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.