Thursday 30 June 2011

Sunday 26 June 2011

How idiots lose hub caps

This bit of footage was shot where I cross Parramatta Road. Check out how badly some of these drivers take the corner in front of me.

They're coming out of a two lane road - one lane goes left, the other right. They're turning into a three lane road, and the lanes are reasonably wide. There is no traffic coming from the right, so they can turn as wide as they like.

Two idiots in this clip nearly ran over my foot as they mounted the kerb when taking the corner. I couldn't believe the horrendously low standard of driving on display. The last car was the worst - a small red hatchback with a young woman at the wheel. She was trying to steer with one hand as she texted with the other. Her back wheel went up and over the kerb with a nasty scratching sound, and didn't miss my foot by much. I hope she stuffed the bead on that tyre and had a flat not long after.

Where'd that pesky bike lane go?

One of my pet hates is disappearing bike lanes. If we're going to have them, let's do it properly. The current half-arsed approach annoys the hell out of me.

The above video was shot on one of the main roads in this area - on Sunday morning, traffic is very light. At any other time, it's covered in cars and is an absolute madhouse - hence the bike lane for most of its length. Even then, I totally avoid riding on it during peak hour - it's just too risky. Too many people driving too fast for the conditions, having left their patience at home that day.

The speed limit is 50 - I'm doing a bit over 30. You go into the corner, pop out the other side and - whoa! where's the bike lane dude? It just ceases for no good reason. The road is wide enough to have a bike lane - in fact it used to be two lanes wide for cars, but one lane was removed not long ago. It would be a piece of cake to continue with the lane marking, but it just stops. Maybe council ran out of money?

Even with a marked lane there, note how the car that passes me cuts the corner - I reckon they were doing well over 60. That's pretty normal on this corner, and I've occasionally seen the cops parked just around the bend, busting speeders. I've had some close calls here where cars have approached the corner way too fast and have tried to cut it in order to get around it, not realising that there's a bike over to the side that they have to get around. It's not pleasant having a car try to shave the hairs off your legs at 60km/h.

Trick cyclist

I was zipping along a path when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a unicyclist on a parallel path - I only saw him for an instant, as a fence got in the way, but as I don't see many unicyclists around, I thought I'd chase him and have a quick look.

That almost ended in disaster - unicycles don't travel that quickly, and I came up behind him pretty quickly. He lost control and came off, and I almost turned him into a bike rack. By that, I mean he was bending over as he fell of, and I nearly rammed my front wheel between his bum cheeks.

Sunday photos - part II

The three women in this photo are a good example of what weekend cyclists tend to look like - normal clothes, comfy bikes, wandering along at a happy pace - not crawling, but not racing either. They're just meandering along a path that ducks and weaves along the river's edge. They're not out of bed before the farting of the sparrows (I almost wrote that as the "sparting of the farrows") and they're not riding 120 miles at peak pace. They're - shock, horror - quietly enjoying themselves on a lovely day!

Deutschland, Deutschland ├╝ber alles
This bloke was wearing a "Germany" jersey. I must learn how to sing this song one day.

Not quite the Titanic

There's usually a few small rowboats pulled up on the beach - necessary unless you want to swim out to your yacht moored 100 metres out in the bay. You don't see a sunken one that often.

Drinking and driving?

Jeez, I'm really happy with the cropped version of that photo.

Back when Grocerywatch was a headline issue, I started taking photos of sunken shopping trolleys in order to highlight what I thought was the stupidity of running such a website. The rusted, weed infested trolleys were a metaphor for a policy that wasn't going to be of much benefit to anybody. I haven't seen a sunken trolley for a while - but I found one today, so here it is.

Cropping doesn't improve this one much

Sunday photos

RiverCat ferry near Meadowbank
Lovely day again today - another great day for a ride out west. It's been cool enough to require two layers (three if you're riding at dawn), and that makes for a pretty brisk ride. I've clocked up about 100kms this weekend, and here's a selection of photos.

