The wasteland?

Sunday afternoon in the Olympic Velodrome, Lord  Coe makes a short speech in which he praises the glamorous new wooden ‘O’ and recalls how seven years ago, on the same spot, he was ‘struggling with rotting fridges’. When politicians – who all champion grassroots sport – talk about the Olympic Park in the Lower Lea Valley, it’s customary to infer – even to state explicitly – that it was built on waste land.

“The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

Milan Kundera

Now

Sunday afternoon in the Olympic Velodrome, Lord  Coe makes a short speech in which he praises the glamorous new wooden ‘O’ and recalls how seven years ago, on the same spot, he was ‘struggling with rotting fridges’. When politicians – who all champion grassroots sport – talk about the Olympic Park in the Lower Lea Valley, it’s customary to infer – even to state explicitly – that it was built on waste land.

 then

When you lost skin racing dirt-bikes over the scrub hills of Eastway grazes took time to heal because the land was composed of rubbish. Where tyres eroded the earth, fragments of brick and glass emerged. Despite this cruelty the environs of the cycle racing circuit, the adjacent nature reserve and allotments were a green haven.

The cycle racing at Eastway covered all disciplines – except track racing – at all standards. The Tuesday time-trials would regularly feature riders capable of covering the undulating, one mile circuit, ten times in 23 minutes, while other competitors took a quarter hour longer. All were welcome and all valued.

Pedal Power at Eastway

Post-games plans for the Olympic lands include a velo-park around the new indoor track, which stands where the Eastway home straight once ran. During the tortuous and bitter negotiations over this legacy those who now control the land have often overlooked the fact that this new facility will not be a gift. The velo-park is repayment for what was lost in 2006 when the old circuit – on land dedicated for the quiet enjoyment of the people of East London forever – went under the bulldozers.

One analysis of the Olympic bid  is as a massive land-grab. Once this Summer’s party is over it will be time to deliver all the promises made in the frantic run-up, time to take down the temporary buildings and tear up the temporary coach-parks. We can look forward optimistically to the Eastway diaspora’s glorious home-coming, to racing on land from which all toxic waste has been diligently removed. The new park is due to open in 2013, but the useful outdoor cycle-sport elements won’t be reinstated or sustained because that’s what the land-grabbers want. They prefer the wasteland myth. Vigilance is necessary.

Give the public what they want

When asked the difference between an amateur and a professional, Reg Harris replied: “When I was an amateur I had to win. Now that I am a professional I must win in an interesting and dramatic fashion.” The distinction is gone – along with the cigar smoke and trad-jazz bands of old-time track racing, but it’s still about putting up a good show, pleasing the crowd. Match sprinting is great entertainment. 550 metres of manoeuvring for position leading up to a flying-start 200 metre dash.

national champion at 54

When asked the difference between an amateur and a professional Reg Harris replied: “When I was an amateur I had to win. Now that I am a professional I must win in an interesting and dramatic fashion.”

The distinction is gone – along with the cigar smoke and trad-jazz bands of old-time track racing, but it’s still about putting up a good show, pleasing the crowd.

Match sprinting is great entertainment. 550 metres of manoeuvring for position leading up to a flying-start 200 metre dash.

Everyone who watches asks – at least once –  ‘why not just go?’

Robert Förstemann’s thighs are so big he walks like a special-needs case. In the very last race on Sunday – the Bronze medal best-of-three decider – he went from the gun. His opponent Kevin Sireau of France, hesitates in momentary disbelief, tries to chase for a few hundred metres, then gives up, allowing Robert to start celebrating, half a lap out.

Their first match – won by the Frenchman – was  timed at 10,492. Förstemann took the second in 10,483, For the decider Robert covered the timed 200 metres in 16,531 with his hands off the bars and no one else in the picture.

