der bt 4 the grce of gd go i :’-(

Shocking but not to be unexpected in our sick, upside down society. A 20-year-old motorist who txted a friend seconds before she crashed and killed a grandmother has had her sentence reduced by 12 months.

It’s on my home patch, too. And on a road I use often.

Those who drive while using a mobile phone risk three points on their licence and a fine of £60. Perhaps some fool themselves into thinking messaging is somehow ‘safer’ than talking and must be allowed. It’s not. In fact, txting is probably worse as drivers have to use one hand for txting and probably need to look down to type.

Department for Transport advice: A hand held device is something that “is or must be held at some point during the course of making or receiving a call or performing any other interactive communication function. A device “similar” to a mobile phone includes a device that can be used for sending or receiving spoken or written messages, sending or receiving still or moving images or providing Internet access.

This is all academic to Maureen Waites. She’s now dead, killed by Rachel Begg of Ponteland. Mrs Waites died after Begg crashed into her car on the road from Ponteland to Newcastle Airport in November 2006. This is a road I use a lot on training rides.

Begg had used her mobile telephone nine times in a 15-minute journey before she smashed into her victim.

Begg admitted causing death by dangerous driving and was given four years in a Young Offenders’ Institution. However, she appealed the decision and, bizarrely, the Court of Appeal agreed to a cut the sentence from four to three years.

According to the BBC, Lord Justice Laws described the case as “terrible”, but said that although what Begg had done was “awful” it had been a momentary “lapse in sense”.

Unsurprisingly, the relatives of Mrs Waites were up in arms over the decision.

“Begg has never shown any remorse or offered any apology to our family,” said Mrs Waites’ daughter.

Helen Adams said: “Three years is a paltry sentence and does not reflect the loss of a life taken in such horrific circumstances.

Mrs Adams is right: three years is a paltry sentence. Sadly, it’s quite high for cases such as these. In many car v bike ‘accidents’, erring, dangerous drivers tend to get off with just a caution when they kill a cyclist.

Isocrones go mainstream in London

There’s a bunch of new signs in the West End of London. They give walking times to destinations and feature ‘isocrone’ zoning, a form of mapping which aims to get people out of cars and on to their feet by walking or pedalling.

Check out the three earlier articles on isocrones.

The new Bond Street signs were officially unveiled yesterday. They form part of the Legible London campaign which is designed to provide better information for people who want to explore the Capital on foot.

The Bond Street trial, which is the prototype for a future London-wide pedestrian information system, consists of 19 on-street signs displaying all the information pedestrians could require when walking in the area.

Cyclists could also benefit from these maps and signs. But don’t think it’s yet more street clutter. Transport for London said: “unnecessary signage will be removed to leave the streets easily navigable by one recognisable set of information.”

Jenny Jones, the Mayor’s green transport adviser, said: “A London that walks is a London that works.”

She’s also very pro-bike and maybe would add: “A London that bikes is a London that booms.”

Er, ‘booms’ as in ‘economic benefits’ not ‘booms’ as in ‘terrorist attacks’. Works better for walking, huh?

Passing on quickly, here’s a TfL video on ‘mind mapping’, how over-dependence on the Tube map dulls a Londoner’s perception of actual on-the-ground distances between locations:

Mental Mapping from Legible London on Vimeo.

Where are all the cars going to go?

According to a news story on the BBC, the population in the UK could double in the next 75 years.

Cars can go as green as you like but biofuel is gonna be pointless if there’s wall-to-wall gridlock.

It’s good that car manufacturers are becoming slightly more planet-friendly and aim to cut their product’s CO2 emissions, but even if every city centre road in Britain got a double-decker level there still wouldn’t be enough space for all the cars predicted.

As today’s Home Truths study from the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University says, one of the key ways of reducing carbon dependence is to live in more compact cities. The key is to make short journeys not by car but by foot, by bicycle and by public transit.

Cycling needs to win lottery cash by big margin

Dr Ian Walker’s blog makes a valid point about the “preposterous” way three important eco-friendly projects – and the Eden bubble-baubles – are having to slug it out for £50m. In reality, it’s a tiny amount of money and an organisation like Sustrans should be handed money in shovel-fulls by the Government. After all, cycling is a partial cure to so many of society’s ills (obesity, congestion, type 2 diabetes, climate change and so on).

Dr Walker says:

“My main concern with this preposterous contest is that it will almost certainly cloud the public and political memories for many years. Funding ecological or non-motorized transport projects three years from now is probably going to be a lot more difficult because as far as the average person and politician will be concerned, those issues were all taken care of during this high-profile event. Indeed, given the publicity that will inevitably surround the winning project, there’s the real danger that the three projects that don’t get funded will be perceived as ‘unpopular’ or ‘unwanted’ by the public, and so will be marginalized and in a worse situation that they are now.”

Quite right. It’s similar to the ‘helmet debate’ and the white lines malaise.

Once helmet compulsion gets the official nod, DfT ministers can answer Parliamentary questions with ease: “We’ve addressed the safety of Britain’s cyclists, they are now all perfectly safe, they’ve got to wear helmets.”

