Catching Up

September 19, 2017
POP sticker

It’s always nice to spot a POP sticker still hanging on there …

Somehow it’s Tuesday and I haven’t got round to writing up the excitement of the weekend’s Cycling Embassy AGM in Glasgow.

yes march

Possibly it wasn’t the best weekend to be holding a meeting of an organisation with ‘Great Britain’ in its full name

In fact, I still haven’t properly digested it, although it was as always nice to spend a weekend with people who feel properly passionate about decent cycling infrastructure and have no compunction at stopping and measuring it.

Glasgow dropped curb

Measuring the inability of the council to properly drop a curb flush with the tarmac …

I didn’t even take that many photos as I was too busy riding my bike, discussing things, catching up, and generally enjoying a weekend of proper, full-on bike geekery. It couldn’t have been more different from Friday’s action – from gently and temporarily transforming our streets, to measuring them – but then again, I think we need to do both.

blocking bike lanes

There’s a lot more to say, but it all needs more thought, so here instead are a few of the photos I did take. Glasgow, you have so much potential to be a cycling city …

 

motor dystopia

We built all these car lanes and the bloody motorists aren’t using them …

busway

underpass flowers

 

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“Activism …

September 18, 2017

… is such hard work”, commented one of my fellow trouble makers as she topped up my teacup and settled back down in her deck chair.

tea break

It’s true that lots of what I do to try and bring about better conditions for active travel is quite hard work – POP doesn’t organise itself, and there always seems to be an endless stream of blog posts and press releases to be written, flyers to be printed and handed out, routes to be planned and meetings to attend.

So our little Park(ing) Day event in Bigtown on Friday was a revelation. All we had to do was show up, throw together a small park (easier than it sounds when your co-conspirators are already guerrilla gardeners) and sit back and enjoy the almost sunshine as local businesses brought out tea and biscuits. A tiny window of time to sit and chat and just enjoy the day while also making Bigtown a better place, if only for a day.

tea and biscuits

As protests go, this one has to be the most chilled ever.


Unexciting Ford News

September 14, 2017

I had a prescription to pick up this afternoon, at Nearest Village, and then needed to head to Bigtown to get the paper. As these are in opposite directions to each other, the sensible thing to do would have been to head directly to Nearest Village and then turn around and head to Bigtown, but we’ve already established that that just seems like a waste of time, so I decided to take the back route out of the village, down one of my favourite hills, and swing by the ford, partly for old time’s sake, but mainly because I had received word that the road there was to be closed due to essential ford maintenance works.

road heading downhill

This seemed like an exciting opportunity to catch the concrete fairy at work (that being the only other maintenance the ford has ever received in this blog’s lifetime), so off I went pausing only to wonder why it is that you can never take a picture of a road that gives any real sense of how steeply it is either rising or falling (actually, I also paused to take a photo of the impressive looking spider on the bike racks at the doctor’s surgery, but because my phone camera will never focus in on an interesting close object when there’s a fascinating stretch of concrete behind it to focus on instead, you’ll just have to believe me).

One swooping descent later, I reached the ford, to discover that nothing was happening, probably because it was running with 5 inches of water, although why the coonsil (or the concrete fairy) hadn’t thought this might be the case after a month when it has rained most days at least some of the time, I don’t know.

the ford, unchanged

More on this non-story as it develops.

Meanwhile, down in Bigtown, something stirs


And the Rain it Raineth Somewhere Else

September 13, 2017

For anyone who has ever thought that ‘this blog is all right, but it really doesn’t ramble on about the joys of rural cycling in Scotland anything like enough’, all two of you, I am on the CamCycle Podcast doing just that.

I have no idea what I said because I just chatted away happily as I am wont to do, and there’s no way I’m listening to my own voice to found out, but I do remember that the opening question was about what I’d seen on my bike that week. The recording was made a couple of weeks ago and I undoubtedly rambled on about blackberries and exciting drainage works, those being pretty much the highlight of the week at the time.

I was reminded of all this today, as I cycled home from Bigtown and found myself riding in the wake of what I’m pretty sure was a merlin, using the hedge as cover as it flew along the road for a couple of hundred yards, before hopping over a hedge and disappearing from view. I can report that, while not as speedy as a peregrine, they can certainly outpace me on a bike, and it was definitely the highlight of my ride home, indeed my week.

