And again….

July 23, 2018 at 21:57 | Posted in bicycles | 10 Comments
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Yes, it happened again. Again, when I was stationary. Festooned in hi-viz and flashing lights. A car drove into me – a sort of low-speed crunching as my bicycle was devoured by the front of his gas-guzzling SUV. Thankfully the driver stopped before he got to me, leaving my bike jammed under his car, my saddle (where I was sitting) hard up against his bonnet. (video here)

It is getting worse out there. Drivers are increasingly distracted. Mobile phone use is endemic, and rarely properly policed. Most modern cars now feature touch-screens that take drivers attention away from the road for ten or twenty seconds at a time as they prod at it to change the radio or operate the sat nav.

Against this near-universal back drop, in Sydney it is further stoked by the increasing aggression shown by drivers towards cyclists. This is rooted in the aggressively anti-cycling stance of the state government, coupled with heavy handed anti-cycling policing, all capped with a broadly anti-cycling safety ‘industry’ that seeks to blame cyclists for the increasing road toll and a populist media near universally playing the ‘law-breaking cyclist’ and ‘war on the roads’ angles constantly.

I am now at a point, sad to say, where I would not recommend to anyone they cycle in Sydney. I used to encourage my colleagues to cycle to work. I no longer do that. The environment is so hostile that I can’t recommend it. This, of course, makes me very sad, and also very angry. The sheer stupidity and short-sightedness of our policy makers and media is breathtaking. In the latest NSW budget, there are zero dollars for cycling, and all mentions of cycling targets or programs have been expunged from the Transport for NSW website. Pretty much all that remains are pages telling cyclists to wear helmets and ‘share the road’.

Well, I was sharing the road the other day. It just seems others don’t want to share it with me.

 

PS The police, predictably, refused to take a statement or follow up the incident, even when given the video footage. Too busy policing deserted stop signs, perhaps.

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Another perfect pass

June 4, 2018 at 09:25 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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You may remember a little while ago I blogged about a truck driver who gave me plenty of room. Well, I had another very positive experience the other day with a cement truck driver. It was around the same spot, at a point where the bike lane (a painted on one of course, so not proper bike infrastructure) follows the road around to the left, and I wanted to go straight on – meaning I have to go across the car lane.

I was looking behind me, and saw the truck was coming up behind, so I slowed to enable him to pass so I could cross behind him. However, he realised what I needed to do, and was very helpful in making room, not overtaking me and ensuring my safety. I called out thanks, and he gave me a thumbs up from his cab as he went by. Top notch stuff from Hanson Cement – I took a moment to drop a complimentary line to them via their website.

The warm fuzzy feelings evaporated a few seconds later, however, when a bus went roaring past me a few inches from my shoulder. This incident perfectly illustrates why these painted on bike lanes can be worse than no bike lane at all. Because I am in the ‘bike lane’, I am invisible (or at least can be disregarded). But the effect of a large, fast vehicle going past that close to you is extremely unnerving – and the pulse of wind it produces can be quite destabilising.

If you are a driver who does not cycle, please learn from these two incidents. Be a lovely person spreading warm fuzzy goodwill on our roads, not a thoughtless person spreading fear and aggression.

Perfect Pass

March 2, 2018 at 12:09 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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Anyone who rides a bike on the roads occasionally experiences car drivers passing rather too close. This is, of course, illegal, but given the cops are utterly uninterested in ever doing anything about it, I don’t see that it’s going to change soon. My new commute has a few spots where this is a particular problem. I’ve been planning to write a blog about it for a while replete with hair-raising video of people skimming past whilst texting on their phones.

