Bonus Ride

May 24, 2019

I had for some reason thought that things might get a bit calmer after PoP – a chance to chill out, catch up with some gardening, possibly even tidy the house (but let’s not go mad, eh?). Naturally that didn’t happen and this last week has been particularly bonkers as I’ve tried to combine a rash of tight deadlines, commitments I’d taken on in the intoxicating day and a half when I thought I might be about to have some spare time, and coordinating a non-Pop demo (of which more anon) which suddenly kicked up into high gear just as the sun came out and the countryside hit peak May in all its blink-and-you’ll-miss-it loveliness.

fresh green trees

So today was a bonus: one of the commitments I’d taken on was to lead a chilled ride out to lunch for a local cycling event and although the forecast was for it to be at best cloudy, the weather outdid itself.

I was leading a select bunch of nice people who were happy to ride at the speed of chat, and I was suddenly reminded just what an amazing place we happen to live in (especially at this time of year).

We stopped to climb a half-ruined tower and watch the house martins from above as they hoovered up insects and came into their nests

Drumcoltran tower

And we barely saw a car.

trees just coming into leaf

I still have a million things to do and I have no doubt that the few hours it took out of my day could have been more productively spent but I don’t regret it for an instant.

And now, back to the grindstone…

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Club 50-80

May 19, 2019

Anyone following along on Twitter will know that I managed to crack the code and get my £17 ticket to Inverness – meaning my £15 Club 50 membership has already paid for itself about 4 times over. I even managed to navigate the various hazards of late-running trains, tight connections and the late train home from Glasgow which can be lively* on a Saturday night.

Inverness itself was eye-opening. One of our latest projects for We Walk, We Cycle, We Vote is to try and understand how our streets can be redesigned to accommodate not just cycling but visually impaired and disabled people as well. We felt that the best way to do that was to go on an exploration together with a motley crew of blind people with guide dogs and white sticks, a young man in a wheelchair, and a handful of campaigners.

Inverness street sculpture

Public art or confusing obstacle? If all you have to go on is your white cane, this appears to be a flight of steps

At one point, with a pair of specs on that effectively rendered me completely blind, I had to put my own safety in the hands of one of our blind companions. I know that these sorts of simulations aren’t always considered all that illuminating (all I really learned was that I was completely incapable of moving anywhere without my vision, which I could probably have guessed) but it is a humbling experience to allow yourself to be led through the streets by someone who can’t see either but can navigate confidently and calmly and transmit that confidence to you. And, in a way I can’t quite put into words, it changed the whole dynamic of the discussion afterwards into something much more open and mutually illuminating. Maybe there’s something in those annoying trust exercises after all.

Looking at a dropped kerb

Kerb nerdery with a purpose

This is a work in progress, and we’ll be repeating the exercise in Glasgow and Edinburgh in a few weeks with different participant. Excitingly, this means that not only will I get a chance to deepen my understanding of what ‘streets for all’ really means in practice, but I’ll get to use my Club 50 card again. I knew my 50s were going to be fun. Just don’t expect to find me in the party carriage any time soon.

* Fortunately this time the party was going on in the other carriage; I was facing the other way so couldn’t see what was going on but, from the running commentary provided by a group of teenage boys who could see – indeed were craning their necks to make sure they didn’t miss any of it (‘she’s got her top off and she’s wearing a black bra’) – the group of women making most of the noise had lunched very well indeed.


Garden Visiting

May 12, 2019

Bike parked by garden

Sometimes everything just comes together and this afternoon was one of those times: glorious May weather, a gap (of sorts; there’s always something I could usefully be doing) in the schedule and not one but two open gardens to visit, both of them, crucially, offering teas.

Sunny view

Of course, this being May, you don’t have to go far to be struck by the beauty of late spring – this is the wood along our road at the moment.

spring woods alongside road

And you don’t have to go far to find bluebells either – even on the short ride down to the first garden, famous for its bluebell wood, I was assailed on all sides by the heady smell of them and shimmers of blue beneath the fresh spring green, but it was worth the visit, and not just because of the chance to catch up with Old Nearest Village gossip (the oldest inhabitant, who sweeps the board at the village show each year, lost her greenhouse over the winter so it’s all to play for in the tomato classes) and the ample tea.

bluebell wood

(We’ll draw a veil over one chap who managed to go from ‘why don’t you wear a helmet?’ to ‘I just drive them off the road anyway, they get in my way and slow me down’ in just three moves, a record, I believe).

Then it was off down more quiet rural roads to the next garden.

road with overhanging trees

(Potholes not shown; some of them were truly spectacular. I particularly liked the stretch where just one of them had been outlined in red, presumably for mending, while the dozen other equally hazardous ones around it had been ignored).

The second garden was also spectacular but more of the ‘just shows what you can do if you’ve got staff’ variety (as observed by the only other cyclist there). Also you had to pay separately for your tea, so I was glad I’d made good at the first. I am gradually learning that the posher the garden, the less generous the tea arrangements.

formal garden

All in all a very splendid day. Although our morning coffee on the bench, enjoying the view, (and my homemade chelsea buns) was possibly just as enjoyable …

coffee and chelsea buns

… Especially as it didn’t come with a side order of cyclist-baiting remarks.


