Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Playing By My Own Rules

I have only two choices for where to bicycle. 

1) On the road.
2) On the pavement.

1: On the Road:

I only cycle on the road when travelling through a quiet residential street, some B-roads (if not busy) and country lanes.

1a)
When on the road we are subject to the same laws and rules in the Highway code that motorists are subject to.
  • I always stop at a red traffic light.
  • I always stop at any form of pedestrian crossing if people want to cross.
  • I watch out for pedestrians crossing a road into which I am turning. If they have started to cross I know they have priority, so I give way.
1b)
  • I do not cycle tight to the gutter but make sure I am at least a metre away from it.
  • I keep at least a metre away from the "Door Zone" when overtaking parked cars.
  • I only use any cycling infrastructure if it doesn't negate the above two, and if it feels safe.
  • I never make any manoeuvre before looking behind me and signalled my intention.
If at any time I feel nervous or find it too much of a strain to ride my bike as if it was a car then I cycle on the pavement.

2:  Pavement Cycling:


On all fast main roads, and if at any time I am feeling nervous riding on the road, I ride on the pavement, legally and illegally.

Rule 64 of the Highway Code states: You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement.  Laws HA 1835 sect 72 & R(S)A 1984, sect 129
Of course since then all councils, in order to save money, have turned a vast amount of our pavements into shared cycling/pedestrian paths making a mockery of Rule 64.  Unfortunately instead of Rule 64 being either removed or changed the governments saw fit in 1999 to bring in fixed fines for illegal pavement cycling.  At the time of writing this the fixed fine is £50 and if contested in court a maximum of £5000.

But it's not all bad.  At at the same time as the fixed fine came into being the Home Office gave instructions to police - which you can read here Cycling on Pavements - to not stop and fine anyone that was cycling carefully and safely along a pavement.  I personally carry a copy of the memo in case I am stopped by the police or their representatives.

2a)
  • Pedestrians must come first at all times whether cycling legally on a shared path or illegally.
  • I never startle a pedestrian by riding up too quickly or make them suddenly jump out of the way.
  • I never cycle through a heavily pedestrianised area.  I believe cycling on pavements where illegal should only be used on fast roads and where pedestrians are few and far between.

2b)
Cycling Legally:

  • I stick to my side of the cycle path if it is marked and if it isnt' marked then I tend to ride closest to the road so that pedestrians do not have to step close to the road in order for me to pass them.
  • If a pedestrian happens to be on the cyclist's side I do not shout at them but slow down and either ring my bell or simply say excuse me with a smile.
  • I am aware that being on a legal cycling/pedestrian path does not give me the right of way it simply says we are all sharing.

2c)
Cycling Illegally:

  • I am very aware that if I cause an accident when pavement cycling illegally then I am 100% to blame.
  • I am very careful by my actions to let the pedestrian know that I know they are giving me a concession by allowing me to cycle in their segregated area.
  • When passing a pedestrian, although I'm on wheels, I act like a pedestrian by excusing myself and thanking them when they move out of the way.
  • I always cycle passed them slowly.
  • I never ring my bell when cycling on a pavement illegally.  After all, I wouldn't ring a bell as a pedestrian.
  • Just as a car is held up only for a few seconds by a bicyclist I will only be held up by a pedestrian for a few seconds.

Notes:

Clothing:
  • I do not feel that I have to wear any more than my ordinary clothes.  I dress for the destination and not the journey. 
  • I do not wear a helmet as after research on the pros and cons I decided that I am safer not wearing one and I wont be pressured into wearing one simply because other people think I should.

Points of Law:
  • It is not law that bicycles have to have a bell.  It is law that all bikes must be sold with a bell, but it is up to the owner of the bike as to whether they wish to keep it attached to their bike.
  • It is perfectly legal to ride two abreast.  But it is polite to move over if we are holding up too much traffic.
  • It is not law to have to ride to the left.  It is perfectly legal to ride in the centre of the lane.

If I stick to the letter of the Highway Code, the only law I am breaking is illegally cycling on pavements.  As I do this carefully I have never upset anyone and hopefully I will never be given a fine.