Bayview St, Tennyson Point
Every now and then, I cross one of the bridges going north over the river and ride through suburbs like Ryde and Gladesville. Just for something different. There's a really nice, wide bike path around the water heading east from the Rhodes bridge, but it doesn't go the whole way to Gladesville. I'm used to it stopping at a certain point. When I rode it today, I found that a new section of concrete had been laid, so I followed it on a whim.

It was a nice little bit of fast, winding path, but it finished at the bottom of Bayview Street, and what a bastard of a place that was to stop. You can't tell by this photo, but this short section of street is almost too steep to walk up! It's about as close to vertical as you can make a street - and riding up it required every bit of power my legs could give just to keep moving forward. I have not experienced that in years - I've done a lot of long hills, and a lot of steep hills, but this one took the cake.

Council is going to have fun extending it any further, as from looking at Google maps, the next section of waterfront includes quite a few houses that extend right to the waterline.

Missing link
That bit of bike path wasn't the only missing link on my jaunt - this section was blocked off for "construction" reasons, and as my geographic knowledge of this area is complete rubbish, this was the time to turn around.

Passing shadows?
I was one of about 10,000 cyclists out this morning (or so it seemed) - the buggers were everywhere. Old ones, young ones, kids being pulled around in contraptions by their parents, tandems - you name it. It was that kind of day where, after weeks of miserably awful wet cold weather, lots of people obviously woke up and thought, "time to stretch the legs a bit this morning".

Old railway bridge, Rhodes
I really like this old bridge - about 25 years ago, the old steel railway bridge over the Parramatta River was replaced with a concrete monstrosity right alongside. Instead of tearing down the old one, sheets of perforated something or other were bolted down onto the old rail bed and it became a bike bridge. It rattles beautifully from end to end when you ride over it.

Got the wobbles

Nice weather and lots of cyclists means a certain proportion of complete and utter incompetents. I was stuck behind the woman above for some time as she couldn't maintain a straight line - and by that, I mean she was swerving three feet or so to each side - there was no way to pass without risking a visit to the grassy verge. Some adult bikes need to be equipped with trainer wheels.

This bloke was riding a very nice bit of kit, and he was also decked out in some very nice rider-wear (ie, expensive). He was also quite a rarity - I left home about 0900, which means all the fast-lycra crowd were finishing up and heading  home. Most of the people I saw out today were dressed casually and weren't riding fancy road bikes - they were on all sorts of laid back contraptions, and there was hardly an item of lycra to be seen.

Ammunition crane, The Armory

I love these old cranes - they're very much 1930's industrial architecture.

Hill Road, Wentworth Point

Cav ran a story last week about a cyclist getting clobbered in Gongolia (not sure if he was in Inner Gongolia or Outer Gongolia). As there was a bike path running alongside the road where he was hit, most reasonable people would ask, "What the hell was he doing on the road?" I'll try to answer that today.

Hill Road is strangely named, as it is dead flat. Probably named after a Mr Hill I guess. It runs along the edge of Olympic Park down to a ferry terminal at the end. Last time I rode out this way, the bike lane me and this other bloke were riding in didn't exist. This was car parking. There is a bike lane about 20 feet to our left behind all that shrubbery.

Why were we on the road?

Well, partly out of curiosity, but mainly because the bike path means contending with lots of pedestrians, slow cyclists, blind corners and roads that cross it; whilst the road is just open, straight and utterly without impediments. Whilst you can generally get up to about 30km/h on the bike path, that's on days when you are the only person on it. The rest of the time, 25 is about as fast as you can go without getting into risky territory. Out on the road, you can go as fast as your legs will push you, which for me today, was about 35.

