The AA Blunder!

On Friday the 15th of April the AA (Automobile Association) gave out 5,000 branded helmets and 5,000 branded high visibility vests to cyclists in London. The cycling community was outraged by this and watching the twitter comments was quite funny. Especially afterI had already tweeted this the following day to the AA President, Edmund King.

why is the @aapresident giving free helmets to cyclists? So drivers can drive more dangerously around us?

The AA President was kind enough to reply to me to let me know that the AA does give out free training for dangerous young & older drivers and campaigns against drink/drug drivers. Which is fantastic!

What I don’t get is why a motoring group is getting involved in handing out ‘safety’ equipment to cyclists. Are they trying to make the motorists think that cycling is dangerous? Or that motorists can drive around us in a more dangerous manner because we now have helmets to protect our heads.

The AA’s basis for this free advertising gift where 2 polls. Around 16,000 AA members were asked if they think cyclists should wear helmets. 97% think we should. And a spot check done by the AA suggested that only 5% of Barclays Cycle Hire users wear helmets.

The AA president, Edmund King, said

You see some people on Boris bikes who are not proper cyclists. They need a helmet more than most. They’re weaving all over the place.

The helmet is a hot topic among cyclists, at the end of the day they are designed to reduce acceleration to the head at low speeds. Wikipedia states

A typical helmet is designed to absorb the energy of a head falling from a bicycle, hence an impact speed of around 12 mph or 20 km/h. This will only reduce the energy of a 30 mph or 50 km/h impact to the equivalent of 27.5 mph or 45 km/h, and even this will be compromised if the helmet fails.

Basically the helmet is only designed to protect a cyclist that falls over by them selves. Anyone that has cycled for a reasonable amount of time can manage to balance and is unlikely to fall over. The addition of a cycle helmet in a crash with a vehicle is debatable. It may or may not help you.

Is weaving a bad thing? I and many other cyclists do a little wobble or weave as a vehicle is approaching us, it gives the driver the perception that we are not in control and they are more likely to give us the space we require.

High visibility vests are also a hot topic. My personal opinion is they are next to useless in the city environment. So many people wear hi-viz that it doesn’t have the same effect that it used to. Out in the suburbs and the country side it’s a different story. But in the city where you can’t see much further than the rear of the car in front of you, hi viz isn’t going to help.

The CTC’s response was fantastic.

We believe that far bigger road safety gains can be made by tackling instances of bad driving.

And that is how most cyclists felt about it. The CTC turned up at the same locations as the AA and handed out copies of the highway code to drivers.

The AA have said they will repeat this branded give way in other UK cities but I suspect that this may do more damage than good to them, especially with regards to the cycling community.

The continued Success of the Barclays Cycle Hire

Barclays Cycle Hire bikes

Image by duncan via Flickr

Transport for London stated today that the Barclays Cycle Hire customers have cycled to the moon and back 13 times in the first 6 months of operation.  That’s over 2.5 million journeys at over 10,000,000km cycled.

The busiest day for the scheme saw more than 27,500 journeys, covering more than 124,000km.

There are nearly 110,000 registered users and ‘casual’ users have purchased over 28,000 access periods in just 8 weeks.

Plans for extending the scheme have been announced, this will see the blue bikes heading into and out of; Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Bethnal Green, Bow, Canary Wharf, Mile End and Poplar. This expansion will included 2,000 bikes and 4,200 docking points across new and old areas. These added station should be up and running in 2012.

I’ve been trying to compare the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme to others across the world, but it seems very hard to come up with figures of usage at a similar time to what TFL have produced. This is especially hard when trying to compare it to the Vélib’ scheme in Paris, mainly because my french is poor. Parlez-vous anglais?

I got some vague stats for both the Vélib’ and the bixi scheme which run in Paris and Montreal. In the first year the Vélib’ scheme logged 20,000,000 journeys with an average of 70,000 a day. Where as the Bixi scheme logged only just over 1,000,000 journeys. The thing to remember here is that the Vélib scheme is bigger than ours. And the bixi scheme has the same number of docks as us but we have more bikes.

