Thursday, 27 December 2007

Holiday jobs

I always approach the Christmas holiday season with the intention of completing some of those long delayed jobs I've been meaning to do for a long time. The trouble is, time catches up and the regular jobs come round before I can make inroads into the to-do list. Vacation is an opportunity to put that right. One of the regular jobs as a cycling commuter is maintaining my bike. In the run up to Christmas the weather was very cold and the icy conditions meant more salt on the road, so as well as some lubrication, one of the needy jobs is cleaning all the salt off.

You can see why, when the local bike shop owner suggests trading up from my old ('beater') bike for a shiny new model, I'm not overly keen to take his advice and buy another bike, especially when it would end up looking like this one. Luckily a quick wash down with a brush and soapy water will get it looking respectable again. After that, I must see about replacing the tyres. Unfortunately, the constant battle against the elements and a degree of neglect, has also resulted in some of the steel frame rusting. That's a job for another day. Happy new year to you all.

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Construction industry shuts down

The construction industry has a long break at Christmas. Down at the roadworks in Philips Road they have packed up for the Christmas break. The 15th week is the halfway stage in the predicted 30 week duration. Up to press, I guess over half the culvert is now restored. Now the heavy plant has been moved off site and the site closed up until the new year.

Above you can see Knusden Brook approaching the River Blakewater from the east.

Mill Fire Update

From the front of the mill the fire damage isn't easily seen. At the rear, you can just make out some missing slates and other debris where the roof isn't complete at the ridge.

Dark menace

This guy passed me tonight with no lights. He was wearing a high-viz jacket though.

This guy was wearing a high viz jacket and had a rear light. Not a very bright rear light, but at least he had one.

Bleak midwinter

Overnight temperatures were in the region of -5C giving a hard frost this morning. Cycling has its advantages even on a freezing morning like today. I passed many motorists scraping frost off their windscreens or warming their cars up before they set off. No such preparations needed on the bike. This is when some of them find their cars missing altogether as opportunist thieves run off with them.

With my commute being short, I find the blood isn't circulating fast enough to prevent a bit of frost nip at the finger tips and toes. A couple of miles more and I think things would be different with everything warmed nicely, not unlike the first run of the day when skiing.

I took it a bit slower this morning, took wider lines around hazards and steered more gently where the roads were a bit icy. One worrying hazard on a morning like this is whether car drivers can see me properly. I saw a few this morning that hadn't got their windows cleared as they drove along peering through a hole in the ice in front of them hoping the demister would clear the screen as they went.

It's satisfying to have cycled up to this point in the winter. For the last couple of years I generally haven't commuted by bike in the couple of months before Christmas but have started around Christmas to get fit for skiing. It's nice because I'm already that much fitter from commuting four or five times weekly. It's also nice knowing that the days will be getting longer.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Trouble 't Mill

I set off through the frost this morning expecting drama. I'd heard on the radio that Bastfield Mill on Beech Street (the one with the really nice tarmac) had been the scene of a fire overnight. Apparently fire crews from local towns had been drafted in to tackle the blaze in the roof. As I cycled past there was no evidence of a fire so I carried on. There were a couple of official looking guys with clipboards, but nothing else. I guess the fire must not have been obvious from the street where I was. I saw Tom, who works there, who will often stop for a chat, talking at the neighbouring premises so I couldn't get a comment from him.

(I need a picture of Tom. He's famous for hauling Tom's Cart around the vicinity in days gone by. It's difficult to know what Tom's saying when he does chat but he's a really friendly fellow).

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Roadworks week 14

I found it difficult to get a picture of the building site this week as the activity is all going on in the narrowest part where the single lane working is in operation. Things are happening and this week's turn of events is in fact a turn. The culvert opening is slowly moving toward Little Harwood so the direction is starting to head away from the road. This will be the final stretch as it joins the previously restored culvert from the other direction. On the other side, the main roof of the section over Knusden brook has been removed. The weather has been freezing all week.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Cycle man - Meet the 'Greens'

Driving my son to climbing recently, I noticed a large cycling related poster on a hording. I kind of took me by surprise as you don't tend to see large posters featuring people claiming to cycle to work. It showed 'Cycle Man' who states 'I cycle to work every day... What are you doing?'. At the bottom of the poster is the logo of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.

