Monday, 13 September 2021

Cycling could save the world.

bike with trailer carrying the earth
Active travel and reducing traffic.

I work in London one day a month; due to the reduced train service from my station takes me almost two hours to get in.

It's only eighteen miles, I could ride it in just over an hour.

I have my laptop to carry, hopefully soon to be replaced with a lighter version. I'll need a waterproof backpack for it.

What else is preventing me?

Lack of safe cycling routes into Croydon, and then after that until I get to central London.

Croydon and Central London are getting better, heavy traffic between them would still put me off. 

Surrey County Council are like most of their kind; unwilling to build what's needed. Despite pledging to reduce pollution. Their main hope seems to be electric cars, which still cause pollution, congestion and road danger. And further penalise those who can't afford cars. They may even mean people drive more often, because they are seen as cheap to run. Here are some stats about the UK's addiction to driving. It's predicted that the speed of London traffic could drop below walking pace. It would be much better to make public transport cheaper. And encourage walking and cycling. 

Stats show that reducing through traffic increases local business. Where alternatives to driving have been encouraged the local economies have seen a boost. Particular hospitality; they have more seating outside under covered areas. Additionally secure bike parking will be needed, I'm not going to ride to the shops if my bike is likely to be stolen. There is huge amounts spent on safe car storage, and now charging, why not spend some of the cash for bikes?

Using the train for longer journeys should also be cheaper, and easier. I'm starting to plan how I will get back from Cornwall next year. My challenge for the charity Mind will be a dawn to dusk ride on the summer solstice. Whilst it will be tough, about 250 miles in 17 hours, the return home has the potential to be more stressful. From what I have read, travelling by train with a bike isn't easy. The storage provision is in most cases badly thought out and difficult to use. Just booking it appears to be complicated. I'm actually contemplating riding back, over three or four days.

We are being bombarded with adverts for new electric or hybrid electric cars. All are bigger than the cars they replace, a lot are four wheel drive. Also worryingly a lot have enhanced multimedia integration. Big screens that could display distracting info, there are already problems caused by smartphones.

People will be paid to ditch fossil fuel for electric four wheelers, but only the ride to work scheme for bikes. Why not spend the same amount to provide commuters with e-bikes?

France is going to ban national flights where a rail service exists, and continue to pedestrianise more of Paris. England will expand roads, Scotland has pledged to stop all expansion. Wales is bringing in a 20 mph limit for urban roads. Why doesn't the whole UK move forward in the same way? Has England not heard of induced demand, the more space you make for motor vehicles, the more will use it. The M25 is a prime example. It was built with three lanes, some sections now have five, it's still congested morning and evening. Urban areas have more lanes on major roads, they are the same. Planners don't seem to have learnt anything from the past. As Einstein said; insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

The NHS would benefit, a fitter population would make less use of it's services.

Reducing the average of 1800 people killed on our roads, with over 25,000 seriously injured would again reduce the impact. Much is made of cycling on pavements; adults shouldn't but it's likely as a result of roads made unsafe by drivers behavior. It's a sign of failed or nonexistent infrastructure. One report I read, suggests the annual cost to the economy is £36 billion. My complaint about the articles, including the government site is that they all say accidents, not collisions. The media always use the word accident. This report says most involve error or misjudgement. This is part of the problem, the police use the term RTC, road traffic collision. The media should state the same fact. You will it's always a car, van, or lorry hits pedestrian/cyclist; car, van, or lorry hits building. The driver is absolved from responsibility by these reports. Why is that?

Many police forces now allow online reporting of dangerous driving, unfortunately what they do with the reports is often very disappointing. Some are great, others rarely act on the uploads. In general road crime isn't seen as a priority for courts. Surrey Police have often said to me that they wouldn't prosecute a driver because the CPS won't want to deal with the case. If it does go further the penalties are very lenient. Once up to 12, drivers can claim exceptional hardship. There could be 10.000 people on our roads with more than 12 points. If driving is so important to you don't drive in such a way that accumulates points.

The UK once relied on the bicycle for mass transport. The Netherlands has a similar climate; one of the excuses for not cycling, more people ride everyday than here. It is flatter, but using an e-bike means that's not so much of a consideration.

There just doesn't appear to be the will to move forward with any speed. Plenty of words in the reports published by local government, very few results.

