Tags: bicycle, bike, close pass, commuting, cycling, metre matters, overtake, police
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:
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!
Tags: bicycle, bike, commuting, cycling, rain, storm, wind
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.
Tags: axle, axle nut, bicycle, bike, commuting, cycling, hub, nut, radish
It sometimes 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…
Tags: bicycle, bikes, century, commuting, cycle, cycling, rain, storm, storm of the century, sydney, wind
‘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…
Things 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.
So 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!
Tags: bicycle, bicycles, bike, commuting, driver, motorist, respect, truck
I 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.
Tags: bicycle, bike, commuting, cycling, SUP, sydney, traffic
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.
Some 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…
Tags: bicycle, bike, bike hire, california, commuting, hybrid, silicon valley
Only I didn’t; the leaves were mostly still green, the sky was blue and of course I wasn’t walking – I was riding a bike. Still, that song was still going around in my head as I pedalled around that bastion of the American Dream – Silicon Valley, California. I was there on business, and getting from the hotel to the office each day by taxi or hire car just didn’t appeal. It’s my commute to work that keeps me sane, and just because I was in another country didn’t mean I was going to give that up. So I hired a bike from a local dealer to get the five miles or so back and forward each day.
I hired a basic hybrid, which did the job admirably, although it wasn’t super comfortable – I think it was a tiny bit small. But the hire guy was super helpful, waiting for me at my hotel when I arrived (late) – so I pretty much dropped of my bags and set off finding my way to the office. I wasn’t due there until the next day, but I thought a ride would be a good way to stretch my legs after the flight and work off the jet-lag. I looked up the route on Google maps (yay for the cycling directions) and set off.
My inability to tell left from right, coupled with tiredness from the journey didn’t really stand me in good stead, as I went the wrong way at the very first intersection. Then, after finding my way back to the right road, again went wrong at the next intersection. Perhaps having to ride on the other side of the road was confusing me. Still, all this cruising up and down gave me more opportunity to experience Californian roads.
There are a lot of Californian roads. Lots and lots of them. And they are all very wide. The sheer amount of tarmac is extraordinary. What on the map are marked as minor roads have three or four lanes in each direction. I guess they need them, as everyone is driving. There are almost no pedestrians enjoying the wide, well-maintained footpaths, and very few cyclists. For sure, I was out in the burbs, not in a downtown area, but it was quite noticeable. The only time I saw people walking was when I rode through some residential complexes, where there were people walking their dogs. Evidently this is the one activity that can’t be done in the car.
In terms of cycling, it’s actually all very pleasant. Much of my route was on an off-road trail. When you do get on the roads there are bike lanes on many of them, and although they are the ‘painted on’ variety the width of the lanes means there’s plenty of room between you and the traffic. And that traffic is so well behaved. It really made me reflect on just how aggressive Australian drivers are. Drivers all gave me plenty of room, stopped well back from me at traffic lights and generally drove in much calmer way than in Sydney. Those wide, straight roads would be a invitation to a Sydney driver to floor the accelerator when the lights go green in the manner of a drag-strip driver. But the Californians just pootled along, observing the speed limits and pulling away very sedately.
Given all that, it’s astonishing that there aren’t more cyclists. The Caltrain (which runs along most of the cities in the San Francisco Bay area) even has a whole carriage dedicated to bikes, but I saw very few people riding – maybe two or three on each trip I made. When I got to the office, I asked where the bike parking was, and got a blank look, before being directed to a tiny bike rack with space for three bikes. Mine was the only bike locked up there for the whole week I was in town – and this is a large campus with over three thousand employees, on a road with a bike lane running all the way along it’s length. The weather is great, the terrain is basically flat – yet no-one rides. All very strange. Perhaps it was just the area I was in – I know San Francisco has a vibrant cycling scene, and reading about the area many of the cities proclaim they are ‘cycling friendly’. I wonder how the modal cycling share compares to Sydney?
Tags: bicycle, bike, camera, commuting, cops, scofflaw, video, youtube
I’d been toying with the question for a while – it’s something that is a growing trend amongst cyclists, as evidenced by the endless youtube footage if cars carving up cyclists. Should I get a camera for my bike? The main motivation for attaching a camera to one’s bike seems to be in order to capture bad driver behaviour and, if the worst comes to the worst, to use as evidence. I don’t suffer much from bad drivers, but I was vaguely curious try out a camera.
So I bought one on eBay – a very very cheap one. $20 from China, complete with handlebar clamp and integrated headlight. What’s not to like? Well, the video quality, obviously, but I thought I give it a go before splashing out on something expensive.
