Stop lines and police lines

May 19, 2018 at 11:42 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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[click pic for video] Every day, I cycle through Sydney Olympic Park. As do many cyclists; it has wide roads, relatively light traffic and bike lanes – although they are the worse-then-useless painted on sort.

Some of the junctions have stop signs. But the roads are wide, the traffic is light, the sightlines are excellent (especially on a bike), so traffic pretty much never stops – just slows and then continues.

I, of course, do this on my bike. Having to come to a complete stop and then pick up speed again is tiring and unnecessary. In many places, it’s perfectly legal to do this, of course. It’s called an ‘Idaho stop’, after the first jurisdiction that introduced this rule for bicycles. And interestingly, research shows that places that have implemented the Idaho stop have lower bicycle accident rates at stop lines than those without.

Bu, of course, not in cycling-hating Sydney. Not only is it technically illegal not to completely stop, the police seemingly have nothing better to do that wait behind the bushes at the side of the road, watching out for errant cyclists.

One of those cyclists was me. And, sure enough, neee-naaa nee-naaa, I was pulled over. And I got a ticket. Now, since the even-more-anti-cycling-than-usual roads minister Duncan Gay, fines for bicycle offenses have been jacked up. The fine for this trivial thing? $330. Seriously.

But to make it worse, when I received the ticket it also had three demerit points on it. Now, you can;’t get demerit points for riding a bicycle. Think about it – it makes no sense to lose your licence for something you don’t need a license to do. The NSW Transport Act makes it quite clear that demerits apply only to motor vehicles. But the cop apparently did the paperwork wrong. So not only are the cops vindictive, they are also incompetent.

I didn’t want to schlep to court, but found I could plead guilty by post but ask for mitigating circumstances. I wrote a rather ranty and incoherent letter to the magistrate, and had the fine reduced to $200. But with costs and ‘victims of crime levy’, the total fine ended up being $367. Oh well. At least the demerits were taken off.

If only the police would spend time on offences that actually cause danger and death. Like riding too close to bicycles. Nope, no chance of that…

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TheOtherDimension jersey

May 2, 2018 at 15:35 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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You’d think, as a successful blogger and cycling activiste, I would be showered with freebies and samples of all sorts of things from companies eager to see their products tried and reviewed on these august pages.

Well, you’d be wrong. I’ve never got so much as a pot of chamois cream (or custard creams, for that matter). Now, I realise that, in general, in order to get such goodies you have to have a blog that people actually read. And it probably helps if you’re not a nutter who keeps going off about helmets, and seems to end up in court rather regularly. But still. Come on, people.

Anyway, there other day I did get a genuine freebie, courtesy of my friend Andrew. Unlike me, he is talented, and is one of the owners of the chic design agency ‘TheOtherDimension‘. They design all sorts of things, from logos to widgets. (And I note in a nice synergy they have invented things for Arnott’s. I wonder if they get free custard creams?)

Andrew is a cyclist, and was frustrated that he couldn’t find a cycling jersey that had the commuter features he wanted but which didn’t look like something you’d wear to a night roadworks party. So he brought his considerable design talents to bear, and created one.

He was kind enough to send me one, and I have to say it is terrific. Apparently it has all these clever features (like hi-viz exactly and only where it needs to be for maximum effect, high-tec reflecto fabric stuff and infinitely large back pockets), but I just like it because it’s super comfy and looks great.

I have no idea if you can buy them. If you can, I suggest you do. But if not, ha ha. You see, that’s the kind of exclusive-blogger-lifestyle that I now lead, with my super-exclusive bespoke jersey. Oh yeah.

More Bikeshare adventures

February 24, 2018 at 11:34 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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On Friday, I had a event in the evening after work. It was too far to cycle, and I was going straight from work. What to do? Leave my bike at the office all weekend? No, of course not. The answer seemed simple – ride a share bike!

