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It makes me want to cry…

At the weekend we decided to go for a “family bike ride”. That thing that other people think we do all the time, because they see us riding bikes. Most of the time in our house, a “family bike ride” is the school run or a trip to the shops, going on a “bike ride” is something we rarely have time to do.

We went to try out the Monsal Trail and thought we’d cycle from Thornbridge to the L’Eroica Festival, which I’d estimated as a 6 mile round trip and just about doable by a 6 year old. The trail is Derbyshire’s flag ship cycle route, hailed as ideal for family cycling and indeed there were plenty of families out cycling on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Almost all on mountain bikes, helmeted and nearly half with wrap around glasses on!

The Monsal Trail is depressing on many levels. It is yet another railway line that was victim to this country’s short sighted transport policy that means rural areas are almost entirely car dependent. The “redundant” railway line has now been converted to “leisure use”, meaning it is shared use path and full of dog walkers and no-one keeps vegetation under control. It’s clearly not considered as a route that could replace any form of vehicular travel. This is reinforced by the poor quality surface that has been put down - a half hearted attempt at compacted gravel. In some areas ok ish, but in many areas large pieces of loose stone making it down right dangerous.

After a brief glimpse of it a few weeks ago in torrential rain (full of puddles) I realised it certainly wasn’t going to be Brompton friendly, so I took my vintage Raleigh Roadster, thinking that the roadster, designed for rubbish roads and perfectly capable of handling Sheffield’s potholes, would be fine. I was wrong. The Schwalbe Delta Cruiser tyres were skating all over in the gravel and far from being a nice relaxing ride, most of the time I had to keep all my concentration on my steering. (I certainly wasn’t going to risk taking photos)

That was bad enough, but the dust, after a few days without rain, was terrible. The bikes were covered in it, we were covered in it and I realised the wrap around glasses would’ve been handy the amount of grit that kept flying in my eyes. I was glad I was wearing soft contact lenses, with gas permeable ones I wouldn’t have been able to see a thing!

Another thing Derbyshire have skimped on is the signage, which is also poor and hard to see. We ended up adding an extra 2 miles to the trip because of it, which was a bit much for the 6 year old, who really struggled with the last mile back to the car.

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The final straw was the end of the route, just outside Bakewell, which ends with cyclist dismount signs because the path becomes to steep. And by steep I mean ridiculously steep. Going downhill was bad enough, but uphill was something else. Youngest daughter could barely walk up it without her bike. Eldest daughter kept sliding backwards pushing her bike up it and I was really struggling. Hardly what you call accessible! The crazy thing was there was loads of room to make a gently sloping ramp, but no, yet more cost cutting and lazy planning.

For me the trip really summed up how poor all cycle provision is in this country and how we are constantly being fobbed off with substandard rubbish. And as if to ram the point home, I got back to see this photo in my twitter feed: image

photo by @amsterdamized http://instagram.com/p/pjZwUapzTk/

It just makes me want to cry!

Quick, quick…

quick

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slow

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How [not] to engineer a junction. The cyclist above is making a perfectly legal manoeuvre which involves having to sprint across 4 lanes of traffic before the lights change, try not to hit any pedestrians and maintain enough speed to get up a 1 in 5 gradient! No conflicts there then.

Spot the deliberate mistake?

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Well clearly it can’t be incompetence can it?

If you’re feeling a bit slow this morning or can’t quite figure it out - I’ll explain:

On the lower half of the photo the cycle path is on the right and the footpath is on the left. Somewhere (at some random point I assume) within the tactile paving zone, the laws of physics are reversed or magic is involved and pedestrians and cyclists are supposed to exchange places.

As you can see from the photo, Sheffielders haven’t quite got the timing down to a fine art yet - the lady on the left is a bit too keen and the cyclist isn’t quite awake yet - but don’t worry all the lampposts in the way will soon rectify that. I’m sure there will be a training course developed soon to teach people the skills required to accomplish this manoeuvre.

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Here it is from the opposite direction, this time with the added bonus of wheelly bins scattered about to add to your enjoyment.

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The woman pushing the toddler in the buggy clearly needs educating and training as she has failed to complete the special manoeuvre in time.

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And just to keep you on your toes, just as you’ve swapped sides (within about 4metres) you have to swap back again, whilst ensuring you don’t get run over by the traffic that has priority accros the path.