So here, ladies and gentlemen, is an entirely uninteresting ten minutes of my commute – it’s the section through Sydney’s CBD on the green bike lanes. Probably the only interesting thing is the cycle cops on duty at Pyrmont Bridge (I spot them and push my bike through that section – it’s about three mins in), merrily giving out tickets to riders without helmets or those who ride through the red bicycle light at that spot (a bicycle light which, due to a wholly inadequate sensor, rarely turns green) whilst ignoring all those scofflaw pedestrians doing exactly the same thing.
Oh, you’ll also see me ignoring a whole load of similarly useless bicycle traffic signals that give cars priority (any signal that only gives cyclists four seconds of green per phase is just asking to be ignored, IMO), whilst paying closer attention to those where pedestrians might be crossing. The other strange thing is the camera perspective – it seems to be quite a narrow angle, which gives the impression I am much closer to things than is really the case. At 7.15, for example, you’d think the guy on my right was seriously invading my personal space – it looks like his elbow is right in my face. But actually he was probably two metres in front of me.
I would probably use the camera more, but the battery is pretty hopeless (it only just lasts out for my thirty minute commute), and, more to the point, after I’d had it about a week I dropped it onto my concrete garage floor. It now rattles a lot, and whilst the pretty lights all flash away merrily it no longer appears to actually record any video. Oh well. It was an interesting experiment, but not interesting enough to make me want to splash out on a more expensive camera. Or not until I’ve carpeted the garage, at least.
Tags: bicycle, bike, bike lane, commuting, cycling, fail, hopeless, infrastructure, SUP, Victoria Road
I was prompted to put this piece together when a journalist acquaintance of mine who happens to write a cycling blog in the Sydney Morning Herald asked for examples of terrible cycling infrastructure to illustrate an article he was working on.
Well, the prize for worst infrastructure on my regular routes has to be the Victoria Road SUP (Shared User Path). A few years ago, this arterial road was upgraded at huge expense; an extra traffic lane was added, bus lanes marked, a new bridge built and the whole road upgraded and re-sheeted in smooth asphalt. It cost many hundreds of millions of dollars.
So what provision was made for bicycles was made as part of this upgrade? Well, apparently the budget ran to a large tin of paint, and a few man-hours putting lines on the footpath. Lets take a look at some of the wonders of this major arterial cycling route.
Here’s the first thing you come to at the White Bay end. (Well, actually it’s not the first, but there are just too many things to include them all.) When they painted the white lines on there, do you think anyone thought to ask, ‘How’s this going to work with a bloody great pole in each lane’? The answer, obviously, was to put a reflective stripe around each pole, to warn cyclists who may have thought that the white lines were in any way a guide as to where to ride.
Having dodged all the poles at eye-level, clearly the RMS think another tack is needed to trap unwary cyclists – like these knee-high hoops. Sometimes a sticker appears on those hoops, documenting when they were first reported as a hazard, and how many times they have been reported since. I applaud the mystery documenter in his or her disheartening work, although can’t help hoping they get a bit more militant and simply take an angle grinder to them.
There are many other examples of poles in the middle of the ‘lanes’, such as this one a bit further up. Note also the high-quality of the surface – full or ruts, bumps and pot-holes.
If you thought you could cycle through those posts, by the way, be aware that it leaves about 2cm knuckle clearance on each side. Unless you have wider bars, in which case the bike will come to a sudden halt.
This is not all that clear to see, as the sun is in the lens, but marked on this pedestrian crossing is a line and some symbols to demarcate the right of the crossing for pedestrians, and the left for cyclists. That left hand side neatly directs riders to a very high curb with no ramp – which were you to unsuspectingly hit would mean you would pitch over the handlebars and straight into the pole that is directly in front of you. No wonder we need mandatory bike helmets in Australia.
Not content with the number of obstacles for cyclists, the RMS recently put in some more poles, including the two holding up this sign. This means that at the very moment you’d like to be on the far left of the path, in order to get the best sight-line into the servo to check for exiting vehicles, you have to go to the right. This means you can’t see cars exiting, and the drivers of those cars can’t see you. The van pulling out in this picture is about where cars pull out to before they stop to look. That’s about where the poles force you to ride.