I have absolutely no quams about breaking that particular law as I do it simply because I owe it to myself, my Daughter and my Granddaughters to keep myself safe until we have real segregated cycling infrastructure.  

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Why I Get so Frustrated, Upset and Angry

It's been a very long time since I have made a post on this blog, and this is mostly because there are so many great blogs out there that seem to cover everything possible that I have really had nothing to add to any form of discussion.  However I have noticed that more and more I am getting frustrated, upset and angry.  I am now ready to put this into print.

First of all I want to give a little run up to my situation.  Although I hate doing this I have to bring my age into the equation as I feel with the rant I am about to give it is relevant.

I am 67 years old at the end of this year, and prior to retiring at 60 I had never ridden a bike, yet all my life I had wanted to.  I had tried twice in my younger 30s and 40s, even going to the expense both times of buying a bike and then on finding that I simply didn't have the nerve to get out on the roads, I sold them and gave up.  Even now I own a gorgeous sit up and beg Dutch type bike, which I bought 2 years ago, that I once again tried riding but haven't had the nerve, up until recently, to learn to ride her, although I have now started doing a bikeablity course (but that's another story).

On the year of my retirement I spotted a trike in a local bike shop.  I kept passing by the shop looking and longing but not sure I could afford it, and even if I did, would I actually ride it?  On my actual moving day when moving from Hastings in East Sussex down to a quiet seaside location in Christchurch, Dorset I made a decision.  I knew I would kick myself if I didn't buy that trike.  I quickly popped to the bike shop and bought the trike and loaded it directly onto the moving lorry without ever having ridden it.

For the last 7 years a trike has been my only form of personal transport.

My age and situation takes me out of what most people think of when they think of people riding a bike in the UK.

I am not young and fit.  I do not have to fight with city traffic to commute.  I do not mountain bike.  I do not have a young family that drive out to use the recreational cycling ways specifically set up away from urban areas simply for fun rides.  I am an older lady, with a little dog, that plods along utility bicycling for transport.

Much is talked about on all the blogs and social sites of city cycling and recreational cycling.   Much is also talked about of getting people on their bikes for commuting, you could spend several days watching all the videos on Youtube regarding this, and charities spend a lot of time and money on getting people to recreational bicycle, even if they do, wrongly, push the yellow jackets and helmets.  None of which draws attention to the needs or importance of utility cycling.

My actual location is rural.  This means several things.  My choices of getting from A to B consist of fast main roads, country lanes, and less used residential roads.

First a little list of daily, weekly, monthly, frequent journeys I have to make that take me out of the village.

Dentist: 2.1 miles
Sainsburys:  2.4 miles
Doctors: 3.7 miles
Christchurch Town: 4.3
Visiting Sister and Niece: 4.4 miles
Christchurch hospital: 5.1 miles (visit 3 monthly)
Bournemouth hospital: 6.5 (visit 6 monthly)

As you can see none of these distances are further than would be comfortable to cycle, yet all these journeys take me twice as long as Google Maps states that it should take simply because of lack of infrastructure.  And bear in mind that I have only added to the list places that I "have" to visit on a regular basis.

Being as how I live right on the border of Dorset and Hampshire, neither County Councils seem to want to take responsibility for me to have safe and convenient cycling from home into Hampshire or Dorset.  But let's be fair and tell of what has been done so far by both county councils up to this point regarding the little bit of cycling infrastructure that has been added to take me into my nearest towns for shopping in either direction and into both counties.

Dorset:

None of my immediate, including my own, residential roads have been made 20 miles per hour.  My own road, which is also used as a route to the beach where there is a large car park for visitors and, believe it or not, only 10 bicycle parking rings, is also used as a rat run by motorists to avoid using the traffic lights at the top of the road and missing out on driving the half mile on the A337 that runs through the village.

This road and other smaller ones coming off of it could easily be 20 mph but seemingly I have to go around knocking on all the doors of all residents and get up a petition to apply for this before the council could even consider this.   That's without even having the nerve to ask for it to be a non-through road.

So for the first mile from my home and heading into Christchurch there is no planned safe cycling.  Half of that part of the journey is cycling on the main A337.

