Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Bicycle helmets - How do you wear yours?

Wearing a helmet is a personal preference, some people can't cycle with one, some people can’t cycle without one. It’s like smoking – a choice which carries social taboo. I on the other hand have a marmite attitude to the helmet wearing world with a strange tendency to sport a helmet on weekdays but to go solo on weekends. After analysing the reasons for this habit, I can only link my weekday helmet wearing as a means of conforming to the regimented, strict, dull connotations that the working week embodies.  You might say that during my daily commute I am your very own cycling metaphor for working 9-5...What a great achievement!

Weekends are for letting my hair down, they are for fun and frivolity and helmets are not for fun and frivolity. It is clear that I have an inconsistent habit which ignores the main reasoning as to why people wear helmets, SAFETY.

Well, after a little swotting up  about whether helmets are actually effective at protecting your head in accidents, I have chosen to believe the following argument-
  •  You have a '14% greater chance of getting into an accident with a helmet on' Norwegian Transport Økonomisk Institut (TØI).
  • Pedestrians have higher risk of injury than people on bicycles do
These are bold statements and I am clearly in the camp of #wearyourhairfreewithpride. The points above are quoted by Mikael Colville-Anderson in his engaging presentation, 'Why we shouldn't bike with a helmet':

The gist of the presentation is that the culture of fear we live in has created a bubble wrap society. Fear is lucrative and companies can make money off of fear, which is where the bike helmet comes in. Creating the notion that cycling is dangerous is ideal for companies to make money selling safety gear. There are studies which show that car drivers give less room when overtaking cyclists with helmets than without because of the assumption that a cyclist wearing a helmet is confident and protected from cars. Colville-Anderson makes the clear point that it is more dangerous to drive in a car than to cycle, and so on, so on...

So if I believe Colville-Anderson's argument then why else do I squash my gorgeous locks into a helmet during the week? Here are the helpmychaincameoff alternative reasons as to why I wear a helmet:
  • Keeps my hair dry in the pouring rain 
  • The peak keeps the wind and sun out from my eyes
  • My work colleagues, friends and family frown at me and give me snarly looks if I don't put one on. They don't know the anti - HELMET TRUTH!
In conclusion, it seems that I only wear a helmet as a sort of weather protecter and to satisfy my loved ones. As a result of this, I have come up with two things to get around that. #1 Buy ear muffs/nice hat, #2. Lie to my loved ones and tell them my helmet is in my bag/strapped to bike. SORTED!

And then maybe I should wear one of these instead? What do you think?

Source: regenkapje Flickr

What's your helmet habit? Do you wear a helmet?

Monday, 23 January 2012

Cycling with a little boost

Remember when I mentioned that it we should build a bike ramp over the Thames instead of cycling over the congested, dangerous bridges? Well, I've found just the cycling machine to help us fly across...

These two-wheeled rocket beauties are courtesy of my favourite #letswastetimeatwork website, Retronaut. Taken between 1929 - 1951, these pictures made me curious to see if rocket bicycles have made it to the 21st century. So I did a google search, after all it would be nice to have a choice in the morning of riding one when my legs don't feel up to pedalling....Or to be able to click a button and get a mighty boost to overtake those bad boy Bromptons (aka mini wheeled divas) in retaliation for overtaking me every single day.

Shockingly,  I came across my arch-nemisis JEREMY CLARKSON riding one. I don't want to ruin your day so I haven't posted him on here, thank goodness. After a breather and some reassuring non-clarkson pictures of Lance Armstroung, I was ready to continue my quest and I managed to find this super rocket bicycle driver #coolerthannutella:

Sadly, I couldn't find one for sale, so back to using porridge fuel instead of kerosene for me then!

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Winter B-Icycle Challenge

January came abruptly knocking on our doors last week with that super strong, rainy wind ready to blow any cyclist or pedestrian into the clouds. This was not the weather to leap out of bed and hop onto your bike for! And for once, it was a time when the underground looked appealing with it's warm temptations of dry, muggy air and sardine tin carriages. And I am happy to say that I resisted this wicked invitation of a rain/wind free commute last week in the name of DEDICATION!  

I haven't told you yet but last May I decided to cycle to work every day whatever the weather. What a wonderful resolution to make in the summer eh!  And now that the turbulent winter weather is upon us,  it is testing my commitment to the max (aka third gear on my bicycle).

In these dark days, nothing helps more than a little solidarity and encouragement. Apart from foolish optimism over soggy chocolate Ready Brek in the mornings with comments such as  'I'm sure it's not as bad as it looks...', I discovered that others have also pledged to cycle whatever the weather in winter through the wonders of Twitter (follow me!).

Yes my friend, I would like to introduce you to the B-ICYCLE CHALLENGE. This challenge has been put to all northern Hemisphere bicyclists by two ex-pats who live in Beijing, Monica Tan and Emily D'Ath. They challenge people to ‘keep on pedalling through all three winter months’ and  to ‘not put your bike away for hibernation’.. Ok, so we have already had one month of winter, but it’s not too late to pledge your allegiance!  There are a few exceptions to the challenge, for example if the roads are dangerously icy or you are too sick to ride or your destination is more than an hour away.

