Thursday, July 14, 2011

Pet hates

I’ve just been reading the Cambridge News Cycling Blog which is underrated. I tend to read if occasionally, as an afterthought, yet whenever I do I find that it provides an interesting pro-cycling but not anti-car point of view.  Too often discussion of cycling and motoring issues provoke extreme views  and you get more heat than light on the subject. Just look at the subject of “Road tax” or “Vehicle Excise Duty”. Here is an example of the “no pay, no say” brigade.

Mind you we cyclists are such passionate people (well passionate about our activity) that you can get that passion over-flowing in cyclist vs. cyclist arguments. Two cyclists, Carlton Reid and David Hembrow,  whose Blogs I follow and enjoy reading  seem to have recently ended up in a disagreement over cycling in Northumbria.  Here are the links to their respective “arguments – Carlton, David (towards the end).  In my simplistic view they are both “right” and could probably do with chatting about it over a beer.  (There is another pet hate – arguments by internet – speech came first.)

So back to pet hates – well the Cambridge News Cycling  blog 11: Toucan Crossings certainly resonates with me. The delays are Toucan Crossings and pedestrian crossings do seem somewhat arbitrary and the design rarely makes it easy for the cyclist. I cycle along Milton Road up to the Cambridge Science park occasionally and all I can say is that overall layout is not all all cyclist friendly.  Road layouts tend to follow a certain pattern, such that when driving you know where to look for particular pieces of information – such as where the traffic lights are. This does not happen on cycle routes, particularly shared-used routes at complex road junctions.

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There are several pet hates there, poorly designed complex junctions where the pedestrians and cyclists struggle to understand where to look. I also find the presumption that cars are more important than the cyclists and pedestrians and so you end up waiting for ages after pushing the button at a crossing. What actually happens is that people cross when they see a gap in the traffic. Or if you have ever driven through the junction at Hills Road and the Cherry Hinton Road students just swarm across and block the traffic flow by sheer weight of numbers. They might well be in the wrong, but the time lost to pedestrians is surely judt as important as the time lost to motorists?

There is a bigger reason for the annoyance and that is that accelerating back up to speed on a bicycle uses a lot of energy. In fact each time a cyclist stops they have to expend around 20 times as much energy as a walker does to reach his/her normal journey speed. Humans are “programmed” to modify their behaviour when there is a direct impact on their physical situation. So Whether we like it or not, our brain measures the expenditure of energy every time we have to stop and re-start and works out what a waste of energy it is and tries to avoid this inefficiency.  (If you follow the link then it suggests that each stop-start on a bike is the equivalent of adding an extra 100m onto the journey length (in terms of energy expenditure).  Which means if there are 10 junctions in one kilometre of travel it feels like cycling two kilometres.

This waste of energy is also true for motor vehicles, however we don’t directly feel the pain until it is time to fill the tank again and we wonder where all that petrol/diesel has gone. If you have ever driven around Milton Keynes and watched the fuel consumption read out on your car  you’ll see a huge change. In fact I was driving cross-country and trying to drive economically, when I reached Milton Keynes and passed through, the predicted range for fuel left in the tank dropped by 100 miles. (Roundabouts don’t just stop you they also seem to encourage harder acceleration, well for me anyway.)

Getting back to cycling another pet hate is when I am cycling and stop at a red light the cyclist behind barely misses me as they jump the red light. So they not only compromise their own safety but mine as well.

I also dislike lack of courtesy on the roads, again from whatever direction, we could all do with a bit more of that if you ask me.  However I posted about the cyclist attacked in Bexley – well they have charged  someone with common assault. Perhaps I will get myself a helmet-cam after all.

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