There’s lots of bus-stops along this route, and they all are a disaster. In some cases the path is routed behind them, which narrows the path down so much it’s hard to walk past someone coming the other way, let alone ride past another cyclist. But this design is even worse; it pretty much guarantees cyclist / pedestrian conflict. I am now quite adept at looking for feet in the gap at the bottom of the advertising hoarding to see if there is anyone in the shelter who is liable to step out as I ride past. The RMS are apparently aware this design is sub-optimal, so have helpfully fixed it by putting a ‘slow’ sign ahead of the problem.
Apparently in a few places the RMS did realise they got it wrong – in this instance a path that directs cyclists straight into a pole. So they have cunningly scrubbed out the last few metres of the white line. Problem solved!
Here’s the view back up the hill. Yes, you can indeed see four or five smooth traffic lanes. The SUP on the left is virtually invisible, hidden behind a sea of poles and signs. No wonder so many cyclists just (legally) take the bus lane in the mornings. (Its not a 24 hour lane, so in the evening you are mixing it up with more traffic, which is rather less comfortable).
Once you have negotiated all that, in fairness it has to be said the path over the new bridge is really quite good – smooth and wide. But how hard would it have been to have made the whole stretch this good? Well, the answer is ‘very easy’ – simply remove one of the many traffic lanes. At peak time, they crawl along at about 10kph anyway, so a bike lane would be a much faster and more efficient way of moving people along this route.
Tags: bicycle, bike, chain, commuting, customer service, drivetrain, fixie, LBS, radish, xtracycle
I finally got around to fixing the drivetrain on my fixie. I spend a few weeks ummming and ahhhing about buying the bits online and doing it myself – I even went so far as to put them all into a shopping basket on Wiggle, but never actually pressed ‘purchase’. The main reason was I was worried I wouldn’t be able to get the lockring off the the fixed sprocket. I do have the right tool, but it’s a rather puny, cheapo affair that I suspected would not be up to the task. I did then consider also buying a decent tool to do it with (which would still have worked out cheaper than the LBS), and perhaps a new lockring (in case I trashed the old one getting it off), but by this time it was all getting too hard, so I decided to go to the LBS instead. Oh, and I am also too lazy to do these things myself.
I took the bike in in November, but for various reasons it took until the end of January to get the work done. Now, I don’t want to slag off my LBS here, as they re really nice guys who are generous with their time and do a good job for me. But, well, sometimes I do thing small stores could be a little more organised. What with my order getting lost in some diary transfer, confusion about what size chainwheel I needed and a discussion about whether it was a freewheel or fixed gear I wanted it all took a long time to get sorted out, what with wrong parts having to be sent back and so on. Customer service is about more than just great service whilst you’re in the shop; it also extends to getting the details right first time and not losing track of orders. Oh well, sermon over. I suppose it meant I eked a few more months out of a pretty-much-dead drivetrain.
Whilst the fixie was in surgery, I of course rode the Radish. And in doing so realised it too needed some TLC; the front brake pads were worn down and the gears were not changing smoothly. So I booked it in for a service. It turned out that the drivetrain on that was ‘end-of-life’ too; the technician put the chain wear gauge on it and declared ‘it’s well over 2% stretched – that chain is never going to change gears smoothly. You need a new chain and cluster.’. Funny; it never occurred to me that it might be worn out – even though the bike is four or five years old and it’s still on the original chain. So this all had to be arranged too; thankfully with no ordering stuff-ups so it was all dealt with very quickly and efficiently.
So now I had two new drivetrains, with both bikes feeling silky smooth and lovely to pedal. The fixie did indeed feel teriffic – all the play in the drivetrain was gone, as was the grinding, rattling sound of the chain. Just smooth, oiled whirring. But the Radish didn’t seem so good; something as still rattling and grinding around. I gave it a quick once over, and discovered the culprit – the bearings in the pedal were toast, and the right pedal was wobbling and grinding around like the ones on an old kids trike. Back to the LBS for a set of new pedals, and things seemed better again. But then not. The drivetrain still felt a bit grindy, and the gears were jumping. I was riding along unhappily, thinking that I would have to take it back to the LBS again, when I remembered something. I pulled up, and had a peek under the pannier. A-ha! Of course! The rear skewer had worked loose again! No wonder it was all a bit odd with the back wheel wobbling around all over the place. The LBS guys wouldn’t have know that it tends to do this, and that it needs to be super tight. So I tightened it up, and continued on my ride (and props to the fellow cyclist who stopped to ask if I was OK at 10.30pm last night when I was sorting it out – much appreciated).
Bliss. Smooth, oiled whirring and slick gear changes. Fellow cyclists unite – you have nothing to lube but your chains!