Archive of ‘General Cycling Nuggets’ category

Cycling to School

School days are the happiest days of your life apparently.

I remember being at First School when we were given cycling proficiency training. Some fire hose was laid out on the playground to recreate a T Junction and we learned how to cycle on the road. I did so well I received a copy of the Highway Code as a prize. That was in 1979.

In 1988 I decided to cycle to my Secondary School. Taking the school bus on its long circuitous route to get to the village where I lived was a soul destroying experience.  Above all I wanted the freedom to be with friends after school. The bicycle gave me that freedom. As I hadn’t cycled any distance for a while the weight had piled on a bit but I saved hard bought a Muddy Fox Courier and started to cycle the 7 miles to school. The weight fell off me and as I grew upwards and inwards my confidence and self belief grew which I badly needed as an adolescent. In 1989 I participated in the Grundig Mountain Bike World Challenge achieving a World ranking at the age of 16.  That year, I also cycled 100 miles in a day with two friends raising funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital. It was fun, but it hurt!

Let’s fast forward now to 2010. A London couple who let their children cycle to school by themselves have been warned they could be reported to social services unless they supervise the journey.

According to Road.cc, ‘today’s Daily Mail highlights the case of Oliver and Gillian Schonrock, who let their five year-old son and eight year-old daughter cycle the one-mile trip to school unaccompanied. They say it helps to teach the kids independence, self-confidence and responsibility.

But other parents and teachers at Alleyn’s Junior School in Dulwich are said to think the practice is irresponsible and dangerous. Head teacher Mark O’Donnell has told the Schonrocks that the school is obliged to consider the children’s safety and has a legal responsibility to refer the case to Southwark Council’s Children’s Services department if they fear the kids are being put at risk.

The children cycle on the pavement from their home in west Dulwich to the school. Their route takes them alongside roads that become busy with traffic during the school run. At the halfway point they cross a road where there is a lollipop lady on duty.

Mark O’Donnell said: “If a school feels a child in their care is at risk, they have a legal responsibility to notify the local authority. Is an eight year old responsible enough to come to school with a five year old and take responsibility when it comes to crossing busy roads? Or what would happen if the five year old has a tantrum?”

The Schonrocks say rules on child protection are to blame for the predicament they find themselves in. Mrs Schonrock, who as a girl took the bus to school from the age of four with her six year-old sister, said: “The question is do the government have the right to put an obligation on schools to not allow any level of risk whatsoever?”

London Mayor Boris Johnson today said the Schonrock’s should be applauded for showing faith in their children. In a column in the Daily Telegraph he said: “They have taken the sword of common sense to the great bloated encephalopathic sacred cow of elf and safety, and for this effrontery they are, of course, being persecuted by the authorities (who are now probably consulting a dictionary to see what encephalopathic means).

“If Mr and Mrs Schonrock have carefully assessed the route and considered the advantages and disadvantages, then they should overwhelmingly be given the benefit of the doubt and the freedom to make up their own minds.”

Although schools are not responsible for children on their journey to school, guidance from the Department for Children, Schools and Families says if a school “believes or suspects that a child may be suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm” then it must refer the case to social services.

Catherine McDonald, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Southwark Council, told the Mail: “As this is an independent school, it is for them to decide how they arrange transport to school with the parents of their pupils.

“However, if an independent school does contact us, we’d give them the same advice as we do to our own schools, that they should develop a school travel plan with parents and children so they can get to school safely and in a way that promotes healthy living and is good for the environment. This would include both cycling and walking.”

Cherry Allan, CTC Campaigns Information Co-ordinator told road.cc: “CTC is very disappointed to hear that Oliver and Gillian Schonrock’s decision to let their children cycle to school on their own has been described as “irresponsible”. All children should have the right to cycle to school: it allows them to travel quickly and independently through their local areas, providing not just autonomy, but a daily sense of achievement. To describe the Schronrock’s decision as irresponsible sends out a message that roads are for adults only, and undermines the health benefits of cycling to children – such as greater cardiovascular fitness and reduced levels of obesity – which far outweigh the risks.’

So there you have it. For what it’s worth I believe it is our duty to create safer streets for children to cycle in whether it’s through 20mph limits, segregated (and well designed for a change) cycle paths or redesigned streetscapes that are pleasant for the residents, as opposed to the rat runners. If all else fails, I’d simply stop all motor traffic between 8- 9am and 3-4pm so children can cycle or walk between school and home unhindered (and adults could improve their lives too). Then just watch the obesity levels plummet and the happiness levels soar.