Naturally, I didn’t capture any of this because I was barely able to keep the bird in sight, let alone get a photo of it. So you’ll just have to enjoy the equally rare image of the rain raining on someone other than me as I rode into Bigtown at lunchtime …

rain raining somewhere else

Unusually, the weather gods didn’t manage to catch up with me all day


Never on a Sunday

September 12, 2017

I have exciting plans for Friday, but they are of the ‘better to ask forgiveness than permission’ kind, so I shall refrain from posting them here just now, although I think it’s unlikely that the powers that be are monitoring me that closely.* However I do have other exciting plans for the weekend because it is the Cycling Embassy AGM this weekend, which is venturing north of the border for the first time ever, to Glasgow.

This means a full on weekend of bike riding, kerb measuring, campaigning chat, pub going and general gadding about, and a chance for two of my cycling worlds to intersect, as up to now the Scottish cycle campaigning scene has been a bit divorced from what’s going on down south.

It also means that I don’t have to lug my Brompton half way across the country to take part, as it’s just one train up to Glasgow from Bigtown and it takes loads of bikes so I can bring the big bike. Frustratingly, that doesn’t make it any easier to get home than if we were in Cambridge, Leicester, Brighton or any of the other places where we’ve had our AGMs over the years. Because it is decreed that no train shall move on our line on Sunday until After Kirk, and even then extremely reluctantly, so I shall have to cut the festivities short in order to get home at all …

* other than Moo-I-5, who spent most of the weekend staring at our pile of woodchips in case it turned out to be edible and magically became available


How Much Wood can a Wood Chipper Chip?

September 8, 2017

It was all go outside my study window this morning as men arrived bearing machinery…

wood chipper

Our beautiful copper beech tree, which has been planted too close to the power line that goes over our property, was due a bit of a haircut.

copper beech before

It’s a shame because it wants to be a huge and imposing tree, and we are forced to keep reducing it back down to the size and shape of a lollipop, but it’s better than losing the tree. Someone who knows more about trees than me can undoubtedly explain why it’s gone from purple to green in the process

copper beech after

While they were there, they agreed to give the goat willow pollard, which is also large and imposing but really in the wrong place, an even more radical haircut. It will grow back; I think it’s technically impossible to kill a willow.

goat willow before

It was all done with impressive speed (I have pollarded trees and that willow would have taken me about a week, rather than the 20 minutes it took them) and left us with a nice stack of willow logs which won’t make particularly brilliant firewood but are unexpectedly decorative in cross section. We also got a nice pile of wood chippings for the garden and would have had an even larger one if they could have dropped off the pile they already had in their truck but they had already lost an argument with our gatepost and decided against further manoeuvres.

willow logs

In theory, this should let the sun into what we are only half jokingly calling the Mediterranean garden (it’s where the olive tree is after all)

mediterranean garden

If the sun ever makes an appearance, I’ll let you know how that goes.

Meanwhile, there is exciting news of the ford, but that will have to wait for another day.


Getting Somewhere

September 7, 2017

So, some time last weekend, in between the cake and the cycling and the chat on other topics (we do occasionally talk about subjects other than cycling), the conversation turned to future campaigning plans. I have now been involved in cycle campaigning in one form or another for over six years and there are times when it feels like pushing a peanut uphill with your nose. We have now covered the entire electoral cycle from one Holyrood parliament to another, plus assorted referenda as well as local, European, general and snap elections. While things have undoubtedly moved on, there has always been a feeling that we were ‘the cyclists’ who speak for the tiny minority of hairy-arsed outsiders who ride bikes instead of driving cars like normal people, and who endlessly bang on about things that nobody really cares about except other cycling nutters.

This despite the fact that we have in fact been endlessly been banging on about things like public health and congestion and pollution and climate change and childhood freedom and happiness: things that we kind of hoped that everyone cares about. And maybe they do, but they haven’t connected it with the ability for people to get about, for short journeys, using the most efficient means known to man, woman or, indeed, salmon.* And yet, these things continue to matter and we continue to believe that we have the answer, or part of the answer, to many of the problems that plague Scotland today, with the exception of the midgies.

And then our First Minister stood up in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday and made the explicit connection between public health and active travel – and then put (some of) her money where her mouth was to boot

Now I know (because I’ve been told by many people online) that this isn’t enough, that it could be wasted on the wrong things, that it’s not worth celebrating until we see it happen, etc, etc. And I know that people are cynical and possibly even rightly so. But you know what? I’ve campaigned six hard years for any kind of announcement even half as positive as this and so I say sod it, I’m going to celebrate anyway.

If anyone feels that is premature, then they are very welcome to join me in the next round of nasal uphill peanut pushing, which will resume in a week or so after we’ve recovered our senses. I should warn you, though, that it’s a hell of a lot harder than going on Twitter and having a whinge. Although there is a certain element of that…

* and certainly vastly more efficient than pushing a peanut uphill with your nose