Penzance to St Austell: 4th July 48 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged

You’ve heard of the record attempt for how many people you can fit into a mini? How about how many people, limbs, wheelchairs and baggage you can get into a 6 bunk dorm which even when empty only has a walkway wide enough for one person at a time. Now imagine everyone’s finally managed to clamber into their bunks – and 5 minutes later the one at the end needs a leak…

So, after a very cosy night at Penzance Youth Hostel we hit the road for the first real day of cycling. As expected, if we weren’t going up we were going down – plenty of “scenic opportunities”.

Spent some of the day barrelling along at 20mph (and that wasn’t downhill) behind a “stealth” handcycle (see the pictures below). Dave, a Scarborough lad now living and working in Cheltenham, bought it in Germany. It really is astonishing how efficient it is – and he’s far from the slowest up the hills. Impressive.

A couple of people have been slapping on ‘jollop’ for sore bits but otherwise everyone’s holding up. Tomorrow Tavistock…

Daves Handcycle Front 2 Daves Handcycle Side 2I’m still searching of for the precise route we took, but some of the pictures are easy to place like this one of Jim, Richard and Nathan in Marazion.

Jim, Richard & Nathan in Marazion 2And a giveaway view of St Michael’s Mount on a sunny summer morning.

St Michaels Mount 1

We crossed the River Fal (hence Falmouth) by ferry at Trelissick which turned out to be quite a good ruse – a captive audience to take the DBF collection buckets around. Mechanic Nigel and Carol on the ferry.

Nigel & Carol on Ferry

If you don’t know it, the climb up from the river on the other side is pretty brutal and since you’re on an incline as soon as you come off the ferry the difficult part from my point of view was ensuring I had a clear path and didn’t have to stop on the climb – hill starts on slopes that steep are very difficult to do and can mean having to roll down to clip in again if  there isn’t a convenient post or wall available. With a whole gaggle of riders, cars coming off the ferry, and cars coming down the hill to the ferry, it took some concentration. In comparison the rest of the ride to St Austell was straightforward.

Land’s End to Penzance: 3rd July 20 miles

21 days in July – the 2005 Douglas Bader Foundation E2E ride re-blogged
Lands End 1 - Version 2

Following a team talk from the Chair of the Douglas Bader Association, from Lady Bader, and from Phil Yates, the MD of the sponsor Otto Bock UK, sixteen of us set off from Penzance to the start proper at Land’s End.

The total mileage for the day was 32, but counting only the miles back to the Youth Hostel in Penzance we’ve covered 20 miles on the first stage of the End to End. Not a bad ploy I think – gives everyone a chance to get into the swing of it and, for some, to get used to riding in a group.

We have 6 lower limb amputees, 2 handcyclists, 1 upper limb amputee and 7 able bodied riders – a varied range of abilities. Tomorrow is billed as 48 miles of scenic opportunities…

I can’t remember now exactly when we set off from Penzance for the start at Lands End, but I think it was probably around lunchtime, maybe just before. This picture of me hanging around outside the meeting place came from an Olympus according to the jpeg info so must have been taken by my daughter. I’m not rolling a cigarette, just scrolling through some pictures on my Sony camera – I was a Sony boy back then. The bike is my once trusty Thorn Audax which died of a broken chain stay a few years later.

Here we are regrouping and enjoying the view just 3 miles into the ride at Mousehole.

Annie in Mousehole

And this is probably our first indecisive moment on the tour – arriving at a T-junction on the way to Lands End, waiting for someone to figure out whether it was a left or a right turn we required. I think at that time not many of the backroads in Cornwall were in the support van’s TomTom. Lovely day for it though.

Somewhere in Cornwall

End to End 2005

HICKMAN_KEVINTen years ago today, July 2nd was a Saturday and around about now I was having a beer or two in a pub in Cornwall. I had signed up with the Douglas Bader Foundation for a 21 day fundraising ride from Land’s End to John O’Groats which set off on its first leg tomorrow.

I’d blogged the experience, although I didn’t know that was the term for it at the time, updating the local CTC group page on each day’s progress, which at 9600 baud with photos was no mean feat at the time! The URL and the entries are no longer active so for posterity I’m re-blogging the journey from the comfort of a wifi connection.

My motivation wasn’t at all altruistic – I’d been looking for a challenge, something to focus on, to get me back to where I’d been in terms of physical condition. The previous year I had to have a shoulder operation which before I could recover from ran seamlessly into an operation for testicular cancer a couple of days before Christmas. It felt like my body was falling apart and my response was to find a goal I could cling to and hopefully arrest what felt like an inexorable decline.

