What’s in your handbag?

The charmingly naive and deceptively simple question “whats-in-your-tool-bag?” triggered an embarrassingly long session of introspection.

What’s in your handbag? - What's not in your tool-kit?

What’s not in your tool-kit?

Apologies to readers who’ve had trouble tracking down fresh copy on owntheroad.cc since the recent transfer. I hope navigation is getting simpler, but if you haven’t found this message please let me know (cheap joke).

From my point of view it’s inspiring to be part of a stable of voices.

For example the charmingly naive and deceptively simple question “What’s in your tool-bag?” triggered an embarrassingly long session of introspection.

Obviously a nit-picker like me can’t answer – in concrete terms – unless the journey, vehicle and maybe, the purpose of the trip are specified. For example what’s in your tool kit for London-Edinburgh-London on a Burrows Ratcatcher? On the subject of that big test, remember – if you want a seat on next Summers’ edition – entries open on 5th of January 2013.

Then there’s the issue of limits. Where – for instance – does the tool-kit end and the pharmacy begin? Dental-floss goes in the pharmacy – obviously – but is useful for many repairs. Sewing needles go in the tool-kit but might be necessary – after sterilisation with the lighter which also goes with tools and is good for cracking chemical bonds – for removing splinters or draining blisters? There are plenty of simple questions but – if you aspire to get them halfway right – answers tend to be more complicated.

What’s in your handbag? - Sewing needle.

Sewing needle.

At an abstract level the glib professional answer to the question “What’s in your tool-kit?” is…

“Everything I need to make my travel reliable.”

…I’m not proud of it but glib has always been one of my favourite colours. Other answers might be…

1. Always a bike.

2. If not a bike then always an umbrella.

3. If not a bike or an umbrella then always surplus local currency.

4. 5ml Loctite 243.

What’s in your handbag? - add head-torch, tubes, lever(s), patch-kit and £50 in local currency

add head-torch, tubes, lever(s), patch-kit and £50 in local currency

Have a great holiday.

Not only a new year but also the first anniversary of owntheroad, there’s lots of excitement coming soon. The results of the Pssst competition, for which entries are still welcome. And news of the new ‘Dunwich Dynamo Daughter’ ride.

Thanks for reading.

‘cycling struggles’

Three network infrastructure can be a useful part of any exit strategy from motor-dependance but some people’s expectation of its ability to solve emotional problems about what people feel expected and entitled to do may be over-optimistic?

I’ve been reading the series ‘Cycling Struggles’ on the weblog of Dave Horton a sociologist based in Lancaster. Despite the gloomy title these accounts of testimony, from people of various backgrounds, on their attitudes to cycling, are useful.

In an area flooded with projection, hearsay and simple-minded theory – they present real people considering real problems and weighing up real solutions. In particular they clarify that those who are frightened of cycling, or the idea of cycling, are drawn from the same population that creates the threat; a useful antidote to lazy assumptions, that everyone who doesn’t cycle has taken an active decision not to, and that the factors informing any decision are the same for everyone.

Here’s my own anecdotal contribution to the genre. An account of a true conversation from the streets of London. A strange story which highlights the complexity of human motivation.

‘cycling struggles’ - Tavistock Place WC1

Tavistock Place WC1

We met in the basement garage of a grand office block near Holborn Circus, EC1. I checked his machine which was in good order. He’d recently started commuting – 5 kilometres throught the districts of Holborn, Bloomsbury, Fitzrovia and Marylebone – to Marylebone Station where he parked his bike overnight and caught a homeward train into the Chiltern Hills.

He was a strongly built, white man, in early middle age, smartly dressed in business clothes. I didn’t ask his job-description but guess it was salaried employment, legal or financial. He’d requested the meeting for guidance on riding from Holborn to Marylebone which he’d been doing for a couple of weeks. He told me he rode among the mighty Chilterns – on his other bike – at the weekends.

