Crap cycle parking at Snape Maltings

This is an image of Snape Maltings in Suffolk.

The Maltings started out as industrial buildings, but in the 1960s became an important concert venue for the Aldburgh Festival.  Since then the Maltings have developed as a large business employing 70 members of staff.  There are retail outlets, RSPB, holiday homes etc.  As can be seen from this satellite view there is extensive parking for cars.

However, there is worse than useless parking for bicycles.

On our recent holiday is Suffolk my wife and I cycled from Southwold to Snape on our tandem.  On arrival we rode around the extensive estate seeking cycle parking.  We found none, so we chained the bike to a wooden rail and went to the booking office for the concert hall.  I mentioned to the member of staff on duty, that we could not find the cycle parking.  I was reassured that there was cycle parking and was directed to where it could be found.  This is what we found when we got there.

 

There must be parking spaces for hundreds of cars, and cycle parking for five bikes.  Strangely enough nobody has parked their bike there.  Could this be because the racks hold only the front wheel, and you might return to find that all that was there was the front wheel?  Or could it be that cyclist might fear that their bike might be damaged by cars, like the one in the picture, which could easily reverse into a parked bike?

Unsurprisingly, many concerts take place at night, so lighting would be nice.  A roof to keep the rain off might also help.  Also if the racks were sited near the main venue, rather than on the edge of the site that might help too.

We did not stay long, but whilst we were there a couple on touring bikes arrived, looked briefly around the car park for somewhere to secure their bikes and finding none, left.

I did email Snape Maltings to make these points, but have had no reply.

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The Dunwich Dynamo is not a race

On the Friday afternoon before the Dun Run I send my brother a text, “We need to meet at Paddington between 7:30 and 8:00″. After a few minutes the sound of The Hollies, He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother, could be heard from the direction of my iPhone. “We’re not going on this ride tonight are we?”. “No, tomorrow night” I reassured him. “Thank God, I haven’t done any training yet.”

The following night at the appointed time we meet on platform one, Paddington Station. It takes us another 25 minutes before we leave, as Fin has still to buy some sandwiches and spare batteries. He returns from M&S with two packages of Hoisin Duck wraps! We take turns to visit the loo. At last we depart for London Fields. The previous year I had done the Dun Run on my own and had taken a direct route across London to the start in Hackney. This turned out to be the worst part of the whole ride. This time I had determined to find a more congenial route. Earlier in the week, on my way to work, I had explored the Regent’s Canal, but this proved to be dreadfully slow. I saw delightful parts of London with which I was not familiar, but the path was very narrow. If it were to be more crowded on a Saturday evening it would be really hopeless. I resolved to play safe, I’d take my usual route into the City, head north up Bishopsgate, then east along the Hackney Road. All went to plan, though Soho was a bit more colourful than it is on a weekday morning at 8 am. We arrived just before nine, made some final adjustments and set off. Within minutes we, and about twenty others were lost. This is one of those moments where everyone looks at each other in the hope that someone will know what to do, or at least have a sat nav. One of our number takes the lead and we are soon on the correct route.

“The Dun Run is not a race” I told the brother several times. Nevertheless, he sets off at a cracking pace. This is possibly motivated by fear of getting lost again, we are clinging to the back of a Lycra clad group, but I suspect fraternal competition. As darkness descends we climb gently up into Epping Forrest, Fin always in the lead. We stop at about one quarter distance for a little food and a drink. Fin has one of the wraps, I have a banana. He also tears open a foil pack bought at Evans that morning. The contents clearly taste vile. His face is creased in an expression of disgust. “It’s very important to keep the correct balance of…” he says.

I don’t know if it was the early pace, the lack of training, or the stuff in the foil packet, but the second quarter proves very hard for Fin. He insists he is not out of breath, but that his legs have just stopped working on the climbs. Essex and Suffolk are not quite as flat as school geography teachers would have you believe. There were times when I was genuinely worried about him, I wondered if he was ever going to make it. By now he was dropping back and I had had to adopt the policy of waiting for him at strategic points, simply cycling slower wasn’t working.