The picture of me with my racing green 2004 Brompton, on a training ride in Germany, accompanied my entry in the Team Profiles:

Name:
Kevin Hickman

Nickname:
Various. Torture or beer might loosen my tongue.

Gender:
Male (still)

Disability:
Unable to function after 11pm on Friday nights. Oh, and Right Hip Disartic Amputee.

Background:
Born in Oxford, now living 10 miles away in Witney (currently sat in Germany questioning the sense of that last statement). Married with a stepson and a daughter – and a wife of course (who is currently sat in Witney questioning the sense of that last statement). Workwise my background is in Power Electronics, moving through design to management along the t axis – now managing the t axis. Became separated from my right leg in Portsmouth back in 1980, Elvis Costello’s “I can’t stand up for falling down” was released shortly afterwards. Regained a sense of balance and figured out how to ride a bike again, then quickly lost all sense of proportion and began cycling anywhere, anytime. This culminated in an AUK SR in 2002.

Hero/Heroine:
Captain Scarlet (obviously). Apart from that I could go on for several pages discussing what a hero is, different types, who they are, but I won’t. We often come across individuals who are a lot less fortunate but complain less and smile more. There’s someone out there that can’t say that…

Favourite quote:
“A journey of 1044 miles begins with a single turn of a single crank”; Confusedus.

“Anything can happen in the next half hour”; the old guy in Stingray, accompanied by some great drums.
“What’s the worst that can happen?”; name withheld.

Ambitions:
When next confronted with my own mortality, for my first thought to be either

a) “I’m done now”
or
b) “At least I tidied up this time”

Sport/Interests:
Bikes, Beer and Boats.

Participation type:
Full End to Ender (is there a palindromic double entendre in there somewhere?)

Training:
Started riding again in February after a fairly long layoff. Now riding everyday, furthest in one day is 71 miles. Just need to get the daily average up now.

What advice would you give others?:
a) Even in sport, your biggest asset and your greatest enemy is between your ears (no, not your mouth, although I can see how that might fit).

b) The most important part of training is recovering. I think it was Graeme Obree that said that and I’ve found it to be true – beware of overtraining. Sometimes it’s more beneficial to lie down and shut your eyes (not too much alcohol mind) than beat yesterday’s time or meet this week’s mileage target. One of nature’s beautiful laws…

Fundraising target:
£3,000. I’m beginning to appreciate that that’s quite a big number to extract from wallets without the police getting involved.

Disabled cyclists in England: imagery in policy and design

Things have moved on a little since I submitted the above titled abstract to the ICE journal Urban Design and Planning for a themed edition on disabilities, vulnerable road users and navigation of the urban environment. However, as this Design Manual being consulted on at the moment demonstrates, it remains relevant.

My thanks to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group, to British Cycling and to Sustrans for permission to use images from their documents; to Wheels for Wellbeing, Ann Wright, Caroline Waugh and Martin Symons for the pictures; and to Rachel Aldred for the initial advice and encouragement.

I hope the paper proves useful.

Kevin Hickman (2015) Disabled cyclists in England: imagery in policy and design. Proceedings of the ICE – Urban Design and Planning. Published here (access-controlled). Pdf for personal non-commercial use here.

A Picture Paints a Thousand Words – and more besides

Around the time I began taking an interest in how cycling is depicted graphically, I saw a presentation at the 2013 Cycling and Society Symposium that opened my mind to how a subtext can be conveyed in, and gleaned from, images. The slides aren’t available, but from memory, and my scant notes, I recall Peter Cox speaking around some excerpts from the CTC Gazette during the interwar years which included a number of Frank Patterson drawings.

Seems obvious now, but at the time I was suddenly struck by an insight into why CTC’s active group members are on the whole totally disinterested in cycling conditions on their own doorstep. CTC rides, and tours of course, are largely about getting away, riding out to somewhere with better views, sweeter air and quieter lanes. It chimed with both my own experience of group rides, where we might barrel along the A40 before it got too busy, heads down, in order to get to the outer reaches of the Cotswolds on a Sunday club run, and equally with my relatively lonely experience as a CTC Right to Ride rep, paradoxically spending most of my time opposing any local schemes specifically intended for cycling. And then it was a short step from there to recognising those are just two of the different interest groups within a diverse cycling organisation (amongst diverse cycling organisations) which might also serve as a metaphor for how difficult it is to come up with an image that captures the whole.