Cycle paths the Dutch won’t laugh at" - you’ve got to be joking!

Yes it’s Eric “Rubber Knickers” Pickles. This is our wonderful Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who apparently thinks you need to wear “Rubber Knickers” (wtf?) to ride a bicycle. and thinks the whole idea of him riding a bike is ridiculous. Maybe he ought to try it sometime if even David Cameron is taking the piss out of his weight.
Now, if you are a regular visitor to this blog, you will know that “Rubber knickers” are most definitely not a prerequisite for riding a bicycle. The only time in my life I’ve ever had to don a pair was as part of the uniform for a bar job, which incidentally included a skirt so short it left virtually nothing to the imagination. The cycle shorts (which happened to be a fashion at the time) were a management concession to the complaints from female staff about the sexist uniform!
If you listen to the interview it quickly becomes clear that the man isn’t the sharpest pencil in the box. His reasoning for lifting the limits in city centre parking provision on new developments is that this just means that people park on the street. However, he hasn’t the imagination to realise that increasing parking provision won’t stop this - all that will happen is that people will continue to do this as well as utilise the extra space. Effectively this will increase car use. 
But anyway, you can listen to his excuses here in response to a question from Mark at IBikeLondon

Yes it’s Eric “Rubber Knickers” Pickles. This is our wonderful Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who apparently thinks you need to wear “Rubber Knickers” (wtf?) to ride a bicycle. and thinks the whole idea of him riding a bike is ridiculous. Maybe he ought to try it sometime if even David Cameron is taking the piss out of his weight.

Now, if you are a regular visitor to this blog, you will know that “Rubber knickers” are most definitely not a prerequisite for riding a bicycle. The only time in my life I’ve ever had to don a pair was as part of the uniform for a bar job, which incidentally included a skirt so short it left virtually nothing to the imagination. The cycle shorts (which happened to be a fashion at the time) were a management concession to the complaints from female staff about the sexist uniform!

If you listen to the interview it quickly becomes clear that the man isn’t the sharpest pencil in the box. His reasoning for lifting the limits in city centre parking provision on new developments is that this just means that people park on the street. However, he hasn’t the imagination to realise that increasing parking provision won’t stop this - all that will happen is that people will continue to do this as well as utilise the extra space. Effectively this will increase car use. 

But anyway, you can listen to his excuses here in response to a question from Mark at IBikeLondon

Sick of crap?

… tell the council!

Thanks to SimonG for the tip off:

"The Sheffield City Cycle Forum is on Tuesday 16th November, 16:30 at Town Hall.

It’s your chnce to tell the council what you think of their cycle facilities!

Email richard dot skelton at sheffield dot gov dot uk if you’re attending.”

Scale

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I keep meaning to take a tape measure with me just to see how wide (or narrow) Sheffield’s cycle lanes really are. However, the detritus (btw I moved the bottle it was actually in the middle of the lane, ready to throw an unsuspecting cyclist off, or at the very least make them swerve into the adjacent lane) usually found in such lanes provides a handy frame of reference!

The Highway Code for Cyclists

Apologies to the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club for posting this is in full, but it is a brilliant send up of how farcical the original version is!

 ”Please find below the ‘Rules for Cyclists’ as outlined in The Highway Code adapted by me to give more accuracy (in my humble opinion).

59 Clothing.

You should wear

• a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened. It won’t necessarily help, but will make motorists think they can drive like lunatics around you because you are ‘protected’ and make cycling look much more dangerous than it actually is, putting everybody else off cycling. Which is exactly what motor companies (like Volvo and Fiat), that actively promote helmet use, want.

• appropriate clothes for cycling. Avoid clothes which may get tangled in the chain, or in a wheel or may obscure your lights. Do NOT wear lycra as that is very, very bad and our obese society will judge you for some reason.

• light-coloured or fluorescent clothing which helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light because normally they can’t be bothered to look for you unless you’re lit up like a Mardi Gras carnival float

• reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) in the dark for that extra nerdy/librarian look

60 At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector. White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp. HOWEVER if your bike has been stolen or cost £20 at a car boot sale and you merely wish to get to the bookies/public house (Wetherspoons ONLY)/next crime scene then why are you even attempting to read this? [Law RVLR regs 13, 18 & 24)]

61 Cycle Routes and Other Facilities.

Use cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless at the time it is unsafe to do so. Use of these facilities is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills which you will need lots of because the facilities are normally designed by someone having an epileptic fit, but they can make your journey safer IF you are the last person on Earth and even then they are a waste of time and space.

