Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Shameful Headline from the Telegraph

What an awful rag that paper has become.

Apparently, according to the headline:
Cycling with headphones kills mother as coroner says she caused her own death
So apparently a woman was riding a bike with headphones and, unequivocally, the coroner says that killed her. Thats what the headline says, so thats what happened right? Lets read on...

The mother-of-one, who is thought to have been listening to music on her iPhone, probably panicked trying to avoid a collision, Hull Coroners' Court heard.
The hairdresser was "riding purposefully" before she wobbled at the nearside of the lorry and fell fracturing her skull and spinal cord. She fell on the verge and died instantly without hitting the lorry. 
Ms Norton, who was not wearing a helmet at the time, seemed unaware of the HGV, the inquest heard.

Oh, so she might have been listening to music. She's thought to have been listening to music. And she was near-side of a lorry and fell off? So she's allegedly unaware of the lorry and just randomly fell off and thats not related to the lorry, she wobbled and fell off because she was listening to music? Why would she do that? She was riding along and only fell off when the big lorry came alongside, and thats just a coincidence because she was unaware of the lorry?

But it gets worse.

Ms Norton’s 18 speed Carrera racing cycle was found in its lowest gear with the chain still in place. Her iPhone and headphones were picked up at the scene.
Coroner for East Riding of Yorkshire Paul Marks ruled that listening to music could have contributed to Ms Norton’s misjudgement.
Professor Marks said: "I accept this was an entirely avoidable incident and the cause of the events that lead op to the accident rest entirely with the cyclist.
He concluded: "I cannot determine if she was on her iPhone listening with earphone at the time, but if she had been, it could have caused a distraction and could have contributed to the cause of the accident."

So we've no evidence she was listening to music other than she had an iPhone with ear plugs. We don't know she was wearing it. It appears we have no independent witnesses who can tell us what happened. And the coroner says that maybe its all her fault, but presents no evidence that this was the case? And, best of all, rather than doing the slightest due diligence on the report the Telegraph chose to go a step further from saying that headphones might have contributed to the accident and in their headline claim that the coroner pins blame firmly on the cyclist wearing headphones over this? 

There's a sucker born every minute, they say. But what kind of sucker would you have to be to buy this crap? 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Copy of email to Cambridge police

UPDATE: Via a circuitous route local police are taking this seriously - local political blogger/independent journalist Richard Taylor tweeted this on to several councillors, who contacted local police who as a result got right back to me with the information that they're looking to prosecute. Good news - but deary me, why ought this be so complicated?

Just spent a frustrating little while talking to our local police force on the phone. First officer I spoke to was just colossally unhelpful, and wouldn't give me an email address to send video evidence to. She felt it was appropriate to bring some kind of text link to that to the station and hand it over while being interviewed - and that might not be for days. When I said that this is silly and could I speak to her superior officer she hung up. I was livid.

Phone back, got email address but no clear indication they'd definitely even look at an email.

I hate 'but its the year (x)!' type outrage - but come on Cambridgeshire Constabulary, sort this out. This isn't ok.

Anyway, here's the text of the email I've sent.

Video evidence for incident 95 (reported today). Incident was at about 6:15 PM yesterday.

I would like you to find someone to look at this ASAP please - I'm sure you'll agree that someone oughtn't be driving like that. I'd be happy to come in to the station to make a statement about this, but I'm concerned that you'll not start investigating this incident until then (and the earliest time you had for an appointment for that was Saturday evening).

It does concern me that this guy will be driving around until at least then without you having initiated any kind of discussion with him, and I would have thought that on the evidence of the video footage alone you've got more than enough to go and have a word with him to initiate your investigation. And I feel fairly sure that even if the first step is that this guy knows you're looking in to his driving he'll be taking some more care - prompt action could (and looking at the video I think you'll agree very likely will) prevent someone getting hurt.

Would you be able to give me some feedback on how you'd like to handle this today please?

Lastly, you've really got to update your system for handling reports of crime. You've got a single not-necessarily monitored email address for receiving crime reports and many of your staff aren't even aware of if, believing its rational to require that members of the public attend the station and presumably write down weblinks? You know full well that isn't ok.


Colin Davidson.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Normal, Everyday Cycling - Roundup.

