have been known to dabble in previously.

Getting quite fed up with not being healed enough to get on a bike yet.

Published in: on November 6, 2007 at 10:53 pm  Leave a Comment  

Off Road on a Racer – Near Miss at Woolverton

Another lovely evening after a rainy day. I took the Lemond Etape up and down the hills past Telisford to Farleigh Hungerford. On to the B road, round past the castle and up a really tiny lane just after the bridges. No qualms about using the triple chainring, I didn’t fancy sweating it out. What I was looking for was a route my wife and I had ridden many years before that linked us up with the Canal Path. I knew there was a bridleway off that road somewhere, but when I reached Westwood Manor it was apparent that I had gone too far down the road. On seeing my bemused expression, an old chap cutting his hedge asked if I was lost. “No” I replied “I know where I am, I just wasn’t expecting to be here”. With that I turned back down the road searching the hedges for the opening. About half a mile down the road there it was, public bridleway. A sodden path that started off with a huge clay mudbath and a pool of brown water that covered the whole width of the track. The racer’s tyres clogged pretty quick so it went over my shoulder as I waded through. It didn’t get much better as the route descended into some light woods, rocks, loose soil, roots and mud, much more mud. In fact the route was so mucky I was half expecting a group of Belgian racers to come heaving past me at any minute. Beneath the tree canopy all was dark, the silence broken only by flutterings amongst the leaves and the bubbling of water. It was only about quarter to half a mile long, but I’m glad the Etape only weighs around 22lbs. I rode the last bit as it flattened, but not dried, out, exploding onto the road in a shower of mud. Hold on, this hill looked familiar, I was halfway down the scary 17% run into Iford, nothing for it but to point the front wheel down and go for it. Unfortunately there was a car coming up. I was amazed and relieved to discover there was just enough room on his right to get past without skidding or falling off, though I didn’t actually know that until I was past him, at least there was a tiny verge to bail onto if I’d got it wrong. A cheery wave to Britannia on the bridge at Iford, she was looking the other way and didn’t acknowledge me. Then up the nasty hill on the other side. Ha! John had fixed the triple chainring so I could get down into the granny gear, the hill, although long, was therefore possible to climb without stopping or vomiting. As far as I could see, that wasn’t the right bridleway I had carried the bike through, so I decided to call it an evening. Out onto the A36 which was full of traffic and heading back for the village.

By the Woolverton house hotel there is a staggered juncttion where I wanted to go left. Waiting on the other junction that goes off to Norton, was a silver estate. There was no other traffic around and I was hitting 27mph (in a 30mph area) when the driver just pulled out in front of me, I kind of guessed he might so I was already moving to the left and braking so I was right next to him when he got over the road and not slamming into his side. But then he slowed, turned left into my path as I was right next to him, THEN signalled! I braked harder, the back end of the bike slid out, but I controlled it, ending up just easing around his right side as he turned side on. I wasn’t angry, it was a middle-aged couple and to be honest I’ve got used to assuming someone is going to do something stupid like that so I was absolutely ready for it. The only thing was that I wasn’t even certain he had seen me at all, even though I was right next to his car at one point, then behind and finally on his right. He went on ahead and I carried on down the road. When I got to the Mill I could see them parking up so I wheeled into the car park and politely said “excuse me” I then went on to say he had cut me up very badly and had he not even seen me? the chap was very apologetic and said he HAD seen me, but didn’t realise bikes could go so fast so he thought he had lots of time to pull out in front of me and turn left. He admitted that he hadn’t checked his rear or side mirror when turning left and only signalled as an afterthought, it was only his wife saying “Watch the cyclist” that made him signal. I told him that a huge amount of accidents are caused by people overtaking cyclists and turning left suddenly, not to mention the lovely mess I would of made on the side of his car at 27mph if I hadn’t been ready. As I said, I was polite, and so was the chap, he asked if I was ok and said that it was a close shave and it would teach him to always check his left mirror before any left turn “I told him ‘you never check your mirror'” said his wife. Luckily it was a case of no harm done and we wished each other a pleasant evening.

Every time I approach a junction I’m looking out for a car doing something like that, even so, 27mph is a lot of speed to have to scrub off on a bike AND retain control over such a small distance. The moment of anger I had during the actual encounter had passed so quickly, I’ve found that’s happening a lot now. I used to shout something like “WATCH OUT YOU TWAT!” in a driver’s window when they did something like that, but there’s no point really. Do that and all you’ll get is a shocked look, the two-fingered-salute or worse. I’ve only ever been run off the road once, when I was a teenager on my way to my friend Nick’s house, someone forced me onto the verge where I crashed, I was too busy going head over heels to get even a make of car. It was white, that’s all I know. I have, however, had more than my fair share of drivers overtaking and turning left, sometimes signalling left AS they overtake, incredible, but after a while I’ve got used to it and have even come to expect it to happen.