This would also have additional benefits. There used to be a fair few share bikes around the industrial estate where I work (mostly ReddyGo), and I often hopped on one at lunchtime to ride to a cafe to get lunch. Strangely though, they all seem to have vanished. I even took most of a lunchtime walking farther afield to where there were some marked on the maps for each of the brands, but each time I got there there was not bike to be found. Is the local council removing them? Are they being stolen? Whatever the reason, it’s a bit frustrating. So I figured that by riding one to work, I would at least get one bike there that I could use. And I thought I might park it on company property (although accessible), under the watchful eye of a security camera, to dissuade councils and thieves from taking it.

Given it is a fairly long ride, I wanted either a ReddyGo or an Ofo. And, checking the map in the morning, there was an Ofo right there on my street, just down from my house. Perfect! I jumped on board, and set off – rather more ponderously than usual. The Ofo is an OK bike, but it is just that bit too small, which makes it rather tiring to ride. Still, I got there. According to Strava, my average moving speed was 18km/h, as opposed to my usual 23km/h – overall it took me about eight minutes longer. This is not really very much. It just goes to show that plodding along is still a pretty efficient way to travel – you don’t have to be super fast to cover distances in a reasonable time on a bicycle.

When I parked the bike, I got a warning that I was outside the GeoFence area – in other words, I had ridden the bike further from the centre of Sydney than was allowed. I mentioned this GeoFencing in my review of Ofo, but since then they have expanded the area quite considerably. Given that I had seen several Ofo bikes on the map near my office (although, as mentioned, none of them were actually there when I went to find them), I assumed that the area now extended out that far.

Apparently not. So I have a 20 point penalty on my score. I did use the same bike at lunchtime twice – once to go to the shops, and once to come back. I got the warning message again both times, and was wondering if I would end up with a 60 point penalty – although that seemed a bit harsh. Borrowing a bike that’s already out of area surely shouldn’t result in further penalty just because you didn’t ride it back inside the GeoFence. I think it would be helpful if Ofo shaded the whole area outside of the GeoFence on the map a different colour, as it’s quite hard to see otherwise if a particular suburb is inside or outside the area.

I suppose at some point I’ll have to ride it back into the area, and perhaps swap it for a ReddyGo. Ho hum.

 

Strava again

December 16, 2017 at 19:25 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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So with my new commute, I fired up Strava again, as I was curious about my new rote to work. After about ten minutes trying to remember my password, I managed to log in, and used it to record my journey to work for the first week or two.

So I now know my journey is fourteen kilometres, and quite flat. I have to say, Strava can get a bit addictive. For a while there, I was scrolling after each ride, revelling in the awards and personal bests. I even got a teeny bit competitive about one stretch, pushing harder and harder to try to get on the leaderboard. Which I managed to do – apparently I’m the 8th fastest to ride that stretch. I can only think it’s not a very popular bit of path, because mostly I languish around the ‘489 of 859’ mark…

However, after a while I realised it gets harder and harder. As you do more and more rides, the chances of getting a personal best get less and less. That little ‘Achievements’ icon becomes harder and harder to activate. And most segments are so ridiculously short that it has more to do with traffic lights and wind direction than it does to do with fitness. So, as the number of little award icons started getting less and less, I pretty much stopper using it again.

Oh well. In a few years perhaps I’ll have a new job, and can do it all over again.

 

PS – thanks to those people who gave me kudos. I’m not sure why, or who you are, or even what it is, but I felt a warm glow seeing it…

Tin trail

December 10, 2017 at 13:26 | Posted in bicycles, biscuits | 1 Comment
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My new journey to work is full of excitement. Some of it of the unpleasant kind – there’s more to come on this topic shortly. But, as always, travelling by bike offers all kinds of opportunities to experience things that you would just pass by in a motor car.

The other day, as I rode to work, I noticed a tin in the road. A biscuit tin, to be precise – of the kind that perhaps your grandmother had. You know, and old-fashioned metal tin, printed with pictures of biscuits and heritage. Nothing unusual, perhaps – just the usual rubbish and detritus that accumulates by the sides of our roadways.

