j4: (bicycle)
A quick update on the bike: I went to look at it last night. There was more rust than was obvious from the photos on the bits of metal holding the box on to the bike; and the brakes weren't very good, though may have just needed tightening somehow -- they were hub brakes, despite what [livejournal.com profile] htfb thought from the photo (the thing that looks like a brake is actually an immobiliser lock). Hub gears too, at least, I couldn't see any external gear-like-stuff. Overall, there was just too much "would probably need a bit of fixing" about it, though.

Also, I did have a go at riding it, and, yikes, that would need a lot of practice. It actually felt more unsettling than the trick bicycle with backwards steering that I tried to ride in Dublin (pay a couple of euros to try riding, win 10 euros if you can cycle across the line about 3 yards away... nobody manages more than about 2 feet) -- everything seemed to pivot in the wrong places, and I felt like I was going to fall off any minute. Terrifying!

So, no, I won't be bidding on it, but it was interesting to have a (very brief) go at riding it. I think I will try to get to Cambridge at some point & talk to the Hope St bike folk (and say hello to all you nice people in Cambridge!) but that probably won't be for another month at least.

Thanks again to everyone who offered advice!
j4: (bicycle)
I will do a proper update soon, honest (& might even get round to reading other people's journals & commenting on them!) but right now I have a question which is a bit more time-critical and I'd be really grateful for answers from people who know about bikes...

So, now that Imogen is nearly 6 months old (!) it will hopefully not be too long before I can put her in some kind of bike seat & actually start cycling regularly again, hurrah hurrah. A colleague has offered me a standard sit-up-on-the-back child bike seat for free (so I will probably say yes to that anyway) but I still feel that what I'd really like is a Bakfiets-style cargo bike. The problem is that a) they are frightfully expensive, and b) nowhere in Oxford stocks them, so all the bike shops I've talked to have basically said "you don't want to buy one of those" & have instead tried to try to talk me into buying a bike seat that will fit on my normal bike (ie the sort of seat they actually sell).

HOWEVER, a cycling-mad colleague sent me a link to this cargo bike on eBay, in Oxford, for what looks like a very reasonable price (compared to the new cargo bikes I have seen online), and I am tempted. I am going to go and have a look at it tomorrow (Tuesday) and what I really want to know is: what should I be looking for to determine whether it's actually a sensible thing to buy? The description mentions "patches of rust on the frame" (they look quite trivial from the photos) -- what's the best way to check if these are a serious problem, & what work would need to be done to fix them or stop them deteriorating any further? (NB I'm not really concerned about cosmetic stuff, I just need to be able to reassure myself that it's safe.) Is it likely to be a problem getting parts for it if it's an odd make of bike?

To be honest the key question may turn out to be "is the bike actually short enough for a tiny person like me to ride it?", but I can figure that out when I see it.

Any other advice re babies-on-bikes is also welcome (unless it's "argh don't do it", but I know you're all more sensible than that. :-) Thank you in advance, kind people!
j4: (roads)
The other day I posted about cycling, and included a fairly content-free gripe about the stupid things I see other road users do. Now it sometimes seems to be assumed that when cyclists say "other road users" in that tone of voice they mean car drivers; in fact, I meant exactly what I said: other people who use the roads. That's car drivers (and bus/lorry/milk-float/whatever drivers), cyclists, motorcyclists (though as mentioned I don't see many of those actually), walkers, joggers, pigeons (a very real hazard on Cornmarket), and anyone or anything else that has occasion to stray into the road (if the towpath counted as the 'road', I'd have to include dogs, ducks and geese). All of them do stupid things sometimes. Especially the pigeons, though they have the excuse of having a brain the size of a pea.

Sometimes I feel as though I resent the car drivers most: they're handling a more dangerous vehicle so they should be paying more attention; they're using up fuel and polluting the air as well as doing idiotic things on the roads. Other times I feel more angry with the cyclists, because by doing stupid and dangerous things they're giving the car drivers more reason to be annoyed at "those bloody cyclists", which makes them more likely to treat me badly and/or assume I'm going to do stupid things. (Some days I just resent everybody for existing in my airspace, but that's not so much to do with what they're actually doing, more to do with being a morning-hating grouch.)