Monday, 30 August 2021

Bathing in nature

in search of offroad

Last time I wrote it was to suggest I should look up from numbers on the cycle computer; take in my surroundings. Since then I have continued to ride fast, to push myself. During the week I have eased off the distance and climbing, I was gradually adding to the effort. On Saturday it was a solo ride to a farm shop, I chose the long way to get there and fell into my default habit. I thought it was caused by being on the road bike, but no, I left Westerham on Sunday gripping the flat bars of my mountain bike and soon had my head down - pressing hard on the pedals. 

Bank holiday Monday gave me another chance. After our visit to Costa coffee I said goodbye to Matt and went in search of a slower pace. 

bridleway

I found it not far away in woods we hadn't ridden through in many years. 

Many people have written about the healing available from nature, I'm not sure it's being surrounded by it that starts the process. I think it's more to do with having less distractions. Although solice may also be found gazing out of the window at a sunrise through the steam from the first tea of the day. 

Unfortunately I either didn't find the right path, or my memory had fooled me. The sound of traffic was ever present and each route led me back to a road. I continued on, searching for the next bridleway sign. One looked promising only to disappoint because a fly-tipper had chosen it as a place to unload a ton or so of garden waste. I gave up and turned for home. The only countryside views were over gates and fences.





They all seemed the herald the ending of summer; this year felt like it had never properly started.

christmas island head

It's weird, the Christmas Island heads always seem bigger on the television. I also hadn't heard one had gone missing.

smiths lane

This roads sign caught my attention, can't think why.

Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Look away from the numbers

poppy field

 

I watched a film that made me think about my rides in a different way. I tend to have a distination in mind or a distance to complete. And it's normally all about getting there and back or covering the distance as quickly as possible.

I do look for subjects to photograph, but I think I miss a lot of them. This is especially true as I head for home. 

bluebells
 

My recent trip to Felpham was a case in point; all of the pictures I took were as I rode to the coastal town. I did have distant views of Arundal castle on the way home, but chose not to stop. 

Next time I'll visit the castle, see the town and take some pictures.

Surrey hills view

This could be a side effect of using Strava and a cycling computer. I now have a way to see my speed and heart rate as I ride. Maybe I'm now more focused on average speed and effort because I can see the numbers in realtime. It is useful as a sat nav, rather than trying to remember where I am going.

field view

If nothing else, increasing the pictures on posts will make them more interesting.

I'm not going to stop using the computer, reverting to maps or notes for navigation is okay on a shorter journey or when the weather is okay. But if the weather is bad, I don't want to be fighting with paper or relying on my memory.

field view

I live on the edge of or close to Surrey, Kent and Sussex.

I'll try to look away from the numbers, maybe slow down and pause to realise how lucky I am having great countryside so close to me.


Sunday, 8 August 2021

What have I been up to?

July Chaldon

 I haven't posted since the 24th July. What have I been up to?

August Chaldon

As you can see above, I have continued to ride after work. The weather is very changeable, the odd day on the trainer in the garage. But I've been very lucky and avoided a proper soaking.

I had a few days off last week, and took advantage of the one good day to visit Felpham on the south coast.

Felpham seafront

I bought chips from the Boathouse cafe and paused to eat them sitting on the sea wall.

The last section had been tough, the south downs are very hilly.

I passed Arundel castle - a visit is planned for my next days off - I didn't get any good pictures.

Arundel castle

The next place of interest was the village of Ford. There is the prison and the former RNAS airfield with a Hawker Hunter at one entrance.

RNAS airfield with a Hawker Hunter
RNAS airfield with a Hawker Hunter

The week was rounded off with some shorter rides; Thursday was Chevening church.

Chevening Church

I had intended to eat at the Chipstead sailing club cafe, but I don't think it was open. I diverted to the church and ate my cereal bars. I made it home before the clouds opened.

I'm not sure what happened on Saturday; I intended to ride with my club but didn't feel very well. Starting a session on the trainer in the garage confirmed I was right not to venture further, I gave up after thirty minutes. I had recovered by the afternoon and rode my after work route.

Sunday was back to Westerham to meet Matt. A very brief and light shower on the way home didn't dampen my spirits. 

