10 November 2012

Spot the bodge job

Spot the bodge job.  All four of 'em.  Are you wondering what on earth I'm on about? OR, what planet  childseat manufacturers are on when they doesn't design in bikelights or bike light fittings?

I just don't get it. Do they really think that we don't need lights on childseats? Or, more likely, that the only time we cycle with kids is on a Saturday afternoon ride to the park?

Here in Scotland, we need lights from October to April, just for 'normal' school/nursery/work runs.  Tonight, I've been  laid low with a virus, but the rest of the family is contemplating a dinner invite from dear friends (and a ogood cook).  But it's a dark and rainy night and the route entails cycling through some of the dodgier bits of road in Edinburgh (Holyrood Park and the Cowgate, plus the Pubic Triangle Lothian Road).  So, we are left with the following options:  £9 for bus tickets, £8x2 for taxis, or bodge extra lights on.  As you can see, we've opted for the latter.

But I still don't get what's going on in the manufacturer's heads.  It's not just childseats. It's also tag-alongs and trailers, which are near impossible to light up.   To their credit, Hamax made a light that went on the back of their seats, but when I tried to order one, I was told they'd been discontinued.  Too little demand?  I guess so.  The other day, I was amused to find myself ranting to the most experienced bike campaigner I know, who seemed thoroughly surprised to hear that this was an issue. I guess it really is a minority concern.

09 November 2012

We need to be clear about what we want.

With the 6 cyclist deaths on our roads this week, and Wiggin's and Sutton's crashes, a lot of unlikely allies seem to have joined the campaigns for safer infrastructure.  Case in point is the Transport editor of the Telegraph: pictured here looking slightly uncomfortable on his bike.  In what I found to be a very frustrating read, he starts by attributing the rise of cycle safety up the political agenda to the increase in accidents, not the increase and diversity in people cycling, government's own policies, or effective campaigns. 
Then, he claims that 'until now its been reasonable' to advocate more training. for cyclists as a solution.  Well, actually, I disagree with that - there's a wealth of evidence that that is not enough, and its been available to planners, politicians and transport editors for a long time.  He then turns (implicitly) to a focus on drivers as the problem, and says that the 'think bike' campaign was a failure (wasn't that about motorcyclists?).   Then he briefly mentions trixi mirrors and is critical of govt policy. Good!
But the real problem comes when he says (I'm paraphrasing here) 'since we can't share road space, we need segregation'.
Which I think sends all the wrong messages about segregation. We will never have 100% segregation - no one does. What we need is to have cycling integrated into road planning - in the form of segregated cyclepaths, safer junctions etc. It is not an option of whether or not to share roadspace, but HOW we share it.  As another quick-off-the-mark comment in the Independent makes clear, we need respect between drivers and cyclists.
Dutch infrastructure is not just about corralling the cyclists off into their own space, and absolving drivers of responsibility for them.  Yes, segregated cycle lanes are a joy to cycle and we should have more of them everywhere, and especially on heavy traffic roads, and where we want to encourage cyclists and pedestrians to shop and eat locally.  But not every road can be segregated. So we need safer junctions, slower roads, and a range of infrastructure that allows cyclists and cars to use the roads safely together - whether in segregated lanes or not.  And where we do have segregated paths they need to be joined up, and connected to each other, as well as to the road networks. We need a redesign of how we use roadspace, and that requires integrating cycles into road planning, not segregating them. 

04 November 2012

In praise of tandems...

Every busy mom needs a tandem. I'd say that it was the SUV of bikes but that wouldn't convey the freedom that a tandem gives. An SUV, or people carrier, as it is called in North America, implies that you spend all your time ferrying kids around.  But the tandem not only gets them used to contributing to that effort, but also encourages them to be more independent.

When we got our tandem, K. (now age 5) started off mostly wanting to ride with me on it.  And while I was thrilled that she wanted to, we were a little worried that she was 'deskilling' on her own bike. But, she has now started to want to ride her own bike more and more.  So, if we go off on a Sunday afternoon cycle, it can be a case of trying to convince her to ride the tandem with me!  And she chooses to ride to school on her own often as well.   I'm sure that it is her experience of being on the tandem that has given her the confidence to do this.

Our tandem  has the added benefit that both the adults in our family can ride it, despite a height differential of more than a foot between us, and we can take the baby along too.  And, as you can see in the header photo,  we sometimes add on a trailer - mainly for cargo, although in theory we could take kids in it. So, if I'm on my own I can take the kids with me on the Saturday morning  farmer's market   run (as we did last week before soccer/football) or do a 'big shop' by bike.

All of which means that I can do the school run in the morning, and still get to work at a decent hour.  And contribute to the weekend activities.  All without a car, or spending hours on a stuffy bus.  And get some exercise - which really helped me get back into shape after baby #2.  The only problem I've got now is that I invested in a nippy folder over the summer, so that I had an alternative bike for when K. wanted to ride her own bike, or when the rest of the family needed the tandem.  I love the feeling of freedom: a bike with no kids attached -- whee! And I love zooming up hills on it. But I'm definitely not burning as many calories....