Monday, 18 November 2013

Hit and Run: Time to Make London's Streets Safer

The tragedies of the five cyclists who lost their lives last week weigh heavily in my heart.  Like so many who travel around London on two-wheels, I am frustrated by the lack of safe road design for cyclists’ and the lack of urgency and action by the Mayor of London to act on this issue.

In the same week as those cyclists’ lost their lives, I was bullied off the road by a taxi driver and nearly hit by a private bus whose driver failed to stop at a junction and check if traffic was passing before pulling out. I encounter experiences like these on my ride to and from work and I know full well that other cyclists encounter similar near misses

Everyday I cycle I have the niggling thought that I could be injured due to circumstances beyond my control. In a morbid way I have been mentally preparing that I may one day be involved in a collision of some sort. It has always felt inevitable.

Last month that niggling thought became a reality when a speeding Range Rover driver in oncoming traffic took a right turn into me when heading north onto Gordon Square. The driver simply failed to stop to wait for me to pass before taking the turn. I was left lying in the middle of the road shocked and helpless watching the Range Rover speeding away from the scene.

My injured right side caused by an irresponsible motorist and poor road design

If I hadn’t have impulsively turned my handlebars left, I would certainly have been flung over the Range Rover. Instead, the right side of my body took the blow. My mobility in the weeks after was somewhat restricted and I had severe internal and external bruising and swelling. Even now, 6 weeks on I still can’t lie on my right side nor apply any pressure on the area without feeling pain.

Gordon Square (Source)
Unfortunately, it's of no surprise that the collision happened by Gordon Square near Torrington/Tavistock Place. A popular central cycle way connecting east to west, this segregated path has being lobbied by LCC Camden Cyclists as a ‘victim of it’s own success’ and has been renamed in bike forums as the Lane of Death’.

I cycle the Lane of Death everyday and I am all too familiar with its design flaws affecting all types of road users. It was only a matter of time that I became a victim of its glaring inadequacies and the dangerous driving of an irresponsible, senseless motorist.

In the days after it made me think about the amount of times I have been told by friends and colleagues to ‘ride safely!’ But no matter how safe and responsibly I cycle, collisions like the one I was involved in are completely out of my own control. The responsibility of travelling safely seems to always be deflected from motorists’ onto cyclists when in fact one can have no control over the reckless actions of others like the Range Rover driver who collided with me. Nor can one have control over the surrounding road design, which may have been a contributing factor to the cause of the collision. For this very reason, vulnerable cyclists need to be protected by adequate infrastructure and motorists need to be held accountable for their actions.

I don’t feel proud to live in London and in a society which makes me feel that in some twisted distorted way that by being injured in a collision I have ‘paid my dues’ just for choosing to cycle. I feel like I have been punished for the method of transport I have chosen and that I deserve what I am given. The prejudice and abuse of cyclists on the roads and social media is endemic and needs to stop.  

It is astounding that cyclists are still having to argue for safer roads.  I have to wonder how many more people need to die before our voices will be heard.  The Mayor of London needs to start listening and acting immediately. I am backing the London Cycling Campaign to urge the Mayor to take positive action to improve cycling infrastructure of well-known killer junctions. I encourage anyone who wants to live in a safer, healthier and happier city to do the same.

Please support the campaign and write to the Mayor of London here.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

HelpMyChainCameOff! has COME OFF

Ah my dear, dear, dear bicycle friends. HelpMyChainCameOff! has COME OFF and when I say come off I mean OFFLINE!

Yep, I'm officially signing off from this blog and would like to wish all you readers and supporters a bicycle GOODBYE. I'm not giving up my two-wheeled adventures and will continue commuting and leisure cycling forever. I'm just stepping down from the stage of bicycle blogging in pursuit of other hobbies I want to get started.

It's been a swell couple of years and all good things have to come to an end right? I see this like Fawlty Towers and The Office, I'm bailing out whilst it's still good because I'm cool.

Thank you to everyone who has commented and read all my posts and supported my work - The bicycle community are a vocal, inclusive bunch and we make the best team.

So, with the wonderful weather on the weekend, I went out on my bike to celebrate the last post of HelpMyChainCameOff! and took some pictures of my adventure to Richmond Park which I want to share with you for the last time.

Cruising through Hyde Park dodging the tourists on their Boris Bikes.

Winging it through Chelsea, darling.

Passing by the rowing clubs in Putney.

Waiting for the level crossing to cross the railway line.

 It's the attack of the MAMILs! They swarmed to Richmond Park in flocks.

Arrived at Richmond Park and observing MAMIL behaviour. Favourite quote I overheard was 'My glucose levels are down, I'M HUNGRY!' Ah vintage MAMIL saying.