Riding alone at one point an athletic looking young black man draws alongside. “Have you done this ride before” he says. “Last year” I reply. “How far do you reckon we’ve come?” He is not slowing down so I have to match his pace in order to maintain the conversation. “About half way, I think the foodstop is coming up soon.”. “Great light he says”, looking at my beam, I drop back, unable to keep up the pace or the conversation. At a T-junction outside Sible Headingham, I waited, “The foodstop is just down the road” I say to Fin when he arrives. I work my way in through the crowds assuming Fin is behind me, he isn’t. He’ll be here in a minute. He isn’t. I call him on the phone, no answer. I try again, still no answer. I find a comfortable spot on the grass, the phone rings. He has missed the feeding station and is now at a pub some distance up the road. He’ll wait for me there. “Oh, and could I bring some water.”

We end up sitting at a cafe style table outside the pub eating our sandwiches causing a certain amount of amusement to passing riders. Despite the stylish location we start to get cold and so, head off once more into the night.

I had spent the previous week monitoring the weather forecasts. With five days to go it had looked like a night of thunder and lightning, but the closer we got to the event, the better the outlook seemed to get. On the night we experienced no rain at all, however the stiff breeze greatly reduced the effective temperature. Last Year I had done the whole night in a t-shirt and shorts, this year it was bib-tights, two layers of shirts, and for a for a short period after this break, a waterproof jacket, just to warm up.

Fin’s pace, or at least his mood, improved after the food stop. The third quarter was relatively uneventful. What changes is the nature of those around you. In the first half of the ride, you are constantly passing people, and being passed. One of the things you quickly get used to is a whirring sound over your right shoulder, as the serious cyclists approach. In an instant they shoot past, leaving one to wonder: how do they do that? and what time did they leave, if they are traveling that fast and are only overtaking me at this time of night? The converse of this phenomenon is that one is constantly overtaking people up to about midnight. I can only conclude that they must have set off sometime in the middle of the afternoon. This all begins to change in the third quarter, riders begin to fall into groups of similar ability and there is much less overtaking going on. The ride begins to become more social, as one ends up riding with the same people for longer periods.

Our next major event happens at about the 100 mile mark. We get lost. Somehow we missed the turn to ‘Fiddlers Hall’ and end up riding on towards Saxmundham. We and several others realize our mistake, there is much consulting of maps, we briefly retrace our steps, but by now sleep deprivation is compromising our judgement. We push on to Ssxmundham and then I inexplicably turn right (south) instead of left, we are heading for Ipswich. Unfortunately, I did this with such confidence that a small group is following me in the wrong direction. Upon realizing the error there is much consulting of google maps on smartphones. We agree that we need to go back to Saxmundham and then go northeast across country to Dunwich. By now we are all keen, not to say desperate to get there and the party breaks up as those with more energy and strength pull ahead.

As we near Dunwich we have to climb one more short hill. Fin is ahead. As I draw alongside he looks over. He cannot resist a smile. I detect a competitive gleam in his eye. He is hoping to get to Dunwich ahead of me. This despite the fact that I have spent most of the night waiting for him. He laughs, as if caught out. That’s it! I summon every last ounce of strength and put in a burst up the hill that I hope will finish him off. It does. I speed off into the distance putting several minutes between us in the last couple of miles. Whoever said the Dunwich Dynanamo is not a race has not ridden it with his brother. Another chapter in a lifetime of fraternal competition.

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Bicycle weight and commuting time: randomised trial

I love this light-hearted article in the Christmas BMJ (http://www.bmj.com/content/341/bmj.c6801.full.pdf).  In summary, a consultant anaesthetist compared the performance of his £1000 carbon framed road bike against an elderly steel framed bike that had cost him £50.  The result was that there was no difference in speed over his 27 mile daily commute.  I particularly enjoy the reaction to this on the CTC discussion board, in which correspondents argue, for example, that the experiment is invalid, because he used inappropriate tyres on the carbon framed bike.

I have to admit that my appreciation of the article is in large part based on the fact that it backs up my own prejudices as a rider of an elderly steel framed road bike.  I particularly like is conclusion that ‘a reduction in the weight of the cyclist rather than that of the bicycle may deliver greater benefit and at reduced cost.’

