Thursday, 27 August 2009

What's the opposite of a speeding ticket?

I was looking at the ING initiative, where they reward people for "random acts of kindness" and video a few staged events - e.g. someone helping a person who's lost etc and the kind person gets a party etc etc.

It's all a bit worthy, arguably, but I like the principle. And I was wondering - what if police handed out tickets to drivers/cyclists etc who were driving particularly WELL? And instead of being fined, you actually got £50 or something in your bank? This could apply to cyclists who take the trouble of walking with their bike on the pavement, or even those who bother to stop at a red traffic light ...

Clearly it will never catch on, but I like the idea of it.

Social cycling

As a cycling commuter, it's more often than not a question of getting your head down, going as fast as you reasonably can without endangering yourself, fellow road-users or wildlife. You rarely get much time for looking around and enjoying the scenery. I do often cycle through London zoo on the canal path, and will more often than not catch a glimpse of wart-hogs, flamingos and occasionally a pack of hunting dogs. But it's just a glimpse.

I'm now on holiday and was able to take a small trip with my wife on our bikes. What a difference when you're cycling with someone! We took it slow, had a good look around, even chatted as we biked - unheard of when you're commuting. It reminded me of what an amazing pleasure it is to amble about at 10 mph, drinking in London.

I'm sure there's a lesson there somewhere ...

Karma rating: **** (out of 5)

Monday, 24 August 2009

Isle of Wight Cycling

I regret to say that despite spending a week on the Isle of Wight, I failed to spend a single moment on a bicycle. Having said that, I had a damn good holiday. But I got a good feel of what it's like to cycle on the island - and it certainly seemed like a cycling paradise. (BTW - this picture is not anything to do with me, but thought it gave an impression of what it's like).

For a start, the speed limit is almost everywhere limited to 40 mph, so you don't feel quite as threatened on the big roads. Drivers are generally much more polite and thoughtful than on the mainland. But here's the really exciting thing:

There's a "secret" network of cycle lanes all over the island.

For example, we were staying in Cowes. It turns out that you can follow the route of the old steam railway all the way from Cowes to Sandown on the other side of the island. While I was in the car, I kept seeing cyclists disappearing down little leafy alleyways.

This site seems to list many of the good rides, for those interested:

Anyway - it's not strictly about London cycling, this post, but it's worth thinking about a cycling holiday on the Isle of Wight.

And ...

There's a big cycling festival coming up there in September ... any more excuse to get out of London needed?

Thursday, 20 August 2009


currently taking a break from cycling as on holiday in the isle of wight - though i must say the possibilities here are endless - will provide sporadic updates when appropriate ...

Friday, 14 August 2009

I could smell his aftershave ... then he nearly hit a garbage truck

There are few things less pleasant than cycling behind an open top car if the reek of aftershave/scent is overpowering and, frankly, repellent. One's sense of good karma is further tested when the driver of said convertible is also ... how shall I put it ... rather limited in driving ability. This morning, a very nicely turned out gent in those 70's shades we know and love was ambling along in front of me, clearly in some sort of reverie and oblivious to any of the rules which us mere mortals worry and fret about throughout our journeys.

Sure enough, just as I'm thinking I might have to overtake the highly powered Merc, a garbage truck comes a little bit unexpectedly out of a side road. The Merc driver doesn't actually seem to know how to use his steering wheel, and comes within a whisker of developing an intimate friendship with the side of the truck. The garbage truck driver delivers the required abuse (rather mild in fact, involving something about actually looking through those glasses) and the Merc driver decides, just for good measure, to turn left down a side road without indicating.

Moral of the story: avoid getting too close to drivers who you can smell.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Sometimes you have bad traffic light days, and other times they actively conspire against you ...

Today felt very much like there was a little man sitting in front of 500 screens showing all the traffic lights in London, pressing buttons with a gleeful grin making sure that my journey would be hampered to the full. My worst stretch (and I would strongly recommend never biking down this bit) was going down Praed Street (W2) approaching Paddington Station. It really is a nightmare there with several sets of lights which all take simply ages to turn. On top of that, it's a really dangerous street for buses and lorries turning here and there. Overall, my karma rating for this area is: just say no.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Hunger and biking

Sometimes I feel really hungry on my bike. I am also desperate for a muffin or something else sweet in the middle of the morning. Apparently the type of exercise you take will affect the kind of hunger you feel. I believe it. Here's a really interesting article suggesting why. But note the corrections - it's only a draft so far.

Traffic lights etiquette

Here's a situation where I find it difficult to keep my sense of good karma. You pull up to at a red traffic light to wait patiently for it to turn green. Another cyclist - and usually someone who is going at a very leisurely pace - pulls in right in front of you. Sure enough, when the light goes green, they amble through, blocking you as you try to get away with a slightly greater sense of urgency. What is it that stops people realising that they may be blocking their fellow cyclists? I'm quite happy for someone to go ahead of me if they believe they have a fair chance of going quicker ... but this. Still, if I'm to stick by my own rules, I have to quietly grin and bear it and say "good karma will come my way" ...

Stairs versus biking - which is better excercise?

