On cycling to North Berwick

I was supposed to be doing a 200km Audax last Sunday, but it got cancelled due to the weather and I have to say I was quite relieved. So instead I had a bit of a run up into the Pentlands on Saturday, which was fun if icy and windy. On Sunday I got my bike out and decided to go east, thus getting the headwind out of the way first! I dug out some of my winter hillwalking baselayers and was actually quite warm enough (apart from my feet…)

So I pootled off into the wind. I’d cycle for a bit and think “oh this isn’t too bad” and then would turn a slight corner and get the full benifit of the wind and think “actually, this is quite bad”. The worst bit was between Dirleton and North Berwick where there was also hail, just for fun… I couldn’t find a cafe I like the look of in North Berwick (I wonder if the Seabird Center would be good – it was so windy there that I didn’t even fancy trying to get to it to have a look!). The other cafes are mostly on the High Street and front right onto the road, so there isn’t anywhere to leave a bike where you can keep an eye on it. Another time I might try the Museum of Flight – well sometime it would be fun to cycle there and see the museum! I got a coffee and a burger in the chippy on Quality Street in the end. Then I went up to Athelstaneford and down to Aberlady and back along the coast road – only now I had a tail wind, of course, and I enjoyed that a lot. In Musselburgh I could just sit with the car traffic with just a bit of a sprint to get up to speed.

It was a bit of a bad day for close passes – especially on the way out. I do wonder what goes through people’s minds sometimes, that they can’t wait 30 seconds to let a bicycle clear a narrow spot, or move to give plenty of space when there’s nothing coming the other way. My feeling is that most people just don’t think. “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence” – according to Wikipedia “…widely attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte…” well I didn’t know that. I also got a rather amusing “left-hook” from a group of cyclists who were going faster than me, moved out to pass, and then decided to pull in to the car park on the left, cue much braking all round… incompetence on the part of the leader, I think…

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On being WisWoB

I am, temporarily, WisWoB – Woman In Suit Without Brompton – as my Brompton is in BikeTrax having a bit of a service. I could probably do some of the jobs myself, but in the end I don’t know when I’d have time to, and it is quite good to have an expert eye on it. Anyway, this means I need to use the minibus to get from the station to the office, and that leads me to something that I always notice when I get the minibus – apart from the driver, I am the only person who puts on my seatbelt. It is interesting to me that my fellow minibus passengers don’t feel that they are taking a risk travelling without a seatbelt, and yet I suspect that many people would think that I am taking more risks by cycling on the same roads. I have no idea which activity is actually statistically more dangerous – my suspicion is that there simply aren’t the statistics to answer the question! The truth is, of course, that the consequences of an accident in either mode of transport would be bad.

Perception of risk is such a strange thing – I’ve seen someone on a rock climbing forum declare that they wouldn’t ride a bicycle on the road because it is “too dangerous” – this from someone whose chosen sport has the participation statement “…climbing, hill walking and mountaineering are activities with a danger of personal injury or death. Participants in these activities should be aware of and accept these risks and be responsible for their own actions and involvement.” I’ve been on Scottish mountains in winter as well as summer, and I’ve done a bit of rock climbing and scrambling. I’d say all these things are more dangerous than riding a bicycle. I wonder if it is the sense that your safety is in someone else’s hands when you’re sharing the roads with vehicles that is one of the things that mean that people perceive it as dangerous? Note the bit about “…responsible for thier own actions…” . And yet, mountains are by their nature dangerous. The only way to avoid the dangers is to keep away. There are lots of ways to make cycling safer. You can avoid places with traffic. You can slow the motorised traffic down (traffic dangerous thing, of course – I don’t think many people would claim that riding my bike along an empty road is dangerous…) You can segregate bikes from traffic.

And yet, I’m going to go on remembering that cyclists live longer on average, and that I like cycling. Anyway, I should be getting the Brompton back later. But, when I get the minibus back to the station, I’ll be putting on my seatbelt…

On not being content with what’s on offer

There was quite a discussion on the CityCyclingEdinburgh forum of Edinburgh City Council’s latest proposals for the city Centre. If I’ve understood them correctly, the proposal is for buses to run along George Street in one direction and along Princes Street in the other direction. There would be high-quality cycle lanes on George Street, but bicycles would be banned along with all other traffic (except the trams) from travelling east along Princes Street.

A really good quality lane on George Street would of course be a good thing – so long as it is a proper cycle lane and not some paint doubling up as a car park. However some (including Spokes) were not happy about the proposed ban on eastbound cycling on Princes Street. Others felt that to complain about this would suggest that cyclists are never satisfied. Perhaps we’d end up with no cycling provision at all?

