September in stats and pics

September draws to a close, so here's some statistics of which I'm rather proud:

Number of working days in the month: 22
Number of days I cycled to work: 22
Number of miles/km cycled: approx 270/434
Money saved in tube fares: £88

And now here's some random pictures taken along my commute route:

RottenRow
 
Rotten Row, in Hyde Park.

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A letter to two galahs*

Dear Galah One and Galah Two,

There was a reason I was hanging back as I cycled down the South Carriage tonight. I was reading the traffic ahead and noted that the cement mixer, which was holding up a long line of traffic, was highly likely to make a lefthand turn into the building site at the top of the hill.

The two of you were obviously oblivious to this potential outcome. Why else would you both fly by me — a little too close for my liking, I might add (ever heard of using your bell as a warning when you plan on overtaking a fellow cyclist?) — and then proceed, somewhat foolishly, to race the cement mixer by cycling in his blind spot?

How you managed to nick just in front of him before he began to turn left I do not know. I was kind of expecting to see a horrible, horrible accident play out before my eyes.

Next time you might not be so lucky. Please don't do it again. I really don't want to read about another cycling fatality on London's roads any time soon.

Yours,
Kimbofo.

* An Australian term for idiot.

Keeping safe out there

 In case you hadn't heard, another London cyclist was killed by a lorry this week.

A group of London cyclists has now created a new blog — Cycle Safe London — in response.

They have also created a flyer to download and print off for distribution among fellow cyclists which recommends the following:

1. A ban on very large lorries (HGVs) from the current Congestion Charge zone during Congestion Charge hours.
2. Compulsory installation of the latest ‘blind spot’ mirrors and more training for drivers on how to use them.
3. Removal of dangerous cycle lanes.
4. Tougher punishments for drivers and lorry companies convicted of negligent driving.

It adds: "To make this happen, we need to tell the government officials and the lorry companies about the problem and demand that they take action." A list of recommended politicians to write to is included.

I think it's a great idea, but I also think it's important cyclists educate themselves about the dangers that HGV pose, which is why I particularly like this flyer, also listed on the site:

Cycliststhink

This post by Buffalo Bill, written in response to another death last year, has some very good advice in it.

I'd like to add one important tip of my own: if you have stopped at traffic lights and you cannot make eye contact with the driver of a HGV near you then bloody well move! If you can't see him up there in his driver's cabin, how the hell do you think he can see you? (Note, this also applies to buses and coaches.)

Finally, Cycling Plus magazine in calling for recommended EU legislation on
HGV blind spot mirrors to be brought in to save an estimated 18
cyclists a year. It has set up an online petition which you can sign if you are a British citizen. The closing date is December 6, 2008.

Four weeks down

 Cyclists
Cyclists wizzing down Rotten Row, Hyde Park. Click to enlarge.

My fourth week of cycling to work Monday to Friday has now drawn to a close. I know I say this every Friday, but I can’t believe I’ve managed to haul myself out of bed for another full working week of cycling. Even when I was cycling a lot in 2006, I very rarely managed to cycle five days a week — the norm was usually 3 days and occasionally 4 days.

BuckinghamPalace

The forecourt near Buckingham Palace. I cycle through here every night and it’s like playing dodgem cars with all the tourists. Click to enlarge.

So far this means that for the month of September I have cycled roughly 400km and saved myself £80 in tube fares. Mind you, I have spent that much money (and a bit more) on a new rechargeable headlight, a face mask and a couple of wicking t-shirts, so I can’t claim that all this exercise has really saved me that much money. (And I won’t mention the extra food I’m buying for breakfast every morning — cycling makes me very hungry!)

It would also be hypocritical of me to say that my cycling has helped the environment. Why? Well, I have twice as many showers and I do twice as much clothes washing when I cycle. All that water — all that heating of the water — can’t be good, but I suppose it’s better than dumping exhaust fumes all over the city, right?

Now with more horses

Formation

Zipping through Hyde Park on my bike this morning, I noticed the King's Troop practising their riding formations on the riding ring situated between Rotten Row and the South Carriage.

I had my camera with me (for a change) so I pulled over, propped my bike up against a tree and tried to take some piccies without drawing attention to myself. Which is a bit hard when you are wearing a vibrant fluoro yellow cycling jacket. Which might explain why one of these cheeky soldiers winked at me. Which might explain why I didn't take very many photographs and got back on my bike pronto to continue my commute into work.

Action

20 horsepower

It could only happen in London.

The morning traffic along Kensington High Street grinds to a standstill as the King's Troop parade 20 horses along the road!

I stopped to let them turn into the street (they were coming down from Notting Hill) and the sound of the hooves clip clopping on the tarmac was lovely. They looked gorgeous too — a grand mix of white horses and bay horses, all clean and shiny and expertly groomed.

They were riding two-abreast, with two mounted soldiers up front and two mounted soldiers at the rear and eight soldiers in the middle. The eight soldiers were mounted on gorgeous big horses, but they were holding the reins of a second (unmounted) horse that trotted along beside them.

It's a dual carriageway along here, and they took up the right lane. The traffic in the left lane comprised me, two other cyclists and a motorbike. At the traffic lights at the intersection with Kensington Church Street we all stood lined up together — cyclists, motorbike and 20 horses!! — waiting for the green light.

The motorcyclist exchanged friendly words with the two soldiers up front. I have no idea what was said but there was lots of laughter, followed by one of the soldier's retorting "Yes, but I have 20 horsepower!" An invitation was then extended for the motorcyclist to abandon his bike and get up on the back of one of the horses.

Maybe you had to be there, but it was funny at the time. I'm now kicking myself I didn't take my camera — it would have made a cracking photograph!

Uneventful

Strangely enough it was a fairly uneventful commute today. If anything the road seemed much quieter, both this morning and this evening, and there were certainly much fewer cyclists around.

Tonight, for instance, at one of the busier intersections where cyclists normally jockey for position and the more idiotic element sail through the red lights, I was the only person on a bike. I have to confess to liking it. It meant I didn't have to worry about twits underpassing me or holding me up and I could steal a firm march on the motorised traffic behind me when the lights turned green.

I got home in double-quick time, despite the rather annoying head wind for much of my route. If only all my commutes were as easy and enjoyable.