However, I’m also nervous such a post might be Whispering. So instead I’m going to talk about a good experience. One of the roads I ride on is Australia Avenue, going through Olympic Park. This has a ‘bike lane’ painted down the side, but as is often the case with paint (as opposed to proper infrastructure) it sort of makes things worse not better. Why? Well drivers somehow see that paint line as a magical defence, and don’t consider how close they are to you – the logic is that I have a bike lane, they are in the car lane, and everything is OK. Well, when the bike lane is only about one metre wide in total, and you are driving a large truck where the back wheels are grazing that white line, it’s not OK. It’s terrifying.

Against that background, take a bow the driver of this Toll truck. Not only did he go very wide when overtaking me, he was also aware of the potential conflict when we both pulled up at the traffic light, and waved me past to ensure I was safe and that I knew he had seen me. Well done. I took the time to send in a compliment to Toll via their website, which I hope reaches the driver in question.

And, as is often the case when this happens, I find myself thinking, ‘I bet he rides a bike’…

New Commute

November 25, 2017 at 12:53 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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So I got a new job. Instead of riding to the wonders of Chatswood every day, I now get to ride to the delights of Silverwater (oh yes, I work in the most glamorous places). Distance-wise it’s pretty much the same as before, but it’s a rather different ride, divided into three quite distinct sections.

The first section is nasty. It’s a narrow, single-lane road which features cycle lanes on either side. The council, however, for some unknown reason allow parking in the cycle lanes. So they are not cycle lanes at all; rather they are a parking area that rapidly fills up. This means you have that dilemma of riding in the door zone and having vehicles squeeze by, or taking the lane and having them harass you from behind. The bicycle symbols painted in the parking area don’t help either, as as soon as there is a tiny gap (eg a couple of cars long), drivers expect you to magically be riding in it – notwithstanding the fact that there’s no way they could overtake me before I reached the end of the gap.

It’s a place where I have already experienced a number of very close passes. At some point, I guess I’ll take them to the cops. Not that they care. I think I’m going to have to find an alternative for this stretch, although there’s no obvious route I can see that’s going to be any better.

The second section is much improved. The road widens out, there’s a good shoulder for much of it, dual lanes for the rest and the traffic is lighter and better behaved. This is OK. Of course, I’d like an off-road solution really, but for a confident cyclists it’s quite manageable. That said, there’s no way a newbie cyclist would ride on it – which I suppose underlines just how bad cycling infrastructure in Sydney is.

The final section is through Olympic Park, and then on through Bicentennial Park. This is lovely. Good cycle lanes to begin, and then a beautiful stretch of off-road path that meanders along Duck River, through the trees and a nature reserve. You can listen to the birds singing, the rustling of animals in the undergrowth and the glint of the sun reflecting off the water as you glide along. Just think if the whole ride was like this. Everyone would be doing it!

The very last bit of path leading out of the nature reserve goes up a bit of a hill. It’s hardly a mountain – about 500m with a 3% incline – but it offers a final sprint up to the road what leads to my new office. I logged back into Strava for the first in in many many years in order to see exactly how long my new commute was, and was encouraged to see that I have the second-fastest time up that hill so far this year. Perhaps I’m not yet completely over-the-hill (pun intended). Or perhaps most people enjoy leisurely rides through the trees, and my gasping, sweaty efforts are just not the done thing in Bicentennial Park…

(The pic at the top is the nice bit of the ride. Below are the OK bit and nasty bit…)

Another one…

February 28, 2017 at 17:05 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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Most days, I ride to and from work along Burns Bay Road. On the upper section through Lane Cove, I probably get at least one motorist a day who comes closer than 1m. It has a 50km/h limit; it’s marked with signs for caution due to pedestrian activity, and has a number of pedestrian refuges along its length. It should be a good road for cycling, but the unfortunate ‘door-zone’ markings make is much more dangerous than it should be.

(As an aside, there’s plenty of room for separated bike lanes on this road, although somehow I don’t see the (rather anti-bike) council ever doing that. Another cheaper approach would be to put a double-width bike lane in uphill, move the centre line over and remove the downhill one, as has been done in places in Leichardt )

The other day I got a particularly egregious close pass; one where I could have reached out and touched the car:

youtube22feb

This was one I thought I would take to the police. Not that I have much faith they will do much, but hey.