Another great week.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

My biggest challenge.

bar bag


Last month I rode over 100 miles for charity. What to do next? I had been thinking about riding to Cornwall for some time. But kept it to myself, maybe not sure I could do it. A visit to see my sister started the planning again.

The route is two hundred and fifty miles. To come home I can get a train to Clapham Junction and cycle the last bit.

I'll have around seventeen hours of daylight to do it.

At the moment, my thinking is:

Ride from around four o'clock on the 21st June, stopping every four hours for proper food and drink. In between use energy gels and bars.

Arrive at my sisters around nine thirty.

Rest for a couple of days and leave from Bodmin on the Friday.

Sounds simple. ;-)

I'll have to be able to carry more food with me, and warm/waterproof clothing. I now have a handlebar bag and will need to investigate a bigger saddle bag. And be able to charge the sat nav, and phone. Both of which will be needed, but unlikely to last the distance. I have a power block, it will have to fit in one of the new bags.

I don't think it's too ambitious, I have done a few rides of over hundred miles, the longest being hundred and sixty two.

The first part of the puzzle shown above; the handlebar bag. Considering changing the bar tape to red; what do you think? I can pack a lightweight rain coat, and food, with the net pockets on the front adding to the capacity and ease of access on the move. I think it looks great, just the right size. And doesn't interfere with or alter the steering very much. Saddle bag to follow later in the year.

The next part will be what to wear; I got very uncomfortable after about a hundred and twenty miles, see the hundred and sixty two link above. Maybe expensive is better, I'll hopefully find out before June. I bought an expensive pair of padded shorts. They will be tested in the coming months.

Being vegan, food maybe a problem, most cakes, sandwiches and snacks sold in cafes and shops contain eggs and dairy. I have continued to try different options since this post. I do think they are expensive, so will be looking for alternatives.  I'll pack some figs and dates, for a sugary pick-me-up.

Lastly I need to maintain or improve my fitness. I'm not sure how to improve it though. I ride everyday; big miles on Saturday with Oxted CC, then on Sunday a ride of around twenty miles to meet Matt in Westerham. Maybe I can change the intensity. At least one day a week on the trainer; I definitely work harder in that hour than during the after work rides.

My bike should be fine, it'll be serviced in preparation. Although there is always the temptation to upgrade bits of it. Lighter is faster; and I could look at the comfort, make some adjustments. To be honest it's a much better bike than when I bought it. It's been gradually upgraded. With new wheels being the last improvement.

Tuesday, 20 July 2021

Happy days


 

oxted cycling club group ride

I have mentioned this before, cycling is mood altering. But last weekend was better than ever. 

For five reasons: I rode a challenging route with Oxted CC, I rode over to see my mum and sister, talked to my other sister on the phone whilst there, sat in the garden with my wife on Sunday, and chatted with Matt in Westerham on Sunday morning.

The last time I had been so very, very relaxed was in Cornwall and before that the few days with Fitz and Alli.
 
I needed the above to make the weekend complete.

Thanks to everyone who contributed.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Cornwall photowalks

cornwall farm cottage

My wife and I are just back from seeing my sister in Cornwall. For the second time we stayed at Treworgans Farm, Ladock. It's adapted for Marcia's needs and isn't very far from Sheila's house so it's ideal. The last time was in 2019.

I took it easy on Sunday, and after breakfast I went for a walk. Had to wait for the rain to stop, and not be out too long. It always looked like the torrential downpours would soon return.

At a walking pace you notice so much more, the picture above was the cottage from the twisty lane towards Probus. The one below was taken as I left the farm at the beginning of the walk.

cornwall farm cottage and field

The rest are what drew my attention.

dry stone wall


snake head


The village of Probus has a telephone box that hasn't been converted for another use. Looking a bit old, run down and neglected. I know how it feels. ;-)


poppies cornwall

butterfly

grotto

Side note, everyone I walked passed every time I went shopping in Probus said hello. How nice is that!?

Walk number two, I headed for Ladock. The path is a lot more enclosed, less expansive views. It dawned on me how many wind turbines pepper the landscape, are they too much of a blight? We all want power, with less emissions, so they will likely increase in number.  I searched for a vista without them. We look out across hedgerows, dry stone walls, and a patchwork of cultivated fields, mankind has shaped the landscape for a long time, and we have gotten use to it.

wind turbines

Kept an eye out for smaller details.



