Friday, 23 May 2008

Local towns make shortlist

Out of sevety four towns appying for Cycling City, Cycling Towns programme, which is set to receive some of the government's £140m cycling funding, two local towns have made the shortlist: Blackpool and Southport. No mention of Blackburn.

Source: Cycling England

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Gun touting trio get 31 years

I like to think my commuting route is as safe as I can make it. Normal hazerd perception doesn't run to considering shootings. Last year there was an incident at Bastwell where shots were fired at a house. On Monday, three men got between 8 and 13 years each for their crime.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Irony of news gathering

I highlighted, some time ago in winter, the walking school bus that crosses my route. I see them regularly during school term time. This morning they had swapped their usual orange tabbards for brighter yellow ones. This must have been a big occasion as more children had joined the walk and there were more helpers. Whilst being distracted by all this colour, I very nearly ran over a photographer who was walking backwards into the road trying to get a shot of the group making their way to school. He was probably keeping one ear out out for traffic.

I come across quite a few pedestrians who enter the road first and look second based on what they hear. The photographer was probably getting a photo for the local newspaper for a piece on road safety.

Update: Link to article that has appeared here.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Positive thoughts

Weblogs provide excellent reading around the subject of bike culture, bike use , cycle sport or cycling technology. There's something for almost everyone interested in learning a little more about cycling. A lot of the blogs have a similar slant to Psychalist in that they providing examples of good things about cycling in the hope it rubs off on people. They provide a perspective that perhaps counters some of the negativity that people think about when considering whether to use a bicycle more, and then don't.

The many scare stories and negative press can easily make any of us think that cycling is fraught with dangers and drawbacks such as having your pride and joy pinched, damaged or getting injured etc. Sure, bad things can happen and do, but only in a proportionate way to any other activity. Strange but true, drivers and passengers don't generally consider the worst scenarios when travelling by car but would do so when asked about riding a bike. Indeed many discount the dangers of the road and don't wear a seat belt.

It is shocking to hear of a tragedy on the roads. Nearby, north of Blackburn, there have been too many tragic incidents in recent months. I'm shocked and saddened to hear of car or cycling crashes or any other road traffic incident. The local paper this week had stories of one motorcyclist and one cyclist killed. Both apparently were experienced riders.

This type of news, though shocking, should not stop anyone partaking of an activity. It should perhaps focus their mind to potential dangers but in a positive way. By making the right decisions and reducing danger we can all learn to enjoy riding in a safe manner. These relatively isolated incidents are unquestionably serious but relatively rare. All the successful journeys are not reported so it is easy to get a skewed perspective. It makes being positive more difficult but not impossible. Understanding these incidents is one thing but dwelling on them fosters an unbalanced viewpoint.

Dave Moulton, an ex-pat retired bike frame builder, recently posted about the power of positive thinking and provided examples of what happened to him when he was thinking negatively and positively. These are not just examples for riding bikes but for all aspects of daily life. Philosophy with a cycling angle if you like. Well worth a read.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

No excuses

If anyone needed convincing to try cycling to work, the warm spring weather and light conditions over the last week have removed some of the usual excuses. It's been so pleasant that slowing down to enjoy it has been a must. Honestly, don those relaxing work clothes not the Lycra, and give it a try. Just take it easy, no need to get in a sweat, just roll on by. Stop off at the paper shop and the butty shop and see how easy and convenient this commuting by bike can be. I've started looking for excuses to make it last longer, taking a longer route or running an errand or two after work. Hopefully this spell of fine weather will last a while longer. Enjoy

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Rare Trek folder

Rare round these parts anyway. Seen cruising up Whalley New Road. I think it was a Trek F400 folding bike, apparently made by Dahon. Not quite Copenhagen Cycling Chic but an interesting change nonetheless.

Oh, if anyone's wondering what the yellow H on the wall is, it's a Hydrant marker to indicate where the water hydrant is for the fire service or utility company. The sign also has written on it the distance from the sign to the hydrant grid, in this case, on the pavement (side-walk).

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Road Clear

Bethell's Surfacing Division were on site all last week to add the tarmac to the Philips Road culvert repairs. The place was positively buzzing with activity as they must have more than doubled the number of personnel on site.

Having prepared the road foundations earlier in the week, the whole roadway was planed in preparation for the top surface. The climax to week 35 was Friday when the top surface was laid. In the space of one day the works were transformed.

For the May Bank Holiday weekend the traffic lights were removed and two lane working restored after nearly 9 months of 'expected delays'.