Falling Flat

April 30, 2019

So, for the last few weeks I’ve been looking forward to this moment – Pop safely, indeed successfully, over and a chance to catch up with myself, maybe relax a bit, and generally find the rhythm of normal life again. There’s still a little post-POP admin to do, including soothing the ruffled feathers of people who want to know why they hadn’t known it was happening and feel this is somehow my fault, even after they acknowledge that they did see a few posts about it on social media but hadn’t bothered to click on the links. Yeah, I don’t know either, pal, maybe next year I’ll come round to your house and read out the POP website to you? Although I think that may not be in line with the GDPR.

Meanwhile, my recent neglect of those little life admin tasks has been catching up with me. My study looks like an explosion in a cow costume factory and my filing backlog has reached the stage where I’m only able to find stuff by identifying which strata it may have been buried in. More to the point, when I got a flat last week after our epic party ride, and noted that three patches on an inner tube was possibly a sign that I should perhaps get a spare, I didn’t get any further than forming a vague intention to buy one next time I was passing the bike shop. Obviously that meant that yesterday evening I got off the train from a meeting in Glasgow to find my bike had yet another puncture and I had neither pump, patches, nor spare inner tube to avoid the ignominious phone call for a lift home.

So today was spent practising my puncture repair technique, which I’m actually getting reasonably slick at. I would have done it all singlehandedly had not our new neighbour passed as I was fitting the tyre back on and unilaterally came over and helped me with it. Indeed, so easy has it been to get the tyre on and off that I actually double checked that the back tyre (which is only just over a year old, and therefore just getting bedded in as far as I’m concerned) really was a Marathon Plus – and not just because it has suffered four punctures in its short lifetime. This time culprit was a couple of blackthorns, and even Marathon Pluses have never quite been proof against those, but even so I don’t remember when I’ve had quite so many visits from the puncture fairy in the space of a few months.

Still, a new inner tube has been fitted, the bike is running sweetly again and I’ve even formed a very firm intention to buy another inner tube to act as a spare. And maybe do something about the fact that the front tyre is looking somewhat bald, before that comes back to bite me.

But you know, all in the fullness of time…


POP-tastic

April 28, 2019

What can I say, except that it’s been a busy weekend…

Normally Pedal on Parliament is stressful, but the stress is at least concentrated on one key question, will anyone turn up for our mass ride? And then when they do, we can repair to the pub and celebrate a job well done

This weekend we’ve had three days of wondering whether anyone would turn up to be a human bike lane, attend a school bike bus, help finish a bike lane with teddy bears (or toy hoovers), go for a mass ride in Dundee, or Aberdeen, or even Dalkeith, combine a hill climb race with a bit of guerrilla meter-maiding, or any one of a number of other mad events. And, in particular, whether anyone would want to cycle round Bigtown dressed as a cow.

Fortunately, the answer to all those questions was ‘yes – and far more than you might initially expect’ (except maybe in Bigtown, although we did at least have just enough to count as a small herd). Unfortunately, because they were all happening across the length and breadth of Scotland – and over three exhausting days – we weren’t able to repair to the pub afterwards either. We’ll have to rectify that omission soon, because the post-implementation review is the most important part of any event.

You can read about it all here and here and here. Thankfully, it wasn’t me manning the various social media feeds because just looking at them makes me feel exhausted.

And now, I need to go and remember what it was we used to do, before we did this.

cow on a bike

Photo courtesy of John Henry

 


The Cow Pannier Rides Again

April 24, 2019

When you’ve suddenly got to be in Bigtown for a photocall for the local paper, and you need to transport three spare cow costumes, because dressing up as cows for a protest ride seemed like a good idea in the pub, there is really only one tool for the job:

Cow pannier on bike

Sadly, just a temporary bodge rather than a real resurrection

When I first started cycle campaigning I think I imagined I’d be attending meetings, looking at plans for new infrastructure and maybe making the odd impassioned presentation to officials and politicians, much of which I have done. But I don’t think I bargained for dashing down to the local park to be photographed in a homemade cow costume.

In fact, cycle campaigning (at least the way I do it) has turned out to require a diverse skillset – not just costume making, but bunting manufacture, and indeed, knitting jumpers for bollards. Which is fortunate, given my deficiency in the more traditional cycling related skills of bike repairs, routefinding and even (in recent months at least) keeping the rubber side down.

But mainly, it seems to require baking, and lots of it. Which in turn requires plenty of cycling, to burn it all off.

cake

Actually, I can see no problem with this situation.

Anyway, this is really just a long-winded way of checking that everyone reading this in Scotland has picked out which Pedal on Parliament #PopUpPop they will be attending this weekend (and if you can’t make it, could you at least buy the t-shirt?)


Party in the Back

April 21, 2019

Old military road

So we had a party to attend this afternoon – a 70th birthday celebration, just down on the coast, a mere 24 miles away as the bike rides and while, even for me, a round trip of 48 miles* is a bit of a reach, the weather was so gorgeous we decided to go for it anyway.

spring woods

There are so many reasons for embarking on such an adventure: saving some CO2 emissions, being able to take full advantage of the party catering (delicious), having something to talk about to your fellow guests, and the chance to properly appreciate all the glories of spring as it gets into gear. But never mind all that for we came back via papershop village and our old house and that meant a chance to check out developments at the ford.

Our ford correspondent has been keeping us updated on the stupidity of surfacing a road that is underwater 90% of the time with tarmac, and its subsequent deterioration, but I haven’t had a chance to see this for myself until now. After an unprecedentedly dry spring, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check it out – but it turns out the powers that be are on to it. They have seen the error of their ways and reverted to concrete:

ford repairs

And they have not been messing around.

ford repairs closer

More on this important story as we get news.

* 49.9 once you’ve factored in the odd navigational error. Ahem.