The rest of the journey the council have given some thought to safe cycling.  They turned the north side A337 pavement into shared ped/cycling by putting the little blue and white signs up on every few lamp posts.  In the majority of places this pavement is totally uncared for, so narrow in most places that even pedestrians passing each other have to step to one side and onto a narrow grass verge.  And where it is slightly wider the residents of the houses have let their hedges grow so deep that they smack one in the face as cycling past.  On top of that one has motorists coming out of their drive ways. (I narrowly missed being knocked over in this area once).  Along with there being plenty of side roads to give way to.

Halfway through the journey there is Sustrans way.  This is a massive over pass to take the pedestrian and cyclist up and over where the A337 becomes a duel carriage way.  Except it's a "get off and push for the cyclist".  Have you ever tried pushing a trike or similar up and over one of those over passes?  NO?  Well, for a woman of 67, with one heart attack and a TIA under her belt, along with arthritis of hips and foot, it aint no fun.   And don't forget the obligatory staggered barriers that one has to get a trike through at the top of all exits.

On reaching Christchurch town the shared path comes to an end and we are guided into on coming traffic on a road that is still duel carriage way.  But..........  They have been considerate and put up a sign saying "Cyclists dismount" -  From there it's a case of pushing bike/trike down and under an underpass in order to get to the high street and cycle parking.

Hampshire:

If I want to visit the first main town in Hampshire, which is 2.5 miles from me, it's a case of sticking to the A337 hopping on and off shared pavements when allowed, or go illegal and stick to all of the pavements.  The pavements in Hampshire are in much better repair than in Dorset.

If I wanted to go a longer way around and stick to so called quieter roads, which it is advised to, I risk being knocked down in the narrow, winding lanes that are the national speed limit, plus adding even more time to my journey.  Once again there seems to be no urgency in slowing traffic down on residential roads or country lanes.

The sad thing is that is that everyone down here, and I do mean everyone, well, probably 80% of people, including the elderly, own bikes.   Every member of my family, except my Sister, own a bike.  In our little family out of the 12 of us, 11 of us own a bike.  Yet only 2 of us cycle on a daily basis.  The others will cycle if they are forced to if they suddenly don't have access to a car.  When they do cycle they make sure they only cycle on pavements, legally and illegally, because they are so terrified to be in traffic.  My Daughter and Niece, both grown women, when asked why they won't cycle simply say that it's far too dangerous and they aren't prepared to risk getting stopped by the police if on a pavement.  Even my Son-in-Law is constantly warning me about being careful on the road.

I fully understand how they feel.  I am also terrified to ride a two wheeler on our roads. I know that the only reason I have the nerve to ride on the roads is that I ride a rigid, chunky trike.  I am easily seen, and an older woman with a dog in the basket, and in general motorists do tend to give me a lot more space than they do a bicycle.  Even then on fast main A-roads I ride on all pavements, legal and illegal.  I am not the only one.  Every time I leave home I see bicyclists of all ages.  From teens to 70+ year olds, families and older couples, and they are all cycling illegally on the pavements.

Now whether it is or isn't safe to ride on our roads down here is simply not the point.  The point is that people don't "feel" safe.  We have no idea how many people would cycle for utility if we simply had real cycling safety 100% of the distance on a fast main A-road and all residential roads being made 20 mph.

My friend, who's Mother is living in The Netherlands, informed me the other day that her Mother of 83 has finally agreed to stop cycling and get a mobility buggy instead.  83!!!!  and I often wonder if I will still be cycling by the time I am 75, or will traffic and lack of infrastructure have driven me off my tike.  I have already had 3 very near misses through stupid motorists.  How many more will it take before I lose my nerve?

I would love to have a member of my family keep me company on a ride into town.  Or ride with me to hospital instead of having to go with them in the car if I need or want company for an appointment.  Or have company on a nice trip out to a local landmark.  If I want company to go anywhere I have to go in their cars with them.  What breaks my heart is that I know that if we had safe infrastructure there would be no problem getting any member of my family on a bike.