Go Go Go Go Go Dutch

A cyclist was “lucky to be alive” after he was knocked off his bike by a rope stretched across a County Durham woodland trail. Lukasz Sikorski was travelling at 20mph when he hit the cord, which was tied between two trees in Hamsterley Forest. The mountain biking organisation, Descend Hamsterley, said he was lucky not to be seriously or fatally injured.

Reader Jonathan Chandler alerted me to a  potentially life-threatening attack,  presumably undertaken by followers of M. Parris. To call them parrisians risks defamation by association of  the citizens of Île-de-France. The correct term is parrisites.

Rope ‘sabotages’ Hamsterley Forest track

8 February 2012

A cyclist was “lucky to be alive” after he was knocked off his bike by a rope stretched across a County Durham woodland trail.

Lukasz Sikorski was travelling at 20mph when he hit the cord, which was tied between two trees in Hamsterley Forest.

The mountain biking organisation, Descend Hamsterley, said he was lucky not to be seriously or fatally injured.

It has offered a reward for help in finding the person responsible. Durham Police are also investigating

If I cut your head off will it laugh?

Somebody – yes Matthew that does mean you – needs to explain to Durham Police that it’s meant to be a joke and tell Mr. Sikorski to lighten up.

The Times’ turnaround since 2007 was also noted by David Hembrow who I rode with back in the Twentieth Century, and more recently competed against in funny bike racing. Those events are about 36 hours too short for me, but I do prefer a sport where anyone – with a cycle – can ride the World Championships without need to qualify.

I took advantage of our coincidental posts to contact David. There’s a favourite statistic, I’ve been pedalling for at least twenty years, that needs updating and – since it concerns travel in the Netherlands from whence David broadcasts to the World – I hoped he could help.

“One in four bicycle journeys in the Netherlands is made by a female pensioner” is what I’ve told anyone willing to listen since before the internet was open. Turns out it’s bollox. What might be true – and probably explains where my garbled version came from –  is that one in four journeys made by a female pensioner, in the Netherlands, is on a bicycle. Which begs the question how do those indestructible old ladies make the other 75 percent of their trips? Skateboard? Motorcycle, now that’s really dangerous? Or maybe in those crazy flying-squirrel suits. Once again – when it comes to social science –  it turns out that the only reliable figure is that 82.4 percent of statistics are made up on the spot.

David also dismisses my suggestion that presumed liability is a “glaring omission” from the Times’ campaign.

“In the Netherlands it’s an obscure part of the law ( “art. 185 WVW” ) and there is no catchy phrase for it. People don’t realise that liability here is different from elsewhere, and they don’t realise that it’s in any way controversial elsewhere. This was simply a small change to the law which was brought in to ensure that financial responsibility in crashes was directed in the most sensible direction. It has nothing at all to do with laying blame and it mainly acts to protect those aged under 14 years of age.”

I’m inclined to agree that it’s not a glaring omission. There are other important things missing. I also wonder if David under-estimates it’s significance? Dutch people don’t know about the legal context of crashes between pedestrians and vehicles, or between vehicles of different categories. Fish don’t know about water.

Jim Davis, chair of the bombastically-named and interesting ‘Cycling Embassy of Great Britain’, the only national cycle campaign born in the age we live in, testifies to a journey in the Netherlands to visit David.

“Where cycle path and road met, motorists stopped for us, even when we didn’t have priority.”

Infrastructure design and planning in the Netherlands are interesting subjects from which we can take wisdom and local solutions, but finally danger – and therefore safety – only comes from people. Even if David’s correct and the legal context is not relevant to conditions for cycling and walking in the Netherlands it doesn’t mean that campaigning for a change in the UK is not a useful thing to do. Argument over presumed liability once started can – in the current climate – gather it’s own momentum.

Go Go Go Go Go Dutch?

Without consensus a net of rad-weg, joining every address in this country, could still be rendered impassable to the nervous by parrisitic hoons on motor-cycles. Amongst the current enthusiasm for all things Dutch don’t forget that there – as in Germany – sales of new utility bikes have lately collapsed against those of battery machines.

