Thursday, 19 May 2011

Sir Alan Beith's Private Member's Bill

Yesterday afternoon Sir Alan Beith spoke in support of his private member's Bill which would "require the Secretary of State to make provision requiring the fitting of equipment to heavy goods vehicles to eliminate driver blind spots; to make other provisions relating to the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and other road users; and for connected purposes".  The Bill passed its first reading.  This development, like similar proposals that achieved widespread support in the European Parliament and are now before the Commission, result directly from the hard work of the family of Eilidh Cairns.
I have said plenty on these pages already about the hazards presented to cyclists by lorries.  Let us hope that the old acceptance that lorries can be permitted onto our crowded streets with 'blind spots' will soon be a thing of the past.  I see that the Bill is also supported by Dr Julian Huppert, whose good sense I have already noted.

I am relieved to see sense being talked in Parliament after the disproportionate reaction to the unfortunate, but extremely rare, death of a pedestrian after being run down by a cyclist which led to Andrea Leadsom's private member's Bill earlier this year.

I have also seen this week on The One Show, James Cracknell calling for legislation mandating cycle helmets.  Mr Cracknell is plainly a nice guy who cycles but he is in league with the definitely non-cycling Angie Lee (who chooses to lecture children on the hazards of cycling without a helmet rather than on the dangers of diabetes and heart disease).  Despite the failure of his helmet to save him from a very serious brain injury, James Cracknell genuinely believes that he would be worse off without the helmet.  He goes so far as to condemn non helmeted cyclists for not thinking of their relatives.  What I cannot understand is where were the thoughts for Mr Cracknell's relatives on the part of the lorry driver who apparently slammed his wing mirror into the back of James's head at 70 mph?  I would be interested in a follow up story that indicates whether this driver is now languishing in a prison cell or still driving a truck.  I cannot understand why some are more focussed upon the dubious benefits of a helmet rather than on ensuring that these lorry/cyclist collisions do not happen.  I applaud Sir Alan for grasping the right end of the stick.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Rights to privacy - am I invading them?

We have been hearing a lot in the press lately about the tension between the individual's right to privacy, enshrined in article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the right to freedom of expression (article 10).  One vehicle driver (pictured) has got somewhat agitated about it on my youtube channel.
The most important human right of all is the right to life (article 2), not just my own (though naturally I attach great importance to it) but the right to life of all who venture onto the roads, as we are exhorted to do by government, and as directly benefits society as a whole including motorists.  Unhappily some of those cyclists will be killed and disproportionately they will be killled by those operating larger vehicles.  So if you do not wish to be filmed operating the controls of your mp3 player whilst behind the wheel of a large van do not pass me like this:

or (to take some other very recent examples) this

this

or, this


Almost every day I report a vehicle to the police or an employer to draw to their attention a driver's apparent total ignorance of:
Whether effective action ever results I do not know.  'Easykleen' have declined to tell me the results of any internal disciplinary process there may have been on the grounds of the driver's confidentiality.  Prosecutions in the absence of actually knocking a cyclist off are unheard of.
Statistically we face greater dangers at junctions.  However as cyclists we have no real control, other than through assertive positioning which is at best only a partial answer, over the vehicles which pass us too closely.  I am sure this behaviour drives many would be cyclists from the roads.
So do I have any qualms about 'invading your privacy' when you choose to drive inconsiderately around a cyclist on a public road?  No, I do not.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Fred Whitton Challenge Sunday 8th May 2011

I started this blog two years ago with the FWC 2009 with no inkling that events would turn me into what the media types that contact me call 'a cycling campaigner' and this a correspondingly campaigning site.  It is refreshing to get several hundred miles away from the stressed out competition between roadusers in the London commuter belt, to an event where everybody is at least aiming to enjoy a long ride in idyllic lakeland countryside.
My club had a team of 6 (down from 7 due to a nasty crash in the Masters' Race at Hillingdon a few days before).  We had come ready for the hills but possibly not the weather.  There was steady rain in the morning but by the time I started at 8am it looked as though there may be some respite from the worst of it.  However I got the torrential downpour of hail with high wind as I was tackling the first really steep climb at Honister.  The wind was still howling and the rain lashing down as I tackled the first really steep descent off the same hill when I found to my alarm that my newly fitted Bonti tyres, while virtually puncture proof, were not well suited to these conditions.  The rider behind thought I was gone and it is true I more skied than cycled down much of this slope.

I left my two clubmates I was with to recover at the Buttermere feed; they would both have come in with much better times than I, had not both their chains broken; another indication of the taxing conditions of the day.  I cautiously picked my way around the hills losing control on several more occasions before the rain dried up in the early afternoon and the roads started to dry, thankfully before I reached the monsters of Hardknott and Wrynose passes.

Time did not really matter after all this but I came in at seconds over 8 hours, establishing a trend of a slower time for each of the past three years.

An equipment review for these harsh conditions: 
 - The Ribble winter bike was perhaps a little heavier than ideal for all these climbs but I really had no option as I have moved my triple chainset from my carbon (so as not to look quite so daft racing).  I had taken the trouble to remove the mudguards but it may have been better to leave them on.  Ideally I would have a light bike with a triple or compact chainset.
-  A chain tool.  I always carry a multitool that contains one.  I did not need it but two of my clubmates could have done with one!
-  Tyres.  Go for something grippy.  I nearly came a cropper as a consequence of my unwise tyre choice.
-  Good raingear.  Fortunately my club rainjacket is excellent and proved worth its (insubstantial) weight in gold.

Will I be back?  I am always doubtful soon after completing it but a clubmate and I have already made our hotel booking for 2012, and of course we do need to secure ourselves those sought after entries.

All credit again to the organisers.  They do a fantastic job even in challenging conditions.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Claim for damages against Timothy Denman

I have today sent a pre-action letter to Timothy Denman of Charvil claiming damages for the assault in Twyford on 12th December last year.  I have given him 28 days to respond before I sue.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Cycling Infrastructure

Here is an interesting arrangement that I discovered cycling down the A30 in Hampshire between Camberley and Basingstoke.  This piece of road used to be an important trunk road.  I can just remember being driven up and down it to and from Dorset as a young child.  However since the M3 was constructed running parallel and only a mile or so to the south then, like a lot of old trunk roads, it lost its importance along with most of its traffic.
What a great opportunity to use some of this space for long distance cycle routes.  You could easily use one carriageway for bicycles and one for motor vehicles; alternatively one lane in each direction could be a high quality wide cycle lane.
However cyclists were obviously the last thing on the mind of the Highway Engineer who designed this.  I was cycling down here with a lorry behind.  I had no wish to hold him up but the 'blanking off' of one lane with projecting keep left traffic islands meant there was no way he could get by.  To give the driver his due he was not a road rage moron and he waited patiently until the end of the previously dual section before he could get by.
This scene to me just typifies want of thought and wasted opportunity.  Useful cycling infrastructure could be set up here and on roads like it at minimal cost.  It is not that we do not have the space for infrastructure; we do not have the will.
Further up the A30 east of Staines, money has been wasted painting a cycle lane onto the pavement with give way markings at every junction and crossing point.  Nobody will use it and motorists will wonder why not.
You can glimpse some of this exciting new infrastructure (and maybe some of the reasons I will not be making use of it) on the left in this footage.