62 Cycle Tracks.

These are normally located away from the road, but may normally be found on footpaths or pavements. Cyclists and pedestrians may be segregated or they may share the same space (unsegregated). When using segregated tracks you MUST keep to the side intended for cyclists (until another cyclist approaches when you both suddenly realise it’s too narrow) as the pedestrian side remains a pavement or footpath. Take care when passing pedestrians, especially children, older or disabled people. Everyone will drift into the cycle lane for no reason, usually wearing an iPod. Always be prepared to slow down and stop if necessary as they wander about aimlessly. Take care near road junctions as you will have difficulty seeing other road users, who will not notice you. If you were using the road instead of this poorly designed, dangerous drivel you would NOT be in danger in the first place. [Law HA 1835 sect 72]

63 Cycle Lanes.

These are marked by a white line (which will be entered by ALL other road traffic) along the carriageway. Keep within the lane when practicable through all the sunken drain covers and broken glass. When leaving a cycle lane check before pulling out that it is safe to do so and signal your intention clearly to other road users which will be ignored. Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer if you are in Copenhagen or Amsterdam or Groningen or Germany or anywhere else EXCEPT the UK.

64 You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement UNLESS the Council has painted a white bicycle on it. There is a difference APPARENTLY[Laws HA 1835 sect 72 & R(S)A 1984, sect 129]

65 Bus Lanes.

Most bus lanes may be used by cyclists as indicated on signs. Watch out for people getting on or off a bus. Be very careful when overtaking a bus or leaving a bus lane as you will be entering a busier traffic flow and the bus driver thinks he/she is at Le Mans. Do not pass between the kerb and a bus when it is at a stop UNLESS you’re unbelievably thin.

66 You should

• keep both hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear or sticking the finger up at yet another example of incompetent driving

• keep both feet on the pedals UNLESS you are trying to do a really cool trick to impress your friends to justify owning a BMX whilst in your 20’s.

• never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends. You’ll get abuse from motorists that confuse ‘a country drive’ with ‘Paris – Dakar Rally’ anyway.

• not ride close behind another vehicle UNLESS it’s slowed down just after overtaking you for a sudden turn or speed camera or police patrol car.

• not carry anything which will affect your balance or may get tangled up with your wheels or chain such as barbed wire, which MAY be the only thing that stops motorists passing so closely.

• be considerate of other road users, particularly blind and partially sighted pedestrians. Let them know you are there when necessary, for example, by ringing your bell if you have one. Try using common courtesy, which is an ancient craft that died out years ago.

67 You should

• look all around before moving away from the kerb, turning or manoeuvring, to make sure it is safe to do so. Give a clear signal to show other road users what you intend to do. This will be ignored.

• look well ahead for obstructions in the road, such as drains, pot-holes and parked vehicles so that you do not have to swerve suddenly to avoid them. Leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles and watch out for doors being opened or pedestrians stepping into your path, particularly iPod wearers, the lemmings that they are.

• be aware of traffic coming up behind you. They know not what they are doing.

• take extra care near road humps, narrowings and other traffic calming features . They are supposed to improve road safety. In reality, they turn something as simple and easy as riding a bicycle into some form of gladiatorial combat and were designed by the person that came up with the course on ‘Extreme Wipeout’.

• take care when overtaking. Wave to stationary traffic and smile to indicate you are passing them safely. This should cheer them up no end.

68 You MUST NOT

• carry a passenger unless your cycle has been built or adapted to carry one. Those carefree days are over, apparently.

• hold onto a moving vehicle or trailer UNLESS you are going for £250 on ‘You’ve been Framed’

• ride in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner. The Daily Mail thinks you will anyway but ‘dangerous, careless or inconsiderate’ also describes their take on journalism.

• ride when under the influence of drink or drugs, including medicine UNLESS it’s quite nice. [Law RTA 1988 sects 24, 26, 28, 29 & 30 as amended by RTA 1991]

69 You MUST obey all traffic signs and traffic light signals. That means NOT breaking red lights. The wearing of a replica professional team kit does NOT make you immune from all traffic laws. You know you are doing wrong because of the self-righteous yet furtive look you always have when you’re doing it.FAILURE to comply means ALL OTHER ROAD USERS INCLUDING LAW ABIDING CYCLISTS and SOME OTHER PEOPLE I’VE JUST THOUGHT OF have the right to abuse you.[Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD reg 10(1)]

70 When parking your cycle

• find a conspicuous location where it can be seen by passers-by EXCEPT on a council estate.