Might a national conversation on childrens’ freedom of movement, exactly who does own the roads and where danger actually comes from, help all the people who currently, perversely, don’t travel by cycle?

We may hypothesise that some of these are timid pre-cyclists just waiting for physical conditions to change so they can fulfill their ambition for motor-free travel, that others are hard-hearted parrrisites itching to slaughter the self-righteous scum who dare ride ought-to-be-humble pedal-cycles on roads meant for cars? Might these notional categories overlap? They’re certainly projected onto the same population. Human motivation is complicated. You can’t change the way people behave without changing the way they think.

Downhill all the way

My adult career began, hurrying to college in Solatio shoes, oxford bags and a Laurence Corner greatcoat. An ignorant prick who thought special clothes for cycling were counter-revolutionary. Last year I finished a fifth – OK you dragged it out of me – a fifth, Paris-Brest. Readers inexperienced enough to be impressed need to understand that the only reason you haven’t done it is that you don’t want to. Or haven’t wanted to yet?

Bicycle madness is analogous to the right-wing model of drug use. You start on shandy and progress to crack-cocaine.

genuine 1970's: note toe-clip damage

My adult career began, hurrying to college in Solatio shoes, oxford bags and a Laurence Corner greatcoat. An ignorant prick who thought special clothes for cycling were counter-revolutionary. Last year I finished a fifth – OK you dragged it out of me – a fifth, Paris-Brest.

Readers inexperienced enough to be impressed need to understand that the only reason you haven’t done it is that you don’t want to. Or haven’t wanted to yet?

An unbeaten streak, dating back to 1995, reveals the depths to which one can sink and the persistent nature of my own condition. I’m not dumb enough to build social-theory on one depraved biography but it has prompted an interest in the pathology of velomania.

mudguards, accessories obligatory for any presentable rider?

Copenhagen Cycle Chic is great – urban planning has always rung my bell – but maybe their 2008 manifesto carried a whiff of sectarianism? The credo says use mudguards “where possible”, yet absolutely prohibits streamlined clothing. Of course it’s a mistake to take these things too seriously and, as well as don of street-photography, Mikael Colville-Andersen – godfather of cycle chic –  is an aviation-grade sloganeer.

His observation…

“Our relationship to our bicycle is often the same as to our vacuum cleaner. Everyone has one, everyone uses it, but the vacuum cleaner and the bicycle are merely efficient and practical tools for making our everyday lives easier.”

 

…is an economical and sticky way of describing the push-rod’s main role in the well-run societies of North West Europe.

As follower of ChCC (What middle-aged man doesn’t enjoy quality pictures of well-groomed young people with nice looking  fenders?)  I’ve noticed that M. C-A may be getting a little too interested in the subject of humanity’s greatest mechanical contrivance; and I don’t mean his Nilfisk.

usually modelled by a fat bloke

Christmas just gone he let slip he’d loaded a sports odometer app on his smartphone, revealed how he’d ridden 60 km when the train would have been quicker and described a headwind as “pesky”. Can a novelty road jersey to cut the air-drag be far behind?

If nascent flirtation with performance were not worrying enough there’s also an alarming photograph, of the fetishistic deployment of a  bicycle as bathroom hand-basin stand, which Mikael describes as “quite possibly the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in the bicycle furnishing category.”

‘Bicycle furnishing’?

I feel compelled to ask, “Why, M. C-A?”

It’s fun?

To stay in the realm of sanity…

Cycle furniture?

I’m sorry but that’s just wrong.

Don’t criticise others for inconsistency. A shifting position may be the sign of an open-mind; of personal development. When someone, who’s previously marked bicycles as ‘merely efficient and practical tools’, displays signs of advancing velomania, if an avowed champion of ‘normal’ cycling can develop velophilic symptoms, be warned. Mikael’s case emphsises just how insidious bicycle madness can be.