Another short walk across the fields at the back of the farm house had plenty of wide views. 

patchwork fields

patchwork fields cottage


And another wind turbine.

wind turbine

The weather was changeable but we got out on Thursday to Pencarrow House and Gardens, meeting Sheila for something to eat in the cafe. We went for a walk around the grounds, heading for the hill fort. I'd advise you don't bother; we walked through it without realising. It was a long ascent too. And the view spot; wasn't. The sunken garden is accessed by steps, so it was another place to bypass for Marcia. I took some pictures, Marcia did have Sheila to talk to while I did. If we hadn't wasted time with the invisible iron age encampment we could have seen the lake on the other side of the estate. Most important we all had a long chat in the sun, before heading home on Saturday.

sundial pencarrow house

fountain pencarrow house

sundial pencarrow house

pencarrow house across the sunken garden

roses by the cafe pencarrow house

A last few words about the cafe; tasty food, served by very friendly people. It is expensive though, and whilst the cutlery was disposable, it could be composted. It arrived at our table in polystyrene containers; not environmentally friendly.

There weren't any sheep in the field next to our cottage this year, just an elusive pheasant. It took a few days to sneak up on him.

elusive pheasant


Thursday, 1 July 2021

Supported causes

ascnd jersey
 

Last week I rode over 100 miles for the charity Mind. This week I took delivery of a jersey in support of a site providing a hub for mental health. Take a look. It encourages talking, and removing the stigmare still surrounding mental health.

It's not a sign of weakness to admit you need help, a lot of the time you just need to talk. The listener only needs to do that, a solution is not always needed. Talking can reduce loneliness, our minds can build very effective walls. I couldn't have breached mine without help. And that didn't really start until I wrote about my experiences. I guess I wasn't ready to let anyone in to my world until then.

There are some powerful stories in the interviews, Nick speaks very well about his story.

I had talked to my doctor about what I was going through; maybe I didn't express myself well enough, or downplayed how bad I was feeling. The advice I got was to find a less stressful job. 

There is a great sense of achievement knowing I pretty much helped myself in the early days. Arranging a short Cognative Behavioural Therapy course confirmed I had been moving in the right direction. The big step forward was definitely talking.

You'll also notice the picture is a very rare "selfie" in the jersey bought to highlight and help ASCND. Taken on the bench where I had sat in March 2020 and admitted to myself that I needed to talk.

If you're unsure about your mental health, seek help. I think doctors are better at this now. Go to the Mind website.

The CBT course I attended was booked online.


Sunday, 20 June 2021

I did it again, this time for charity

Near Muddles Green


Yesterday I rode another plus 100 mile day, this time for the charity Mind. Link at the top of the page and here if you'd like to donate. Thanks in advance.

The route was via Eastbourne and I had OCC for company. By the time I got home the mileage was 122. It was tough though, very hilly. We made two stops: 

Pevensey

Pevensey

And Alfriston. I was too busy drinking hot chocolate to take a picture.

We rode along Eastbourne seafront.

Eastbourne

And then up to Beachy Head.

Beachy Head

Beachy Head

The biggest climb of many for the day. The end of the working week had seen torrential rain; the day promised more of the same. Thankfully it held off until after I got home; the weather had been great to be honest. Cloud cover had kept the sun at bay, but the temperature comfortable. And the wind, even on the coast, was light.

Contrary to what you might think, I find sleep difficult after a long ride. I'm on a high from the immense feeling of satisfaction. It's normally the following afternoon when I fall asleep in front of the television.

A big thank you to everyone who sponsored me. Moof IT made a very generous donation, they have helped me to cope with what life has thrown at me. Because of the help and support of family and friends I can enjoy days like this.

Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Elephants in Green Park

Yesterday I went to the Moof IT nerve centre in London. As always I walked from Victoria, this time through Green Park. 

In the middle were two herds of wooden elephants. Placed there to highlight the declining numbers of the real thing in the wild. There must have been over thirty, all shapes sizes and poses. 

Other parks have them too, or will soon. 

It was early so there weren't many people around. Later, on my way home it was much more crowded. I wouldn't have been able to take such clear pictures. They were very impressive, well worth the trip into town.

Line of elephants green park

Line of elephants green park

Line of elephants green park