Just remember that the bike lane alongside Hill Road is a good one - nice surface, wide, mostly straight and minimal blind spots. Most paths that I ride on are narrower, bendier, rougher and are littered with collision hazards (dogs, prams, idiots with iPods etc), which makes them frustratingly slow. They're fine if you're Cav's age and just want to amble to and fro - they're a total bloody annoyance when you want to go as hard and fast as you can for as long as you can.

It's like driving on a 3 lane freeway versus driving on a narrow, winding country road. I like taking the scenic route from time to time, and I don't mine getting held up for half an hour by Farmer Brown and his 600 cows and a dog - but if you're trying to get from A to B in the shortest possible time, that sort of thing drives you mad (which is why 99.999% of drivers take the freeway and put their foot down).

Armory Wharf Cafe
 Nice place to stop for a coffee and feed - trouble was, it was packed this morning with bloody cyclists.

Armory Wharf Cafe bike park
Given the number of bikes parked on all four sides of the cafe, I think it's pretty clear how a lot of their customers get there.

Armory Wharf bike hire
If you get your arse to Amory Wharf and want to have a look around, you can even hire a bike. Or you can sit on your arse in the cafe and watch the ferries go past.

Honky heaven

Honky nuts still in the tree
I don't know what the correct name is for these things, but as kids, we called any sort of large nut a "honky nut". What I think of as a proper honky nut is about the size of the last section of your thumb, and vaguely spiked. They're heavy enough to throw at other kids, but light enough to not hurt too much (unless you cop one in the eye). We used to collect them by the bucket load at school and have honky nut wars between teams of kids. Until last week, I'd forgotten all about them.
Honky nut highway
Out Concord way is what I'll now call the Honky nut highway - it's a stretch of road lined with honky nut trees. When I went through last weekend, all the trees had shed their nuts, and the bike lane was periodically covered in what could only be described as dunes or drifts of nuts. A street sweeper must have been past in the last week, and I'm glad - the little buggers are deadly. It's bad enough running over one when on the straight - your front wheel will skip an inch or two one way or the other as the honky night fires out the side under pressure. Hit one as you're cornering, and you have about a 99.9% chance of hitting the tarmac. The only remedy is to get the hell out of the bike lane and ride in a clear patch on the road - especially on corners.

I wonder if there are any Police accident reports for bike injuries that read "brought down by honky nuts"?

Friday 24 June 2011

You too can learn English

Rearn Engrish
But perhaps not from this place.

Thursday 23 June 2011

A short rant about missing links

Bike path around Hen & Chicken bay
 Contrary to the opinions of some, the bike infrastructure around Canada Bay is not too bad. It's not perfect - but then, what is? There's enough paths around the foreshores to keep you moving for days (on foot) or hours (on a bike). The paths go through parks....
Hen & Chicken Bay - going north
....and meander around the water's edge. It's lovely.
Oops - where did the road go?
Except for where the paths disappear for a while. Above is an example - there are a few places where properties go right to the waterline, and the path just stops. It doesn't loop around the front of the houses or follow a side road - it just stops. Dead.
Is that a path I spy on yonder shore?
It does start up again on the other side, which is where those cars in the distance are parked. But how to get from A to B?
The missing link

Or in this case, from F1 to F2 ("F" standing for "where the fuck is the path?"). Out this way, there are lots of headlands jutting out into the harbour. Think of them as fingers extending from a hand. Down the middle of the finger, there are bones - these are the main roads to the end of the headland - the grey bits. Around the edge is the water, and along the water runs the bike paths - the green bits. The main roads are on the whole bad places to be - lots of traffic, bad road surfaces and bike lanes that just disappear from the surface of the Earth in places; like aliens came down and scooped them up.

The death ride

Your only option in one case is to ride out to one main road (to point C1 - as in "Crap! This is awful!"), ride along the road with all the nasty traffic (with drivers going "get off the road, you moron") turn onto another intersecting major road and then find a side street that takes you back to the bike path. There are no side roads that you can take to get between C1 and C2, and amazingly enough, due to the shape of the road system, you actually have to ride partly back in the direction you came to get to the main road. Thanks to about 80 metres of missing path, you have to take a diversion of nearly one kilometre.

