No More Lethal Lorries!

Today, the 30th of March, is the day of action in London to try to get rid of lethal lorries from London’s streets. This date has been in place for several months and it is unfortunate that in the past week 2 cyclists and a pedestrian have been killed by such lorries on London’s roads.

All cyclists should sign the petition from the LCC to help get rid of these lethal lorries. But it may not get rid of these lorries so easily. The 5 point plan includes the following

  1. Cyclist-awareness training for drivers – All city lorry drivers should be having ongoing cycle-awareness training, including on-bike experience.
  2. Drivers must take more responsibility – Authorities must recognise driver responsibility for doing everything practical to reduce risks. Blaming a ‘blind spot’ should be an admission of guilt.
  3. Safer design for London lorries – Lorries designed for off-road use should be taken off city streets. The best mirrors, cameras and sensors should be fitted as standard.
  4. Higher standards from lorry operators – Quality-assurance schemes such as London’s Freight Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS) should be mandatory and the police encouraged to crack down on rogue operators.
  5. More responsible procurement – Companies must only buy haulage services from reputable firms, with government taking a lead in encouraging best practice.

The plan looks strong but I’m sure that many of us will be disappointed to see that there isn’t a proposal to remove the lorries full stop. This does not address the problem of the lorries being too big for our London streets and posing a danger to all cyclists on the road.

This image shows a rough area that is a blind spot for lorry drivers, now take a look at the image below which also shows the blind spot of a lorry. Does it look like a common cycling facility to you?

It looks an awful lot like the shape of an ASL with a feeder lane. Popular cycling facilities at junctions in London. These junctions are putting cyclists at risk daily!

Something needs to be done about this situation that we face! It is not just an issue in London, cyclists everywhere face the issue of HGV’s on a daily basis, lets hope that the right decision is made here and that it affects everywhere else shortly after.

I urge all of you to sign the petition, it takes only a few moments of your time but could help to safe a lot of people’s lives!

EDIT: Oh bummer, this went live a bit earlier than I was expecting!

Walking with cleats

Many cyclists say that a downside to a road cleat system (e.g. Look Keo) is that they are hard to walk in. But are they really?

Sometimes people look for the worst in products to make excuses not to buy them. Road cleat systems are the perfect example. They have many benefits including a secure grip for putting down the power and bigger platforms for comfort. Unfortunately many people are put off by the fact that some people find them hard to walk in.

I personally have no issue walking in them, it’s the same as any normal shoe. In fact each day i walk through gravel, up 10 flights of stairs and across a marble floor without issues. In each case I walk like a normal person but my shoes make a different sound.

They may not be the best cleat to go walking around the supermarket in doing your shopping or walking several miles in but I have done both of those several times without issues. If you plan to do walking or shopping etc. Then using MTB cleats with a shoe that uses a recessed cleat is definitely the way forward.

I will admit that I have one problem with them. And that’s walking down stairs, size 12 feet + cleated shoes + stairs = a nightmare!

Crazy Motorists!

I think it’s more just crazy people rather than motorists. But either way my interaction with them is whilst I’m on my bicycle and they are in their vehicle. They put me at risk by driving dangerously and their attitude towards other road users can be life threatening!

In my books there are two kinds of crazy motorists. Those that don’t know what they have done because they are totally oblivious, and those who are just angry at everyone and just drive like an idiot and shout at you for just being where you are!

I don’t often come across either of these types of motorists, I pass and get passed by thousands of vehicles each day. 99% of these are driven in a manner which is above acceptable for me and a minority are excellent!

The problem is when you do come across them, as a vulnerable road user you are put in danger and often have to brake and in some cases come to a complete stop to avoid a collision. For some reason drivers don’t see us or see cyclists as all being slow and that they must get in front despite that some of us travel at the same speeds as vehicles.

Yesterday I came across both types of crazy motorists in a space of only 30 seconds. An idiotic driver took a racing line around a roundabout and cut across my path, forcing me to brake heavily to avoid a collision. The driver was completely obvious to what had happened, and when I pulled up alongside him, he was singing along to the music he was listening to. He was adamant that he went around the round about correctly but little did he know that I had video footage to prove otherwise. This naive thinking from drivers is what causes accidents and gets people killed. He feels perfectly safe in his little bubble and doesn’t care about anyone else.

