Thursday, 30 September 2010

Apologies for my absence...

A heavy cold and stressful work mean I haven't been around much. I also have another excuse up my sleeve.

An Eenie Weenie is expected in April. Yes, I'm pregnant.

Having always said I would cycle if I got pregnant and I have been, but the sheer knackeredness and weird pain in my legs have rendered it impossible most days this week.

Mr Weenie is broadly supportive but has conditions. I must avoid main roads, not cycle at night and I have to stop if the medics advise me to.

Luckily, midwife and GP think cycling's great and are happy for me to continue, I just wish Eenie would allow me to get on with it instead of sapping my energy and demanding food at really inconvenient times.

Fingers crossed it'll get better!

Friday, 24 September 2010

The helmet debate turns to Boris bikes

It was mentioned when the scheme began, but it appears that the debate on whether Boris bikes should come with helmets has been reignited now that two people have been taken to hospital after accidents on the blue steeds.

Anyone who knows me or is familiar with my blog will know that I wear a helmet. I don't leave to go so much as to the shops without one and, when I'm Boris biking, I carry a helmet in my bag to use while pedalling.

It may come as a surprise, therefore, when I say that I think forcing the scheme to provide helmets is a very bad idea. Let me explain......

First off, I'm 5ft 10" and a reasonably big girl. I take the smallest women's size helmet I could find and it's only just small enough. My head is just a weird and tiny shape. My younger sister on the other hand, while taller and slimmer, takes a much larger helmet size. Even between the two of us, there is no way in hell you can find a helmet that fits us both. How on earth would you supply them in a size that fits all?

And size IS important. A badly fitting helmet is pointless.

It's a ridiculous notion.

Secondly, it is not a legal requirement for adults to wear a helmet while cycling. It just aint. The people who don't wear them now will just do what I've seen many do before: they'll hang them off their handlebars and use them as an ornament.

The scheme will have been forced to spend our money on helmets that aren't used or don't fit. Dunno about you, but I'd rather it went on something useful.

And finally, where does it all end?

On top of carrying a helmet with me, I also carry my bright yellow reflective Sam Browne. After an altercation with a car last year I promised Mr Weenie I would wear it when I cycle, and I do so for that reason AND because I think visibility is key to safety. Again though, I think, as adults, it's really a personal choice whether you want to wear reflective gear, it's not legally required after all. Will this be the next thing campaigners leap on and demand to be supplied with the Boris bikes? Perhaps it'll be jackets that inflate as you hit the ground, or a neon sign to be attached to supplied helmet with the words 'Please don't hit me' in flashing lights.

In all seriousness, part of the reason I was so pleased when the Boris bikes were announced is that they were sensible and expected the service users to be the same.

I will continue to wear my helmet and reflective gear, but I will fight to the death for others' right not to have to if they don't want to.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Yet more unfriendliness on the trains....

Last night I had the good fortune to sit next to a rather dashing young man and his weenie baby daughter while waiting for a train. He looked about 19 and was dealing with a full nappy situation.

Having drawn attention to myself by exploding hot chocolate all over my top, we chatted as he changed her. First baby, six weeks old, he was finding it all rather exciting but hard work. After successfully changing her, I was full of praise, he did it like a pro, he gave her a bottle.

However, just as he was busy feeding her, holding the bottle with his chin, picking up his shopping and putting it in the pram with his spare hand, the train was announced as arriving. A look of panic flashed across his face.

'Are you getting this train?' I asked.

'Ummm, I'm meant to be,' was the reply.

I of course offered to get the pram (it was huge) onto the train for him so that he could continue to feed small baby. The look of relief on his face was beautiful to behold. I swept selfish commuters out of our path and we both got on. After a burping baby was ready to go back in the pram and was cooed over by fellow train goers.

There were loads of other commuters on the platform and they must have heard our conversation. No one else offered to help and a surprising number actually got in our way as we attempted to board the train. They moved in front of the pram as the train pulled in. What really took the biscuit though was the t**t who decided that, as the train was so packed and there were very few handholds he would just hang onto the back of the pram. Every time the train wobbled his weight was on the back of the pram and the baby got joggled.

New dad was being very patient and didn't say anything. I didn't feel it was my place but I was livid.

Why are people so selfish and rude? Why?!?!?!?!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

A thousand considerations

When cycling in London there are so many things to consider as you pedal about town.

Has that cab seen me?

Is that road two way for cycles?

Is that pig on a racer going to get out of my way or continue to attempt an overtake on someone going the same speed as him?

Why do people not notice my bright yellow reflective belt?

Why does that guy look familiar?

Who is he?

Oh, is it the police biker man from the night rides?

It is!


It was indeed one of the night riders from my beloved FNRttC. We cycled together only briefly but it was lovely to see a familiar face. It was also fitting that we parted at the turn off to Hyde Park Corner, where our night-time cycling adventures begin.

Among cyclists there seems to be less of the awkwardness associated with seeing someone you know on public transport. If one person is really not fancying a chat they can just pedal harder an say they're in a rush. On a train you can be sardined next to someone for hours and when the small talk dries up, it can get awfully quiet.

Luckily, Mr Policeman and I were at an accord and both pleased to see each other so we matched speeds and had a quick gossip while still getting to our destinations on time.


Thursday, 16 September 2010

Some people have way too much time on their hands...

I know not everyone's a fan of banks but whoever pulled this morning's stunt is, I reckon, just a bit sad.

I walked 10 minutes from Paddington to the nearest dock with bikes in it. A guy having problems with his key grumbled about it amiably and I sympathised. We shared our stories of key woes and then he laughed while I was mid-sentence. I pride myself on my wit but this seemed over the top.

