Thursday, March 29, 2007

National Bad Driving Day?

What was up with everyone today?

There was the minor stuff like the stop start car in the stop start traffic in Colliers Wood who thought no-one could see him continually looking down to text on his mobile. There was the usual stuff like the idiot cyclist who came across the lights on Victoria Embankment just as The Stig, a Taxi and myself came out on a green light. There was some dreadful motorcycling, like the two bikes who just had to get past the slow moving car on Albert Embankment by diving into the gap between it and a bus when they had to only wait two seconds to legally and safely overtake on the right. But what took the biscuit was the stupidly dangerous driving I saw today.

On the way home I was nearly killed by a man in a small hatchback who decided to pull out in front of me on the A3 as the Roehampton ASDA. There was plenty of space to pull out behind me, but this driver had to get out and overtake the other hatchback in front of it regardless of the consequences. He therefore dived out of the accelerator lane and tried to overtake the car in front only to find that the car in front was pulling in front of him. The two got in a mess avoiding one another and the result was I in turn had to take evasive action. It could have been much worse, but at least no-one was hurt!

The same can't be sad of what I saw in the morning. The Stig and I were riding up the A3 through Stockwell when we saw a Burger with Italian plate taken out by a silver grey car. The first I saw of this was as I rounded the left of a white van turning right. I checked it was safe to pass, and looked forward to see the Burgman, flying at right angles across the road. The bonnet of the car that hit him was sticking out of the stream of the queue of traffic. It appeared to be trying an unannounced U-Turn and hit the Burger without crossing the centre line. The Burger was only doing 10-15mph at the time and the queue of traffic was stationary.

Fortunately the rider seemed to not be badly hurt as he got straight up and didn't appear to be in particular pain or distress. The Stig and I didn't stop as we didn't have a very clear view of what happened as there was a pack of scooters between us and the incident, and the pack had stopped to assist, as had several car and van drivers, and a wagon full of Police!

Today there was a lot of talk about how dangerous bikes are and how they should be fitted with speed limiters to make them safer. Maybe they should put limiters in cars so they can't do U-Turns without signalling?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mysterons SC Toy Run

One of the joys of riding any type of powered two-wheeler is the instant camaraderie of fellow riders. Any shared interest at all and everyone becomes your life-long friend. Another fine aspect is the genuine desire many riders have to mix having fun with helping good causes.

Jim from the X9 Owners had announced that the Mysterons Scooter Club, based in Teddington, would be having a charity run on 25 March from Carnaby Street to the Shooting Star Children's Hospice in Hampton. I know the hospice because my parents live about 100 yards away.

Although the run, aimed at delivering toys and cash had taken place in previous years, this year was the first time this hospice was to benefit. The run is mainly by old school scooterists riding customised Lambrettas and Vespas, but the X9ers had always been welcome. The Stig had a prior engagement, but I agreed to carry both our gifts and arranged to meet up with the X9ers near Cleopatra's Needle early on the day. Too early as it turned out - I can do without them pushing the clocks forward the night before a day like this!

Anyway, the weather started grey and damp, but the roads were clear and I got the meeting point ahead of the others. About ten minutes later I was joined by Mike and John, and the others soon piled into the not quite big enough bike bay we had chosen. Then there was the long wait for Jim!

Once we were all there we rode off to Carnaby Street to meet up with over 100 other scooters. I really can say of all shapes and sizes, what with MP3s and miniscule 60's machines. My modern Vespa looked a little out of place, but was not unique. The custom seat cover allows it to hide amongst the other GTs with Chelsea FC and Beck's Beer custom paint jobs!

After an hour looking at the bikes, chatting and persuading the traffic wardens not to book people setting out on a charity run, we all set off.