So you see, it's not only London, Bristol, York and other big cities that need the roads redesigning.  It's not just recreational cycling that needs to be encouraged.  It's also those of us that want, or would love, to cycle from one country town to the next safely and enjoyably. 

Monday, 28 January 2013

It Only Takes One Idiot

Last Saturday on the way back from the local Supermarket with a week's shopping on the back of my trike I witnessed the ultimate in stupidity and impatience.

Picture from Google Maps
My way home leads me through what is supposed to be a quiet residential street which also leads to a large beach front car park.  The area is popular for walking, cycling and ultimately to the beach.  As you can see there are the occasional spots allowed for on road parking on the left.

On Saturday the parking area on the left you see in the picture had cars parked from beginning to end.  That particular stretch allows about 6 cars.

After looking behind me and seeing it safe I signaled then pulled out and cycled passed said parked cars well out of the door zone.

I was literally 2 pedal pushes away from the end of the row that would then enable me to pull into the left again when a car coming up behind caught up with me.  There was also a car coming towards us on the other side of the road.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that a driver could be so impatient as to over take me at that point.

As I was level with the very last parked car in the row, the car behind whizzed up beside me to overtake, obviously now in the right hand lane, and baring down fast on the car coming in the other direction.  As he pulled in to the left I had actually cleared the parked cars and was myself pulling in left which would have allowed anything to over take me safely.

He had missed the on coming car by inches.  Too impatient to wait just a couple more seconds.

No wonder with idiots like that on the road more and more people are taking to riding on pavements even on quiet roads like this one.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Rule 64: You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement

Back in 1931 (correct me if I'm wrong on that date) when the highway code was first published, rule 64  "You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement" made perfect sense.

In 1931 everyone walked.  Our pavements were crowded with people walking to work, walking to the shops, walking to visit friends and relations, kids were on the pavements playing marbles, conkers, skipping, hopscotch and much more.  It would have been insanity not to have a law that protected pedestrians as rule 64 did.

In 1931 very few cars were sharing the roads with cyclists.  Cars did not travel at the speeds that they do now and motorists were far more conscious of sharing the road.   On top of which, roads had been originally designed and created for the bicycle.  It was logical that a government wouldn't go to all that expense creating roads for the cyclist not to make them mandatory.

In 1931 a cyclist's thoughts when starting out on his journey wouldn't have been about safety.  Wouldn't have been about planning his journey in advance for the quietest and safest of routes.  Wouldn't have been about making the choice of wearing a helmet, or wearing hi viz clothing.  He would have slapped his cap on his head, wheeled his bike out of doors and ridden to work.  His only planning for his ride would have been to remember to take his lunch box, and bike lights if he knew he was coming home after dark.

Back in 1931 rule 64 was protecting the majority of vulnerable people.  It made perfect sense and no one questioned it.  No one even thought about it.   No one wanted or needed to cycle on a pavement.  Why would they?  The roads in 1931 weren't killing and injuring hundreds of cyclists a year.

Forward to 2012 and we have a very different society.  A society where a law written in 1931 now adds to the death of many cyclists.   Rule 64 has now become lethal.

In 2012 no one walks anywhere.  In most parts of the country (excluding city and town centres obviously) pavements are deserted.   There are no children playing on the paths.  There are few people walking to the shops, walking to visit their friends and relations or walking to work.  Pavements now are totally under used.  Society has changed so much that in most parts of the country pavements are only serving as a space between driveway and road, with the occasional pedestrian needing to use it for a short distance.  Now it is perfectly safe to allow cyclists, if they wish, to ride on all pavements unless stated otherwise when in high pedestrianised areas.

In 2012 roads have now been so widened, are so fast and so congested that it's insanity to expect anyone not encased in a metal box to be anywhere but on a pavement.  Even our residential roads where children used to play happily and safely are now full of parked cars and motorists using them as short cuts at speeds that will kill or maime.

In 2012 cars have become so very safe for the driver and his passengers that they have become even more lethal for anyone on foot or cycle.  The safer the motorised vehicle has become the more daring and dangerous the driving.  Is it any wonder that the majority of people feel it's too dangerous to cycle on our roads.