BwDC's website currently features on its front page, a link to 'Meet the Greens', one of which, is Cycle Man . The poster is part of a new environmental campaign by the council to raise awareness of how families living in the borough can make a difference to the environment. The initial posters are ficticous characters, but there will be a subsequent round of advertisements featuring real people from the borough. Anyone living in Blackburn with Darwen and doing something green can put themselves forward to be part of the next phase by sending a photograph and small description of themselves by 4th Jan 2008 to


Lucie McFall,
Communications and Marketing,
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council,
Town Hall,
King William Street

I would, but I don't live in Blackburn borough.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Sustrans bid wins £50m lottery money

Yeah! They, we, you did it! The Peoples £50m lottery give-away has been awarded to Sustrans' Connect2 scheme after capturing 42% of the votes.

BikeRadar summarises the areas to benefit. It is also covered in many other news articles.

Carbon based industries

Along the main road to town there are many small businesses. Many are typical of the parlous state of retail at the moment. One business that recently changed hands is the site of an old petrol station. Years ago the Shell garage closed down and the site remained empty for a long time. Then came a van rental shop. It seemed a strange location for that sort of business and, not before long, it also closed. This week it has become Norths Motors, a car retail business. Don't they realise what we really need is a sustainable transport emporium, also known as the local bike shop?

Monday, 10 December 2007

Blakewater culvert, Philips Road update, week 13

December started more wintry than November (kind of what one should expect but then when was the weather predictable!). We had lots of rain last week with some torrential downpours and wind with it. Not the sort of conditions you want to be working outside on construction or riding a bike for that matter.

Personally, I got wet a couple of times as there was no way to avoid the rain. The building site on Philips road looked like a quagmire but work continued regardless.

The next section of culvert got its roof.

Now the site is getting tight for room as there is so much excavated material in the way of continuing upstream.

This is the section where Knusden Brook joins from under the remaining single-file bit of Philips Road on the right.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

I need a flasher -'sorry' is not enough

I take my visibility seriously, since in the dark it can make the difference between a safe journey home and one with an unthinkable outcome. However, you never really know how visible you are to others. The only clues are the way traffic and pedestrians react. Sometimes I get the feeling that my visibility is not sufficient when, for example, someone reacts late to my presence. Yesterday I got a stark reminder as a driver I suspected might not see me easily, clearly had not. A car was waiting to pull away from the kerb. He waited as the car in front of me passed and I approached. Luckily there was no car alongside, so I took a deliberately wide line just in case he didn't see me. He didn't, and set off into my path. I narrowly missed his driver's door as I swerved to avoid him and ended up in the path of the oncoming traffic, which luckily was approaching cautiously and slowed to a halt. As I looked down into the driver's window, the driver looked up at my stricken face - I think the scream of expletives might have alerted him to a cyclist alongside. He apologised and waved his hand, but still set off to make his getaway since I hadn't actually collided with him. I regained my composure and returned to the correct side of the road.

In a moment's anger I almost wished I'd thumped into the side of his car because, at the time, I felt it was little more than he deserved. Sorry just isn't enough in that situation and driving off only compounded the problem. I thought through the experience on the remainder of my journey. Whacking into the side of his car would have only put me in more danger as I would probably have ended up on the ground in the middle of a busy wet road at night. I concluded that I'd probably taken the correct course of action, but what happened still nagged away at me.

