Tag Archives: words

Using a Bike for Short Journeys – Part 2

[UaBfSJ Part 1]

BasketLights, locks and luggage – how to match your bike to your life and make it at least as convenient as the alternatives…

In the mid-noughties I spent a year living and working in a german town just north of Nuremberg. Even for Germany it’s quite a special place from the point of view of cycling and at that time had a modal share of 33%, meaning a third of all journeys in the town were being made by bike. One of the first things to strike me, other than the bikes when I strayed onto the cycle path, was the sight of men riding bikes with baskets. Years of social conditioning caused my cultural compass to spin everytime I saw a basket not paired with the fairer sex. What was it all about?

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Jimmy Crackednut’s Guilt Trip

BrainAs the title of this blog suggests I fall over a lot. I fall off my bikes too. And out of my wheelchair – backwards as a rule. Usually it hurts.

Although I say so myself I’m pretty good at assessing the risks. The reason I’m pretty good at it is because I’ve got a lot of data to work with. Over the years, and I’m getting on a bit now, I’ve developed a fairly good idea of how likely it is to happen, which injuries I’m likely to sustain, and how bad they’re likely to be. And yes, I can confirm that alcohol increases the risk considerably.

To date, statistically, the chance of something really quite nasty happening to me is highest when in the shower. I take precautions but I still do it. Obviously wearing a helmet isn’t one of them.

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What About Us?

NewInvestmentInCyclingUpTo2015Our Dave appeared to be promising us new cricket pitches for fracking this week – if we want them – but was far less generous with his announcement of cash for cycling. The nearest it gets to us is Oxford; precisely where OCC currently spends most of the county’s minuscule bike budget.

The new investment is being focussed, which is good, otherwise the (very approximately) £150 million over two years would be spread so thinly it wouldn’t stretch to an innertube each.

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I Like The Way I Bike

Back CameraSmack bang in the middle of the year already and the festival of all things bike is upon us.

If we’re lucky and the weather doesn’t then I’m afraid to say there are still a few people out there who might try and rain on your parade. They’ll tell you you’re doing it wrong, not wearing the right stuff, sometimes they’ll even single you out as a potential lawbreaker that needs a friendly talking to about the heinous acts you’re going to commit. My advice is ring your bell, smile sweetly and give them a wide berth, we’ve no time for killjoys in Bike Week.

Wear your favourite outfit and ride your favourite bike; summertime is the perfect time to demonstrate riding a bike is as normal as walking the dog or driving the car. If you feel more secure upon your steed sporting hi-viz and a helmet then be our guest – we’re not the fashion police!

A serious note though. If you’d like to ride a bike but don’t, would like to ride with your family but don’t, have a child or grandchild that’s just itching to ride to school but can’t, then please consider joining WitneyBUG and telling us all about it. For an infinitely-valuable-non-time-limited-one-off-fee of £5 our bicycle user group also works on behalf of potential bike users, like you, to make riding a bike as easy as riding a bike, even in Witney. Oh, and sign this (trust me, it’s not just about ‘cyclists’).

Bike Week kicks off on Church Green in front of St Mary’s Church at 10am this Saturday with a gentle, family friendly, Potter to the Pottery.

We have an Infrastructure Safari on the following Saturday where we look at the good, the bad and the just plain awful places our local authorities would like us to ride our bikes in order to shore up the capacity of Witney’s increasingly congested roads.

If you fancy going further afield you’ll find some lovely themed rides in Oxford as well – the cycle path along the A40 takes you all the way there and a coffee stop in Summertown and/or Eynsham is a pleasant way to break up the journey.

Throughout Bike Week it’ll be 2 for 1 entry to Cogges for everyone arriving by bike and we’ll be finishing up with a ride there on Sunday 23rd. That’ll mark the end of Bike Week for another year but we’ll be carrying on with regular meetings and rides at Cogges.

Enjoy the week. And remember – it’s not a crime…

Words and Numbers

TinTinThis week the ‘greenest government ever‘ voted down an amendment to include a 2030 decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill. This was despite its own Tim Yeo tabling the amendment and that touchstone for environmental thinking among zillionaires, Zac Goldsmith, voting in favour.

It seems targets, like statistics, can be misused. While other numbers, like this unhelpful 3 digit offender lurking within 400ppm, can be safely ignored.


