Tuesday 15 September 2015

One day one photo - 4

Press Association

This man and his party are a "threat to national security". This is what David Cameron said on the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new leader of the Labour Party. Codswallop, I say!
This has been a rather curious incident of the marxist cyclist in the night - Mr Corbyn's rise to the highest echelons of British politics.

For someone who, just a few weeks ago barely scrambled together the minimum required number of nominations to make it into the pool of candidates for the Labout leadership to suddenly morph into a potential UK prime minister is extremely curious!

I guess, that is what the Labour party members wanted, so that is what they've got! This is a sign of the times. Take away the bicycle and give this guy long white hair, horn rimmed glasses, a duffel coat, and you have basically got the Labour Party leader who squared up to a resurgent Margaret Thatcher to lead the Labour Party to spectacular defeat in 1983 - no it won't go Pete Tong for the Labour Party, it'll go Michael Foot!

That's why I don't think the Labour Party could be a threat to national security. They would have to get past the Tories first, and the Labour Party in its current form is likely to have an uphill struggle. Already cracks are showing between many established front-benchers and even the deputy leader. That's a shame. If only there were a bit more cohesion and moderation plus better media management things wouldn't necessarily go omnishambolic for the Labour Party. Folks like Ken Livingston and Diane Abbott mellowed their tranchant views when they moved into high office.

Having said all that, I must say that I like Jeremy Corbyn and his ideas. I don't think nationalisation of railways is a bad idea, and air strikes on Syria (or elsewhere) is not the automatic answer whenever there is a conflict.

One thing that I always have a soft spot for though, is a politician who rides a bicycle - whether it's Boris Johnson, Nicolas Sarkozy or Andrew Mitchell! Corbyn is also a member of the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group - another brownie point! I don't quite share his aversion to cars though (He recently refused to get in a car to do a BBC interview because he doesn't like cars!), but I am with him on cycling everywhere.

Who knows how this will pan out for the Labour Party...whatever happens, I would say that Mr Corbyn's dizzy ride into the upper crust of British politics, however long it lasts, will have certainly made us stop and think. But national security threat? I think not!

Monday 14 September 2015

One day one photo - 3

photo by UCI

Quite a few interesting results came through over the weekend from the world of cycle racing: Fabio Aru won the Vuelta a Espana. He has probably got nearer than anyone else this year to doing a grand tour double after having finished in second place at the Giro d'Italia in May. Edvald Boasson-Hagen won the Tour of Britain, making him the first person to win the stage race twice in its modern era. La Vuelta became the second of the grand tours to stage a women-only race on the final day of the competition. Yesterday's race held on the windswept roads of Madrid was won by Ale Cipollini rider, Shelley Olds. It was great to see all of these events on TV. Another American made history across the Atlantic, though this piece of history has gone somewhat under the radar though. A new Women's World Hour Record was set over the weekend by the Molly Shaffer Van Houweling at the velodrome in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

Ever since Jens Voigt reignited the competition by breaking the hour record almost a year ago to the day, the quest has rolled on in earnest amongst the male gladiators of cycle sport. Things have been a lot quieter on the women's front however, with no one apart from Dame Sarah Storey attempting to break Leontien van Moorsel's 12-year old record. I rember that Saturday afternoon in February in a crowded velodrome at Lee Valley, London, watching in hope as Sarah battled her way around the track only to fall short of the 46.065km hour record by two laps. Meanwhile, in Mexico Van Houweling was beavering away in the background making her bid for perfect-hour glory by breaking the US Women's hour record.

The 42-year old law professor from the University of California, Berkeley, eventually broke the world hour record in July when she clocked 46.088km. However, this record could not stand as she had not been registered onto the biological passport programme for long enough for her time to qualify. But on Saturday night, all the stars were aligned for Molly Shaffer Van Houweling to put her day job behind her, take to the boards again - and clock 46.273km. Boom! Now I think that's worth writing about!

I don't imagine this will get the column inches that Bradley Wiggins had when he broke the record, but I do hope a few more people shout about it. I also hope that more women step forward - maybe Dame Sarah Storey will make another attempt, or maybe world time trial champion Lisa Brennauer will try it or even other home girls like Joanna Rowsell or Katie Archibald. It would be good to see the women's hour record chased with the same zeal as on the men's side.

Related articles

Bridie O'Donnell breaks the hour record

10 Sound bites from Sarah Storey

Thursday 10 September 2015

One day one photo - 2

This is an artist's impression of a junction I pass through on my cycle ride to work. It is Kennington Oval. Note Kennington Park is on the right and part of the city is in the distance with the Shard London Bridge just about in view. This is just an artist's impression so there are a few inaccuracies, for instance the Shard should be the tallest building in the photo! Also, you wouldn't ever see that section of road so empty during the day!