So I took the footage in. Unfortunately the front cam was not charged, so I didn’t have the footage with the bike wheel in shot.

However, the reaction from the police constable on duty was not what I expected. “Wow!’, he gasped, as he watched the video. ‘Geez, that really is close!’. Then he looked at me, and asked if I’d brought footage in before.

I said I had, and he seemed to remember. However, he was much more enthusiastic this time. ‘This is much better than last time,’ he commented. ‘You can see it’s really really close!’.

So it seems he is going to follow it up. Which is a good thing. Comparing the footage with the last incident (see here), it looks pretty similar to me. Luck of the draw, or are the police starting to take this a bit more seriously, perhaps jolted by press coverage like this?

We will see!

Freak Storm

February 18, 2017 at 14:53 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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stormvideoSydney’s Inner West is usually a quiet kind of place. Little happens to disturb the sounds of single-origin lattes being brewed in hipster cafes, and kids being driven to school in urban tractors.

However, yesterday there was a Big Storm. Freak winds hit this otherwise quietly complacent patch of inner-city gentrification, bringing down trees and damaging buildings. Those freak winds probably lasted for no more than fifteen minutes, but it was quite exciting whilst it lasted.

It was particularly exciting for me, as I just happened to be on my way home from work at that moment, riding through the heart of the storm. It’s the first time I have literally been stopped in my tracks by the wind – a particularly massive gust just pushed me backwards to a stop. This was coupled with heavy sideways rain that stung my face as I attempted to make progress.

However, I was not deterred. I managed to make it home, And, of course, the superiority of the bicycle was one again demonstrated as cars struggled to pick their ways down roads covered with downed trees an other debris, but I was able to continue pretty much as normal.

Above is some footage from my rear-facing camera. Unfortunately the battery was flat in the front-facing one, but you can get the idea of the intensity of the wind and rain as it is driven down the roads.

Bike on bike nut job

February 8, 2017 at 20:58 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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It bikeonbikesometimes happens that I end up with two bikes at work. Some inequality in rides too and from caused by side trips, lifts, taxis and business trips conspire to create this imbalance. For the most part I just wait it out, and it usually corrects itself, but the situation had been going on for weeks, and didn’t seem to be resolving.

So I went with the rather unwieldy option of strapping the fixie to the Radish. This requires removing the wheels, strapping the frame down via the chain stays, and putting the wheels into the panniers. On this occasion I also had rather a lot of other things to carry, so I had to tuck both wheels into the same pannier, which was not 100% straightforward. Still, I managed, and arrived home without mishap.

Or so I thought. When I can to reassemble the fixie, I realised that one of the wheel nuts had gone missing from the front wheel. Damn lawyers. Evidently I had left the nut rather unscrewed, and it had worked loose and dropped off.

I effected a temporary fix by ‘borrowing’ one of the nuts from one of the little Chillikebab’s bikes (sadly she doesn’t ride it much; she’s more a dedicated scooter girl), and then set about ordering a new nut.

Now, this is when it got unbelievably complicated. Apparently no-one knows what size regular bike wheel nuts are. Attempting to google it yields hundreds of threads in hundreds of bike forums with people asking this exact question, and then receiving as many answers as there are types of nut – both literally and figuratively. I was literally unable to find this out. Hub manufactures don’t put in in the specs. Bike shops don’t tell you (and don’t stock them). Even my LBS was unable to help, trying a few nuts out halfheartedly (none of them fit), and then saying they would have to ‘look into it’. Apparently it could be an M10. Or a 3/8″. It might have 24 or 26 threads per inch, or perhaps a pitch of 1.25, or maybe 1.5.  Probably not 1.0, except on some bikes. The front and back hubs might be different. Unless they are the same. And BMX and coaster brakes have different nuts. Sometimes. Or perhaps not. It might be 14mm. Or 15mm. Or M9. Or M9.5.