Basically, adults need to bloody well grow up. At least the children are having a go.

I also think that encephalopathic means a disease of the brain. I love Boris Johnson!

Crap Cycle Lane II

Goodness! What’s this? A cycle path to the centre of Worthing AND the Seaside AND all for another eye-watering sum of money! I bet it’s wide and continuous and paved with gold!

I’m focusing on this roundabout because I think it best illustrates where UK cycling infrastructure differs from best practice examples in the Netherlands and Denmark. This facility was completed early 2010 to show off just how advanced our designers have become in trying to kill cyclists and pedestrians.

This shows the first sign in context. The plucky cyclist having just come to the end of a side road now has to cross the entrance to the junction (I assume by dismounting on to the pavement and crossing the road). Traffic can swing in quite quickly to get to a nearby Industrial Estate.

So far so good! The cyclist now has this bit of pavement to negotiate (providing no-one steps out from the house behind that hedge or anyone opens their car door). West Sussex Council Engineers must have spent whole minutes on this.

Here the cyclist has the option of trying to cross this fast roundabout exit to get to the town or straight on to further delights!

What’s that you ask? Priority for cyclists? Don’t be silly dear reader, this is the good old UK!! According to the new Transport Secretary, ‘The War on the Motorist is over’ because they’ve had it really tough for the last few decades. That converted pavement (Sorry. ‘Shared Use Facility’) takes you to the Town Centre and Seafront but more about that in a moment. Lets go round the corner to the next roundabout exit.

The cyclist wishing to continue west has to cross this fast moving entrance. Please note that this roundabout is in a residential area with a 30mph speed limit yet has a dual carriageway section running into it to allow the school run mum or our baseball capped friends in converted Vauxhall Novas the chance of a good run up.

The other side at the exit point. Also, please note the word ‘End’ put at various points to denote End of Route. Because novice cyclists are going to stop cycling on the pavement now aren’t they? It took the Council Engineers about 5 seconds to type ‘End’ on their drawings yet I think they missed a bit of trick. I think they could have written something better like LOOK OUT!!!!!’ or ‘PISS OFF! IT”S A PAVEMENT NOW, CAN”T YOU TELL??’ or just a stylish ‘FIN’.

Moving swiftly on to the next exit (because cycling is quick and easy and fun don’t you know), the cyclist (now filled with adrenalin) crosses this fast exit, around the weird chicane to the next exit which is conveniently right next to a petrol station exit.

Yes! Not only does this exciting roundabout entrance split to two lanes (to get the speed up that motorists desperately need in a built up area) but this car is pulling out from a petrol station. Ironically, they also sell alcohol which you may need if you made it this far.

If you’re coming across from the petrol station you connect with the Shared Use Facility I pictured earlier streaking off in to the distance toward the Town Centre and Seafront. Having cleared the roundabout (congratulations!) you can now head to the sea! You can start to hear the seagulls. And start wishing you also had wings.

There now follows a piece of engineering brilliance that  Brunel would have, well, laughed at. The hedge obscures a pavement stretching back to a small cul de sac (I nearly got clobbered by a fellow cyclist while taking pictures there).

And here we are at the glittering end of a sparkling cycling facility! The cyclist has to cross the pavement on to the end of the cul-de-sac and then onto the road toward to aforementioned Town Centre and Seafront.

There are further delights further along the route but I didn’t want to exhaust you.

The roundabout is still it’s original size allowing cars to continue flinging themselves round at speed. Now that they think cyclists are out of the way they can go even faster which is exactly what you need with two junior schools (both with ignored 20mph zones) and a Family Centre for pre-natal check ups and baby classes just off one of the exits.

I’m sure that in the Netherlands the profile of the roundabout would have been narrowed with a separate segregated path built away from pedestrians and giving cyclists priority over motorists. But this isn’t the Netherlands.

For all intents and purposes, we might as well be on Mars.

Cycling in the UK

Copenhagenize has written a blog post highlighting, or should I say sneering at, Vehicular Cyclists. For those not in the know, this is a style best illustrated [because I’m in the UK] by John Franklin in his book, Cyclecraft, whereby a bicycle holds a more prominent position in traffic to be seen – in effect to be treated as traffic. This instantly brings to mind every regular cyclist in Britain.

