Friday, 28 September 2012

Critical mutterings

Well, its almost October and having created this blog, I have only so far stuck some photos on it, about time I actually wrote something methinks. I could wheel out lots of excuses about being busy writing etc, being a freelance journalist, but I somehow suspect they wouldn't be convincing. In truth, my inattention to this blog so far reflects my outer slothfulness. What I mean by this is that I haven't, I am afraid to say, taken part in a Bristol Critical Mass ride for a long time, probably at least a year.

I keep comforting myself with the excuse that my crank needs fixing, but that's a bit limp. It's only £25 down the Mud Dock cycle shop so I should have sorted this out by now. Fortunately however, I have started budgeting my accounts properly, and so now I have that £25 reserved and imprinted firmly on my expenses spreadsheet, which I intend paying intense attention to. Also, I will be attending Critical Mass tonight, thanks largely to a fellow member, Michael, who has offered to loan me the use of his folding bicycle. I am really looking forward to it, even though it will be cold and dark outside, but hey enough of that, sounds like there's quite a good gig happening at the Cube to reward us for our exertions afterwards.

So, what is happening in Bristol, and elsewhere, these days then? Well this post is my attempt to provide a news roundup of stuff gleaned from CM Bristol's Facebook group page, starting from July when I first created the blog.

Just after I announced my idea of creating the blog on the FB group page, a debate started happening on there about whether better, safer, parking for bikes was needed in Bristol. One member responded to that initial post by commenting that a strong D-lock (mine only cost £10 by the way) should deter most cycle thieves. There was the danger of a bit of an argument happening for a bit, but then Rob broke in with a question about where a bike park should be located. Another member suggested that bike lockers would be a magnet for thieves but then someone pointed out that there was a bike park at Bristol Castle, which I presume is that area to one end of Castle Park. I will have to check that out I think. An idea to create an indoor cycle storage facility also emerged, but sadly it would need a lot of funding to set up, so it doesn't like that its going anywhere anytime soon. Cabot Circus apparently were supposed to build a secure bike park in the North-East corner of Castle Park but have instead chosen to build a coach park there instead. The word on the FB group in July was that the city council were thinking of taking them to court. I don't know how far that has progressed since, but watch this space.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, it seems that Leicester City Council have already provided their citizens with an indoor bike park. Have a look at this:

Showers and lockers included as well eh? Very impressive!

Rob suggested to Matt, the originator of the Bristol idea, that a petition could be sorted to try and persuade the city council to follow Leicester's example. I have just this minute signed it actually, and you can do so here:

Matt also mentioned that it might also be possible to raise the idea at the Bristol Cycle Forum ( which is attended by Sustrans and held on the third Thursday of every month. I'll note that down in my diary.

And that was as far as the discussion on bike parks got, on the FB group at least. I will endeavour to investigate further what's going on with this and provide some updates.

Harvey Bikebell posted this, which should be sung to Pink Floyd's The Wall, which I thought was most amusing:
We don't need no petrol station
We don't need to drive a car
No more traffic in the cities

people leave the car at home
hey, people, leave the car at home
after all it's just another bike on the road (x2)

we don't need to find a parking
we don't need to wait for a bus
no pollution in the cities

people leave the car at home
hey, people, leave the car at home
after all it's just another bike on the road !

Moving on, what do you think of this, an invisible bike helmet?:

Basically it's a bit like a car airbag which you wear round your neck and which then inflates when you are involved in an accident.

Someone came up with an idea for a 'Community Bike Cafe' called Roll For The Soul:

Bristol’s got a unique cycling culture and it needs and deserves a proper bike cafĂ©. That’s what Roll for the Soul is going to be. After months of planning, head scratching, coffee, and not really enough actual riding of bikes, we’re at the point where things are starting to get exciting. We’ve got a business plan that stacks up, we’ve talked to a lot of great people from great organisations who might end up being partners of one sort or another, we’ve submitted a few funding bids. Actually none of that sounds particularly exciting, does it? But what is exciting is getting the word out, talking to all you lovely people about it, and getting you involved so that when we open you all feel that it’s yours. That’s the point, see? For Bristol cyclists, by Bristol cyclists.