I'm looking back at posts about riding my bike from last week, where I was making an effort to document every ride in a way I'd never normally consider, and I'm mostly struck by how little cycling really defines my time.

Yeah, I get around that way, so I've got to remember bike lights and a lock and do need to think about waterproofs at this time of year, but I'm not waiting for the bike to warm up in the morning, I'm not choosing travel times and where to shop based on how heinous the traffic will be, and I'm certainly not spending so long sitting angry in traffic that it has any negative impact on my mood. My means of getting around costs me next to nothing and it takes less time than any other available options. Yeah, its healthy and green so in some ways more 'virtuous' than driving, but I'm riding a bike about because its the most practical, time and space efficient way of getting from A to B, allowing me to split journeys more productively and get to where I want most effectively. My riding isn't about other people driving - its a rational choice for me. 

Could it be better still? Well, yes, many of the routes I'm using lack good cycle facilities and its fairly obvious that the presence of such would help out where traffic is heavy and drivers angry. But even as things are I'm left with three thoughts about cycling every day from this. 

Firstly, my bike riding defines me less, in any practical respect, than the people driving are defined by their transport choice. My method is cheaper, easier, faster, and puts way less strain on any aspect of my life than theirs. Calling them 'motorists' and me 'just a person getting about' makes more sense than the normal view of 'cyclists' as strange outsiders while drivers are 'normal'. Whats 'normal' about choosing one of the least convenient and practical forms of transport for most journeys?

Secondly, it takes actually sitting down and thinking about the massive convenience of being able to lock up and shop, look, wander about wherever I want to bring home the benefits of a cycling lifestyle - or, rather, a non-motorised transport dependent lifestyle. I couldn't stop off at a shop on the way home if I was on the bus and I'd struggle to do that by car in most cities. I couldn't combine a car journey with a ride around a few likely green spaces looking for wild mushrooms on a car, so if I'd been driving a car about all these years my knowledge of what grows where and how I can use it wouldn't be what it is now. Riding a bike frees time, yes, but it also allows us, physically, to see more of whats in our neighbourhoods and be more involved in our communities. Cycling facilitates personal growth within our environments by reducing the physical and conceptual distance between us and what is around us. I know what trees grow on all of my regular routes because I've time to see them, and when they're shedding useful or tasty fruit I can stop and pick it.  I know when to pop in to the local farm shop because he'll have discounted game. I know when to pop in to the assorted local ethnic food shops to talk to the most enthusiastic staff there who'll want to share passion for their own cuisines and encourage me to try something new. Bluntly, cycling rocks.

Lastly, its amazing just how chilled out most cycling is. Yeah, you'll get the occasional nutjob on the road. But for the most part its relaxed, easy and simple. Yet every working day last week I passed the same folk sitting in the same cars in the same traffic jams, usually with the same stressed and unhappy looks on their faces. I'm forced to ask - why is it I'm the odd one for cycling?

Sorry for getting evangelical. But biking around really does make life better in all sorts of ways that most people never even think about. I wonder, when trying to get more people out on bikes because the net impact of that is better for everyone else, is the fact that our lives can just be better a more effective way of selling cycling?

Normal Everyday Cycling - Day 6 and 7

Horrible weather on Saturday, but we could still pick up the remainder of our shopping by bike. First went out to Daily Bread, a sort of wholefood place where as ever I was struck by people driving colossal 4x4's to a supposedly 'ethical' outlet to buy less stuff than we get home by bicycle. Only a small load required this week though, not enough to warrant the bike trailer so we wend there and filled the bike trailer with dried fruit for Christmas cooking, 5kg of flour and yeast for the bread machine and a few other bits and bobs. Then we took a round-about route home to see if there might be the first of the wild blewit mushrooms of the year. There weren't - but still, worth a look, they won't be long. Again, while I normally wouldn't even think about this it just wouldn't be possible to combine that with a shopping journey by car.
Then out to the local shops in Arbury for other stuff and to put our Christmas order in with the butcher in plenty of time, for local gossip (and celery) from the greengrocers, and to the supermarket for more bits and bobs. Not a lot to get but, again, by being on a bike we weren't tied to where we could easily park a car, so we can far more easily get to the smaller shops with no loss of time. 

