Sunday, July 30, 2006


Friday evening Jackie and I went by scooter to visit a friend and fellow scooter enthusiast. The early evening ride was pleasant enough, but some kids playing cricket alongside the A3 managed to hit my bike with a ball as I rode past. Fortunately, I can see no damage to the bike or me!

At my friends BBQ, it was a hellish job avoiding the firkin of locally brewed bitter he had bought in for what looked to be a long weekend of serious drinking. I make a strict rule never to drink when driving or riding, but it did look so appetising! Fortunately, so did the food. Jim had put on an excellent spread; the minted lamb kebabs were a delight!

Jim, as always was good company, but the best bit of the evening was the ride home. I always enjoy riding in London late at night, especially in summer. The cool clear air, the dry, open roads, and the simple pleasure of riding without the knowledge that up ahead there will be a queue of stationary traffic to negotiate!

Monday, July 24, 2006

La Dolce Vita

Today is what riding in London is all about! This morning the roads from SW London were clear of congestion, the sky was blue, the temperature was a sensible 18C. Riding in was a joy! 12 miles across London in 45 minutes, as it should be!

Riding home was much the same. Left Westminster at 6.40pm and was home in Surrey by 7.25. It was very much warmer, but very comfortable as I almost never had to stop!

Yes, I know this post is boring! But some days, now and again, it really is just so good there is nothing to write about!

Friday, July 21, 2006

You can't park that there!

I am no great lover of cyclists in London. They do great good for the planet, they do the right thing and make themselves more, and not less healthy on their way to work. I understand the frustrations of trying to cope in a city designed for people, but usurped by huge inhuman mechanical vehicles.

I spent nearly a quarter of a century as a cyclist – cycling to work, cycling to the shops, and most importantly, cycling to the pub! But what I didn’t do, is make every effort to be a menace to every other road user, whether the bus full of pensioners trying to turn right whilst avoiding the cyclist going through the red light, the ambulance blocked at a junction by the cyclist who seems to be deaf and blind to the flashing blue light, or the school children sent scattering at a lollipop controlled school crossing by cyclists determined to absolve themselves of any responsibility for their actions. Yes, I know not all cyclists are like this, but when the majority, rather than the minority start stopping at red lights, I will start to believe they are not an alien species.

Despite being a cyclist turned to the dark side – there is one battle I am securely on the cyclist’s side. Cyclists, just like motorcyclists, need proper provision. National, local and regional government is meant to support the use of two wheels over four to reduce congestion and minimise pollution. But where are the facilities? Motorcyclists have long seen that central London motorcycle bays are getting more and more full. Gone 9.15 in the morning in the Covent Garden/Strand area and there will be no chance of parking a powered two-wheeler. In Whitehall the bays are long gone well before that.I am lucky; my employer leases a building with a large subterranean garage, which I use. But hang on – the landlord seems reluctant to authorise more and more motorcyclists and cyclists to use this space. New applicants to get their security passes enabled for the garage are turned down. Presumably this is so the bikes don’t get in the way of the 4x4s, Ferraris and Porches that occupy half the places down there. Sensible vehicles occupy some of the rest, but the remainder are left empty. Presumably the landlord gets paid rent for those spaces just in case the owner can be bothered to drive their planet destroying vehicle into the congestion charge zone.

So what do two-wheelers do? Motorcycles look for the local bike bays. Fortunately there are plenty, but as mentioned above, come not long after 9am, and they are gone. The bicycles simply get chained to parking meters and lampposts. Hang on – cycles might be environmentally friendly, but there are two problems. Firstly, in central London chained bicycles are seen as a menace – the IRA packed the frames full of explosives and so many buildings of a sensitive nature or with VIP visitors, just don’t want them there and will forcibly remove them if chained to private property. But surely an out of the way lamppost is OK? Not any more. Westminster Council, famous for selling off dead bodies so they would not have to maintain the cemetery and moving poor residents so that their homes could be sold to up-market types, have started posting notices on bicycles parked on Westminster streets that they will be treated as litter unless removed. Westminster seem to think the 3000 dedicated bicycle bays they provide is sufficient, especially as they plan to increase that by 300 a year. Sorry! But there must be 30,000 cyclists entering Westminster every morning. What do the other 27,000 do?

As I said above, I am no great lover of the London cyclist. I might have been one once, but I have had to brake heavily too many times to avoid collision with people too ignorant or too egotistical to look over their shoulder before changing direction. I have had to avoid cyclists running through red lights too often to learn to love them, but I recognise a bad deal when they get one – and Westminster are behaving in a way that shows how 4x4 centric they really are!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The heat is on

After nearly eleven years in the tender hands of Southwest Trains and London Underground I finally took the plunge and decided to commute from my Surrey home to my Westminster job on two wheels.

Yes, I seriously thought about cycling. I didn't drive until I was 30 so for the first three decades of my life I cycled most places, but I decided 12 miles, much of it up hill, was just too far for this middle aged office worker!

When the price of the annual season ticket finally passed the price of a brand new small scooter, the decision was made - I bought my first powered two-wheeler. For two years I rode a 50cc Piaggio which was a serious adventure, I no doubt will recount, but last year I splashed out on a Vespa Granturismo 125 even though that meant having to take the CBT before I could legally ride it.

Currently the roads are very clear of traffic. Maybe the warm weather, currently over 30C is keeping people in doors, but even Wandsworth is virtually traffic free at 5pm this week. Even though it is easy to keep moving, the heat is starting to prove a problem. Yesterday the road surface was starting to melt, and today, with the higher humidity, so was I!

I am a firm believer in wearing protection on a bike. I once lost some skin coming off a pillion in my teens. Although it was very hot today, it could have been so much worse. I have invested in a flip up helmet to get some air on my face, a vented mesh jacket to get some air on my body, and some vented mesh gloves to get some air on my hands. I know it looks and feels cooler to ride bare handed in shirt sleeves, but road rash doesn't feel very cool when it happens to you!