Unfortunately, the powers-that-be are completely ignoring missing links like this. It's just too hard.

The road to the Gongoloids
The solution is probably to build a smaller and cheaper version of this, which is the scenic route to Gongolia. Before the cliff fell in and they built this new road, I used to think it was fun to drive on the old road at night (with a full moon) with the headlights off for part of the distance. You'd get a much better view out over the ocean without the light from those silly headlights getting in the way. If you tried that in a Ford, you'd end up upside down in the ocean. And possibly on fire as well.

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Damn, blast, bugger

Blogger doesn't want to play ball tonight - it won't let me upload any photos. I had a nice post all prepared, along with pictures, but now it will have to wait until the tech heads get their crap together.

Sunday 19 June 2011

Greenpeace really doesn't get it

Don't ask me why, but I have been reading a 2008 Greenpeace report called "energy revolution". It's a fascinating read - it's also now the basis of an IPCC chapter, so it's worth digging into.

In the introductory section on page 13, there is this paragraph:

It is important to highlight that in the Energy [R]evolution Scenario the majority of remaining coal power plants – which will be replaced 20 years before the end of their technical lifetime – are in China and India. This means that in practice all coal power plants built between 2005 and 2020 will be replaced by renewable energy sources. To support the building of capacity in developing countries significant new public financing, especially from industrialised countries, will be needed. It is vital that specific funding mechanisms are developed under the international climate negotiations that can assist the transfer of financial support to climate change mitigation, including technology transfer. Greenpeace International has developed one option for how such a funding mechanism could work (see Chapter 2).
They are talking about a timeframe of between 2005 and 2050. As we all know, China and India are growing like topsy. They are getting rich like no one on this planet has gotten rich before. There are all sorts of estimates out there as to how long it will be before China overtakes the US as the largest economy in the world. If you believe the numbers in Wikipedia, income per person is between $4,283 and $7,518 per head. At China's current rates of growth (and if they can maintain it), that should double every 7 years or so.

So in 2017, income per head should be about $15,000 (using the PPP numbers). In 2024, they'll be up to $30,000 per head. In 2031, it will be $60,000 per head. Now I doubt they can maintain double digit growth above a certain income level, but you get the picture. In 20 years or so, they will be richer than we are today (Australia's current income per head on a PPP basis is just under $40,000 per person).

Here's my question - if the Chinese are growing so rapidly that they'll be richer in 20 years time than we are today, why the hell should be be transferring money to them now so that they can build wind farms? If we simply stand back and let them get rich, they can afford to undertake environmental programs off their own bat.

Duty First

Royal Australian Regiment

I like this. Duty First - that either resonates with you, or you have no idea what they are on about.

Saturday 18 June 2011

More on soft cycling

I hope I didn't sound too mean and rough in my last posting - it's not all about vanquishing your enemies and hearing the lamentations of their women. But it has to be realised that when you get a few blokes together for anything, things soon get competitive. I do the odd social ride from time to time with some people who are a decade or more older than I am, and even though those rides are very slow and cruisy, there are many times during those meandering rides through the suburbs where anywhere from a few riders to half the pack will put the hammer down and blast off ahead. Then they'll reach an obvious waiting point (like the top of a hill or a major intersection) and stop for everyone else to catch up. We'll cruise again for a while, then a few of the blokes will get edgy and off we go again. It's not racing - it's just the fitter blokes pushing each other out to the edge of their performance envelope.

After all, I cycle because I want to be fit. I'm not going to get fit just ambling around everywhere - you need to be pushing yourself on a regular basis in order to improve your fitness. I prefer riding with people who are a bit fitter than me - not a lot fitter, just a bit fitter. That way, I'm always being pushed, and pushed harder than I'd push myself if I were alone.