I’d intended to take a look at just what the phrase ‘greenest government ever’ actually meant alongside a new power to veto windfarms being written into planning policy. I was going to draw a witty parallel between Europe interfering in the affairs of a certain member state and Britain blocking Italy’s ban on plastic bags. I’d lined up a seamless segue into tonight’s Beecause talk in the Fleece by way of said member state opposing a ban on harmful pesticides based on crap science. But what’s the point?

If words don’t mean what they say and numbers can’t be used to measure them what’s the point in writing them down?

Yesterday was World Environment Day.

Using a Bike for Short Journeys – Part 1

SafetyBicycleConvenience. That’s the key.

It’s convenience, or rather the lack of it, that explains why someone who regularly does a 60 mile ride at the weekend, or commutes 15 miles each way to work all week, will choose to jump in the car to pop into town. Sounds absurd on the face it, surely a journey of 1 or 2 miles is easier than slogging your way over the Cotswolds? And of course it is, if you ignore all the phaffing around that goes with it.

This from the most recent research into using a bike in the UK, Understanding Walking and Cycling

“It is often assumed that short trips could easily be made by bicycle or on foot (e.g., DfT, 2011 pg 5), and the statistics suggest that there are many short trips that could be converted. According to the National Travel Survey (2010) 36.1% of trips under 2 miles and 53.0% of journeys under 5 miles are undertaken by car, with walking accounting for 23.4% of all trips and cycling only 1.5% of all journeys.”

It’s not just distance that differentiates short local journeys from long fast clubruns; one is all about the ride while the other is about the purpose. More than about 5 miles and the time spent on the bike begins to dominate, less than 5 miles, or about half an hour, and it’ll be what you do when you get there that counts. You’re no more likely to clip clop into a restaurant in a pair of budgie smugglers and a shirt colourfully advertising a bank in foreign climes than you are to turn up at the start of a club run in a suit and tie. For a town like Witney it’s a mere 10 minutes from the outskirts to the centre – hardly worth getting changed for.

There are exceptions at either end of the cycling community. I have friends who virtually live in lycra and go everywhere by bike, and equally I occasionally nod to old guys in woollen blazers and brogues riding miles from anywhere, but valued members as they are of that risible 1.5% of journeys undertaken by bike, they’re the bookends of a missing bell-curve that could and should be mass cycling in the UK.

More from Understanding Walking and Cycling

“For instance in Sweden and Finland 9% of all trips are by bicycle, in Germany 10%, in Denmark 18% and in the Netherlands 26% (Pucher and Buehler, 2010). The research reported here suggests that assuming trips (in the UK) could be undertaken by bike or on foot just because they are short is a rather simplistic approach that fails to fully understand the nature of the problem.”

When I go to the Netherlands and look at the people riding bikes there, just focussing on the people and their bikes rather than the environment they’re riding them in, I see the occasional helmeted roadie on a carbon framed racer, the rarer off-roader on a fully suspended MTB, but obscuring these are masses of people riding relatively heavy machines wearing nothing you’d find between the covers of Cycling Plus.

When it rains I see umbrellas. I’ve tried using an umbrella and it’s not easy in a forward leaning position. Sit upright though and controlling the bike one handed isn’t a problem. In fact everything seems to just work on an upright. Sure you can splash out on a Brompton jacket with darts in the back giving enough room to stretch into an aero position, but that kind of negates having a whole wardrobe to choose from when going out.

Has the technology revolution in bike design made the short journey any easier? Does a 20% weight saving give any significant advantage on a 10 minute journey? Is the electronic derailleur mech going to make my trip to the cinema any better?

Seems to me everything that makes using a bike for short journeys more comfortable and convenient was sorted out before the outbreak of the Great War. Hub gears, mudguards, chain guards, skirt guards, comfortable steel frames, the wicker basket. While since then every technological advance to make going further, faster easier has made the short journey more uncomfortable and inconvenient.

The people using bikes in the Netherlands that give cycling a legitimate voice aren’t ‘keen cyclists’ or ‘cycle enthusiasts’, they do it because it’s been organised in such a way that it’s convenient. As our mega-fit mile-eater we started out with demonstrates, promoting ‘cycling’ doesn’t make using a bike convenient and is doing little to resolve the short journey conumdrum in the UK.