The crrimes of Parris

It’s interesting and optimistic that a heavyweight national daily has chosen this subject for a campaign, particularly when four years ago the very same organ ran a notorious suggestion to kill people at random.

It’s interesting and optimistic that a heavyweight national daily has chosen this subject for a campaign, particularly when four years ago the very same organ ran a notorious suggestion to kill people at random.

“A festive custom we could do worse than foster would be stringing piano wire across country lanes to decapitate cyclists.”

Matthew Parris, The Times, 27/12/07.

Perhaps Mr. Parris  should send a copy of his humourous essay to Mary Bowers’ family to cheer them up?

If I cut your head off will it laugh?

In his defence poor Parris had a deadline pending, it was holiday time, he had to write something. A community-service order, for incitement to murder plus two years prison – suspended – for being unfunny, might be a fair tarriff? Hateful as this kind of  gormless idiocy  may be, outbreaks are a symptom of progress. If the poor lambs didn’t feel threatened they’d pick some other target.

Just as it was a mistake to get too upset  at the hate-criminal’s sorry little rant, let’s not  feel cynical in not treating ‘Cities fit for Cycling’ as a brave new dawn. A strategy for long-term engagement in street politics is not getting too depressed or too triumphant. Take a long view. Round here at least, things are getting slowly better.

When you read the figures for those who endorse the campaign, remember, some only signed-up to leave a ‘SACK PARRIS NOW’ message.

Once upon a time buying newspapers was normal and riding a bike was odd. Not anymore.

A good start, can do better

‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign some suggestions… 1. Trucks entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible truck-turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.

‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign some suggestions…

1. Trucks entering a city centre should be required by law to fit sensors, audible truck-turning alarms, extra mirrors and safety bars to stop cyclists being thrown under the wheels.

Sensible stuff, but why only the city centre? Surely people in the ‘burbs or the country are just as worthy of protection? Onboard cameras can be deployed, ‘blind spots’ are unacceptable.

2. The 500 most dangerous road junctions must be identified, redesigned or fitted with priority traffic lights for cyclists and Trixi mirrors that allow lorry drivers to see cyclists on their near-side.

This is tricky, maybe the most dangerous junctions are the ones with fewest casualties because people don’t cycle – or walk – there? Make sure you don’t mistake a political issue – who is killing who? – for a technical one. Good design can help but danger comes from people not junctions.

3. A national audit of cycling to find out how many people cycle in Britain and how cyclists are killed or injured should be held to underpin effective cycle safety.

 

Good. Let’s also include pedestrians and why not motor-cyclists? Motorcycling is really dangerous.

4. Two per cent of the Highways Agency budget should be earmarked for next generation cycle routes, providing £100 million a year towards world-class cycling infrastructure. Each year cities should be graded on the quality of cycling provision.

Good  but – again – safety is about how people behave, where the kerbs and bollards go is important because it signals to people what’s expected of them but it’s not the only factor in effecting cultural change.

5. The training of cyclists and drivers must improve and cycle safety should become a core part of the driving test.

 

Can’t comment on the training of cyclists (personal financial interest) but lets make it harder to qualify to drive, and give life bans for careless – potentially deadly – driving. Those disqualified will ride bikes and live longer.

6. 20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes.

You forgot pedestrians again.

7. Businesses should be invited to sponsor cycleways and cycling super-highways, mirroring the Barclays-backed bicycle hire scheme in London.

Not sure about this? Is it a general principle? Can we start with Vodaphone paying for the upkeep of the M25?

8. Every city, even those without an elected mayor, should appoint a cycling commissioner to push home reforms.

Let’s not piss about here, it’s a ‘Tsar’ or nothing.

Rob Jefferies, legend

The glaring omission in this draft programme is ‘presumed civil liability’ – where in any collision the pilot of the heavier, faster vehicle has to establish it was not their fault – and proper punishment for bad – potentially deadly –  driving.  Presumed liability is a cultural corner-stone of the cycle-friendly environments of Germany, the  low countries and Scandinavia.