That photo of Tony Abbott gives you no context - sure, he was leaving the fat cops for dead. However, for all we know, he might have been blowing out a few cobwebs going up that hill, where he might have stopped and waited for them to catch up.

And that's another thing - everyone has their preferred climbing pace. Some like to drop down through the gears and spin up at a slow pace. I can't stand that - it drives me crackers. I prefer to go up a gear if I can, put the hammer down and power over hills as hard as I can. Sometimes I crack before I get to the top - that's life. But I still enjoy giving it all I've got, and trying to get over whatever is in front of me as rapidly as possible.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

Soft cyclist of the week award

From The Letters page of the Aus today:

The picture of Tony Abbott's security guards struggling to keep up with him on their bicycles raises a question about personality traits. As an experienced cyclist, Mr Abbott should know the etiquette requirement that you don't ask more of your riding companions than they can give.

Norm Neill, Darlinghurst, NSW

Norm, that's crap. The purpose of cycling is to blow the other bastard out of his socks. You ride to the point where you break the competition. Typical letter from an inner-city, hand-wringing wanker.

How Greenpeace gets their stuff into IPCC reports

An interesting bit of digging by Climate Audit this week.

Back in 2008, Greenpeace published a report called "Energy Revolution - a sustainable global energy outlook".

The Greenpeace Project Manager and Lead Author was one Sven Teske. He's part of the Climate & Energy Unit at Greenpeace International.

On May 9, 2011, the IPCC announced:

Close to 80 percent of the world‘s energy supply could be met by renewables by mid-century if backed by the right enabling public policies a new report shows.

On 14 June 2011, the IPCC released the full report supporting that statement.

It turns out that our Greenpeace friend, Sven Teske is one of the authors of that IPCC report, and the scenario repeated above was based on the 2008 report he wrote when he was wearing his Greenpeace hat.

Interesting how one hand washes the other.

Monday 13 June 2011

Lesson for old codgers in how to add captions

Add caption

The new Blogger editor has some nifty add-ons that I only just noticed recently. The first is the ability to add captions to pictures. When you click on a picture, it allows you to resize the picture, change how it is justified and add a caption. That's the red box at the top.

I noticed today a "location" button as well - it allows you to map the location of the post. I think it only works for the entire post, not for individual photos (which is a pain, since I take photos all along my rides). Still, it's getting better all the time (or should that be, "more intrusive"?)

Bourke St cycle path

Victoria Rd, Balmain
Having read a fair amount of abuse regarding the Bourke St bike path since it was opened a few months ago, I thought I'd ride it today to see how it stacks up. After all, it's not really fair to abuse the hell out of something if you haven't given it a go.

We've had lousy weather here for the last week - wind, rain and enough low cloud to make it dark at noon. I had to use the "lighten" feature in my photo editing software in order to make most of these photos viewable - and by "lighten", I mean crank it up by 50%.

ANZAC memorial and ANZAC bridge

It wasn't a great day for cycling - once again, about the only people who were out and about were those walking dogs. It was a good day for putting on a Tour de France video and watching top athletes cycling through France in the heat of summer.

Somewhere in the Sydney CBD - Hyde Park on the right
Getting to Bourke St wasn't the easiest - I haven't splashed out on a GPS for the bike yet, and my navigation skills are rubbish. I used to live in the East, and walked up Oxford St more times than I can count, but I still couldn't remember which street was Bourke St.
Oxford St with mad fixie rider
I ended up riding too far up Oxford St, completely missing the Bourke St turn off. Thankfully, the bus lane is really wide and even better, there were no buses around today (it being a public holiday). I rode part of the way with the mad Asian bloke in front of me. No helmet, earphones on, music up loud, fixie - in other words, all the hipster accoutrements. He also had bandaids all over his face - presumably from stacking the fixie into something. Some people - hipsters in particular - have no brains to lose from crashing without wearing a helmet.