I’m glad to say it’s not a secret here. Not everyone’s conforming to what is ‘normal for the UK’. Our arty bike stands at the back of the Woolgate have a steady stream of snappily dressed bike users coming and going with their shopping. Mostly women. Even more in Oxford ignore the advice of cycling experts and are discovering for themselves what works, or just carrying on a tradition that hasn’t died out yet. They’re the ones doing most to promote the bike’s supremacy for the short journey.

I read the other day that the classic dutch bike is based on the british roadster. Oh Raleigh. Where did it all go wrong?

[UaBfSJ Part 2]

Like a wheel within a wheel

Dutch style roundabout test TfL

Transport Research Laboratory, Bracknell, England, 2013.

Bikes. Transport. Research. England. For the details check out the BBC report.

That’s bikes and transport. Not bikes and sport, or bikes and leisure, or bikes and recreation, or bikes and charity rides, but bikes with a place, and a space, in the transport network.

Just close your eyes for a moment and imagine sailing around Five Ways Roundabout in Witney, or anywhere else you might be trying to ride a bike, without having to mix with the cars, vans, busses, and lorries that are focussed on every other vehicle rather than you. Feeling relaxed? You can open them now.

What’s significant about this is that someone, somewhere, is taking responsibility for the safety of people on bikes. And it’s not just about bikes. Someone, somewhere, is also thinking about taking the stress out of driving around people on bikes.

Which is marvellous, because people can get on with riding their bikes without worrying about how dangerous it might be, or leave the house without worrying about crushing a loved one.

I wonder who’s responsible for the safety of people using bikes in Witney? They must be thrilled too.

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping
Past the minutes of its face
The modern era of the bike
Continues on apace
Like the circles that you find
Riding rings around your mind

Trains of Thought

I can’t/won’t write when depressed. Partly because it’s dark and er, depressing, but mainly because there’s no beginning, middle and end. It’s all middle. All pointless. No resolution. No end. Too many possibilities – initially no thread then instantly too many. Chaos.

But I came across this when tidying up. This is the first time I found a channel for it. I know I’m becoming depressed. I’ve got stuff backing up I need to do. Some of it can wait but a couple of things are important. But I can’t do it. Can’t actually just do it. Staring into space. Can’t concentrate. Then I close my eyes and tap out what’s running through my mind….

Like getting in a lift and moving to another floor. Moving from one subject to another. Easy. But that’s not right. Only like that when moving between different layers of the same subject. Can’t move between different topics or subjects anymore. Is it because they’re not linked in any way? No structure? So how did I do it before? I used to be able to move between different, unrelated topics without a problem. Now I have a physical response to a change of subject when I’m thinking. A tensing of muscles. Mentally pushing it away. Can’t do it. Won’t do it. Leave me alone… So how did it used to work? Did the previous thought get put on a stack? Was a flag stuck in the ground as a reminder of where I was? Or did it just not matter? Did I just float from one thing to another and back again? Why is it such a problem now? Why? Why do I shut everything else out? And why does that help? Shutting everything else out. Shutting myself in the shed. Going camping. Simplifying. Just essentials. No extras. Simplify down to a minimum. Is that why guys end up on the street? Simplifying? Jettisoning everything. Having no more worries. Where’s the attachment to the mind? Why does it feel better to remove all else? Sever links that are pulling, dragging, hanging heavy on the mind. Why do they feel tense in the chest? Anxiety? Fears? Worries? Head’s filling up…

Touch typing’s something I found time to cultivate when I was off work for a long period. Depressed, ironically. Haven’t done it recently though – closed my eyes and caught a train of thought. Probably because I’ve swapped from a laptop to an iPad. Progress…

And one more thing…


Eight copy-paste-commuters

When you live with an issue every day, think about it most days, write about it once or twice a week, meet others who deal with it every month or so, and every now and then reach the influential with ‘the message’, after all that, it’s all too easy to kid yourself that you’re actually getting somewhere.

But not to worry, eventually the evidence trots up like a big bouncy puppy, so pleased with itself that it’s returned with just what you wanted, only to prove beyond all possible doubt that it forgot all about your ball, having been distracted by the bigger, shinier one thrown by your mates.

Whether it’s TfL and the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London or the CTC’s Cycletopia, the evidence suggests that if and when the able bodied and able minded think about disability cycling they still imagine it taking place in a park or around an athletics track, certainly not on a street or a cycle path.