I was thinking if there was more that I could have done to avoid it. Highly reflective clothing really doesn't provide any advantage in this situation. The driver is looking either over his shoulder or through his door mirror and there is little light to reflect from that angle. I tried to think what he might have seen. There would have been multiple light sources with car headlights and streetlights and my front light in there too. My light must not have been obvious enough or he would have seen it. I have a high wattage halogen on the front and have always considered it to be well visible. It is much brighter than most bike lights I see, but it is static and I can guess how it might have got lost in all the other lights, which to be honest, are always going to be much brighter than mine. On the back I have another static light but I have added a high brightness LED light, which I always use in flashing mode. It didn't cost much, but I'm convinced using it alerts drivers quicker to the presence of a cyclist. I concluded what I need to prevent this event happening again is to add a high brightness white LED flasher at the front.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Beware the buggy 2

One of my first posts showed a small electric buggy trundling down the road. My thoughts then were that anyone who drives one of those must either be brave or stupid. Approaching the shortest day of the year, I have had my cycle lights on both in the morning and evening as daylight doesn't seem to fully arrive some days and other days it just appears for a couple of hours in the middle of the day. Being seen on your commute is a given and lights are essential for drivers to be able to see you in the gloom. I saw the buggy driver again this morning - that's only the second time in six months. I'm glad to see he's still going, but have to conclude he must be stupid. I knew he was there but still found him barely discernible in the gloom that was a poor apology for daylight breaking. Many drivers would not see him at all.

Monday, 3 December 2007

(Three) Monthly update

December is already upon us and has started in similar style to November. Luckily Saturday stayed fine for a 4hour walk, but since then it's rained heavily on and off. Today on the bike, I managed to just about dodge the showers but but have to admit to being a tad damp on arriving back tonight.

I remember thinking on my first commute of November, it was a contrast to October, when I had stated it isn't often I ride in the wet. For three journeys, I was sure I'd have to eat my words, but then November although cold, dark and sometimes damp, turned out OK for commuting. In fact it was only those three journeys that were wet. There were plenty of rainy days but usually it was fine by the time it came to get on the bike. I did at least 17 days by cycle, which is quite good in a month. The other days I needed to be somewhere else so couldn't use the bike.

It's also three months since the roadworks kicked off on Philips Road. Last week the downstream end of the culvert got a concrete roof and it looked this morning that railings have appeared. The light wasn't good so I can't really tell from my blurred shot.

The preparation is under way for the next section but it looks like there is little room on the site for the earth, machinery and the culvert. That fact, and the poor light, make it difficult to tell what's happening. I'm intrigued to know how the restoration to the bit of culvert on the opposite side of the road (Knusden Brook, seen here) will join up with the main culvert.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Shiny black stuff

Beech Street has gone from bone jarring, teeth jangling bumpy road to racetrack smooth tarmac strip. This is so much better than bouncing into the road across the lumps and holes that were there previously. Unfortunately it doesn't look like the adjoining Plane Street is getting a makeover, so we still have to endure a rough ride to get to Beech Street. Still, every little helps.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Don't forget to cast your vote

Remember to cast your vote in the people's £50m lottery givaway. It has four projects in the final, one being Sustrans' Connect2 bid.

By building bridges and new crossings over barriers such as busy roads, rivers and railway lines, Connect2 will connect people to the places they want to go.

The nearest project is the Padiham, East Lancashire Loop, which may eventually link up with the old railway line in Great Harwood.

Voting is now open, so make your views count and vote for one of the projects

Road works week 11

Lots of steel reinforcement was added to the roof of the culvert last week. I declined the opportunity to capture the sparks flying, as the boys from Bethell were cutting the steel, for fear of getting run over - not a good idea to stop in the one way traffic lane. I wondered if the concrete was under the covers on Friday evening, but as the temperature got down to around -5C it was obviously worth waiting until today as the overnight temp is going to be around 6C.

The last photograph shows the Intack Brook coming in from the left. This is an area of additional activity that will join up with the other side of the road at some point.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Scottish man loves bike

WTF? Lubing his tube? Pumping his rubber maybe? Cranking his gear perhaps or handling his bar? Saddle sore takes on a whole new meaning.