According to this thought provoking blog, Vehicular cyclists are ‘a small, yet vocal, group that is male-dominated, testosterone-driven and that lacks basic understanding of human nature. They expect that everyone should be just like them – classic sub-cultural point of view – and that everyone should embrace cycling in traffic and pretending they are cars. They are apparently uninterested in seeing grandmothers, mothers or fathers with children or anyone who doesn’t resemble then contributing to re-creating the foundations of liveable cities by re-establishing the bicycle as transport’. A little harsh I think and a massive disservice to all the men and women across the UK that campaign and fight for the rights of cyclists.

Because in the UK it is a fight. I believe that to be a cyclist in the UK you have to comprise:

One part Bloody Mindedness (for dealing with today’s road network, and in particular, its users) plus

Two parts Stoicism (for dealing with the options open to us which are often well meaning but nearly always badly designed) with

A smidgeon of Persecution Complex (for dealing with the constant feeling of being erased off a road network that cyclists and pedestrians have more right to).

The interesting point however is that he believes that vehicular cyclists are against cycling infrastructure of any kind. This is massively oversimplifying the issue and is wide of the mark for this simple reason; British Cycle Infrastructure is Utterly, Utterly, Utterly Diabolical. It is designed by people who don’t know anything about cycling but clearly know lots about squiggly lines and dismounting. People are already ripping into the new London Cycling Superhighways, but not because they don’t want the infrastructure. It’s because the designers honestly believed that painting the same crap blue would somehow change everything, whilst ignoring the issue of what actually makes a decent piece of cycling infrastructure work such as priority at junctions.

I would love to see Danish and Dutch style infrastructure here, I really would. I live by the sea and work by the sea with a 12 mile ride in between. I would have the golden opportunity to justify buying a Pashley Guv’nor to The Wife, I could throw my helmet into the sea whilst cackling like a maniac. Above all, I could really enjoy cycling again, as opposed to being part of the Rat Race. I know that Sustrans have created NCN2 between Brighton and Worthing which I could use but it’s nowhere near European standards.

The golden question is should we be really be campaigning for cycling facilities such as those best typified in Groningen as opposed to the constant struggle to maintain a presence on the roads? Should we be fighting for a European Directive on cycle facility design influenced by Denmark and the Netherlands? Should Cycle Campaigners be forging greater alliances with Masterplanners or pedestrian and wheelchair user groups along with movements such as Transition Towns to create more accessible and liveable towns and cities?

It can’t be any worse than the realm we find ourselves in where the car is king and the poor cycle paths are for the wretched serfs.

Crap Cycle Lane I

On Saturday I needed to run an errand so I unfolded my Brompton and decided to check out the new Findon to Worthing Cycle Route installed by West Sussex County Council. It runs along a single carriageway stretch of the A24 (which has a 40 mph limit being a suburb of Worthing). This ‘Shared Use Facility’ cost the local Council Tax payer an eye-watering £221,000 so surely for that kind of money it must be brilliant!

Alas, this is Britain dear Reader. I don’t know how they did it but yet again they made cycling look ponderous, dangerous to cyclist and pedestrian alike and a bit of a waste of time if you actually want to get anywhere.

Slow, apparently

Here is a stretch at the Southern end (facing back toward Worthing). Please note the slalom round the tree, the need to write ‘Slow’ at repeated intervals along the pavement (sorry, ‘Shared Use Facility’). Also, please note all the driveway entrances with loss of priority at these plus all the junctions. Meanwhile, the cars flash past regardless on a nice wide road which is what you need in an urban setting.

Russian Roulette. On a bike!

Here’s an interesting conundrum! Not only do cyclists have to give way but the exit to this petrol station is obscured by the hedge so you won’t know if a car is pulling out until they are on you (pardon the pun). You also have to give way for the entrance too (can’t be inconveniencing motorists now can we!) and then give way at the junction a bit further up, and again at the junction a bit further up………….

At least the trees are nice

This is a personal favourite. The Bus Shelter Slalom. Just pray that a pedestrian doesn’t step out to see why their bus is late! Did I mention that lovely wide road that’s perfect for cycling?

Of course, if you try cycling on the road now, you might get abuse for not using this dangerous dross that would make Evil Knievel think twice.

The path, despite being billed as the Findon – Worthing Cycle Route, actually fizzles out about a mile before Findon but the Council seems to think that just putting up an ‘End of Route’ sign will stop novice cyclists continuing on the pavement anyway.

