Thursday 25 November 2010

Reply to my complaint about the "Brighten up" campaign

When I have first seen this game I thought it was in a very bad taste, not mentioning the ideas it carried. 
I have written a complaint which follows:

"Dear Sir/Madame
I am writing to let you know that I am really amazed at the single sided 
approach you have displayed by creating a game where children have 
accident on a PEDESTRIAN CROSSING if not wearing enough hi-viz gear. I 
always thought that it's the motorists who are to blame, and who should 
slow down and pay more attention and not the children who get hit while 
safely crossing the road. What you imply by this game is that we all 
should be in a car or else we risk being injured. The game also implies 
that people who drive a car have little or no responsibility for it - 
oh, they haven't seen the kid - it must have been the lack of hi-viz. I 
am really displeased with that.

Instead of making people who drive more aware, lower the speed limits, 
put speed cameras, and what's most important enforce the law you focus 
on children who don't have enough yellow reflective stuff on them. 
Driving a car is a privilege not a right - people shouldn't be made to 
think they should adjust their livestyles so that others can drive in a 
carefree manner."

This is the reply I got:

"Apologies it has taken a while to get back to you on this.  Our response to queries received on the Be Bright, Be Seen game is below.  Please let me know if you have any other questions or if you would like further information on the research and evaluation findings used to develop and refine the campaign.

Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said:

“This game is part of a range of educational materials designed to give children the skills they need to stay safe on the roads as they become more independent. 

“By explaining the consequences of different behaviour, we are not attributing the blame for accidents to any particular road user.  I am clear that everyone on the road has a role to play in creating a safe environment whether they are driving, riding, cycling or walking.”

To see all road safety campaigns from THINK!, including for car drivers (about speeding, seat belt wearing, drink & drug driving etc), motorcyclists, pedestrians and vulnerable / young road users, please visit"

I still think that the responsibility for the safety of vulnerable road users should lay in the hands of people who drive, not the other way round. If it's dark and you are approaching a crossing - slow down to crawl if you need to - better that than to kill a person. Or maybe I am totally wrong. 

It's cold!

Yes it now takes some time to warm up when riding my bike. Plus the low temperature or the wind made todays cycling super hard - it's either the hub or headwind. Hope it's the latter. Time to get the wooly hat out.

There have been a couple of hot topics lately in the world of bike bloggers. Especially important is the conviction of Dennis Putz - 7 years and lifelong ban for driving for killing Catriona Patel. Seems like LCC has finally grown a pair and is asking the right questions - why a driver with so many convictions was allowed on the road.

This also sparked a discussion over the ban of lorries in central London - a very difficult topic since while it would be superb to see them gone one must not forget about the services they provide - a good replacement or a different approach must be found.

Good news about opening the BorisBikes scheme to casual users. Everyone will be able to try out BBs and use them whenever they feel like it.

Then came Ray Sadri with his post suggesting handing out free helmets to casual boris bikers  to which he received a lot of negative comments. He remains unaware of what fallacies he commits and what his ideas actually communicate to the public. Me and Mark from ibikelondon have left long comments trying to get the point across but they seem to have been misunderstood (or maybe there was no intention of comprehending). I've been cheeky enough to as people at about their opinion about this idea. 

Although Ray doesn't suggest compulsory helmets a short reminder what such law does to hire bike scheme.

Friday 19 November 2010

future projects

I am having a super stressful time at work right now, and it doesn't look like it's gonna change till the end of December. However there are things that come to my mind occasionally - little projects that I don't have time for yet, but which I would like to promise to my readers.

1) Segregated cycling infrastructure in London. Yes I know it's an oxymoron of sort, but trust me there are those little nuggets here - perhaps their design isn't ideal and they are disconnected but I would like to go and visit them, snap some photos and talk more about how they help or don't. I already have an extensive list, but if you have any ideas let me know in the comments.

2) Inspired by this article "A beginners guide to bike shopping" I want to go to different big and small bike shops and see what they are going to offer to someone who knows nothing about bikes (at least he pretends not to). This would be an indicator of how cyclists needs are perceived by salespeople and what choice do beginners get - are they thrown into spandex straight away and put on a carbon road bike or do sales people play safe and recommend hybrids first? Is the utilitarian cycling mentioned and taken into account at all? I would definitely need help with this as I am known in some of the shops already (no, I didn't start a brawl or anything).

family transport

I have finally made up my mind. To be honest I have made up my mind ages ago, but I needed to make up my wife's mind too, and sort the finances for this step as well. Yes, it's official now - I am buying a Bakfiets Cargobike Long. This is going to be our weekend bike to carry our two offspring and groceries, to go for family rides - basically to replace the car (which we never had). The decision was hard especially since it doesn't cost peanuts. £2000 however is what I would probably pay for upkeep of the car only annually, so in the end it's not that bad. Plus it's and investment. These bikes are meant to withstand the elements for at least 30 years of faithful service and not deteriorate on little bit - which means I can sell it when I don't need it any more (when that would be I don't now).
I still have a trailer which I used to use with my road bike but it just seemed so awkward, wide I had to assemble it every time I felt like a ride with my son - plus the only thing he saw from there was my bum and the curb. No I'll get to speak with him while riding - the bonding is well worth £2000. I'll report again when I get it - should be about two weeks from now.

Thursday 18 November 2010

Integration in Amsterdam

Some point out that even in the Netherlands bikes have to sometimes share the road with motor traffic. This is supposed to be an argument lessening the importance of segregated infrastructure for mass cycling. There are two issues with this statement - first is the problem of scale and then there is the problem of type. I found a good clip illustrating this - integration in Amsterdam. Let me tell you - I wouldn't mind such integration at all.

