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Despite obsessive following of the velodrome this blog is on an indefinite hiatus. For other interesting things, including biking, see my other site, TitTat.


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Pedestrians vs cyclists

Pedestrians. I’ve been meaning to discuss you for some time. When I am one of you I like you. I am like you. When I am on my bike I really don’t. And I’m not.

I’ve been pondering this for some time after having an argument with a friend (a 100% pedestrian, 0% cyclist and 0% driver) who reckons cyclists are all law-flouting idiots who try to run him down on purpose. (I am paraphrasing and we’d had a lot of pints but I think that’s the jist of his point.)

Then the Times began their cycling campaign for better understanding between road users, and I thought that probably deserves a mention because it would be really great if I didn’t have to dodge homicidal motorists or iPod listening pedestrians every single morning. We do need more sympathy and awareness and we do need more people to accept Jon Snow’s excellent explanation of why we cyclists do sometimes ride through red lights. Better cycle lanes would theoretically remove the conflict entirely.

It’s a great campaign, begun from a terrible, horrific accident to a young journalist not all that unlike me. So as flippent as I am about running red lights and getting peeved at pedestrians, it’s impossible to forget that to cycle through the city every day, you are risking life and limb and you need to be really bloody careful. Sign up to it.

But back to pedestrians.

In the argument my friend berated cyclists for running red lights, not stopping at pedestrian crossings and nearly knocking down pedestrians right, left and centre.

But what he wouldn’t accept is that as cyclists are so much more aware of what’s going on than pedestrians, we’re far less likely to hit them than they are to walk out in front of us. As a pedestrian you’re on autopilot, putting one foot in front of the other. As a cyclist, you’re defending your life.

I promise you I have seen you thinking about crossing the road 10 metres before you even reach the zebra crossing and I know that if I carry on going at this speed, I’ll either sail in front or behind you if you continue to walk at the same trajectory. Sorry it’s annoying but have you tried to start a bike again in first gear? It takes some serious thigh work just so you could potter across the road in your own sweet time glued to your phone.

I got very upset this week when a woman swore at me because I nearly hit her. She had walked out into the road without looking, not on a crossing, and I didn’t mind- read her intentions in time. I shouted back something to do with crossing on an actual crossing and got called a “fucking bitch”. Charming. I was feeling a bit emotional anyway and it ruined my commute.

Every journey I make at least one person does this – steps out in front of me, either in the road or on the bike path. There’s no warning and usually I get shouted at. I’m going at speed and usually have to swerve ridiculously or slam on the brakes, nearly sending me over the handlebars. Occasionally I get an apology. Normally I get yelled at.

So this is why we need more respect between road users. I cycle, walk and drive in London so I’m better placed than many to understand the complex and dangerous interaction between the three type of me. When I’m a cyclist I hate drivers and pedestrians. When I walk I think cyclists are knobs and when I drive I’m fed up with everyone while being petrified of killing them with every turn.

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The Easy Seat

The time has come to discuss my choice of saddle. Here is a picture, doesn’t it look bonkers?

Bikeman Chris has already informed me that it looks naff and I need a proper comfy “normal” one, ideally in red. Bikeman Pete thinks it looks quite cool but wouldn’t get one himself because he’d be worried about getting his genetalia caught*.

I agree it’s a bit weird. It’s American, if that helps explain its existence. As you can probably see, it’s got a pad for each bum cheek, which supposedly makes it better for your posture and more comfortable to boot.

I’m not sure about comfortable but it’s certainly interesting. It also has a weird fixing onto the seat post so it’s made the bike about an inch too big for me. And I don’t have very many inches so that’s rather a lot. I’ve got the hang of riding a too-big-for-me bike now, though. I just had to accept that when I stop at lights and junctions I must take my rear from the saddle and plant one foot firmly on the asphalt to prevent a Only Fools and Horses Del boy bar moment.

But back to the seat. My original saddle was pretty uncomfortable and I dreamed of a Brooks. Then I sat on one and it was bloody hard. My commute isn’t especially long but on journeys into town and extra trips I did get a bit saddle sore. I swapped bikes last Autumn from the trusted old Raleigh to my new highly temperamental Peugeot racer. It was the perfect time to try a new saddle. After extensive research and horror stories about nerve damage saddles have been known to cause the lady-bits**, I whim-purchased the Easy Seat.

I have become used to having a section of saddle at the top of both my legs at every pedal but I wouldn’t describe it as especially comfortable. Having said that, I’m pretty fond of it now and I’m surprised I don’t get more jibes for its unconventional appearance. If I was taller, it would probably be great. It also cost £40 so it’s staying. And at least I’m not going to hurt my ladygarden.

**For more of the gory details that I don’t want to go in to, the NY Times has an excellent article, though mostly relating to male cyclists, explaining the perils of a nosed saddle.

*actual quote rephrased for publication.

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It’s been quite a week for this little London cyclist in heels on her bike.

Most things that can break have broken. My office have joked that at this rate I will be arriving on a unicycle by Christmas.