It’s not about being vindictive – in some ways those who slaughter are secondary victims of the current insane system – but cases like the  Rob Jefferies killing are not exceptional and send out exactly the wrong message. It’s hard to get juries – who are likely stuffed with the motor-dependent – to convict but if we are to change the culture this is where to start.

Cyclists Live Longer

The Times’ ‘Cities fit for Cycling’ campaign, was launched last Thursday with the front page headline ‘Save Our Cyclists’. That’s good news. There is – for example – some moving testimony from Cynthia Barlow, in the clip on this page. She talks, not just about her daughter, who was killed while cycling, but about the generalised and usually unmentionable cost of motor-dependence.  ‘Cities fit for Cycling’ is inspired by the sorry fate of Mary Bowers – who works for The Times – and suffered near-fatal injuries, when run-down by someone operating a truck. It’s interesting, and progressive, that motor-slaughter is now on the  national agenda, but an awkward difficulty with naming the problem remains.

The Times’ ‘Cities fit for Cycling’ campaign, was launched last Thursday with the front page headline ‘Save Our Cyclists‘. That’s good news. There is – for example – some moving testimony from Cynthia Barlow, in the clip on this page. She talks, not just about her daughter, who was killed while cycling, but about the generalised and usually unmentionable cost of motor-dependence.  ‘Cities fit for Cycling’ is inspired by the sorry fate of Mary Bowers – who works for The Times – and suffered near-fatal injuries, when run-down by someone operating a truck. It’s interesting, and progressive, that motor-slaughter is now on the  national agenda, but an awkward difficulty with naming the problem remains.
Motor-traffic in general, the haulage business in particular, kills people. They kill people at a rate that would be a national scandal if any other source – bad food hygiene? enemy action? unmanned level-crossings? – were responsible. A more sensible headline could have been ‘Tame Our Trucks’. The story is of death and life-changing injury consequent on hyper-mobility of goods and people. Focusing only on the hazards of cycle-travel distracts from this.

How dangerous is it to ride a bike? Epidemiological statistics are slippery. Every day I see people riding down the road. They see a bus parked at the kerb. I guess their unconscious thought process is something like – ‘I can see that bus. Anyone behind can see me and that bus. Everybody knows what I’m going to do next’. Then they pull-out and overtake the bus, relying on others to take care of them. Such behaviour isn’t the monopoly of the stereotypically reckless or foolish, some people who act that way are middle-aged, probably in salaried employment and riding well-worn bikes of investment quality. Their strategy clearly works. These people will almost all live long, healthy lives and die – in due course – in their beds. But it wouldn’t cost them anything to glance over their shoulders when they see that bus.

In bald statistical terms riding a bike is a safe activity. A typical individual has to cover millions of kilometres before being involved in a serious crash. These figures include teenage boys and also those who’ve been riding their Claud Butlers round North London since 1981, without once looking over their shoulder. If you take the trouble to ride in a considered and conscious style you are – in Inner London at least – super safe. The difficulty is how do we campaign to make travelling by bike even less hazardous, even more pleasurable, without reinforcing the widespread misconception that it’s somehow lethal.

In the 1970’s and 80’s if you ever mentioned cycling for practical travel to a politician, a planner or a highway engineer it was a sure-fire, certainty that the first sentence of their reply would contain a word from this short menu…

  • safety
  • risk
  • danger

During those comparatively lean years – in a pathetic personal quest for balance and logic – I refused to discuss bicycle travel in the context of ‘road-safety’. The vow lapsed with the publication, in 1992, of Mayer Hillman’s game-changing work ‘Cycling: Towards Health and Safety’, which put the cycling-is-much-too-dangerous-to-encourage argument underground with a stake through its heart. Cycles might bring some risks but not nearly as many as sofas and fried potatoes. What’s really deadly is not cycling.