It seems his privacy was invaded and a lot of other people think so.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

School bus

No Chelsea tractors here. No massive queues or fighting parents. No 4x4s obstructing the way of cyclists. Just a walking bus coordinated by volunteers. So easy really.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Why not Eurostar?

Recently, I was perusing options for getting bikes onto the continent. I'd heard that it was becoming more difficult to get bikes on a plane. British Airways was reported as tightening regulations for carrying sports equipment and I know other low cost airlines are making it less cost effective to get gear abroad, charging around £30-£40 extra for a return trip. Whilst I was thinking about the options, I started looking at trains, thinking that was a great solution. The problem is the more I looked at it, I became less reassured of commitment to supporting cyclists among the companies that make up the transport industry.

Looking at some of the options over on the continent, it seems the world is your oyster, so to speak. There are ample facilities for cyclists in some countries to go by train. In the UK though, the situation can be less than optimal. Some stations have facilities for bicycles for parking but many are not secure. Train companies may advertise they allow cycles on the train, but sometimes only have room for two cycles. If there's three people wanting to take their bikes on the same route at the same time you're stuck. There is incentive to improve and the good guys get some recognition at the annual cycle rail awards.

I thought I'd come up with a cunning plan going completely by rail until I discovered some of the difficulties. I thought 'All I need to do is get over to the right place on the continent and then use local trains to get about in country. Eurostar!' 'Ideal', I thought - blast all the way to the south of France or over to Brussels or Berlin. And then I found, you can't easily take bikes on Eurostar. You can book them on board, but as a checked baggage service costing £20 and not on the same train as the passenger.

It seems I'm not alone in thinking this is not a very modern approach to a sustainable and integrated transport solution. About a hundred cyclists mounted a protest recently at the newly refurbished St. Pancras station, the day of the first non-stop high speed Eurostar trains to the continent. They were campaigning for better facilities at the station and better access routes in the vacinity of the station as well as pressing Eurostar to allow bikes on the same train as their passenger owners.

It seems to have had an effect. Around 100 bike stands were rushed in by Network Rail to improve on the inadequate stands that existed at the remote end of the car park. This seemed quite a decent number until I read Rotterdam's new station has 8000! The biggest breakthough has to be that Eurostar have promised to enable passengers to reserve space on the same trains they are travelling on.

Well done London Cycling Campaign, keep the pressure on! I'll get back to my planning now...

Time to say goodbye

No, not to the blog, but to this part of the Blakewater. Work on replacing the Blakewater culvert on Philips Road is progressing at a significant pace. Last week, the walls of the culvert were built up with reinforced concrete and now the downstream end of the culvert is getting the roof replaced. Fresh steel beams have been laid out spanning the gap and by Friday evening the covering was already starting to be fitted.

Further upstream the excavation of the next section is under way. The meeting of Little Harwood brook and Knusden brook is roughly where the digger is.

Raised Manholes

Or should that be person holes to be PC about it? Beech Street is getting a makeover. I'm always glad when a road I cycle regularly gets new tarmac. Beech Street was rather bumpy. The bit you see here is the best bit, but elsewhere along its length, instead of it being a continuous surface, it was more a combination of joined up patches. Mind you, it wasn't quite as bad as the adjacent Plane Street, so I hope it is going to get the resurfaced too.

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Bike night review

Last night was bike night 'Wheels within Wheels' at the Kendal Mountain Film Festival. The evening was introduced by Andy Miles, Sustrans' North West England representative.

The action kicked off with a film Freeride Alta Rezia, a 6 day downhill tour in the Italian Alps featuring Hans 'No Way' Rey and Thomas Frischknecht. Excellent and humorous insight into touring the singletracks of the Alta Rezia region using the skiing infrastructure in the Alps and having some amazing downhill experiences. contains galleries and links to gps data.

The main feature was a talk by Greg Yeoman who, with Kate Leeming, toured over 7500 miles around Australia. An amazing feat crossing this huge continent and surviving hazardous conditions to promote sustainable development. More at: and

Sponsored by Buff the event included a quick demo of some of the many ways to use a Buff.

Heavy Fork - short showing bikes stunts (not) performed by a 12 year - quite painful to watch but fun.

The last film of the night was a downhill epic. Anti Gravity Unhinged, is the latest in the Anti gravity series by Reflex films featuring lots of fast and furious downhill action filmed in impressive locations around the world.

More mountain events are taking place at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal town hall, Kendal Leisure Centre and Rheged each day until Sunday.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Pouring Concrete

Events to report from my commute this week have been thin on the ground. Mostly I've focussed on traffic, making sure I can be seen in the darkness and trying to anticipate what others are doing. Whilst I've been doing that, work continued on the culvert replacement. Despite some poor weather (the leaves on the tree in last week's shot are all but gone), the renovation of the downstream end of the culvert has got to the stage of pouring concrete to reinforce the walls. This is week 9 and things seem to be moving along nicely.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Quicker by bike?

Find out when the Top Gear team race across London by different means. One of them will be on a bike.

8pm Sunday 11th November BBC2
7pm Wednesday 14th November BBC2

Update: Bike wins! Yes, Richard Hammond beats off the challengers in James May in a car, The Stig on public transport and Jeremy Clarkson in a power boat. Great stuff.

Bike Night

Here's an event for your calendar if you can make it to Kendal next Tuesday, 13th November. You could be in for a cycling treat. All you have to do is sit and watch others on their bikes, as Tuesday is the 'Bike Night' of the Kendal Mountain Film Festival. Tickets are £9 from the website or the Kendal Brewery Arts Centre (01539 725331). Kick off is at 7pm

Friday, 2 November 2007

Blakewater turns a corner

Week 8 of the culvert replacement has seen a turning point in the renovation in moving from removing material to adding it. Workers from Bethell are now reinforcing the walls of the culvert. In the shot from this morning, you can see steelwork being added to the side walls ready for filling with concrete. This suggests this section is being repaired before moving upstream towards Little Harwood.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007


Not much fest but October turned out to be a good month weather wise for commuting. Lancashire has the reputation for being wet so Lancastrians can be forgiven for having the English preoccupation with the weather. October gave us little to talk about since it has been mainly dry for commuting with just three trips that I can remember getting wet. On the west coast of America, just a few thousand miles north, it was a different story. Today it was wet coming home - not a good start to the month. Hopefully November won't be like this everyday, though in previous years, it has been.

My total trips on the bike must have been about 40 with a commuting mileage topping out at 100 miles. There aren't many months I achieve that but it feels good to develop a consistent habit of riding and I miss it if I have to go in the car.

Time to fix - 12 working days

Yesterday, that dangerous grid in Plane Street had an emergency repair done to it. The hole around the water grid had become so severe that the side facing the oncoming traffic was exposed by about 10cm. It has now been made safe and marked up with white paint along with many of the other less dangerous holes in Plane Street. I hope the route along Plane Street and Beech Street will become a lot smoother. Some minor lumps and holes wouldn't be noticed by a modern car with good suspension. On a road bike at 20mph its wheels can bounce off the ground, which adds danger on a bend or braking zone, or in this case, a potentially bust rim.

If you use the CTC's 'Fill that hole' web site to report the problem, as I did on the 10th October, you should get a reply telling you it has been reported to relevant authority.

From: CTC Pothole Reporting <>
Date: 13-Oct-2007
The hazard you entered on the CTC site has now been reported to the
relevant highway authority with the message shown below.

