Counting Down From Seven Three Oh

Yesterday was my second anniversary of cycling as an adult, or more accurately as a middle-aged working person. I’d got to lectures from time to time on my old MTB, but being a competitive powerlifter at the time, I preferred to walk since my legs were either too sore to push uphill because it had recently been Squat Day(heavy metal terror sound effect), or were being rested the day before Squat Day(angelic choir sound effect).  There was a twelve year gap between the two, at any rate.

I’m so disinterested in anniversaries that I once forgot my twin sister’s birthday, so it was actually surprising that I remembered yesterday at all. Admittedly my memory was jogged because I had been kidnapped and forced to eat some spectacularly tomatoey tomatoes and then some profoundly win barbecued herring at the abode of SRD, author of DeadDogBlog and who is, with her husband Bill, a relentless trampler of the pseudoreligious belief that you need a car if you have two young children, so the atmosphere was more even more utility cycley than it normally is for me of a Saturday evening and there were many reminders.

It was around 8pm when the conversation rolled round to the point I took down my sister’s trusty 1988 vintage Raleigh Record Sprint from its hook and rode for the first time in the aforementioned dozen years, so I didn’t have time to plan anything celebratory, except of course declaring the awesomesauce dinner I was having to be a feast in its honour.

Today, however, the world is my oyster. So I’m not going to get on a bike.

I don’t think I’ve not been on a bike any day I’ve been in my flat since June the 8th 2011. In that time I’ve gone from thinking three flat miles to my office was quite a long way to doing a 200k audax and only being very tired at the end of it. I’ve gone from borrowing my sister’s bike to owning four of my own, the most recent of which I built from frame up, largely using parts I had lying about. I’ve gone from being an LB ninja and ambulator par excellence to not knowing how buses work, or how long it takes to walk anywhere.  I’ve gone from not making a fuss about it to being head marshal of Pedal on Parliament 2.

I think I’m due a day off.

The only fly in my ointment is that I need a couple of things from Sainsbury’s and I can’t be arsed walking that far.

Been Caught Without Anything Even Resembling Social Responsibility? We Can Help!

If there was a law firm that specialised in defending doctors and surgeons who were facing charges of medical malpractise, would we happily let taxis be mobile billboards for them?

If there was a law firm whose gig was food vendors who’d poisoned their clientele, would it be ‘just the done thing’ for their website to have page after page of testimonials from ropy burger vans and curry houses of ill repute, all showering them with praise for the fact they could still sell unspecified meats with exotic and glamorous bacterial residents?

If, immediately under the harrowing RPSCA adverts of neglected pets, there was an advert saying “Is that your old dog just up there? We can let you be allowed to own another!” would that paper’s name be any better than the Sun’s in Liverpool?

I will hazard a guess that you agree with me that the answer to all of the above is a resounding negative. And yet, the firms that enable re-offending of motoring offences haven’t caused any outcry of which I am aware. Unless you count this blog, but I’m too lazy to blog enough to get any momentum of readership going, so it doesn’t count.

Like Watching Red Paint Drying (And Then Being Ignored)

My fellow cycling activist chum David Brennan just finished compiling a video of his time in Amsterdam.

A word of warning: don’t watch it. You’ll only feel bad for stopping a third of the way through. I only finished it because I felt sorry for Dave putting in all the time to edit it together and reckoned I should take one for the team.

If you took my advice, then let me tell me that you missed half an hour of gratuitous lane-porn, wildly frequent and populated bike racks and some instances of driver consideration and deference that seem entirely alien to us in the UK.

But it’s extremely boring shit. It’s just mile after mile where not only does nothing happen, but it’s blindingly obvious that nothing is going to happen at any point of the video so the need for buttcheek/edge/seat interface is resolutely nil and this, my good readers, is fucking awesome. It’s a really uneventful kind of fucking awesome, like taking a warm bath with a voluminous glass of fine wine in hand, but not every kind of fucking awesome has to be as energetic as a cavalry charge of rhino-mounted gorilla knights. Sometimes fucking awesome can burn slow, so that everyone can cosy up to it, after a long period of getting used to having it about.

I salute the fucking awesome boring shit of Amsterdam’s cycling provision.

 

Numpties Gotta Nump.

I was in conversation with my sister and cousin recently about things bikey. Both of them are slap bang in the middle of the demographic that Pavlovian cyclepoliticdogs like me salivate about – the regular working Joe/Joanna that would ride their bike to work/shops/socialising, but are too scared of mixing it with traffic.

The conversation turned to apparently suicidal cyclists, as it almost always does when in conversation with anyone who rides, and genuinely always does with people who don’t. After I’d finished describing the daft wee shit I’d most recently witnessed – filtering up the right side of a right-turning van, really? – there were a few anecdotes of turdly biking they’d seen, at which point I asked if would have been better for all concerned if they’d been in a car, or a 2.5 tonne Chelsea Tractor, or an HGV.

