20 October 2010

Winter's back

Today, at least, felt like winter - though the official start of that season is not until the 20-something of December.    Out on my bike it felt really cold - the summer mitts gave way to fleece gloves, the layers got added and I wore a buff round my neck.

In a last attempt to resist the change of seasons I stuck to shorts this time - it was manageable, although my legs were rash-red by the time I got home.  And despite the woollen socks my toes were pretty numb by then.

At least it was very dry and sunny.  I hope I can keep my resolve when the truly wet and dark days of early January make staying at home or going to the gym a tempting possibility.

08 October 2010

The river glideth at his own sweet will

papaOct10 117
Originally uploaded by cocosolis
I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday. We both have been to London in the last two weeks. We both have noticed the new Londo n... sorry: Barclay's cycle hire scheme. They are everywhere. They look great. My friend was there during the tube strike - so the bikes were flying off the racks, so to speak.

We both also noted that many users of this scheme don't seem, well, that at home with cycling in a busy city.  Or maybe the city is not at home with them - the latter, I think, is the underlaying problem, and it applies to the whole of the UK, but nowhere more so than in London, where cycling has exploded thanks to congestion charging and the fact that it is probably the country's most compact city (ie. people actually live in it, and do so in high density).

This isn't just a "cyclists vs. rest of the city" problem.  The mistrust and misunderstanding between different groups of road users is total - pedestrians, motorists and cyclists all have grievances against the other groups and against the state.  Just try crossing the road from Euston station on foot - it takes ages, mainly because the traffic system is designed to keep motorists going.  But motorists will then complain that pedestrians jump the lights anyway.  And cyclists... well, they'll complain about that too, when a driver isn't cutting them off, or they are not cycling counterflow - a neat idea which some people back, but while it remains illegal can be inconvenient - ask a pedestrian who nearly got run over because he or she wasn't looking that way, since it was a one way street!).

So, my message to Boris is this: cycle hire schemes are great, but you have to do better than that.  And where London goes, the rest of the UK may follow.