Wednesday 28 April 2010

What a Nice Policeman

I had a nice experience with a policeman today, whilst out on my bike.

I wasn't far outside my house and was travelling down an off-road cycle path (and pedestrian path). I had stopped to post a letter and noticed the path ahead was completely blocked by a van doing a delivery or doing some work on the nearby house. All the cyclists I could see where sighing and making their way through traffic to the other side of the road. It was stationary on our side, then fast moving on the other, so quite awkward crossing over.

Then I noticed the police car in the stationary traffic between me and the parked van not 30 yards away. Clearly this car had passed the van without looking at it. As I got the other side of the road and set off on my way, I decided to say something, I'm fed up with just letting it happen. So as I passed, I asked the police driver whether he was going to do "anything about that", pointing the direction of the offence. He shouted back "About what?", but I was passed and now thinking about getting my ride on.

I have to say, I thought that would be it. I'm not sure why that was satisfying. After all if it ended there nothing is acheived apart from me saying something. Luckily, I had someone more thorough working here.

I got to the next lights and moved into the forward cycle box on the lane turning right. Within 20 seconds, in the lane turning left, the police car appeared next to me and the officer said "I'm sorry, did you want me to do something, I didn't know what was going on". I quickly explained about the van, but neither of us was in a good position, so we both parked up round the corner (me be very careful to not ride on the pavement or jump any lights to follow him!).

We discussed the issue and he asked me if I wanted to "report it", which always seems like a worryingly heavy statement. It has all the feeling of filling in vast pages of paperwork, having to attend meetings, confirm exactly what had occured. I refer you back to one of my orginal comments here. I was so fed up with having to deal with poor driving standards. So I said "yes".

Heavy with concern, but hearty with the noble ideal of doing something right I watched as he jumped back into his car saying "Do you think they'll still be there?".

"Er, yes, they're probably working on the house."

"I'm off to give them a ticket then."

"Oh, thank you."

Then he said something that immediately lightened my mood, but may not have added to his.

"Sorry, we've been spanked by burglaries today, I just didn't see them, I need to get my eyes on."

And off he went. Leaving me no option but to avoid all paperwork, meetings, hard thought through decisions about whether I really wanted to pursue them. And also, no opportunity to thank him for taking me seriously when I'd assumed he wouldn't.

So, the moral of this story is, if you have the police to hand, tell them about things you think are wrong. They may actually do something! It does need the police to hand, which is a trifle unlikely. And of course, I've no guarentee he didn't just wander off, giggling to himself that he made a cyclist feel like they were in control. As opposed to the other way round which always seems to be the case to me.

Later I did think about priorities. I'm not trying to belittle burglary, of course it's terrible. Burglary leds to losing things, poor driving standards causes accidents and injury. Sometimes it's just seen as inconvenient to motorists to follow the rules that we set ourselves but they are there for a reason.

I thought of this especially when I encountered further cars parked in cycle paths, all within 13 miles or 50 minutes of cycling. I did look out for my useful police presence then but, unfortunately, had my fill for the day, or probably the month! The worst one was a delivery van parked in a "against the one way flow of traffic" cycle path. This offense is a "3 points on your license" affair. The sad thing is that's not the first time I've seen that van in the same place. And even sadder, the business to which the van is delivering has an off-road car park with space literally 20 yards away.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Radio 6 Removal Protest

For those who don't know, the BBC have decided to put up for review their running of Radio 6, a champion of indie, rock, and alternative music. They essentially want to drop it because it doesn't fit in with it's core values, which they seem to want to consist of bland pop. The review is answerable here with Facebook protest group having nearly 200,000 members. Here are my words.


Often heard is the principle to focus services and cut away excess spending in areas that are covered adequately by other commercial enterprises.

I'm trying to work out where closing Radio 6 Music fits into this apart from just being an easy target. Just the statement above proves how little is known about this area of music. Calling it 'pop' is laughable, about the same as calling a work of Beethoven 'baroque'.

So, lets look at the concept of removing it because there are plenty of other commercial stations doing it. There is no equivalent of Radio 6 anywhere in the UK. Radio 1 and 2 are dedicated to chart type music, which has a very small crossover, thanks to encouraging avenues like Radio 6 getting some of the more adventurous music into the main scene. All other commercial stations follow the same pattern as Radio 1 and 2.

Let's look at the cost per listener. Radio 6 is lower than Radio 3. Funnily enough there are plenty of UK stations doing the same thing as Radio 3, so surely Radio 3 would be more in line with removal under these proposals. Would the review remove Radio 3?

So, what does Radio 6 do? It's a centre for those who value modern music without succumbing to the lowest common denominator of the 'popular' culture. It's an eclectic, artistic interest in modern music, much in the same way Radio 3 does for older music forms.

One thing has come about at the same time. Larger numbers of people have tuned into this kind of music listening. The number of music events around this kind of music is engaging more and more people. To stop Radio 6 now would cut off the oxygen of growth for this group. Radio 6 is encouraging and inspiring culture, one of your core principles.

Saturday 17 April 2010

Horrible Crash in the Tour of Turkey

Just found out about the horrible crash at the end of today's stage of the Tour of Turkey. This is in the last few km of the stage, so they are going at around 40mph at this stage.