The job is more or less complete apart from some landscaping and clearing up, taking the total time to 36 weeks. It took six weeks longer than planned and started two weeks late, but will soon be forgotten once the grass is grown and the trees are planted (BwD will plant some trees, won't they?). This will be the final post about the Blakewater culvert for a while.

When the landscaping is complete, I may just add a final picture. Meanwhile I'm glad to be able to cycle freely down the road.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Bike To School Week

This week, 5-9th May, is Bike To School Week. Monday being a Bank Holiday, it's a short week, but hopefully children can take advantage and create their own critical mass cycling to school. Apparently less than 2% of the 8.3 million kids actually cycle to school although over 30% would like to.

See the Bike for All web page Cycling to School for information, links and answers to common questions about the issues relating to cycling to school. Also, check out the Sustran's Bike It website. Bike It is a project aiming to improve the number of children cycling to school through the encouragement of local cycling officers. Encourage your school to get involved and begin to change the school run where you live.

Ride: Dunsop Bridge

The tiny hamlet of Dunsop Bridge is a pleasant collection of houses and a post office at the geographical centre of the British Isles. It sits at the gateway to the Trough of Bowland in the Hodder Valley in Lancashire. This was our destination for a day out on the bikes at the weekend. The weather was forecast to be reasonably warm with the possibility of heavy showers later in the day. Cycling shorts and short sleeves were donned with the optimistic view that we'd be getting quite warm on a longer ride. We packed rain gear nonetheless.

Travelling via Whalley and Mitton in the Ribble Valley, we circled around Longridge Fell to cross the Hodder valley towards the Whitewell, where we refreshed ourselves with some fine Challenger bitter from the Copper Dragon brewery in Skipton. Not exactly sports fuel drink but the sun was out and it was pleasant sitting out the back by the river.

A short ride from Whitewell brought us to Dunsop Bridge where we had lunch at the Post Office cafe, sitting outside in the sun. Being a bank holiday weekend there were plenty of visitors who had parked in the sizable car park. Some were feeding the ducks by or eating ice creams by the river. Others were off walking the fells or other outdoor activities. Dunsop bridge is a great place to start off many interesting walks around the Hodder or the Forest of Bowland. There are also some interesting looking mountain bike routes up through the forests onto the grouse moors.

We weren't going further, so we made our way to Newton and back to Waddington over the rather challenging Waddington Fell, which on the map, has three steep climbs. We couldn't argue with the map and vowed next time to go the extra distance to Slaidburn and back via Smallden Lane to Grindleton. That route has only one steep hill but is a lot lower. Waddington was hosting a scarecrow festival and on Monday, the bank holiday here in England, they have a duck race. It was busy in the village and, pretty though it is, it had a distinctly British seaside feel to it. Rather than queue here for more athlete's fuel we forged on past Clitheroe to Whalley where we sat and ate ice cream and drank tea before returning home. It was a satisfying 37 miles and it didn't rain once, so we felt we'd had a good day out in some of the best countryside there is.

Replacing Tyres

The weather earlier this week was getting invitingly warm in the afternoon. Looking out of the window at work, it made me want to go further afield on the route home. I set off riding thinking I'd take the road to Rishton and go through Great Harwood to Whalley to make the journey about 15 miles. Before I got to the Rishton road, I was looking at blossoming trees and hearing birds chirping their spring song and thought a trip down the canal towpath would be nicer. I hadn't gone more than a few hundred yards before my rear tyre punctured.

I'd run over an old bramble despite trying to avoid them on the path. I was surprised how quickly my tyre went down. I soon had it fixed and was on my way again but the experience was interesting for a couple of reasons. One was that three other kind cyclists stopped to ask if I needed help. It was very heartening and reminded me of tales my grandfather used to tell me about the halcyon days of motoring when motorists used to stop and help others. Thanks to the cyclists for asking. The other was, that although a tyre has tread, it doesn't mean it isn't worn out. I did know this one needed replacing because the casing was cracked. Winter cycling has taken its toll on quite a few bits of my bike and my intention was to swap bikes to allow my commuter some time in dry dock but I hadn't realised the tyre's internal carcass had deteriorated. Inflated to the maximum pressure this would have created a gap in the tread and exposing the inner tube enough to allow it to be easily punctured.

When inspecting tyres it's worth looking for cracks and exposed threads and internally for any discoloration of the internal rubber which could indicate ingress of water and dirt through the outer tread -all signs the tyre is on its last legs and worth replacing to avoid an untimely repair stop. I replaced mine with a Schwalbe (27in) tyre with integral puncture protection.