Korean War memorial
I had absolutely no idea that there is a Korean War memorial in Moore Park. Then again, it was unveiled years after I left the east.
Korean War memorial - Kapyong
The link above explains what it's all about. Due to the really lousy light today, the wording on the battle monuments completely failed to come out. The one above reads "Kapyong".

Somewhere in Surry Hills
The intersection of Bourke and something. Nice looking house.

Bourke St cycle path

Right - after about an hour of riding, I finally round the Bourke St path. I was quite surprised - it's quite straight, doesn't have much of a gradient and it's a really nice leafy street to roll down at 25km/h. The bike path isn't built for racing - it's built for cruising, or perambulating. Going 30 km/h would be way too fast - but I didn't feel the need to go fast. It's just a really cruisy piece of work.

I wasn't even annoyed at the long wait at the traffic lights at Cleveland St. I was very chilled (and I'm not referring to the rather brisk weather).

Some bloody big apartments in Surry Hills

From what I can gather, the whole idea of this path is to service all the new residents in this mini-city of apartments that has sprung up at the bottom of Bourke St. This used to be industrial land - a brownfields site.  It's now home to umpteen thousand yuppies. I rolled past the Bourke St Bakery, which is obviously the inner-city hipster place to buy sourdough. The queue stretched out the door and partway down the street. Everyone in the queue was a hipster - they looked at me like I was an alien - which I guess I was. I wasn't riding a fixie with stupid little handlebars and a beret and a corduroy jacket.

The overhanging trees and all that reminded me a lot of Canberra. It's a really nice area to meander through.

Pedestrian crossing, Bourke St, Surry Hills

Much of the squealing about the bike path centred around the loss of car parking. I'll post some video later - what I noticed is that there was no shortage of parking. Sure, a number of car spaces were obviously lost, but there was still plenty to be had. From what I could see, most of the parking was lost to build up the spaces around pedestrian crossings, like the one above. Notice the green, garden thing poking out into the road to stop people parking right up next to the level crossing? I bet that's the thing that ate the car spaces. If that's the case, the spaces that were taken were the really dangerous ones that block sightlines at pedestrian crossings, meaning they should have been eliminated whether a bike lane was built or not.

More green space around a traffic light controlled pedestrian crossing.

Temporary Australians
Like all bike paths, this one had its share of uncaring pedestrians that strolled across it without looking. At least I only spotted one pedestrian walking ON the bike path - something that really annoys me. That's a good way to put two people in hospital.

Taylor Square
My biggest gripe is that when I turned around and came back, the thing just petered out on the wrong side of Taylor Square. It soon became obvious why I had missed the path when coming from the city - there are no signs anywhere (that I saw) telling you where to turn to hit the Bourke St path. The best way to describe the path is that it's a path from somewhere (a stack of apartments) to.... nowhere.

Bike tourists
Miserable day for a bunch of bike tourists to be seeing the sights.

Bike fuel - tastes better than diesel
I completely stuffed up my eating times before I left, which meant I ran out of energy about 3/4 of the way home. That required a stop for a chocolate mud cake muffin - which really hit the spot. I know most people would say, "I can't eat that - it'll ruin my diet". My attitude was, "If I don't eat it, I won't make it home. I will expire on the side of the road somewhere".

How would I describe the bike path experience?

Before I went, I was very sceptical that the Bourke St bike path was worth the bother. I regard most of the Pyrmont bike route as an expensive disaster, so my opinion of Clover Moore and her minions was not high. In fact, I'd sooner defend a group of rock spiders than Clover most of the time. No, all of the time.

Except now. I have to say that the path was a revelation. I was really deeply impressed at how good it is (apart from the opposite camber at one point). I think it's worth keeping. 

Oh gawd, I've just realised that this means if the path is threatened, I'll have to go along and protest with a bunch of stinking hippies and hipsters. I knew I shouldn't have gone for a ride today.