This first picture shows the lead out train of Columbia/HTC for Greipel and the front rider is clearly just got out of shape on the corner. What caused this is unknown, possibly oil on the road. The back wheel has slid out making the cornering fall apart.

Now, a moment later and the second rider realises that there's a problem and has got his right foot out of the cleats. The front rider is now in real trouble.

Front rider is going sideways now, and the second rider has nowhere to go. The third rider looks out of shape as well, as his back wheel begins to slide. Greipel, who's fourth equal on the right (so not in blue) looks like with a tight turn he could make it still.

Front 3 riders are now going into the side barriers and Greipel has his foot out as the turn was clearly too much to make. The blue rider hasn't got anywhere to go. Alarge number of those at the front haven't got anywhere to go.

Riders down over barriers, lost more are sliding that way.

Riders all the way back are going over the corner padding, flying at the spectators with their momentum.

Some riders have made it all the way to the other road through a line of spectators. One rider looks to have cleared the crash.

Cyclists all over the road, but two make it through.

And two go on, not knowing what ot do with the depleted race.

This crash cost Greipel his sprinters jersey, as Visconti overtook him on the standings. Story

3 Points on Your License

Yep, a speeding fine. A similar breaking of the rules of the land. Something your not meant to do, because a number of people and/or circumstances have realised that it's very dangerous thus should not be done. It's for the common good. It saves children on their way home from school trying to cross busy roads. The limit is 30, so don't go past that or you won't be able to stop before hitting a child that's run out. It saves vunerable people who can't rush across roads at 4mph.

We all know why these laws are there. We feel them when we are the person trying to deal with a local traffic inconvenience on foot. We all appreciate the police when they stop people breaking these laws and make our streets safer for us to use. Sometimes, as car drivers, we find it a bit irritating, but do understand why we shouldn't break these laws. It helps us as society ensure we are protecting everyone.

Now, take the common cyclist. A rarer thing compared to 30 years ago, although recently that trend has changed. A good thing it has, it helps clear the roads of unnecessary cars and does useful things for general health and reducing greenhouse gases. We have all seen 'them' break red lights, we have all seen 'them' bunny hop onto pavements to avoid road controls. Doesn't that make everyone angry? Me too. So why do they do it? Is it that they are just unruly good-for-nothings?

Actually most cyclists don't do these things. It's just very obvious to a car driver when one does because that cyclist is beating a system the car driver feels compelled to acknowledge. If a driver told me (and I'm a driver too!) that cyclists should obey these laws as well, I'd agree completely.

One reason for this bad behaviour does arise from some of the car-based decisions made by road designers. I know plenty of places where a cycle route is clearly marked all the way through a junction, including to those joining, and despite there being no contrary traffic route, cyclists have to stop when the light is red. One I know is at a bottom of a slope so surprisingly, a lot of cyclists do not stop, given the good speed to which they have got. Cars do, but they would be fighting for road space with vehicles coming in from the right anyway, so it's probably a good idea.

So, should these pesky cyclists just get away with it? Funnily enough loads of drivers do not obey the rules of the road and get away with it, and regularly. And in front of the police as well.

Many pedestrians and cyclists know that drivers regularly exceed the speed limit. But perhaps that's okay because it's not by much and not without the driver paying a lot of attention. Many cyclists know that drivers regularly enter the forward-cycle boxes at lights. A mechanism setup because it was shown to improve safety of all road users and saved countless lifes. I have seen it happen so many times, probably at least once for every time I've been in a car or on a bike.

So today, I wasn't surprised when I saw it again. And watched the police car who could also see this happening do absolutely nothing. To me (and the law where it's 3 points on your license), it was the equivalent of watching a car doing 60mph (in a 30 limit) right passed their front window. And not bothering because it wasn't important to them.

So, many people get excited about cyclists misbehaving. I'm one of them as well, but feel there's a greater danger being overlooked. So few people seem to realise the hard damage a car will do. If anyone wants an idea perhaps they'd choose to get on a 15kg bike and match it up to a 1-tonne car. Then, the idea of trying to ride those small things against those big lumps of metal will help anyone realise why cyclists try to take easy and much safer routes away from them.

In the end, what makes cyclists and drivers behave is either some kind of understanding of the consequences of ones actions, or some kind of penalty mechanism when people misbehave. It's quite clear that whilst the police do not do anything to stop bad actions, people will continue to be maimed and killed, despite our society already producing the laws to protect us.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Sitting Room Details

My sitting room isn't big or spectacular. It does have some odd corners. I thought I'd share.

Buddha and Dragon. A few things I brought back from Beijing. Why them? Why not.

New and Old Worlds. In several senses.

My version of multimedia. And boy do I multi after some of that media!

Word scramble. There is sense, when you put your head on one side.

A teapot cuddled by a banana cover. Is the emergency milk out of date yet?

A detail of my favourite doodle that I found in Walbeswick about 20 years ago. It's still got bits I've not seen before.

And a slight odd collection of reading material. The "Don'ts for Husbands/Wifes" do go into the forgotten English at times. And the Bike Book bookends well with Native American Wisdom.