Please, please like this page and ask your friends, relatives, neighbours, workmates, acquaintances and even mortal enemies to do the same. Roll for the Soul (that’s what it’s called, see?) can only happen if people support it (more very soon on tangible ways of doing that). For the time-being this page will be the main way of keeping track of progress and giving us your ideas. So please stay in touch.

Finally, massive props to everyone who’s helped so far. In particular that means Jack, Rosie, Rich, Ryan, Katy, James P, James L and several other people from the wonderful The Bristol Bike Project. You’re all legends.

Now, LIKE! SHARE! and spread the word far and wide. Thanks!

As with the bike park petition, I will keep you posted, however here is some more info courtesy of Crowdfunder:

If you fancy downloading some images or bike posters and that kind of thing, have a look at this:

A warning to bike thieves:

And another:

This guy sounds like Black Francis from The Pixies, I really like the song though:

While we are on the subject of music, here's another contribution:

And there's more where that came from:

Here's a great vid of August's Bristol Critical Mass:

I can't seem to embed this in the text unfortunately, but I'll try and create a special box for it a bit later. Meanwhile, Mark had to do a bit of lane splitting as a result of gridlock from a lorry overturning on one of Bristol's main roads:

Here is another amusing image, not connected with bike thiefs this time though:

On to something more serious, a petition to extend 20 mph zones over other areas of the city:

Just to remind you of the kind of venom we are up against with regard to psychopathic petrolheads, here's a reminder from that total right-wing prat P. J. O'Rourke:

A Cool and Logical Analysis
of the Bicycle Menace
And an Examination of the Actions Necessary to License, Regulate,
or Abolish Entirely This Dreadful Peril on our Roads

by P.J. O'Rourke

Our nation is afflicted with a plague of bicycles. Everywhere the public right-of-way is glutted with whirring, unbalanced contraptions of rubber, wire, and cheap steel pipe. Riders of these flimsy appliances pay no heed to stop signs or red lights. They dart from between parked cars, dash along double yellow lines, and whiz through crosswalks right over the toes of law-abiding citizens like me.

In the cities, every lamppost, tree, and street sign is disfigured by a bicycle slathered in chains and locks. And elevators must be shared with the cycling faddist so attached to his "moron's bath-chair" that he has to take it with him everywhere he goes.

In the country, one cannot drive around a curve or over the crest of a hill without encountering a gaggle of huffing bicyclers spread across the road in suicidal phalanx.

Even the wilderness is not safe from infestation, as there is now such a thing as an off-road bicycle and a horrible sport called "bicycle-cross."

The ungainly geometry and primitive mechanicals of the bicycle are an offense to the eye. The grimy and perspiring riders of the bicycle are an offense to the nose. And the very existence of the bicycle is an offense to reason and wisdom.


1. Bicycles are childish
Bicycles have their proper place, and that place is under small boys delivering evening papers. Insofar as children are too short to see over the dashboards of cars and too small to keep motorcycles upright at intersections, bicycles are suitable vehicles for them. But what are we to make of an adult in a suit and tie pedaling his way to work? Are we to assume he still delivers newspapers for a living? If not, do we want a doctor, lawyer, or business executive who plays with toys? St. Paul, in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, 13:11, said, "When I became a man, I put away childish things." He did not say, "When I became a man, I put away childish things and got more elaborate and expensive childish things from France and Japan."

Considering the image projected, bicycling commuters might as well propel themselves to the office with one knee in a red Radio Flyer wagon.

2. Bicycles are undignified
A certain childishness is, no doubt, excusable. But going about in public with one's head between one's knees and one's rump protruding in the air is nobody's idea of acceptable behavior.

It is impossible for an adult to sit on a bicycle without looking the fool. There is a type of woman, in particular, who should never assume the bicycling posture. This is the woman of ample proportions. Standing on her own feet she is a figure to admire-classical in her beauty and a symbol, throughout history, of sensuality, maternal virtue, and plenty. Mounted on a bicycle, she is a laughingstock.

In a world where loss of human dignity is such a grave and all-pervading issue, what can we say about people who voluntarily relinquish all of theirs and go around looking at best like Quixote on Rosinante and more often like something in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade? Can such people be trusted? Is a person with so little self-respect likely to have any respect for you?

3. Bicycles are unsafe
Bicycles are top-heavy, have poor brakes, and provide no protection to their riders. Bicycles are also made up of many hard and sharp components which, in collision, can do grave damage to people and the paint finish on automobiles. Bicycles are dangerous things.