And then, a bit further along, I saw another one. And another. And another. I must have seen twenty or thirty of them over a stretch of about five kilometres. They were quite evenly spaced, and was it my imagination, or where they strategically placed around junctions, to show a route? Yes, surely that was it! This was a biscuit tin trail, and I was following it.

Or at least, I was until it petered out. Oh well, perhaps not so exciting as I thought. Clearly I’ve been reading too many Secret Seven books to the kids. More likely just a recycling truck with a badly secured load.

Or was it? Perhaps I will read in the paper about some dastardly thieves and their biscuit tin plot…

Metre matters

October 19, 2016 at 20:58 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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camera-on-bikeI haven’t been blogging a great deal about cycling recently. That’s not because topics don’t endlessly suggest themselves; as I cycle back and forth to work hundreds of potential articles fly around my brain. Aside from a busy life that seems to make writing difficult;the other problem is that most of the things I mull over on my commute are relentlessly negative. Since most of my riding is on cycling-unfriendly roads at peak times, under what is one of the most cycling-unfriendly governments in the world, it’s sometimes hard to capture the enthusiasm and joy that comes from riding a bike.

That’s not to say I hate my commute. It’s way better than driving (which I do occasionally, and is awful). The turn of the pedals, the satisfaction of cresting a hill, the feel of rain on my face – these are all wonderful things, and everyone should ride a bike and experience them.

But I have held back from writing about the ridiculous increases in fines for petty offenses ($106 for not having a bell, for example), the continued anti-cycling rhetoric from the Minister for Roads, Duncan Gay, the victim blaming from the head of the NSW roads authority, and the stalling of so many worthwhile cycling infrastructure projects whilst unwanted multi-billion dollar urban motorway projects go ahead unbridled.

I also did not write about the one positive action that happened – a new road rule was established that required car drivers to give at least one metre of clearance when overtaking a cyclist. Of course, this was wrapped up with all the fine increases, and all the government and media coverage and emphasis was on how these terrible cyclists were being brought into line and punished. There was no public information campaign, for example, to explain the 1m rule to motorists.

That said, it did get media coverage; mostly from the cyclist-hating right-wing Murdoch press that mostly consisted of clueless comments about how it would make overtaking cyclists more dangerous, as those poor motorists were now forced into the middle of the road (!). Helpfully, the chief of the NSW Police also came out and said that they would not prosecute infringements of this law (unlike the huge new fines for bells and helmets, which they enforced with great alacrity).

But, to take a positive from this sea of negativity, I did notice that after the law was introduced, motorists did, on the whole, start leaving more space when they went past me. There just seemed to be a few less close passes, or drivers ‘squeezing past’ rather than waiting five seconds to safely overtake.

However, with virtually no enforcement from the police (only three fines issued for close passes in the first 6 months) and no media reinforcement, things have now returned to normal. Those drivers who, when the issue was in the news, did think a little harder when seeing me up ahead, have sunken back into complacency – too busy talking into their mobiles and breaking the speed limits to take any notice of me.

And, accordingly, the close passes are back. I probably get a car or truck passing me closer than 1m at least once a week. I now have cameras on my bike that make it easy to measure this quite precisely, so I can be quite sure. However, I until now have not taken any complaints to the police. For the most part, the passes are not very much less than 1m, and the effort of trying to report them only for the police to do nothing just doesn’t seem worth it.

(As an aside for those who do not ride bikes; passing a cyclist with 1m to spare is too close. Way too close. If you ride a bike and have a car come that close, it is an unnerving experience. 2-3m is the minimum distance you should be aiming for. 1m leaves little margin for error – if the cyclist hits an unexpected pothole, for example, and swerves somewhat they will be under your wheels. So the law is set a 1m not because this is a safe distance – but precisely the opposite. At 1m you are driving in an unsafe manner, and unsafe driving quite correctly should be penalised.)

