To blog or not to blog?

Normally when I set out on a week long tour my wife keeps a blog running for each day.  This year life is just too manic for her to be able to find the time.  Working and looking after three boys on your own is no joke without an extra burden.  It is certainly much harder than being out on the bike all day with nothing to worry about other than pedalling, eating and sleeping.

So, this year I either have to do it myself or not do it at all.

Being a Luddite when it comes to mobile communication I do not have a smart phone or a tablet. Until now.  I have been persuaded to invest in a tablet for the family. This is mainly for my children to play games on but I am now experimenting to see whether I can use it to blog. This is my first blog post using the tablet. I’ve accidentally clicked something on the screen which is now allowing me to speak directly into, or at, the tablet and the words are magically appearing on the screen. Perhaps I should have bought a tablet a long time ago ☺

At the beginning of this post I was sure I would not be blogging. Having found this fantastic feature I am sure I will be able to blog each evening. I am also sure my kids will wish I had never found it

Spiritual guidance on your pilgrimage

I was recently approached by the parish priest for Land’s End asking if I could pass on her details for anyone who is seeking a few prayers before they start their ride to John O’Groats, or perhaps prayers of thanks for having reach Land’s End safely if they have travelled the other way.

Perhaps the best way to do this is for me to copy Rev’d Canon Vanda’s email verbatim:

Hello, I am the new parish priest in the Land’s end Benefice in Cornwall. I know you offer details about the cycle route from Land’s End to John O’Groats and wondered if you may be able to help me?

Part of the work I wanted to do in this community is to help those who would like to offer a prayer or ask for prayer on their journey between Land’s End and John O’Groats. We find that occasionally folk want to come to church in Sennen or St Buryan and ask for us to pray for them on their journey.

Additionally we have had a few folk who were really struggling and in need of some support to complete the journey, their supporters do come to ask the local churches for help.

In early Christian times pilgrimages always started with very simple prayers of protection and guidance for the pilgrim and their family. It would seem that some are interested in repeating this experience.

We are happy to offer some simple prayers either in church or at the start/end point.

So many folk take on the journey to raise money for a charity that is very close to their hearts and want to dedicate their efforts, and indeed to thank God for their safe finish.

I wondered if it may be possible to have contact details on your site to make it easier for folk to access the local churches?

I look forward to hearing from you,

with every blessing,

Vanda

“the church is to be a catalyst not a catacomb”        

Martyn Percy

Rev’d Canon Vanda Perrett MA

The Rectory, Rectory Road, St BuryanPenzance TR19 6BB

01736 810216

Police step in after Bristol man tweets that he hit cyclist

This is a copy of a report in the Guardian:

Police are investigating after a stockbroker tweeted that he failed to stop after hitting a cyclist while driving because he was late for work.

Rayhan Qadar, 21, posted the tweet on Tuesday last week under the Twitter handle Ray Pew, writing: “Think I just hit a cyclist. But I’m late for work so had to drive off lol.”

The tweet drew widespread criticism online, and within hours he was sacked from his job in the stockbroking department of Bristol investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown.

Avon and Somerset police said they would be investigating the claim, saying: “We are aware of a tweet regarding a collision between a car and a bike. We are looking into this now. Any witnesses call 101. If you’ve been involved in a collision please report it at your nearest police station.”

Qadar, a former Cardiff University student, later apologised on Twitter for what he said was a “bad taste joke”. He tweeted: “My previous tweet about the cyclist was not true.” He said he had never hit a cyclist and in another tweet said that “99%” of what he posted on the social network site was “nonsense”.

But the apology was not sufficient to save his job. Hargreaves Lansdown said: “One of our employees has failed to conduct themselves to the standards we expect of our staff.

“We find these online comments totally unacceptable. Upon becoming aware of this issue we have terminated this person’s employment with immediate effect.”

Qadar’s Twitter account was altered so that only his 1,323 confirmed followers can access his tweets. Speaking on Tuesday from his home in Bristol, Qadar again apologised. He said: “I am 100% sorry. It was a joke gone bad. I understand now that I can’t say things like that. If I did have an accident I would not drive away.

“I was literally late to work – that’s the only true bit – and I tweet a lot of nonsense. Obviously it’s not true. The only true bit is I was late for work.

“I say a lot of things like that on Twitter. People that follow me for a few years they know I talk a lot of nonsense really. That’s all it was. It was a really dumb thing to say and now I’ve lost my job. I had no idea it would blow up like that.

“Obviously I regret it and I’m so sorry to anyone who thought I might have hit someone. I wouldn’t ever drive away if I did. I’m in a bit of shock at the moment. I know it’s foolish. I wouldn’t do it again.”

Road Were NOT Built for Cars…

A new book by Carlton Reid debunks the generally held belief that road were built for cars.

It starts with the obvious point that roads pre-date cars but goes on to provide a great deal of evidence that the evolution of road in the early part of the last century into the general conditions and structure we have today owe more to cyclists than motorists.