Just come up 5 flights of stairs from the underground car park where I leave my bike. The stairs always work up a sweat far more than 10 miles of biking. I'm not sure if that means that perhaps I'm not as fit as I thought, or that climbing stairs is fundamentally more exhausting than cycling.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Suddenly doing half your journey ... and the real Soho

I only had to do half of my normal route today ... strangely it felt unsatisfactory as I didn't quite get to that level of exhaustion that makes you feel you've really earned that muffin. Oh well.

On the other hand, it did mean a lunch in Soho. As a walked around looking for the venue, I was surprised (in my naivity) to see signs on various doors saying "This is not a brothel. There are no prostitutes at this address". It opens up a whole world of worry and anxiety I had not dreamed of before!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Blackberry season - it's catching on ...

Following my remarks a few days ago, I saw active confirmation - a fellow cyclist had put down her bike on the canal verge and was tucking into a blackberry bush ... either she's read my blog, or (admittedly slightly more likely) just spotted with her own eyes what nature's bounty is providing.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Competition: the most confusing cycle lane?

Does anyone know what you're supposed to do on this cycle lane at Shepherd's Bush roundabout? You kind of make your way along the pavement on a nice green lane. Then ... well, if you look at the video, the green bit just ends, and goes into ... nothing ... and then you start contending with pedestrians ... and then, well, you stop. No doubt those planning it had some idea, but I can't figure it out. Anyone know of any more confusing than this?

Thursday, 6 August 2009

I didn't know I was a hippy until a taxi driver started swearing at me

I guess it wasn't an atypical situation. Location: the very difficult junction at Gray's Inn Road and Theobald's Road. Loads of cyclists, loads of cars. Somehow, a taxi swerves outwards slightly and nearly touches a Volvo. Volvo owner goes beserk and the two cars go side by side down Thebald's Road shouting at the top of their lungs at each other.

Muggins here (for it is he) then calmly passes the taxi after he's finished venting ... only to suffer a volley of abuse from the taxi driver: "it was you - you were the reason I had to swerve in the first place you ****$%@***" and more in that vein. Some of me felt it then should have been my turn to find another cyclist and start shouting "and you - you were the reason I had to swerve" but for some inexplicable reason, all I could think of to say back to the taxi driver was "Don't spread the hate." I've never used that expression in my life, nor do I really know what it means. But every time the taxi driver said something else, I repeated this mantra.

Very odd to discover that deep in your psyche you're a hippy.

It is the blackberry season

I had a discussion last weekend (in the countryside) about whether it could possibly be the blackberry season already. Well ... I ate one today and although a bit sour, it was pretty good. And this bush - along the Regent's Canal in Scrubb's Park - surely proves my point.

Can there be a better start to your working day?

Once again, amazed by how nice it is to cycle down the Regent's Canal, and head through Scrubbs Park in West London - yup, it's where the prison is but the park around it is wonderful. Here's a view going along the canal path

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The rules of cycling ...

Never turn on metal, even when it's dry

When approaching a roundabout, junction, any difficult situation:

1) check for normal things - cars, other cycles, pedestrians, pets
2) check again - this time for very bad drivers
3) check a third time - for complete loony drivers

For all the rest, I might need a bit of help!

Speaking Freely "I am just about to start my..."

"I am just about to start my bicycle ride into work. I'm standing above the Regents Canal on a bridge watching the other cyclist go by. Feeling a little bit achy in my legs. Having psychod(?) (err... editor's note - this should have been "cycled" but Spinvox couldn't quite cope with that word!) so much in the last 2 days but looking forward to the ride. Catch you later."

spoken through SpinVox

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


I'm trying a service which allegedly lets me blog straight off email and my mobile … let's try it!

I've got pretty fond of this monkey ...

Odd sight - a seagull catching a fish

You don't see it that often at sea - but today I saw a seagull catch a pretty decent sized fish in the Regent's Canal, and swoop up to a nearby roof garden to try to eat it. A couple of other people stopped to wonder at ... well perhaps that there actually are any fish in the canal in the first place - and perhaps also how a seagul managed to spot it. But then I guess that's what seagulls do ...

The Karma worked!

Yes, I had two cyclists say very nice "thank yous" when I stopped at the front of a tunnel on the canal to let them through. It irritates me beyond endurance when you wait patiently to let someone through, and you don't even get a nod. I regret to say that I'm one of those self-righteous gits who says a sarcastic "don't mention it" if they don't ... but today was different.

Monday, 3 August 2009

It's good to be back ...

Fantastic to be back on the bike after a week of enforced quarantine at home (something which may have been the dread swine flu but which might just as easily have been anything else which causes a bit of a tummy ache and a bit of a temperature). You see things with new eyes and this morning's sunshine added to feeling that London is a great place to cycle.

But I saw a terrible piece of riding ...

I would have thought the message has got out to most people - don't go to the left of big trucks. I saw a cyclist creep to the left of a huge truck waiting at traffic lights, with his indicator out showing everyone exactly what he intended to do ... but the cyclist didn't seem to have registered it. Luckily she had time to slow right down and stop as he carried out his manoeuvre - but boy, did it make me scared. Irony - she looked a bit indignant.