I don't have a long daily commute, and most of it is on the towpath rather than the roads, and other than that I only potter around town a bit, so you'd think I wouldn't have time to see much idiocy on the roads... but I do. I don't want to make this into a series of ranty anecdotes about individual incidents, even though that would probably make a more lively blog post: those sort of incidents just make me angry (both at the time & when I remember them), and recounting them generates more ranty anecdotes from other people, and I'm not convinced that's healthy (particularly after reading in 59 Seconds about studies showing that actually letting all your rage out increases your anger rather than dissipating it). However, here's a list of things that I encounter often enough to annoy me:

all the small things )

The response to this sort of list is often along the lines of "oh come on, nobody's perfect"; but a lot of these things are really not difficult to avoid (e.g. it doesn't require some kind of saintlike disposition or superhuman willpower to decide that you're going to stop at red lights). Some could be attributable to lapses of concentration, which we're surely all guilty of from time to time; on the other hand, I don't think of myself as a particularly focused person, & I still don't forget to signal -- it's habit, it's just part of what you do when you're changing lane/direction, it doesn't require "concentration" as such, it just requires me to have my hands free (not e.g. texting, smoking, drinking coffee, holding an umbrella, doing my hair, holding a handbag, or putting my hands in my pockets). The majority of these things seem to boil down to not thinking about other road users: sometimes that's a lapse of concentration, but often I think it's more of a general attitude.

I feel like a blog post should have a punchline or a moral or some kind of conclusion, but the main conclusion I can draw from this, really, is that people do dumb things.


Nov. 9th, 2010 11:35 pm
j4: (bicycle)
As mentioned yesterday, I went to a Safe Cycling seminar given by the Oxford Cycle Workshop. It was along similar lines to a recent post from LondonCyclist, and I won't try to do justice to an hour's presentation in a paragraph of LiveJournal, but it was reassuring to know that according to them I'm already doing the right things. The two main take-home points were be visible (not just in the sense of wearing hi-vis jackets and — of course — using lights, but also in the sense of making sure you're not hiding down the side of another vehicle, skulking in the gutter, or lurking in someone's blind spot, but rather claiming your place in the lane you're in) and be predictable (stick to the rules of the road, behave like a car where possible because then cars know what to expect). There was a third not-explicitly-stated rule of "don't be a jerk". I wish more road users followed that one. There's another post in my head about Stupid Behaviour I Observe On The Roads Every Day, but really, who wants to read it? We all see it often enough anyway.

Unsurprisingly, the Oxford Cycle Workshop chap didn't say anything about cycling while pregnant (and I didn't ask, as it was a bit out of scope!). I didn't expect him to (he didn't mention helmets either, interestingly), but I did expect better from a supposedly comprehensive book about pregnancy and birth; however, the NCT's book "Happy Birth Day" doesn't seem to say anything about cycling at all (as I mentioned yesterday, I've emailed them to ask about this). a long ramble about cycling, walking, falling, and risk )
j4: (bicycle)
Further to the ongoing conversation about whether the battle for gender equality is all done and dusted, you might want to read this depressing article about being a female cyclist.

For what it's worth, my own experience is that most of the verbal abuse I get on a bike these days seems (insofar as I can decode the grunting and hooting of overexcited primates) to be aimed more at cyclists than women. Though I guess I might not get so much of that if I was/looked male -- but that's impossible for me to tell, I have no plausible way of pretending to be male while cycling.

(To be fair, I should also confess that I do my own fair share of shouting, but only at idiots who are actively endangering my life by flagrantly disregarding the rules of the road -- and idiots come in all shapes/sizes/genders/vehicles.)

On the positive side, there is some evidence to suggest that drivers give female cyclists more room when overtaking them. Though now I wonder whether (as the researcher hints) that's because they think female cyclists are more likely to behave unpredictably, or just because it's so much harder to look up someone's skirt when they're disappearing under the wheels of your white van. :-/
j4: (dodecahedron)
A challenge for the cartographically minded among my readers:

What's the most efficient route for visiting all Oxford's colleges?