They’re right of course, that is mostly where it takes place, and the rub is that’s where they’re keeping it – safely confined in their collective mind’s eye out of harm’s way.

So what to do? Throw in the hand crank or keep plodding on through the crowd of indulgent smiles? Well, like a lame Eeyore, it’s onwards, ever onwards..

The four point plan I knocked up in response to the Get Britain Cycling inquiry isn’t going to cut it on its own. As long as the common perception of cycling amongst those tasked with the job to Get Britain Cycling is being reinforced with images like the one above, handcycles and trikes are going to be forgotten about, and with the help of the five inaccessible kissing gates I came across yesterday on the Bourne Valley Greenway, disability cycling will remain confined to inclusive cycling projects.

We need some positive discrimination.

5. Make it Normal

Until we have an inclusive cycle network without all of the physical and mental barriers preventing people from enjoying the benefits of cycles as mobility aids, the disabled need to be included in the plans and expectations of all new schemes.

As an absolute minimum, an image of a handcycle and/or trike needs to be shown in the plans and design access statements for all new cycle infrastructure. Copy and pasted commuters an inclusive cycle network does not make.


Bourne Valley Greenway

A Bittersweet Moment

“I want more women cycling, more older people cycling, more black and minority ethnic Londoners cycling, more cyclists of all social backgrounds – without which truly mass participation can never come.”

Sweet words from London’s Mayor. Bravo Boris. Not.

Aw come on. What’s not to like?

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Starts Here…

The blog starts here. Except it doesn’t. The posts start back in 2009 but this is the first post to appear nowhere else but on this blog. Previously they were only on the sites of other organisations, listed under x: categories just up there. This post is the peg marking when the blog went live.

I’m still loading the old posts up. It’s taking a while, what with tagging and things, I’m up to about 150 at the moment. It’s therapy. I hit overload a few weeks ago, had what I’ll call a burst of mental overactivity fill my mind, which left me feeling overstretched, out of touch and out of control. Felt like I had things spread all over (which I did) and didn’t know where anything was (which I didn’t).

Pulling all the posts back to one place feels good, like I’m piecing myself back together. I’m not really, but it feels that way. If I’ve learnt one thing about being human it’s that being rational seems important, but it’s how you feel that counts.

Enough weirdness. On with the therapy.

A Plan for Disability Cycling

The Get Britain Cycling inquiry wrapped up yesterday – rather caught me out because I’d gotten used to the sessions being midweek! Anyway, let’s get back to that question raised a few weeks ago…


I think it was put by Sarah Wollaston MP and following through the letterbox of twitter I don’t recall anybody addressing the disabled aspect of it. With the benefit of some time to reflect on it, this is what I would have said given the opportunity…

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One Inclusive Cycle Network

During the first session of the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ inquiry on Wednesday the panel asked a question about getting some under represented groups in the cycling community out on their bikes, the disabled being one of them.


I have a whole other post lined up to address that question but coupled with a reminder about a chance encounter last year it drew a few other inclusive thoughts together. I’m not saying anything I haven’t said before, I’m just finding another way to say it because it continues to fall on deaf ears – every time I pick up a policy document or refer to some guidelines about cycling I see the same exclusive recommendations.

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Turning Dreams Into Reality


Cast your eye over Cycletopia for a minute. It’s a lovely, fun, graphical way to convey what a bike friendly world might look like. Click on the image to see it full size.

Tomorrow sees the beginning of the inquiry into ‘Get Britain Cycling’ and what could be a major step forward in turning dreams into reality. Campaign director Roger Geffen will be there presenting CTC’s evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group.

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Cycle Show

CycleShowNEC2012The London Bike Show is running this weekend which reminded me I hadn’t yet blogged about the Cycle Show back in September at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Centre.

There’s no ‘inclusive’ theme in London as far as I can see, and being snow bound(ish) in West Oxon I’m not going to get there to find out. Of course it’s not at Earls Court anymore, what with it being developed (which is what I think caused the move to the NEC in 2011), you’ll now find it over at the Excel in London Docklands. Must be quite an expense for smaller exhibitors to have two big shows in the same year, unless the London Bike Show is just that, for and about London. I wonder if Wheels for Wellbeing found a way to have a presence there?

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