Archives for November 2013

Cyclists: Saving A Loved One’s Life

Yesterday, I watched an ambulance, blues lights flashing, struggle to get through heavy traffic in central Reading. I don’t know what emergency they were hurrying to: a heart attack perhaps. Quite possibly, seconds and minutes lost on the over-crowded roads will have made a difference to whoever they were trying to get to.

If more people were cycling, there would be less traffic. Ambulances would be able to get to emergencies a lot more quickly.

If you’re not the person in need of the ambulance, it might be someone you know – relative, friend, loved-one.

And if you cycle yourself, you will be healthier than if you don’t. You’ll probably be less likely to have a heart attack.

So, why not cycle whenever you can? And whether you’re cycling or not, why not always look upon every cyclist you come across as a good thing, making the roads that little bit less congested, and ambulances that little bit more able to come quickly to the help of someone you care about? You’d have to be daft not to.

Some things are just so starkly simple … it seems faintly ludicrous that you have to say them.

On Codgertating …

A letter, out of the blue, from a fellow Codger. It’s always good to know you’re not alone.

from a fellow codger

Previously: Final Feeling~Avarice~False Optimism~Right Wing~Litter~It Didn’t Just Happen

Autumn 2012 and what if the feeling of leaves falling on your face was the last thing you were conscious of? Is unchecked avarice as an extension of common-or-garden theft? Has the positivism industry corrupted accurate pessimism? In 2011 I was dismayed as I found myself having knee-jerk right-wing attitudes; litter led me to racism, and the promotion of a passive view of the world was just depressing.

Week 47, 2012: The Last Thing To Feel
Week 47, 2012: Theft And Avarice Abounds!
Week 47, 2012: Mis-sold Optimism
Week 46, 2011: Right Wing
Week 46, 2011: Litter And Racism
Week 46, 2011: It Didn’t Just Happen

A Two Rotherfields Walk (With Route)

Years of often painful trial and error tells me that when the temperature is below about 46F and there’s no brightness around so it’s on the raw side, the chances are high that cycling will trigger sinusitis – and that hurts.

So, today being largely grey and not overly warm, a good length walk beckoned instead.

Some six-and-a-bit miles around the region of the Rotherfields, this figure-of-eight route takes you through some really very pleasant folds in the land that you’ll just never discover if you’re not on foot. It’s not overly hilly, is quite well sign-posted – and The Maltsters at Rotherfield Greys is a great pub for lunch and a pint – as long as you take your boots off!

View Route Map
Link To GPX File.
About The Route Mapping

From Pack and Prime lane

Folds in the land you’ll never otherwise see

Good Chaos

There have been a lot of cyclists killed on the roads of London lately. I am not a road safety expert, and I don’t know the circumstances of the deaths. Nevertheless, these fatalities make me, as much as anyone else, wonder about what’s to be done to make cycling safer.

It seems a lot of the cycling-safety-related debate, when coming from the cyclist side of things, hinges on cycling lane provision. There’s any amount of evidence that shows that government, local or national, either can’t or won’t do anything sensible on that front.

Setting the question of cycle lane provision aside, on a couple of short-ish, too-cold-and-windy-to-be-much-fun-rides this week, what I found myself wondering about was what would make cycling safer anyway.

I think we know that in the big scheme of things, the more cyclists there are on the streets, the safer cycling becomes. Other road users get used to cyclists; cyclists become a larger presence collectively.

I used to live in Oxford where there are cyclists galore and I still visit occasionally, mainly for gigs on the Cowley Road. It was often hectic when I lived there; nowadays whenever I’ve been there, it’s chaos. There are cyclists all over the show, pedestrians criss-crossing everywhere and all sorts of motor vehicles, large and small, trying to pick a way through it all. However you’re travelling, you ain’t going anywhere in a hurry.

It can appear, if not intimidating, then certainly a bit daunting. But once you get used to it all, accept that you’re going to have to go slow, and go with the flow, it’s OK. To the best of my knowledge, Oxford’s certainly no worse than anywhere else for cycling fatalities per mile ridden and I’d be happy to bet it’s probably a lot better.

And so, I found myself wondering whether we’re approaching this issue from the wrong angle. Perhaps, rather than segregation and close management, what we need is more uncertainty – in effect, less of a feeling of ‘right of way’ on any road user’s part and as a result more caution.

(Of course there’ll always be idiots who get frustrated by that, but you’ll get idiots whatever system you have in place.)

To bear this out, just local to me in Reading, a busy slalom of a through-road with lots of parked cars on it (Rotherfield Way) has recently been resurfaced and hasn’t (to date) had its central white lanes repainted. This, it seems, is a good thing: people I know who live there say it has slowed drivers down. And, interestingly, I gather there are moves afoot for the centre of Caversham to also create ‘uncertainty’, with exactly the same aim.

So, perhaps some ‘managed chaos’ might be an inexpensive, achievable way forward; let’s make all road users have to think.

You Are Not Powerless

Just over a fortnight ago, I was cycling about in autumnal weather and pondering revolution – What Is To Be Done.

Russell Brand on Newsnight

We can all think. This is a good thing.

Since then, of course, nothing’s changed, but it’s interesting that the general issue of democracy, representation and the state of politics in the UK hasn’t just dropped off the agenda – much as many would like it to. As someone else said, the breadth and depth of the reaction by ‘the establishment’ against the Russell Brand-Jeremy Paxman interview and its follow-ons shows how rattled the establishment is by the prospect of being seriously challenged.

At the same time, it’s all too tempting to imagine we’re powerless; that for all the talk nothing will actually change. That thought, in turn, led me to writing an article about the political situation in the UK and what needs to be recognized if we’re to create the kind of change that might be beneficial.

Pleasingly, (especially for a first foray into writing for an outlet other than this blog for many a year) that’s now been published on openDemocracy.

This isn’t to boast! What I’m trying to say is that, as that article demonstrates and as many entries in Codgertation over the years show too, I think change starts with your own thoughts. You are free to think differently.

I surprised myself by writing that article. Writing it forced me to think things through, even if just to a limited extent. It’s quite challenging to go down that route, to question how you might naturally think and be open to answers you’d not normally entertain. But – in the UK at least, for now at least – we are free to think and we have remarkable access to information.

I suspect that whatever we want to change – from cycle lane provision to the distribution of wealth, the first step towards changing anything outside of ourselves is thinking differently inside of ourselves.