Compared with the speed it takes to assimilate descriptive text, an image can be processed and catalogued extraordinarily quickly, before the rational part of the mind has even got into gear. Imagery can be used to make a direct link to cognitive functions, priming behaviour without the rational mind ever being aware of how it’s being massaged, coerced or manipulated. It’s a powerful tool, but more often in the cycle campaigning world images seem to be an afterthought; an adjunct to the words rather than an equally well considered part of the message. Image creation and selection will be affected by consistent biases that we are unaware of and may be a better indicator of what people hold as truisms than what they might rationally enunciate; what’s in the image, what isn’t in the image, and particularly for photographs – and this manifests itself at a population level rather than the level of the individual – what images are available in the pool for a picture editor to choose from before his or her own bias comes into play.

Most of my research into how cycling is represented and presented in images has basically come down to counting bicycles. Initially it was about looking for cycles other than bicycles and searching for other indicators of disability, but depressingly for me, it became about counting bicycles because that’s almost invariably all there is to see. With some notable exceptions.

Today’s equivalent to the CTC Gazette is Cycle magazine. The June/July edition dropped on my doormat on Thursday and while searching for a particular image I came across a photograph that completely bowled me over.

CTCAndMeMountainTrike

My first encounter with the Mountain Trike was while helping out with the Inclusive Cycling Hub at the Cycle Show. It’s propelled by what a veteran cycle archivist might describe as hand treadles – who knows, perhaps there’s a photo of an early hand treadle trike in the archives – and many of its components are mined from the cycle industry.

This is one of a number of ‘inclusive’ articles that Cycle have published, but for me it really encapsulates what cycling is about. It’s not about turning pedals, it’s not about bicycles; cycling is about mobility (freedom of movement) and social inclusion. The first is what brought me back to cycling – a better way of being mobile – and also what made cycling important to me as a child – extending my mobility. The second is what makes it fun and inclusive across social barriers.

DaytonInvalidChair

The Dayton invalid chair, c 1920

I’m a member of the veteran cycle club and through the pages of its magazines I see all manner of cycles other than bicycles, it seems that there’s little or nothing new in cycling, because it has all been tried a hundred years ago. But that phrase – there’s little or nothing new in cycling – when applied to national cycle campaigning today, means something quite different to me. There’s little or nothing new in cycling, just the bicycle. They might take different forms but essentially, it’s the same image of the bicycle presented again and again. The very same image that in many areas of the media is presented as a problem.

Which brings me to the image I was searching for. The one that got me so worked up last week and which I’d like to apologise for getting sweary about on Twitter to whichever CTC staffer(s) it was who fielded it. CTC may at times appear to be an impenetrable entity that doesn’t listen, but there’s aways a human being on the other end of any communication and I lost sight of that. Whoever you are, I’m sorry.

I couldn’t find it. Bike Week was there, as you’d expect, but not the image of the three different forms of bicycle that as I write still adorns the Bike Week Facebook and Twitter accounts. Why is that? Had someone decided it was unsuitable? Is Bike Week less a CTC project and more a United Kingdom Cycling Alliance one? Or a Bicycle Association one? Because it occurs to me now, duh, that the part of the national cycle movement ‘inclusive cycling’ doesn’t seem to have made any impact upon is the campaigning arm that stretches out from and beyond CTC.

Pre-election, I was invited by the CTC, presumably on behalf of the UKCA, to the Big Cycling Debate at the offices of News UK (the Sunday Times I think). It was absfab to be invited to what was a thoroughly enjoyable, professional event, and although my question didn’t make the cut, all the images at the event, and in the handout about the economic impact of cycling, confirmed beyond any doubt that it would have been one of the most relevant on the day. At least on the agenda of mobility and social inclusion which I’ve handily defined above as being the de facto equivalent to ‘cycling’. Just goes to show what you can do when you have control of the medium.

It’s not unusual for national cycle campaign imagery to be exclusively bicycle-centric, in fact at that level it’s demonstrably de rigueur. Despite inviting someone who handcycled into the hustings event (and thanks for ensuring an accessible venue by the way – and the fact that I’ve mentioned it shows that very often that isn’t the case) it didn’t appear odd to anyone else, that handcycles, or any form of trike for that matter, were not representing cycling on any of the promotional/marketing material. That’s just how it is in cycle campaigning at the national level – it’s all about the bicycle.