The second driver cares not for other road users and puts us in danger. When you try to point out their mistakes, they just launch an attack of random rubbish which makes no sense and they try to be the bigger man by yelling louder. These kind of people remind me of neanderthals, primitive behaviour. Their bubble is big and they care only for them selves, they will push you around if you are not strong and they think they are the gods of the roads. These drivers are a risk to everyone, they think they are invincible and more and more of them are on the roads each time a young driver passes their test*.

Until some real education is pumped out to these road users, then we, cyclists and vulnerable road users, will continue to have issues with them. A cyclists some where each day faces a near death experience as the inability of another road user, who is in control of a dangerous vehicle, can not drive safely around us.

*may not be true 🙂

How not to lock your bike

I could have easily walked away with a free bike here. All I would have needed to do is walk up to the bike, remove the seat by undoing the quick release. move the bike forward slightly so the d-lock is no longer on the frame and then put the seat post back in. The failing here is due to putting the lock on part of the frame that is not enclosed. A common thing on rear suspension bikes. Notice the second lock also just hanging from the handle bars. This bike could quite easily be secure but instead would be an easy take with no tools required.

Genesis Day 01 Alfine – Braking issue

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been having issues with the brakes on my Genesis Day01 Alfine bike. I’m not the only one, I was first made aware of a potential issue by another owner. Fortunately for him, his bike was fixed by his local bike shop but unfortunately for the rest of us he was unaware of how the issue was fixed.

The issue seems to be caused by the non-standard disc rotor. The brakes are Tektro Lyra’s but the rotors are Shimano CL rotors. This means the brake pads don’t sit perfectly over the disc when you put them on. Unfortunately this is hard to see and is noticeable after some use and the dirt on the disc brake shows where the pad runs.

The front brake is an interesting one. As with any steel fork and a disc brake, there is some flex when you apply the brake. But what i experienced was far from some flex. The brake pad overlapped the edge of the disc by quite a bit. At least 1cm of the pad was running on the rotor arms. This meant that there was a constant shudder when you used the brake, due to the pad gripping on the rotor arm and the brake experiencing more friction at that point. This judder traveled through the forks and into the handle bars, it was disconcerting but did not affect performance in a manner which was bad.

The rear brake was the one with a problem. For some unknown reason, I would pull on the brake and feel it bite, I would start to decelerate. Apply a little bit more pressure and all of a sudden the brake would just let go and you would stop decelerating. I couldn’t get my head around it, I looked into how mechanical brakes worked, did lots of reading in books and online but could not figure out why the brake would suddenly let go.

Back when I first found out these issues, I contacted Genesis to try to get some help with this issue. Unfortunately they where not much help and said that it was natural for steel forks to behave in this way.

It came to the point where I could take it no more, and I took my bike back to Evans and got them to look at it for me. They saw the issue straight away and added some spacers and longer bolts onto the brake attachment thingy majig (can you tell that i don’t know what it is called?). This meant that the pads no longer rubbed on the rotor arms and braking was smooth and powerful.

The problem with this is finding the issue in the first place. It’s hard to see this issue when you are putting the bike together in a work shop. And testing it is impossible without taking the bike out on the road. This is because pulling the brake whilst the wheel spinning in a stand will nearly always stop it but what we want to test is how it acts when there is more weight behind the bike.

I did notice the issue with the front fork when I test rode the bike but as with all disc braked bikes, beading in is always the excuse.

Fortunately for me, the braking issues are resolved and the brakes are sharper than ever. Hopefully this is read by other users of the day01 and they can easily get it resolved.

Advanced Stop Lines – The results

I said a few weeks ago that I was going to collect some data about ASL’s and how many people I see breaking the rules on them. I took the data from a 5 day commuting period, which resulted in 149.55 miles traveled, 11 hours and 30 minutes in the saddle.

I stopped at 88 sets of traffic lights which had an ASL. 7 of those ASL’s had no vehicles that shouldn’t be in there from the time I was in it till the time I left it on the green light. At 12 of those 88, I couldn’t filter to the ASL, either due to it being full with vehicles or because the filter lane and other access routes were blocked.

