Rant of the century

One particular Bristol resident doesn’t think much of cyclists. In a letter to the Bristol Evening Post, he writes:

And make no mistake, cyclists are criminals.

Let
me remind you, it’s still illegal to cycle on pavements, run red
lights, ride the wrong way down a one way street, whizz through
pedestrian crossings (when pedestrians are actually crossing them) and
hop from road to pavement with reckless abandon and the attention span
of an amoeba.

And yet they’re not treated as criminals – rather,
they’re elevated as warriors fighting against an irresponsible and
polluted world, two-wheeled titans of a healthy and eco-conscious
crusade and martyrs of an ethical and planet- saving battle that will
one day have us all reading The Guardian and recycling our potato
peelings.

Rubbish. They’re law-breaking lunatics masking their
own inconsiderate egos under the pretence of doing something right-on
and commendable.

You can read the full rant letter here. The comments (164 when I visited the site) are definitely worth a look.

[Via the CTC newsletter]

The road to hell is paved with good intentions

I started off this week with a new goal in mind: to cycle at least four times a week for the rest of the year. I was also going to try my hardest to cycle every single week day in June.

Alas, these plans have already fallen by the wayside. Didn't take long, did it?

Turns out I have another chest infection — and there's also the possibility that I have asthma. My doctor has prescribed some antibiotics and an inhaler. I'm to go back in 8 weeks for a proper asthma test, as he's not sure whether it's simply linked to the infection or whether it's a separate, ongoing problem I need to deal with.

Whatever the case, I'm feeling bummed by it all. But I'm determined to get back on the bike early next week. I must, however, invest in a face mask. Anyone got any tips for the best brand to try?

Drenched — and lost!

What other city in the world would close its main thoroughfares at peak hour so that military marching bands could put in a bit of practice on the streets?

I couldn’t understand why tonight’s traffic was at a standstill until I went to take my exit off Parliament Square and found the whole street cordoned off. Don’t tell anyone, but I ignored the NO ENTRY sign and cycled up the street until I came to a policeman blocking the rest of the route down Bird Cage Walk.

“Can I  go down there?” I asked him.

“Sorry, no.”

“What about Horse Guards Parade?”

“No, that’s out of bounds too. But you can take your bike and walk through St James’ Park.”

“Great,” I replied. (I might point out it was pissing down with rain at the time and I didn’t much like the idea of taking a stroll through the park as if I had all the time in the world.)

“But if you get back on the bike,” he said, “I’ll pretend I didn’t see you.”

Nice idea, although I’m not sure his hundreds of colleagues swarming through the park would be prepared to turn a blind eye. So I walked. Slowly. Through the park. And admired the pelicans on the pond, the lupines in bloom in the flower beds and the beefy-looking soldiers marching by me all immaculate in green wool capes, berets and shiny black boots.

Once I got to The Mall it was time to get back on the bike. About a mile down the road I came to another road block. This time the Kings Troop, mounted on their horses, was clip-clopping its way oh-so slowly down the South Carriage. I decided to take a detour — along with a handful of other cyclists — through Knightsbridge. Detour indeed.

I’m not quite sure how it happened but I got lost in the back streets around Sloane Square, not helped by a few more road closures, and my “detour” turned into a three-mile “excursion” that, at one point, had me going around in circles — or squares as the case may be. I think I went around Eaton Square a couple of times and I cycled past the Chocolate Society more than once.

Initially, I wasn’t too worried. In fact, I was having fun. The traffic was quite light, the rain was refreshing and the unfamiliar streets were lined with beautiful buildings and lovely London plane trees for me to admire. But after seeing the same street signs over and over again, I was starting to get the distinct feeling that I wasn’t having fun anymore.

Out of desperation I called my Other Half, hoping he’d be able to offer directions. He didn’t pick up the phone. Where’s an A to Z when you need one? Or a GPS? Or an iPhone with Google maps?

It was really pissing down now and I wanted to get home for a nice hot shower. My only solution was to cycle down the Kings Road. I knew if I got to the end of that I’d hit the river and I’d be able to navigate my way back home pretty easily. Sure enough that’s what I did, but boy, was the traffic busy along here. Cars, taxis, motorbikes, vans, HGVs, buses, coaches — and other bikes.

Eventually I got myself to Earl’s Court, although I wonder how given the running battles I had with (1) a succession of buses, (2) a 4WD and (3) a pizza delivery chap on a motorbike who didn’t like the idea of sharing a lane with me despite the fact there was plenty of room for both of us. Idiot.

The rest of my ride home was fairly straight forward — and quite quick because I had a bus lane all to myself for a one-mile stretch —  but there was one scary moment when I was trapped on the middle of the A4, having been caught unawares by a change in traffic lights from green to red.  I had to sit it out and hope none of the passing traffic would clip my rear wheel.

Once at home, exhausted, hungry and very very wet, I got stuck in the bloody lift. These things are meant to try us, right?

Tomorrow, I might catch the tube.

Total distance: 15.72 miles | Ride time: 1hr, 47min and 31sec | Average speed: 9.33mph | Top speed: 20.4mph

Some handy tips for newbie cyclists

In the words of British band the Kaiser Chiefs, "oh my god, I can't believe it!"

Yes, after yet another extended hiatus (almost 6 weeks — a combination of annual leave, yet another upper respiratory tract infection, back pain and sheer bloody laziness) I finally took my poor trusted treadly out of storage and trundled into work this morning. I'd forgotten how exciting it is to battle with London traffic, but by goodness where did all you cyclists come from? Honestly, I've never seen so many two-wheels out and about at 7.45am — normally the influx doesn't hit the roads until after 8am.

I have such mixed feelings about seeing more cyclists on the road. Yes, it's wonderful that so many are ditching motorised vehicles (or the tube), but I can't stand all the idiots who ride their bikes as if the entire world revolves around them.

Here's some handy tips you newbie cyclists might like to take note of:

WATCH WHERE YOU ARE GOING!! OR, MORE IMPORTANTLY, WATCH WHERE OTHER CYCLISTS ARE GOING — DON'T EXPECT THEM TO GET OUT OF YOUR WAY BECAUSE YOU DIDN'T SEE THEM!!

DON'T WEAVE ALL OVER THE ROAD — TRY TO KEEP A STRAIGHT LINE

DON'T CUT OTHER CYCLISTS UP (SEE ABOVE)

USE HAND SIGNALS — WE'RE NOT ALL MIND READERS, YOU KNOW

DON'T OVERTAKE BUSES WHEN THEY HAVE THEIR INDICATORS ON (UNLESS YOU FANCY  BECOMING SOMEONE'S DINNER)

TRY TO TAKE OFF FROM THE TRAFFIC LIGHTS AT A FAST PACE; WHEN YOU PUTTER ALONG IT CAN PUT OTHER CYCLISTS BEHIND YOU IN A DANGEROUS POSITION.

DON'T WEAR YOUR FRIGGIN' iPOD — HOW CAN YOU HEAR WHAT'S APPROACHING IF YOU'VE GOT AMY WINEHOUSE PUMPING INTO YOUR EARS AT 20 DECIBELS?

There. Glad I've got that off my chest.

See you all tomorrow for more tales of commuting across the capital!

Total distance: 12.28 miles | Ride time: 1hr, 13min and 31sec | Average speed: 10.64mph | Top speed: 18.5mph