Sunday, 31 January 2010

Oncoming Cyclist

Went for a pleasure ride today. Did about 12 miles - half on tracks and half on road - and very nice too. Was able to try the camera out for the first time in daylight and came across this numpty along the way. I could see him before he is visible on the camera and there is also a car coming up behind me. What was he thinking of?

No wonder some drivers don't like cyclists. A sweeping opinion I know but it only takes a handful of bad apples to tar with a brush so to speak!

More Car Parking!

I was recently contacted by a neighbour who has asked for my support in calling for more free car parking in the Prestwich area. I found the direction of the conversation to be very car plus and bicycle negative. I have copied the communication below for your amusement and comments. I have made some minor edits to make it easier to a reader unfamiliar with the area and have also changed some names.

Email to me:

Hi Darrell

I would like to send the following letter to local councillors and our M.P.

Can you suggest any other comments/modifications ? I was trying to make the point that it's not just a problem for our flats but for Prestwich Village in general as I think we'd get more support that way. I would send you a copy of the final version before sending.

Would you be willing to be a co-signatory and possibly add your e-mail address?

I have already contacted our local councellor and been told that Prestwich is well-served with carparks and I should have bought a house with a drive.

Regards, Sally

Sally's proposed letter:

The carpark at the Longfield Suite is frequently full and cars are always driving round and round, waiting for a spot, sometimes out into the road. The one beside the Catholic Church seems to be usually full too. I don't know what can be done about this but want to make you aware of the problem before it gets even worse.

They are used a great deal by people using the Metro [tram]. Is it possible for the Metro authorities to be asked to provide some extra parking?

Parking for visitors to Prestwich Village is a very big problem. There is already a problem with parking due to the flats having been built with only 121 parking spots. The remaining 19 residents obviously take up public parking and many flats have two cars. Living in a flat here is not like being in the centre of a town such as London or Manchester as people don't expect parking there. Most people go to those places via public transport. Prestwich Village has many people coming by car as it is so close to the Motorway and good roads.

What is going to happen after the redevelopment? [local shopping centre due to be rebuilt and expanded 2010 onwards] It would seem that the new carpark will need to be very much bigger to allow for the lack of parking already, as well as the need for more due to the supermarket. We also feel that the new parking should be free.

I had hoped that people living in the flats would become part of the community and live here for long periods. If there is nowhere for visitors to park this isn't going to happen.

I am also concerned as to what happens when "carers" have to come to people in the flats. Is the Council or Social Services required to provide a few places for these? I thought that the Govt. was trying to provide care at home for people instead of their having to go into "homes".

There is also the problem of there being nowhere for taxis to wait outside the entrance. Elderly and disabled people do need some help with their shopping and luggage from taxis.

There is a problem with workmen coming to the flats. Even if they pay the parking fee for the carpark near the entrance, this carpark is often full.

My reply:

Hi Sally

Thanks for your email.

I know there is always a balance to be struck between parking provision and other amenities and I feel we have a suitable mix in Prestwich.

There is free parking available and the new plans do provide more for the planned supermarket and hotel. People buying/renting at the flats do so with facilities as they stand and can choose accordingly if they wish to live there. I believe the bus and metro [tram] links are good points for the flats and Prestwich as a whole. As a regular commuter cyclist I do not wish to see more cars cramming into the roads looking for more parking provision. We should be investing in Dutch style cycling facilities to get people out of their cars and adopting a healthier lifestyle but I will not bore you with that argument!! Needless to say I cannot support your letter.

Cheers for now. All the best.


I was then sent a from another neighbour who had been CC'd into the initial communication. She is elderly and has a disabled husband. I have included my reply along with the main points of her letter:

Dear Molly

Many thanks for the letter you attached to your recent email. I have copied it below and will attempt to answer your points as best I can.

[Molly] We live in an ageing population where it is difficult for a lot of people to get around and are totally reliant on a car to go shopping at the supermarket and visiting other people etc. I don’t think the aging population would find it is easy to get on a bike and get the shopping home. In fact I don’t think the aging population would find it easy to get on a bike at all!

[My answer] I am fully aware we live in society with an increasingly elderly population. I never suggested all people should get on a pushbike and am sorry you interpreted my email in that way. Surely though if those that could did so it might free up road and parking space for those who are more reliant on a car? I myself use a car and enjoy driving it but I try and make all short journeys on foot, bicycle, etc, avoiding the use of a car unless really needed.

[Molly] Young families with children need a car also to get them to school, drop off and collect from nursery en route to work, to do various shopping for the home and to take them to their friends’ homes as most consider it unsafe to allow them to make their own way.

[My answer] Some young families use a car to drop children at nursery or school. I doubt all those that do need to use a vehicle. I consider my family to be a young one with a child at nursery. She is walked to and from the gate as are the majority of the children in her class. I just wonder why "...most consider it unsafe to allow them to make their own way". Could part of that reluctance be because of the high volume of motorised traffic about nowadays making the roads unsafe?

[Molly] If we want the precinct to survive, we need to encourage customers from other areas to shop here and to use the Longfield Centre for leisure pursuits. Not everyone lives near the metro [tram] and a convenient bus stop. Also the cost of public transport is extortionate especially travelling with a family. You mention we have free parking well, apparently that will not be the case if current proposals are carried out!