Time to work off the weight gained over Christmas I think.

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Filed under bicycle, Bikes, Commuting, lugged steel, Road Bike

Complaint to First (the bus company in London)

At the start of December I complained to First (the bus company) about the actions of one of their drivers (see below).  I am pleased to say I received a most satisfactory response.  A courteous letter apologising and informing me that the driver in question would be facing disciplinary action.

 

At approximately 5.15pm on 1 December, I was cycling from my place of work to Paddington Station.  I had crossed Ludgate Circus and was riding up Fleet Street.  In Fleet Street, and indeed at other locations in the City, there are large ‘islands’ in the middle of the road, causing the carriageway to narrow very significantly.  I do not know what purpose these ‘pinch points’ serve, but they cause significant inconvenience to cyclists.  As I approached this particular pinch point a double-decker bus (registration number XYZ) overtook me and pulled left across me in order to negotiate the pinch point, thus nearly knocking me off my bike.  I had to break, stop and jump off the bike in order to avoid being crushed by the bus.  The bus then almost immediately stopped at a bus stop.  Thus demonstrating the pointlessness of the overtaking move.  I approached the driver at his window and told him that he had nearly knocked me of my bike and that he was endangering my life.  His response was to say that I had to realise that his vehicle was faster than me, and that he had a right to overtake.  I pointed out that he only had a right to overtake if ‘it was safe to do so’.  This was clearly not safe, so he should not have overtaken.  He then went on to say that I should have more care of other road users and should have looked out for him.  That there was room for both me and the bus at the pinch point and that I was not a competent cyclist. That I had been weaving in front of him.

Realising that he was unrepentant and had no care for my safety, I asked him to identify himself so that I could report him to his employer.  He refused to do so, saying ‘report me to the police if you like’.  Having received this response I moved to the front of the bus and took a photograph of his registration number  with my phone and took a photograph of the driver.  At this point he got out of the bus and told me that I had no right to take his photograph.  He then phoned the police and told me not to leave until they arrived.  Actually I was quite happy to wait for the police.  He then told all his passengers to disembark as the bus was not continuing it journey, because he had reported my photography to the police.  He continued to remonstrate with me about the photo, at which point a witness approached me to say that he had seen the dangerous overtaking move and was happy to be a witness on my behalf.  He gave me his name and phone number (Name and number removed).  At this point the driver stated that he had his own independent witness, namely CCTV on board the bus.  I do not know if this is true, but if this is the case I would suggest you review the footage.

When the police arrived they spoke to both me and the driver.  They gave me his identification details, and as I was now able to identify the individual they asked if I would be prepared to delete my photograph of him, which of course was prepared to do.  They gave me an incident number and told me to make my complaint to the bus company in the first instance, which I am now doing.

I have to say, that were it not for the driver calling the police, and the witness coming forward, I would have been unlikely to have taken the matter further.  However, I spoke to the driver, and attempted to identify him, as I feel that he should appreciate that such a lack of consideration for other (more vulnerable) road users could have consequences for him, particularly as the consequences for me could easily have been death or serious injury.  It is his resistance to being identified that has actually led to this complaint.

 

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Filed under bicycle, Bikes, Brompton, Commuting, road rage, Transport For London

Reunited with an old friend

The sun is shining, and I am working from home. Well actually I am not at home, but working in Reading.  This means that I am able to cycle into town along the Thames towpath (Sustrans Route 4).  I am not on my Brompton today but my bright red road bike.  This bike turned out to be my ‘Rembrandt in the Attic’.  The bike was originally bought about 22 years ago, from a small bike shop in Stockport (Bardsley Cycles).  I had toured around Ireland on it, cycled through London traffic as a commuter and commuted to work.  But for many years it had been hidden away, unloved at the back of the garage.  An advert in the Parish Magazine advertising bike servicing and refurbishment encouraged me to dig it out from behind the lawn mower and stacks of boxes.  It was, unsurprisingly, covered in dust and cobwebs.  The tyres were cracked and perished and the chain rusting.  I telephoned John (the advertiser) to come and have a look at it, and he immediately fell for it.  He suggested that with modest replacements of the perished parts we could have it back on the road in short order, and so it proved.  Now all I have to do is take it out for some longer rides.