It was a dark Winter’s evening. We ran through the basics, how to choose where to ride on the road, passing junctions, overtaking parked cars. The guy was an easy student. His basic cycling skills were sound. As a qualified car-driver he understood the rules of traffic. He appeared socially confident.

We worked North and West taking it in turns to go ahead. The strange moment came as we moved into the university district of Bloomsbury, WC1 in the southern part of the London Borough of Camden.

As we turned on to Tavistock Place – where you have the option to travel on a narrow two-way, green-tarmac cycle-track on the North side of the road – my client exclaimed enthusiastically. “I like this bit.”

When I cautioned him not to ‘switch off’, that there was still potential danger, from turning traffic at every junction. I was shocked by his reply.

“Oh yeah” he said with a chuckle “I know it’s more dangerous, but I like it.” He continued to recount near-misses he’d witnessed – between turning motor-traffic and cycle-traffic on the side-path – in the few days he’d been riding the route.

I was too bemused to ask why he particularly liked riding on the green tarmac when he thought it held more danger than the rest of the route. And anyway he was paying me money to help him, not to interrogate the apparent contradictions of his feelings. Here was a person near the top of the pile. A man, white, English, prosperous, comfortable, at the peak of his powers, not the kind of person you’d expect to be willing to submit to extra perceived danger to avoid the risk of social conflict?

The rad-weg along Tavistock Place is sub-standard. I don’t recount this story to suggest that all side-path infrastructure for pedal-cycles and low-powered vehicles creates danger. It’s also worth noting that dangerous conflict between motor-traffic using the main carriageway and traffic on this newest layer of infrastructure – slotted between the footpath and the carriageway – seems to have reduced over the years, as people have got used to the third fragmentary network in South Camden. When it first went in some people told me how much they liked it, others complained what a nuisance it was. I was happy for the first group and told those who complained about it not to use it if they didn’t like it. To stay on the carriageway and stop moaning. That way there’d be more space for riders who wanted ‘their own’ strip of road.

Three network infrastructure can be a useful part of any exit strategy from motor-dependance but some people’s expectation of its ability to solve emotional problems about what people feel expected and entitled to do may be over-optimistic?

A significant number of those killed or injured by motor-vehicles while walking are on the dedicated network of the sidewalk, pavements. A 100 millimetre kerb may make people feel safe but if the driver of a heavy motor-vehicle goes out of control it may not be much help?

Redesigning street furniture doesn’t necessarily make people more careful or considerate. That can be a quicker, cheaper, more complicated process.

moving on, selling out

Over the next few days owntheroad.cc will be migrating over to madegood.org. There will – doubtless – be glitches during the relocation but all links and archive will be maintained. I hope your reading pleasure will not be compromised, and might even be enhanced?

Over the next few days owntheroad.cc will be migrating over to madegood.org. There will – doubtless – be glitches during the relocation but all links and archive will be maintained. I hope your reading pleasure will not be compromised, and might even be enhanced?

Those who’ve badgered me – in the nicest possible way – to promote this waffle via various proprietary formats, twitface etc., will be pleased to know that marketing decisions will be out of my hands. ‘Like-button culture’ here we come.

Thanks to all who’ve glanced at OTR over the last 11 months. You’ll now be able to say:-  “own the road? I remember the early days; when it was really funny.”

the bell?

After 9(NINE) years of campaigning, broken promises and attempted sell-outs by the blazer brigade, it seems we will end up with a comparable facility to the old race-track that combines space for Mountain Bike and Cyclo-Cross racing with a usable road circuit.

The ‘Velo Park’ – promised as part of the Olympic Legacy, restitution for the stolen lands of Eastway – is under construction.

After 9(NINE) years of campaigning, broken promises and attempted sell-outs by the blazer brigade, it seems we will end up with a comparable facility to the old race-track that combines space for Mountain Bike and Cyclo-Cross racing with a usable road circuit.

