I haven’t really written much about personal views on things in the world of cycling for many years, however the recent news that Lance Armstrong is being pursued once again in relation to allegations of doping puts pay to that.
Lance has endured a physical trauma in his fight against cancer that few (if any) can comprehend. The physical hardening and mental toughening that will have accompanied his fight against and recover from cancer will have left him with a significant advantage. His pain thresholds, his level of determination, his desire to battle the odds and win all outstrip that of other riders, because ultimately at one point his life depended on being able to do it. Once you’ve been through that anything else is going to be put into a real context.
There is little doubt that the tailored training schedule and seasonal focus on Le Tour also gave Lance the edge. As team leader and a highly prominent figure, he seemed able to dictate his cycling calendar and race schedule allowing him to focus on the big event. Few others had the same luxury and ability to arrive in France at the peak of their form each year. There can be little doubt this gave him a significant edge.
Of course there were other factors like a World class team of hand picked riders many of whom had the ability to finish highly in the general classification but often sacrificed themselves and their opportunities for the Texan. The final thing should of course not be forgotten. Lance was clearly a very driven and intense individual from an early age and with a talent for cycling and a tactical mind that have made him one of the cycling greats. The fact that his abilities out stripped those of others of his generation is something that few will have been happy to accept.
I haven’t touched a bike in weeks, not even to clean one, a job I’ve been putting off (repeatedly). The government mishandling of a potential strike by fuel truck drivers and the media shit storm that’s resulted from it has resulted in panic fuel buying here in central Manchester. My wife went out before 7am this morning to fill up and found our coal Esso station completely drained of fuel and all the pumps therefore marked as out of order.
The whole thing’s quite bizarre as the first news item I heard essentially said that Army drivers had been given training to ensure fuel deliveries continued during potential strike action. Yet as the mess has unfolded the government is now saying everyone should top up if their fuel tanks reach half full. Filling up is an expensive business as my pal Dave in scotland has just discovered:
The whole thing is a great way for the government to fill the coffers as the tax of fuel is a fixed-rate on the underlying oil price and is a very large proportion of the cost consumers pay. The result is that it’s gone mental.
Now this whole business doesn’t really affect me, I drive my son to nursery each morning which is probably only 2 miles each way. Once I’m recovered we’ll be biking that, so the fuel cost will be nil. I perhaps put some fuel in the tank each month, but may be only £30. In fact I’ve never filled the tank, but I bet it wouldn’t be cheap!
As I walked into work this morning fuelled by coffee and dodging a £1.70 bus fare each way, I realised that single occupancy commuting is the norm here. No car-share commuting for folk in Manchester. Or park and ride. The city needs a plan, because let’s be honest fuel prices are only going in one direction in future. Up.
I’ve had some feedback recently, in fact I asked for it from a couple of people. It’s given me food for thought. A friend posted this somewhere else online, so I’m stealing it and reposting:
Pointing something out:
“Hey, look at that, that’s different.”
“Hey look that that. That’s an interesting approach, why did you do it like that? Have you considered an alternative? Will there be any impact of doing it like this, rather than like this?”
“Hey look at that, not sure that’s the best way. Perhaps you could consider doing it this way instead.”
“Hey look at that, thats not very good, you could have done that better, I wouldnt have done it like that, it won’t be very much use now.”
Perhaps the difference is not clear to you, but most people manage…
Randomly I stumbled across this article by Andrea Leadsom. The article raises an interesting quandry. I have no hesitation in agreeing that cyclists should be dealt with fairly. Other riders who flout the law wind me up, particularly those that jump the lights which I see on a daily basis. They certainly should be held accountable if in a worst case scenario they are involved in the death of some one as in the tragic case of Rhiannon Bennett. Yet is the change Leadsom’s proposing going to make the issue go away? I don’t think so.
Andrea Leadsom MP
My concern is that a change of law through a government act won’t necessarily make things any better. The proposal to introduce equal measures to ensure that those motorists and cyclists who cause fatalities or serious injury are dealt with in terms that might be deemed fair to the family and friends of those killed or maimed is flawed. The current policy that dictates the range of sanctions that magistrates can impose against the guilty party are generally deemed weak and leave people dissatisfied, so I am not sure the proposed change is going to solve the problem. A more radical rethink might be needed, but that will undoubtedly have knock on effects on other legal sentences and if you end up locking more people up, the already inflated prison population will just grow bigger. Fundamentally this is a reactionary approach.
A simpler solution and something that would be more proactive would be to engage the police in actually tackling some of the offenders. I suspect that Leadsom’s comments are tinted by her experiences of the London rush hour. I’m convinced that a well coordinated and strategically positioned team of officers with the sole aim of capturing some of the cycling offenders in the big smoke would go some way to raising media publicity that steps are being taken, but such campaigns seldom have a lasting impact and are often perceived as public relation events. A month long campaign in central London is not going to solve issues in the vast suburban zones elsewhere in the UK where people are equally at risk. A solution here is an increased number of police on the beat. More officers patrolling the streets means more chance of capturing people and a greater deterrent to the generally risk adverse proportion of the population.
I suspect that even with an increased presence on the ground, the police have higher priorities in terms of capturing the perpetrators of street crime, robbery, drug dealing and serious public order offences than pulling over cyclists that occasionally ride on pavements. Ultimately accidents happen and that’s the harsh reality of life. If people take risks that put them in the wrong and these actions lead to serious consequences then they should expect to be punished to the full extent of the law. Is Leadsom’s proposal the solution? I’d argue not in itself, so let’s see this properly thought out before any decisions are made.
Someone somewhere within the corridors of power clearly thought that it would be a good idea to improve the bike lane markings near the office at work. In essence there are two ways to get to work.
The default route taking in the Bends of Fury and is all on the road (red line). The alternative is to cut across the oncoming traffic or ride over the pedestrian crossing to join the bike lane (green line) on the other side (which technically I think is supposed to be joined via Grosvenor Street). Any way it’s generally a nightmare during rush hour because footpath users tend to walk in the bike land and I’ve become bored with running people over or yelling at them.
The council have now altered the road markings that link into the contraflow bike lane on Sackville Street. Here’s Sackville Street and the contraflow bike lane:
Now what they’ve done is to direct people from the end of the bike lane around to the contraflow. Previously the bike lane just ended, but now your encouraged to ride across the path the pedestrians will use.
If you’re coming down Sackville Street on the Contraflow and now follow the signed rouite you can’t see any pedestrians until you’re round the corner of the wall which may not be enough time to stop running people over depending on the quality of your brakes and the speed your going plus the number of pedestrians.
Quite why they didn’t logically continue the bike lane on the logical side of the wall as a shared but delineated path at first isn’t at first immediately obvious. Yet there is a reason…
Yes people who have been on the bike path are now encouraged to join Sackville Street at it’s narrowest point – just after two lanes of traffic have become one and people are frequently coming off the Mancunian Way Motorway in a squeal of tyres at over 50mph. Brilliant.
When I’m taking the road route (red line in the aerial photo above) there is frequently not enough room to get past cars at this entry point because they swing wide on the bend and end up positioned near the kerb. During rush hour Sackville Street is often backed up with stationary traffic to this point too.
I think I’ll continue ignoring the signs if I take the bike lane option and in either case will be riding up the bike lane on Sackville Street against the contraflow markings. I’ve encountered a cyclist coming the other way once since the path was created…