This is one of my [many] pet hates regarding this type of facility – it encourages cyclists to use any pavement regardless of whether the Council has painted a bicycle symbol on it or not. Everyone else frowns, shakes their head and then complains to the local paper but you can’t blame novice cyclists for doing this – after all, if the Council have said it’s OK to cycle on a particular pavement (sorry, ‘Shared Use Facility’) then what’s wrong with cycling on all the others?

Motorists are happy because it gets bicycles off the roads allowing them to speed up which seems to be what people want in their built up areas.

Who would have thought that designing for something so simple could be so difficult? And this isn’t even the worst ‘Shared Use Facility’ in Worthing, but more on that another day.

The Mighty Wind

I’ve been having problems with different types of wind recently.

Whilst commuting to work the wind seems to be against me in the mornings and as the day warms up switches to a strong westerly making warm work of the 12 mile cycle back to Worthing.

Another area where wind is a problem is with regards The Boy, who is now 7 weeks old. The Wife and I took the view that if we fed him and then tried to get him to sleep, we could then feed ourselves in the evenings. Experienced parents may give a hollow laugh at this point as the end result is always The Boy waking up as we are about to put a fork to our mouths. We end up bolting our food, or taking it in turns to bolt our food while the other cajoles The Boy who has obviously smelt cooking and could hear a bottle of wine being uncorked. As a result, I’ve got indigestion to the point where apparently during the night I sound like a Scuba Diver using a Vuvuzela instead of a snorkel.

The Boy at the moment contains enough wind to power a small market town. We’ve tried Infacol, a homeopathic remedy from Neals Yard, walking up and down stairs with him over my shoulder, showing him pictures of Danniella Westbrook to scare the wind out of him (yes, I made that up although now I read it back it seems like quite a good idea). All have varying degrees of success but there’s simply no escaping the fact that he has a little digestive system that’s trying to develop. What’s particularly strange is when we think we’ve got him to sleep only to put him in his Moses Basket for him to start making noises that I can only describe as a 60 year old 60 a day smoker clearing their throat in the morning.  Although there’s nothing more soul destroying than having a newborn grizzle his way to the next feed when he could have had a nap in between (magnify that feeling by a thousand times at night) it’s just a phase. It’s nothing personal. The Boy isn’t judging our parenting by grizzling. The poor little mite is just very uncomfortable.

All food for thought as I grind out the miles to work and back. Sometimes a cyclist will loiter behind me thinking that I haven’t noticed them. They will sit on my back wheel so they are shielded from the wind without taking their turn in front which is extremely annoying (one time I even slowed to walking pace and the rider still didn’t take the hint). However, with the levels of indigestion I’ve been having recently, people don’t seem to be as keen.

The Road Less Travelled

I’ve generally found in life that there is a time and place for everything.  When my six week old son does a loud burp immediately after a meal everyone coos and applauds. You don’t get the same response aged 37, I have learned.

It would be nice if our local authorities realised this when it comes to installing their often hilarious takes on ‘Cycling Infrastructure’. To look at some of their efforts, the casual bystander would be forgiven for assuming that they were created for a circus chimp on a BMX by designers who clearly spent more time as a child on an Etch a Sketch than a bicycle.

For a decent cycle path to work, it has to be direct, continuous, with a good level of surface and good sight lines. It should clearly demonstrate that cycling is the quickest, safest most direct way to get about. What we often end up with are ‘Shared Use Facilities’ where a pavement is upgraded with a fresh coating of tarmac and shiny bicycle symbols painted on (quite often there’s no resurfacing).

These usually take a more circuitous route, are slower, usually running right past the entrances to peoples homes and driveways raising the chance of a collision with pedestrians. They offer no priority at junctions meaning the cyclist has to stop frequently losing their momentum. I take the view that if a cycle path needs a ‘Cyclist Dismount’ sign, than it has failed as a cycle path (unless of course it is for something like a canal lock). It is like asking a motorist to get out and push.

It also means that, with fewer bicycles on the road, the traffic speeds up which is particularly undesirable in residential areas, school zones and near medical facilities. The quicker cyclist, not choosing the path because it would be more dangerous, may also find themselves getting abuse from motorists who think they should be on the path even though the cyclist has more right to be on the road.

You may wonder why local cycling campaigners don’t say anything. This is generally because (from experience) by the time they get a whiff of ‘consultation’, the works have already been designed, signed off and programmed. But at least the local authority can now say they have ‘spoken to cyclists’.