Tan and D’Ath fathomed that people may find this pledge difficult to stick to, so they cite such motivating reasons of encouragement to do the challenge such as to live a greener life and it's a good opportunity to reflect about people who don't have homes during winter.

 So I thought about this long and hard and thought of my own personal reasons of encouragement:
  • Post-Christmas-No-Money syndrome. No money for public transport and increase transport fares in London (Many thanks Boris!)
  • Got to shift that layer of Cranberry Jam from your belly somehow!
  • If you didn't cycle during the winter you would miss seeing such gems like a fellow cyclist battling to get his foot out of a flying bin.
  • You get the ultimate satisfaction of (hopefully) surviving  your journey with some parts of your body still dry.
Contemplating whether to put Waitrose bags over my feet for my rainy commute whilst sipping tea like it's the last drink I'll ever have isn't the kind of glamour I was expecting in my twenties, but I am pleased that I survived natures assault last week, kicking off my BI-CYCLE CHALLENGE with a vengeance. And if the weather is extremely dire on your ride and you need a little distraction whilst cycling along, you can always play count how many dumped Christmas trees you can see…

Or alternatively you can think of me cycling round with my big finger poking out my glove-

Click here for more details and to make your pledge to the BI-CYCLE CHALLENGE! Remember, If the weather looks horrific, really I'm sure it's not as bad as it looks...

Monday, 2 January 2012

Cyclists, should we settle for second best?


We MADE it! We deserve the ultimate pat on the back for surviving another year of remaining safely seated on the saddle to the backdrop of our car clogged, tarmac roads. We have reluctantly guzzled fumes, dodged lunatic white vans and survived the cold, soggy weather.  A pat on the back for all cyclists is well-deserved.

So now with this fresh New Year upon us, it is the time for reflection and resolutions. Apart from reflecting on how best to avoid the superhighways/Kings Cross and every HGV out there, it has been a time to look forward to the future and raise the age old question, will cycling in England ever be safe for all people?

With this waging a war in my mind on a turkey-fuelled day over Christmas, I had an interesting discussion with a fellow cycling friend of mine. After much cycling chit chat and the usual lingo, my friend dropped this nugget of a sentence into conversation about the Blackfriars Bridge and whether the protest was worth it's while (yes, you remember that protest? Way back when it was actually LIGHT in the evenings)...

It was something on the lines of this:
'If Blackfriar's bridge is unsafe for cyclists to use, why don't they just change their route and choose a safer road? I see it everyday, cyclists choosing to cycle on dangerous roads. In London, we are spoilt for choices of quiet back streets....if a road is too dangerous, just choose a different route'
GASP, shock horror! Are cyclists giving up?? Please tell me they are not throwing in the Lycra?

Well actually, you may say that she has a point. In my retaliation I had to admit that I cycle an extra 3 miles each day just so that I avoid the suicide roads on my commute (Upper street/Holloway road).

But why should us cyclists choose an extra long route for the sake of cars hogging the roads? And if a road like the Blackfriar's bridge is having a complete redesign then shouldn't it incorporate suitable cycle infrastructure rather than cyclists having to choose the back roads once again?...

One of the challenging aspects of cycling is negotiating junctions, crossings and turnings - backstreets have plenty of these. And as far as I know, there is no 'backstreet' over the Thames. (Maybe we should build a bike ramp over the Thames?) Why should we be forced to cycle an extra 3 miles to work just because it is safer to? After all we are the ones who are healthier and not burning a hole in our atmosphere, we surely should be the priority.

Also, is choosing back roads for your cycle journey doing any favours for the future of making safer roads for cycling? For example, if cyclists always avoid dangerous junctions and choose an alternative route then councils might not see a point in reviewing these junctions and incorporating a safe cycling network through them. On the other hand, should we risk our safety to stand up for cycling and not choose second best? I for one know that there isn't always the option of a quieter route, this is one point my friend mentioned as a disadvantage of cycling in towns and the countryside. What do you think?

And now for my big cycling 2012 speech of optimism...Hold tight folks...

We all know that the more cyclists there are, the safer the dangerous roads will be. So let's make the resolution to cycle more in 2012! I'm not talking about single-handedly overthrowing the car hegemony of the roads (however I can arrange this in exchange for puncture-resistant tyres please). I'm talking about collectively threatening the inherent car hegemony there is across the roads of our country. YES MY CYCLE FRIEND, this is no revelation to you or to I, but let's all hear it again. The more people who cycle, the more we can change the attitude that cyclists are second class citizens. We can shake the perception that car drivers are superior and command the roads, an imagined conception hand delivered from the motor industry and ever so unhealthily embedded in our culture. 

The more people cycling = safer roads. Simple enough and widely known. A while back Boris scoffed that we are in a 'cycling revolution',it's no cycling revolution if we have to avoid cycling on main roads through London and settle for second place.

So now that I have successfully persuaded the WORLD to cycle more and have discovered the solution to the problems of the entire universe...(explanation for disproving the theory of relativity is tomorrow's speech everybody)  I would like to wish you all Happy cycling in 2012! And to all you new cyclists out there who will be choosing two-wheels over the next year, welcome to the roads and watch out for the pesky pot holes!!