Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Some bike stuff

I was doing a bit of browsing yesterday and found four fascinating bike related sites entirely by accident.

The first is the Recumbent Blog, which is all about those lie-down bikes. The blog is now finished, but it was fun to have a trawl through it. I'd love to have a go on one of these things, but I can't see myself riding one to work - I like to be up high so that I can see what is going on with the traffic. Which is a pity, because in so many ways, they are much more sensible than the 100 year old design concept that most of us use.

If you do nothing else, go watch this short movie about locking up bikes. Not because you are interested in locking up bikes, but because the two characters who feature in the film are fascinating.

Because just one look at them, and you know they are HIPPIES. Unfortunately, hippies tend to dominate a lot of the thinking and writing about cycling (not the racing part - the urban design part etc etc), and they tend to have unrealistic, fabian ideals about how society should work, and people should carry out their lives. Whenever this lot get together (like for the annual blockage of the city by bikes known as....whatever....) the cause of cycling is put back 20 years.

From there, I visited the Ghost Bikes site, which is all about memorials to dead cyclists. That's not a particularly fun thing to be thinking of 2 days before Christmas (or anytime for that matter), but cyclists do have an unfortunate habit of dying when hit by a car.

For instance, 20 years ago, I was tail-ended in my car by a drunk driver. I didn't have a single scratch or bruise, although the car was pretty banged up. Last year, I worked with a bloke that was hit from behind on his bike by a drunk driver - he woke up in hospital, and spent the next 3 months there.

A stupid little shunt brought about by carelessness, inattention or impatience that might barely scratch a car will easily put a cyclist in an ambulance. You never see cyclists riding along doing their lipstick, or reading the paper, or texting someone on their mobile, or zoned out with a dreamy look on their face.

On a funner note, there is the British Human Power Club. This is where you take a recumbent bike, wrap an aerodynamic fairing around it, and ride like hell.

Here is some blurb from their site:

Why should we bother with HPVs, when the diamond frame bicycle has been developed to become such an efficient vehicle for translating human power into motion and is in fact the most efficient means of transport known today?

Ian Sheen - camera shyThe answer is AIR RESISTANCE. At 18 mph, 80% of the force acting to slow the vehicle is from air resistance and as the speed increases, so this percentage gets dramatically higher.

How can we reduce air resistance? In two ways: by reducing the frontal area of the machine/rider combination, usually by lying the rider down in a reclining position whilst pedalling; or by improving the aerodynamic shape. The faster HPVs do both. The reclining position also gives a considerably more comfortable ride for your back, neck and - most importantly - your backside.

I like the sound of that. I reckon riding one of them would be a hoot.

The last site was a mob called Streetfilms. I have linked to one of physically separated bike lanes, which is what Clover Moore is trying to build here in Sydney. If you are wondering what the hell she is on about, and why they are a good idea (for cyclists), watch the film. Yes, it is from New York, but the stupid and inconsiderate behaviour of some motorists is universal. These things would not be necessary if 100% of the population used some courtesy and common sense, but we know that's just never going to happen. So we end up with separated bike lanes.

Every time the Daily Telegraph has a story on bikes or bike lanes, the bile of some motorists quickly rises to the surface - a quick read of the comments will tell you all you need to know about the risks to cyclists in every day traffic. There are some bloody idiots out there on the roads. Some of them are so bad, they've lost the right to drive, but that doesn't deter them either - they just keep on driving, even when suspended. Their God-given right to drive like a damned fool (sometimes drunk, always fast) sometimes tragically ends up being the death of someone else.

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