26 May 2011

Who are you calling feral?

007 by cocosolisI’m reading ‘The Bicycle Book’ by Bella Bathurst, and I’m loving it – not only because the content is interesting, but because the writing is so good and engaging.

Just one quibble: the chapter on ‘Feral Cyclists…’ – esp. the conversation with a bunch of London cabbies – seems to try a bit too hard to say ‘hands up, we cyclists have no great respect for the law’ and then goes on to try to justify the sin and gain sympathy from those we seem to ‘wrong’ with our cycling.

I would argue that it is unhelpful at best to single out a particular mode of transport when it comes to routine, habitual failure to follow the highway code. Take speed limits, for instance. In any kind of road, whatever the speed limit, you see people disregarding it – not always dangerously, but that’s not the point, is it? And how about traffic lights: how often do we see drivers speeding to ‘make it’ when the amber light shines? This is low-level flouting of the rules that those who engage in it will do without thinking – certainly without thinking they are doing anything other than ‘what everyone else does’. Add on top the real hooligans of the road – the ones who drive at silly speeds on urban roads, or jump the red light. Suddenly, it’s not just cyclists who appear ‘feral’, is it?

09 May 2011

Just a quick topical comment

Belgian cyclist Wouter Weylandt has died during the Giro d'Italia.  Don't get me wrong: his death is a tragedy which should only attract sadness, regret and prayers for his family and friends.  It's just that one quote in the report caught my attention:  "As the camera probed between the branches it could be seen that his helmet was still in place, but a pool of blood was spreading on the dark grey asphalt beneath his head".  It is further reported he died from a fractured skull - even though medics got to him quite quickly.

I fear this is something I'm going to be referring to whenever I hear people harping on about the 'need' for cycling helmets and how much better we would all be if they were made compulsory.  Cycle helmets are not designed for extreme impacts - whether from going downhill at speed, or from crashing against a ton of steel in the form of a motor vehicle.  They protect cyclists from, say, an accidental fall at normal speeds, or a glancing blow from a low branch you hadn't seen (provided your teeth don't hit the branch first -happened to a friend, she spent a month in hospital).

To afford us the protection some people think helmets give us, we'd need motorcyclist helmets, sturdier and with protection for chin and face.  Ludicrous.

Bury photo printing errand

Had to print some photos at Boots in Bury's Mill Gate - cycled there straight after leaving kids in school. Nice to have the place all to myself (well, almost) - the early hour, competition from The Rock, or both?

I put the photo order in, then had an hour to kill. The lure of good old Katsouris too strong to resist, I went there for a coffee and a sweet, I confess. The place is at its best at this time, get all the good things about it (the coffee, the sweets, etc) without any of the ludicrous overcrowding the the poor layout design of that shop causes on a Saturday morning.  I realise there's background music - a succession of pop songs in many European languages - I guess it's there for atmosphere, the assumption being that customers won't distinguish between Greek, Italian or Spanish.  On a Saturday you can't hear the music, only the din of shouted orders and constant chat.

I sit outside: my coffee is good, the 'home-made' paklava is ok - not sure what kind of home it may come from, for what I get is a solid brick of flaky pastry, ground mixed nuts and congealed syrup.  The plastic cuttlery I'm given must be some sort of private joke, as it clearly doesn't cut it (literally). 

Any aroma from the coffee is soon drowned by the smell of fish from the market hall.  I don't mind - the smell of a real market takes me back, to childhood days spent with my mum or my grandma, filling up their bags through a miriad of quick transactions, stall after stall. 

03 May 2011


What a good idea.  Or what a bad one.  Paramount.com advertise bike signal lights - indicators in other words.  Don't rush to order them, they're out of stock - flown off the shelves, have they?

I'll go straight to the point: I have a problem with this, in principle.  The law does not require cyclists to have indicator lights - but it does require that we indicate, by using conventional hand signals, as specified in the Highway Code.  Or rather, the Code says that all road users must use signals when appropriate - using our judgement, and your hands if necessary.  To resort to gadgets like this seems to me to be a sop to those who think that all use of the road should mime the experience and appearance of car driving, to make it more "acceptable".  In a way, it is a bit like the argument for using cycle helmets - to use the road 'unprotected' is not at all like being in the cocoon provided by a car, so it is 'wrong', and in some people's heads, helmets help to make it 'right'.  The same may apply to using lights like these - yes, great, but if we all start using something that the law does not require, soon people will either come to expect them (like high-viz clothing) or campaign to make them compulsory.