I think the Cycle Hire scheme is clearly working, people are using it and the image of them on the street will only draw more people into cycling, which is a bonus.

But Boris needs to address some issues, and that’s the lack of free spaces to dock. I still find that I can go to several docking points in the middle of the day and not be able to park. That is the most frustrating part of using the scheme.
He should also look at how we can improve cycling as a whole in London. Making London a friendlier place to cycle, reducing the traffic, reducing traffic speed, more cycling specific routes. These will all aid cycling in London on a whole and increase the uptake of the cycle hire scheme. And not do things like reducing the congestion charge zone, that was one great thing that saw cycling improve massively in central London.

2010 – A short look back

2010 was a long and interesting year for me, I started a youtube channel and a blog about cycling, unfortunately the blog took the back seat as I got some very good results from my videos.

Combined they lead me to have some wonderful experiences with meeting people and getting to know some people who have common goals and interests. It included meeting with several people involved with the Barclays Cycle Superhighway, getting a test ride on the Barclays Cycle Hire bicycles before they came out and meeting the police officers behind the Road Safe London scheme.

My youtube channel has been a great success with over 600 current subscribers. This year alone I have had 410,788 video views. And with that only being my first year, i hope that I can improve on that greatly over the next 12 months ahead.

Towards the end of the year I started a new cycling series called ‘Silly Cyclists’, which is now a regular feature I do. It’s earned nearly 30,000 views in its self and is getting some great feed back.

The last time I rode my bicycle in 2010 was when I had an RTC. At present I don’t want to comment on the incident as there is an ongoing investigation by the police. But I think it shows that these things can happen to anyone.

What will 2011 bring? who is to know, but I wish to continue with my videos and put a bit more emphasis on my blog, so keep checking in to see what I have to say, you never know, one day it might be interesting.

The Success of the Barclays Cycle Hire

Barclays Cycle Hire bikes

Image by duncan via Flickr

Anyone that has been into central London after the 30th of July will have seen the Barclays liveried cycle hire bikes that are scattered across 7 boroughs of central London. Thousands of people use them each day, with peak days reaching over 20,000 journeys being made.

Who would have thought that this scheme would work, adding such a scheme into a busy metropolitan city such as London could easily lead to a disaster. A similar scheme in Melbourne, Australia failed dramatically. That was mainly down to the mandatory cycle helmet laws they have over there.

Why is the success of such a scheme important for cycling in London and potentially England?
The added cycles to the road and image value that they have will make people aware that cycling is the cheap and easy transportation. The easy access to the bikes also gives people the freedom to cycle around the City and in many cases people start using other bikes for other duties, such as commuting.
The sheer volume of cyclists on the road during non commuting times has increased dramatically and the bicycles i see the most are the cycle hire ones. Could the success of this scheme be the next big thing for the Cycling Revolution in the 21st century?
In the first 2 and a half months 1,000,000 cycle journeys were made using the Barclays cycle hire and with only 90,000 people registered that means each user has used a hire bike on average 11 times.
This makes the Barclays cycle hire scheme more succesful than any other cycle hire scheme of its kind in the world for its uptake by the public that uses them.

For the lucky person that took the 1,000,000th bike for a spin, Barclays have awarded them and 3 of their friends a 5 year membership to the scheme for free. This lucky person is Rupert Parson from Balham, South London, he also wins a cycling makeover at Bobbins Bicycles in Islington.
Rupert is not just a user of the cycle hire scheme, he also uses the Cycle Superhighway 7 to commute to work. Clearly the two major cycling schemes in London are working well for Rupert.

Clearly from the quick uptake, even with technical issues and access limited to people in the UK with credit or debit cards, the scheme has been a massive success and lets hope that it continues to grow.