However, the other day a particularly egregious close pass prompted me for the first time to go to the police. Here’s the footage from the front and rear cams:

close-pass-front-youtube

youtubeclosepassrear

It was very close. I could have reached out and touched the car. I held my breath and held my line, just hoping she wasn’t going to move a tiny bit closer and clip me. Just so thoughtless. She saw me, she hesitated, and then decided that my safety was worth less than the five seconds she would have to wait to overtake properly.

The police, predictably, were not interested. I had to fight to get them to even take a statement, and they immediately told me they would not issue a fine, as they considered that the matter was ‘not serious’. I did get a call back from the officer later that day to say he had spoken to the driver, who was ‘apologetic’.

So there we are. An everyday tale of cycling in Sydney.

I’ll finish with a promise. I will try to publish a positive cycling story on this blog every week for at least the next six weeks. Remember folks, cycling is still fun. Cycling is still safe. And cycling is still life-affirming. I’ll try and remind us all of that over the next few weeks.

 

 

 

Riding in Hannover

February 16, 2015 at 03:48 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I had reason to go to Germany on business recently, which entailed staying in a hotel, and then going into the Hannover offices of the company I work for every day for a week or two.

bikehireBut how to get to the office? Well, the vast majority of my colleagues in the same situation would jump into a taxi, but I prefer to ride. It’s my daily commute that keeps me sane. Well, sort of. So I found a place to hire bikes form in Hannover, which was conveniently located near both the station and my hotel, and borrowed one. It was also a bike maintenance and parking garage, and it was a bustling place, with a steady steam of people bringing in and dropping off bikes.

stationbikesThe offices are not in Hannover itself, but about twenty kilometers away, so I mostly got the train to the nearest station and rode the rest of the way (which, at less than two kilometers, wasn’t really far enough…!). There are a lot of people riding bikes in Hannover, and it’s all setup for it very well. Bike lanes and shared footpaths abound, the the burgers of that city all zip around. Everywhere you look there are untidy piles of parked bikes. I’m not sure if Hannover has more cyclists than is average for Germany, but it was fantastic to see.

Also fantastic is the way motorists treat cyclists. As mentioned, there are quite a few bike lanes, but for the most part they are no Copenhagen-esque bike freeways. Often they are half the footpath, and sometimes weave back onto the road. But motorists are very aware of cyclists, invariably waiting well back from junctions to allow the bike traffic to cross before pulling up to the line, and giving cyclists plenty of room.

biketrainTaking the bike on the train was also a breeze, with a special carriage dedicated to bicycles. However, after taking the train for several days, I decided to ride the 20km back to Hannover one afternoon, to get a bit more exercise and see a bit more of the place. I checked the route, made plenty of notes and sketch maps and set off.

And got lost. The office is really in the middle of nowhere, in a rural area. So the route suggested by google was actually a lot of very small lanes, dirt tracks and forest pathways. This made it harder to navigate than expected, but as I rode along salvationbikecountry2 seemed to come in the form of cycling signposts. I followed the directions for Hannover, looking out for the small red bicycle route signs as I went, and for some time all seemed to be going well. I passed signs for Hannover saying 18km, 16km, 12km, 8km – this was going really well, and the route was fantastic. Not on roads at all, but following unsealed tracks across open land and alongside fields. There was barely another soul to be seen – just an occasional dog walker or jogger,

bikecountryAnd then the signs ran out. The path split three different ways, and there was no hint of which way to go. I had just passed under a main road, and could see a sign for Hannover on the road which headed to my left, so I took that direction.

It was around this time that the bike, a sturdy city bike with a seven speed hub, started to fall apart. Evidently bumping down unsealed tracks for fifteen kilometers was not what the hire place had in mind, as bits started to fall off it; the most important of which was the back brake blocks. Given that the brake levers were connected up the reverse way round to ‘usual’, this meant that when I wanted to slow down and instinctively pulled the right brake lever, absolutely nothing happened. I continued somewhat cautiously, by now realising I was very lost. And then it started getting dark. What to do?