Once upon a time it was illegal to shoot the kings deer.  Was that law moral and just in a time when thousands of peasants were dying of hunger?  No! of course it wasn't.  No more than it is moral or just to force nervous, young or elderly cyclists out into the path of killing machines today.

In the cities it maybe that more young, healthy fit males are taking to commuting by bike,  but here in the country and quieter towns it's the elderly and the families that are taking to their bikes because they are willing to risk breaking the law and pavement cycle.

Every day hundreds of normally law abiding people are breaking the law and risking fining or court simply because they can't (not wont) cycle in amongst the traffic of today.  For many it's a choice of breaking the law or of not cycling at all.  And illegal or not, pavement cycling is getting more and more people on their bikes.

Until this country builds a real, safe, Dutch style infrastructure, rule 64 needs removing from The Highway Code and in it's place pavement cycling etiquette rules written.  People should be given a legal choice of whether to cycle on road or pavement until cyclists have a place of their own within our infrastructure.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Cycling Christchurch - A35 Lyndhurst Road

This shared use pedestrian/cycle path runs from the beginning of Lyndhurst Road (A35) in Dorset for approximately (not measured) 1 mile, where it peters out on the upward journey on the wrong side of a busy 40mph main through road just crossing the border into Hampshire.

Most times the traffic is in actual fact traveling at 10mph over the speed limit and it's extremely dangerous to cross this road at this point.

For much of this cycle path the width is between 18 and 24 inches.  Way too narrow for myself and trike.  I therefore have never attempted to actually use this wonderful bit of cycling infrastructure.

I haven't seen any part of the path being maintained since it became shared use.  It's overgrown, narrow and knobbly from start to finish.

Basically it's a case of "Well, pedestrians don't use it so if you want to cycle on it you can, but don't expect us to take care of it.  You use it at your own risk"

Lyndhurst Road (A35) Hinton Christchurch

Monday, 17 September 2012

My First Cycle Out After My Heart Attack

I'd promised my Daughter that I would only go out on the trike if my eldest Granddaughter came with me.  Which she did.

Our Aimee loves cycling anyway, and she wasn't at work today, so she didn't mind in the least keeping me company for my first post heart attack ride.

I planned for a 30 minute run out at the most, taking it steady and avoiding any steep hills.  We took a mostly off road route through country lanes, into, and around, our local Woodlands Burial Ground.

The Burial Ground has a lovely atmosphere, with plenty of open space, tracks for walking and cycling, along with a large pond in the centre.

It was sheer joy being on the trike again.  I could have ridden for many more miles.  I certainly had the energy and strength.  But sadly Aimee had a hair appointment that we needed to get back for.

I suppose for my first time out after the attack and the surgery 40 minutes were enough, although I can honestly say that the ride didn't tire me one whit.

Hoping to get out again for another ride tomorrow.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

11 Days & Counting

It's been 11 days since my heart attack,  11 days since my last cigarette and 7 days since my procedure to implant the stents.

The hardest thing has been not knowing how far to push, or how far not to push my recovery to build up strength again and get back to normal living.

I was collected from the hospital last Saturday by my Niece, and driven directly to her Mother's (my eldest Sister) home, where it was planned for me to stay until the Monday.  My Sister Barbara is 13 years my senior, a very fit, energetic woman, but can't make a cup of tea to save her life.

Although I did not lounge in bed all day but got up as normal I have to admit to not bothering to get dressed all the time I was there.  It was far easier and more comfy to stay in PJs as I was not going to leave the house throughout the whole of my stay.

It was lucky that the weather for the weekend was sunny and warm which meant although I couldn't get out and about we could spend most of the days sitting, eating, drinking and yacking,  in the garden.

I actually did more pottering those 3 days than I first thought I would due to the fact that all the time I was there I only allowed Barbara to actually make me 2 cups of tea.  The rest I made myself on the pretext of needing to get some exercise and not sitting lounging all day.   I didn't have the heart to tell her that her tea was vile, as she was so good to me and waited on me hand and foot.

On Monday evening I was collected by my Daughter Sarah, and Co. to be taken back to their home and stay until my daughter deems me fit enough to be left to my own devices once again and allowed back to live by, and take care of myself.