Excellent mendage

First it was the pedal, which I cunningly fixed with elastic bands and duct tape. Then it was one side of the mudguard, which also responded well to elastic bands. Then, and this was the final straw, my trouser escaped my sock (into which it was neatly and oh so stylishly tucked), attached itself to the chain and ground me to an abrupt halt at the top of the hill by Highbury Barn. I hobbled to the pavement with one leg attached to the bike and while extracting myself, wrenched a piece of metal I’d never seen before, around the chain. It was hopeless. I was faced with two options: burst into tears, sit on the pavement and feel sorry for myself. Or swear enthusiastically at the contraption, lock it up and get on the bus (in my torn trousers and hi viz).

Now, you know me. I’m a useful type. There are many small bike issues I can fix alone on the side of the road.

But this was not one of them and I decided to choose the latter, arriving at work cross and half an hour late.

Fortunately my mate, Bikeman Chris, was available that evening. So, feeling as if I were booking an emergency doctors appointment I rushed home on the bus, hopped in the car, picked up the bike (no mean feat, trying to lug a Peugeot racer into the back of a Peugeot 206 on my own without looking like a thief) and sped off to Dalston for emergency surgery.

The operation was a total success. My new, broken pedals were replaced by the original sturdy steel ones that I’d removed a week before, my mudguards were tightened and reattached and while we were at it we checked out the brakes too (as they were statistically the most likely things to go wrong next).


But, and this probably gives away more about my superficiality than anything else, we also replaced the black bar tape with a bright red version and it is absolutely beautiful. I spent most of this morning’s commute admiring the handlebars, rather than dodging pedestrians.

It’s lovely commuting weather at the moment, clear skies and sunshine, and cold, refreshing air. To prevent a similar accident this morning, I kitted myself out with stripy knee-high socks and cycling shorts. I’m not saying you should copy my style advice, but I didn’t go flying, so we’re onto a winner.

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You’ll be delighted, I’m sure, to hear that renovations on the bike are complete. Beyond complete, in fact. They are so complete that one of the mudguards has already sprung a leak and is currently being held together with an elastic band.

So I’m back on it and just waiting for my happiness levels to return to normal after the bus/tube escapades of recent weeks.

Pics to follow.

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As I alluded to in my helmet hair post, there is more than just a battered barnet to contend with on arrival at work. With any exercise, there’s always the side effect of sweat. And let’s be honest, ladies do it too. Men sweat women perspire and horse glow, goes the saying*.

*possibly in a different order

So do you shower when you get to work?

I don’t because it’s a 20 minute ride with only one hill and I trust my deodorant so I only arrive at work a little damp. But with winter and the need for sweltering waterproofs fast approaching, I’m pondering a post cycle trip to the mildew infested waters of the office shower.

I’m not sure what length of cycle would precipitate a need to wash on arrival (WOA). After all, I used to get more hot and bothered on the tube. But one day in the future my commute may lengthen and my job grow in importance and I might have to WOA.

But this would mean carrying a towel. Its a hard life with many difficult decisions that I live.

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Drunken cycling

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. One should not cycle when drunk.
drunken cyclist
That’s all there is to say really. Next post!

Except that it does happen. Sometimes. By accident. And it’s very bad. I cycle everywhere because it’s quicker and door to door. So when I cycle somewhere after work for a quiet drink and it turns into an loud number of drinks, I’m in trouble. Usually because, like all drunks, I don’t think I’m that drunk.

I always wear my lights, front and back and in each of the wheels, and my reflective hi vis. But that’s not really good enough, is it? And while it may not be technically illegal**, it’s bloody dangerous.

Cycling feels easier when you’re drunk. You’re apt to at least think you’re going faster. I tend not to feel how much effort I’m putting in and, as with any other activity, it goes faster when you’re a bit tiddled.

The only time I’ve ever fallen off my bike when I was drunk was when I arrived at my old Bethnal Green flat (while I still lived there, otherwise this would be a much better story) and while trying to dismount, promptly tripped over the bike and landed in a steely mess next to the estate lift. It wasn’t graceful but fortunately it was dark and deserted.

I’m not sure how to conclude this post. Every time I cycle home tipsy, I say I will never do it again. And I always do. So I’m a terrible role model and I must just suggest you do as I say, not as I do. Sorry.

**Here’s the legal bit (pinched from Bike Hub):

The Licensing Act 1872 makes it an offence to be drunk in charge of a bicycle (or any other vehicle or carriage, or cattle) on a highway or in a public place but this old law also forbids any public drunkenness – even in a pub – so is clearly never enforced.

In law a bicycle is defined as a carriage for use on the highway but cyclists are not in charge of ‘mechanically propelled’ vehicles so, in law, do not have to adhere to exactly the same ‘drink drive’ rules as motorists.

Section 30 Road Traffic Act 1988 says: “It is an offence for a person to ride a cycle on a road or other public place when unfit to ride through drink or drugs – that is to say – is under the influence of a drink or a drug to such an extent as to be incapable of having proper control of the cycle.

I would say at this point, I always have proper control of my bicycle. Always.

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