Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Portrait of an ASL

Looking at the Woolwich Road junction with the Blackwall tunnel approach overpass on google street view the other day, I was reminded of a cyclist who was killed at this junction almost a year ago.  This is what I saw:
The thing partially obscured under the silver car is a bike lane, the thing under the white van and blue car is an ASL (an Advanced Stop Line, for the use of cycles, and cycles only).  I don't know what date this view was recorded but it's before the fatality.

So what have the highway people done in the year since Adrianna's death to improve cycle safety?  I went along to see this weekend.
Have they made the cycle lane any clearer?  No.  Have they made the ASL more visible?  From the evidence of this picture, no.  All that they have done is to put up a ''cycle route ahead'' warning sign.

And how is the ASL line faring?
Well, it's not too clear is it!  The lorry, by the way, is not committing any offence because it was already there when the lights changed.  This, however, is the next step:

The blue car rolls up beyond the stop line with the lights still on red, perhaps taking its cue from the lorry already in the ASL and edging forward to get a better view of traffic approaching from the right.  Or perhaps it's so the car can get away from the lights in front of the lorry (both are heading for Greenwich).  Or perhaps because of inattention, deliberate disregard or ignorance.  Or any combination of these.

In the space of a few minutes I watched how traffic approached the ASL.  I ended up with so many pictures of infringements that it would take too long for me to upload all the photos.  So, just a handful. 

The did not see/did not know driver - note it's a left-hand drive vehicle so if you spot a beer can, it's actually in the passenger's hand not the driver's.
The follow the leader driver - ''well, he was there first:''
The ''I really can't be doing with these stop lines'' drivers:
And finally the ''I'm having my lunch not wearing a seatbelt with kids in the back (unbelted)'' driver:

I think a picture is emerging...

Monday, 22 March 2010

Maps and hills.

Following on from the last post about maps where I mentioned Quo V2, I just wondered which hill was the best to take from Greenwich up to the A2 (avoiding Blackheath Hill because it can get very unpleasant on a bike.  So I plotted 4 routes up onto the heath using Quo and then looked at their profiles. 

Starting with the shortest route, Point Hill - this is also the steepest.  This route appears furthest to the left.

Then comes Hyde Vale, it's quite a bit longer but it's pleasant.  When you get to the vale at the top,  there are birds to accompany you.  Watch out for Green Woodpeckers!

Moving right, the third to appear is Crooms Hill.  It's a little longer, but pretty steep by the church.  It's a little tight near the bottom because of parked cars but at least you have the park at your side.

Finally there's Greenwich Park.  This is the climb with the smoothest ascent and the smoothest road surface.  And it's the smoothest, fastest descent - apart from weekends when the weather's good, when you'll be slaloming stray dogs, runners and oblivious strollers. 

As I rarely take the same route twice in a row, I end up taking different ones, but the two I climb most often are Hyde Vale (maybe because I lost my virginity behind one of the trees) and Greenwich Park.  Down, however, I'll nearly always take Greenwich Park - except on sunny weekends.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Maps and stuff

I seem to have a growing fascination for maps.  Not just old ones but even new ones.  And when setting out of a shortish ride I will often look for route suggestions on some of the free online route planners.  And once I've got an idea about the lie of the land, I then choose which way to go - because great though these tools are, they never go exactly the way I want to.

A regular favourite is cyclestreets.net.  Though it will only plan journeys up to 25 miles (or is it kilometres?) part of its charm is that it will find you three routes.  On the traffic-light plan, there's a Red route (fastest), an Amber route (''balanced'') and a Green route (quietest).  In addition, it will ask you what speed you will cycle at and then give you the time it will take for the outward journey, and if you reverse the journey, it will calculate a revised time, based on a cycling version of the walkers Naismith Rule.  Finally, it will give you an elevation profile so that you get an idea about which bits are uphill and which are downhill.

And example:  I want to go from the Creekside Centre in Creekside, SE8 to the cafĂ© at the top of the hill in Greenwich Park.  So I go to their journey planner and type in Creekside.  This gives you a green marker for your start point
Now for the finish point.  Because I don't have a name for the destination, I simply click on the map in the desired place and this places the marker on that point.
So now I have a start point and an end point.  You can put the start time for your journey if you like, but you'll have to choose your speed.  Quick, cruising or unhurried.  Being only moderately enthusiastic, I will choose cruising speed.  Then click Plan this journey and give the program a couple of moments to calculate a route or three.  And this is what you end up with: the three colour-coded routes, plus an elevation profile giving the height (this view is the top of the Amber route - there are slightly different times and profiles for the other two routes.)  So, it's going to take me 12 minutes to do the 1 1/4 miles.  Below this screen image there are step-by-step map details:
How about the journey back?  Under the red ''Link with Creekside, NCN'' text, there's a return button.  This will calculate the journey back to the Creekside centre.
And, as expected, fuelled up with caffeine, the journey back will take me just 6 mins 27 seconds.

If you have GPS devices you can export the routes them and also to programs like Google Earth.  It's free and uses open source maps and is uncluttered by adverts.

However, great though this is, there's a rider: I wouldn't take any of these routes.  I'd zoom down to the bottom gate in the park, coast down King William Walk and then navigate the one-way system in Greenwich taking care not to knock tourists over who have a habit of wandering along in the middle of the street.  And the quickest route directs the cyclist through the Greenwich Industrial Estate (between Norman Road and the access road to the DLR station).  This route though, is now shut off to the public - the estate is no longer industrious.

(Also cyclestreets.net have a photomap where you can upload pictures: these can be related to nasty holes in the ground, cycling facilities, bike repair shops, signs.)  Here's one I uploaded as an example of redundant signpost frenzy:
Here, using another program, Quo v2, (free to download but you have to buy the OS maps to go with it - still cheap though) is the route I'd take, out in blue and back in green.  But I'll go into Quo in more detail in another post.
College Road

Saturday, 13 March 2010

A murderous week on London's streets

Ok, I know, cyclists actually live for longer on average than our more sedentary road users,and that cycling is a safe mode of transport, but think how much longer the cyclist's average life could be.

On 9 March 2010, a cyclist was knocked down by a tipper truck near Weston Street.  21 years old, a fourth year medical student on his way to lectures, this cyclist died instantly as the Keltbray tipper lorry ran over him.

A day later, in Hackney (roundabout, Lauriston Road and Victoria Park Road) a woman in her early 20s was hit by a left-turning tipper lorry, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Of course, the place for apportioning blame for these is the courts.  Nevertheless HGVs, with their distant, elevated driving positions, their many blind spots and their drag sweep when turning,mean that lorries and buses are a constant danger for cyclists.  So, no matter what the circumstances were, take a look at this poster and think:

If you feel that this poster and or any of the writing above might serve a purpose on your blog please, please, copy what you want and pass it on.  I know it's grim to even think about but it is our duty to try and prevent accidents.  And if you have a little spare ink in your printer, why not print off a few sheets using the links below...?

2 x A5 PDF

UPDATE: John, via the comments page has just reminded me of the TfL road safety video here http://www.tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/cycling/11687.aspx  Both the advice to cyclists and the graphics showing  LGV blind spots are very illustrative of the dangers.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Cycling grandfather (1)

So, a couple of days ago, my daughter phoned me up.   Yesterday this arrived on my doorstep:

This little thingummybob is a 58mm Marmoset Minor, or Marmoset III, if you prefer.  Early days yet, of course.  But if all goes smoothly, I'll be a grandfather in 6 months time.  This in fact is his/her very first appearance on a public forum so you'll have to pardon the back-to-the-camera shyness.

How do I feel?  I think ''eekstatic'' describes the mixture of panic and joy.  But I may turn out to be one of the pioneers of cycling grandfather blogs - fairly unsurprisingly there don't seem to be many at all.  Cue puns about the cycle of life....

A little while later....

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Sorry if this ''what does this do?'' experiment has bumped the blog up the listings on some other blogs.

Monday, 1 March 2010

(Very) faded London.

I managed to find the marker of the old boundary between Kent and Surrey the other day in Plough Street. Though it's not the original marker, it serves as a reminder how boundaries shift over time. Today, estate agents consider the St Pauls part of Deptford as Greenwich and, in a previous post I noted how what was once Deptford Common and Deptford Cemetery are now Brockley, and on another front, the big blue sign greeting travellers when they get to Deptford Bridge reads ''Welcome to Lewisham.'' And what was once known as Hatcham now only persists in street and building names but no longer as a district. In fact, I don't know where the boundaries of Hatcham used to be before they got swallowed up by New Cross. Anyhow, I managed to spot an old, very faded, wall advert above the now-closed corner shop on Camplin Street and Egmont Street. As they're just behind Hatcham Park Road, I'll risk saying that it's in Hatcham.At the bottom, the word BREAD is legible though none of the upper part is still visible. Maybe someone somewhere will know what it once said - or depicted - I get the impression that there are traces of a picture but this is probably a trick of the brickwork lines.

And here's another robin being exceptionally possessive of a Greenwich Park Litter bin. The plucky wee fellow was only about 4 foot away from me but definitely didn't want me coming any closer. Robins have their boundaries too...Our peripatetic cryptologist, CarolineLD, has paid a visit and pointed out the letters DAREN leading diagonally downward - I've reposted a detail, in B&W with a shade more contrast. It looks a little more visible to me that way.