Of course, in times gone by the answer would been to flag down a local, and attempt communication in my third-rate schoolboy German. Or perhaps get out a compass and map, and maybe a sextant to check the stars. However, in this day and age, I simply fired up Google maps on my phone (trying not to think about roaming data charges), found out where I was and navigated to a main road. Form there I was able to follow bike paths that ran along the broad footpaths, and made it back to the Hauptbahnhof without further mishap. A journey that should have taken an hour or had taken me about two and a half hours, and given that the temperature was around freezing, my toes and thumbs were starting to feel quite numb. However, I felt quite satisfied to have made it, and I felt I earned a grosse Bier vom Fass in the hotel bar that evening…

Something wrong with this ad…

January 16, 2013 at 19:52 | Posted in bicycles | 4 Comments
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original poster kia motorsOn my way home every night, I ride over Anzac Bridge. Dominating the view to the north-west is a massive cement silo, where the tonnes of cement offloaded from container ships is stored before being loaded into trucks. Atop the silo is perhaps the largest and highest-profile advertising billboard in Sydney. On the way home the other night I saw that it had changed. However, it seems that some mistakes had been made. The advert seemed to either be for the wrong product, or have the wrong slogan attached.

In the spirit of constructive criticism, could I suggest the two possible fixes for the problem?

Fix 1, change the product:
kia motors poster amended

Fix 2,  change the slogan:

kia motors amended poster

 

The chocolate egg effect

April 7, 2010 at 08:45 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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What a lovely, warm morning it was yesterday! And I think it also there was evidence that the citizens of Sydney ate too much chocolate over the long weekend.

Why? The sheer number of cycle commuters out there. There were just hundreds of them. It was a marvellous sight to see. I hope that it is sustained, and it’s not just everyone waking up after a weekend of over-indulgence feeling guilty and jumping on their bikes. As I look at the number of cyclists, however, and look at the width of the cycleways they are building on Union and Kent St, I am increasingly convinced that they are too narrow for the volume of cyclists out there today, let along how many there will be if the CoS is successful in increasing cycling five-fold. Hopefully when they are seen to be clogged up, they will remove a traffic lane in the other direction as well, and convert them to single-direction, one on each side of the road (a design which, in any case, is far superior and also much safer).

Shake-the-head moment that happened on my commute this morning – the guy who decided to ride down the ramp at the Sydney Harbour Bridge steps, despite the large number of bikes being walked up and down (there was even a queue at the bottom waiting to get up the stairs). People had to kind of scatter out of his way. Someone remonstrated with him (I didn’t hear what they said, so it may well have not been pleasant language), and our downhill hero shouted something back and flipped the bird. All rather unnecessary; surely when it’s that busy it’s not that big a deal to walk down, both for your own safety and the safety of others? Funnily enough later on he almost ran into the back of me when I stopped at a junction to wait for a gap in the traffic.

Smile moment on the commute this morning; waiting at the lights I see a guy riding the same bike as me – a Salsa Casseroll singlespeed. I pull up next to him, and comment, ‘Nice bike!’.
He laughed and agreed, and then, looking at me again, said, ‘You were the guy that recommended it to me – we had a chat at the lights a few months ago about riding singlespeed, so I went out and bought one!’.
Amazing! I did vaguely recollect the incident. ‘Do you like it?’ I asked, with a little trepidation, wondering if the guy was going to tell me that I’d caused him to blow $1,500 on a lemon.
‘I love it!” he said’ “It’s rapidly becoming my favourite bike! Just so smooth and lots of fun. I have a Cervelo road bike, but I’m finding I’m mostly riding this, as I prefer it!’.

Another convert! Yay! Ride and Smile, folks, Ride and Smile!

(Yes, that is rust on my chain. I’m a shocker for maintenance…!)

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