There’s no room for complacency  but a phased hand-back is currently planned to begin in September 2013 through to early 2014. The Park is planned to be open from 08:00 to 22:00 seven days a week, the road and BMX circuits may be floodlit after dark.

There’s an outstanding issue regarding the judges cabin. As currently planned it won’t work. The consultation for this detail of the design is open until Thursday 13 December. Find more details and how to comment here.

You can comment by post or email. If not you who? If not now when?

acts of God?

Climate change triggered by human activity is an unprovable hypothesis. Without access to a parallel biosphere – where large primates didn’t systematise the use of fire to cook food, work metal and fly to Thailand for the weekend – we don’t have an experimental control. We and our descendants are living this investigation into the sustainable limits of human organisation in an uncontrolled, unscientific way.

Not an emergency

A perfect gentleman on wheels, Crampton, the snobbish young anti-hero, is resting on a roadside gate when… …among others, a very pretty girl flashed by—unaccompanied.Now, Mr. Crampton, in spite of his regard for Madge, was not averse to dreams of casual romance. And the bicycle in its earlier phases has a peculiar influence upon the imagination. To ride out from the familiar locality, into strange roads stretching away into the unknown, to be free to stop or go on, irrespective of hour or companion, inevitably brings the adventurous side uppermost. And Mr. Crampton, descending from his gate and mounting, not two minutes after she had passed, presently overtook her near the crossroad to Horley, wheeling her machine.

In H. G. Wells’ 1897 short story “A perfect gentleman on wheels“, Crampton, the snobbish young anti-hero, is resting on a roadside gate when…

“…among others, a very pretty girl flashed by—unaccompanied.
Now, Mr. Crampton, in spite of his regard for Madge, was not averse to dreams of casual romance. And the bicycle in its earlier phases has a peculiar influence upon the imagination. To ride out from the familiar locality, into strange roads stretching away into the unknown, to be free to stop or go on, irrespective of hour or companion, inevitably brings the adventurous side uppermost. And Mr. Crampton, descending from his gate and mounting, not two minutes after she had passed, presently overtook her near the crossroad to Horley, wheeling her machine.
She had a charmingly cut costume, and her hair was a pleasant brown, and her ear, as one came riding up behind her, was noticeably pretty. She had punctured the tire of her hind wheel; it ran flat and flaccid—the case was legible a hundred yards off.
Now this is the secret desire of all lone men who go down into the country on wheels. The proffered help, the charming talk, the idyllic incident! Who knows what delightful developments?”

Contemporary understanding of the diversity of human desire may dispute Wells’ comic suggestion that all men who go cycling alone in the country are secretly hoping to come across women with punctures. There is however no doubt that – in the absence of a more autonomous, reliable or dignified strategy – ‘eye-liner mechanics’ offers some kind of fall-back plan. Assuming the person with the problem has allure for the characters who carry puncture tools, not just for their own convenience, but also in hope of ingratiating themselves with others found in distress.

Relying on aid from a passing stranger is called ‘eye-liner mechanics’ because its exponents may substitute a kohl pencil for a tool-roll, pump and, one or more new or carefully patched, tubes; although many modern-day ‘Cramptons’ find a rare mixte more fascinating than subtle use of mascara.

You may not guess it from the masthead picture…

…taken outside the Swan public house, Hackney sometime between the advent of the safety bike and the demise of the old Ordinary – but owntheroad.cc is fully committed to equal-opportunities.

It is therefore pleasing to report that the first response to the no.1 Owners Club competition is a sequence of still photographs – submitted by reader J. Stables – that explode Well’s crude Nineteenth Century gender stereotyping like it were a tube trapped awkwardly between a rim and a tyre-bead. Bang!

Not only is the person in Jane’s pictures clearly unstressed by a crevaison, she has also chosen an indoor repair location. This wise precaution eliminates the risk of socially awkward, bike fanciers – who may pass en groupe – getting injured in any stampede to offer unnecessary assistance.

A puncture is not an emergency.