It was cycling groups, both in the UK and the US, that lobbied hard to have road surfaces improved after years of neglect during the great boom in rail travel during the Victorian period.

Should Cyclist be Banned from Wearing Earphones?

Seemingly having nothing better to do with the licence payers money, the BBC recently ran a poll in which nearly 90% of people would back a ban on cyclists wearing headphones.

The poll, part of a cycle safety series on BBC Breakfast, found 89% of people would back a ban on wearing headphones whilst cycling due to the effects on concentration levels.  This is backed by research by Brunel University which found that listening to music reduces the amount of attention available by around 10%, increasing the likelihood of an accident.

This has caused something of an outcry from some cyclists.  On the pro side the need to be able to hear traffic noise around you and then being able to respond accordingly has been much flaunted.  On the anti side there is much talk of the nanny state.  Some bemoan the fact that cyclist seem to be being portrayed as irresponsible and others  point out that most motorists have even less chance of hearing what is going on around them than cyclists, with or without headphones on.  And how many of the 90% would also back a ban on playing music in cars?

In the past Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, has spoken out against cyclists wearing earphones, referring to them as “an absolute scourge”.  Mr Johnson continued, “Call me illiberal, but it makes me absolutely terrified to see them bowling along unable to hear the traffic.”   Possibly a touch of hypocrisy considering the photo below.

Utlimately though, if earphones are going to affect concentration and cause an accident it is fairly clear who is likely to get hurt as a result.

The eagle eyed would have spotted that as well as cycling whilst on the phone Boris is also not wearing a helmet.  Some would argue that is a greater safety issue for cyclists.  Perhaps helmets need to be looked at before earphones?  Ooops!  Sorry!  Worms everywhere…

Road Safety Week – 17th to 23rd November 2014

It is Road Safety Week in the UK.  A week where safety on the road is being publicised.  A week where road users are being urged to look out for each other, especially those most vulnerable on the roads like school children, pedestrians and cyclists.  A week where everyone on the road is being made aware of the lethal weapons that are hurtling about ready to maim and kill if they are not kept under proper control.

No, I hadn’t heard of it either until I received an email asking me to promote it and raise funds to support it.  I would have been happy to do something but the email arrived today, nearly halfway through the week.  Surely it would have been better arriving a few weeks ago to give people a chance to get organised and to start getting the message out there before the week actually started.

Never mind.  I will do what I can because it is an important issue.  For instance, just this morning I was overtaken by an articulated lorry whilst going downhill in a residential area at 25 mph.  It squeezed between me and an oncoming car and then slammed its brakes on for the roundabout not far ahead.  Anticipating the problem I was already on the brakes.  Unfortunately his brakes were rather more effective than mine.  Wet leaves all over the road didn’t help.  Things went into slow motion as I watched the rear of the lorry getting closer and closer as I tried to control my skidding back wheel as it snaked from side to side.  I was inches from impact when the lorry picked up a little speed as it started the turn.  The gap grew to about a foot and then I was able to slither between the lorry and the railed kerb and take the first exit to escape.

I don’t think the lorry driver had been reading much about looking out for other.  Maybe if we can raise some funds there will be the resources to get the message out better next year.

With such a short time scale the best fund raiser I can think of is a pledge by me to donate the profits from all the sales of my week this week to the cause.  So if you have been thinking about buying now is the time to do it.  Just visit http://www.landsend-to-johnogroats.co.uk/purchase-a-book for purchase options.

Cycling Land’s End to John O’Groats – The Alternative Route

As an alternative to following my new ‘Safer Way’ route from Land’s End to John O’Groats how about a completely car and lorry free route?

If you invest in the new Schiller X1 ( $6,495, or about £4,000) you could make the entire ride traffic free: you can go by sea!

Pedal-powered watercraft are nothing new but with a cruising speed of about 9mph, this Schiller X1 is quite nippy.  My average speed on a number of sections on my last two cycles across the country was only 10mph.

The Schiller X1 uses twin oscillating propellors so there’s no need for a rudder, and has a Gates Carbon drive belt to avoid the obvious problems of running a chain in wet conditions. It can even go in reverse.

Company founder Judah Schiller says the X1 can be assembled and dismantled in ten minutes and packs down small enough to fit in the boot of a car, though being he’s from Marin County, California, he may be thinking of the trunk of a Lincoln Continental and not the boot of a Smart car.

Here it is in action:

 

Full details from Schiller Bikes.

Is Cycling End to End Too Dangerous?

In 2009 when I set out on my first end to end I had spent little time thinking about safety.  I had devised a route that was built for speed, utilising busy main roads, many of which were dual carriageways.  I was living in the invulnerability bubble that many cyclists inhabit before it is burst by an errant driver.

Since 2009 I have been knocked from my bike twice, once by a driver making a right turn without indicating, just in front of me, and once by a lorry changing lanes from the outside lane, though the inside lane and into the cycle lane!

