Friday, March 4, 2016

Near Misses

I have a theory that people who regularly cycle must filter out their near misses.  I have taken part in the Near Miss Project and both times my diary included several unpleasant “near misses”.  Well the first two and a half weeks of this year I was off my bike after a stupid stumble on the bottom step of a flight of stairs. I managed to sprain both ankles, one would have been unfortunate, two was careless!

So I was full of the joys of Spring when I managed to get out and cycle again.  Given I was only off my bike for a short time I was surprised at how reckless some drivers are when it came to my life.  Perhaps I was sensitive to split-second accidents after having a split-second moment of my own and enduring the consequences. However even now a month on I can clearly remember three incidents and with a minor bit of effort recall a fourth annoyance.

The first incident was being overtaken by a car on a blind double bend – in Swaffham Bulbeck as it happens. Normally I would cycle on NCN51 which takes you around the back of the village up Quarry Lane, however | was taking things easy and avoiding hills – which is quite an easy thing to do in the flatlands.

Approaching the double bends – Swaffham Bulbeck

The good thing is that the car gave me plenty of room – pretty much up to Highway code rule 163 standards. However there was now way they could tell what was coming the other way.  This time there was a car – both were forced to a standstill – the overtaking car didn’t swerve in at me, although most cyclists will have experienced having vehicles swerve in front of them when approaching junctions or pinch-points.  In my mind that was careless driving.

The second incident occurred when I was cycling along the Stretham Road (A1123) between the Upware Road and Way Lane.  This is a straight and fast bit of road and accidents are not uncommon. According to the UK crash map there have been four slight and four serious accidents on the road between 2005 and 2014!  I personally have been past in the aftermath three of the accidents.

So I was cycling towards Way Lane when two cars came towards me at 60+ mph, I was to the left of my white line, but not able to go onto the verge because of the drainage channels. So it seems that rule 163 doesn’t count for oncoming cyclists!  That was scary, but over in the blink of an eye. A car travelling at 60mph covers the ground at 27metres/second.  If a bike is two metres long and a car 4m then the overlap takes about two tenths of a second. Which is just slightly longer than the blink of an eye at 0.1 to 0.15 seconds.   The driver should not have overtake, I was wearing a bright yellow jacket – however that driver was not to be thwarted in his (yes it was a he, surprise, surprise) need for speed.

The third incident was another overtake on a blind double bend, this time in Lode. The pickup truck driver wasn’t bothered about rule 163 and passed me with around 1m and then turned in on me as he went past. I was forced into the kerb and the truck passed within 5cm of my front wheel. To my mind that was a classic “cyclists are not traffic and can be treated as if they don’t exist” style of driving. It probably wasn’t life threatening – but could easily have broken my collar bone if he had caught me.  About a quarter of a mile along there was a temporary set of traffic lights, I easily caught him up. I was pretty damn cross though and decided it was probably better not to get involved in a shouting match.

The final incident was on NCN51 cycling along Bell Road in Bottisham. The road has acquired some new speed warning signs that report your speed in green if under 30mph and red if over.  A transit van went past me at 40mph. It gave room and in this instance wasn’t scary – but a clear disregard for road safety.

I am now nearly a 1000Km on and I have stopped remembering my near misses.

Upware Washes

White Fen

White Fen Pylons

The track to Oily Hall

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A rum start to the year

When blogging I sometimes point out that making the use of cycling helmets compulsory would cause more harm than good. I won’t re-hash the arguments, but one strand is that many mundane activities in our lives are potentially more dangerous than cycling and certainly less beneficial. One example of a dangerous activity I have used is that of using stairs. Well that example bit me at the beginning of January. I missed the last step on a set of stairs – I had assumed that I had reached the bottom and there was a last step!  I basically rolled both my ankles and then instinct took over and I did a neat roll as I hit the floor.

The last time I remember spraining my ankles was when I was around 12 and fell out of a conker tree into a patch of stinging nettles (in shorts and a t-shirt). I ran home my mother used calamine to ease the nettle rash. The next day I got out of bad and “collapsed” as I tried to put weight on my ankle. 

I cycled around 1,880Km in November, 927Km in December and then 188Km in January.  I basically had two weeks of enforced rest and then a further week of very gentle cycling. Two weeks into February and I have covered just under 500Km and I find the cycling helps my ankles. I also started getting back twinges, rest does not suit me, the twinges were quickly dealt with once I was back on my bike again.  (It is a good reason to regularly cycle.)

All it takes is a moment of inattention, on the other hand the body is pretty good at mending, fortunately. I was able to put the period of rest to good use and taught myself JavaScript and Python.  I was taught Fortran when I started out and haven’t really done much programming for the last 20 years (well not for money).  I taught myself Basic and have used Pascal and Mainsail – Machine Independent Stanford Artificial Intelligence Language and have had brushes with various Assembly Languages.

However it was last year that I started using MATLAB to help my daughter learn to code programs for her experiments.  The whole business of an IDE (Integrated Design Environment) was one of the big improvements along with the ability to use the web to search out information rapidly and quickly.  Mind you just as in the days when I learnt Fortran there were quite a few occasions when I had to write some test code to really understand the syntax.

The other change that passed me by was Object Orientated Programming. So I have really enjoyed getting to grips with a new style of coding, along with Visual Studio 2015. The web has an amazing wealth of information out there, although some of it was rather too basic. I found myself running one YouTube tutorial in the background and then dipping in when I heard something I wanted to know about.

As well as cutting back on cycling hanging around the house has caused me to cut back on my photography a bit. Hopefully I will be taking more pictures as I cycle and the weather brightens.

As the world moves on it seems that Google are retiring Picasa, what effect this will have to my blog I am not sure. Hopefully they will maintain the “Picasa” links to the pictures.

My last two months of sporadic cycling

First ride after my tumble

A postponed meeting in Reach – provided a carrot

Bacon and Onion Pie – a very tasty carrot

Dark Peaty Fields on the ‘Long Way’ Way Home

Another Day and a Meeting in Cambridge (not on the R Cam)

Still get Motor Vehicles on Pavements – Lode

Baker’s Fen – Wicken

Blossom – Wicken

Those Dark Fields near Reach – on a Sunnier Day

Headlake Drove aka NCN11 aka Lodes Way

Ely Cathedral – from Barway

Swaffham Bulbeck Lode

Fenland Jelly Babies queuing for a Bacon Roll on Barway Bridge