Sunday was, for me, a toss up between going out looking for mushrooms or going down to the Allotment in the morning before meeting some mates - I chose the former largely because I fancied a bit more of a ride in the sunshine. That means I'll have to harvest some veg from the plot one morning on the way to work - which isn't a big deal. My better half went in to town in the afternoon for a bit of Christmas shopping and I gather met a friend for a tea, while I spent the afternoon gaming with the lads at a mates house.

All in all, a chilled, relaxed weekend - I wouldn't say riding my bike defined the weekend in any way, but it did enable it.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Normal Everyday Cycling - Day 5

The weather forecast for Saturday was looking grim, so I took the Elephant Bike again on Friday to get some of our shopping on the way home, and go to the market at lunch time. There are a couple of little farm shops in Cambridge, but at opposite ends of the city centre and I wanted to visit both. That means either a long walk or riding a bike between them (goodness knows where you'd park a car if you were trying to get to one shop on Lensield Road and another on Mitchams Corner).

Crazy mad traffic on the way in to town again - thats every day this week. Might have been the worst of all on Friday morning. I tend not to think about it, but I suppose for the most part its the same people stuck in the same traffic every single day and I can't imagine how long it must take them all to get to work. I don't feel smug or superior at all when I pass them, just a lack of understanding as to why they choose to travel that way. Surely the park and ride or the park and cycle has to be better than spending that long getting in and out of the city centre every day.

So I managed to get to both of the farm shops on the way home, and the market at lunchtime, and loaded up the pannier bags and basket with a box of clementines, a brace of pheasant, a chicken, two bottles of Fentimans and plenty of cheese and assorted impulse buys from the farm shops too without really having to make another trip - being able to stop and lock up a bike en route wherever I'm going provides a huge advantage over pretty much any other way of getting around. 

With any luck there might be at least a few moments of dry weather and time to get out into it over the weekend...

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Normal Everyday Cycling - Day 4

Another wet morning, but more cold than moist so scarf and hat this morning.
Struggling to think of anything exciting to say about riding to work and back today - the only thrilling thing to relate is that, as ever, when the weather is wet the roads are more rammed full of cars than at other times. I thought I'd go a different route to avoid the worst of if, but there's no getting around it, when the weather is bad some of the people who'd walk or cycle drive, and the result is carmageddon. And with that comes a delays to the bus service.

So another day of commuting faster, easier and really enjoyably by bike. 

The only question I'm left with on a day like today is why me riding a bike is held somehow definitive of me, whereas all the people spending way longer in their cars are not defined thus instead. My way is faster, easier, simpler faster and lower stress than the other options, its the sensible option. So why is it seen as the odder choice?

Normal Everyday Cycling - Day 3

Day late with this one, did't have time to put this up last night.

Raining this morning so had to don an extra garment - waterproof over-trousers. Cheap and cheerful things from an Army and Navy place on Ebay, I don't need them very often but once in a while they're handy.

Traffic was crazy again this morining as ever, cars queued up at the road works and the traffic lights, and as ever, didn't delay me by much.

Wasn't raining after work, so the waterproofs were stuffed into the pannier back, rode out to the shops to pick up some snacks for my partner and I. We were going to the pictures to see Dr. Strange and meeting there at the cinema. Handy to be able to lock up the bike right outside both the cinema (the Light, rather than the Vue, which really needs to sort out its bike parking at the Grafton Centre urgently) and the shops up on Fitzroy Street, so I had time to do that while she booked tickets. Car traffic was bumper to bumper on Hills Road, with long streams of angry motorists getting into bike lanes, clogging junctions, etc. Managed to avoid much of that by taking a back route along by Fenners, but there's no way to avoid Hills Road bridge.

Not such a bad film, got home about nine-ish on rather queiter roads. One sticky moment with a car accelerating fast on the wrong side of the road on Gonville Place heading towards the traffic lights at the Catholic Church junction, a seemingly mindless manevore that couldn't hope to gain him anything. Don't know for the life of me what it was about, was he just frustrated by being stuck there?

I don't immediately see how we could have done any of this by car or bus - two of us coming from different places to meet at the cinema and get home together? I don't get how people who rely on cars manage any kind of social life, at least during the week!