Method of transport: bicycle. No other restrictions except that you must pass the lodge of each college. Doubling back on yourself is allowed (despite the title of the post!).

A reminder of the location of all the Colleges can be seen on this hopefully accurate map from the University website.


I do realise this is a hard problem (Owen says it may even be an NP-hard problem) but thought it might've been the sort of thing that you clever people had already done... like the "visit all the underground stations in a day" challenge, kind of thing...
j4: (roads)
Dear cyclists,

Cycling on the pavement is illegal. The reason it's illegal is that it is ANTISOCIAL, STUPID, and potentially DANGEROUS.

Cycling on a crowded pavement, even if it wasn't illegal, would still be ANTISOCIAL, STUPID and potentially DANGEROUS.

When you are told "stop cycling on the pavement" by somebody you have just nearly run over by trying to cycle off a busy pedestrian crossing onto a very narrow pavement, the correct answer is not to point at a nearby toddler on a plastic trike (on the pavement) and say "He's cycling on the pavement." Nor is it to yell "FUCK OFF".

Toddlers are allowed to cycle on the pavement, even though it's still fucking irritating and still fucking painful when they run over your heels/toes. However toddlers have an excuse for being as annoying and stupid as 2-year-olds, namely they're, like, actually two years old, and are still in training for being useful and non-irritating members of the human race. If you are riding a bike that's nearly as tall as me and you're old enough to have a stupid haircut, a tweed jacket and a cocking iPod -- and to shout FUCK OFF at strangers -- then I'm guessing you're actually old enough to learn to cycle on the road.

Furthermore, even if some OTHER CRETINS have parked their white vans and their sodding vanity-numberplated SUVs in the cycle lane and the zigzags so they can sit and read the paper while their morbidly obese other half waddles the 1.5 metres to the shop to buy fags and cake, that STILL doesn't make you NOT a cretin for cycling on the pavement.

Oh, and while we're here:

Cycling while smoking or using a mobile phone is probably not, in itself, illegal. It is, however, STUPID and potentially DANGEROUS. Yes, I know, you have superhuman balance and control and psychic powers which prevent other people doing anything unpredictable within a 5-metre radius of you; you are therefore quite capable of cycling while smoking, texting and juggling chainsaws, WHILE BLINDFOLDED. So get a fucking unicycle and join the circus. Oh, by the way, unicycling on the pavement? ALSO ILLEGAL.

No love,

P.S. AND NINTHLY I don't want to know how ACTUALLY you ALWAYS cycle on the 40-foot-wide well-lit pavement outside your HOUSE and it's just the fascism of the nanny state and health-and-safety-gone-mad that says that's illegal and besides bikes have a decree from THE QUEEN that says they're allowed to run you over if they want to whereas cars are evil and are technically disallowed by the second law of thermodynamics. I also don't give a fuck how you cycled on a pavement when nobody was there to see and therefore it can't have really been illegal, unless you also prove at the same time that you can SHUT THE FUCK UP in the woods when there's nobody there to listen to you.
j4: (badgers)
Gods, I'm tired. Surely some day soon I'll find the time to rest and recover...? (See subject line.) Anyway, earlier this week I managed to get myself into a minor road-rage incident, which wasn't very interesting, actually. )

Fortunately there's been a lot of positive goings-on as well to offset the hassle. In the last couple of weeks we've been to 3 gigs, 2 clubs and 3 plays, most of which have been great (and the rest of which have at least been interesting in one way or another) so it's small wonder I haven't had time to write them up! I'm not actually trying to beat last year's gig-a-week average, but October's a good time for it: lots of stuff happening to convince freshers that Cambridge is great; my finances picking up again after the summer; the weather grey enough outside that hiding away in dark smoky venues full of beer and guitars seems like a good idea; warm enough to not mind being poured out onto the street late at night with sweaty t-shirts, aching feet and ringing ears.

I've also been pretending (in my head, at least) that I'm a fresher, and signing up for loads of new stuff. tap-dancing and choir )

[Things I meant to write about at some point: gigs, patterns, work, spots, lost songs, and flapjacks. Don't hold your breath.]

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