What Sundays were designed for

This is how Sunday’s were designed to be, I’m pretty sure of that. Despite the Catholic education, I’m pretty sure that any overseerer in the sky thought that Sunday was meant for a good ride in the English countryside.  And so with enthusiasm gathered from depths I didn’t know existed I’d had breakfast and first espresso of the day by 8.30 and was in the car by 9 headed south.  My destination was Evesham and a rendezvous with one of my virtual cycling buddies, Nic.  Nic is a friend of Mrs ABs who responded to one of my early blogs suggesting we give each other some mutual support.  I think it’s fair to say that we have both suffered inertia in varying forms and so far Facebook and email encouragement together with an eye on each other’s Runkeeper log has been great in keeping this going.  Today was time to meet up and hit those roads together.

Evesham seemed like a mutually convenient meeting point being about equidistant time wise from our respective homes and I was quietly impressed with it on a sleepy August Sunday – I can’t say I can say the same later in the day but I suppose every town suffers these days! Parking up on the Meadows just kept the dreamy Sunday image going and it wasn’t long before Nic turned up.  We had a 35 mile circuit planned around the Cotswolds.  What we hadn’t factored was a) parking charges on a Sunday (almost financially embarrassed at the start after false information from the local authority website) b) hills of which there are legion and c) the human sub-species Homo Moterus Inpatientus.  Still, we managed to find some quiet rolling roads and enjoyed the amble, complete with an obligatory coffee stop (espressos 2 and 3 in dual formation) at a nice little and surprisingly quiet coffee shop in Chipping Campden (although I was asked if I wanted a small or large double espresso!).  The only sting was the climb out of CC which seemed to go on and get steeper – one of us definitely didn’t have their climbing legs on but I won’t say who.

So all in all today’s been good and I’m not complaining.  I’m sat here with a post-ride pint and about to collapse on the sofa. Job done.

(Thanks to my virtual buddy and another challenge added to the calendar.)

Breaking the rules

It comes as something of a disappointment that in a blog which is ultimately about finding one’s freedom I’m having to talk about rules.  As I alluded to in a previous post, this year’s Tour de france sparked a debate about the unwritten rules of cycling, nicely encapsulated by this Australian blog.  Some people believe rules are there to be broken.  Sadly I can’t agree in the case I’m about to recount. And it is the written rules which have been broken and yesterday it was with almost catastrophic consequences.

On my return leg from work Tuesday I was almost taken out by a multi-person vehicle (MPV).  It was driven by someone who I can only imagine was a parent given that the back seat had 2 children’s booster seats in it.  As I cycled down hill along a wide road I approached a double junction which sits on a bit of a blind bend.  On the clear side of the road I could see the MPV approach the give way junction to my right.  As I got nearer I realised that the driver had merely slowed and was then proceeding to cross the carriageway on which I was and where I had right of way. She didn’t stop. She carried on, by which point I was on the junction. The next moments are a bit of a blur as the car and I were on collision course and I don’t know how I am here to tell the tale.

Needless to say I was not happy. Livid is perhaps a good description.  What I did next is part comic and part regrettable.  I ran across to the MPV in my cycling shoes – anybody who wears cleats will know what a challenge this is and how comic it can look – shouting at the driver.  I regret now that my language was choice and slightly rare.  The driver however told me there was no need to swear to which I replied, something along the lines of, “but why? you put my dear life in danger”. Or words to that effect. I apologise but I was in shock.

I think we both had a shock from incident.  She was apologetic, I was angry but happy to be alive.  What is highlighted was the problem of the rush that everyone seems to be in these days.  I’ve mentioned this in the blog already yet this is one of those times when the consequences of rush could literally have been fatal.  All it would have taken was for the driver to stop and give way, look carefully and check that nobody – car, cyclist or otherwise – was in danger of being hit.

