Archive for August, 2010


Aug 29, 2010

New iPhone nav app is for towns but brilliant for bike tours, too


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DISCLOSURE: The app I am about to extol the virtues of is published by BikeHub.co.uk, of which I’m the editor. I commissioned the app, but it’s the Bike Hub levy which pays for it. While most of the features were requested by yours truly, some were put in place by Tinderhouse, the design company which built the app (and which also built Map My Tracks, as used by Sky pro cycling team).

There, that’s my bias up front and out of the way.

The Bike Hub iPhone app will hit Apple’s App Store soon. It has been undergoing trials for a few weeks and I’m getting happier and happier with it. In the main, the app is for urban use. It will generate cycle-friendly routes in cities and towns, using the mapping engine provided by Cyclestreets.net. It also finds the nearest bike shops in a six mile radius and has other tricks up its sleeve, too.

But what I didn’t appreciate it would be able to do was help on bike tours. I’m just back from a door-to-door tour of Northumberland (pix) with my wife and three kids. We mainly used the Sustrans’ Reivers Route and the Hadrian’s Cycleway (roughly, routes 10 and 72).

When the kids asked how far it was to the next destination I could have guessed; stopped and measured it out via the SatMap GPS device on my handlebars; or I could do what I did do: and that’s fire up the Bike Hub app and, so long as there was a phone signal, I could ask for the exact mileage on the type of roads we were cycling on.

The app also gives an ETA using 12mph as the average. Of course, we had lots of sweetie stops and tear-and-tantrum breaks so this ETA had to be thrown out of the window. But travel without kids and at a constant speed and I’m sure this ETA feature will work just fine.

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The best bit about the app for bike touring was the navigation feature. When in Bardon Mill we wanted to make a detour from the Hadrian’s Cycleway. The Sustrans map was vague on details; and even when zooming in on a 50,000 OS map on the SatMap, there didn’t seem an obvious route that didn’t involve either a long way out of our way or - and this was out of the question - a short ride along the busy A69.

There was a small bridge on the OS map but the route down to it was indistinct to the point of being useless from a is-this-a-worthwhile-route point of view. A 25,000 scale map would have been necessary to see the right amount of detail. With only a 50,000 map card in the device I called upon the Bike Hub app to plan a route.

It planned a route down a minor ‘white’ road, across a railway junction and over the less-than-obvious footbridge. Perfect. So, that’s the way we went. It didn’t look like it was going to work, but it did.

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The Bike Hub app uses OpenStreetMap mapping data supplied by ‘the community’ and so some local at some point must have suggested this was a perfectly good route to use. Thanks to whomever that was and thanks to Cyclestreets.net for such a great cycle-friendly map.

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The Bike Hub iPhone app will be out within the next ten days. Details will be on the website and on Bike Hub’s twitterfeed.

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Aug 28, 2010

Fancy clubbing together to buy a Caterpillar 797 monster mining truck?


It bugs me when drivers buzz me with their cars, buses and trucks. But when these unthinking (or deliberately malicious) motorists buzz my little kids when they’re riding I wonder what turns a motorist into something so uncaring. How can a fellow human aim a heavy, fast projectile at a child, knowing they will be just inches from them if they manage to pass safely?

Drivers of modern vehicles have efficient brakes and powerful motors. They could easily slow for a few seconds when passing cyclists, or when approaching them on narrow roads, and then accelerate away. Instead, an amazing number simply keep to the same speed, almost wholly ignoring the fact there’s a soft, squishy human in front of them.

What is it about the internal combustion engine that turns Disney’s Mr Walker into Mr Wheeler?



Of course, it’s not just the type of engine. Electric cars also terrorise cyclists, pedestrians and anybody else slower and smaller than them.

The reason motorists of all stripes terrorise other road users is because they can. It’s down to size and power. Ever noticed how a Mini treats an HGV with more respect than a cyclist?

Heck, even meaty 4×4’s treat HGVs with respect. It’s because HGVs can do them damage. The issue of SMIDSY - ’sorry, mate, I didn’t see you’ – isn’t because cyclists (and motorcyclists) are so small they’re almost invisible it’s because a two-wheeler is light and inconsequential. A cyclist can’t crush a car so a cyclist is ignored. If cyclists detonated on impact, motorists would no longer have any trouble spotting them up ahead and would give them the sort of road space they deserve.

Because motorists won’t come out second-best in any car-v-bike collision (roll on the UK adoption of the EU Fifth Motoring Directive, where motorists are deemed to be at fault in collisions with cyclists and pedestrians; and, it can’t be escaped, where cyclists are deemed to be fault in collisions with pedestrians) we’re not likely to see any improvement in the road bullying problem any time soon.



So, I have an eye-for-an-eye solution. Let’s club together and buy a Caterpillar 797 mining truck. Take the registration plates of all those motorists who buzz us and then let’s go do the same to them. On narrow country lanes, barrel on towards previously uncaring motorists with the Cyclists’ Caterpillar Mining Truck (CCMT) and see how they like it.

In town, squeeze past them at speed with our huge CCMT, giving just an inch or two leeway. See their faces drop as they realise there’s something a lot bigger than them, with more right to the road than them (might is right, after all).

Now, most of the time we’ll just buzz the motorists “for a laugh” (if we even think about our actions at all) but now and then some poor motorist will come a cropper under our giant, car-crushing wheels. Such ‘accidents’ will no doubt be quickly brushed under constabulary carpets because we’ll only be using our Caterpillar 797 for getting around, we won’t mean to hurt anybody. Prosecutions for dangerous CCMT driving will be as rare as hens’ teeth.

Mining Truck

NOTE: no SUV drivers were hurt in the making of this blog posting.



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Aug 21, 2010

Car tour, anyone?




Back in the Golden Years of motoring – the 1930s, the 40s, perhaps even into the 50s – driving was a pleasure, the road was a destination in its own right.

Motoring holidays were just as much about the car and the open road as the eventual goal.

From the 1930s on, this started to change.

Author G.K. Chesterton said the motor car “shuts in” the motorist, who sits looking “inward at his speedometer or his road book” as he speeds along roads that do not go “to places but through places.”

This desire for speed and arriving, rather than enjoying the travelling, made motoring something quite boring.

Does any family now head off on a car holiday? Going slow and arriving at a destination whenever is no longer the done thing. Now, it’s a rush along the motorway. The destination is the start of a holiday.

Dyke riding Reidlets and their mum

A cycling holiday isn’t like that. Not for me anyway, and nor for my wife and kids. It’s not about athletic prowess or speed, it’s about the road as destination. Yes, we’ll be heading to a B&B, a hotel, a Youth Hostel, a relative’s house or a campsite but getting there is a major part of the holiday. When we leave our front door and start to pedal to our destination, we’re on holiday from the very first second.

This is liberating.

LochTorffCrop



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Aug 20, 2010

“Ride my bike until I get home…”


Transport for London spends its bicycle-promoting cash on more than just bank-subsidised bike hire schemes and pots of blue paint. Wonderfully, it also commissions films and songs like this:



The song is by producer and DJ, Mark Ronson.

And here’s one starring Dermot O’Leary on a folding bike talking about ‘head space’:

Of the five riders in the top video, only two are shown wearing helmets. There are no hi-vis jackets or glum faces. TfL has gone out to capture the joy of cycling…and has succeeded. The other films in the series can be found on TfL’s YouTube page.



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