My last two end to ends were a quest to find a safer route.  Okay, it wasn’t hard to find a safer route than my original one but I wanted one as safe as possible without detouring miles and miles away from a relatively straight line.  I was spurred on by the news of two fatalities on the A30: end to end charity cyclists on their first day.  The lorry driver that mowed them down has recently been sentenced to eight years.  Click here for my earlier rant on the sentence.

The first attempt was good but still had some very dangerous stretches in it.  So I re-routed and set off again.  This time the route was much quieter and safer.

However, just whilst I am in the process of creating the route as a set of downloadable gpxs, news of another end to end fatality has hit us.  Again a lorry is involved and the cyclist was on her first day, this time starting from John O’Groats. (Link to story).

The accident happened in Bettyhill, right in the north of Scotland, the cyclist probably following the popular route to Lairg.  I haven’t ridden on the road in question but imagine it is probably one of the quietest roads in the country.  It has left me with the question hanging, can I promote a safer cycling route when cyclists are being killed on ‘safe’ roads?  Is cycling end to end inherently dangerous and should I be encouraging people to cycle it at all?

I don’t have an answer yet…

Will You need to Take a Passport on Your End to End?

Today is the big day in Scotland.  Unless you have been visiting distant relatives in a galaxy far far away you cannot have failed to have noticed that today is the day that people living in Scotland get to vote whether they should remain as part of the UK.

One of the threats being wielded by the ‘no’ campaign is that the UK will set up border controls with Scotland if they vote for independence.  In fact one group of pranksters has already set such a spoof control up (link).

Spoof Border Control

Of course, another way of looking at it is that the end to end will no longer end/begin at John O’Groats.  If the idea it to cycle from one end of the UK to the other then it could soon end/begin at Berwick-Upon-Tweed, cutting the overall distance down to about 650 miles!If a border control is set up for real you will have to remember to carry your passport with you on your end to end if you want to get into (or out of) Scotland.

Other (Vaguely) Cycling Related News

Larry the Lucky Lobster

For the past few weeks the office I work at has been undergoing a major refurbishment. This has meant everybody is being squeezed into half the previous office space whilst the other half of the building is gutted.  The upshot is that there is no room in the office for my bike.  Rather than being forced onto the bus I arranged with a contact to leave my bike at their workshop.  This adds a mile walk each way to my cycle commute but I prefer that to the evils of the bus.  [This is a deep psychological scar left from having to travel by bus to school for 1 1/2 hours a day for 7 years when I suffered badly from travel sickness.  I’m sure I’ll get over it some when but it has only been 30 years since the trauma, so early days yet.].
Larry at the Harbour

My walking route from the workshop to the office passes an oriental supermarket on a little used back street.  As I walked by the other morning I couldn’t help but notice a lobster sat on the pavement outside looking a little confused.  The sun was just cresting the buildings to the east, washing him with bright, warm light.  Very pleasant but probably not ideal conditions for a lobster.  Indeed, his efforts to get my attention by waving his rubber band bound claws at me was rather pathetically and I guessed he was already suffering.

Kneeling down I looked him in the eyes.  They were small, beady, black and strangely intelligent.  By some process of crustaceous telepathy he informed me that his name was Larry and unravelled an unlikely tale.  He had been falsely accused of a crime and incarcerated in the local jail.  Whilst awaiting trial the whole jail had been hauled out of the sea and he had been rudely dragged out and dumped in a basket by a stinky human (no offence intended).  Than a whole load of stuff that he didn’t understand had happened until he finally managed to struggle to the edge of the basket and jump for freedom.

Sadly, he didn’t splash into the sea as he had expected but had landed with a crunch on this hard black stuff.  He was now feeling tired and just a bit dried out.  He wanted to get back to the sea so that he could clear his name and return to his family.

Well, the oriental supermarket was closed and I had to walk right by the harbour so I said I would be happy to give him a ride, as long as he didn’t mind just hanging loose in my hand because my bag was full.  He wasn’t too keen on the hanging bit but with no one else with better transport prospects in sight he reluctantly agreed.

Walking to the harbour I got a few odd looks but no more than usual.  The locals haven’t become accustomed to seeing a lycra clad, middle aged bloke wandering along their mean streets yet.  In a few more weeks they’ll take no notice.  They’ll probably get bored of sniggering and making snarky remarks as well.  And their egg supply must be running low by now.

We made it to the harbour without incident and I carefully released Larry’s claws from the bands that bound them.  We had only been together for 5 minutes but I felt some bond had grown between us.  It was a sad moment as I bid him farewell and good luck in his mission to clear his name.  As I lowered him into the water he gave me a final salute as he drifted to the bottom.

He just sort of sat there for a long time.  A very long time.  In the end I had to head on to the office and  hope that he was going to be okay.

I worried about Larry all day but when I passed by on my return journey that evening he was gone.  I can only assume he had taken a while to recover and had then made his way out through the harbour to home, wherever that might be.  

I hope he’s got his sat nav with him!