Now I realise that Tuesday was a pure accident, the process of the rushes of modern life. But the reason I say the driver was obviously a parent relates back to a story earlier this month about a couple who were berated for letting their children cycle to school alone, prompting a great cartoon in the Telegraph. People seem all too ready to keep their kids safe from the actions of others, and they drive kids around because the roads are too dangerous. Yet they miss the paradox of that equation: by doing so, they create more risk and feel rushed into fitting more into an already packed day.

I’m still a bit shaken by it all. I’m not going to commute next week by bike. I’l get the miles in somehow. But what irks me most is seeing even more blatantly poor driving all the time. I just wish people would take more care.

No before I go any further and suffer the rath of the daily mail reading, car loving mass of cyclist haters who will jump on this as their opportunity to defend the car, I am not condoning the behaviour of some cyclists who are inconsiderate in the way they cycle and in some cases blatantly break the rules of the road.  But following the incident I tweeted the following:

Would motorists please remember that stopping and looking are not an optional at a Give Way junction. That could have been my life you took!

Its interesting the responses I received – most of which were sympathetic and shared similar stories (showing who I follow and who follows me on Twitter I suppose).  But via Facebook I received an interesting response from my friend Jim:

Ooh. Let’s start a 10 top tips for motorists when encountering cyclists. I’ve got number 2 from this morning: indicating to your fellow drivers that you are going to pull out to give the cyclist room doesn’t actually count UNLESS YOU PULL OUT AND GIVE THE CYCLIST THE ROOM!

So this is the challenge which I open to you.  What are the other eight rules that we should include in our explicit and written rule book?

Road to the stars

Well its official, summer is definitely here and the end of May is turning into a scorcher.  Yesterday it was 28 degrees and Mrs AB and I managed to spend much of it in Birmingham on a futile shopping trip.  The day was saved by lunch, coffee and a catch up with friends (Lauren and Leo) at Urban Coffee,drinks on the terrace with our neighbours and some stargazing with Mrs AB’s grandad’s telescope.  (If you’ve never looked at the moon through a telescope before you should – it is truly spectacular!).

So with the temperature threatening much of the same today it was up and out early this morning for a ride.  I’m pleased that I actually got on the bike, even more pleased that I did 28 miles and over the moon that I was back before coffee time.  I don’t hink I could have stood the heat as it is now.  It was a good ride, an undulating circuit around Codsall, Boscobel, Albrighton and Pattingham. I even felt good on the hills.

Passing what seemed like every Wolverhampton based cyclist on their respective ways out for the day reminded me of something else I love about not just cycling but walking too – the friendliness with which we greet one another.  Okay, there are a few miserable so and so’s who never say hello, but the majority do – and even to two chaps I passed on the hill towards Perton were cheery (I think) as the struggled up a nasty little incline.  Plenty of people have talked about the camaraderie of the cycling fraternity.  I know not on what it is based but it always feels nice to exchange a hello and a wave.  So for the couple of miseries I did pass, please take note – its a win-win situation for us all.

However, I do have to report two notable problems today.  The first is to the driver of the blue covertible “Mini” – when a cyclist waves to tell you not to pass it is for a reason not to be obstinate and obstructive.  In this case it was the presence of 3 oncoming vehicles which you could not see around the blind bend, particularly not at the speed with which you were approaching.  And the hand signals you used are not listed in the Highway Code.

The second is to Eurosport.  I was looking forward to a couple of hours watching today’s stage 15 of the Giro d’Italia – perhaps the definitive stage of the race finishing on the beast which is Mont Zoncolan.  Why then are you chosing not only to avoid live coverage replacing it with Formula 2 GP and the first round of the French Open tennis, but also cramming the action into a programme of less than one hour tonight (which no doubt in true Eurosport will be cut even further to show Darts on Ice from Helsinki)?  We are not amused.  Looks like its off to Sporza for a bit of Belgian coverage via the internet and my convoluted road to the stars.  In the meantime, off to check Mrs AB’s handworking painting the new shed.