Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Riverside on Riverside

My cycling has been interrupted a little of late and not just interrupted but ripped apart by great chunks of driving – perhaps a bit melodramatic – some driving. Actually I have had to pick up a load of stuff for my son who is moving. This meant a 300mile plus cross-country drive in the build up to the Bank Holiday weekend. I took a cross-country route to avoid the M25 and against the “advice” of my Satnav, It wasn’t too bad actually, although even minor problems turned into queues quite quickly.

My Satnav (and Google Directions) both showed a 199mile route via the M25 which would have meant a total of 400 miles and so another 100miles of driving and in my view more likelihood of getting caught up in problems on the M25. And, let’s face it “male motorists are more stressed by traffic jams” according to the Daily Mail. Apparently it is the “flight or flight” instinct that affects us men.

One bit of good news is that I didn’t get stuck behind a tractor – “spend 80 minutes on a country road and you WILL get stuck behind a slow-moving farm vehicle”. Apparently there are 250,000 tractors in the UK and the more positive news for drivers on rural roads is that the delay is only 1.2 – 3.1 miles. Personally I think that tractors on country lanes is a good thing – they help to either put off motor vehicles or slow them down. Which for a cyclist on country lanes is a good thing. Although I suppose the downside is that a held-up driver might drive faster to “catch up”.

Perhaps this “Motorist on two mobiles” was just trying to catch up on work whilst stuck in the car. Apparently his car wasn’t insured either.  Even more worryingly it was near Norwich – although on the A47 a road that I even avoid  crossing when cycling.

The trouble with road safety is that it only takes one idiot to cause serious or fatal accidents and undoubtedly speed is a factor when it comes to the probability of an accident and also a significant factor in terms of the seriousness of an accident. Or as this Guardian article puts is: “Speed camera switch-off empowers reckless driving”. It points out that in the 8 months without cameras there were 18 deaths on the roads in Oxfordshire, whilst for the same period the year before, with cameras, there were “only” 12.  Without other data I am not sure quite how significant this number is, however it is pretty shocking. Each of these is a tragic event.

It is difficult to get a good “feel” for just how I as a cyclist should perceive my levels of safety on the roads. Let’s face it I must feel OK as I cycle more miles than I drive, although I try to avoid fast roads, I try to follow shared-use paths, off-road routes and country lanes. I do think though that cycling has become more dangerous on the roads than it used to be. I put this down to an increase in traffic on the roads and a significant decrease in the courtesy shown to cyclists by other road users. (The decrease is sometimes unintentional and sometimes intentional.)

I am not the only one, “Americans slow to embrace walking and cycling” discusses the issue that despite 25% of trips in US cities being a mile or less and 40% two miles or less cycling is on a continual decline because of the “real and perceived dangers of cycling in the US"… because of the lousy pedestrian and cycling facilities”.

Mind you  maybe I am my own worst enemy – “We smug cyclists just bring out the worst in drivers” is an article that points what it is that irritates drivers so much about cyclists. Yes I have had a car driver shout abuse at me as I cycled on the road along the lines of “get off the flippin’  road and on the flippin’ cycle path” – although perhaps I misheard him slightly. One of the things that  irritates motorists is that we carry on when they are queuing – it’s that flight or fight problem – they can’t flee so they want to fight!

So these all lead to me cycling on off-road or quiet routes through Cambridge such as along Riverside.

And it was Riverside when I found myself listening to Riverside. I top up my cycling levels when not cycling by looking at various cycling related blogs including Copenhagen Cycle Chic which is where I came across this post  about Agnes Obel – cycle chic. I watched the Youtube video and was entranced – I have fairly eclectic tastes in music and my next few clicks were to order it from Amazon and it turned up 24 hours later. If you can’t be bothered to follow the link here is the Youtube Official Video.

It was a coincidence that I happened to be listening to Riverside as I cycled along Riverside but fitting. In fact I liked it so much I bought the Deluxe Version – something I don’t normally do.  Here is her Wiki link – Agnes Obel.

Maybe if more drivers listened to this there would be less road rage on the roads.

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