Usually, answers go through a range of options for what it could be, and airily finish with ‘they are all standard, so you’ll have no problem getting one”. Ha! I tried every nut available in Bunnings, and not one of them fit.

Finally, I found the answer. Thank you, Moruya Bicycles. Both for having the information, and selling the damn things.   3/8″ with 26 threads per inch. Outside dimensions 15mm. (Which seems weird to me; a non-metric nut that fits a metric spanner).

Apparently coaster brakes are slightly different, as they had 24 threads per inch. Except little Chillikebab’s bike has a coaster brake, and the nut fits my hub perfectly. I’ve ordered one of each size, to be sure. Now I’m just praying that when they arrive, one of them will fit…

Riders on the storm

April 29, 2015 at 20:49 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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‘The storm of the Century’. “Stormpocalypse’. These were the headlines after Sydney recently copped some bad weather. Some areas north of Sydney had some truly appalling weather – with significant flooding, houses washed away, and tragically a number of people died.

Central Sydney, however, got some heavy rain and it was a bit windy. Yes, there were a few local streets a bit flooded. A fair few trees came down. Some houses were damaged a bit. But it did seem a bit odd that the Sydney Morning Herald seemed to devote so much space to the problems of umbrellas being turned inside out. Umbrellageddon indeed…

pathblockedThings did all get quite exciting when the NSW Premier, Mike Baird, told everyone to go home early to avoid the storm. This prompted a mass exodus from our office, and many people offered me a lift, as surely I wasn’t going to ride?

Well, of course I was. As I said to my colleagues, I’d get wet, but get home on time. They were going to be stuck in a traffic jam for five hours. So I rode home, and yes, it was wet and rather windy, but not that bad. I did pass a lot of stationary traffic, however…

The next morning, there was a problem, however. A tree had come down over the path leading to Gladesville Bridge, completely blocking the way. This is the only way to access the path over the bridge, and is a busy commuter route. The steel fence made it rather hard to get round, although I (and several others) managed to lift our bikes over and then climb over ourselves.

pathclearSo the following morning I took a pair of secateurs (I couldn’t fit anything bigger in my bag), with a view to cutting my way through. Cutting through a fallen tree with some small shears is actually rather hard, I discovered, but I am rather stubborn and once I get started I like to finish. So I hacked away at the thick foliage, working the blades round and round each branch until it yielded. After about an hour, I had cleared a small path through. Just as I finished, someone rode through on a mountain bike, barely slowing down. My path was open!

I did report the fallen tree to both the council and the RMS (Sydney roads authority), but as yet it has not been properly cleared. I daresay there is quite a backlog of work to be done; however one wonders if the trees that blocked major commuter motorist routes were attended to rather sooner…

Finally, I must tip my hat to this mystery cyclist, whose image has been flashed across the globe as he powers through Sydney floodwaters. If ever there was a picture that demonstrated the practicality and exuberance of cycling vs the impotent, soulless scourge of the motor vehicle, it is surely this!

 

cycliststorm

Terrific driving

May 8, 2014 at 07:08 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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burns bay rdI had a great experience riding to work the other morning. I was trudging up Burns bay Rd (I’m back on the road at the moment, as the traffic is lighter), and the traffic started to build up somewhat. Behind me was a battered white truck, which I could hear changing gears and grinding behind me.

There was a stream of traffic in the RH lane, and he couldn’t get past. So he just stayed behind me, a respectful distance behind, all the way up the hill, with no aggro, no getting closer, no gunning the engine.

He followed me like that all the way to the lights at the top of the hill, and as it happened I got across the lights, but they changed just as I went over, and he had to stop. (I was actually quite impressed he did stop, as a lot of motorists seem to think that because they were ‘held up’ buy a bike, they have some sort of moral right to follow me across the lights even if it means they go over on red).