• use cycle stands or other cycle parking facilities wherever possible and do NOT let the vandalised bicycle already there with the kicked in wheels put you off in any way.

• do not leave it where it would cause an obstruction or hazard to other road users although they will find some reason to moan whatever you do.

• secure it well so that it will not fall over and become an obstruction or hazard UNLESS outside the Daily Mail offices (Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT)

71 You MUST NOT cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red. Some junctions have an advanced stop line to enable you to wait and position yourself ahead of other traffic. They will generally have motor vehicles waiting in it. [Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 36(1)]

Road junctions

72 On the left. When approaching a junction on the left, vehicles will turn in front of you, out of or into the side road. Just before you turn, check for undertaking cyclists or motorcyclists. Do not ride on the inside of vehicles signalling or slowing down to turn left despite the fact they just overtook you at speed.

73 Pay particular attention to long vehicles which need a lot of room to manoeuvre at corners. Be aware that drivers may not see you. They may have to move over to the right before turning left. Wait until they have completed the manoeuvre because the rear wheels come very close to the kerb while turning. Do not be tempted to ride in the space between them and the kerb. In fact, if you see a lorry indicating or making a turn just STOP for goodness sake. The World is a brighter place with you still in it.

74 On the right. If you are turning right, check the traffic to ensure it is safe, then signal and move to the centre of the road. Allow for BMW drivers that will still overtake you even in the middle of your manoeuvre. Wait until there is a safe gap in the oncoming traffic and give a final look before completing the turn. It may be safer to wait on the left until there is a safe gap or to dismount and push your cycle across the road. No-one is going to stop as motorists are always in a terrible hurry for some reason.

75 Dual carriageways. Remember that traffic on most dual carriageways moves quicker than the speed limit but it’s acceptable because they are all experts [in their own opinions] and when an accident occurs, it is clearly a problem with the road. When crossing wait for a safe gap and cross each carriageway in turn, like Mark Cavendish on MDMA and Lucozade. Take extra care when crossing slip roads. Bear in mind the Highways Agency don’t actually want you there at all, yet can’t put a proper segregated route in because that involves thinking and doing stuff.

76 Roundabouts can be hazardous ONLY if motorists are about and should be approached with care.

Roundabouts

77 You may feel safer walking your cycle round on the pavement or verge. If you decide to ride round keeping to the left-hand lane you should

• be aware that drivers may not easily see you as they will be tuning into a different station from Radio 2 now that Terry Wogan has left.

• take extra care when cycling across exits. You may need to signal right to show you are not leaving the roundabout and that you exist

• watch out for vehicles crossing your path to leave or join the roundabout or do whatever they bloody well like

78 Give plenty of room to long vehicles on the roundabout as they need more space to manoeuvre. Do not ride in the space they need to get round the roundabout. It may be safer to stop and go to a nearby pub to wait until they have cleared the roundabout. And a couple of other lorries after that.

Crossing the road

79 Do not ride across equestrian crossings, as they are for horse riders only. Do not ride across a pelican, puffin or zebra crossing. Dismount and wheel your cycle across EVEN if you are wearing a hooded top with the hood up smoking a B&H on a ‘Mountain Bike’ where only the wheels are working.

80 Toucan crossings. These are light-controlled crossings which allow cyclists and pedestrians to share crossing space and cross at the same time. They are push-button operated. Pedestrians and cyclists will see the green signal together. Cyclists are permitted to ride across and will inevitably get in the way of a pedestrian who will write to the local paper because they are a bloody stupid idea.

81 Cycle-only crossings. Very rare. Cycle tracks on opposite sides of the road may be linked by signalled crossings. You may ride across but you MUST NOT cross until the green cycle symbol is showing. Try to ignore the hatred simmering from the motorists you’ve stopped as you’ve added about 10 seconds on to their journey time. Do NOT forget to press the ‘Wait’ button again on the other side as courtesy to other cyclists who may be approaching. Somewhere. [Law TSRGD regs 33(2) & 36(1)]

82 Level crossings/Tramways. Take extra care when crossing the tracks (see Rule 306). You should dismount at level crossings where a ‘cyclist dismount’ sign is displayed. Then feel a little foolish when you see the replacement bus service pulling out from the station car park.”

