You shouldn’t need to be a stunt rider to get to work

Great video and the message rings true after a “cycling on constant red alert” journey home.

As usual it came as little surprise that 95% or so of my fellow cyclists this evening were the usual MAMILs (middle-aged men in [one-piece] Lycra). Do you enjoy off-piste skiing and bungee jumping? If you picture ‘the type’ you’ll start to get a good idea of the sort of person I’m talking about. It isn’t a criticism, it’s a social observation of how niche the primary group of cyclists in this city is. I don’t have anything against ‘enthusiast’ prosumer cyclists with all the gear, I just bemoan the fact that ‘ordinary’ (said in large quotes) Londoners do not cycle (because, as we know – they don’t feel safe). That was me for the past 10 years until I became stubborn and foolhardy.

Tonight’s escapades included:

  • The usual red-light jumping by cyclists on Victoria Embankment as I turn right onto said road as I descend from the Strand via Savoy Street. I don’t especially blame people (at this junction) because the feeling is that it will be safer to get ahead of the fast cars before the lights change
  • Heavy traffic along Victoria Embankment with constant weaving in and out by cyclists and motorcyclists vying for space.
  • Entirety of the (actually quite large) ASL box at Victoria Embankment/Bridge Street invaded by two cars – one of which goes on to hoot at cyclists as the lights go green and people turn right heading down to Parliament Square.
  • The usual snarl up along the CS8 Cycle Superhighway at the junction of Vauxhall Bridge Road and Millbank. Vehicles invade (in fairness, they have absolutely NO choice) the blue cycle lane as they wish to turn left to go over the bridge and south. This includes buses which are hard to get around when, again, you have motorbikes vying to push through to the front.

Very, very few people ought to be so naive or so foolish as to believe that Cycle Superhighways represent some kind of ‘safe passage’ for cyclists. They don’t.

A life on two wheels

pashley guvnor
A bike to covet: a British-built Pashley Guv'nor (Source: Esquire Magazine)

So I started cycling.

Having lived in this city for over a decade, cycling is not something that has ever taken my fancy. For most of those 10 years I’ve lived in zones 2 and 3 – i.e. a few miles out from the centre. The last 1.5 years I’ve lived in zone 1, which effectively is the centre. It makes the prospect of getting around by bike much more viable.

Of course – the biggest influence on my decision to at least try out two wheels has been the ‘Boris Bike’ scheme. In the unlikely event that you don’t know what that is – it’s Transport for London’s bike-hire scheme. There are 6,000 bikes and 400 docking stations in central London. The cost, especially for journeys under 30 minutes – is minimal. Journeys under 30 minutes are actually free, though you need to pay an access fee (either £1 a day, £5 for 7 days or £45 for a year’s access). I’m currently paying £5 for the 7 day pass which auto-renews. I have a key fob which means I don’t have to faff about at the terminal – I just plug-it in to the individual bike dock and the bike is then released.

Continue reading “A life on two wheels”

Vignettes 12/02/09

Painful journey in. I met my ex-neighbour at the station (really nice guy, as is his girlfriend) and we get the same train each day. VVVVVVVVVV.busy. Total pain in the neck.

Not a great working day. Couldn’t apply myself. Have feelings of being ‘overwhelmed’. The downside of being in a ‘brand new’ role for which the company has no precedent. Finally seeing my line manager tomorrow (who I haven’t caught up with in 3 weeks) so we’ll see what she says.

Very painful journey home. Train PACKED. Lived in London 10 years so know what packed trains are like. This was not fun. I can cope with packed trains but it broke down at one point for 10 mins or so. I couldn’t move.

I get claustrophobia. Get rising sense of panic that is difficult to control. Wondering if I’ll have a panic attack though didn’t. Finally the train moved on.

Home at last. Ran into a neighbour. Said he was without power. The downside of living in an old building is that we have problems such as these – though I don’t these days as had my electrics re-done 4-5 years ago.

More snow incoming. Ugh.

Strong sense that the economy is worsening dramatically – Sheridan, who has a government-sensitive job, agrees. Most people agreeing this is ‘the big one’. Unemployment will go through the roof later this year; this is just the beginning.

Winter of discontent

Another difficult journey into work. Train was absolutely packed by the time it reached my stop. Totally packed. You literally had to push – hard – the person in front of you to get on. Lots of tutting and sighing. Really – the journey to work has been awful the past three days.

I ended up very tightly sandwiched in the middle of a bunch of other commuters. Nothing to hold on to. But then, you didn’t need to hold on to anything as you are being literally propped up by people in front of, behind and to each of your sides. As the train picked up speed and started to rock as it rounded corners – we swayed as one group; a somewhat surreal experience. I even had my eyes half closed for part of it as the experience proved quite soporific. Everyone wearing huge jackets, scarves etc due to the very cold weather – I felt cocooned among this mass of people. As a single person, that’s probably the closest I get to other human beings these days! An odd thought.

And so I read on the BBC website that the temperature has kept dropping. Last night it got down to -12c (10 f) in Oxford and the big freeze continues. Even the fountains in Trafalgar Square have now frozen and in Wales, 6000 homes were without water as pipes froze.