He caught up with me again after the lights at Epping Rd. I was in the LH lane, but there was a semi-trailer parked ahead of me. He was coming up behind me in the RH lane, but slowed right down so I could pull out. He then waited until the LH was clear in front of me before going past.

I caught up with him again at the lights at the Pacific Hwy as I was threading through the traffic queue, and he had his window down, so I was able to say thank you. He high-fived me, and laughed and smiled.

I guess it’s kind of sad that these experiences are ones I remember, as this should be every interaction with motorists. Still, it made a nice change from the abuse I have copped on occasion riding through Chatswood.

New commute

March 11, 2014 at 18:42 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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mowbrayI have a new job. And with the new job comes a new location – I am now riding in pretty much diametrically the opposite direction, heading west to Chatswood, instead of into the city.

Although not especially different in terms of distance (just a few kms more), it couldn’t be more different in terms of route. Previously I could ride into work in the CBD pretty much on separated bike paths / SUPs the whole way. Now I have to negotiate the cycling glory that is Gladesville Bridge before braving the wonders of Mowbray Road.

It’s interesting in a number of ways, and has certainly given me pause for thought about many aspect of cycling in Sydney. I am the only person in my new office who rides to work. In the city, I was one of many. My office in the CBD was right on the Kent St cycleway. Built it and they will come.

2014-03-11 20.35.17Some facts. My new route takes me from Five Dock over Gladesville Bridge, then on to Centennial Avenue and then right onto Mowbray Road. I follow that over the Pac Hwy, and then a few kms further on turn left down some local streets to get to Chatswood. It’s about 13km, and is mostly uphill on the way there – which makes for a good workout in the morning, and a cruisy ride home. That means it’s quicker coming home – 33 minutes as opposed to 38. I fired up Strava again, and this is what it had to say (this was from the ride home).

It certainly made me realise how spoiled I was before. ‘Spoiled’ and ‘Victoria Rd SUP’ and not words that often go together, but for all its faults there is something to be said for getting out of the traffic. Anyone could have ridden my old commute, but that certainly isn’t the case with the new one.

I now have to mix it up with cars. Lots and lots of cars. For motorists the route is very stop-start, with queues at the various traffic lights frequently so long that it takes two or three phases for the cars at the back to get across. My tactics for this vary; on Mowbray Road I filter through the cars, either on the left or down the middle of the two lanes. Heck, I’m not sitting there just because all those idiots chose to take two tonnes of metal to work. Burns Bay Road is a little more tricky, as it’s uphill. This means I end up getting stuck in the jam, and then in turn holding up the cars as the traffic moves and I’m grinding up the hill. I’ve actually taken to riding up the hill on the footpath – just because it’s faster for me, as I don’t have to keep stopping. It’s far from ideal (and slower than riding on the road would be if the road was not busy), but as it is my average speed is pretty much exactly the same as the traffic.

On the faster sections (which is a lot of the ride home) I’m mixing it up with the cars – for much of the time going faster than they are, zipping past on the inside and then filtering at the lights. It’s kind of exhilarating, and not something you do much of in a CoS cycleway. But this is riding for the 1% of lunatics, not normal people. It speaks volumes about cycling culture in Sydney, the safety record for bicycles and just how high the barriers are to making cycling an everyday activity. I also see a little more aggression from motorists, with some close passing and crazy swerving in front of me at traffic queues. It’s not bad, but again it’s something you are insulated from on even a very poor SUP.

My new co-workers are somewhat bemused by my behaviour, and even after three weeks still ask me ‘still riding then?’, as if it is some kind of aberration and I will soon give up. One of the women in my team drives eight kilometres to the office – and it usually takes her about half an hour. On a bad day close to an hour. To me, this behaviour seems much more extraordinary than riding. My allocated parking space outside the building goes empty – which does make me smile somewhat. I’m tempted to get a bike rack installed in it. Built it, and perhaps they will come…

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