Sitting back and basking in the sunshine.

And then it was time to go...
Over and out.x

Monday, 15 April 2013

SPIN London Bicycle Festival 3rd - 5th May

Ahoy there fellow cyclists and trendsetters, did you get out and about on the weekend? Did you? Did you?

Because I did, and look what I saw.
Picnic on Boris Bikes
Turns out that Boris Bike docking stations make the perfect setting for a Brick Lane picnic. There's nothing like the idyllic scenery of Bethnal Green Road and the lorries and buses which rampage through it. Whatever you do, don't tell the Mayor of London otherwise he'll probably introduce a hefty rental charge for the picnic pleasure and these guys will have to sit on the littered street corner next to the Saturday night vomit to eat their Brick Lane bagel instead.

Enough of that, because I'm here to offer you guys a treat. It's competition time!

For all you scenester cyclists who wish that you could hang out in the Old Truman Brewery off Brick Lane with all your favourite cycle apparel brands at arms distance, well your wish has come true. I'm giving away 2 free tickets for the SPIN LONDON Urban Bicycle Show taking place on 3rd - 5th May.

And now let me tell you  bit about it because what's the purpose of giving away tickets if I don't?

Spin is 'the world's first urban focused bicycle show and festival' featuring progressive, forward thinking cycle brands such as Vulpine, Mango and Tokyobike.

Haven't got any money because you squandered your last tenner on the overpriced burgers at MEATmission? Well hey guys, this is a culture thing as well.  You can:

+ Race your friends at Rollapaluza static cycle racing
+ Scoff some food at Jimmys' cycle bistro
+ Watch a film or talk at the pedal powered cinema
+ See the themed Bike V Design exhibition
+ Watch bikes being built
+ Go to some talks or demonstrations and cycle-art installations

You can buy tickets here for £7 or otherwise, ENTER MY COMPETITION TO GET A PAIR FOR FREE!

Enter to win the tickets by tweeting or liking the HMCCO Facebook page using widget below! Deadline to enter is midnight on Monday 22nd April. A winner will be selected at random through the Rafflecopter widget.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Friday, 12 April 2013

Oh the Glamours of Cycling

Sometimes I think I look like this on my bike...

But from recent experience I learned that this is not always achievable. I'm going to tell you something about cycling which I like to think is taboo.

I am brave and I think it's time to tell you about the REAL world of cycling.

Because when it's a sunny day and the birds are chirping and you think how nice it would be to go on a spring ride.


If you haven't noticed, there are quite a lot of scraggly pigeons in this city, eating up London's finest leftover chicken shop food and tucking into Friday nights discarded kebabs. Well, these pigeons obviously don't take the underground to get from Finsbury Park to Soho and choose aerospace as their chosen method of transport (which I guess is fine as they don't use petrol and flying can help them keep in shape). However, this means us humans pedalling on the ground may be the target of unwanted droppings from the urban pigeon.

And that my friend, is what happened to me last Friday. I have censored the image as it is too revolting to plaster of the internet in it's natural form and I wouldn't want to jeopardise any future employment opportunities for myself.

Oh, and on the Monday I rolled my front tyre in some dog pooh which I then had to watch go round and round and round on my commute on Tuesday.

So my bicycle friends, cycling isn't always 'cycle chic'.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

And time to dismount

Sweet Looooooooooooooord Jesus, there is a time and a place to dismount from your bike and take the slow pedestrian walk across the road and I have found that time and place!

It's The Strand and High Holborn during rush hour.

After following TFL's recommended cycle route to get me from Crouch End to Waterloo Bridge, I found myself cycling some of London's most terrifying and perilous roads where cycle infrastructure is zilch, nano, non-existent. Ok, ok, I already knew this, but I guess I've never really had so much trouble getting somewhere during rush hour before.

At the start of my commute, I was at ease with the calm traffic and simple roads, but then I stumbled into territory where cars, black cabbies and monstrous lorries rule the streets. I quickly learned where my place was and it was a difficult decision between the pavement and the gutter.

Throwing myself onto the sanctuary of the pavement, I walked the remainder of my route to Waterloo Bridge and I thought about how cycling on quiet back roads just doesn't work in central London (a point well made by the Alternative Department for Transport blog). Here is a taster of what I encountered:

+ Wide one way roads with multiple lanes occupied by buses and taxis - but no cycle lanes!

+ Monstrous lorries storming through junctions at peak times

+ Congested traffic on narrow lanes with limited shared space

+ And this Crazy of a junction on High Holborn. I thought I understood roundabouts and complex junctions but this one is ridiculous

+ Walking and cycling, I eventually made it to my work training session

But I decided that next time I'm going to call The Jetson's and HITCH ME A LIFT please!