'Who the hell has done that?!' he exclaimed, pointing, puce faced, at the rear of my chosen bicycle.

On each side, above the word 'Barclays' someone had put a sticker with the word 'F*ck' on it. Not just on my bike, but on every one in the rack. We looked at each other, incredulous. Then we giggled.

I know some people have a serious issue with Barclays having logos plastered all over the cycle hire bikes but, as a tax payer, I' really don't care that the scheme is sponsored if it means that, by extension, fewer public pounds are spent on what I think is a fabulous service for London.

I also know people hate banks, I am one of them, but I'm not going to cycle past children in a public park (my route is through Hyde Park, which often has families in it, even at the early hour I'm there) with 'F*ck' for all to see.

Finally, these people make me feel like a time waster. What on earth have I been doing in my mornings to prevent me too having the time to get high-quality stickers printed in Barclays blue before going out and having them on bikes before commuters collect them at 8am?

Clearly these people don't have cats to tend to or washing to do...

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Hyde Park Posse

Slow down!

It's a public park, not a speedway for goodness' sake. I'm getting really tired of swerving to avoid the berks who seem to think the cycle lane through HydePark is a race track. I think it's irresponsible and rude.

This morning I was, yet again, nearly hit by someone overtaking a rival and completely misjudging my speed and distance from him. If it was a road you wouldn't do it, so why do it in a cycle lane?

On my way home I often have to completely leave the cycle lane and move into the pedestrian area to avoid the 'hunting packs' of w***ers cycling at speed across the whole lane and desperately jostling for position. It's just sad.

Hyde Park should be the highlight of my commute but it's being ruined by inconsiderate nobbers.

Anyhoo, on with the day....

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Boris and Bob, a conspiracy to promote cycling?

Yesterday I expected many more bikes on the roads and I wasn't disappointed. I posted about the increase and the unfortunate nobbers among those biking the strike.

This morning, however, I was not expecting what happened.

There were no bikes at Paddington. This occasionally happens, so I toddled down to my failsafe docking point, where there are, on average, about 10 bikes at any given time. I was greeted by the sight of two men taking the last ones. Incredulous, I shared my shock with a fellow Boris biker who had also walked from Paddington and was not used to this situation. I walked on to the docking point round the corner, no joy. I walked round Connaught Square, past the armed police guarding the ex-Prime Minister's home and down to Hyde Park. Even the docking point at the top of the park was empty.

The next docking point had two bikes and I duly grabbed one. I still wasn't late for work and it was a perfectly pleasant morning to be toddling around London but wow.

I have a theory:

Boris and Bob Crow worked together on the strike. Where they met, is a moot point. Somehow, I doubt their social circles overlap. However, it's clear to me that in order to ease crowding in tube stations (making tube staff jobs easier) AND promote cycle hire, they met up and organised a strike.

Yesterday many Londoners discovered that they don't have to cram sardine-like into tube carriages, instead they can cycle.

It's all a conspiracy I tells ye.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Strike woes

The tube strike has not hit my travel times. As I use two overland lines and a bike in between I went home last night and came in this morning without the usual strike stress.

What did stress me out though, was the rest of the commuting population. Everyone gets grumpy on strike days. Raw animosity crackled in the air and I was smacked by large handbags/briefcases a lot more than usual as people stormed past. The train was rammed by the time we hit Paddington and the crush to get through the gates was far worse than usual.

Knowing all the bikes would be taken in the immediate vicinity, I walked the 10 minutes to my failsafe docking point where there are always bikes. I saddled up and set off. I'm used to a certain amount of snobbery from other cyclists when I'm on a Boris Bike. It's generally idiots though, so I shake it off. What really annoyed me today was the snobbery and attitude of the various people who had clearly bought themselves some lycra togs and then dug their monstrosities out of their sheds to bike the strike.

They were rude, they were arrogant and, sorry boys, they were mostly men. They ran lights, they overtook far too close, they went the wrong way down one-way streets. Sigh. One man in particular stands out.

He nearly hit me as I cycled through a junction because he ran a red light. I was a bit shocked and stammered that it was a red light. His response was to shout 'Oh f*** off!' into my face before wobbling off. He may have been in lycra but the rust on his chain told me he was a strike biker. There was just no need for that kind of attitude.

If only there wasn't that minority of arseholes. I should be rejoicing that so many people will have discovered they can cycle to work, instead I wish they'd just bugger off back onto the tube.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Reg and Weenie reunited!

On Saturday CC got married. My faithful stoker and good friend is now the wife of a thoroughly nice young man who recognises that while he will be her husband, I will always be her captain. The tandem to Brighton, here, here, here and here got a mention in the speeches and it was wonderful. The day was just beautiful and suffused with love.

The next day, high on the loveness, I decided to cycle to Twickenham to see my sister on her birthday. Reg's tyres were flat from lack of use and I realised an ex-colleague still had my minipump and bits from borrowing them on a ride but I have spares so I packed them up and set off.

It was very weird to be on Reg again. His tyres seemed unnaturally skinny and hard after the fat eclair types of the Boris Bikes and the position was very different. Having a single pannier felt distinctly odd. My wrist felt fine though so we set off. I definitely took it easier than I would have done pre-wrist break and I walked the busiest roundabout on the way as I wasn't sure which lane I needed, the headwind was horrendous, but the experience was FAB.

The wind streamed through my helmet, the wheels spun at the merest push and I seemed to fly down to the river. I laughed and smiled the whole way because it felt so good to be back on my bike. After seeing my sisters and exchanging pressies (hurray for pressies) I set off home. Without the horrible headwind I was quicker getting home despite the familiar, right in the bum ache that comes with cycling distance after a long break.