The bike itself (pictured pre-restoration) appears to be unbranded, or at least no brand I have been able to find anything about.  It is made of 4130 cro-mo steel, the lugs are tipped in with gold and on the handlebar stem there is a badge saying ‘Bicycles International Limited’.

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Filed under 4130 cromo steel, bicycle, Bikes, lugged steel, Road Bike, sustrans

Misdirection in sunny London

What a glorious day to be on a bike.  Today I had to return to London.  I regularly commute into London on a train from Twyford to Paddington and then cycle into the City.  Today I was not travelling for work purposes, but to be present at the launch of Civic Voice, the organisation replacing the failed Civic Trust.  The venue was the The Building Centre in Store Street.  In preparation for my journey I consulted the Transport For London Journey Planner: entered Paddington Station as my point of departure; and Store Street as my destination, and was presented with my route.  The Journey Planner is an excellent idea, but it does seem to have some dodgy data.  Peddling northeast along the Old Marylebone Road, I am instructed to turn right into Homer Row.  I signal, pull out into the middle of the road, only to discover that Homer Row is a one-way street, and it is not going in my direction.  I do know that some cycling campaigners are demanding that cyclists be able to turn left at red lights and go the ‘wrong’ way down one-way streets, but I didn’t know that Transport For London had adopted the idea yet.

This little diversion aside, it was a joy to cycle through a relatively quite city in such wonderful weather.  I was having to take my time, as I was cycling in the cloths I was going to wear all day, so I could not afford to arrive in a sweat.  Normally, I cannot resist the temptation to pound along at maximum velocity, heart pounding and for some reason in a rather more aggressive frame of mind.  Today I ambled along, reading street signs and admiring buildings.

At The Building Centre, I folded my Brompton and checked it into the cloakroom where it prompted a friendly conversation with the delightful attendant.  The event itself was of mixed interest with talks by Griff Rhys Jones and Terry Farrell the highlights.

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Filed under bicycle, Bikes, Brompton, Civic Voice, Commuting, Transport For London

Fixed ideas

Ok, this is me in my Grumpy Old Man mode.  Why are fixed gear bikes so popular in London?  I can understand that there is a certain attraction in having a bike that is as basic as possible.  I can particularly sympathise with this view if one has built the bike out of an old steel framed ‘racer’ excavated from the back of the garage.  I can also see that there might be a certain attraction in the directness and immediacy of the relationship between bike, rider and road that can be achieved with a fixie.  However, I have no empathy whatever with the fixie rider who acquires his mount shrink wrapped from the High Street.  One may be able to convince oneself that Che Guevara would have ridden a fixie, but surly he would not have bought it from Evans.

On my daily commute from Paddington to the City I am almost always held at the traffic lights at the bottom of Fleet Street.  Ahead of me the slight pull up Ludgate Hill to the West Front of St Paul’s Cathedral.  As I wait for the lights to change I am frequently accompanied by athletic young men, rocking backwards and forwards on their fixies, waiting  to pounce the moment the lights even consider changing.  Muscles tense as the traffic passing before us pauses, a right turning vehicle moves out of the way, a pedestrian hesitates on the pavement.  Then we are released. The fixie pilot stands on the pedals trying to overcome the inertia and the camber of the road.  By the time we have crossed the four lanes and before we have even started up Ludgate Hill I have drawn alongside the athlete. I change gear, having only two to choose from on my green S-type Brompton.  I hesitate for a moment, not wanting to get in the way of the superior physical specimen with his feet clipped to the pedals.  But there is nothing for it, he is not making enough headway, I am compelled to power past him, or I will lose my own momentum.  Climbing this slight incline I feel like the king of the mountains.  I do not look around to gage his progress, but he does not catch me at the zebra crossing in front of the cathedral and I am catching my breath at the next set of traffic lights before makes a belated appearance.

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Filed under bicycle, Bikes, Brompton, Commuting, Fashion, Fixed gear, Fixie