Some councils feel they’ve adequately provided for cyclists by painting white lines on a busy road and calling it a ‘cycle path’.

However, the lottery beauty contest is there to be won and worrying about its consequences needs to take second place to winning the pot first. Sustrans’ John Grimshaw has already decried the process but Sustrans is still rolling out the barrel in a big way.

Cycling has “won” many other such beauty contests in the past. Cyclists are web-savvy and vote in numbers for their fave activity but that mustn’t make us complacent. It’s important to win such contests by a huge margin. Yes, that’s bad news for the other worthy projects and the whole process might stink, but it’s what we’ve got to work with.

Previous successes for cycling include the bicycle voted as the “best ever invention” and the National Cycle Network winning the vote as the nation’s favourite lottery-funded project.

In 2002, Radio 4’s Today programme accused cyclists of running an “orchestrated campaign” to win that year’s Radio 4/Patent Office ‘best invention’ poll. Such a claim was made again by the mainstream media when cycling won the transport category in a best inventions poll conducted by The Times newspaper. But what’s wrong with having an “orchestrated campaign”? OK, vote rigging by bots is bad but surely getting cyclists to vote en masse for a cycling project is far from an evil activity?

Biking boffin Adam Hart-Davies said pro-bike campaigning was proof that cyclists are clever and passionate about their activity.

In a Radio 4 poll to accompany the Reith Lectures in 2005, cycling won the “best ever invention” plaudit. The president of the Royal Academy of Engineering accused the champions of the bicycle of lacking scientific understanding. Lord Broers was miffed because the bicycle won 59 percent of the 5500 votes. The infernal combustion engine got just 3 percent of the votes, the internet could only garner 4 percent. But there was nothing stopping motoring organisations and computer nerds organising “orchestrated campaigns” to champion their pet causes.

The Sustrans project has a major advantage over the other three candidates for the £50m: it’s national. This means local councils and local newspapers all across the UK, including Wales and Scotland, are urging a vote for Connect2.

However, the Eden Project has upped the ante. Apparently, according to an Eden Project press release a vote for this Cornish greenhouse/car-park is a vote for the planet.

Project spokesman David Rowe said: “This is a major project, not just for Cornwall or even Britain, but for the planet.”

Chainmail: vote now for cycling and pass it on

British Cycling is throwing its weight behind the Sustrans campaign to grab the winner-takes-all pot of £50m lottery cash. So are a varied bunch of celebs, such as Jon Snow, Wayne Hemingway, Adam Hart Davis, Alistair McGowan, Charles Clarke, William Hague, Michael Sheen, and Dragon’s Den judge Duncan Bannatyne.

The first opportunity to help secure £50m for walking and cycling routes started at 9am today.

By going to and voting for Sustrans’ Connect2 everyone can help bring new local travel routes to the doorstep making it easier for people to walk and cycle for everyday journeys.

Internet voting closes at midday on Monday December 10th.

To vote you need to register and agree to a short list of T&Cs. This doesn’t preclude voting from outside the UK although one of the registration pull down menus asks which region of the UK you live in. To foil bot voting the site is using email registration and re captcha type-in verfications.

79 communities around the UK would benefit from the sustainable transport charity winning the £50m grant in the Big Lottery Fund’s: The People’s £50 Million contest in December. Connect2 would build bridges, foot and cycle paths, and even reinstate a ferry, giving people easier and healthier access to their schools, workplaces, shops, parks and countryside. Connect2 is competing against three non-national organisations.

An ITV1 programme championing the Sustrans bid airs on December 4th.

Check out all the YouTubed pro-bicycling vids. They’ve been up for a couple of weeks but have had precious few views. A worrying sign? Come on, cyclists, get voting and watching!

Phoenix rises in Blakelaw

The club at which I’m a coach moved on Saturday. The Newcastle Phoenix is now at Blakelaw Park in Newcastle, a move from the Town Moor’s Exhibition Park.

Click on the arrow above for an Animoto-mashed slide show of the successful first day at the new venue. It’s a Newcastle Football Development Scheme site, co-funded by Newcastle City Council and Barclays Spaces for Sports. The ‘no bikes’ bit is a reference to the all-weather footy pitches.

Getting to Blakelaw Park is now a bit of an expedition for me and my boy. Thanks to wonder that is Google Earth I was able to map out a route that took in a lot of Newcastle’s Town Moor. And thanks to Kona’s Jake the Snake cyclo-cross bikes we were able to slosh our way through the mud to be on time for the club’s first coaching session at Blakelaw.

Mr Toad, alive and well, driving in India

There’s a long history of motorists wanting to rid the roads of cyclists. From a 1920s Road Congress in the Netherlands comes this juicy quote:

“After all, the construction of bicycle paths along the larger roads relieves traffic along these roads of an extremely bothersome element: the cyclist.”

Hitler may have been a calisthenics-obsessed vegetarian but despite the obvious health benefits of cycling, he wasn’t too keen on cyclists. In 1934 his Nazi government passed a law regarding “the problem of disciplining cyclists” who did not use cycle tracks. Bicycle associations were also outlawed.

