Sunday, 25 September 2011

School lunch

In the Advertiser newspaper on Saturdays is a liftout called "Cars Guide". It contains mainly adverts for new and used cars but also has a couple of short articles about cars, which in truth are also adverts. In the 24 September issue was a stupid comment. The small article was about a concept car by Mercedes Benz called the F-125. The comment was:

We've come a long way, baby, even if Lycra-clad fundamentalists of the bicycle brigade would like us to go all the way back again.

It was a stupid comment for a variety of reasons. The first most obvious is that it is completely untrue. You can guarantee that nobody who dresses up in lycra to go for long weekend rides wants to be told they're not allowed to drive their car during the week. Others, like the Mayor of Adelaide, who suggest perhaps slowing cars down a bit and removing that particular source of danger from places where there are lots of people around equally do not suggest that cars be abolished and everyone somehow forced out of them. They're simply saying that perhaps devoting so much space to fast moving motor vehicles is not in everyone's interest. Crazy, I know.

Even if the comment was tongue in cheek, it was stupid.

One reason among many for encouraging alternatives to the car is that it is democratic. You have to be a particular age to drive a car and so a sizeable chunk of the population is ruled out, especially children. I cannot stand the sight of groups of cars clogging the streets outside our schools. Not only is it a complete waste of space, it is also very dangerous. If a driver does make a mistake, it is children who suffer. It is no surprise that parents do not wish to subject their children to that danger and so unsurprisingly they do what other parents do and drive their children to school.

There is, as we know, an alternative and it is not walking buses with mandatory reflective vests. This video was made by Joe Dunkley who publishes the excellent War on the Motorist blog. It is 2½ minutes of footage outside a primary school in Assen in the Netherlands. It is lunchtime and children are leaving to go home for lunch - almost all by themselves on their bike. They can do so because it is safe.

Note the left side of the screen though. Motorised traffic is still moving freely. There is no Lycra-clad fundamentalist stopping it or dragging people out of their cars. Making alternatives to the car easier has nothing to do with restricting motorists although a little bit of restriction would not go amiss in this city. Like the phrase says, it is about making the alternatives easier.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Dutch Cycling Embassy

Here's the latest marketing video from the world's number one cycling country. The Dutch Cycling Embassy has been formed which means our governments and councils can get all the help and information they need in one place.

Absolutely brilliant.

Watch it on full screen mode.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Fietsstad 2011

The Dutch are voting for their own bicycle city for 2011. There are 5 contenders - Groningen, Harderwijk, 's-Hertogenbosch, Houten and Pijnacker-Nootdorp. Each has its own 2½ minute video.

Here's the video for Houten:

and here's the one for 's-Hertogenbosch:

The others can be viewed here. It doesn't matter if you don't understand the dialogue. A picture speaks a thousand words. Check out the ages of all the people using bicycles.

Now that's how you do it.

Friday, 16 September 2011

The end of an era

For four years now, in amongst the cheery writing of Copenhagenize, A View from the Cycle Path and a million and one bicycle blogs, there has been one exception - the habitually grumpy, surly, sarcastic Freewheeler of Crap Cycling in Waltham Forest.

For four years, Freewheeler has been cycling around the London borough of Waltham Forest pointing out just how crap things are for pedestrians and cyclists. His/her writing though is relevant to a much wider audience than residents of Waltham Forest. What he points out is relevant to almost anyone who rides a bike in an English-speaking country. Day after day they are fed crap infrastructure while they watch with an equal combination of amazement and envy as other countries just seem to be able to get it right.

Never shying away from speaking his mind, he has come up with such gems as this:
There was widespread agreement that cyclists should do more to make themselves visible on the road

Oh really? In what way do the laws of optics not apply to cyclists? The toxic sub-text of that sentence is ‘because many drivers are not concentrating on controlling a ton of machinery in motion – they are chatting on the phone, reading a text message, changing a CD, finding a new radio station, looking at their SatNav etc – cyclists have a special obligation to draw attention to themselves in order not to be run down.’

That toxic logic even applies to pedestrians. It is now acceptable for a driver to execute a pedestrian on a zebra crossing if the pedestrian was wearing ‘dark clothing’. Road safety is a victim-blaming ideology and the conspicuity red herring is one of its most striking achievements.

this post about classically bad cycling infrastructure (one of hundreds incidentally), superb posts about cab drivers in London and this absolute classic comparing cycle chic in London and Copenhagen:

A must read is the eight part series on things that won't bring about mass-cycling:

1. 20 mph zones
2. "Shared space"
3. Strict liability legislation
4. Cycle training
5. Vehicular cycle campaigning
6. "Safety in numbers"
7. 5% plus modal share in a vehicular cycling environment
8. Legislation and education to make drivers behave better towards cyclists.

Freewheeler's identity has always remained anonymous and so, certainly in my view, he/she has become a bit of a caped crusader, pedalling around North London suburbs pointing out crap - of which there is tons. He commented rarely on other people's blogs. You see them on A View from the Cycle Path from time to time. A brief insight into the character of Freewheeler can be seen in a comment on Real Cycling where he/she expresses a view on the most appropriate role for him/her in an opera about London's bike hire scheme.