The safest place to be, believe it or not, is on the road moving with the flow of traffic. This is partly because you are traffic but also because of the big secrets that some in the media and Motoring Lobby don’t want you to know. Do you want to hear one?!

Ready?

Cycling isn’t dangerous!

Incredible eh?! They may and try and portray it as dangerous by encouraging us to wear helmets and fear-mongering but they’re only distracting us from the fact that they are the danger on our streets that needs to be addressed (as brilliantly illustrated by this must-read article from Copenhagenize.com).

Do you want to hear another fact that they don’t want you to know?

Cyclists have more right to be on the road because driving is merely a privilege that can be removed and motorists haven’t paid for the roads since 1937!!!!!

Mind blowing!

There are cycle paths out there that do work very well, but usually it’s because they simply can’t fail such as the conversion of abandoned railway lines or wide coastal promenades like Worthing. The glorious Downs Link for example allows me to cycle from the South Coast to Surrey where I was brought up with next to no traffic interchange whatsoever.

You would have thought it child’s play to design a facility for something bewilderingly simple as a bicycle. Unfortunately, the end result usually looks like child’s play. Use the road instead for the moment. You belong there after all.

Helmets and Accidents

According to the Bikeradar website, Swedish car company Volvo have teamed up with a ‘top sports protection specialist’, POC, to develop a new children’s cycle helmet.

Recently promoted at a primary school in the Netherlands, the bright orange lid has sparked controversy, with critics accusing Volvo of hypocrisy, stating that “Volvo introduces helmet to protect against Volvos” and comparing their promotion of the cycle helmet with Smith & Wesson introducing children’s bulletproof vests.

Volvo have also been accused of using the lid as a cheap ploy to market their new pedestrian safety detection system. Critics point out that this is only available as an option on one model, the S60, which undermines the company’s claim that safety is their paramount concern.

I’m going to leap off the fence here and say that that I agree with the critics for four fundamental reasons;

1 Firstly, it must be a duty to make motorists more aware of vulnerable road users. Particularly as they have more right to be there than motorists as Vehicle Excise Duty hasn’t paid for the roads since 1937. If it takes 20mph speed limits in residential areas, or more innovative approaches to streetscape design to keep speeds down in urban areas than so be it. If motorists can’t keep their foot off the accelerator where children are about than that option will have to be removed from them. Cycling isn’t a dangerous activity, believe it or not.

2 If we made helmets compulsory for our children, it will have a negative effect on child take-up of cycling, like everywhere else this has happened. If we don’t make the streets safer, then obesity will get them in the longer term. The health benefits of cycling outweigh the dangers many times over. The speed of traffic would probably rise too with less cyclists on the roads. The cyclists that remain will venture out wearing protective helmets thus making it OK to drive like a lunatic around them and a downward spiral is set in motion.

3 Sometimes, dare I say it, our children will ignore what we say to them. One day my son may want to cycle to the local shop to get some sweets. He may think ‘it’s only 2 minutes away. I don’t need a silly helmet. Who cares that I have to wear one and dad told me to’. If we made helmets compulsory and your child gets hit by a car whilst not wearing a helmet, there may be no hope for compensation if a head injury is sustained as your child will be negligent. Consider the amount of times you did things as a child without your parent’s knowledge and consent if you still think I’m wrong.

4 Volvo feel the need to make everyone else wear a helmet (probably pedestrians too if they had their way) because their cars are so tank-like they show no consideration for anyone or anything else in the outside World. They are basically encouraging their consumers to drive their products like wankers (‘It’s OK to drive like a lunatic! We’ve put helmets on everyone outside, even children!).

I’m not against helmets but I’m definitely pro-choice and if you decide to put a helmet on your child than great (just check the bike over first too). It’s essential as a civilised society that we have to make the roads safer first for everyone instead of wrapping people up in cotton wool. For the record, I wear a helmet on my 24 mile a day commute (partly because no-one in Brighton & Hove can drive correctly) but I respect your choice not to wear one.

You may be wondering, dear reader, why I may be showing a little animosity towards motorists despite being a car owner myself. The week before my 10th birthday (Halloween 1982) my father was driving my mother and I home from a birthday party. He needed to turn right on a junction of the A3 (it has a flyover now). This meant crossing over the northbound carriageway. A VW hatchback came hurtling around the corner and smashed into us side on. We were in a transit van and not wearing seat belts as they had not been made compulsory. The Police at the time said had I been wearing one I probably would have been decapitated. This is because the force was so great I took the passenger door with me and hit the A3 head first. A helmet may have saved my life or given me a spinal injury as well. Who knows? What I do know was I ended up with a multiple fracture of the scull and my leg was ripped to shreds. My hand required extensive stitches.