There’s a counter-position, that cycling might really be very dangerous, and the figures for death and serious injury are suppressed because people don’t do it. Establishing causality in the reflexive fluidity of human motivation can only be a theoretical approximation. Is cycling in England considered dangerous because people don’t do it? Do English people not cycle because they think it’s dangerous?  Why does anyone ride a motor-cycle? That’s really dangerous.

The risks of travelling by bike in London are not massively greater than the risks of walking the same streets. They may even be less. They are certainly of the same order of magnitude. Why does The Times choose to focus only on dead pedallers and ignore those slaughtered while walking?

In Inner London – in certain demographics – cycle travel has become normal. Here in West Hackney it’s getting close to compulsory.

While the typical pedestrian victim of the metal plague is poor, a school-kid or a pensioner, those culled while riding bikes are much more likely to be young adults in high status employment. In evolutionary terms individuals of peak reproductive age are much more valuable, but let’s aspire to rise above such crude atavistic bias. And also to remind anyone drawn into this renewed debate, that – although very occasionally cyclists die while travelling – they’re not being killed by bikes.

Acceptable behaviour?

If you haven’t seen this, it’s worth a look. A low-resolution CCTV clip of Boris Johnson, plus entourage, on a reconnaissance trip, down ‘cycle-superhighway 2’,  Wapping, May, 2009. A man in a tipper truck makes an unnecessary, pushy, overtaking manoeuvre, his tailgate swings open, hooks a parked car, which is dragged into another, with awesome destructive force. In the incident’s aftermath one of the Mayor’s aides was quoted:- “It was pretty awful. They were shaken up and Boris was shocked. But it makes the case even more for his super highways.”

  • Fry breakfast.
  • Pour coffee.
  • Take little white pills.
  • Play sound.

If you haven’t seen this it’s worth a look. A low-resolution CCTV clip of Boris Johnson, plus entourage, on a reconnaissance trip, down ‘cycle-superhighway 2’,  Wapping, May, 2009.

A man in a tipper truck makes an unnecessary, pushy, overtaking manoeuvre, his tailgate swings open, hooks a parked car, which is dragged into another, with awesome destructive force.

In the incident’s aftermath one of the Mayor’s aides was quoted:- “It was pretty awful. They were shaken up and Boris was shocked. But it makes the case even more for his super highways.”

Really?

How much protection can a stripe of blue paint – or even a kerbed-off sidepath, or galvanised steel railings – offer when a car is dragged sideways at 30 kph?  “This makes the case even more for proper regulation of the haulage business”, is a more sensible answer. The cowboy in the truck is lucky not to have killed a motor-cyclist, a pedestrian or the pilot or passenger of a saloon car, never mind some ambitious Old Etonian on a bike with no mudguards. Truck slaughter is not a bicycle problem, it’s a lorry problem.

Heavy trucks make up such a small proportion of city traffic that you can be very circumspect around them without inconvenience. If you find yourself behind one, don’t overtake unless you’re sure you can get passed and away before it starts moving or speeds up. Never pass on the left, only on the right. (Readers in territories where the clean side of your bikes and sidewalk sides of your highways are mixed-up, please reverse that last instruction.) Keep the driver in view in the truck’s mirrors. That way you can check whether she’s paying attention, arguing with her ex-husband on a hand-held cell-phone or unwrapping a Yorkie bar.

When a truck’s behind you it’s your responsibility to make sure the driver doesn’t try and pass without taking serious, conscious account of your presence. Owning the road is important.

A friend of mine, riding up the Essex Road in N1 last week, was pulled over for running a red light. I blame the parents. Given the choice of a thirty pound ticket or spending fifteen minutes pretending to be a truck driver, he didn’t hesitate – he works in the bike trade where thirty pounds is big money – and was surprised to hear that lots of people choose the fine. I suppose they’re inexperienced, imagine they’ve nothing to learn and have too many status issues to risk a little, finger-wagging humiliation?

