Tuesday, 26 January 2016

This Is How We Roll (Behind The Wheel)

Dear [owner of family-run business supplying fresh fruit and veg to central London restaurants]

I have had to have words with one of your delivery drivers this morning and am writing to let you know about it in case you would like to have words with him yourself.

This driver looks quite young, wearing a blue and white striped short sleeve shirt today. His delivery was in Windmill Street but he left the van on the corner in Charlotte Street. The time was approximately 9.15am.

Firstly, he reversed into a place to leave his van to make a delivery, but the space he reversed into was not a parking bay, although he managed to get the rear bumper and possibly rear axle of the van over the line into the end of the parking bay behind his van, in which a small car was already parked. In reversing alongside the kerb, he very nearly knocked me (standing on the pavement to lock up my bicycle) over with his side mirror. I moved out of the way so wasn’t hit, but then he brought the van to a stop, the mirror was exactly next to my bike with no space in between, so I could not get in next to my bike to lock it. I had to wait for the driver to make his delivery and return to the van. When he did, I told him I wasn’t happy with what he had done, having caused me to jump out of his way to avoid being hit, then parking illegally and preventing me from going about my own business. He replied to the effect that he was “over the line” in the parking bay – I pointed out the van was not in the parking bay, only the rear of it!

He then put his mobile phone to his ear, turned on the engine and began to pull away. I shouted at him through his closed window “Put that phone down!” He rolled his window down. I told him that, his parking transgressions aside, driving while using a mobile is illegal. He said he “wasn’t on a call”. I said “It doesn’t matter, you have a phone to your ear and cannot be in full control of your vehicle…. And, you have not put your seat belt on. Also illegal.”.

He did then put the phone down and put his seatbelt on, and drove away. 

To be fair, he was calm and co-operative (and in those respects a credit to his parents) but I am not his mother or the police and shouldn’t have to tell him how to behave. You however as his employer should, I think, have a word with him to ensure he takes care in future not to endanger other people, to use his seatbelt NOT his phone when behind the wheel, and generally to behave like a trained and skilled professional driver. There is also your insurance liability to consider, should he be involved in any incident while on the phone or driving without wearing his seatbelt.

Kind regards


It is so rare to get the chance to have a conversation with a driver – any driver, whether he’s cut you up or not, whether he 'communicates' only with a rude gesture or not – that I felt this worth sharing. 

My main ‘take away’: Sadly, this low standard of behaviour behind the wheel is so prevalent and pervasive, drivers simply do not have any understanding that they are failing, much less how or why.

P.S. I did actually send this e-mail to the business concerned. It bounced back from all three contact e-mail addresses on its website.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Singled Out

Image credit: APA 

The other day I was cautiously making my way out of the NCP multi-storey car park (with its impressively abundant and popular bicycle parking areas) behind London St Pancras International train station, when I was hailed by a man entering the car park on foot. 

I stopped. 

"You really shouldn't cycle here", he said without preamble. 

"Really? It's not prohibited," I responded. 

"Cyclists go too fast. We've had so many people have the life scared out of them by cyclists coming through here."

"Well, it wasn't me who startled them. There are people who aren't considerate of others, in all situations. I am always careful, so please don't tar me with that brush."

"You shouldn't cycle here, you really shouldn't", he said again, shaking his head in a scolding fashion. And then he turned and walked away. 

That was the end of the conversation, such that it was, so I called "Bye" to his retreating back and pedalled off. 

As I did so, I found myself musing....

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Studded Tyre Miles Count Double

Did I mention snow in yesterday's post? Well, somebody must have heard me, because we awoke this morning to this: 

Barely Dawn.

Since I needed to go into Harpenden today and the forecast suggests temperatures are going to drop below freezing the next several nights, meaning potentially icy conditions for the morning commute, it was obviously the right time to put the studded tyres on the Cross Check. 

Somewhat to my amusement (because this is nothing unusual), it transpired that my ready-to-go spare winter wheelset had, erm, been cannabalised in various ways for other projects. There was in fact no "winter wheelset" but there were two studded Marathon tyres available. So Adam paid penance by wrestling the everyday Marathon Plus tyres off, and wrangling the new studded tyres into their place. 