The thing is I thought my hand required stitches because I logically believed that any person would probably stick their hand out to protect themselves if they hit the ground. You’d be wrong, dear reader. I only found the truth out this year from my mother. I needed stitches in my hand because motorists were getting so impatient at us for having a nasty car smash, they started to drive their way through the wreckage and someone drove over my hand. Let’s reiterate; a motorist drove over the hand of a 9 year old unconscious boy lying in the road after a massive smash (the car that hit us was doing 70mph according to the skid marks).

All involved, I’m pleased to report, made a full recovery. My belief that motoring brings out the worst in people and is the most anti-social, selfish thing you can do remains unchanged, however. Ride a bike instead, dear reader. I can even recommend a helmet for you, if you so choose.

Campaigning With Style

Brighton played host to the annual Naked Bike Ride yesterday. It’s a mass participation event that’s a cheeky (pardon the pun) protest against car culture and oil dependency. It’s a celebration of the bicycle and the ‘power and individuality of the human body’. They obviously haven’t seen my body which looks like the bastard child of Christopher Hoy and Christopher Biggins. It also highlights the vulnerability of cyclists in traffic.

It should come as no surprise that Brighton & Hove hosts such an event. It’s a city that likes to tout itself as ‘alternative’ because it contains a higher than average gay & student population along with artists and a 45% higher ratio of ‘street performers’. Alright, I made that last bit up but on a sunny day or any day containing a protest these people appear eating fire, juggling with fire or strumming a guitar as they connect with the fire that burns within. It’s basically everyone I’ve ever wanted to set on fire whilst giggling like a maniac at every party I’ve been to.

Today’s sermon is based on my humble opinion that events like this do not help the cause of cycling at all. The Naked Bike Ride is a massive turn off to cycling for the general public in every possible way and plays straight to the Jeremy Clarkson cyclist stereotype of tree hugging, Guardian reading, lentil eating, sandal wearing tosspot. I’m no prude, despite living in Worthing. I just feel that if the motoring lobby (or indeed any lobby) can present itself professionally than so can cycling.

I used to cringe when I attended cycle forum meetings. These were usually hosted by a council in a room containing above average coffee and biscuits where we would express the views of cyclists to council engineers who would listen and then totally ignore what we said. They would then carry on painting bicycle symbols on pavements and calling it ‘infrastructure’ (but that’s another ramble). All council officials were wearing suits and looking very professional. All the cycle campaigners were wearing tired old lycra with smug scruffiness and generally looking as though they have a bath when they accidentally trip into one. They thought that just being a cyclist was enough. They thought wrong. I have found in a cycle campaigning capacity that I gain greater respect from non-cyclists and they listen when I’m dressed in a suit as suddenly I look like one of them making an effort.

The fact is that, sadly, these are times of soundbite and spin. Where image counts over competence. British politics is lurching toward the right wing and I believe that cycle campaigners and lobbyists should do the same with rampant smart dressing. I would like to see an extremist wing of cycle campaigning formed where cyclists of all creeds, colours and ages say a resounding ‘No!’ to pointless nudity, ‘No!’ to cycle campaigners speaking to officials in clapped out lycra, ‘No!’ to bloody scruffy fire-eating hippies thinking that cycling is just about saving the environment. ‘No!’ to cycling organisations sending representatives out in branded polo shirts. Not in our name! Dressing smartly and presenting yourself professionally as a campaigner is easy to do, it’s playing the Government and the motoring lobby at its own game and is also more effective than wearing nothing.

In any case, if we tried a Naked Bike Ride here in Worthing, it would look like a pornographic ‘Last of the Summer Wine’.

Road Tax

Yesterday I found myself in a place I don’t often frequent – the DVLA local office in Brighton. Our beloved little car is no longer fit for purpose so we traded it in for a 5 door ‘family saloon’. This is partly for Wife who through a combination of bad luck and woefully bad surgery has a bad back but also because we seem to have accumulated a lot of stuff since The Boy arrived on the scene. The Space Shuttle taking supplies to the International Space Station is nothing compared to my household embarking on an overnight stay. It does make you wonder how we coped before but years ago families lived much closer together. Sometimes too close in the case of the village where I grew up.