Anyway, back at the ranch, the bike was hosed down, washed, degreased and re-lubed ready for the next ride. That’s another 10 miles, giving me 121 this week.

Hi Viz

Midsummer has been and gone, not that you would know from the weather that we are in the midst of summer, hopefully it will all clear up during this month. As the nights are beginning to draw in I thought it was time to address the problem of visibility. For a cyclist, being seen is half of the problem when it comes to cycling in traffic. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can quite clearly imagine a scenario where I am lying shattered on the tarmac and the last voice I hear as it all ebbs away is someone saying “I just didn’t see him”, I live in fear of such a thing happening. On our Tuesday rides John and I ride right up to the turning point of the witching hour, racing through the twilight to get home before darkness falls. We both have lights, but not the sort of Halogen power superlamps that blind drivers and make them think they are about to be abducted by aliens. So something a bit more visible is needed. I have written before in praise of the Respro Hi-Viz vest, it does a fantastic job of throwing back even the faintest glimmer of light (and you can fit a lot of takeaway in the pockets), but what I was looking for was something that creates the ‘human’ shape that our genes are programmed to look for. Something that shows I have a head and am therefore a person, not a glowy thing moving slowly to the left. I had some Hi-Viz helmet stickers left over from previous glow-in-the-dark frolics and as my road helmet is a kind of silvery grey, I thought maybe I could cut them into strips and stick them along the ridges. That way the curve of the head would be visible and they wouldn’t look too jarring in daylight.

While my wife did half an hour or so on her bike rigged up to the turbo-trainer, I took the stickers and snipped some of them into strips. While we’re on the subject of turbo-trainers, ours is so noisy it’s incredible. It’s a cheap one granted, but even outside in the workshop it sounds like a very small motorbike revving up. At least in the workshop the floor is concrete so it doesn’t vibrate through to next door. I read a great article once that said if your neighbours come round to complain about the noise of your trainer it’s best to be honest, even if they won’t understand, because if you say it was the washing machine they are going to wonder what the hell you were doing, especially as you have just answered the door dressed in Lycra, sweating like a pig and panting with exersion. It won’t look good.

Anyway I finished the helmet, popping a couple of circles on the back and the top. Below you can see the results in pitch black with my camera a room away and the flash on it’s weakest setting. From behind, it looks particularly scary thanks to those dots. At least it should give motorists enough of a start that they see me and slow down (hopefully they’ll slow down, the other option is running me off the road in sheer terror).

hi viz from the front

hi viz from the rear

I once went to a talk by Adam Hart-Davis at Ottakar’s in Chippenham. He had cycled down from the train station on his folding bike and was dressed in his trademark yellow and neon pink cycle gear. Someone asked why he dressed like that to go on his bike and he replied as a true practical scientist, “I don’t want to be killed on the road”. He went on to explain how although early evening light may appear bright to a cyclist out in the open air, to a motorist visibility is already much poorer. It’s true, how often have you been driving along on a country road and been suddenly startled by the up and down movement of the pedal reflectors barely a few yards in front of your car? If you have no lights, or weak lights on your bike, sometimes those pedal reflectors are the only thing a driver will see, and often they will only see those at the last minute. Being visible is half, or maybe even three quarters of the battle in cycle safety. Drivers need all the help they can get as, let’s be honest, a person driving a car often isn’t paying that much attention to the road ahead. A lot of drivers don’t even seem to be able to see speed limit signs, a police officer in a reflective jacket pointing a radar gun, or a massive yellow box on the end of a pole with a big relective strip on the back. It’s up to the cyclist to jog the driver out of the torpor, you need to be visible enough to cut through the interior clatter of Top Gear’s-all-time-best-ever-driving-anthems-guitar-classics-volume-IV or whatever feelgood dross is on the stereo. You need to startle them out of the mobile-phone-in-the-gear-changing-hand-55mph-argument-with-her-mum-andyesmumIdidstayovergary’slastnight or whatever she is talking about instead of watching the road. Hopefully my get-up, in combination with the flashing red light on the back and full reflectors will cut through all the chaff insulating a driver from what’s going on ahead of them.

I urge you to take the time to find a way of becoming more visible on the bike, it’s not just the driver’s responsibility, don’t be even partially responsible for another poor sap having to choke out the words “..I just didn’t see them”.

Tour de France

Although I lost out on the chance to have VIP treatment at the Tour de France prologue, I have decided to scrape my pennies together and go to London anyway. I know that if I watch it all on TV I will be feeling rubbish that I didn’t go AND I will moan about not going, FOREVER!

So I’ll get there early to soak up some atomsphere and try and stake out a good vantage point. According to the current weather forecast there will be sunny intervals. It’ll be a really fast course, but the variable weather and the wind may throw in some wildcards and mess up the predicted results. So all being well I should be writing a report for the blog tomorrow evening.

Published in: on July 6, 2007 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment