I’m not sure if this is legal – but even if it is, it’s totally wrong from a moral standpoint. It’s a story in The Independent about how “cycling activists” are attempting to sway the results of local council elections by offering their votes to “bike-friendly candidates”.
Various activist groups are involved. To quote one:
Chris Peck, campaigns co-ordinator at national cycling charity CTC, said the elections were a “major opportunity to ensure that cycling is still seen as a high priority”. “Councils have huge budgets and huge power,” he said. “They are places where we need to spend a lot more effort on converting people to support cycling.”
Note how this comedian misses the point completely – as do all these radical cycling numpties. His aim is to get cyclists on roads whether it’s safe or not – and he’ll sell his vote to get his way.
The article also mentions a Birmingham cell who are calling for changes on a major link road on the strength of a single fatality of a 13-year old over two years ago, even though the driver of the lorry was jailed for dangerous driving. Again, they miss the point entirely – if the driver was at fault, what is wrong with the road? What is there that specifically needs to be changed that would have prevented the incident?
The problem is that if you asked any Spandex-wearing activist, they would have every single road in the country changed. None of them can understand that roads are dangerous by virtue of the fact that big, heavy machinery travels on them. There are those whose political maturity is still in the womb on this topic, and who seriously see banning those nasty machines from roads as a genuine solution. They forget that there are already “roads” where traffic is banned. Those roads are called “cycle paths”, and many of these Spandex-wearing politicos refuse point blank to go anywhere near them.
Those last two articles I wrote concerning cyclists have generated a lot of blog traffic via Twitter and Facebook. As I’ve pointed out before, I don’t allow comments on this blog because they’re just an excuse for juvenile prats to swear and post links to pornography sites. And the contact form makes it clear that any abuse through that will immediately be reported to the sender’s ISP (and you CAN be traced, so don’t kid yourself that you can’t), and I guess that’s why hits to that page also skyrocketed, but only produced one actual submission.
The reader who responded refers to the “idiotic” cyclist shown in the photograph in the post about HGV drivers being forced to take mandatory cycling lessons in Islington. He asks where I think he should ride instead (I’ve included the picture again). Well, the answer is simple: anywhere else – just not there!
Cyclists seem unable to comprehend anything that doesn’t go 100% in their favour. In this case, it just amazes me that they cannot understand that although the cyclist in the picture may well have every right to do what he’s doing, he would have to be a complete and utter pillock to actually do it.
It’s like sticking your hand in a blender or an open fire – yes, you have every right to do it if you choose to do so, but if you get injured (and even if you don’t) you’re going to have to accept that you’re still a prat.
Irrespective of who would be to blame, if one of those lorries swerved – to avoid another cyclist, for example – the cyclist would be dead. And no doubt the Spandex-clad fingers would then start pointing at the HGVs again.
The simple fact is that the degree of danger for a cyclist varies from nothing to almost total, depending on where (and how) he rides. Riding between lorries, or in among large numbers of lorries, is right up at the bad end.
Nothing can alter that, including the ridiculous idea from the Greenies that lorries should be constructed out of glass to give 360° vision in all three dimensions (or possibly all four dimensions if it’s an activist-led idea). Even if that ever happened – and it won’t – it would take decades to implement.
It’s also worth me repeating what I said to that reader in response to various other accusations:
- I ride a bike
- I use cycle paths
- I avoid riding among traffic, especially on purpose
- I teach pupils to be careful around cyclists
- I teach pupils what cyclists behave like
- My pupils see frequent examples of what cyclists behave like
So there is no point whatsoever trying to pretend that all cyclists are angels. They aren’t.
Shortly after I published this I received another email from a reader. Here it is in full (with his permission):
I have to say, I really enjoy reading your views on cyclists as they are more or less exactly the same as mine.
Where I live and teach Corby and Kettering) there is an elderly guy, who I’m told by one of my pupils used to be her geography teacher. He ‘rides’ one of those contraptions where the user is pretty much lying down, and will do so regardless of the queues of traffic building up behind him. We currently have a lot of major road works in the area, notably the A6003 between Corby and Kettering, where there are lane closures and contra flow systems in place. It’s a fairly common sight to see a queue a couple of miles long behind this idiot as he will exercise his right to ride it anywhere he wants regardless of how much chaos he creates. He’s retired, and as such I can only assume he does it for the exercise and enjoyment, I’m just not sure if the thing he’s riding is even road legs, much less how he’s not dead yet, being no more than 18 inches off the ground.
Just thought I’d get that off my chest!
I’ve mentioned these lying-down bikes before – their proper name is “recumbent bike”. Around my way you usually see them on a Sunday on narrow country lanes, surrounded by a group of middle-aged men riding two or three abreast and travelling at low speed. The rider of the recumbent usually has a beard and legs that look like something out of a toothpaste tube. All of them are trying to act as if they were 20 years younger.
The cycling militia can rant on all they like about driving instructors feeling this way, but we are just talking sense.The simple fact is that eventually someone in authority is going to see have to see sense too and stop keep trying to pander to the Spandex Corps all the time.
Roads are for motor vehicles, and cycle paths are for bicycles. And as the number of people having absolutely no road sense but being encouraged to start riding a bike increases, the Law needs to start forcing cyclists to stay off roads and keep to cycle paths.
This BBC story tells of an apparently “hi-tech” solution “invented” by a woman from a company called Blaze. It isn’t hi-tech at all – not unless you class everything incorporating a laser as hi-tech.
What it does is project a cycle symbol on to the road ahead. That is, if it’s adjusted properly. If it isn’t, the cycle symbol will be projected into the air, or anywhere else the Neanderthal on the bike chooses to aim it. There’s also no mention of what happens to the projected light when it hits a puddle or bus shelter. We scientists would know that as something called “reflection”, and God only knows what is likely to happen if a bright green laser is reflected off a bus shelter into the eyes of a passing motorist, or off a puddle into the eyes of a pedestrian.
The spreading infestation on our roads of people on two wheels who only think of themselves means that badly adjusted hi-brightness white LED lamps is already a growing safety issue. A badly adjusted laser is going to be a hundred times worse.
Quite how the people responsible for this dangerous toy think it will improve safety is anyone’s guess. Because when some jackass ignores every safety guideline going and tries to cut up an 18-wheeler attempting to turn left on the inside, I can’t imagine having a laser torch will make much difference to the outcome. And if you’re in an HGV (or any other vehicle) and you see ten of these things flashing away at you from all angles on the road, confusion is the most likely outcome – not safety.
The About page on the Blaze website says it all:
Cycling is about independence. But it’s also about community. It’s different things to different people. A dawn riser racing to work to get her adrenaline fix. A student saving up for a weekend gig. A nature-lover doing his bit for the environment.
Currently, urban cycling favours the brave, the reckless even, the ones willing to fight for their place on the road. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
I couldn’t have written a better reason for introducing mandatory IQ tests for cyclists if I tried.
The best thing London’s councillors could do is ban this thing before too many are sold. It needs proper safety testing by independent testers – not by pro-cycling commercial groups.
In order to understand the logic being applied by Islington Council, you have to take a look at the picture below.
Yes, that’s right. Islington’s knee-jerk reaction to the recent spate of cyclist fatalities (and innumerable other non-fatal incidents) in London is to make it compulsory for HGV drivers working for the Council to take the so-called “Safe Urban Driving training course, or equivalent”.
That “or equivalent” part probably means that an NVQ in Pigeon Spotting would also suffice, but that’s just speculation on my part.
Of course, to anyone with any sense, the picture above would immediately prompt the introduction of mandatory IQ tests for cyclists – but we’re talking about a right-on leftie group, here.
As you’d expect, positive sounding grunts have come from pro-cycling groups. However – and also as you’d expect – the proposals don’t go far enough for them.
Ideally we’d like to see lorries redesigned so they do not have blind spots, by lowering the windscreens to knee height, such as you see in coaches or some rubbish trucks.
The moron in the photo would obviously be totally safe in that case. I mean, it’s obvious. And then some prat in the Green Party says:
Getting heavy goods vehicle drivers out on their bikes will help build understanding between cyclists and lorry drivers. However we must ensure that drivers of these large vehicles are not “driving blind” through crowded city streets.
I despair that society has degenerated to the point where people can make puerile comments like this from positions of perceived power and responsibility. They’re just idiots.
As long as people like the guy in the photograph exist, it is obvious what needs to be done – and it doesn’t involve re-training anyone driving a motor vehicle.
I found this in the newsfeeds. I’ve already reported on the upcoming merger between VOSA and DSA into a single body, and how it is supposed to save money by streamlining the functions carried out by both bodies.
Well, this latest story suggest that a contract is going out to tender for someone “to help manage and organise the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency’s (VOSA) and Driving Standards Agency’s (DSA) legacy IT infrastructure after the two organisations merge in 2014”.
It will cost £35 million.
It never ceases to amaze me how this government can say and do two completely contradictory things. The merged body is going to be more bureaucratic than the two separate entities ever were. Heaven knows what will happen to the service levels.
I’m in favour of gadgets – I always have been. But only ones that make any sense.
Getting a mobile phone made sense when they first reached a sensible size back in the early 90s. And getting a digital camera made sense when they first reached a sensible price point (also 90s). Getting a computer made sense – firstly, one of the original home computers (late 70s/ early 80s), then a PC (late 80s) once it started to assert itself. Even getting an electronic doorbell kit made sense in 1977 – OK, I’m stretching that one a bit (the original non-electronic ones had a solenoid in them with a central core which acted as a hammer. When you pressed the door button the core would be displaced to strike a metal plate to give a “ding”, and a spring would send it back to hit another plate to give the “dong” when you released the button).
There’s a lot of technology that doesn’t make sense, though, and which only appeals to children and Doctor Who fans. It includes things like Google Glass, Google Self-driving cars, and smart watches. I’ll stick my neck out and say that these will never catch on – no matter how much Google spams the media with stories about how they will.
But now we have another one – I think Amazon is trying to snatch some of the limelight back from Google when it comes to stretching the limits of reason. This article – somewhat unsurprisingly on a games website, though it is covered in other news sources – reports that Amazon is planning to use drone octocopters to deliver packages to customers.
Now, while I am sure that the Doctor Who fans out there will think it’s a brilliant idea – and it is, if you come from the planet Vulcan or are captain of the Battlestar Galactica – there are numerous real world issues to deal with down here on Earth. You can start by watching the promo video below:
Amazon reckons the drone can deliver packages weighing up to around 2¼ kg. I love the way that they clarify this for those whose DNA only contains a single helix:
[it] won’t work for larger and bulkier products, of course, like kayaks and tablesaws.
And TVs. And computers. And a lot of other things.
Let’s go a little deeper into the reality of the matter. You can already get hobby quadcopters like the Parrot AR Drone. If you look seriously into buying one (all right, I admit it. I have been thinking of getting one purely for the fun value) one of the first things you would investigate after seeing and recovering from the price is flight time and range – how long do you get in the air from a single battery charge, and how far away can it fly before you lose control? Very quickly, your plans to enter the world of James Bond falter when you discover that flight time is up to 15 minutes – or half an hour if you buy the super-duper power pack – combined with a virtual tether of about 50 metres in open space. If you’re anything like me, you then start imagining what’s going to happen if the power runs out or control is lost while your drone is still airborne – and the wide availability of spare parts plus YouTube videos of how to replace the propellers, the main cross member, the main circuit board, and so on provide the answer (i.e. it crashes and gets broken). Of course, this assumes that you can retrieve it from the tree, the roof, or the middle of the road before someone runs over it. Or that you can even find it.
Now, I can’t see how Amazon has managed to get much beyond these technical limitations when you look at the size of its octocopter. It might be a bit bigger, but that means it needs more power because it is heavier (and it has eight motors to power plus a bigger payload). And when you consider that Amazon’s nearest fulfilment centre to me is in Doncaster, any droid would have to fly about 45 miles. Even at an average speed of 10mph that means it would have to be airborne for around 9 hours (assuming it had to get back to base after it dropped the package). The solution to the distance – autonomous navigation via GPS – just means a greater initial weight, and is firmly in Google’s driverless car territory (i.e. fantasy land).
That brings us to the small matter of trees, overhead telephone and power cables, lamp posts, wind, rain, snow. I don’t think GPS allows for all those (on many UK streets there is a blanket of wires radiating from telephone poles going to individual houses). GPS is also going to have to be almightily accurate and precise if drops are to be made in safe and convenient places – even if such actually exist for every household.
Initially, the service is targeted at American audiences, and although I don’t want to stereotype anyone or anything, in a place where gun ownership is almost mandatory, small commercial drones automatically fall into the same group as rats and pigeons. Some nutter with a gun and a paranoid delusion about Amazon and it’s “spy planes” is bound to take one down sooner rather than later.
So although it is a good idea on paper, I think the technology and the practicalities will stop it happening for the foreseeable future. A bit like computers that can think – they’ve been on about that since the 60s, with every successive generation claiming it will be “soon”. Yet we’re no nearer having one.
I’ve mentioned before how LED lighting is the way forward – I use an LED strip instead of a table lamp for my PC workstation, and I’ve recently bought both 60W and 100W equivalent LED bulbs to replace annoying low-power fluorescent bulbs (which take time to reach full brightness, amongst other things).
So I was interested in this article which explains how a British inventor has developed a lighting system for poorer countries where a weight is used to generate power for an LED array using gravity. It’s not so much the technology involved – which is straightforward – but the manner in which the inventor has gone about the task of developing a marketable product.
In the target countries for the light, kerosene and other fossil fuels are often used to provide lighting, and these are poisonous as well as dangerous in more obvious ways. With this new system, a weight of up to 12.5kg (consisting of sand, dirt, or rubble) powers a dynamo which can then provide light for up to 30 minutes on a single drop cycle. The units sell for only $10 each, and can be daisy chained to provide greater power levels.
The inventors bypassed the usual venture capitalists and went directly public, and raised $400,000 dollars through around 6,000 individual backers. If I’d have known about it, I’d have chucked a few bob in myself. It’s a brilliant idea.
The $10 price tag is still high – daily wages in some of the target countries are below $2 a day – but the savings in kerosene costs are around $100 inside two years, which means buyers would get a return on the investment very quickly.
The device can also be used to charge mobile phone batteries and other things.
You can read more at deciwatt.org.
From 1 October 2014, tax discs will no longer be issued or be required to be displayed on vehicles. Also from that date, it will be possible to pay your road tax annually, every six months, or monthly by direct debit.
There is more information available here. It’s also been covered in much of today’s media. The changes do not negatively impact motorists in any way – the surcharge for paying six-monthly or monthly, for example, will actually be half of what it currently is when you pay six-monthly.
The tax disc first appeared in 1921. According to the article, over 99% of motorists pay their road tax on time.
The only question I would have is what happens if someone’s monthly direct debit is refused? Are they then untaxed? Since enforcement is by ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Readers/Recognition) systems there could be a rise in the numbers of those being stopped for having no tax – yet they might not be aware that they aren’t taxed.
NOTE: As a reader has pointed out, the term “road tax” is technically a misnomer, and the correct term is “vehicle tax” or “vehicle excise duty”. However, I should point out myself that the term “road tax” is almost universal, even to the point of being in the OED. You can read more about the debate surrounding the term on Wikipedia.
I’ve mentioned Horslips several times on the blog (use the search function for video clips). They were the first band I ever saw live, and I was lucky enough to get to see them again a couple of years ago up in Glasgow after more than 30 years! They were just as good as they ever were.
This has been a long time in the making, but at long last an official biography has been released (I got wind from Classic Rock magazine this month). I’ve got mine on order and I’m looking forward to getting hold of it. I hope it arrives before Christmas.
I also note that there is a 2CD set containing the A- and B-sides of all Horslips’ singles releases over the years. I’ll have to order that when I find a source (I haven’t looked yet, and it might be easier than I thought). Oh, wait. It IS easier – Amazon has it. And nuts! Amazon also has the book, though I’ve already ordered mine from Ireland.
Horslips’ website also has a new list of all known gigs (the one I went to back in ‘78-ish isn’t on it, so I’ll have to let them know).
This story makes me shudder. Bijan Ebrahimi was a disabled Iranian who came to the UK. Unfortunately, he appears to have settled in one of those areas where many of the residents are only distinct from animals by virtue of appearance. Their intelligence and behavioural traits firmly identify them as simian, at best.
Bijan was wrongly labelled as a paedophile by certain mentally defective residents – notably, by Lee James, 24, and his accomplice, Stephen Norley, 25. By implication, other local residents – especially those close to James and Norley – were also involved.
Apparently, they had waged a campaign against Bijan as a result of the false conclusion they had reached about him, and which they were mentally incapable of dismissing when confronted with facts. Even when the police arrested Bijan based on residents’ insinuations, and found the accusations to be absolutely and totally false, those same residents – James and Norley in particular – persisted in their campaign against him.
You can read the story about what happened for yourselves. The upshot is that James was jailed for life for murder, and Norley for four years.
The part that I find most disturbing is that in the video Bijan took when James entered his house and started making threats you can see the woman in the background (apparently involved with James in some way) who was obviously also party to the campaign against him. It doesn’t take much imagination to picture the dealings of the sordid lair James and his associates inhabited, and how they convinced themselves of Bijan’s “guilt”.
The police have also been criticised for arresting and then releasing Bijan back into the morass created by James and the scum he was associated with. In effect, they made matters worse.
It’s frightening on many levels. That people like James, Norley, and any others who associated with them exist. That women like the one skulking in the background of the video can get away scot-free. That a false accusation of this nature can ever be allowed to escalate so far in the first place. And that police didn’t realise that they had fanned the flames with their action.
Back in June I mentioned that the DSA and VOSA would be merging in 2014. This latest news release from the DSA says that the new single agency will be called the “Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency”. I am assuming it will be known as the DVSA, though this abbreviation is not used in the release.
Obviously, there is more involved than just a name change (that petty accusation is in the sole domain of the web forum agitator).
All documents bearing the DSA logo will remain valid until further notice, and ADIs will not need to change their badges until the normal renewal times. Instructors will still be known as “DSA approved ADIs” until further notice. Again, I assume we will become “DVSA approved ADIs” at some stage. No DVSA logo is yet given.
It’s worth pointing out – to the agitators in particular – that this change is a government thing. It isn’t something the DSA can be blamed for.