Being a Helmet Camera Cyclist

It’s not easy cycling around with a camera on your helmet. You get the odd question from other cyclists and many odd looks from pedestrians. The biggest issue is the comments and messages you get on youtube. Having a popular youtube channel which attracts many views, i often get messages and comments that are hateful to myself and cyclists in general. With threats not being uncommon. Most of these are from keyboard warriors, who I doubt would be able to do much to harm me.

I tried at first to reason with these users and try to teach them about the errors they made. But I soon learned that this was pointless and now I just delete them. This isn’t the only sort of hatred that I get. Looking at the youtube insight reports on some of my popular videos, i can see what websites people came from to view my videos. This is great to see which newspapers and blogs have posted my videos but it’s not so good when you see various forums that have threads on my videos and all you see are nasty comments aimed towards my self and other cyclists.

Apart from those minor things, having a camera is pretty good. You know that most of the time, if there is an incident then you have it on camera to back up what you did and what the other driver did. You can lay in rest knowing that everything said and all actions taken where on film, and as long as you can control your self, you know that 9/10 you have done nothing wrong. I say that because we aren’t all perfect, and when cycling with a camera I suggest that it is best to cycle as perfectly as possible so that your evidence isn’t corrupted by your own stupid behaviour.

Having a camera isn’t all about filming bad drivers and inconsiderate cyclists, they are the perfect tool for campaigning. Take for example, my videos of the Cycle Superhighway, throughout route 7’s production I have been documenting the ongoing work and what i think about it. Not only that but also documenting how it’s being used. For example one junction when full with traffic, the superhighway is blocked and a lot of cyclists take to the pavement to get ahead of the traffic. This could easily be resolved if the junction was re-designed to give cyclists some priority and not allow vehicles to turn right.

One of my videos about the superhighways has got over 20,000 views, it was posted on many blogs and in newspaper articles and lets not forget being broadcasted on the news. What this lead to was some important people seeing it, and noticing that it was getting views. In turn I have been contacted on several occasions by TFL, asking me if i want to test the cycle hire bikes nearly 2 months before release and riding the superhighway with the project manager who spoke about its improvements and future development. I’ve also met with the roads policing unit at the MET Police. Where we talked about many things, including my cycling style and how it can be improved and also the road safe website and system behind it.

There is a large community of cyclists with helmet cameras on youtube, most of us are subscribed to each other, and we all watch each others videos, leaving comments and advice on how to avoid similar situations in the future. Some of us make improvements to our videos by adding new features. VeryMadMart created a java application that overlays data from a Garmin device onto your video and displays various data readings. I believe TheVexatiousLitigant was the first person to have a rear view camera as well as a forward facing one. And I was the first one to use picture in picture with rear and forward facing cameras. By doing these things, you get people’s interest in your videos and hopefully you help get your point across. You know you have a good idea when people start to ‘copy’ you.

To sum it up, having a camera brings you into a part of the cycling community and can open some pretty amazing doors but be ware, you will get some nasty comments, don’t take them to heart, just ignore them and continue doing what you are doing.

Barclays Cycle Hire

Today a video tutorial was released by youtube user BarclaysCycle, the tutorial consists of how to use the upcoming Barclays Cycle Hire and provides various tips on what you should do with your bike in various situations. A very well thought out video in my opinion. What do you think?

Today was also the day that the first Barclays Cycle Hire station was compleated (lacking bicycles)

The location of the first hire station is on Southwark Street, outside the Blue Fin building. This is 7 weeks before the launch of the Barclays Cycle Hire network, note that these are only test stations (testing what I am not sure) and there will be a period where no more are installed due to testing. This afternoon another station was being installed on Stamford Street near the HSBC bank. Further stations are being installed on Union Street and on Southwark Street
Read more here

Cycle Hire App are creating an iPhone application that will display the locations of the hire stations across London and it looks like they will have some great features that including allowing you to plan ahead of your trips with finding the nearest stations to tourist attractions.

Cycle Hire App have published the information they have got from TFL regarding the planned locations of the Cycle Hire Stations. This information is available from here.