Anyway, the point of today’s sermon is that I was buying a new 12 month tax disc. I put it in my bag and later on I cycled 12 miles home. However, there are a lot of motorists out there that believe that I should be displaying a tax disc on my bicycle too and that cyclists should ‘pay for the roads’. These people are what I like to diplomatically call ‘Morons’. The reasons are as follows:

Motorists Don’t Pay for the Roads

“There has been no direct relationship between vehicle tax and road expenditure since 1937.”
Policy and External Communications Directorate, DVLA

‘Road Tax’ doesn’t exist. In fact, it hasn’t existed since 1937 when the ‘Road Fund Licence’ was abolished. Even when the ‘Road Fund’ existed, motorists only ever paid a fraction of road expenditure. It was Winston Churchill that instigated its abolition stating
“It will be only a step from this for [motorists] to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads their contributions have created.”

The round disc I was carrying home to put in my windscreen is actually called Vehicle Excise Duty (or VED). It is a tax on the car, not its use. Road maintenance comes from central taxation. Even my month old son is indirectly paying for the roads from the VAT on the packs of Pampers we’re steaming through at a rate of knots.

VED Is Emissions Linked

Even if cyclists had to display a ‘road tax’ disc, a bicycle is a zero emissions vehicle and therefore would pay nothing. Beaurocracy would have been created at further expense for no return.

Cyclists Have More Right to Be On the Road

Cyclists, pedestrians & horse riders all have the RIGHT to use the Queens Highway. Motorists have to be licensed which is a privilege that can be removed by law. If you choose to operate a piece of heavy machinery that can move at lethal speeds which can kill if used incorrectly, it’s only right that you should have the correct licence, that the vehicle has an annual test and that the correct insurance covers its use.

By the way Cyclists can get Third Party insurance automatically by joining CTC – the National Cyclists Organisation (www.ctc.org.uk) or London Cycle Campaign (www.lcc.org.uk)
It may interest you to know that CTC years ago helped campaign for the creation of motorways (which cyclists obviously can’t use) reasoning that all cars would use them freeing up the minor roads for cycling and other lawful pursuits. Yes, that was probably a little naive with hindsight.

So there you go. I’ve bought a disc because I’ve bought a piece of machinery that pollutes. Nothing more, nothing less. If you want further information on the ‘Road Tax’ myth, journalist Carlton Reid has set up a brilliant website (www.ipayroadtax.com) with further fascinating articles on the idiocy that cyclists face every day from people that think they own the roads when in reality have less right to be there.

Now that I own a 5 door family saloon, I shall not start watching Top Gear or reading the Daily Mail although I might end up towing a caravan. These are heady times we live in.

Commuting Cunundrum

Because the Boy is due to be born on 9th May I decided to drive to work today. The reasoning being that if I got The Call, I would be able to dash to the car and whizz home from Brighton to Worthing (12 miles) to pick up The Wife and The Bag of Specifically Packed Things as Recommended by Special People to zoom off for a meeting with destiny.

The Wife was a bit dubious about me taking the car for the following reasons:

  • It takes me 40-50 minutes max to cycle between Worthing and Brighton regardless of weather or traffic conditions. Contrary to what the popular press thinks, I do this obeying the Highway Code.

 

  • I hate driving and what I become when driving. Some people listen to Radio 3 whilst driving because they like classical music and maybe played an instrument at school. I listen to Radio 3 whilst driving because without its soothing influence I would beat to death the next motorist that can’t queue properly with the clarinet I played at school.

The fact is it took me a far more stressful 50 minutes to get from Worthing to Brighton and will take me the same amount of time and stress to get home. I would have to rely on the Boy not making an appearance during the school run or either rush hour for the car to be truly effective.

Work colleagues said I really should have a car on standby ‘in case of emergency’. I nearly fell for the same car advertising drivel they fell for – better speed, every road looking as clear as the Scottish Highlands and you would be forgiven for thinking that by buying a new car you’re actually saving the environment with ‘Eco’ this and Lower Emissions that. When I get The Call, I’m going to be incredibly stressed so being in control of a ton of metal moving at speed is not the answer until it’s not moving at speed at which point it becomes a frustrating cage.

The bicycle wins. The simplest plans are always the best. Except our Birth Plan of course.

1 2 3