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.