Do you know that pause you do when you know someone’s made a good point you hadn’t seen coming, which is basically the rhetorical equivalent of a wince? That.

I’m not arguing cyclists are all perfect, since that would imply that I believed a form of transport existed which numpties were unable to use. I don’t think one does.

I’m not arguing cyclists cannot cause  needless alarm and inconvenience to other road and path users, since that would imply I believed a  mode of transport existed which is harmless even in the face of maximal numptation of their pilots. I don’t believe one does.

The only mode of transport I’d been able to conceive of that stops numpties from numping is when one is heavily sedated and strapped onto a stretcher which is being carried by people who are themselves not numpties.

In the absence of radical restructuring of the transport system to consisting of burly persons with needles full of Morphia’s norkblart, I declare it’s probably best we make it easier to be a good cyclist, and just thank our lucky stars that the numpties that come along with it aren’t driving a Chelsea Tractor.

POPmas is Coming and the Rides are Getting Fat

On Sunday we announced the date for Pedal on Parliament Part Deux, which can only mean you’d love me to give these two links: http://pedalonparliament.org/the-pedal-on-parliament/  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57ufOyq9wLs and say that it’s May the 18th of 2013, meeting on Middle Meadow Walk in Edinburgh’s picturesque district of Scotland.

(Round of applause for Anth’s superb trailer, I think)

Last year I mucked in as a marshal, which only added to what was already one of the best cycling days I’ve had in my comparatively short bikey career. Living as I do on the doorstep of Harrison Park, I helped out with the feeder ride that started from there. Let me run you through that…

T-minus A Couple Of Month Or So: a few folk on citycycling.info put their heads together and decide that Harrison Park would make a sensible mustering point for folk in the north/west part of town, or from out of town needing to drive in and park.

T-minus Weeks: Sara Dorman, who organised the whole Harrison Park thing, really, lists the ride as an event under the auspices of Bike Week so that we’ve got public liability insurance.

T-minus A Week or More: around forty people use social media to confirm they’re attending.

T-minus 168 hours: two of the other local marshals and I rehearse the route, using a 6-year old riding on her own bike to give us a good idea of pacing(it’s about 6mph average)and timing, and to try and forsee any issues with junctions and the like. We had a good plan: the leader would clear each junction and then stop at a sensible point, observe the tail end clearing it and then get under way. That went smoothly, we’d spaced ourselves out to simulate forty riders, everything looked peachy, apart from the horrible junction at the King’s Theatre, which is a hairy place to turn right at even when you’re all fit and faux-messengery.

T-minus 30 minutes: I have a coffee at Zazou and a blether with owner Steve and dog Sally. The blether was a good idea, the coffee was quite unnecessary – I was jittery already.

T-minus 20 minutes: there were already forty people there.

T-minus 10 minutes: about eighty people there.

T-minus 5 minutes: I’m not that good at counting, but CCE’s chdot is, and he gave the final tally as 123. 124, if he didn’t count himself. This was roughly the point when we realised that the day was going to be the opposite of a washout.

T-minus 4 minutes: we call the police. Well, we actually called Anthony Robson, who was last year’s head marshal and was standing right beside the police assigned to the event, and they sent a couple of officers to the nemesis junction.

T-minus zero: I lead off and we get under way.

T-plus 1 minute: the undropped kerb at Harrison Road begins causing problems. It strings the already unwieldy column of riders out more than we’d anticipated – this is perhaps because undropped kerb negotiation is a skill we take for granted, as it’s something you do many times a day in a currrently not-so-bikey city.

T-plus 2 minutes: it becomes abundantly clear that the carefully laid plan we had formulated suffered from one fatal flaw: it assumed that I as ride leader could see the back end of the group. I couldn’t. 120+ riders is long, so long that even a slight bend in the road hides the tail. I didn’t even see a man playing a guitar on the recumbent front end of a Hase Pino tandem wildly overshoot the junction, and if you fail to notice that it’s because there really are opaque objects in the way.

T-plus 3 minutes: I deputise people to tear back and forth and tell me when we’ve cleared the junctions.

T-plus 10-15 minutes: we meet up with the waiting policemen. I relax somewhat.

T-plus 25-ish minutes: we deliver all of our charges to the mustering point at Middle Meadow Walk, and we pedaled on Parliament.

Now, if you were thinking about putting together a feeder ride, and are now feeling a bit frosty from the ankle down: don’t. None of the other feeders wound up as big as ours, and there weren’t any issues with drivers the entire way – like most predatory animals, their usual confidence is replaced by caution when outnumbered or confronted by novelty.

What I wish we’d had is walkie-talkies. I suspect people with handsfree/smart phones can bodge together a conference call or something that will provide the same effect, but on my To-Do list is finding out if the simpler CB solution can be hired by the dozen.