[My answer] The Longfield shopping precinct has its metrolink stop, several bus stops, a local taxi rank and free car parking. It may or may not come to pass the car parking provided with the new plans is chargeable, however the one next to the catholic church it intended to remain free - I asked myself at a local planning meeting last year. I strongly believe if you provide more and more free parking spaces it only encourages people to use them when they could have made their way easily by other means. How much and where would you like to build the extra car parking locally and who should pay for it if not the motorist? I do not want to live in the middle of a shopping mall.

[Molly] We live in a time where a lot of people are very lonely and look forward to friends and relatives visiting. How could this be possible without a car? You talk about choosing to live in the flats. I have to live in an apartment because my husband is so disabled. Does that mean that we cannot expect care workers and others to visit us unless they are on bikes?

[My answer] Again, I never suggested everyone use a bicycle to make their journey, although I don't see why community nurses, carers, etc could not use a pushbike as a means of transport. I know of several nurses who do their community rounds on bikes although the majority cannot because of the equipment or drugs they carry. I could also argue increased car use and the ease of motorised travel is one of the reasons some elderly people are now isolated in their homes, as family and friends have moved away and commute long distances. However, I feel the car is a useful and valid means of transportation and I do not want to see the car banned from Prestwich. My point is more car parking does not solve a congestion problem but just encourages greater traffic volumes to fill the spaces and so also increases traffic in the surrounding streets. Of course a balance needs to be met. I believe there is enough car parking provision around the flats and would like to see those people who can encouraged to use other means to to make local journeys rather than using a car.

I don't think I will persuade you and Sally to my way of thinking and I do not intend to. I merely wish to give my reasons why I cannot support a call for more car parking in the area.

Best regards


Friday, 29 January 2010

Catching The Bus

If I had stuck my right elbow out it would have been hit by the bus. Did you notice the driver just had to pass so closely as there was no room to leave me due to the oncoming car. Probably saved him less than 10 sec that cheeky little manouvre.

Do They Not Look?

This little clip was done 30 seconds into my first ride with a mounted video camera. I wasn't exactly hiding in the shadows - hi viz Altura "Night Vision" jacket, twin front and rear flashing LEDs + reflective strips on the bike. Didn't want to give me my right of way? Didn't see me until the last second? Tosser? What do you think?

On the plus side I am enjoying my new toy (A Contour HD camera) and quite happy with the quality of the clip considering the low light conditions. Going to play with some of the settings to see if I can get it a little better for future clips. Any tips welcomed.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Moped Menace

Bring Back Birching!
(squeaks the angry voice inside my head)

I was assaulted last week.

On my bike, cycling home from work at about 21.00hrs I was passed by two moped riders - the first quite close and the second who punched/slapped me on the helmet as he went buzzing by. I stopped and rang through the registration number to the police in case a patrol car was further up the road. When I got home I was still a bit shaken as I could easily been knocked off and injured.

Just finished making a statement to the Police and they will be off to arrest the registered keeper shortly. He will spend some hours in a cell, have his day disrupted, could be charged with or cautioned for assault, will have his driving details checked (insurance/licence/tax) and action taken on that front if needed. Quite satisfied with that really. What a tosser!

This has resulted in me getting a new toy - a bullet (point of view) camera to attach to my bike/person. After the recent incidents of almost being run of the road and now this, it could well prove extremely useful in the future. Will also be great for my bike tour in the summer and for skiing in the winter. Look out for some video coming to Middle Age Cyclist soon.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Iced Banana

It had to happen.

Commuting by bicycle for the last few days in the current icy weather I had expected a tumble and was taking it very carefully. To say it was unexpected though would be an understatement.

I had made it without incident across the snow although worse was the frozen slush/grit combination which had the consistency of sand. Hitting a large lump of that with the front wheel at any speed was certainly not to be advised. I loved arriving at work to stares of wonder at my bravery (they likely thought me mad).

The weather here was actually slightly warmer than of late and most of the busier side roads were just about free of snow or slush. It was around 06.45hrs and I was less than a mile into the ride. After just crossing a mini roundabout I noticed a parked van on my side of the road was about to pull out towards me. I slowed and as I did so the driver noticed me, stopped  and gave me open hand apology. I applied the power and steered (slightly) into the clear opposing lane to get round him. The it hit me - the road that is. It was quick but  I had some awareness of what was happening. I had cycled on to some black ice and went down on my left side. The shock was no worse than having a tumble when skiing and I think that helped as I just rolled into it. I slid for 2-3 metres (not hard on ice) and came to rest next to the offside front wheel of the van. I don't think the driver had noticed what happened initially as I was out of his eyeline as I went down. He started to pull out towards me but quickly stopped as I stood into view. Everything seemed to be functioning OK so I quickly got back on the bike and cycled off as carefully as possible, the rest of the journey uneventful. I didn't even give the driver a chance to see if I was all right.

At work I took stock of the damage. Me: OK, the clothing: Intact, the bike: A couple of scratches to the left bar end, the panniers: Unblemished. The only thing I could find was my banana in the affected pannier was slightly worse for wear. A lucky escape, particularly as I met another cyclist later that day that came off on ice, dislocating a shoulder and rupturing several tendons - not nice!