On Tuesday when all went off to work I was left in the capable hands of my youngest Granddaughter Jess (15), to be there "just in case", and more importantly to make me tea.  I was also made to promise that I would do no more than lounge around, play on the comp and wander out to the garden.

I think Sarah forgot that I had just spent the last 3 days doing exactly that and really should start thinking about being a bit more active.  But that also turned out to be another day that I had my shower and got directly back into another clean pair of PJs.

It turned out a fun day.  Jess is great company.  We watched a couple of dvds, she cooked cakes, and I taught her to clean out the aquarium, (my aquarium - in Sarah's house - my job to clean out each week - Long story, just don't ask), as I wont be able to lift heavy buckets for many weeks.

The following day on Wednesday I am now getting a bit worried that I'm not getting enough exercise to start building up my strength and more importantly my heart.  So with just Jess and me spending another day on our own together, armed with a mobile and my nitro pump spray, Jess and I set off for slow, steady, 20 minute walk in the sunshine. 

Thursday I had a change of keeper.  Jess was back to school but my eldest Granddaughter Aimee (20) was stuck with me.  Now Aimee is not so easy to lead in the direction one wants to go.    She took her caring of me very seriously.  I wont go into details but I was lucky to be able to be out of her sight long enough to go to the loo on my own.

I had a bit of a fight on my hands when I suggested a 30 minute walk in the sunshine to give me some exercise.  "Too soon.  You are meant to be resting.  You don't need to be walking around yet."  -  In the end we did have a lovely 30 minute walk.  Timed by Aimee.  I had after all said I wanted a 30 min walk and that is exactly what I got.

However, when Sarah and Jess came home later that afternoon, they needed to drive into town to pick up a new pair of shoes for Jess, so I suggested that Aimee and I went with them for the ride, which we did, so I managed to get another 45 minutes out of the house.

Yesterday I also managed to get out and about for a bit.  I asked Sarah to drive me into town to just visit W.H.Smiths.  There was a few bits of stationary I wanted to sort out my filofaxes.  From there we drove to my flat to pick up a few bits I needed to take back to Sarah's.  Not good news on arriving.  A pipe was found to be leaking in my airing cupboard.   Not a pretty sight with all my towels, sheets, etc., dripping wet.

One phone call to the association though and it has been left in their capable hands to send in a plumber and get it fixed while I am not there.

So you see, I haven't really been getting much exercise since coming out of hospital, but it's hard to know just how much or how little is the right amount of exercise at this point.

I am still covered in many painful bruises.  Walking and sitting for the first few days was extremely painful from the bruises left around the femoral artery.  Although the bruising is still there and very nasty at least it isn't so uncomfortable now.  Same with my right arm and from where they entered the artery there.  That is still very painful and in actual fact is still keeping me awake at night.  The twitchy, twingy pains one continues to get in the chest after stent implants is a bit worrying as one is never sure if it's a normal twinge after this procedure or if it's the start of a new attack.  Those pains should soon disappear though I am told.

So finally we come to the fags, or lack thereof.

I can't say I am proud of myself for quitting.  It hasn't really been my choice.  It has only been the sheer fear of another heart attack that has stopped me lighting up again.  And quitting has made me miserable.   To be in pain, scared, and having ones independence snatched away, albeit for a short time, is not a good time to quit.  To add insult to injury it hasn't been the fags that have caused this, although they wouldn't have helped, hence the quitting.  This would have happened if I had never smoked in my life.

Funnily enough not one of the many Doctors I have seen have even suggested or advised I quit.  The simple question of "What are you going to do about smoking" 2 days into my hospital stay, and my answer of - "I had my last fag ever before my heart attack" was enough for them.   No discussion, no lecture, just a simple, "Would you like help?  We can offer help with quitting.  Would you like a nicotine patch?"   I didn't need any help.  Once I had decided "no more fags" it really was just a case of no more.

But the good news is, that my full recovery relies on 3 of my favourite activities.  Walking, Swimming and Cycling.  It's now just a matter of waiting and building up slowly until I am ready to do all three again.