It turns out the punishment was painless. The big rig was brand new, with extra mirrors focused downwards by the passenger door and above the windscreen. Once in the driving seat, one officer sat beside him and asked questions while a second, dressed in day-glo, rode up the left side in a now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t style.

If you like shit-kickin’, truck-drivin’, ‘g’-droppin’ country music feel free to refresh the soundtrack.

Informing people how to be safe around heavy vehicles that are being – or are waiting to be – moved, is important but it’s not progressive if passing on the simple information distracts from the source of deadly danger. POV home-movies shot from bikes are ubiquitous, mail-order cycle-retailers sell miniature cameras as bike paraphernalia. I dare say there are neophyte riders – the ones who worry about GPS – who think they need one to ride to work?

If anyone and their auntie can produce dull mini-odysseys complete with wind noise and heavy breathing, how is it acceptable for state-of-the-art freightliners to give their operators ‘blind spots’? Expecting the driver of a heavy machine to move it through the randomness of city streets unable to see where they’re going is brutal exploitation that turns the freedom lovin’ followers of Dave Dudley and Hank Snow into secondary victims. If human society persists for another couple of centuries, people will reflect on our acceptance of deadly hazard in public space, in the same way we look back at the routine cruelties of industrial slavery.

If drivers end up with too many screens and mirrors to monitor, let them move slower, or carry a co-driver who can scan half of them, or transfer freight into less cumbersome vehicles for urban drops. Any of these solutions will make haulage more expensive, which will increase the cost of goods, but that won’t be a blanket rise. Local production will benefit at the expense of long-haul.

Remember the ‘foot and mouth’ epidemic of 2001, how it spread across the whole country and led to the slaughter of around 7 million beasts? There was an outbreak in 1967 that was ended by killing 442,000. One difference between the two was the cost of haulage. By 2001 sheep were scorching round the country like hyper-active photo-copier salesmen. Making the movement of goods more awkward will encourage the development of systems more resistant to the man-made disasters of industrialised monocultures. Rich people eat local food. Civilising the movement of goods will make it cheaper.

One more anthem to put you in the mood for a ride?

Kings Cross update

The second ‘bikes alive’ action at Kings Cross on Monday 23rd January was less lively thanthe first. There may have been as many bike riders but the politically-motivated pedestrian element were fewer, and transient football fans were missing completely. The first version featured plenty of low-rent still and movie photographers, the second, one or two heavier-duty paparazzi, I assume they were hoping for a ruck? The pro-photographers were very conspicuous in camouflage jackets,  ‘Hi-Viz’ tabards would’ve been more discrete.

The second ‘bikes alive’ action at Kings Cross on Monday 23rd January was less lively than the first. There may have been as many bike riders but the politically-motivated pedestrian element were fewer, and transient football fans were missing completely. The first version featured plenty of low-rent still and movie photographers, the second, one or two heavier-duty paparazzi, I assume they were hoping for a ruck? The pro-photographers were very conspicuous in camouflage jackets,  ‘Hi-Viz’ tabards would’ve been more discrete.

A group of one or two hundred riders rotated through the one-way system at a steady walking pace for around forty minutes. I’m pretty sure this kind of behaviour – though it may delay individuals for a few seconds – helps clear the evening rush hour. When one block of motors are held for a minute or two the road ahead is empty, allowing traffic on the adjacent network to flow. I like to ride in the evening and it’s nice to ease the pain of the victims of motor-dependence, but the event felt like a geographically constrained version of ‘Critical Mass’. The attendant Police were calm and unobstructive. They understand that causing trouble will only publicise the event.

Imagine you’re waiting to turn into a main road from a side street. If the traffic on the big road has a maximum speed of 20 kph you can turn into a much smaller gap  than if it’s passing at 60 kph. The bars on this graph represent real space. Reducing the maximum speed of traffic increases the capacity of the network.

