Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Sunday, 4 December 2016

A return to cycling in the London area

Giant Contend SL Disc

Scott 720 Hard Tail

I recently bought a new road bike as a further part of my return to reasonably regular cycling that started with a long over due purchase of a mountain bike in January 2013. Most of my riding on the mountain bike has been in the Loire or in Scotland. Apart from a few sorties round the South Circular to Wandsworth, I have limited my Scott 720 riding to circuits round the nearby Crystal Palace Park, which only involves a brief ride on London roads – along Sydenham Hill.  

I am very pleased with my Giant Contend SL with disc brakes bought and fitted by Cadence Performance at Crystal Palace. Made from aluminium it is light, although not quite as light as a carbon frame, response and very enjoyable to ride. Obviously a road bike isn't suited to riding round the perimeter of the Crystal Palace Park, so time to venture out again on London roads after an absence of nearly 30 years.

There are obvious changes – much more traffic, larger cars and lorries, many more cycle lanes – I haven't yet been on any of the new bike superhighways in the centre of London as I prefer to head out of London rather than into it. Some of the cycle lanes are wafter-thin – probably less than a metre wide – more a sop than a realistic lane.  Little wonder that some drivers pass far too close to cyclists. Dedicated space for cyclists by traffic lights is a welcome innovation.

There is far more traffic furniture than there was 30 years ago. Traffic islands are obviously good news for pedestrians wanting to cross a busy road but often they are pinch points for cyclists. I always try to ride out in the middle going through a traffic island unless it is very wide. Otherwise it is always possible that a car or van will try to squeeze pass you, whether there is space or not.

As I a cyclist I think it is very important that I am seen to obey the Highway Code – in particular respect pedestrian crossings and traffic lights. I have always worn bright cycle clothing despite jokes about middle aged (or elderly) men wearing lycra – both to try to make sure that I am seen and that cycle clothing is much more comfortable and practical to wear if you cycle any distance. Also the seat of ordinary trousers soon wear out with frequent riding. 

Even wearing bright clothing there are occasions when a driver clearly hasn't seen me – may be because these drivers look for other vehicles and don't notice bikes. Given the huge increase in cycling in London they really should train themselves to look out for bikes.  

I also wear a helmet, which I never did 30 years ago even when doing a late afternoon 25-mile time trial on the busy A2 (London-Dover road) in torrential rain! Now I shudder to think how dangerous this was!   

Many car drivers are considerate giving cyclists plenty space when passing and only when it is safe to do so. Unfortunately there are a minority, who obviously lack patience and drive recklessly and dangerously. This includes some London buses, who certainly speed in 20 mph limits eg some 363s along Sydenham Hill. Also includes a double-decker bus who cut right across me in Croydon at the Fairfield Hall roundabout.

The worst piece of driving I have seen while out riding was when I was coming back down the Chipstead Valley road towards Coulsdon. A small builder's truck speed past me despite me riding at around 20 mph – the road was slightly downhill – and with a line of cars coming in the other direction. The lunatic driver narrowly missed crashing into the first on-car. 

This lunatic ought to read the Highway Code on overtaking cyclists and other vulnerable traffic but unfortunately it is very unlikely that he will. It would be good to think that the Government's consideration of increasing the penalties for dangerous driving might persuade some people to drive more sensibly with consideration for other road users. 

It is obvious that some car drivers feel considerable animosity towards cyclists, which is doubtless returned by some cyclists. I am always surprised that there are cyclists who ride at night wearing dark clothing and with no lights or just a faint rear light. If cyclists jump red lights or ignore pedestrians on a crossing it is not surprising that some car drivers complain about us! 

Another difference from 30 or more years ago – I used to seek out hills and mountains to climb now it is more a question of looking for ways to avoid very steep climbs!                     

1 comment:

graham kent said...

Jim you are so right, drivers have no regard for cyclists; Cyclists now habitually go through red lights and you don't mention the worst - presumably because you would never even consider it - cycling on pavements. The trouble is the Met have given up even attempting to enforce that law, so many cyclists don't even realise it's a criminal offence,