Thursday, February 9, 2012


Tuesday, 7th February 2012: Why do we support one football team and not another?  If we think about it the the origins might have lain in social associations, where a local team was just that, with local players and local “management”. The world has changed and now it is big business. Major football teams look all over the world for the best playing talent, for the best coaching talent and the best management talent. Indeed clubs look all over the world for their investment as well.  The associations are either to a “brand”or to fellow supporters, where local associations do have some relevance.

Ultimately the support moves from a logical basis to an emotional basis. Why does this matter – well I have just been reading some of the letters in response to The Times cycling initiative  - “Cities fit for cycling” and I feel that sometimes the issues raised have transcended rational argument and descended into an emotional quicksand – on both sides.

It seems there are four camps – motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and those that say they both drive and cycle but seem to be the most vitriolic in their denouncement of dodgy cyclists. Actually that last bit is probably unfair, I drive and have a motorbike licence as well as cycling, but my heart lies with cycling.

The trouble is today’s world seems to run on rhetoric and sound bites rather than cold data and so despite the fact that motor vehicles cause congestion and one more cyclist is one less motorist there is a very strong feelings both against and for cycling. How do we get more light and less heat into the discussion?  (I know I talk about sound bites in a disparaging tone and yet use them myself – too much time spent in marketing.)

Yellow Van Man – Headlake Drove

The trouble is the situation has become tribal we consider the issues in the way we would support one team over another and defend our team against. Examples of how we over-generalise and group would be how we talk about MAMILS, Lycra Louts, or White Van Man or Red-light jumpers or boy-racers.  All these terms have some resonance at a level for us, yet I think they stop us from seeing the bigger picture. I know I tend to view all white vans as more dangerous than the average motor vehicle, although I have not facts to back that belief up. The two times I have been hit by a motor vehicle they were both cars, one was an old boy, the other was a late 20s male.

The other thing I have noticed is that it is always much easier to complain about the “other sides” behaviour than to address ones own behaviour. So if you talk to many car drivers they hate cyclists jumping red lights. Yet a TFL report, I have mentioned before, shows that in London; between 1998 to 2007 no pedestrians were killed by jumping red lights, whereas between 2001 and 2005, a shorter period, 7 pedestrians were killed by cars jumping red lights (This is well covered in the wirral-mamils blog.) So which one is the bigger, more serious problem?

With that in mind I was amused to see that “Paris is to allow cyclists to run red lights in a bid to cut accidents” and this is the city where last year  not a single person was killed riding a bike. In London there were 16.

La Defense in the Distance – Paris

I used to be a strong believer in the concept that the roads were the place for cyclists and they had to be made safe for cyclists and that to pursue a policy of dedicated cycle paths was unnecessary.  To regular readers it will come as no surprise that I have change my views. Whilst I still believe that cyclists should have an unquestioned right to cycle on roads I believe even more strongly that there needs to be the provision of high quality cycle routes with priority over the motor traffic. Why, well if we want more people to cycle that is what it will take and then we will enjoy the social benefits – health, pollution, happiness, cost….

So why so many words, well Tuesday started off very badly. I was due to go over to the other side of Cambridge for a meeting with other meetings in other parts of Cambridge. Normally this would be great, it gives me an excuse to cycle and despite the cold weather. My first meeting wasn’t until 10.30am so I had a bit of time to print out the material and take a few pictures on my way over. what’s more despite the cold weather and snow all around it was sunny.

The trouble is all this snow and cold weather must have put a strain on the electricity supply, just as I was ready to print out the stuff there was a brief blip in the lights, what’s that I thought, there was another one and I looked around to see my machine re-booting. Ah well I have time I thought, although as I have a RAID disk system when it re-starts from a crash it performs a background disk check, which allows me to use my computer but it runs like treacle.

It re-started and I logged back on and was ready to print out the same stuff and there was another blip. This time, the machine didn’t start up instead it ran a low-level disk check, which went on and on, at one point I thought it must have crashed, but 4Tb of disk does take some time I guess. You’ve guessed it there was another blip and the machine crashed again.

I re-started it and went to look for my bike lock/door key, yes bad things come in threes, I couldn’t find them. At this point I had to confess to getting quite cross with my wife’s well-meaning attempts to find them. Time passed and the computer didn’t look like it was going to be ready any time soon and I couldn’t find the keys either. At this point I had run out of time, so it was either get out on my bike or have to drive.  Well I am sure that driving is a bad thing when you are cross and conversely cycling is probably a good thing. So I grabbed another lock and set off.

Normally I would have had time to take pictures and it was lovely and sunny. There was too much ice and snow around though for a speedy cycle. The cycle paths were well-dodgy. So much so that I even took to the roads.

I did find myself cycling through Cherry Hinton, on the outskirts there were some road works – with insulting “Cyclists dismount and use the pavement” sign at the traffic lights. Sorry – but what do they think they mean.  I have a sneaky feeling that they do this so that they can set the traffic lights differently. The gap between the lights turning red at one end and then green at the other must allow traffic to clear the road work bit. If you have to allow for slower moving road users then that time should be longer. By indicating that cyclists must dismount perhaps it allows them to get away with a much shorter time?

Coton – Roadworks – or Thatch-works

My response was to move out of the third-class lane sorry cycle lane and take the lane - yes the bit for cars. They then have to follow me up to the lights and then follow me along the stretch of roadworks when they can burst forth no longer held up by a low-class road-user. Although I find even with a modicum of effort I actually tend to pull away from them and they barely get held up at all on short stretches of road works.

I got to my meeting just about on time, but hotter and sweatier than I would like, and without the paperwork, Fortunately a set was provided for me there. As luck would have it I had barely enough time to get across to my next meeting and so didn’t manage any pictures then. In fact I had so little time that I barely had a chance to think about the best route across. The complication being that I could no longer rely upon the cycle routes.

I did get across town pretty quickly although by the time I finished up it was dark and getting very, very cold. If you follow this Cambridge DTG link you can see the temperature start to plummet from 4pm onwards. This meant a ride home across the common unsure whether the dark patches across the road were water or ice. I took it carefully, I’ve had one fall because of ice already this winter. I got overtaken by a couple of grannies I was going so slowly.

In fact I was so slow I started getting cold and switched to a more road-bound route so I could pick up speed, I  did warm up, it was only really the tips of my fingers that were suffering. They tingled a bit when I got home in the arm.

Tracks in the snow

A few web pages seem to be hanging around on my Browser, but most are less relevant to this post than usual. So here are some picture links mainly – some Russian pictures, Kirsten Dunst and boyfriend cycling around looking for a lost cat (deliberate avoidance of any questionable puns there), some amazing chalk drawings and finally a turbo-charged cyclist – it is one way to keep warm I suppose.


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