Freewheeler's most recent post is now some 5 weeks old. A recent comment on War on the Motorist suggested that after four years of carping, Freewheeler has hung up his fluorescent vest and stopped blogging. Judging by how prolific his/her writing used to be, I'd say that is looking increasingly likely. The good thing is thaht while Mikael Colville-Andersen has spawned a series of Cycle Chic websites around the world, Freewheeler has inspired more and more grumpy, miserable and sarcastic bloggers including the Grumpy Cyclist, the People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire and Bristol Traffic. I know which I prefer!

I guess it just became too much. Who knows?

Freewheeler's legacy will remain thanks to those bloggers and the fours years worth of material that remains on the Crap Walkam Forest blog. A fitting tribute would be for us all to look at the world through Freewheeler's eyes whenever we can. Instead of saying, "ooh look. The local council has painted a line in the gutter for us. Yippee", tell it like it is:

"Nah mate, it's shit".

Cycle Chic Freewheeler style

Monday, 12 September 2011

The rego question

I was chatting again with a friend the other day. He was telling me about a mate of his who is adamant that cyclists should pay rego. His argument is that everyone should contribute to the “use” of roads.


Anyone who travels along O'Connell Street in North Adelaide and then on to the northern suburbs would have seen this over the weekend:

It is a very expensive traffic light that has been well and truly knackered.

Now I didn't see how it happened and I wouldn't wish any harm on anyone. I really do hope that nobody was hurt. Having said that though, it is fairly typical of the sort of expensive damage that is inflicted on public property by cars all the time and for which we all end up paying collectively. Usually someone is driving along in their car, texting and minding their own business, when all of a sudden they "lose control" and their car drives into a traffic light/road sign/etc.

I would not be surprised if that's what happened here. Whether it was a car, bus, truck, tractor or whatever, you can be sure that it certainly was not a bicycle. If a bicycle had hit it, at most it would have made a quiet metallic hollow sound.

If the local council or State Government Department responsible for that road chose to take legal action to recover the cost of replacing the traffic light, they would at most get a fraction of the money. Either the local council or State Government will just pay or the money will come from the compulsory third party insurer which, quite rightly, is funded through car registration.

It was not a cyclist who broke it and that my friends is why cyclists do not pay rego.

Friday, 9 September 2011


Over near the zoo, a new roundabout has been installed. It's a big improvement for motorists and a bit of an improvement for pedestrians. Before, it used to be a nightmare for student coming from Adelaide Uni to get across Frome Road and carry on along War Memorial Drive. The road was too wide and cars never stopped. At certain times of day, the only time you could cross was when the traffic was at a standstill in a jam. Now pedestrians at least have a halfway point to stop at.

It's not so great for cyclists though. There is of course a painted bike lane leading up to the roundabout:

If you use it and manage not to get knocked off your bike by a car door opening on the way, you are greeted with this:

The bike lane disappears and reappears again after the roundabout:

The problem is the signal it sends to road users. What does a cyclist do if he or she is turning right at the roundabout. If you stay in the bike lane until the end, are you supposed to creep around the edge of the roundabout until you reach the exit you want? What would the motorist behind you expect you to do? Predictably, on my observations, a good number of cyclists don't use the bike lane that is there unless they are turning left.

Those who are going straight on or turning right do the "vehicular cyclist" thing and "take the lane". It's not for everyone because you're trusting that the person behind you is looking at you rather than speeding across the roundabout and looking briefly ony to the right where they expect another car (not a cyclist) might be.

The roundabout is also a bit unsatisfactory for those of us (and there are many) who come towards the city via North Adelaide and the parklands. We use the jogging track that follows Mackinnon Parade before running parallel with Frome Road. You're not really helped much when you hit the roundabout:

You either have to cross with the pedestrians in front of you and swerve back onto the road or take a sharp right then left and join the road before the roundabout. Either way is a pain. It's impossible to signal your intentions to drivers so you just have to wait until the coast is clear.

There is of course plenty of free information on how to build a roundabout properly whether big or small. And there's also the cheaper, easy to apply here, Danish version:

Take your pick.

Monday, 5 September 2011


I am a total sucker for flashy marketing. When the junk mail arrives in my letterbox, I generally throw away all of the generic flimsy grocery leaflets but will keep the glossy David Jones and Myer brochures and the Freedom Furniture ones that are wrapped in plastic. The grocery ones would probably save me money but being shallow, I just ignore them. Before sitting down to look at the glossy ones, I'll make myself a cup of coffee as if I'm reading a new magazine.

It's quite pathetic really.

I am equally sucked in my well made glossy tv ads. So it was no surprise to me that I was sucked in by the new electric bike made by the same people who make those funny little Smart Cars.

What totally sold me was the way your smart phone can integrate into it and show you how fast you're going, how much battery power you have left, where you are and the weather.

An added bonus is that the ad was filmed in a very groovy city - Berlin. Watch and enjoy: