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.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Week 6

Philips Road culvert works are now in their sixth week. I presume the civil engineers knew how much concrete was covering the Blakewater culvert before the renewal works were planned but I am surprised by the mass of concrete that has had to be broken up. Last week I reported the jack hammer had been brought in and this week it has been thundering away all week through tons of reinforced concrete that was on top of the covering of the culvert. It looked more like a nuclear shelter at one stage. I can't imagine there was any likelihood of it collapsing. At the downstream end the covering was exposed and has been removed. Further upstream only the covering has been exposed.

Friday, 19 October 2007

What to wear

Winter cycling will usually sometimes involve darkness, wet and cold, but not always. Anything goes, but most important is whatever you feel comfortable in. Consider visibility for the dark mornings and nights, some degree of waterproof/repellent shell for the wet and insulation for the cold.

Improving visibility is always a challenge. I use a high viz yellow top most of the time. The yellow stands out in low light conditions. However, in darkness, the colour becomes less relevant because unless the light is sufficient, such material doesn't stand out. This is where reflective clothing comes in. My winter jacket has Scotchlite reflective strips and shows up more than the yellow jacket. I also use reflective pants (see below).

The key is getting the balance right. This will depend on how you cycle. If you take a leisurely pace, more insulation and more waterproof is probably better than less. For more energetic cycling, balancing moisture outside your clothing with that generated inside will require some degree of breathability. Factor in the length of the ride and you have a wide range of requirements and solutions.

Personally I fall into the second category but with a short ride. My winter wear tends to be reasonably insulated (too hot for a long ride) but breathable. I find my extremities such as fingers, toes and ears need covering when the weather approaches freezing. My outer shell layer isn't particularly waterproof and has plenty of ventilation. I use two types of leg wear, both from Ron Hill. They are Ron Hill Traksters. One is quite thin, ideal for spring, autumn and moderate winter days, and the other one thicker, ideal for cold winter days. The thicker ones are the Trakster Treks and are particularly good when wet as the extra thickness retains heat remarkably well. The thin ones are based on the Trakster Classic but are a special edition called Trakster Reflect and are highly effective in the dark.
Flash from 10m (no bike)

They appear to be a discontinued line in the current Ron Hill catalogue. The nearest current equivalent for reflection is in their reflective clothing range and is the Vizion Tight. Ron Hill also have a cycling range and most garments are also available in a women's fit.

Other blogs have tips too.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Jack Hammer

This week's road works update is early 'cos I'm off walking for the weekend. This is week five of the culvert replacement. Activity on Philips Road has been hotting up with both the digger and now the jackhammer active. The reinforced concrete covering of the culvert is being broken up in preparation for replacing it. I had hoped to get a decent shot of the concrete and steel but there is a lot of fencing in the way.

Other roads had works on them this week as some paving (sidewalk) has been replaced on one of the roads before getting to the real works. Many of the pavements and potholes have been marked up with white spray paint so I'm expect more improvements are on the way. Weather wise, dark and damp has been the theme most days this week but other days have seen fine and with calm conditions.

Thursday, 11 October 2007

(eye) Watering hole

Another hazard has appeared en-route to work. I manage to avoid it mostly but one of these days it'll catch me out and I'll have a pinch flat puncture. I reported it via the local council email. Blackburn with Darwen's web site indicates it should be possible to report the problem by email, so I did. I got this reply:

to: me

This is an automatically generated Delivery Status Notification.

Delivery to the following recipients failed.

I thought I'll give the CTC's 'Fill That Hole' website a go. It's really very nice and so easy to use, with a clear form. It uses Google Maps, which enabled me to put a marker exactly at the location of the fault. I got an immediate email notification containing links allowing future follow-up and the ability to upload a picture, which I did.

You can view the report at

I'll see what happens, but I might be using the good old telephone soon.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Culvert operations

So what's been happening down at the roadworks this week? Well, more of the same really. The digger has got stuck in and revealed a significant length of the concrete covered culvert hiding the River Blakewater. Somewhere under there is where Little Harwood brook and Knusden brook combine to form the Blakewater. The delays are bearable but it is difficult to get a good view of what's going on because of the double fences. It looks like while the digger is busy further up the road, work has started on breaking the covering at the Beechwood road end. All (not very) exciting stuff.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Albert's Amble

What could be finer? This lovely looking bridleway begged to be explored on a day like today. This is typical of many of the rural Lakeland bridleways. You don't have to climb the biggest hills to gain great pleasure from exploring off road in Cumbria.

As I stood admiring Albert's Amble this morning, a carriage drawn by four horses and an entourage in period dress passed by. I was distracted enough to forget to take a picture. Maybe I was just dazed by the utter peacefulness of this bit of the Lakes near Winster or perhaps I was fascinated by their descent of the steep hill. Plenty of folk were out enjoying the outdoors. If you want a daily dose of Lakeland views, check out Tony Richards' excellent photo blog

View Larger Map

Friday, 5 October 2007

Seven Trees

Tree Fellers Wanted. Reminds me of that Irish joke. Anyway, another event this morning heralded the demise of another tree on my route. That's four in as many months. I haven't seen many new ones planted to replace them either. I'll have to plant some of my own if this continues!

This tree was on Whalley New Road near Seven Trees. The aborists told me it was coming down because it had been hit by a truck. I couldn't tell, but then I'm no tree surgeon.

And then there were six. (Actually there aren't seven trees at Seven Trees).

Brilliant Weather

This morning was one of those mornings that make autumn so special. A chill night brought a crispness to the morning air and a heavy dew on the ground. Trees, hedgerow and grass were all glinting in the early sun. Being on a bike allows you to appreciate the differences in the days, as senses overload on the rich atmosphere of bright sunshine, cold air and high humidity.

Glorious weather is not without its drawbacks though. As a cyclist, it is worth thinking about the impact it may have on your commute. I and many others that ride to work will not have much choice over when we ride. It will usually be at set times in the morning and evening. This means at this time of year we ride as the sun is rising and setting. Dazzlingly bright sunlight is nearly as bad as darkness for making cyclists invisible. This was reinforced this morning as I was nearly sideswiped by an Alfa Romeo coming out of a side road that was facing the sun. As I approached, I saw the driver looking the other way and suspected she might not have seen me. I took a slightly wider line as a precaution but she continued out of the junction into the road where I was riding. I swerved and then she saw me and braked to a halt. She was very apologetic, as drivers tend to be in situations like this. The explanation "I didn't see you" is not really adequate as it only means she didn't make the required effort to double check the road in the low sunlight. I'm sure she was sorry but 'She didn't see him" is not something I want on my tombstone.

Stay safe out there.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Talking bike lock

This is pretty cool. A bike lock that communicates with a security firm. When locked and when disturbed it sends an sms text message alerting the security firm enabling CCTV to home in on the problem. Invented by a policeman at the University of Portsmouth, PC Dave Fairbrother, it just needs bringing to market. I'm pretty sure Boris Johnson would be one of the first to sign up as he has had so many bikes stolen.

From SOS Response.

What's the opposite of a bike lane?

I've mentioned before the little cycling infrastructure between home and Blackburn town centre, which makes up the majority of my route. The one short cycle lane is near Brownhill (shown in this post ). I concluded the cycle lanes are not generally of much use. The objective should be to consciously separate road users in a way that provides some 'virtual' protection for the more vulnerable cyclist. Here we see the opposite: some road markings and obstacles that promote forcing the cyclist into a restricted road space with motorised traffic. I'm not sure what benefit this device is supposed to have since the junction on the left has a clear view of the road anyway. It seems a lot of taxpayers' money used to create a hazard for cyclists and other minority road users.