Friday, 25 June 2010

Link to that video?

Next you'll be actually wanting to watch that video ... here's a link to YouTube where you should find it. Sorry. KC

Still a bit of confusion over "two tings" bike guidance on the Regent's Canal, London

I had a funny experience on the canal this morning which I can share with you as I had helmet cam on. Being the good citizen I now am, I was dutifully tinging away as I made my merry way down the canal in the beautiful sunshine.

I went past the two lady joggers you see first with no problem. But when it came to the men - well, it was just odd that the reaction on hearing the tings was to run diagonally across the path. I kind of guess he was thinking "I have to get out of the way" while I was thinking "I'm just warning them I'm here". I sort of think this is probably the source of all canal conflict. In fact it's probably how most wars are started - unclear intentions and misinterpretion. Discuss.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Pinkie on its way back to rude health after bike accident

Good news from bro-in-law (injured this week after going into the back of a car) - he had surgery (a general anaesthetic no less) but didn't need to stay in hospital overnight. Has huge cast which should come off tomorrow. The main worry now of course is ... how the hell to type and use a mouse when your finger is wrapped up. And even more important - how soon do you get back on your bike after an accident like that?

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Thoughts to brother-in-law with broken finger in London bike accident

As they possibly say on the radio still - a big shout out to my famed bro-in-law who is the oracle on this blog for anything to do with bikes and biking - he had a nasty accident yesterday in Homerton, London - while cycling very gently behind a car on a quiet street, the car rather suddenly came to a halt, and he went into the back of the car. He was more concerned about the car and the driver initially - but after they'd parted ways, he realised he was bleeding quite a lot and had a crooked little finger.

8 hours later and having attended two A&E departments he was released but will have to go in for surgery today on a snapped ligament and some other pinkie-related matters. And he's being kept in overnight tonight.

Best of luck Lex - thinking of you. KC

Clever trick of freezing your bike water bottle - but be careful!

I thought I would be extra clever as I knew it was going to be what we British call a "scorcher" here in London (29 degrees forecast) - so I put my water bottle in the freezer overnight. I cleverly didn't fill it up all the way, as any fool knows that water expands and didn't want my water bottle to explode.

I took it out before the school run, thinking by the time I started my "commute proper" it would be nice and melted.

A dry journey

I hadn't done my calculations properly. The ice remained stubbornly solid in the bottle throughout my commute of nearly an hour. As a result, instead of beautiful cool water, I got ... nothing. Until I limped through the office doors.

Clearly there's a moral. I think probably about two hours of freezing might be optimal. Or take it out of the freezer first thing. Or - radical thought - perhaps just put some ice cubes in it!  Any other "keeping cool" tips out there?

Friday, 18 June 2010

Karma theory in practice ... occasionally it does work

Attentive readers (i.e. close family) might remember that a while ago I wrote about being wracked with guilt after not dismounting at a tricky pedestrian corner and nearly bumping into someone, and being shouted at. If you can bear to read about my experience, here's the post. Anyway, ever since then, I've approached that same corner with great caution and invariably dismounted when I see the sign telling me to do so.

Not all cyclists are psychos

Also invariably I never see anyone so I get this sense of doing a wonderful thing (OK, mildly sociable) and no-one witnessing my greatness. But sure enough, this karma thing came to the rescue. Yesterday, after my chat with the canal ranger, I carried on and dismounted at said spot near Little Venice. As I walked my bike along, a man stopped and thanked me - very sincerely - for walking my bike. We had a very nice chat about how dangerous that blind spot is for older people, how the police have tried to help, what it means for the Resident's Association, etc etc. We parted on very friendly terms, with him no doubt thinking that not all cyclists are psychopathic monsters, and me being chuffed to bits that I had taken the trouble to get off my bike for a few seconds. And somehow all the other times I had done it without being seen were justified.

Morality or karma?

It reminded me of something the canal ranger had said - when I asked him about whether I should "get extra points" for getting off my bike on the temporary jetty floating on the canal (see previous entry with video of the jetty). He said it was a case of your morality, not points. Well, I kind of take that to mean karma. And I'll continue to dismount while most others carry on cycling.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Meet your "canal ranger" and spread the love on London's Regent's canal ...