I was going to blog about this myself, but sevenleagueboots has beaten me to it. 

London Cycle Hire

I signed up as a member of the London Cycle Hire scheme because I had already booked train tickets for a two day visit to London and was keen to try out the new scheme. I wanted to see what it would be like to use the scheme as a tourist. Unfortunately, I discovered that casual use would not be available on the dates I would be in London, so I ended up purchasing two keys, one for myself and one for eldest son and 24 hour access. It took half a dozen attempts to get the cycle hire website to accept my credit card and I ended up trying 3 different cards before finally getting it to accept one. After that things seemed to go quite smoothly, my keys arrived in the post a couple of days later and I registered them online to activate them, several days before travelling.

On arriving in London in St Pancras on Monday 9th August 2010 at 10.30am using the map that had been sent with the keys, we went straight to the nearest docking station at King’s Cross, Belgrove Street. I inserted my key in the slot and the red light changed to flashing orange for quite some time before finally turning red again. So I tried again, the same thing happened, so I tried another bike and another, we tried the other key, still no luck. So methodically, we tried every bike left in the dock with each key, but each time the same thing happened. During this time, several other people came and went and no one else appeared to be experiencing any trouble, so I concluded that the online activation had not worked properly and so I phoned the helpline.

 

It took quite some time being put on hold and repeatedly told I was in a queue and that they were experiencing high call volumes. Finally, I got through to a female operator who was very apologetic and sympathetic. She went through all my account details and checked everything was fine, the only “problem” she could find was that I had registered for ‘auto-renew” of my hire period and that the computer system was experiencing problems with recognising customers with this setting on their account. After checking several of the bikes, that the computer system at the helpline end was recognising as available for hire, and still experiencing the same problem, the lady at the helpline wasn’t able to offer any further help. I was advised to wait “a good five minutes” to let the system “reset itself” and to try again and if the problem persisted to ring the helpline again. In the meantime, my problems would be logged against my account.

So while we were waiting I had plenty of time to take some pictures

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Product placement?

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Trailer to transport the bikes around

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 Another lady appeared to be having trouble with her key. I told her we were having trouble too and had rung the helpline and been told that the computer was having trouble recognising customers with “auto renew” on their accounts. It turned out she had also got the “auto renew” setting on her account. So, she rang the helpline too. After about 8 minutes, not wanting to take any chances by being too soon, we tried again, but still no success, by this point the other lady had walked off in disgust. We decided to try another docking station, so we walked to the next station marked on the map St. Chad’s Street.

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Again, after trying all the bikes, the problem persisted.

We next walked to Ampton Street, DSC06872

which although it had bikes in the dock had a sign saying “docking station coming soon”

DSC06873 and yellow and black tape around some of the posts. DSC06874

another trailer

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Arriving at Tavistock Square in Bloomsbury DSC06877

we then went to Cartwright Gardens DSC06878

and Russell Square

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The Brunswick CentreDSC06886 DSC06885

before abandoning our search at Brunswick Square. DSC06887

It was midday and we had spent an hour and a half trying bikes at seven different docking stations and had no luck at any of them.

Reluctantly we went to get on the tube as we had already lost the morning. We travelled to the Science Museum.

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First Apple computer

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Claude Butler racing bike from 1950 with twin water bottles like this one!

 After a couple of hours we decided to go in search of some lunch and on the way we spotted another docking station at Queens Gate. DSC06893 DSC06894 As several hours had now passed, we decided to have another attempt at trying to get some bikes. The keys still would not work. So, we tried at Sumner Place, DSC06896

and finally Sidney Street.

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From here, I rang the helpline again to complain, this was getting ridiculous! After again waiting a very long time to get through to an operator, I explained the situation and was told that someone would ring me back later that day. In the end, they did not ring back that day or the day after, but left a voicemail on Friday afternoon at 4.30pm!

So, we went to get some food and then walked through Chelsea and down to the river.

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Spotted in the wild

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 After this we went to the Army Museum.

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Folding bicycle used in the Second World War in Burma

As a long shot, we saw a docking station on the Kings Road at Royal Avenue as we were walking back to the tube and decided to give it a try. DSC06919

It was 5.30pm by this point. Amazingly the keys finally worked! After some wrestling we managed to get the bikes out, they are heavy and require quite a bit of force to lift them out.

