Friday, 30 August 2013

Commuting by public transport

I'm going out on the beers after work tonight, so my usual commuting options are limited; I can't cycle or drive after a few pints. This leaves few options and I chose public transport.

I've previously compared the commute by bicycle and public transport, but I've been working in a new office for a couple of months now, which is at the edge of Reading, instead of being right in the centre of town. I thought I'd see how the different transport methods commute to this new location.

Method Door to door time Cost Benefits Drawbacks
Public transport 1 hour 8 mins* £7.60 Unreliable, slow, expensive
Bicycle 24 mins** Free Fitness/Health, reliable, fast Unpleasant in harsh weather

* See breakdown below
** 7.5 miles

The public transport option was horrible. Here's a breakdown of the journey.

Walk to the station: 0.9 miles, 13 minutes
Buy ticket and wait for train: 7 minutes
Train to Reading: 6.8 miles, 14 minutes
Walk to bus stop: 0.2 miles, 4 minutes
Wait for bus: 12 minutes
Bus ride: 3.0 miles, 14 minutes
Walk to office: 0.3 miles, 4 minutes

Adding that together we get;

Activity Time spent
Walking 21 min
Waiting for public transport 19 min
On public transport 28 min

Here are maps of the GPS traces;
Route taken by public transport.
Route taken on bicycle.

Clearly public transport is a terrible way to commute. It was already worse than cycling but the new office location adds a bus ride which makes it much worse.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Attacked by APC Courier van

On the way home last night I was attacked by a man driving an APC courier van.

School Road in Arborfield has two traffic calming constrictions either side of a school. Traffic moving away from the school has priority. Yesterday, about 5.30pm, while cycling down School Road, I was approaching one of the constrictions where I had right of way, see below;

View Larger Map

There was an APC courier van coming the other way and he failed to give way. Instead he pulled out into my path and drove at me, causing me to make an evasive move (braking hard and swerving) to avoid a head on collision. I was pretty lucky not to come off the bike trying to avoid the collision. You can see the constriction from his point of view below;

View Larger Map

Notice the large, clear sign showing that oncoming traffic has right of way. Note the large "give way" triangle and lines painted on the road. Clearly these don't apply to everyone.

The driver had obviously seen me but either a) made an extremely poor judgement or b) decided that he didn't need to give way as he was driving a van vs my bicycle. I suspect the latter, as he yelled "Fuck Off" out of the window as he raced past.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The only (real) obstacle to Dutch style cycling in the UK

I was prompted to write this by an interesting article on the BBC. The article compares cycling in Reading and The Hague. Its a foregone conclusion that Reading isn't going to come off very well. Many people continue to debate exactly why UK towns and cities consistently fail to achieve anything like continental levels of cycling. Well, look no further, the BBC article offers a glimpse;


Reading has a population of 225,000 in the wider urban area. The article states that one of Reading's objectives is `aiming for 2,300 daily cycle trips across the town`, so their target is 1% of the population to cycle daily? This is less than the current national average and its an objective? Is Reading's objective is to reduce cycling?* Hmm, not sure if I believe the BBC's stats here; looks like they got something wrong.


Cycling is pretty popular, and wherever you go there are always people who are passionate about campaigning and promoting cycling. Reading is no exception with the Reading Cycle Campaign. The BBC article has a quote from the RCC's Adrian Lawson;

"We had a 'workshop' with Reading Borough Council officers, their consultants, and members of the cycle campaign. We identified a lot of simple things that would make it immeasurably better for cyclists. This was over a year ago. Not a single thing has happened. In fact we have had five workshops to look at different parts of Reading in the last two years, and there hasn't been any action arising from any of them".

Hmm, that's telling isn't it, and reminiscent of my own attempts to get Wokingham council to engage with actual people who actually cycle. Then we get a gem from Tony Page who is deputy council leader and lead councillor for strategic environment, planning and transport. Tony said he found it "irritating" that "we have historically developed a system that results in some cycle lanes just ending abruptly". Tony has served on Reading Council as a Labour councillor since 1973, without break. Well Tony, at least you acknowledge your own mistakes, maybe it might be better to actually do something about it.

Then we get to the the real reason why we'll never be cycling Dutch style in Reading. Tony says,

"Our road system is very constrained and we'd look at any suggestions, but we also have to balance the needs of all other road users - public transport as well as cars, lorries and pedestrians. There is only so much space."
Aha, the cat's out of the bag! Tony isn't prepared to put cycling at the forefront of council planning. As for "we'd look at any suggestions", what about those of the RCC? Did you look at those, seems not.

In conclusion, it seems that in the UK, "balancing the needs of other road users" means prioritising motor vehicles and until that changes we're never going to go Dutch.

* The 2008 Reading Council Local Transport Plan already puts journeys at 2100 in 2001 and 3000 in 2005/6 - see section l.3.2

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Wiggle Mega Meon sportive

A few weeks ago I got an email about the Wiggle Super Series Mega Meon sportive. Free photos from were on offer! Feeling in the mood I signed up for the 100 mile epic route.

Given that my last Wiggle sportive was literally a wash out (not to mention frustration with the timings being wrong), I was hoping this would be more enjoyable. Arriving at South Downs College, which was the start/finish, things were looking good. The weather was nice, plenty of parking on site (no muddy fields!), and lots of people looking eager to get riding!

When I registered I found that I hadn't signed up early enough to get the free High-5 goodie pack, which was frustrating as on my last sportive I was give the goodie pack, but because I was staying in a B&B a few miles away I had ridden to the start, had nowhere to put it and ended up giving it to someone else. Anyway, I fastened on my number and headed to the start line. It was well organised with little waiting to get off. I passed through the start around 7.30am.

After a slow start to warm up, I found myself riding with a pretty large group including several riders from Portsmouth North End CC and Fareham Wheelers CC. We were whipping along pretty quickly and shed a few riders on the climbs until we were down to around 8. When we got to the first food stop I decided to continue without stopping in order to stay in the group. This was a bit of a mistake as a few miles down the road my chain came off and got jammed in the front mech as I tried to get it back on. I had to get off and get my hands dirty, and by the time I was off again there was no chance of catching the group. I rode along to the second food stop on my own. Despite scoffing everything on offer at the second stop, later on I got really low on energy and really started to regret missing the first one. I was hot, hungry and thirsty. I passed a bus stop with a very inviting shelter and promised myself I'd rest if I saw another. Another came up quickly and I sat down and ate my emergency cheese and pickle sandwich, and finished off one of my water bottles, which made me feel a lot better.

The route was very pleasant with some beautiful views across the rolling farmland of the Meon valley. The weather stayed good all day and even the timing seemed to work this time. Overall a really good day. The only downside was the disappointment of seeing one or two riders who were perfectly happy to throw litter in what is an amazingly beautiful place. What makes them think its OK to throw gel and cereal bar wrappers is beyond me. Idiots.

The official time was 6h 16m which I was happy with and agrees with my Strava timing.