Compare it to integration in London.

Tuesday 9 November 2010

My package for mass cycling

There seems to be a slight difference between what people think is needed for mass bicycle usage in London (I’ll stick to London for the time being if you don’t mind) and what the “cycling campaigns” think is needed and can be obtained. The vision of “CCs” is a bit old and hasn’t worked yet. It seems they cling to some old ideal, afraid of taking back what they’ve been saying for a long time, looking at the effects of their policies. They fortify themselves with slogans like “safety in numbers” and “making drivers more aware”. They mislead people by telling them things that aren’t true, like “segregation will mean no more bicycles on roads”, segregated infrastructure leads to more accidents”. Then they misunderstand the point that “segregationists” make by saying – there’s no way we can have 500 000 miles of cycle tracks – let’s better use roads. Because of that I thought of constructing my own list of a couple of things that might make people think about picking up cycling.

1) Segregated Infrastructure
This isn’t be all and end all as some suggest. Nor does it mean that bicycles will be banned from the roads. This infrastructure is characterized by a couple of very important points. All of these requisites have to be met in order for this infrastructure to work.
-          Quality – a cycling track of sufficient quality is one you’d allow your kids (5-7 YO) to use for riding their bikes.
-          Starting and leading somewhere – it’s obvious that mass cycling isn’t about leisure trips – it’s mainly utility cycling – shopping, getting kids to school, going out to meet friends, commuting. Tracks need to start where traffic doesn’t allow kids to safely ride their bikes on the road and end when they can do that again. Let them lead to school from the estate areas, to shops, then to bigger hubs. (By the way – I don’t think there’s a point in having all roads covered with cycle tracks, it more about creating a comprehensive network of high quality links).
-          Continuous – a cycling track is as good as its weakest path. The whole track becomes nonexistent if one of its part makes you take kids on a busy road. There are quite a few nice separated cycle tracks in London. Most of them unused for one simple reason – there’s no way to get to them without getting onto a busy road first. Why not connect the already existing infrastructure with new links.
-          Having priority – a cycle track that gives way at every driveway is not attractive at all. Not only does a person on a bike need to stop at every such road but also while crossing they might be swept by a car coming from behind them. I have heard a response to that, which said that bicycles are better at giving way then cars, which is utter nonsense – one: how can you give way to a car you can’t see; two: why do you have to give way to cars which then have to give way themselves to join the traffic. Totally pointless
-          Enforced – no need to explain that.
-          Well lit, clean and even supported by good bicycle parking.

2) Strict Liability Law
This has been brought up by the “CCs” and chapeau to them. It basically means that in a collision the bigger is at fault. So if a person walking or on a bike is hit by a person in a car, then the one in the car is automatically responsible unless they can prove the person walking or biking was at fault. The same situation applies when a person walking is hit by a person on a bike – the latter is responsible to providing evidence that he wasn’t at fault.
This law is like your very own bubble of a cycle track around you. It makes people in cars very cautious and finally straightens things out. No more SMIDSY for all.

3) Getting mums to cycle 
– it’s been observed that women have incredible power. It falls on this pattern. Women see something that’s saves them time, helps them get in shape, is good for their children (or any other pragmatic reason), they pick it up – suddenly it becomes cool and all males want to do it too. For some reason. Then it has been noted that no other social group can be as vocal and organized like mums. And if you try to oppose them – you might just get a phone call – from your own.
Now, having said that, mums are anything but reckless. They are very unwilling to put their offspring into any kind of danger, even to prove a point. If you try convincing a mum to make her kids ride to school on Londons roads you’ll be lucky to get away lightly bruised. However if you give mums a pleasant and safe cycling route to school, they might ditch the SUV. One such successful route is able to sprout another. Why?  Because more mums will want one too!

4) Advertising riding bikes
 this one’s difficult. The car is super popular because it makes money. Of course not the ones who use them, but there’s a whole industry that lives because of cars. Even supermarkets have their own petrol stations and give discounts when you do your shopping with them. Now, how would you feel if your local supermarket gave you a discount when you cycled? Does it sound enticing? There’s nothing in it for the supermarket you say? Well the first one to do it would get massive publicity – I bet the bicycle bloggers would help. Then the others wouldn’t want to stay behind, would they?

This is by no means a complete package, but I guess it outlines the idea. Because in the end there’s no point to convince other cyclists – we are already converted, hooked on the freedom the bicycle provides. There’s the sense of community and all the other things that keep us cycling (like laughing inside when colleagues tell us about another tube strike). The goal is to make riding a bike something as natural as driving a car. We have to give normal people an alternative without using the phrases like “defensive cycling”, “safety in numbers” and “training”. They don’t make sense and put people off. What they imply is a lycra, high vis and helmet warrior dodging lorries for his ideals.
With all the talk about sustainability, with all the powerful arguments about the health benefits, with visible to all traffic jams there’s no better time to give the bicycle a new face – not the sweaty one, red with anger and caked with mud; it’s time for the pretty face this time. And don’t worry – they won’t ban you from your beloved roads – although it’s time some of us realized that they don’t belong to cyclists any more.

Monday 1 November 2010

Lesson learned

Never leave a brooks saddle on your bike in Hackney - the tea leaves there know about bikes. And they will nick it. Especially during the flower market day.
The saddle was getting super comfortable (B66S) and I loved the sound the springs made. Got a replacement for now (a £6 pound seat) and will have to find out if my insurance covers a saddle being stolen. If so I will either have to take it with me whenever I leave the bike, save it for special occasions or perhaps invest in some fancy bolts.
I must say it's quite upsetting that you can't have anything of quality on your bike unless its welded to it.