So what is the “Boris Bike” like to ride? All the reviews I’ve seen have been from people who normally ride lightweight bikes, whinging how heavy they are, so I was curious to see how it compared with my Gazelle Bloom which weighs 22.5kg according to the Gazelle website before you add on the two Bobike childseats (and kids). Although they are heavy, the “Boris Bikes” are definitely lighter than the Bloom and although described as upright city bikes, the handlebars are much lower than a Dutch bike and more like those on a BMX. DSC06864 DSC06863

The seat geometry isn’t as relaxed as a Dutch bike either and it is difficult to get the seat in a comfortable position for pedalling and be able to touch the ground easily for stopping. They have clearly been designed by someone who has never ridden a proper city bike and really doesn’t understand what is required for urban riding. Having said that, it was a smooth ride and the gears changed easily. DSC06863

They are geared ridiculously low, but that is fine as they are supposed to be for people who don’t normally ride. The BMX analogy goes beyond the handle bar design, it reminds me very much of riding my brother’s mate’s Mongoose BMX when I was 10 years old (that was also an incredibly heavy bike) and I spent most of the time riding standing up, which I never normally do (it is pretty much impossible on my Bloom) because I found more comfortable than sitting down.

The front rack has a bungee cord with two positions, which managed to both fit eldest sons anorak snugly without it falling out on his and stretch to fit my rucksack. The grips are well padded and comfy, but the BMX, mountain bike position isn’t great, the seat goes low enough for me at 5’1” and also was fine for eldest son. DSC06876        

 We were trying to get to Oxford Circus and realized that we would have to make a break in the journey to stay within the free half hour so we stopped at Alderney Street in Pimlico where there were two spaces, we had just docked the first bike when someone else nipped in and took the last space. A local shop owner commented that the racks had only recently been refilled, but that the guys refilling, didn’t make allowances for anyone returning the bikes and kept filling up ALL the stations and he had seen people in our predicament every day since the scheme started. I went to the machine to try to find out what I was supposed to do to tell it that we needed to look for an alternative docking station, but the screen was displaying “busy” and refused to do anything. DSC06879

I managed to find a free space at Warwick Square, but had gone over the time by 1 minute 30 seconds according to the print out I managed to get later that night (at about 9pm) when the machines were finally working. Particularly annoying as that should not have happened if the computer system had been functioning correctly.

Unfortunately, even after waiting 10 minutes the keys would not work again at either Alderney Street or Warwick Square, so we had abandon making the rest of the journey by bike and had to walk to Victoria to get the tube.

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Bike shop

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We went to try again later that evening at 9 pm and found that the docking station outside the BBC on Portland Place was completely empty. Although the hire system is supposed to be 24 hour there does not seem to be any evidence of any tfl employees distributing the bikes outside of working hours, which clearly means that the scheme is not 24 hour at all if there a no bikes available to hire.

The computer system was not functioning correctly displaying 17 bikes available in 16 positions at a docking station, which is clearly impossible. It was also wrong as we had just walked past and there were a total of Zero bikes there!

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 The next morning Tuesday 10th August, It was raining heavily, but by about 9am it had eased to drizzle so we decided to have a final attempt and travel from Oxford Circus to the London Eye. This time the keys worked. As we had had so much trouble the day before, I decided it wasn’t worth worrying about staying within the free half hour and risk being stuck with a long walk to the tube again if the system decided not to work again, as it was only £1 for an hour. However, we had trouble finding a traffic free route and found the behaviour of London taxis so intimidating – revving their engines like boy racers and blaring their horns in an effort to try to make me ride in the gutter as they didn’t have the patience to wait to overtake safely and showing a total disregard for the highway code. I consider myself an experienced cyclist and well aware of how to position myself safely in the road, but this kind of behaviour would scare a novice sufficiently to make them fall off and have a nasty accident This kind of bullying by drivers in London seems unfortunately the norm and will be an obstacle to the success of the scheme. Dublin brought in a 30Kmh (18.6mph) speed limit for the whole city centre before launching their city bike scheme – something London Cycle Hire should be actively campaigning for here given the appalling lack of any cycle infrastructure in London. I thought Sheffield’s cycle infrastructure was pretty pathetic, but having seen London’s it is clear they have set the bar much lower!

