Apocalypse

September 7, 2019 at 21:46 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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The weather riding home last night was apocalyptic. Dark, ominous clouds scudded across the sky. And a wild wind blew. Not the usual stormy wind that presages a change, with a cooling aspect. And not a steady breeze bringing moisture from the ocean. No, this was a hot wind, dry and dangerous, swirling and capricious. This was not a natural wind.

One of the interesting things about commuting to work on a bicycle is that you get to experience the weather. Every day, I ride for nearly two hours out in the open – rain or shine, heat or cold. Many of my friends an acquaintances I think truly never really experience the weather. They move from one controlled environment to another – home, car, office, shops – and only venture outside if the weather is ‘nice’. And, as a result, they do not seem to know anything about the weather, and how it is changing.

Not that I am claiming some kind of special insight. I am, after all, living a very privileged life – most of which is in the bubble. But at least, in those minutes on my bike, I have one connection with what is going on in the world.

And it is noticeable what is going on. It has been getting warmer and warmer. I have thrown away all my winter cycling jerseys, as I no longer wear them. Ten years ago, I wore them for two or three months of the year. I can’t remember the last time I needed leg warmers. After a hot day, the cool change that flows across the land seems to rarely come any more.

Like many people, global heating and climate change are of great concern to me. I read about islands disappearing into the sea, coral reefs dying, ice melting at unprecedented rates, forests and tundra burning, massive hurricanes, savage droughts.

But last night, I really felt it. The collapse of our climate is here. That wind was the result of unimaginable amounts of energy being added into our environment; heating seas and lands heaving under a suffocating blanket of CO2. This is not a drill, and this is not a problem for the future.

I don’t know what I can do. Like most of us, I am paralysed into inaction by the enormity of it all. But at least I can do this one small thing. To tell those people I know who live indoors that something is very wrong out there, right outside the window.

Aldi bike cam light

August 14, 2019 at 21:52 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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As you may remember, a while ago my Cycliq rear camera light died on the operating table. Cycliq offered me a 15% discount on a new one, which was sort of nice and sort of not very generous too. Anyway, serendipitously, the very next week Aldi were offering integrated rear light bike cameras for just $69. So I bought one.

It’s clear that someone took a Fly6 to China, and asked a factory there to make something similar but at a very low price. It takes a lot of its design cues from the Fly6, although it’s a lot bigger overall. It has IPX4 waterproofing (which is less than the Fly6, but adequate for most purposes), similar arrangements of buttons and slot covers, and some similar features.

First up, it’s somewhat bulky and heavy. I don’t really care, but if you like your bike to look sleek and / or worry about weight, this is not for you. It uses a rubber bungee things to attach to the bike, and this is actually pretty good – one of the better designs of such things. Better, in fact, than the original Fly6 clip.

It can take a maximum 32GB microSD card, and records in 1080p, 30fps. The video files are broken up into 10 minute pieces, and you can fit about seven hours of footage on a 32GB card.

The light is quite bright, and has steady and two flashing modes, but it’s not spectacular. You can turn the light on and off independently of the camera; there are separate switches for the two functions. A dim green LED lights up to show the camera is operating. The camera automatically overwrites the oldest footage on the card as it goes, so there’s no need to manually delete files on the card.

The battery lasts for about 3 hours, some way short of the claimed 5-6 hours. When the battery gets low, the camera turns off and it bleeps, but the light stays on for a while longer. The manual claims it stays on for 1-2 hours, but it doesn’t; you get about 30 minutes of light before the battery goes completely dead.

There is no function that turns off the camera if you are in a crash, but the recommendation is to put a big SD card in so the battery runs out before your crash footage is overwritten. With the supplied 8GB card, this could happen, but with a 32GB card you are safe – the card will not fill up on a single battery charge.

The quality of the video is just OK. Less good than my 2nd gen Fly6 (which was only 720p), and I’m sure nowhere near the latest Cycliq cameras. There is no stabilisation or other tricks. As is often the case with these cams, the audio is as good as useless. Night time performance is pretty terrible; there’s note much chance you will be able to make out a number plate on footage taken when it’s not daytime. Also the lens seemed to get scratched very easily; it obviously gets dirt on it from it’s position above the wheel, and wiping it away has scratched the lens a lot in a short amount of time.

Here’s some samples of video:

Daytime – road

Dusk – off-road

Dark – Road

One thing you will notice is that the red flashing light leaks into the video, especially at night. That doesn’t bother me, but if you are hoping to capture epic footage for your cycling film, it’s probably not for you. Actually, if you want good video quality, it’s probably not for you. But if you just want a basic cam to record the daily goings on on your ride, it works quite adequately. My Fly6 lasted four years, so at a quarter the cost I will be quids in if it lasts more than twelve months.

New route to work

May 7, 2019 at 15:27 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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I have found a new route to work. After nearly being crushed, and then running the gamut of dangerous drivers, I realised that a new parallel route had opened up which means I can completely skip that horrible DFO roundabout, and have a lovely off-road cruise.

It’s because of the Opal tower – yes, that one, the one that is falling down (but which has a bike shop at the bottom, so can’t be all bad). Well, when they built that, they also built a new pedestrian bridge over the road, which now means the path along the canal from Strathfield links up properly with Olympic Park. Previously you got close to where you wanted to go, and then the path sort of veered madly to the left and went off into the wilderness.

This means that a bit more than half of my ride to work is now on lovely off-road paths, through the trees and along the canal. I can hear the birds tweeting, enjoy the swish of my tyres on the path and generally enjoy a stress-free ride.

If all riding was like this, just think how any people would do it!

Red lights

May 1, 2019 at 09:50 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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You may remember this incident, when my bicycle was eaten by an SUV on my way home. Well, since that happened I’ve been avoiding that roundabout by using the footpath, which is designated as a shared path. It’s not ideal, as it’s a bit narrow and bumpy in places, but it’s better than getting squashed.

Or is it? To go around it you have to navigate two pedestrian crossings at the entrance and exit to the roundabout. They are a bit strange, as they do not have a green light – just the amber and red ones. I presume this is in case dumb motorists think the green light is for them to barrel on to the roundabout, not just for the crossing set back ten metres or so from the roundabout.

That said, there are very large signs telling motorists they are approaching pedestrian actuated signals, and even a flashing orange beacon to alert them on approach if they are about to turn red – the flashing lights remain in place until they go off (as there is no green, they just go blank when the crossing phase is finished).

Whether due to this unconventional arrangement or just because drivers are dumb, clueless and absolutely appalling at actually looking where they are going, no-one stops for these red lights.

That probably sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s true. Most days, several cars just drive straight over them, right in the middle of the red phase when the green man is showing. It is both startling and alarming.

I’ve been recording some of this on Twitter for a while:

You get the idea. And just in case you thought my ‘most days’ was exaggerating, check the dates on those tweets. There is heaps more on my Twitter feed too.

So what do the local police do?

Pull me over to talk about helmets. Thanks for keeping us safe, @NSWPolice.

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.

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.

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