Of course, there's nothing wrong, per se, with dangerous things. Speedboats, racecars, fine shotguns, whiskey, and love are all very dangerous. Bicycles, however, are dangerous without being any fun. You can't shoot pheasants with a bicycle or water-ski behind it or go 150 miles an hour or even mix it with soda and ice. And the idea of getting romantic on top of a bicycle is alarming. All you can do with one of these ten-speed sink traps is grow tired and sore and fall off it.

Being dangerous without being fun puts bicycles in a category with open-heart surgery, the war in Vietnam, the South Bronx, and divorce. Sensible people do all that they can to avoid such things as these.

4. Bicycles are un-American
We are a nation that worships speed and power. And for good reason. Without power we would still be part of England and everybody would be out of work. And if it weren't for speed, it would take us all months to fly to L.A., get involved in the movie business, and become rich and famous.

Bicycles are too slow and impuissant for a country like ours. They belong in Czechoslovakia...

5. I don't like the kind of people who ride bicycles
At least I think I don't. I don't actually know anyone who rides a bicycle. But the people I see on bicycles look like organic-gardening zealots who advocate federal regulation of bedtime and want American foreign policy to be dictated by UNICEF. These people should be confined.

I apologize if I have the wrong impression. It may be that bicycle riders are all members of the New York Stock Exchange, Methodist bishops, retired Marine Corps drill instructors, and other solid citizens. However, the fact that they cycle around in broad daylight making themselves look like idiots indicates that they're crazy anyway and should be confined just the same.

6. Bicycles are unfair
Bicycles use the same roads as cars and trucks yet they pay no gasoline tax, carry no license plates, are not required to have insurance, and are not subject to DOT, CAFE, or NHTSA regulations. Furthermore, bicyclists do not have to take driver's examinations, have eye tests when they're over sixty-five, carry registration papers with them, or submit to breathalyzer tests under the threat of law. And they never get caught in radar traps.

The fact (see No. 5, above) that bicycles are ridden by the very people who most favor government interference in life makes the bicycle's special status not only unfair but an outright incitement to riot.

Equality before the law is the cornerstone of democracy. Bicycles should be made to carry twenty-gallon tanks of gasoline. They should be equipped with twelve-volt batteries and a full complement of taillights, headlamps, and turn signals. They should have seat belts, air bags, and safety-glass windows too. And every bicycle rider should be inspected once a year for hazardous defects and be made to wear a number plate hanging around his neck and another on the seat of his pants.

7. Bicycles are good exercise
And so is swinging through trees on your tail. Mankind has invested more than four million years of evolution in the attempt to avoid physical exertion. Now a group of backward-thinking atavists mounted on foot-powered pairs of Hula-Hoops would have us pumping our legs, gritting our teeth, and searing our lungs as though we were being chased across the Pleistocene savanna by saber-toothed tigers. Think of the hopes, the dreams, the effort, the brilliance, the pure force of will that, over the eons, has gone into the creation of the Cadillac Coupe de Ville. Bicycle riders would have us throw all this on the ash heap of history.

What must be done about about the bicycle threat?
Fortunately, nothing. Frustrated truck drivers and irate cabbies make a point of running bicycles off the road. Terrified old ladies jam umbrella ferrules into wheel spokes as bicycles rush by them on sidewalks. And all of us have occasion to back over bicycles that are haplessly parked.

Bicycles are quiet and slight, difficult for normal motorized humans to see and hear. People pull out in front of bicycles, open car doors in their path, and drive through intersections filled with the things. The insubstantial bicycle and its unshielded rider are defenseless against these actions. It's a simple matter of natural selection. The bicycle will be extinct within the decade. And what a relief that will be.

© P.J. O'Rourke
from 'Republican Party Reptile', The Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 1987

So, that's it for now, apart from just to say that the ride for tonight, in theory, will attract 38 people, so hopefully should be really good.

Oh, one more thing, I am writing an article on greening Bristol's transport system for cycling and transport magazine AtoB. I will let you know when it's out, but I've already submitted it and now just gathering photographs so should be out soon.

See you later guys!

1 comment:

  1. The bicycle menace article is hilarious! Please post more if you find it!