Up until now I’ve not had a problem with the bicycle being used as the default emblem for the wider practice of cycling, ie beyond bicycling. As you can see in the sidebar on the right, I even used it for our local campaign group WitneyBUG. However, I’ve found the image of the bicycle to be so exclusive and so widespread that I’m beginning to wonder whether that default image is the primary device that’s reinforcing the association of the fast thinking brain to the notion of the bicycle being the only form of cycle, and hence the only one that in my lifetime has been campaigned/designed for.

Should the CTC logo be a bicycle? Should the LCC logo be a bicycle? Should the Bicycle Association logo be a, sorry, logical error! Should the British Cycling logo be a bicycle? Will the diversity within the new LCDS make a difference? Without any evidence to the contrary, I’m satisfied in my own mind that the association of the image of the bicycle with cycling generally in the minds of practitioners has been detrimental to users of other forms of cycle. Just how far that extends, or if it can be reversed, or if a new generation can form a different association, I don’t know. Judging by how difficult it appears to be to alter the national campaign image of cycling from within, I suspect getting #BeyondTheBicycle in the national psyche from without is going to be a very long slog indeed.

[Just going back to that logical error for a moment, it’s not at all clear to me, someone who’s spent a fair amount of time in the world of cycle campaigning, quite what the role of the largely silent Bicycle Association is, or how much influence it has within the UKCA. Looking at how much CTC appears to have altered internally through the lens of its magazine, at least in terms of coverage of other cycle types, I find myself asking, who is actually managing the image of cycle campaigning at the national level? Is it being managed at all? Where did that image of the three bicyclists derive from? Who gave it the green light? Is there a process for giving it a green light? I can’t help thinking some transparency, and a forum to discuss it in, would save a lot of frustration. Certainly for me!]

It’s not only images, a throwaway comment based on the common experience of the majority can throw up a similar example of this phenomenon of simplified association, this time to do with walking rather than cycling.

SillyTwitterComment

There’s nothing unusual about that. Everyone knows wheelchairs and crutches exist, and probably everyone knows someone that uses them, but when the brain is operating in fast mode it naturally leaps to this kind of simplified association. What would be unusual, I suggest, is if having pointed it out, it didn’t result in a modification.

It’s so common in fact that the phenomenon eventually led to the creation of a legal framework called the Equalities Act to ensure that whenever it is pointed out, some reasonable adjustment is made to avoid further discrimination. For some organisations there is also a duty to think first about the implications of the action they’re about to take, but as I’ve noted above it can still be a struggle to raise awareness of what the problem is in the first place. A non-legal term you’ll often hear employed as a first line of defence by a brain operating in fast mode is ‘political correctness’. Usually it’s deployed incorrectly by the innocent and occasionally as a form of obfuscation by the malicious. For the innocent, equality complaints are basically about misunderstanding the point of view of someone with the same expectations but different constraints. For the malicious, equality issues are about loss of profit or misplaced envy. Obviously we’re dealing with the former in cycling, and I suggest a forum/method for discussing/resolving misunderstandings if and when they arise could help enormously.

And since we’ve slipped into the world of words, what about the word BICYCLE? My Chambers defines it as follows: noun. A vehicle with two wheels, one directly in front of the other, driven by pedals or (motor-bicycle) a motor.

  • Dave H pointed out that pre-1883 the Cyclists’ Touring Club had been called the Bicycle Touring Club. It changed its name because the word ‘bicycle’ didn’t encompass the club’s tricycle riders.
  • If ‘bicycle’ wasn’t an inclusive term in 1883, why did the Bicycle Association choose to use it in 1973 having used various company names since 1890 that employed the word ‘cycle’? Is 1973 a significant date for cycling and bicycling?
  • When the British Electric Bicycle Association merged with the Bicycle Association of Great Britain in January this year – a good inclusive move for cycling it would appear – why did it not take the opportunity to drop the exclusive word ‘bicycle’ and return to the more inclusive ‘cycle’?

That’s probably enough to be going on with. I imagine, like the process of reviewing images, reviewing the use of the word ‘bicycle’, its integral ‘cycle’, and cycle’s other derivatives such as ‘tricycle’, will lead to some depressing discoveries and conclusions. I just need to come up with a premise and a method for sectioning the literature. That should furrow my brow for a while!