 In the end, we had to walk most of the route. Eldest son found the idea of trying to ride in four lanes of traffic too scary and to be honest so did I. I also had a bike (no. 16663) with a defective pedal, DSC06928 DSC06929

which was on a lean and made pedaling uncomfortable. I reported it as defective, but as there is no way of reporting what is actually wrong it may well be overlooked as it had clearly been set up wrong in the first place as there was no sign of any damage. It was quite misty and we lost our bearings several times. DSC06991

The absence of any docking stations around Westminster due to the government’s ludicrous security paranoia meant we had to go to the docking station at St Thomas’s – except when we got there it did not exist. Par for the course the cycle hire scheme has issued a map with incorrect information on it – how they expect a tourist supposed to find the docking stations I don’t know, by telepathy? When we arrived at the next nearest docking station, we had again gone over the hour, which would not have happened if we had been provided with correct information. After that, we decided to give up completely and stick to the tube!

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So, my overall impression of the cycle hire scheme. Compared to the simplicity of the Danish scheme in Aarhus that we tried a couple of months earlier, the London scheme is ridiculously complicated. Although I understand the paranoia about bikes being nicked in London, given how much it is costing, they could have gone for the simple option and replaced the bikes on a daily basis for the next 10 years or something like that. If nothing else it would’ve provided plenty of employment in keeping the bike manufacturers in business, not to mention totally saturating the second hand market to the point where the resale value would be so low it wouldn’t be worth bothering. But politicians like high tech impressive expensive schemes, not simple ones that work. Hopefully the computer problems will eventually be resolved, but given the track record of government IT projects, I wouldn’t bet any money on it!

However, the main reason I wouldn’t recommend the scheme is London’s appalling lack of cycle infrastructure and the feebleness of what little there is. DSC06977

This is about as impressive as it gets with physical separation in the form of a concrete curb on Southward Bridge, unfortunately it is too narrow for safe overtaking.

Without separated infrastructure London is hellish for cycling at the very least there needs to be a citywide 20mph speed limit. Some areas are better suited than others are. The quieter streets around Chelsea (which has crap tube provision), or `Pimlico or Bloomsbury. The recommended cycle routes (part of the national cycle network) are a complete joke

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and round the City a nightmare. Another reason it is impractical as a tourist is that signposting is non existent and having to stop all the time to check street names totally negates any advantage of going anywhere by bike. I have a pretty reasonable mental map of London having lived there for 6 years before moving to Sheffield, but it is slightly disjointed from using the tube and I found it very difficult to navigate around, not helped by constantly encountering “no cycles” or “cyclists dismount” signs everywhere.

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London is about as bike friendly as it is child friendly (which is why I moved to Sheffield).

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Five Weirs Walk (Trans Pennine Trail) Route 6

The Five Weirs Walk - Sheffield City Centre to Meadowhall.

Overal verdict 4/10 but has potential

Pros: off road most of the way, quite scenic

Cons: poorly maintained, badly signed, only partially lit, quite convoluted route and not continuous, poor surface, not suitable for trailers or long bikes

Yes, the name is a bit of a giveaway here, cycling is a bit of an afterthought on this route.

In keeping with the high standards of all British cycling infrastructure, obviously the first part is closed and has been for months. So we pick up the route here:

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looking back towards the city centre

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shared footpath cycle path

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Interesting markings - whatever they are supposed to mean

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Over the bridge

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This bit isn’t bad - reasonable surface and lighting - unfortunately it doesn’t last for very long

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If you are on foot you get to carry on following the river, on a bike… june2010_187

…you get this, followed by having to cross a complex road junction with no traffic lights and then travelling down this lovely cobbled (with elegant tarmac patches) june2010_190

before turning back on yourself to rejoin the river

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look out for the sign - hidden round the corner

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The concrete surface now has a more “rustic’ quality, great for loosening your fillings.

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You could be in the countryside (apart from the loud industrial noises and strange chemical smells)

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Clear signposting tells you to carry on you take the right fork

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to go under the bridge

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beware you are now entering the jungle

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Fans of Japanese Knotweed may be disappointed to know that brave explorers valiantly hacked through here last week, but as you know they will not prove strong enough to overthrow the knotweed

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Ivy also has it’s sights on world domination

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Cycle “path” becomes a very narrow dirt track

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Park and Ride?