At those 88 sets of traffic lights I saw 154 vehicles in them whilst the light was red. 59% of those where there when I got to it, and 41% of them I saw move pass the first stop light whilst the light was red.

54% of the vehicles that where in the ASL’s where motorbikes, the other 46% where other vehicles on the road, be them lorries, vans or cars.
On average, there where 1.75 vehicles in each ASL that shouldn’t have been there.

The highway code states, Rule 178:

Advanced stop lines. Some signal-controlled junctions have advanced stop lines to allow cycles to be positioned ahead of other traffic. Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times, e.g. if the junction ahead is blocked. If your vehicle has proceeded over the first white line at the time that the signal goes red, you MUST stop at the second white line, even if your vehicle is in the marked area. Allow cyclists time and space to move off when the green signal shows.

The highway code suggests that you should treat the ASL like a yellow box and pedestrian crossing. If you can move all the way passed it then fine, but if you will stop in it due to traffic ahead of you, then you should stop at the first stop line. This suggests that any vehicle caught in the ASL that shouldn’t be there, could be fined.

Lets see what the Road Traffic Act and The Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions have to say about ASL’s. *reads sections outlined by the highway code* Well that would be nothing. Just the laws about stopping at the first stop line but nothing about ASL’s. Which means that the police can only fine someone if they see them cross the first white line whilst the light is amber or red (amber is a 50/50 ).

I’ve yet to see anyone get fined for crossing the first stop line whilst the light is red. There have been some tales told by cyclists, the police say they can only fine someone if they see them cross the first stop line whilst the light is on red. Even then I doubt the driver will get a £60 and 3 points for it, more a telling off.

TFL boast that they added new ASL’s and increased the size of the existing ones along the super highways. But what is the point in wasting tax payers money on facilities for vulnerable road users if motor vehicles just ignore them? I would have no problem with TFL boasting about them if they where actually enforced and useful to cyclists but I fear that they often act as a target for cyclists to filter to and can put them in danger.

When to remove the lights

Bokeh-vehicle lights (duration-43 seconds)

It’s lighter in the mornings and getting lighter in the evenings. In a few weeks time the clocks will be changing so it’s light during commuting hours for 9 to 5ers.

I already hear chatter in the changing room at work from other cyclists about them looking forward to removing the lights off their bicycles and feeling that little bit lighter.

When should we remove the lights from our bicycles?

I will be keeping the lights on my bicycle for a few more weeks and potentially never remove them off my commuting bicycle. It’s important to stand out and as motorcyclistsrun their lights during the day to make them selves more visible, why shouldn’t cyclists?

At this time of year, with a clear morning, many drivers will be affected by the low sun, and if you are unfortunate enough to cycle to work with the sun behind you, then this will affect the visibility of drivers coming towards you. It is very wise in this situation to use a powerful light to maximise your visibility to them. But note that when there is a low sun, you should take extra caution of motorists who might not be able to see, they can pull very stupid manoeuvres with next to no sight and could cause you harm.

Something to think about for the future is the European legislation which will mean that all future cars will need to have and run special lights for the daytime. What this effectively means is that drivers will be looking out for vehicles with lights and if they don’t see any lights, then the coast is clear. So in a few years time, commuter cyclists will have to start using their lights all year round just to be safe from the motorists that won’t bother to look properly!

We already have issues with SMIDSY in the city’s and if we choose not to use lights it may only get worse.

How not to lock your bike

Many modern bikes come with quick release wheels for convenience when removing and replacing the wheels. When locking your bicycle up you need to make sure that you secure both your wheels so that they can’t be removed, as we all know, quick release wheels are very quick to release and letting some air out of the tyre will make it look like a flat. It wouldn’t be hard for someone to just say they are going to fix a flat tyre if anyone challenges them.

As we can see from this image, the owner has clearly thought about their front wheel and they are using a cable to secure it to the lock. These aren’t hard to get through but will deter the opportunist thief. The problem with this bike is the position of the lock, it’s locked in the rear triangle but not through the rear wheel. Any passer-by could easily take that rear wheel out and walk away with it.

You can get safety skewers to replace the quick release ones, but it’s still a good idea to lock your wheels with your locks!