I went to a slightly unusual press conference this morning on the Regent's Canal, just by King's Cross, London. Unusual because it was really just a couple of us standing on the towpath with some very nice people from British Waterways. The message was - cyclists, "take it easy on the towpath". But I did also learn that there is a message for pedestrians too - when you hear the famous "two tings", you should try to stand aside to let the cyclist past. And, during peak times, take those headphones off. All very sensible.

Jo Young, Towpath Ranger

But I think what I found most fascinating about the whole thing is that there exists a ... "towpath ranger". And I met him. For some reason, I've always rather liked the idea of having the word "ranger" in my job description. Obviously you think of Lone Ranger, but there are all those other rangers out there in the USA fighting crime and generally making the world better. 

Anyway, Jo Young, by all accounts a seriously nice guy, spends his days roaming the towpath along the Regent's Canal on foot and on his bike, giving friendly advice to cyclists and pedestrians about how to behave on the Canal. And probably lots more besides.

I interviewed him using my helmet cam. Rather embarassingly, the interview is mainly with his reflective vest rather than his face, so I thought it best to save the embarassment and just stick a still up instead. 

A couple of things I found especially interesting: 

I asked him how bad the aggro is between pedestrians and cyclists - how many incidents? He said that in terms of reported collisions there were about ten in the last year. But clearly there's a lot more "low level" stuff where words are exchanged but no damage is done. Does ten seem a lot? I don't know.

He was also keen to stress that one bad experience with one cyclist tends to make the pedestrian tar all cyclists with the same brush - and vice versa. So a friendly wave, a thank you, a smile, especially when someone goes out of their way to wait for you, or help, makes all the difference. 

I asked him whether it's just coincidence that several parts of the canal are currently closed or part of a concerted improvement plan. He said it was just coincidence. 

He also said that if people reading this blog wanted to funnel questions or observations about the canal to him, he'd be happy to have me chat through issues with him. I promise that I'll bring some more sensible recording gear (e.g. iPhone) and get him properly in vision. Do use the comment form below if there are issues about the canal you want raised.

Anyway - all the info about the "two tings" campaign, and the things British Waterways has got organised for next week, National Bike Week, can be found at the Two Tings site.  

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

The ultimate in bike desirability - silence

I had to make a pretty big detour on my way into work this morning. It was partly because large sections of the Regent's Canal seem to be shut down for repairs at the moment. But also because I was being driven slowly mad by the rattling of my bike rack. It was fitted to my lovely new bike when I bought my LCM (London Commuting Machine, actually a Giant Seek Zero) from Chamberlain's in Camden. But as I've been riding it pretty intensely every since, several screws worked loose -  and in fact on closer inspection, had popped out. So my bike has been rattling and it's also not great having your child on the bike seat while you worry about whether the whole rack is going to give way.

So I made a detour back to Chamberlain's. Sure enough, they're as lovely as ever and wasted no time in replacing the offending screws and bolts. They have a lovely way of selling stuff to you too where you actually feel great that you've bought something - in this case, I walked out with a bottle of chain lube. I'm impressed to say they didn't charge me for the screws or fitting them. I was sorely tempted by a fancy light you can buy with its own battery pack - but for £99 I didn't quite feel I could afford it.

Anyway, by now I was feeling rather late for work, so I got back down on the canal and sped off. I suddenly noticed something. The silence. It was fantastic. Obviously there's the slight sound of the wind in your ears and the low hum of the tyres on the towpath. But the bike itself - completely quiet.

That somehow felt better than having any number of gadgets or gear. Going at speed along a lovely stretch of canal with hardly another person in site - it's about as close to flying as you can get without actually taking off.

Consequently, when I finally did arrive at work I was in rather a good mood, rather exhilerated, and yes, a bit knackered. But nothing an enormous coffee and a muffin couldn't sort out.

So cyclists - fix that bolt, get that chain sorted, declare war on rattles. And sing along with me "Silent bike, holy bike ..." OK, perhaps forget that last bit.  KC

Friday, 4 June 2010

Not slacking, just away ...

Since you ask I am in Rye where it's truly the summer - people really are swimming in the sea - but where there are few bikes. I have noticed the occasional sturdy mountain bike cruising down to the beach, and there does seem to be a new bike route between Rye and Camber Sands, little used. It's definitely not the biker's paradise I saw on the Isle of Wight. Anyway, I'm not sorry to be out of the London heat, but slightly missing the Giant. Or possibly I should start calling it LCM - the London Commuting Machine. Perhaps not. Of course, just as I write about the lack of bikes in Rye, one whistles down the main high street right by my ear! KC