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Revisiting The "What To Wear" Winter Challenge

London cycling

Two of my very first posts after starting this blog covered my experiences and recommendations for clothing and accessories to keep yourself comfortably dry and warm enough to cycle through the winter. The commuting version is here, and the road cycling version is here

Three years on, my commute has changed so that it is, in fact, mostly road cycling -- with a 10-minute ride at the London end that can be done in pretty much any kind of clothing suitable for light exercise (comparable to walking) in whatever the weather conditions are on the day. The road cycling component of my commute (25-30 minutes inbound, 35-40 minutes outbound) however poses challenges in terms of temperature and moisture control. 

Cycle to Work Day, September 2014
(only a 3 mile ride to the train station,
so I tended to just half dress for the office)

I have been doing this new 12-mile roundtrip road commute for 10 months now. This is my first winter and I have wondered how "deep" into the winter I would get before feeling the need to take a few weeks off (perhaps six weeks at most... if I'm lucky) through the very worst of the winter with a view to restarting in the spring (early March... if I'm lucky). 

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Re Blog: The Ultimate Indicator of a Bicycle-Friendly City (from Copenhagenize)

© Colville-Andersen. All rights reserved.

How can you tell if your city is cycle friendly? It won't be anything you hear people say, it's what you see them do.

(The answer may surprise you!)

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Unravelling -- or, Each Road Has A (Main If Not Only) Function

Two topics I have on my 'wish list' to post about are "Presumed Liabilty" and "Priority (or, who gives way to whom?)", with my takes on what others (far more knowledgeable than me) have written elsewhere. But not today. (Sorry if that's a teaser!)

The item that caught my attention over my morning coffee today, however, was an article titled "Channeling the Flow", by Bez over on the Beyond The Kerb blog.

The issue of course is the seeming inability of UK local authorities and traffic/road planners to understand why the Dutch do what they do. In the Corbridge case covered by Bez, a road treatment that is very common indeed in the Netherlands has been adopted -- because "if it's Dutch, it must be good" (er, not always!) -- but in wildly inappropriate circumstances. Observers (and video evidence) are now confirming there is too much traffic on the road in question for this kind of layout to work and it has in fact rendered the road less attractive (and safe) to cyclists, not more.

Lessons should have been learned from previous 'experiments' of this nature in the UK!

The problem is that design is being driven (if you'll pardon the expression) from the wrong starting point. Whether this kind of road layout can work or not in any given location is not a question of traffic volumes (which can and do fluctuate) or space -- it's about Function. 

As a first-time visiting cyclist* to the Netherlands last year, it's the clear delineation of function that struck me as the key to the "success" of growth into a "cycling nation". Much about Dutch infrastructure surprised me -- and at times even confused me -- but this underlying feature was, to me, glaringly obvious. 

We cycled many miles on roads with exactly this treatment -- but it worked

on the Molendijk, outskirts of Rotterdam

Saturday, 9 January 2016

2015 Review

I'm trying something different this year: here is a slideshow of photos I have selected as highlights from last year. Most are cycling related -- including cycling in France, Belgium and the Netherlands -- but a few vintage cars and vintage aircraft get a look in too.

A few of these photos appeared on previous blog posts in 2015 and no doubt a few more will feature in future posts.

You can also click through to the Flickr album for details of what, where, who and when. As for how and why, ask by posting a comment!


Created with flickr slideshow.

Thursday, 7 January 2016

A New Leaf

Greetings and Happy New Year!

I don't do "New Year's Resolutions" as such but there's no denying that the slower pace and longer nights do seem to create the right atmosphere for reflections and ruminations. 

The blog has been one of the areas I've been contemplating.  Somehow over the past year or so, I began to see this is a growing collection of articles. While I wish I had the brainpower and turn of phrase to produce beautifully constructed essays with illuminating insights into life, the human condition and the future of civilisation -- even if only insofar as cycling infrastructure is concerned -- then, failing that, I seem to have set myself a mission to write 'definitive' product reviews and drool-worthy ride reports. 

I am not succeeding in this mission. And it strikes me that I have taken my eyes off the ball. All I ever really wanted was to express myself, to share my experiences and occasional Eureka moments in my own individual way. That's what the "voice" in Velovoice was supposed to be all about. 

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