Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Headphones and Helmets

These are nothing more than a distraction from the real issues concerning cycling. Banning earphones or making helmets compulsory will NOT make overall cycling safer nor will it attract more people to cycling.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

The Boris Safety School for Victims

Advanced Listening for Cyclists

Never wear headphones. Safety guru Boris, has [now] classed these as dangerous machinery and must never be worn whilst cycling.

In this course we'll teach you how to distinguish the difference between a safely driven vehicle and a HGV being driven by an incompetent, dangerous driver, who isnt wearing his required glasses, by listening alone. We will help refine your hearing abilities to such an extent that you'll be able to

  • differentiate between an angry beeping Audi driver and say a truck driver that will simply mow you down because they were on the phone.
  • detect the tell tale sounds of a driver that is texting
  • recognise the make & model of the car behind you.
  • hear the words "Road Tax" at a distance of up to 400m

Many of our better students go onto perfect the art of listening to such an extent that they rarely ever need to look over their shoulder (a manoeuvre known as a life-saver). Why bother routinely looking over your shoulder when you can rely on your hearing, which is infinitely more valuable than using your vision.

In the rare event that your hearing detects an inconsiderate, aggressive or out right dangerous driver such as a 4x4 on the school run, we'll show you how to safely launch yourself off your bike at great speed to avoid peril. Time is of the essence for this safety action, once you hear the tell tale signs of an incompetent driver you must not delay the launch. Naturally it is important to differentiate between a dangerous driver and a false-positive, like engine braking, otherwise you are in danger of looking pretty stupid by launching yourself off your bike for no reason. We will teach you how to do this safely and robustly. Naturally we insist that helmets must be worn when practising the safety jump.

As listening is such a vital part of road safety we strongly advise deaf people to stay indoors as they are unable to differentiate the tell tale sounds of a dangerous driver.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Dutch Roundabout Is It Safer?

Interesting youtube of a Dutch roundabout in Amsterdam.

Roundabouts are notorious places for cyclists, and I'd like to know how the Dutch find their roundabouts compared to cycling on the road in the UK. I'd expect these to be much safer, but I was quite shocked watching the footage as many motorists are failing to give way and cutting bikes/mopeds up quite badly.
Really bad ones
- two cars fail to give way, second women is nearly knocked off and has to stop and recompose herself before carrying on
Trucks cant see the cyclist coming from there right because of the blind spot, as the driver is on the left of the cab

Monday, 2 September 2013

Cycling being encouraged in the Peaks, but are Derbyshire Police being Lacklustre?

Many MPs that represent the Peak District highlight that cycling is an integral and celebrated part of this much loved national park. Our national cycling team routinely train on the hills, and the area is always frequented by many cyclists. However, given the back drop of the #GetBritainCycling debate, with MPs from the Peak District welcoming new funding for cycling, and demanding better police enforcement, are the Derbyshire police taking aggression against cyclists seriously?

It appears the police are doing very little about this very recent hit and run on the Snake pass where a cyclist was deliberately knocked off his bike at very high speed.

Yet next week many cyclists are being encouraged to visit the park for the inaugural Peak District Cycling Festival. There are various events, many of which are sportives where participants will be cycling long distances on the road. Can the Peak District justify attracting cyclists to the national park if it's police force are being lacklustre in investigating a serious and deliberate hit and run?

If you would like to know what is being done maybe tweet the council and police?

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Getting to the Peaks

The Peak District is a fantastic place to cycle. There are many quiet lanes, ideally suited to touring and road-cycling, which weave their way through spectacular scenery. Some of these lanes are as close to cycling nirvana as you will find anywhere in the country. Equally there are many off-road routes for all grades of mountain bikers and there are a host of dedicated family trails for leisure cyclists, like the Tissington, Monsal, and Derwent trail. However, getting to the Peak District usually requires one to either drive or cycle on A-roads.

There are two distinct groups of people cycling in the Peaks, one group is locals, from surrounding areas such as Sheffield, and a large fraction of these will likely cycle directly into the Peaks from their homes, whilst the other people are tourists and occasional leisure cyclists.

The family leisure cyclists are very well catered for with facilities such as the Monsal Head trail and the Derwent reservoir. These off-road trails are suitable for young children and families wishing to amble along at a steady pace, and offer safe idyllic cycling. However, the vast majority (if not all) of the tourists and leisure cyclists, will drive to the Peaks.

Whilst it is possible to arrive by train, I suspect very few would consider this, given the trains have a ridiculous 2 cycle limit policy, making it practically impossible for a family to do anything else but drive to a trail. For example, there are only three viable trains on a Sunday from Nottingham/Derby to Matlock. That means only a grand total of SIX CYCLISTS can take a day trip to the Peaks. What a sad state of affairs.

Many Cyclists are using A-roads

The family leisure facilities in the Peaks, like the Monsal trail are a fantastic resource, and the councils and cycling campaigners like Sustrans seem very eager to promote and spend money on this type of shared-use infrastructure. However, such facilities only represents (imo) a small amount of the cycling activity in the Peaks. The vast majority of miles cycled will be by locals using road and mountain bikes, and much of it will be cycled on the lanes/tracks through quiet localities. However, many of these cyclists will use fast A-roads to arrive at the Peaks, such as the A625, A57, and A621 from Sheffield. And this is where the problem lies. Despite the amazing lanes for touring and off-road trails for mountain bikers, many of these routes are sometimes (if not mostly) accessed from A-roads. So whilst money is always favourably given to projects like the Monsal trail, the interests of other cyclists in the Peaks are actually being neglected, as little money is ever spent on making these A-roads safer or more attractive to cycle on.

Cyclists are not just using A-roads to get to the Peaks but are using many of the fast A-roads within the heart of the Peaks, since these have to be negotiated as you move from one peaceful locality to another. For example, to get from Abney/Eyam/Foolow to Monsal you have to cross or use the A623 for a small stretch. To get from Baslow to Chatsworth you have to use the A619. To get from Chatsworth to Birchover you have to cross and use parts of the A6.

This post is timely as Strava (the GPS tracking site) recently released a Heat Map showing the routes that cyclists were taking throughout the world. We can use this to see that the A-roads in the Peak District are routinely frequented by cyclists.

  1. A6 - one of the most hideous roads in the Peaks, yet some people are using it Link
  2. A57 - Snake pass Link
  3. A57 From Sheffield - Lady Bower Link
  4. A6187 - Hathersage to Hope Link
  5. A625Link
  6. A625Link
  7. A621 - Sheffield, Totley to Peaks LinkLink2
  8. A619 - Chesterfield to Peaks LinkLink2
  9. A625 - Glossop to Chapel Link
  10. A628 - This is the road will be used by the Tour de France from Holme Moss to Sheffield, but is unfortunately one of the most bike unfriendly roads in the entire Peak District, yet some brave people are using it - Link
But this pattern of using A-roads is not restricted to the Peaks. Take a look at  Box Hill.


The Peak District, like many parts of the UK, offers many quiet and secluded lanes which are ideally suited to cycling. Yet to get to these areas one must usually negotiate A-roads and busy junctions. Equally, cycling between peaceful localities within the Peaks can only be done by crossing or using fast stretches of A-roads. This is not just a problem for road/touring cyclists but also for some mountain bikers, which are frequently seen on the A-roads in the Peak District. Yet very little safe infrastructure is provided for cyclists on these roads. Instead the primary focus of council authorities, and cycling charities like Sustrans, is usually to place any money into leisure facilities like the Monsal trail. Whilst such facilities are greatly welcomed and are a magnificent resource for families, they neglect the need of many regular cyclists in the Peak district. I suspect this happens for two reasons. The first is cycling is woefully underfunded in this country, and what little money is available is used to promote leisure facilities that are likely to draw tourists. The second is the authorities most likely under-estimate how many routine cyclists are using the A-roads, and have very little data on the routes regular cyclists are using. Equally, whilst the latter cyclists may not be using the headline facilities like the Monsal Head trail, they are routinely visiting the Peaks and spending their money in cafes and pubs, and are thus a vital part of the economy.

My worry is that all new cycling money, like that announced yesterday, will always be focused on leisure paths, and will neglect the growing need to make many of the transit routes into the Peaks safer, more accessible, and more attractive to new cyclists. Because the ideal case is to have new cyclists, cycling to the Peak district and not getting in a car to drive to a leisure route.

Friday, 28 June 2013

How Much Tax Does An Average Car-Owner Pay?

Free Loading Cyclists

How much more tax does a driving motorist effectively pay compared to a free-loading cyclist that is on the same wage?

Well here is a simple spread sheet comparing two people on a £30,000 salary, with the same council tax burden, and each saving the same amount of money each year.

The car owner pays around £655 more, but once you subtract the cost of "accidents" (£13 billion) and road building (£9 billion) that number is greatly reduced to a paltry


notice the minus sign, the motorist pays less tax! .. and if you include further externalities into the mix then that number will quickly become even more negative.


The only externalities I have included in the calculation were the cost of road-building and the cost of "accidents". I specifically avoided other associated costs due to pollution and the NHS burden because it convolutes the argument and is somewhat subjective. One must bear in mind that the people who don't drive still greatly benefit from the roads. They receive goods from internet shopping and postal deliveries, they use taxis, and benefit from freight that deliveries their groceries to shops. So even though they don't drive, they still indirectly contribute to the externalities of motoring. Also many cyclists own cars, so I think it greatly weakens the argument to include any additional externalities when making a comparison.

Why Compare Same Salaries and Same Savings?

The comparison was constrained by using the same salary, and crucially the same savings, whilst allowing spending to take up the slack in the calculation. Why did I do this? Well firstly trying to account for every socio-economic influence would be too difficult, and instead a simple mathematical principle can be used. Cyclists in the UK still represent a minority, which is dwarfed by a massive non-cycling motorist population. From simple statistics, we can state for every cyclist you can always find an equivalent motorist that will have the same salary, the same council tax burden, and who is saving the same amount annually. Therefore the only difference between these two individuals is their spare cash that they spend.

Does Salary Make a Difference?

Now this is interesting, if you change the salary, or change the amount of savings being compared then the difference paid in tax is

always the same!

That's right, try changing the numbers in the spread sheet. The difference in tax is always £655. Why? Because the tax paid on general spending, or the car-standing-charge is a constant ratio, which is VAT!

Tax paid on Spending

Any sharp readers who have looked at the maths in the spread sheet will see that I've taken all the "spending money" and taxed it at 20%. This is a hack. Really this should be a number between 0 and 20% since not all of the spending money would incur tax. i.e. food shopping, mortgage payments, buying second hand consumables rather than brand new. However, choosing this number is not straight forward, as it will depend on the socio-economic status of the people being compared.

But all is not lost in the calculation. We can easily tabulate the extra tax paid against an overall tax-spending-rate, which takes into account purchases and costs which are not subject to VAT.

Effective Tax Rate on Spending MoneyDifference in overall Tax Paid Minus Externalities
0.20 £655-£77
0.18 £731-£1
0.16 £808£74
0.14 £884£151
0.12 £960£227
0.10 £1036£303

Also, if you change the overall salaries, the numbers in the above table do not change!
Therefore, regardless of salary, or savings a motorist is typically paying a very similar tax burden to a person without a car when you compare similar socio-economic conditions (i.e. how much tax they pay on their spending money and living costs).

Only motorists that do more mileage than the average will pay more tax. And that extra tax burden increases by around £76 for every 1000 additional miles that they drive.


When you account for the fact that non car-owners have more spare spending cash than car-owners, you find that they are actually paying very similar tax burdens, despite different salary groups and socio-economic conditions. Yet the government throws massive amounts of money at motoring and road building, whilst neglecting other road users, despite the fact that these demographics appear to be paying similar tax burdens.

Road Tax

And just to be clear, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ROAD TAX. It's car tax. You pay based on emissions.


- The cost of motoring was taken from the AA. A typical car will pay car tax of £175 and a "Standing Charge" of around £3350, which includes cost of the car, and keeping it insured.
- "Accidents" cost around £13 billion - £32 billion annually depending on what is included
- RAC gave an average mileage of 8500 miles.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Blame the Vehicular-Cyclists?

In response to the usual in-fighting on twitter to the mess that is cycling in Britain:

It's not just the CTC's fault. They weren't as powerful or instrumental as people may think. Whilst the CTC have made mistakes in the past, they are only a small part of the problem.

The real problems:

1) After the war, people wanted cars and associated cycling with poverty. At that time bikes were considered to be the past.

2) Many people in Britain don't want cycle, and have never had a real affinity for cycling.

3) The majority of town planners and road builders forgot cycling.
  - Many roads upgraded without thoughts to cycling (A-roads)

4) The motoring lobby, and rich land owners in the past were very anti-cycling. In fact the police actively tried to stop races by throwing sticks into cyclists' wheels.

5) In the past racing cyclists were an "underground" entity, a small group of people, that actively hid their pastime from the public. Even in Beryl Burton's day, which is not long ago, cycle racing was still very much hidden away. In fact the race organisers BANNED sponsorship and advertising. And despite BB being one of the most prolific cyclists in the world, back home she was nothing to the general public. Yet contrast that to Italy where almost anyone of a certain age could tell you about Fausto Coppi.

In towns where cycling infrastructure was built,  like Peterborough and Stevenage, the number of people cycling still remains very low. Why? 1 and 2 afaics. And flies in the face of "Build-it-and-they-will-come" theories.

The reason we have SHITE infrastructure is the lack of people wanting to cycle over the last 50+ years. Without those numbers the CTC have been a toothless organisation, that at best have helped fix things at the margins, and stopped the motoring lobby eroding our rights even further.

Can you really blame Vehicular-Cycling for the state we are in?

Why not blame all the people who **didn't** cycle, and chose cars in the 50's
The town planners and the powerful motoring lobby
The road builders who "upgraded" everything into the mess we now have, and who build gyratories and massive ring-roads through out city centres.
What about British Cycling who remained underground for many, many years.

Or you can blame the Vehicular-Cyclists who have had to survive this mess, when very little government money or funding went into cycling.

That said, any VC who now opposes "proper" infrastructure in Cities and by dual-carriages is insane.

Nothing wrong with Vehicular cycling on this road - imo

View Larger Map

 Everything is wrong with vehicular cycling on these roads:
View Larger Map

View Larger Map

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Sheffield Fails to Acquire any Funding to Improve Junctions for Cyclists

Email to Les Sturch:

Dear Les Sturch,

As you may know the The Times have been running their prominent Cyclesafe campaign to promote and increase safety for cyclists. At the heart of their campaign was a call to identify and allocate funding to fix problem junctions. Sheffield's infamous University roundabout was identified as one of the country's black-spots, and featured prominently in the following article "Cyclists' Horror Stories

Cyclists' Horror Stories

Given the national exposure of Sheffield, I was surprised to learn that NO funding whatsoever has been allocated to Sheffield from the recent £40m government budget that was announced.

Did Sheffield make an application for any of this funding?

Yours Sincerely

Stan Fichele


Dear Mr Fichele,

Thanks for your email below to which I have been asked to respond. 

Sheffield City Council did not bid for any funding on this occasion.

As you are clearly aware, Brookhill roundabout was the priority junction identified in Sheffield.  To implement an on-road solution here, that would be ‘satisfactory’ for all road users, would cost many millions of pounds.  Quite apart from the large sum of funding required, it would not have been possible to design, consult and build a scheme before the end of this financial year, as required under the bidding process.  The Department for Transport were looking for schemes that were well advanced and effectively ready to implement.  Sheffield does not have a scheme ready to implement straight away, with 50% match funding guaranteed, that would have met the DfT criteria.

I trust that the above satisfactorily explains why we did not bid for funding on this occasion.

However, you may be interested to know that it is our intention to make a bid for the Cycle City Ambitions Grant, the requirements for which are not quite so onerous.  I cannot, of course, guarantee success.


Dick Skelton

Transport Strategy
Room G32
Town Hall
S1 2HH

Tel:  0114 2734479