Sunday 26 September 2021

I've got a time machine

plumbers plain

I can't travel to the past or the future, but I can slow down time. 

The device is my bike. I had three days off this week and rode everyday. I was very lucky with the weather which meant I covered some reasonable distances. This meant I was gone for the majority of the day. 

As I started to write this post on Friday if felt like it should have been Sunday. It was a little hard to believe I still had two more days before my return to work. 

I've got to admit it may not be just having a bike. I think keeping busy and achieving goals is likely the real reason I have eked out as much as I can from the available period. It also helps that it's something I very much enjoy. 

The first two days I was working, so it was the after work loop. With a sunset.

after work sunset

Wednesday had me following a route created by Stava, mostly lanes I hadn't ridden before. A lack of cafes meant I eventually stopped at a golf course clubhouse. All a little too expensive for me. So I just drank a juice on the terrace and moved on.

Golf course clubhouse

On Thursday I used a route mapped by my club, and it included a cafe stop that will be repeated. 

kingdom cafe
Kingdom cafe near Penshurst.

view from kingdom cafe

cake and a juice at kingdom cafe

I like the way it looks, a huge log cabin. Inside was comfy, couches as well as tables and chairs. Great views out of the windows. If only the upstairs area was open, it would have been even better.

The atmosphere was very relaxed, I can't put my finger on why. I could have sat there all afternoon.

I carried on past a long forgotten vineyard. About an hour later I was home.

penshurst vineyard

The last day of the week I decided to take it a little easier, not ride so far. I rode down to Charlwood to visit a cafe I'd seen; unfortunately when it was closed. This time however it was able to serve me a vegan sausage roll and coffee. The people I met were great, they checked the ingredients of the cakes to see if they were vegan, sadly they weren't. But we did talk about what changes they might make. It's a first for anywhere I have eaten. I told them about some food I had found, and how the change had affected me. Hopefully my next visit will see a wider choice.

52 the street cafe charlwood
52 the street cafe charlwood

Oxted Cycling Club were my companions as they are most Saturdays. A big loop through Surrey, West Sussex and Kent meant a fast ride. Eventually stopping at a garden centre for coffee and cake.

I was going to visit my mum, and after splitting from the group I headed that way. But as my surroundings became more suburban it became apparent that the roads were a lot busier than normal. Filled with angry drivers looking for fuel. My journey there and back would have been through Bromley, West Wickham and Selsdon. I just couldn't face it. As I neared home roads containing filling stations were stationary. It didn't slow me, but I had to be extra vigilant for poor choices made by drivers. 

It was to Westerham for coffee with Matt on Sunday. Our usual spot outside Costa.

costa coffee westerham

Time now will return to normal speed.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

Another why I cycle post


sunset over Blethchingly

This has been the subject of a few posts 

My cycling is complicated.

I ride for a break from day-to-day worries and stress, at least for a few hours. Maybe that's why I'm now riding further and faster, it focuses my mind.

Yes, I know, I recently posted about taking it easy and admiring my surroundings. But it seems I can't or at least not very often.

I continue my after work, 15 mile hilly rides. If I don't concentrate I find myself riding as fast I as can. As you can see above, I have some beautiful lanes near me.

The weekend is a game of two halves; Saturday is a club ride. We form small groups, someone is assigned ride leader and off we go. Most of the time it's to a cafe, a loop of around 60 to 70 miles. My ride to Oxted and back adds 14 miles. 

Oxted CC

It starts at a sociable pace, increasing on the homeward leg. Last Saturday we didn't stop, so when we arrived back at the high street for a coffee stop it was early so I said my goodbyes and continued to Chevening; I wanted some extra miles.

Chevening lake

It was partly the weather, it was great, maybe only a few more warm days are left this year. And partly because I wanted to keep riding, idealy for the rest of the day.

I arrived at a pub, it looked to be hosting a wedding party. So I sat on the bench and ate the food I'd brought, rather than venture inside. It was nice, just staring across the lake, the occasionaly sail boat moving silently on it's near flat surface.

But eventually I had to head home, although it was via a convoluted, very indirect series of quiet lanes. As I passed our winter residence, the bus stop at Tatsfield, I ovetook another rider. He was from Beckenham Rugby Cyling club. He dropped into my draft, I increased the pace a little, I'm not sure why. For the next 3 or 4 miles we swapped places as we each tired and needed a brief rest. He eventually turned off and we congratulated each other. Looking at the stats when I got home we had held nearly 30 mph on a slightly down hill stretch of road. A speed we could not have maintained on our own.

Sunday again dawned bright, if not very warm. The mornings are chilly, meaning I'm never sure what to wear. I chose correctly both days, leaving the house a little cold, but soon warming up. By the time I made it to Westerham it was warm enough to sit outside. Soon after Matt arrived and we chated about this and that.

Costa coffee Westerham

With a nice sunrise on the way there.

westerham costa coffee

Matt didn't have to rush so I cracked on towards home; shopping and what to cook for Sunday dinner invading my thoughts.

I have now entered an official race; a hill climb. I'm awaiting confirmation my entry wasn't too late and that I have a start slot. It's a proper, serious, event with all the nerves that's going to entail. Hope I do myself and the club proud. The last time I did anything like this it was for the local round table society. A charity fundraiser, so no stress.

Next year I want to do some time trials, it'll depend where and when they run. I hope I can do a few.

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.