Please let us know if the hazard has been fixed, or if there are
significant changes, using the following URL:
To: Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council

CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation, has had the following
road hazard reported to it, and we believe that you may be the
responsible highway authority

The defect is located at:
DISTRICT: Blackburn with Darwen
WARD: Bastwell
ROAD NAME: Plane Street
LOCATION DESCRIPTION: Plane Street heading east just past the traffic lights

Defect information:
DEFECT DESCRIPTION: hole developed around water grid

And hopefully a couple of weeks later, a result.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Everything comes to those who wait

For many cyclists, moving through autumn to winter will hail the end of cycling days until warmer lighter days of spring arrive, which is a shame because there is a rich variety of experiences to be had that aren't available in the height of summer. With shorter days comes the opportunity to watch the sun rising and setting, see the sparkle of morning dew or the crisp frosts and ice crystals that form everywhere. The evenings are filled with silouhetes, skies of deepening blues and purples and pale moonlight. Even days of low visibility provide interesting insights and experiences of the weather. Mists, fogs and inversion effects can make journeys more interesting without necessarily making them more challenging. Since the clocks have gone back the low morning sun is again a bit higher but further west, like this morning when the sunlight radiated autumn hues of golden yellows and russet browns from the beech trees. The evenings no longer suffer from low visibility. They are dark. Lights and reflective materials are the order of the day as is maintaining extra caution around other traffic and parked vehicles.

All of these views pass through the window of opportunity that is the short time used to travel to and from work. On a bike it is easy to stop and admire nature and its seasonal changes. A very different window from the one in the car (or the bus/train for that matter) where it feels more isolated.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Culvert exposed as GMT returns

Currently the most significant event on my short commute is some long term roadworks. Reporting on roadworks feels definitely anorakish but since these are works affecting the river on which Blackburn originated, it seems worth a weekly report to keep the good townsfolk abreast of this riveting development and provide a future historical record of what will again be buried under Philips road.

Work to replace the culvert over the River Blakewater appeared to progress in a significant leap in this seventh week of activity. About 15 metres of the downstream end of the culvert have been uncovered. The light in the evening has been so low most of my photos have suffered from camera shake. Tomorrow, I'll be returning in near complete darkness now British Summer Time has ended and the clocks have gone back to Greenwich Mean Time.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Tredz downhill race

The guys at Tredz in Penarth have posted a report, pics and videos of last Sunday's downhill races hosted in Penarth.

It was nice to see the mayor of Penarth tried out the course wearing his chain of honour.

Other photographers' excellent image collections:

Ben Salter, Alex Redwood, Al Scott, Rob Gale and Gaz Powell

All good stuff.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Half term

It's very quiet on the roads this week due to the school half-term holidays. It has been cold too, yesterday, too cold for standing around at bus stops.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

How much do you want cycling facilities to improve?

The people's £50m lottery givaway has four projects included in the final. One of them, Connect2, is proposed by Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity. This is what they say they will spend the money on, for the benefit of cyclists, commuters, schoolchildren, the elderly, leisure walkers, and wheelchair users:

"The money will be spent on Connect2’s 79 projects all over the UK.

Each Connect2 scheme will be inspirational in design but sensitive to the character and needs of the local area. The project will create attractive and welcoming networks of walking and cycling routes and intends to work with local people and organisations to create an environment in which you can take real pride.

By building bridges and new crossings over barriers such as busy roads, rivers and railway lines, Connect2 will connect people to the places they want to go."

Of the 79 projects in the scheme, the nearest is the Padiham, East Lancashire Loop, which may eventually link up with the old railway line in Great Harwood.

Connect2 needs your vote!

Sustrans' Connect2 is a UK-wide project that will transform local travel in 79 cities, towns and villages by creating new walking and cycling networks for everyday journeys.

For Connect2 to happen we really need your help. Connect2 is one of 4 projects competing in the Big Lottery Fund's: The People's £50 Million Contest on TV this December. A public vote will decide who wins the £50 million.

If you'd like to see £50 million invested in walking and cycling please register today so we can get in touch to let you know when and how to vote. Visit or text the word 'Connect2' to 80010.

Add your pledge, or better still, vote for one of the projects

Time for pruning

Here is a man from the Highway Management department keeping his bushes trimmed on the roundabout this morning. That silver one in the middle doesn't get trimmed much. Mind you, it doesn't grow much either. Visibility on and around the roundabout is improved by not having too much growing there but it is nice to have some greenery as well.