Well, you could argue that nothing is better than cycle lanes that are of no use, because they are narrow or parked on or run in the dangerous “door zone” next to parked cars. And you might argue that these kinds of lanes are what we’ve got from being grateful for what we’re given. Maybe, now is the time to say that this sort of thing isn’t good enough when it comes to encouraging all kinds of people to cycle, and that if we can’t have good stuff, we’d rather have nothing at all.

On the other hand, you might argue that we should be pleased to get good provision on George Street, and that, if it is good enough, everyone will cycle that way anyway and no one will mind not being able to use Princes Street.

Anyway, when I emailed my local councillors, I started off by saying how pleased I was that the plans include cycle provision, before going on to express my concern about Princes Street. And I’m sure there will be a lot more discussion before these changes come to pass. 

One argument I didn’t include in my email was the suggestion that some people would ignore a cycling ban. I’m sure that this would happen, just as some people cycle on the pavement but I could not work out how to phrase my argument without sounding like someone disagreeing with speed limits because they claim no-one obeys them. Now that really is a topic for another day…

On cycling for 4 hours in the cold

At the weekend we went to visit some friends Up North. This was mostly so my Wonderful Boyfriend could take part an ultramarathon. I have learned that ultramarathons are not really spectator sport, and so this time I was allowed to do my own thing, which seemed to be a good opportunity to go cycling somewhere different.

Our friend sorted me out with a suitable route by the simple method of lending me his GPS navigation device with the route loaded in. I was impressed, all I had to do was follow the red line on the little map on the screen…. what would have happened if I had gone off-route or wanted to shorten it I am not so sure, as I had no idea how to work the thing. I wasn’t going to cycle with him because he would be faster than me, and while Wonderful Boyfriend can be expected to wait for me, it is a bit different when it is Wonderful Boyfriend’s friend. Anyway he decided to just go for a run, thus being out in the cold for less time. So off I went on my own.

It wasn’t actually raining when I set off, but fairly soon it started to snow, and for most of the rest of the ride it either snowed or rained. Sometimes the snow lay as a layer of slush on the road. There was one very fine descent that I came down very, very slowly because it was covered with slush. It was actually a very nice route, along lots of lovely quiet roads, and with some pretty views on the occasions when the weather cleared (at bit). I saw one very miserable-looking Shetland pony, several partridges, lots of very wet sheep, and not many cars (even on the main roads). However after two hours or so my gloves were soaked through and my hands were so cold they started to hurt. I started to daydream about warm, welcoming cafes serving hot chocolate to wet cyclists. Sadly, none appeared, and finally I got back to my starting point, to discover that I was the first person back.

This was the point where I found my hands were so cold I couldn’t undo the clip on my helmet, or the zips on my overshoes (which were quite filthy as some of the roads I’d been along ran past farms and were quite muddy). It took me quite a while to get myself sorted out – and then Wonderful Boyfriend came back to report that running for over 4 hours in those conditions was not much fun either. But our friends’ house is nice and warm, and has hot water for showers and baths, and soon we were warm again.

All good fun, really…

That’s not what people would expect me to say, I think. Yes, I got cold and wet, but one of the privileges of living in the 21st century is that it usually isn’t too difficult to warm up again. There is something pleasurable in being out in difficult weather, and dealing with it. That said, I’m very glad I didn’t get a puncture or other mechanical problem as I would have struggled to repair it and could have got very cold very quickly!

On snow, ice and falling off a bicycle

On Sunday night, it snowed. On Monday morning, there was quite a lot of slush even on the main roads, but by Monday evening that had all gone. Our side road was still covered by packed snow, and I suppose that should have warned me that cycling to the club swim was not such a good idea – but that is how I always go, it is by far the quickest way. So off I went, running late as usual. The main roads were fine as I expected, but the nice quiet back roads, the ones that are marked as a cycle route, were all covered with the same hard packed snow that was rapidly being polished to ice. So it was inevitable that eventually I would fall off. I banged my head quite hard, and was glad that the icy conditions had lead me to wear my helmet, something I don’t usually do on the Brompton (helmet wearing needs a whole post of its own. Something for another time.)

And I thought, all the main car roads have been cleared, but this route, that is supposed to be a cycle route, it has not been cleared. Are cyclists supposed to stay indoors when it snows? And that made me cross.

And that is why I decided to start this blog.