I had been warned that all the old scooters would mean we would be riding in a blue haze of burnt two-stroke oil - and that was no exaggeration, but it was good fun riding amongst a group of about 120 scooters. We quickly got out onto Oxford Street, but then tended to get broken up by the lights. By Hyde Park Corner I was on my own. A group had gone up ahead, and everyone else had dropped back. Fortunately, the marshalling worked reasonably well. Although it was not possible to keep the roads clear, the marshals marked all the corners so it was easy to follow the route (which was completely different to the one handed out before the event!)

I caught up with the leading group just before Olympia, and rode with them, and a few X9ers who had caught up, through Hammersmith and over Chiswick Bridge. The weather had started none to impressive, but by now was warm, dry and bright. After passing through Richmond, the lead group turned off just before Teddington Bridge and stopped in the large car park opposite Old Deer Park. Over the next twenty minutes or so the stragglers came in until all the scooters were parked up ready for the final stage.

Now this was the best bit. With everyone riding together, the marshals managed to hold up the traffic on all the roundabouts and junctions so that one large body of bikes progressed together down the road enveloped in its blue haze. In London it is very easy to develop a low opinion of other road users, but whilst there were some exceptions, most of the drivers of help up vehicles were smiling and waving as we rode past. However, we were probably the most exciting thing to happen in Whitton so far this century!

After some humped back roads, we rode past the hospice and parked up outside a local church hall. Light refreshments were available, and a huge number of raffle prizes were disposed of in what seemed like the world's longest raffle! Of course I didn't win anything. I don't know how much was raised, but there was a pile of toys, and plenty of heavy sounding charity collection buckets by the time the day was over.

Overall the event was well organised. A lot of effort had clearly gone into trying to make things run smoothly, and in getting hold of some excellent raffle prizes. The only gripe I have heard from others who attended was that they never got to visit the hospice, or even were aware they had ridden past it. However, this is minor and will not stop them riding again next year. I am looking forward to the next similar event I can go on!

A slideshow has been put up by the South London Revival Scooter Club and a video of ride setting off from Carnaby Street can be seen on YouTube.

Thursday, March 15, 2007


The idiot on the blue X9 (LF04??? - I have the full number) is at it again. This morning he cut me up from the left leaving me about four inches of space as he passed me at speed from the left in crowded traffic at Clapham South. This person certainly needs some professional help!

On the "They Know Not What They Do" point - I have seen some more interesting driver activity. The most impressive was the car the Stig and I pulled alongside at the level crossing a the junction of West Barnes Lane and Burlington Road just off the A3 at New Malden.

I thought he had one of those stupid CD players where the screen sits over your radio, then I realised, this was no movie, this was 6.10pm in the evening, and this was the BBC news! The cretin was driving a car whilst watching TV!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Why the hurry?

The Stig and I were coming up past Tooting Bec station this morning at 8.40. As usual, there was a long queue, mainly of buses, vans, lorries and 4x4s. We know from long experience that plenty of pedestrians choose to run out into the road without looking here, plus there are several side turnings that cars turn into and out of without signalling.

The Stig was in front giving herself plenty of space and time as she filtered past this traffic. As she passed a bus it slowed just as it approached a side turning. She sensibly slowed down. I was a little way back as I had stopped to avoid hitting a pedestrian that stepped out between two vehicles, between us was another blue X9.

He shouted out an aggressive stream of abuse at the Stig because she wasn't moving fast enough for him. It was totally uncalled for. I couldn't see anything the Stig was doing that wasn't common sense. Of course, once he could he shot past the Stig, cut up a car and then swerved his way through the traffic until he was out of view.

Now the Stig is an experienced rider who has had a full licence for nearly a quarter of a century. She has an excellent safety record and has ridden bikes of all sizes from 100 to 1000cc and has trained as an instructor. She is a firm believer that having set out on a journey, it is much preferable to actually arrive!

The behaviour of this other X9 rider was deplorable, and I sincerely hope they read this and feel utterly ashamed of themselves! Maybe if they had seen Kay taken out by a pedestrian as the Stig and I have they might understand defensive riding!