See how efficiently space is used in Tehran. Without the need for traffic signals, everyone moves slowly but never really stops. Pedestrians cross without haste, panic or delay. It may seem dangerously chaotic to someone used to regimented patterns but everyone has to be vigilant, considerate and empathetic.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSF6cA-TaI0]

To be safe and comfortable riding a bike on roads shared with other traffic you need to take space to create a buffer-zone around you. Sometimes people in vehicles with a potentially higher maximum speed get upset by this. It’s good to be popular –  for pragmatic and humane reasons –  but if you have to choose between being safe or popular, which one comes first?

Other people on the roads may imagine that you’re their enemy. You don’t have to stop and explain the relationship between the maximum speed of traffic on the network and the network’s capacity to all of them. It’s quite a subtle concept and some of them are not all that clever; but you don’t need to get involved in their delusion that you’re a problem.

 

Empathy for the devil

There’s something intrinsically comic about professional athletes who are clearly out of condition yet still manage to contribute. Just because he’s a vulgar hoon with very little sense of how to behave in public, doesn’t mean we can’t feel his pain. Up here in the North it’s Spring and the days  –  though cold  –  get longer as they pass, which must mean, down-under, nights are drawing in.

“Cricket is not a metaphor for life. Cricket is life.”

C.L.R  James

 

  • Play optional sentimental soundtrack.
  • Stand-by with the hankies.

It’s easy to mock [WARNING: link to smut] fat cricketers. Who can forget the day some joker released a pig onto the field at Brisbane in honour of those two stout fellows I.T.Botham and E.E.Hemmings?

There’s something intrinsically comic about professional athletes who are clearly out of condition yet still manage to contribute.

Shane Warne’s in trouble again. Just because he’s a vulgar hoon with very little sense of how to behave in public, doesn’t mean we can’t feel his pain. Up here in the North it’s Spring and the days  –  though cold  –  get longer as they pass, which must mean, down-under, nights are drawing in.

With it’s various formats cricket offers the chance of multiple retirements without the indignity of embarrassing comebacks. 42 year old S.K.Warne’s ultimate, final swan-song supposedly came in April 2011 at the end of his fourth season in the Indian Premier League. Six months later he surprised the World by announcing one more tour of duty in the Big Bash tournament, that ends this Saturday, 28/01/2012.

‘I’m fitter than I have ever been. I had a few offers but the MCG [Melbourne Cricket Ground] has been my backyard for 20 years,’ he said. ‘There were a few offers about playing a game here or there. And I thought if I’m going to do this, let’s do it properly.

‘I thought it was an opportunity where I could actually give something back to the game of cricket that has been so good to me.

‘I’m fitter than I’ve ever been and over the next sort of month or so I’m going to really get into the bowling and doing all those sorts of things with the Melbourne Stars.

‘It’s got nothing to do with money. If it had something to do with money and me coming out to play cricket, I’d still be playing in the IPL. This is something that I’m passionate about. It’s something new … and that’s what enticed me.’

King of the cashed-up bogans?

Spin bowlers don’t need to run-up fast, they don’t need the pigeon-eyed vision of a batsman, they can balance their fading physical powers with craft, guile and wisdom; but finally even the Sheik of Tweak will have to admit that he can’t chase the fade forever.

Professional Cricket is the number one sport for post-retirement suicides. What could replace a life fully engaged, at the highest level of its preindustrial mystery?

Shameful episodes, involving reckless behaviour in motor vehicles by male sports stars are all too common, at least there’s been no suggestion that performance-inhibiting substances were implicated in Warne’s madness.

Melbourne’s Mayor Dolye’s reaction to Warniegate is shameful. Rather than pander to the idiot’s prejudices, Warne’s alleged threatening and destructive behavour ought to be investigated and, if proved, given exemplary punishment; but let’s understand the extremity of his pain, as he faces the final curtain on his glorious career. And be prepared to forgive him like he was Ullrich or the poor little devil Pantani.