Also, I wish we’d known how big it was going to be – the tricky bit was needing to pull a new plan out of our bum on zero notice when it became obvious the plan wasn’t fit for the horde that arrived. This year, Council, police, POP, the Earth etc. know to expect the unexpectedly large turnout, so make your feeder ride plan open-ended in terms of numbers.

Have public liability insurance.

Have flags.

Think about a return plan.

Costumes are a plus.

Assume a zero starting point in terms of the bike-handling experience of your charges. This will be known as The Lesson Of The Undropped Kerb.

[All the other things I’ll think of soon]

Dambuilder’s March

Happy New Year. I think we need to slap ourselves in the face until we realise we should say this to each other on the winter solstice rather than the arbitary 31st’n’1st, but hey ho.

I have identified few downsides to re-taking up cycling over this last 18 months. I could argue that I’m kinda skint, for it is undeniably true that I’ve spent more on bikey shit than I needed to, but it is also the case that I have weakness for buying shit with my dick, so whatever other obsession might have leoparded on me in said interim would perhaps have cost as much. It is also truth of vehement purity that I have enjoyed the bikey shit I bought, for example the recent ZOMG illumination of my previously mentioned NideRider light during an astronomy raid into Tayside’s Go-Fuck-Yourself-Humans areas of nocturnal darkness. I like a bit of stargazing, but even in Tayside that means going on ropy B-roads, so a floodlight is pretty nice for getting you,  in a fashion that lets you see potholes and dead horses on the road, to the bit where you can’t see a single human-based light. I recommend doing that, by the way. I’m probably at the 2nd or 3rd percentile of humanity in terms of being a spiritual person(that means I’m shite at it, not-maths people) but standing in the nae-kidding isolation with naught but the planet around you is very much worth doing for the sake of your health. Both kinds.

One downside of cycling I do bemoan is that my source of anecdotes of People On The Bus has completely dried up. I racked enough of them back in the day to hold my own across a table of strangers, but when out with old friends or family, I’ve got nothing they’ve not heard to death, and I’m certainly bored of telling them. I’m not going to get the bus with any more frequency than my current lunar azure, partly because I don’t have the patience to wait for them unless I have to, and partly because much as everyone loves a good old currently ex-prisoners at the back talking about sells the best drugs and fashions the best stabbing weapons in Saughton tale, I don’t recall desperately enjoying being there at the time.

You don’t really get the same thing on the bike. You get the bastard offspring of driver’s tales and longshanker’s tales – if you’re a vehicular cyclist then you experience much the same eejits as anyone motor-powered, but when on footpaths or just plain riding slow, you have the time to see, hearand smell most of what you would on foot. All of them miss that vital component of being sat near the blowhole of the anecdotee until he, she or it has liberally doused you with the spume and cavernous lungreek of their eccentricity not once but many times.

On the bike, you just think ‘weirdo’ and politely cycle until far away.

One of the ex-cons was going to light up a ciggie till his friends informed him it was banned. He apologised to the bus at large and put it back in his jacket. Seemed quite embarrassed, really.

Does a Pontiff Poop in the Woods?

Two guys are out camping in the woods. As darkness falls, one of them puts on a rosary. His pal says: why are you doing that?

“It’s in case there’s a bear”

“Look, you’re never going to outCatholic a bear, they might look big, agnostic and lumbering but they’re unbelievably Vatican when they’re riled.”

“I don’t have to outCatholic the bear; I just need to outCatholic you”

This is why I wear a brickie’s vest when I plan to ride in the gloaming’s traffic. It’s also why I carry a bastardously overspecified lock and chain around unless I’m in Enid Blyton country or don’t expect to be out of my beloved steeds’ presence for any time.

I don’t think cyclists should be obliged to wear hi-viz and reflectives. I think they are kinda sexy in a physics way, and have said why in this piece over on .citycycling but sweet mother of monkeys, they are hideous, so I normally don’t wear any, because normally I don’t gain any advantage – it’s only dark or gloaming on my commute for a few months out the year. When it is gloomy, I like the idea of making it easy for motorists to see me well in advance so they don’t have any pressure in planning how to share the road. This naturally assumes that the driver in question is interested in sharing the road, but I like thinking the best of people, and in any case the selfish German-car stereotype can be excluded from any equation that assumes the other party isn’t a sociopath.

Alongside the noble and sound  personal liberty arguments for keeping hi-viz kit voluntary, there is the deeply selfish one that a cancerbile clotheshorse like me is interested in. If there’s lots of ninja cyclists out there, then drivers need to pay the consequent high levels of attention needed to avoid killing them and will aim to do so. Inevitably(and in a small percentage of the time: blamelessly) there will be a dip in that level of attention, but it’s my theory that us shiny yellow people can still be seen despite that. If dressing up like nuclear waste was mandatory, then the minimum intended level of attention lowers, so when the inevitable dips happen, I’m more likely to be squished.

So, for all the ninjas out there: thank you. Keep reading Dawkins; I’ll be over here saying my Hail Marys.