Do you often have to walk part of your cycle route you are way too scared for your life?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Addison Lee - Redemption?

So I was cycling along the same old boring road I always do under the grey, freezing cold skies which are always there whilst thinking about what it would be like if I had a turbo button on my bicycle, when out of nowhere a car overtook me using the WHOLE OTHER LANE FOR SPACE.

Yep, the whole other lane! I had ample room to wobble and jerk over the potholes as I pleased without fear of necking it into a passing car.

All thoughts of turbo buttons and hot days were dispelled as I looked ahead to catch a glimpse of this goodwill, safety driver and the set of wheels they were rolling in. And shock horror, it was an Addison Lee car ahead of me!

Addison Lee cabs got into hot water a year ago after big boss, John Griffin shamefully berated cyclists saying that cyclist deaths and injuries are largely the fault of cyclists and that drivers are not to blame. And what followed was a PR nightmare for Addison Lee with a protest and a boycott of their services. (Griffin obviously wasn't clever enough to realise that many of his customers are cyclists)

Addison Lee cabs have never been a favourite amongst the cycling community, they are like black flies on the road persistently buzzing around you waiting for a cheap move to cut you up. They are also enemies with fellow black cabbies after Griffin encouraged his staff to flout the law and drive in bus lanes.

With cyclists and black cab drivers uniting in April last year, it was evident that Addison Lee cabs were the most hated vehicles on the roads of London. So fancy my surprise to find that an Addison Lee driver had been considerate and careful when passing me on the road. It is such a rarity that a driver uses the other lane to pass me, even when they is no traffic on either side of the road, let alone being an Addison Lee taxi driver.

I have been aware that to improve their disastrous image, Addison Lee have been working with Cycle Training UK offering taxi specific cycle training for their drivers. I also can't remember the last time an Addison Lee driver cut me up on the road, which was a frequent occurrence in the past.

Coincidentally, in the last year Griffin seems to have accrued a bicycle (see below), but is having trouble getting out of the AddLee car park. Perhaps he's scared he might get cut up by one of his car drivers and be on his maiden voyage into the abyss.  Or maybe he's just waiting for his high-vis gear to arrive from Wiggle.

Mr Griffin 'takin' muh bike fo' uh ride Ya' know what I'm sayin'?' Source:
So what does this mean?

Does this mean that Addison Lee really have improved their reputation and relationship with cyclists? Are they now polite, considerate road users, happy to share the tarmac with bicycles? Or was my experience just a one off? Either way, I'm still reluctant to hop into their cabs...

UPDATE: Hot of the Twitter press, Stagecoach West Ham bus drivers are also receiving cycle training with Cycle Training UK. Let the revolution begin!

Friday, 15 March 2013

Red Raw Thumbs

I know it's hard but nobody told me about this!

The skin on my thumbs has turned red raw from cycling in the cold. And nope, you can't see it on this picture and yes, I have been wearing gloves, I'm not a maniac for goodness sake. Nobody told me about this when I signed up to this cycling in winter malarky! 

As you all seem to be blissfully unaware of this horrific ailment one can get from cycling in adverse weather conditions, I guess I'll have to be the one to warn you all about it... SO COUNT THIS AS YOUR WARNING!

I have had to purchase soothing baby bum butter lotion to nourish my pitiful injury and recover my skin back to the softness of my baby years. I'll let you know once I have made a full recovery.

In the meantime....stay strong.

Friday, 8 March 2013

My Green Wheels - The Charge Hob 3

 Eagle-eyed HelpMyChainCameOff! wizard readers out there would have noticed that I have been sporting some serious green wheels. Are you green with envy?

Going by the famous formula adopted by bicycle crazies (n+1) with 'n' being the number of bicycles one currently owns, I realised that I didn't have enough bikes in my repertoire to call myself the Chief Cyclist of North London. However, I'm not failing nearly as bad as this guy who must think the formula is n-1.

Source: by Zhao Huasen

Somebody give him a bike please.

So continuing my bid to be Chief Cyclist of North London I thought I would present to you the wheels I am currently riding.

Bought through the Bike2Work scheme whereby I pay my bicycle off every month through my salary (because I am poor) and omit paying a pension because.....well...the economy is screwed, so why not? I selected the Charge Hobb 3 bicycle for it's handsome characterists and Britishness. The Olympics may be a distant memory but I can at least pretend that I am a GB rider everyday, especially as it is plastered on the frame in case you forgot.

I even managed to shove my slightly rusty back rack from my vintage bicycle onto the bike and invested in a 'proper' lock. And don't worry! I have two locks so do not fret..