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follow the pink tarmac…

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Carefully placed bollard ensures you dismount to cross the road

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Jungle -part 2

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Under the bridge - warning loads and loads of loose gravel!

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Well maintained signage

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Cross the road, once you have navigated the obstacle course

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Ooh goody, my favourite, badly maintained brick paving lots of lovely bricks at odd angles.

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and if you were thinking great a nice of road route to take the kids…

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don’t bother with a trailer, my bike almost got stuck in the tiny chicane.

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Nice clear markings

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You can squeeze past this one thank goodness

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off again

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Sorry this is as far as I got the time I had my camera with me.

From here the route follows the road, up to the arena and then a very convoluted set of crossings - some with lights - some you have to make a dash for it. The path disappears for a bit leaving you stranded on the pavement, before reappearing about 100 yards later. You then get sent down a side street and have to make an abrupt left turn onto a grey tarmac road before rejoining the pink brick road which leads to Meadowhall. There are even covered bike stands outside the Oasis near some funny tent structures and well hidden from the cycle path (took me 20 minutes to find them). You might even spot another bike - two other people used the stands the morning I went.

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Why don’t women cycle - again

Yet, again campaigners are baffled. Why don’t women cycle in Britain? This time it’s the turn of the British Cycling federation

"Although participation in Cycling has increased at an unprecedented level over the past 12 months (113,000 more weekly cyclists), female participation has decreased. This trend magnifies the escalating gap between male and female participation in our sport.

In addition, the level of female participation in cycling is a significant 17% lower than female participation in all sports.

British Cycling want to tackle this inequality and create a step change in the cycling infrastructure at a local level by providing enhanced and sustainable cycling opportunities specifically for women.

Therefore, we are keen to hear views of women to establish the reasons for this trend in participation and provide you with the opportunity to air your thoughts of how we can shape our interventions and get more women cycling.”

How many times do we have to tell them:

It’s the infrastructure stupid 

Driver behaviour

3 Crap advertising that scaremongers and blames the victim

If you would like to tell them take the survey

It’s in the details…

I think our beloved council and their talented traffic planners are sometimes quite hurt and baffled when cyclists criticise the lovely facilities they so thoughtfully provide for us. They can’t imagine why we don’t like them or understand why we are so ungrateful. Look they have been so kind as to allow us passage into the centre of town with this lovely cycle lane.

There were clearly worries about the speed of cyclists and the danger they pose to pedestrians at this junction, what with the slight uphill gradient and having to cut across two lanes of traffic to reach this point. Thoughtfully the speed issue was solved with this bicycle calming chicane.

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Having skilfully negotiated this manoeuvre the cyclist is rewarded with a lovely wide lane for a whole 6 feet.

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The use of high quality materials and good maintenance routines enhances the riding experience. The use of strong physical barriers like white paint contribute to enhaced feelings of subjective safety.

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A cycle filter lane allows cyclists approaching in the opposite direction to  turn across the cycle path. Again the use of a white line giving ample protection from the passing buses, whilst the cyclist waits in the middle of the road.

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Like all good things - it has to come to an end. A lovely right angled turn across the oncoming traffic and to make it more interesting no warning for the on-comming traffic that cyclists may be attempting this manoeuvre.

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Going round in circles…?

Can someone please explain to me what this is for?

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Is it that the council where so pleased with their contra-flow bike lane that they thought cyclists would want to turn straight round and do it all over again?

As you can see below it is an extensive stretch - you could have endless fun riding round and round…

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Squashed bike!
Squashed is often how you feel trying to use some of our lovely cycle infrastructure. (No I haven’t been messing around in photoshop - this is the right proportions.) Note the double yellow lines which are extra narrow too. The stupid thing is there is no reason for it being so narrow it is a contraflow lane on a one way street which used to be 2 way. Instead of painting in a normal sized lane the council in its wisdom decided that the vehicles should get an extra wide lane instead.
View at google maps here

Squashed bike!

Squashed is often how you feel trying to use some of our lovely cycle infrastructure. (No I haven’t been messing around in photoshop - this is the right proportions.) Note the double yellow lines which are extra narrow too. The stupid thing is there is no reason for it being so narrow it is a contraflow lane on a one way street which used to be 2 way. Instead of painting in a normal sized lane the council in its wisdom decided that the vehicles should get an extra wide lane instead.

View at google maps here

At the same time both depressing and uplifting, the ineptness of our local councils’ never fails to astound…

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