One thing that is correct though is the green and blue cycle path on the left-hand side of the picture. This path is in place, though I must say I haven't paid attention to the colour! In fact, when cycling from Brixton towards the city the cycle path starts further back than is shown in this drawing. At the busier section of the junction the path goes up onto a kerb and riders are separated from motorised traffic. It was quite a pleasant surprise to see this on the first day this new road layout was opened. The path then cuts across traffic where cyclists have right of way, and then they turn right to join this dual coloured cycle lane. I take the left-hand branch of the lane to head towards Lambeth North and Waterloo, while alot of other cyclists take the right-hand lane to go towards Elephant & Castle.

I think this is a good system. The only thing is the traffic lights (which are specifically for cyclists) at the end are a bit confusing. The way you approach it you see the Elephant & Castle lights first, which are green but in fact the ones I need to follow are other lights which don't come into view until when I am much nearer to the junction, and at that time, they are red! So it is easy to make a mistake and end up accidentally overshooting the lights - or in the vice versa scenario, stopping when it is not necessary!

 Also, right now this is the only section that is ready for cyclists. Once you round the corner you are faced with another mess of roadworks and you are back to squeezing past buses and cars. The same applies for the lane next to Kennington Park as you travel from London homewards. Currently various parts of central London are a mish-mash of roadworks as workers install the improved Cycle Superhighway. It's a bit of a pain for cyclists and motorists alike, but I live in the hope that once they are all fully in place cycling around London will be alot more pleasurable, and safer.

Tuesday 8 September 2015

One day One photo - 1

It's that time of the year again when I do the one day, one photo series. Summer has gone and all we have to look forward to are colder, greyer and shorter days. But in order to preserve the mood before SAD sets in I like to think fun, happy, thoughts. So today I will start with one of my favourite places.....The Goyt Valley.

My days in Macclesfield are finally over. I have checked out of my flat and am now fully fledged back in London. But I couldn't leave without having one last spin along some of the most beautiful lanes in England. My route started in Macclesfield and for those who know it I was very quickly on that well-known twisty climb, the Cat-and-Fiddle. Once at the summit I dropped down to Derbyshire Bridge and meandered along the Upper River Goyt to the Errwood and Fernlee reservoirs. One of the most beautiful views at this time of year is the purple patchwork carpet on the side of the hills from all that lovely heather. At this time of year it glows the carpet glows in the sun. This road drops down steadily without it being one of those screechingly steep descents. Furthermore there is hardly any traffic, so you can really appreciate the full beauty of the area. By jove, I felt wonderfully spoiled! Sadly, my camera just couldn't do the scenery justice so I didn't take any photo! The photo above is from another part of the Goyt valley (approaching from Long Hill), with the Errwood reservoir in the distance. If you want to know what I am raving about I would recommend going there on any sunny day in September and you will see what I mean. For your interest, my ride continued in equally scenic areas but with hard work in equal measure! I tackled The Street, Pym's Chair, Jenkin Chapel and Saltersford all one after the other before dropping down Blaze Hill to Bollington and back home. I had a good fill of The Goyt Valley and the Cheshire lanes for a while! Looking forward to returning there before long.

Monday 7 September 2015

Ride London!

I am back in London full time. I have actually been back since April but I have only recently got round to posting about it. I still have some settling in to do as I am steadily bringing a number of my goods back from Macclesfield.

I will miss being up in Cheshire, close to the Peak District and country life - as well as the chance to ride around the Manchester velodrome.

But I have to say I am glad to be in London. It is my favourite city in the world! I lived in Milan for a while, and in Paris for some time before then. Even though I have great memories of both of those places, there's nothing more satisfying than being in the place that you call home - a place that feels close to your heart, and a place that you can feel proud of - and I have to say that's how I feel about London!

So, now I'm back in London I can commute by bike to get to my place of work in Farringdon. It's not too far from Crystal Palace - I could do the ride in about 40 minutes, but I tend to take my time and avoid working up a sweat, and enjoy the views so it takes me nearer to 50 minutes. Being able to ride my bike over the river and enjoy views of St Paul's Cathedral, Tate Modern and the South Bank as I roll over Blackfriars Bridge, makes me feel lucky.

I also enjoy zooming down to Trafalgar Square, up the Mall and over to Hyde Park if I am doing something over there after work.

At rush hour during the summer it is like riding as part of a big organised ride, or a "critical mass" event. When waiting at the traffic lights There can easily be more than 20-30 cyclists all bunched into the box in front of the motorists. It's great and there's definitely a feeling of "safety in numbers."

People talk of there being friction between motorists and cyclists around London, but certainly at these times it doesn't seem so bad. There appears to be a better understanding between the two parties.

I like to think that all the work being done to raise the profile of cycling in London is making a difference. With the current roadworks taking place to build a new improved "cycle superhighway" and the recent directive from Transport for London to ban lorries from London which aren't installed with cycle safety measures I can see a definite improve in cycling compared with 5 years ago.

The recent Ride London event was also a great poster for cycling in the capital. Not only were there road races and cyclosportives for the seriously fit cyclists, but there was also a FreeCycle event for all the family - from kids on balance bikes to professional racers wanting a quick spin on the closed roads around Central London. Even my little 5-year old niece had a go!

It is true that London is still a long way to being like Amsterdam when it comes to cycle infrastructure and commuter cycling culture, but I think we are taking a step in the right direction.