Friday, 2 March 2012

Cities Fit For Cycling: My MP's Response

Cycling has been higher up the political agenda than usual recently, thanks, in part, to The Times' "Cities Fit for Cycling" campaign, and also many others. It has promoted ideas and fostered debate on some key issues, for example: earmarking "£100 million a year towards world-class cycling infrastructure", and that "20mph should become the default speed limit in residential areas where there are no cycle lanes."

As with all all-encompassing campaigns there are some things which could be improved. For example, it calls for "world-class cycling infrastructure", but avoids the S-word, segregation, which even the Evening Standard managed to include back in 2007.

I was inspired to contact my MP (Sarah Teather, LibDem, Brent Central) and encourage her to attend a debate of Early Day Motion 2689 on 23rd February. The bill now has 111 signatures, although my MP's is not one of them, parliamentary protocol discourages / disallows signing of EDMs by Government ministers. She is, however, "delighted that the Motion has received so much support."

Sunday, 12 February 2012

S**t Cyclists Actually Say

In keeping with the "S**t .... say" meme there's a "S**t Cyclists Say" clip.

I have to own up to asking "What does this weigh?" quite a lot. (ed. And I don't even own a road bike, yet)

Even sillier are some answers cyclists have actually given to a Survey by Bicycling Magazine.
Definitely some tough questions (source, pdf).

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

The Social Cycle (image intensive)

Cycling can be a rather solitary activity.

Being self-propelled means a cyclist can go their own way, sharing an occasional knowing look with fellow pedallers. You could always go cycling with friends, in a club ride, or even take part in "Silly Commuter Racing".

Sadly the law does not take kindly to cyclists having a chat during a ride.

The UK Highway Code (rule 66) states:
You should ... never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends
This is not a legal requirement, however riding 3 abreast could count against you in court (for example for determining liability following a collision). However, in Nebraska, USA, cyclists must ride single file.

People in cars have it easy. The metal box cuts out (some) street noise, and with space for 4 or so others, you can conduct a conversation in (relative) comfort.

And of course roads are designed with cars 3 abreast in mind. Just imagine how many cyclists you could fit across a 3 lane motorway.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

TfL still don't "get it"

Update: TfL also sent a (different) email to drivers.
Update 2: TfL actually sent 3 different emails, confusing.

TfL has just sent the following "Travel information reminder" email:

I am writing to both cyclists and drivers to remind them to take care on London’s roads.

Cyclists are reminded to:

  • Be aware of blind spots all around large vehicles. It’s often safer to hang back
  • Make eye contact with drivers to make sure they have seen you
  • Not ride through red traffic lights. It’s dangerous and you can be fined £30
  • Allow space between you and parked vehicles. Doors may be opened suddenly
Cycle training courses are available in most London boroughs.
For more information, please visit
Yours sincerely,

Ben Plowden
Director, Surface Planning
This is missing the point. Cyclists can do all these things, be "very road aware", but it is not enough to keep them safe. 
It is not solely up to cyclists, or just cyclists and drivers, TfL have responsibility as well. For providing inadequate and dangerous provision for cyclists and pedestrians.

The above email also advises "drivers ... to take care on London's roads," but all the emphasis is on cyclists' responsibilities.

TfL could easily add:
Drivers are reminded to:
But instead they chose to focus on everything that cyclists do wrong. Perpetuating myths such as "all cyclists jump red lights," and creating more anti-cyclist sentiment rather than aiming for safer roads for everyone.

Edit: More info discussing TfL's responsibilities, and its failure to meet them.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Libertarians in Islington

Islington, home to the "Chattering Classes" and (possible) bans on chuggers. Is being dragged into 2012 by a new kind of political force. One Ron Paul supporter is going all out:
Do you know what this car is?
It might struggle with rural British roads (rambling round the shire).

Not that it will make any difference. Paul is, especially from a British perspective, a nutter, and the moderate, if mundane, Mitt Romney is being hailed as the victor only a couple of into the Republican Primaries.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Newt's on top

On the 3rd January, 2012 Republicans in Iowa will have the first vote in the 2012 USA Presidential Elections. Whether you care or not, this matters: The POTUS is the most powerful person in the World.

There have been some rather sudden changes of fortune. Remember Michele Bachmann? Rick Perry? Herman Cain? Well, they've been and gone, the new "Anyone but Mitt" candidate is Newt Gingrich. According to an NBC/WSJ poll 40% of primary voters would plump for Newt. 17% more than Mitt Romney, in second place.
Newt Gingrich (left) and a Great Crested Newt (right). ©Piet Spaans and Gage Skidmore.
The Republican Primaries have become a battle of "I'm more conservative than you". This may be appealing to Republicans, but it isn't to the general electorate, who prefer the more moderate Mr Romney, although Barack Obama would still win the popular vote by ~2%.

Newt would make a terrible President, it has been said that: Newt Gingrich wakes up every morning with 5 big ideas; 4 are dreadful, and the other is unworkable*. If Obama found Congress obstructionist a President Gingrich would probably fare worse.

You can explore the most recent polls on The Economist, or The Beeb.

Other cute animals are running for US President, why not Vote Hamster?

If you live in London you can also "Vote Newt". Ken Livingstone (Lab) keeps them. Other mayoral candidates are available.

* I think the saying come from Today, I was probably half asleep and have misremembered, but the vague sense was the same.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Cybernetics and Ethics

Cyborgs have appeared across science fiction: The Six Million Dollar Man; The Borg; and Darth Vader but to name a few. They vary from the oddly comic Cybermen to the crime-fighting hero Robocop¹.

In the last decade cybernetic organisms, once confined to the imaginings of authors, have begun to appear across the world. At 4.00PM on Monday, 24th August, 1998 Professor Kevin Warwick underwent surgery to become the World’s first cyborg.

Prof Warwick’s implant, a small glass capsule full of electronics or "transponder", allowed the buildings in his department at the University of Reading to recognise his presence, opening doors and turning on lights automatically.
The Transponder (Ref.)
Kevin Warwick did not stop there;