There is no battle of the sexes here, this bike is made for both men and women. Being unisex doesn't make it any less comfortable, I find it easy to hop on and off the bicycle, even wearing skirts. And it is is remarkably nifty and perfect for nipping in out of traffic.
Being used to women's bicycles with seats more soft and cushioned than my sofa, this seat looked pretty scary when I wheeled it out of the shop, but actually it's the most comfortable bike seat I have ever had the honour of sitting on.

Thankfully the striking, glittering green paint hasn't encouraged me to become a Frogger cyclist yet and my seat remains at the appropriate height for legs to push the pedals down. 

I have fallen in love with smart features such as these:

And the three gears is plentiful for my city riding. The other day I even managed to overtake a MAMIL, which is truly a remarkable acheivement seeing that I don't wear skin tight fabric exposing inappropriate lumps all in the name of reducing my air resistance by a fraction.

Having sturmy archer gears, I can change gears when stationery meaning I win the race of setting off quickly at traffic lights. This bodes well for my Chief Cyclist of North London bid.

I have even spotted a couple of men eyeing my wheels up which is a first in my cycling memory. Shame that I am a galumpher and have already got some major chips and scratches, dust and rust forming. But hey, that's what happens when you cycle in potholes and grit and ugly British weather. Still I need to learn to give this darling bicycle a bath every now and then if I want to avoid maintenance problems. Ideally I would have liked it to have a chain guard but I understand that it would have reduced the sleek, chic appearance of the bike and obviously I'm too young to be 'practical'.
I haven't migrated my burger bicycle bell to this bicycle yet so I am currently *bringless* when it comes to turfing pedestrians out of my path. I'm sure this isn't really a problem seeing that the high-viz brigade clear the paths before me in the mornings from any unyielding pedestrians. Thanks guys!

I am a big fan of this bicycle so far and I hope to take him out for some romantic bicycle adventures this year and engage in a mutual marriage of appreciation.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Holy Sunday cycling

Apart from commuting like crazy on my two wheels, I haven't had much time to bike ride purely for pleasure. I can now say HALLELUJAH because in the same week we said goodbye to the Pope Benedict XVI, I found myself free as a frog on Sunday, so I hopped on my bike to see what was and wasn't going down in the great London pond. And I thought you guys would want to know because why else do you check in here?

Off I shimmied to the wonders of Soho hoping I would catch the Pope celebrating his retirement outside G-A-Y with a Jagerbomb and a dayglo stick in hand. That was not to be.

But hey, Chinatown was HAPPENING instead!

 And when I say 'happening', I mean HelpMyChainCameOff! has turned into a Chinese lucky cat. Happy as Larry.

But uh oh....My ride to Soho and China town wasn't all lucky....
My favourite bike crossing button has been vandalised in the worst act of football hooliganism we have seen since the 80's.

Surely there are so many more important things to politicise than Arsene Wenger?.....Like will I ever wear high-vis? Or will Andrew Mitchell (aka Plebgate victim) EVER get back on his basket bike again?


WHO KNOWS? But never mind, I was on the look out for a partying Pope...and yes, I do indeed love London.

 Just as much as I love Torrington Place when it's free from on the crazy weekday traffic.

And popping to the Oxford Street Topshop to stand in the refunds queue for half an hour.

 But I am blessed because all is forgiven when there are Japanese noodles to nourish my Sunday bicycle woes.

But where is that Pope Benedict now that he is a free man??

Why he must be catching up on his favourite blog HelpMyChainCameOff! instead...
'Oh, high-vis just sooo isn't Godly'                Source: Catholic Sensibility

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Longer Bicycle Days

After exclaiming last week how I was at breaking point from cycling in the cold weather, I was delighted to find that the sun has finally put his righteous hat on and has treated us to a taster of Spring! The sunny weather arrived just in the nick of time before I bought an oyster travel card and became angry tube passenger.

And even more important is that it is now light outside when I leave work! The day you cycle home from work in daylight is always a landmark in any bicycle commuter's calendar and signifies the end of flashing disco bike lights and dare I mention it (because I know that everyone is very fond of these) but the end of donning those fluorescent yellow jackets. Can I tempt you to come to terms with letting go and wearing a normal jacket which doesn't look like you're a) working in a building site or b) going to a 90's drum and bass rave? Well? #Just putting it out there.

Putting gaudy bicycle attire aside, I have decided to celebrate the longer days and fair weather because, well you know, I'm british and I love the subject! I'm sharing with you my jubilant ride home in daylight last Friday evening.

I'm free!

Whitecross Street

Passing over Regent's Canal

Upper Street
Broken traffic lights attracted policemen in leather trousers. Not my favourite sight.
Nearly home now
I want to live in this house 

I hope you all enjoy the lighter evenings!