Back to the images. I scribbled down ‘Patterson never drew women’. I must have condensed that comment down too far. While looking for the initial image to illustrate this post I came across drawings which included women, but none of women as the cycling protagonist, with one notable exception which was a female stoking a tandem. As a generalisation it seems a true enough statement. Peter also pointed out that ‘Women tourists are ‘normal’ in the interwar years’. That’s a fairly common form of discrimination, ignoring a section of the community, in this case 50%, by not representing them. That’s assuming there wasn’t also an artist at that time penning line drawings of women cyclists as prolifically as Patterson was sketching his male-based idylls. I didn’t make any notes about that.

How does the UKCA fare through the lens of gender? You might find a notable exception but from the images I’ve seen it’s very much a male dominated group and I wouldn’t be surprised if it qualified for the recent tumblr for all male panels. I don’t want to come across as too down on the UKCA though, from what I understand it came as a surprise when it happened but the UKCA where well placed to capitalise on the chance to get cycling into the Infrastructure Bill when it arose – one of the few pieces of good news we’ve had outside of the London cycling bubble.

However, national cycle campaigning really needs to get beyond the notable exceptions to be representative of all the people for whom cycling could and hopefully will be a choice. Currently women are running their own forum for their diverse voices that aren’t being heard. Perhaps we need a forum for the other diverse voices that aren’t being heard at a national level? A #BeyondTheBicycle conference may be one way of addressing that.

That in itself demonstrates that there is no organised body that is able to facilitate all those diverse voices so that they are heard at a national level. Could one of the existing organisations be the body to represent them or is a new body required? Is there more merging to be done before an organisation could represent those voices effectively? Cycling is diverse, but sometimes it feels as if it’s diversified so far that its voice oscillates from fragmented factionalism to bland bicycle-ism.

CTC_winged_wheel_ca.1927

Much like the CTC struggling to find a way to hold together the diverse nature of its different interest groups, it’s a problem that feels like it needs a better solution. On the plus side I’ve heard the CTC is thinking of dropping its bicycle logo and going back to the retro, but from my point of view far more inclusive, winged wheel. Perhaps we can find better answers to other questions if we look back to when cycling was booming – it’s a long way into the future right now, hopefully not as far as it was back into the past, but booming should be where we’re headed after all.

 

Bloody Bicycle Week!

BikeWeek2015

“The bicycle takes gold, silver AND bronze in the race to normalise riding a bike, everyday, for everyone, as long as  you’re on two wheels.”

I’m never quite sure who’s managing Bike Week each year, but I think I’m on fairly solid ground when I say that this year, 2015, the year that they’re officially wrapping up involvement in their latest Inclusive Cycling project, that it’s our national cycling charity the CTC.

I’ve been pointing out this mismatch between words and imagery to anyone who’ll listen for over two years and now I’m tired. Tired that despite great, dedicated people within CTC fighting our corner, the bicycle reigns supreme in any national imagery. Would it kill anyone to draw a picture of a handbike or a trike? Of course not. And that makes the continuous refusal to do so unacceptable.

So here’s the finger CTC. I resign my membership forthwith.

Presumed Liability: Who Benefits?

Topically for me, Denmark got a mention during this UCL Cycling @ Lunchtime talk about presumed liability (gets into its stride at 7m45s) although that wasn’t what made it memorable.

Derek Halden, presenting on behalf of Road Share (a campaign rather than a charity – at least under that name) gave a fairly factual explanation of what PL is, what it isn’t, and how it would help victims like a 13 year old Scottish girl who had to wait 10 years for a claim of compensation to be settled. But for one thing. Something that acted like a magician’s misdirection or one of Lynton Crosby’s dead cats. The suggestion that introducing PL reduces casualties.

As I recall, my twitter timeline erupted into a polarised slanging match. Nobody was thinking about victims – people ‘encouraged’ by the authorities and various cycling orgs to get on their bikes in a transport system that’s stacked against them when it goes wrong – because they’d moved on to a cerebral pissing match about what works best in the absence of any hard evidence to prove or disprove where PL ranks.

Based on that my conclusion is this: DON’T DO IT.

No matter how much you qualify the statement by pointing out that it’s a correlation rather than a proven cause, don’t suggest that simply by introducing a legal framework to look after victims it will prevent them becoming victims in the first place. Regardless of how good safety stats are in some of the places where PL operates, there are still people there being knocked off their bikes or their feet. They are the people who need presumed liability and would suffer most if it didn’t exist. Don’t lose sight of who it actually benefits.

And that was despite a slide devoted to how PL is misrepresented and misunderstood(!) and which had the best piece of advice I’ve seen for some time…

“Systems thinking needed.”

More on that to come [insert link here].