Not wishing to invoke Godwin’s law here but there’s a parallel between the Nazi desire to carve routes for the ‘people’s car’ and Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 parody of a road-hog amphibian, Mr Toad of Toad Hall.

There are quotes from the book below. They frighten me because so many motorists now drive like Mr Toad, especially as their vehicles are now so safe. For them. But not, of course, for those on the receiving end of crumple-zones.

I’m reminded of all this by a woundrous [sic] article on an Indian news website. Vaatupura A. Jayaprakash is the Indian sub-continent’s version of Mr. Toad. In a piece titled ‘Bicycles: Silent killers on the road’, Jayaprakash writes that cyclists have become a “danger to motorists.”

Cyclists used to be chastened by having their tyres deflated by “angry police officers” but not any more. Instead “this once-ineffectual mode of transport is increasingly becoming a threat to many motorists.”

Mr Toad of India: “…Careless and casual cyclists, who go hither and thither on their way to their destinations, cause 20 per cent of…accidents. They simply take twists and turns…so unexpectedly that the unsuspecting motorist…out of his instinct, not to hurt anyone, is forced to negotiate his vehicle out of panic, ending up in accidents, killing and injuring many, including himself.”

Yep, cyclists in India may indeed weave hither and thither but is it not incumbent on motorists to keep their speed low so they don’t hit these “silent killers”?

Not according to our Indian Mr Toad: “When it comes to accident, it is always the driver of the bigger vehicle who bears the brunt. The cyclist and even motorcyclists, for that matter, go scot-free.”

Hmm, except the dead ones.

Mr Toad would like to see more action from the police:
“A few incidents of flattened tires and public warnings would make a big difference in the road safety awareness of our people.”



Glancing back, they saw a small cloud of dust, with a dark centre of energy, advancing on them at incredible speed, while from out the dust a faint ‘Poop-poop!’ wailed like an uneasy animal in pain…they had a moment’s glimpse of…the magnificent motor-car, immense, breath-snatching, passionate, with its pilot tense and hugging his wheel, possessed all earth and air for the fraction of a second, flung an enveloping cloud of dust that blinded and enwrapped them utterly, and then dwindled to a speck in the far distance, changed back into a droning bee once more.

‘Glorious, stirring sight!’ murmured Toad, never offering to move. ‘The poetry of motion! The real way to travel! The only way to travel! Here to-day— in next week to-morrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped— always somebody else’s horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!’

‘O what a flowery track lies spread before me, henceforth! What dust-clouds shall spring up behind me as I speed on my reckless way! What carts I shall fling carelessly into the ditch in the wake of my magnificent onset!”


[Mr Toad] increased his pace, and as the car devoured the street and leapt forth on the high road through the open country, he was…Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night.

Mr Toad later got 20 years in the clink. Not for his reckless driving, but for stealing a car.

Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, a Disney-themed DH route above Lake Tahoe in California, the fun name for Saxon’s Creek trail.

Be warmed by these vintage bike posters

T’other day’s mention of ancient bicycle posters elicited an email from Alan Clarke of Sunrace-Sturmey Archer in the Netherlands. I’ve known Alan for yonks. He was a useful background source during the 2000-1 research into the Sturmey Archer vs Lenark saga.

He reminded me about the utterly fantastic heritage website created by Sunrace-Sturmey Archer.

And Alan also pointed me in the direction of an archive of cycle history posters and pamphlets stored electronically by Oxford University’s Bodleian Library. There are 145 images on there, all clickable to make bigger. The copyright restrictions are tight so I’ll just link to my fave images.

This is an advert for a modern-sounding bicycle brand, Psycho Cycles.

The Triumph Cycles ad from 1934 is for couples. It’s cute.

For the life of me I can’t figure why the Constra saddle of 1898 is no longer commercially available because “Persons who have condemned every other saddle are loud in its praise.”

I know it’s not yet December but here are two festive images. In 1897 the English Illustrated Magazine put a flying cycling female Santa on the cover.

And there’s this cracking Christmas card featuring a middle class Edwardian family going to visit friends on their bikes. You’ve got to love the two fighting boys. The card is entitled ‘A Jovial Christmas’, and there’s a ditty:

No more good old Christmas by the fire
But mount the “bike” with india rubber tyre
Speed swift away our loving friends to greet
And wish them joy and happiness complete

Giant Pringle saves newts

Newts notwithstanding, the 2012 London Velodrome is going to be “unique, not just in this country, but internationally,” said Richard Arnold of the Olympic Delivery Authority. He was talking at British Cycling’s recent National Council Meeting.

Depending on your bent, the new Velodrome looks like a horse’s saddle (a ‘saddleback’, said Arnold) or a Pringle. Whichever way you look at it, it’s visually stunning.

Arnold said there’s a see-through layer of glass at public concourse level, allowing views both out of the Velodrome into London and into the velodrome at track level for those passing by.

Here’s a video fly-through of the Velodrome. Check out the see-through trackies: