Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Impressions from Tameside Cycle Forum

I can’t be arsed trying to type up a full account of last night’s cycle forum, so here’s a few bullet points for anyone out there who has never been to their local cycle forum or wonders what might go on in others. (this is the first I’ve ever been to)

Sorry if they all seem negative!. Just my personal impressions, I'm sure others had a variety of takes on the same.

First there was a presentation by Richard Dolphin from Greater Manchester Urban Traffic Control which was mainly about the different types of traffic light systems and crossings that are used across the country and Manchester. Richard was a really nice bloke and a regular cyclist too. Impressions from his presentation were:

  • That although all the systems are very sophisticated (a lot more sophisticated than I had thought) all that sophistication is good for nothing when there are simply too many cars on the roads.
  • How much is spent on fancy systems like SCOOT when providing a proper cycle network would achieve the same goals more effectively?.
  • Richard swears blind that the induction loops that are buried in the road to detect the presence of traffic DO detect all types of bicycle – shame that that has no resemblance to reality! They are useless unless you are on four wheels.
  • It appears to be unthinkable to have a press button that immediately stops all traffic to allow a cyclist to safely proceed in any direction on their own phase. (It’s all detection loops and radar cameras that don’t work and only wait until all the car phases have finished anyway).
  • All these fancy systems linked into a huge network must be horrifically expensive but can’t solve the simple problem of there being too many cars.
  • All the traffic light systems are part of a huge integrated network. it seems the country is too far down that path to think about approaching traffic management in any other way.
  • Ridiculous toucan crossing setups on massive junctions (where a cyclist is expected to use about 6 separate crossings to turn right etc) are only there for mums and kids. It’s presumed ‘real’ cyclists will pretend to be a car and use the junction as if they are motorised traffic.
  • There is no comprehension that certain junctions/roads (i.e as in the last point) have a v.low cyclist count because they are utterly terrifying and therefore nobody on two wheels dares go near them.
  • Stats etc about traffic & congestion in Manchester available at www.gmtu.gov.uk/

Impressions of the meeting in general (after the GMUTC presentation had finished):

  • The fact that nothing has ever been done about problems such as Denton Roundabout prove to newcomers that the cycle forum has a serious problem with achieving important goals. Which may or may not be due to a lack of cooperation/bureaucracy.
  • Every other word from council employees is about the lack of money and cuts, totally understandable if you are worried about your job, but does seem like its being too readily used as an excuse.
  • No details of the Sustainable Transport Fund have yet been released to the councils, but no doubt Stagecoach have got a copy knocking about somewhere ;)
  • It’s very difficult to get any ideas and points across when time is short and there are others who want to speak, so for people like me it’s probably best to get things down in writing and email them over afterwards. (or in other words I'm too polite to moan in person, so I'll do it via email)
  • Apparently certain issues such as street cleaning and policing of bad parking, ASL’s etc are best addressed at the District Assembly. Although I can guess that if you went there they would suggest you go to the Cycle forum instead!
  • There is lots of cycle parking in Ashton - except none of it is anywhere near where it should be!. - suggestions on a postcard. I'll be making my own suggestion as soon as I can get a photo of the precedent I'm thinking of.
  • There did seem to be genuine interest in suggestions for cycle parking/ solutions to certain problems on roads etc. I guess the only way councils will know that a certain road is a problem is if people inform them - whether they can do anything about it once they know is a different matter though!.
 Can't think of much else right now.
Had a great pootle back to Hyde following Ian with a lot less traffic than I’m used to on my normal rush-hour rides, but every ASL had a vehicle in it (it’s so common I don’t even notice anymore!) and we managed to get beeped at for being two abreast & chatting when approaching a red light. Bloody cyclists! People on bikes!.

It's not all bad, If you want to see some guys who are cheery even when they are getting beaten down every week just have a look at these poor gits!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Brooks B67

The majority of the things I own are decent second hand items, but occasionally when I do buy something brand new I like it to be well worth it. You can’t get much more worth it than an iconic piece of British handmade craftsmanship. Ok I’ve still been stingy in a way, as I could’ve gone for one of the copper hand-hammered specials, but a plain steel riveted Brooks is still a beautiful thing.

I’d been riding the Nexus with my dad’s old B17 for a few weeks, but after installing the swept back bars this bike needed something nice and wide with springs on it (both from an aesthetic and functional point of view). The way up was between a Champion Flyer or a B67. The Champion flyer is a sprung version of the B17 for touring, whereas the B67 is a wider shorter city bike saddle. In the end I went for the B67 because I figured I already have a B17 so it would be best to try something different.

I've never needed to break a saddle in before....and I still don't because it's perfectly comfortable right from the get go.so I'm not too sure about all this breaking-in stuff I think maybe it’s not the saddle, it’s your arse and your seating position. My backside is already well used to cycling, so all it takes is a few miles of cycling with an allen key and a spanner. A few stops to do some adjustments and after 2 or 3 stops the saddle is in just about the right place and hey presto I’ve got a wonderfully comfortable saddle straight out of the box. Over the course of a few weeks it should start to mould to my sit-bones, but the important thing is to have it in just the right position in the first place.

The springs needed a tiny drop of oil at either end to stop them squeaking, but other than that everything is perfect.
I have secure parking at work (back of the office), so spending good money on a good saddle makes sense, but to be honest I would be thinking twice & stick to something cheap and undesirable if I was having to lock the bike up in public all day.

Heres a good video about Brooks. I especially like the machine that makes the springs and the wobbly set-off at 2:40 - something tells me he turns the key in his Mercedes more often than he sets off on his bike.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Dynohub (GH-6)

This is a Sturmey Archer GH-6 dynohub from 1956. It was rescued from a skip by my dad and although we really have no use for it, it’s nice to clean it up, take it apart and have a look.

It was in its original moss-ridden rod brake rim with a lot of broken spokes.
The bolt cutters made light work of those.

Before crud removal

After crud removal.

Dynohub logo.  The text ' Do not remove magnet without keeper' is a bit cryptic, it means dont seperate the magnet from the armature unless you have a big iron plug called a keeper. This maintains the magnetic field in the magnet. Best to just not seperate them.

Date stamp. (September 1956)

Removing the magnet fixing screws after undoing the locknuts (tiny little bolts and washers on these)

The magnet & armature removed. These should be kept together, if they are separated then the magnet will lose half of its power in an instant.

Inside the shell – filthy.

All cleaned up.

Back together and giving it a test. It works perfectly even after 54 years. I’m not planning on using it for anything as it’s basically redundant compared to modern dynamo hubs. But it’s a nice piece of historic kit and doesn’t deserve to be in the skip.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Piccadilly Place Car Park - Cycle Racks

I recently discovered that there is some cycle parking within the Piccadilly Place Car Park on Whitworth Street Near Piccadilly Station. There's not that many of them, especially considering they are taking up the space of around 6 car spaces and only providing space for 16 bikes. I've no idea if it's free, but I couldn't see anything to do with charges for cycles or any kind of tickets on the bikes, so I presume it is free.

That London lot have raved recently about some cycle parking in a multistorey car park, but it seems us Mancs have half heartedly beaten them to it! ;-)

Apologies for the shit pictures. And don't be fooled by the lack of bikes, this was on a Saturday morning, presumably it looks a bit more packed on a weekday.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Transport for Greater Manchester - TfGM

News to me and probably to most is that Manchester is to get it's own version of London's TfL. I found out about it on Tameside's labryinth website, but there is more info here and better so on Wiki - here about the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and here about GMPTE which will be turned into the new TfGM.

As usual with government, this whole scenario appears to be ludicrously and overly complicated and it's difficult to know what any of it means for the future. In principal a single body able to influence and coordinate policy across boroughs sounds like a step forward. But what direction will that policy be?.

When it comes down to it the choice is between more cars or less cars.

 The interesting bit from the GMCA wiki page is:

The Transport for Greater Manchester Committee (TfGMC)[1] and its sub committees would be formed from a nominated pool of 33 councillors to manage the TfGME and create transport policy, TfGMC will also elect its own Chair and Vice-Chair. The committee would assume the roles of the previous Greater Manchester Integrated Transport Agency (GMITA) as well as the newly devolved transport powers and responsibilities from Government and the Councils. These councillors would have voting rights on most transport issues despite not being members of the GMCA however some decisions would still require approval by the GMCA, the functions which would be referred (but not delegated) to the TfGMC would include making recommendations in relation to:
  • The budget and transport levy
  • Borrowing limits
  • Major and strategic transport policies
  • The local transport plan
  • Operation of Greater Manchester Transport Fund and approval of new schemes 

It sounds like those 33 councillors are going to be pretty important when it comes to the future of cycling in Manchester. Question is, will any of them dare consider that trying to accomodate more and more cars on the roads is a hopeless cause. Whereas the Dutch model of reducing car use whenever possible leads to huge benefits in every aspect of a region's prosperity.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Baby Pannier

It's great to see mums on bikes, especially on a cold November morning. Cycling will forever remain a fringe-lycraclad-sporting activity until mums, grannies and children feel safe enough to take to their bikes for everyday journeys. But that's never going to happen whilst bikes are expected to mix it with buses, HGV's and 4x4's.

Take alook through the excellent Pays-Bas Cycle chic to see some ultimate biking mums (& dads!) in the Netherlands.

( It's a Toucan Crossing by the way, to get her back onto the Fallowfield loop)

Monday, 15 November 2010

Normal service resumed on a frosty morning

The first frosty morning we had a few weeks ago left the bike stands of Manchester looking a bit bare. Thankfully it looks like everyone has managed to find some warmer clothes and get back on the saddles. Snapped at dinnertime at virtually the same time as the last post and I'd say this mornings frost was colder than the previous one.

And yes, that Audi Q7 is parked in the ASL box.

Where's the parking?

Further to my Bury Old Road post. As you can see there is a serious lack of proper cycle parking in this area, the owner of the penny farthing has had to resort to locking their bike to the lampost.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Bury Old Road, Prestwich

This 'cycle lane' along Bury Old Rd alongside Heaton Park is a time allocated cycle lane (best name I could think of, what the hell would you call this?). I've never seen one of these before, but have noticed another one since.

So it's works like most buslanes do, i.e. only during rush hour.

Except its just a solid line mandatory cycle lane.

Except its not because its only during certain hours

But the presence of the white line may keep drivers over to one side even out of hours, much as buslanes are not used much even when it's permitted.

On the other hand, the proper position to be cycling would be at least as far out as the white line anyway.

View Larger Map

But solid lines like this encourage drivers to just breeze past rather than overtake with a safe distance as they might if the line didn't exist. There are also a number of pinch points which inevitably cause conflict and endanger cyclists - see the google streetview above.

So any advantages seem to come with equal, if not more disadvantages. So has it really been of any benefit?. No not really. In fact it's crap. It's a sub standard, paltry attempt to meet a government target with the minimum amount of effort.

A segregated two-way cycle path would solve all these issues and create a decent useable facility. There is plenty of room to do this even on a road like this. The evidence is already in place a little further down the road where the two car lanes have been shrunk and shifted over to create a buslane. That exact same area of 'buslane' should be a segregated two-way continuous cycle path.  

View Larger Map

Monday, 8 November 2010

Drumy Brakey Wheelie Buildy (Hopper pt 6)

Here's a few shots of the 406 drum braked wheels being built up. They are a simple 2x cross lacing using plain short length spokes from SJS cycles.

To start with you need rim, screwdriver, spoke key, hub, 36 spokes & nipples and a glass of Aldis finest hungarian red. The nosey ginger bugger is optional. The front Hub is a Sturmey Archer 70mm X-FD, which is a lovely free running piece of kit and the way the drum brake plate seals around the edges is much more effective looking than the design on the old Steelite I'm using for the rear wheel.

Wheel building is actually pretty easy once you've finally gotten started. Here's one side started off with the first 9 spokes. Starting with the key spoke next to the valve hole and remembering to use the rim holes which are offset closest to the side of the hub you are lacing from.

The next 9 for that side go in the opposite direction, remembering to cross underneath the spoke that's already there.

From now on the photos of a wheel build get a bit hard to read, but when you are doing it it all makes sense. This is the other side of the wheel with that side's first 9 spokes laced in.

 And the next 9 spokes laced in, crossing underneath the last 9.

That's it!, now you just need to go steadily around the whole wheel tightening up each nipple until each spoke is nice and tight and singing from the same hymn sheet as the other spokes around it. Its not the truest wheel ever (due to being a slightly abused second hand bmx rim), but being a drum brake means it doesn't matter much. The rim I used for the back wheel was much straighter than this one and came into true with alot less hassle (shot of that below)

These wheels have had a test in one of the Triumph Twentys I mentioned in the last part and after a couple of little niggles with the cable pinch bolts they turn out to have some solid stopping power. Being used to V-brakes its a strange feeling to stop just as quickly but in a more gradual and quiet manner,  and considering they are supposed to be poor performing when brand new due to the need to 'bed-in' then I can only expect the front hub to get even better.

Friday, 5 November 2010

The M60 and cycle infrastructure

This is the queue of traffic you’ll see every day if you cycle over the Denton roundabout bridge in the morning. It’s always moving, but very slowly. The same can be seen at various other parts of the entire motorway network every day. In fact this is probably a mild case compared to some. I’m told it stretches like this all the way to the Co-op pyramid where the thin lanes finish. I don’t know far it stretches back towards Ashton, but you can see from the photo that the queue is still going all the way off behind the Audenshaw reservoir. That means all these drivers sit in at least a 6 mile queue of traffic every morning (that’s being generous). 

It's caused by a number of things, drivers will mostly blame it on the 50 mph section or the thin lanes or people braking too much, but the simple reason is there are just too many cars trying to use the road all at once. You could increase this motorway to 4 lanes wide and you’ll still get queues because it would just mean more people would drive down it. It’s actually not that many people causing this as almost every vehicle has just the driver on board.

Let’s take a guess at a scenario that a number of these drivers live in Ashton and work in Trafford Park. A perfectly reasonable assumption based on what we can see. To go the most direct route past the edge of the city centre is around 9.5 miles, which is a perfect distance to cycle for a healthy adult. To go via the M60 is 19 miles. So coincidentally that’s twice the distance. Now imagine if there was a proper segregated cycle infrastructure that would allow these drivers to feel safe enough to take the direct route on a bicycle. How many would take that option?. Sat in their flash car some drivers would scoff at the concept, but in reality it would be loads of them.

The solution to Motorway congestion is not extra lanes or hard shoulder use in rush hour. That’s all just bullshit. The solution is proper continuous segregated cycle infrastructure on the all major streets in the towns and cities. 

Here it is in the evening from the Mill Lane bridge further down.This is the reality of car driving in Britain, not this bullshit or this bullshit.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Go for a spin in the park?

Crap photo I know, but his lights were too bright. This is the view that met me last night in the pouring rain on the segregated cycle path alongside Whitworth park. Yes I did say segregated, as in totally seperate from the road. And yet this buffoon has managed to drive his car up and across the pavement somewhere, into the park then down the cycle path. Where he's gotten completely stuck and had to start reversing slowly back the way he came.

This is what the path looks like in the daylight and is roughly the spot where he was when I came across him. There are now new iron railings all along the left hand side.

Reg is MX06 WHG