Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Day 1 of #30DaysofBiking

I'm very lucky living down south as we haven't had the awful weather that the rest of the country has had, and still having.  Seemingly they are now suffering wicked gales and storms.  Whereas I have woken up this morning to a beautiful spring day.  Chilly but sunny.

I didn't trust the day to stay so spring like, so I thought I would make the first of my 30 days of cycling the first thing I did this morning while the sun was still shining down on me.

I have to admit to not even taking the trike out once this winter.  The youngest of my Granddaughters passed her driving test a few short months ago which meant I now have had access to 3 cars plus drivers.  When the weather is bad and I have my girls offering to take me hither and thither it's really hard to say "no thanks I'll cycle".  So today when I went downstairs and uncovered old Tess, she looked in a bit of a state.

She was covered in cobwebs and of course her tyres needed pumping up.   The few extra rust spots she has picked up can be tackle later, but for this morning she just needed to be road worthy, and her spring tart up can wait.  So within a few minutes I was on the road.

I had no intention of going far as I had so much to do today, so a 10 minute ride was going to be ample.   On leaving my complex I immediately hit a quiet residential road so although there are no actual cycling facilities, after the morning toing and froing of people going off to work, it's a pleasant start to a cycle ride.  Although this particular road hasn't yet been lowered to a 20mph the majority of drivers do treat it as such.

It was so invigorating feeling the bite of the morning air on my face.  One's senses seem to be more heightened when on a bike than they are when walking.

I hadn't gone but 100 yards when I met up with an old boy on his well used road bike and we fell in together chatting as we rode.  He was very interested in how I found riding a trike.  Seemingly he had tried one many years ago and found it too difficult to ride.  I have had a couple of other people say this to me over the years, and I have also found that when others have tried riding my trike they have not been able to steer it, and it always surprises me.  I simply can't understand how people can find 3 wheels more difficult to handle than 2 wheels.

The old boy and I parted company at our local Co-op store as he was just popping out to get a bit of shopping and I continued on my way.     I was probably out no more than about 10 to 15 minutes, basically riding in a large circle and having no need to go anywhere near a main busy road, so the short journey was really pleasant.

I was very surprised to find that my legs didn't struggle with the unusual exercise.  I fully expected to find my first ride out after about 5 months to be a bit of a chore.  I was aware though that at this point I certainly couldn't have done a 10 mile round trip without doing myself a mischief.  But a few more days of short journeys should see me back in top cycling form again.

Monday, 28 January 2013

It Only Takes One Idiot

Last Saturday on the way back from the local Supermarket with a week's shopping on the back of my trike I witnessed the ultimate in stupidity and impatience.

Picture from Google Maps
My way home leads me through what is supposed to be a quiet residential street which also leads to a large beach front car park.  The area is popular for walking, cycling and ultimately to the beach.  As you can see there are the occasional spots allowed for on road parking on the left.

On Saturday the parking area on the left you see in the picture had cars parked from beginning to end.  That particular stretch allows about 6 cars.

After looking behind me and seeing it safe I signaled then pulled out and cycled passed said parked cars well out of the door zone.

I was literally 2 pedal pushes away from the end of the row that would then enable me to pull into the left again when a car coming up behind caught up with me.  There was also a car coming towards us on the other side of the road.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that a driver could be so impatient as to over take me at that point.

As I was level with the very last parked car in the row, the car behind whizzed up beside me to overtake, obviously now in the right hand lane, and baring down fast on the car coming in the other direction.  As he pulled in to the left I had actually cleared the parked cars and was myself pulling in left which would have allowed anything to over take me safely.

He had missed the on coming car by inches.  Too impatient to wait just a couple more seconds.

No wonder with idiots like that on the road more and more people are taking to riding on pavements even on quiet roads like this one.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Rule 64: You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement

Back in 1931 (correct me if I'm wrong on that date) when the highway code was first published, rule 64  "You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement" made perfect sense.

In 1931 everyone walked.  Our pavements were crowded with people walking to work, walking to the shops, walking to visit friends and relations, kids were on the pavements playing marbles, conkers, skipping, hopscotch and much more.  It would have been insanity not to have a law that protected pedestrians as rule 64 did.

In 1931 very few cars were sharing the roads with cyclists.  Cars did not travel at the speeds that they do now and motorists were far more conscious of sharing the road.   On top of which, roads had been originally designed and created for the bicycle.  It was logical that a government wouldn't go to all that expense creating roads for the cyclist not to make them mandatory.

In 1931 a cyclist's thoughts when starting out on his journey wouldn't have been about safety.  Wouldn't have been about planning his journey in advance for the quietest and safest of routes.  Wouldn't have been about making the choice of wearing a helmet, or wearing hi viz clothing.  He would have slapped his cap on his head, wheeled his bike out of doors and ridden to work.  His only planning for his ride would have been to remember to take his lunch box, and bike lights if he knew he was coming home after dark.

Back in 1931 rule 64 was protecting the majority of vulnerable people.  It made perfect sense and no one questioned it.  No one even thought about it.   No one wanted or needed to cycle on a pavement.  Why would they?  The roads in 1931 weren't killing and injuring hundreds of cyclists a year.

Forward to 2012 and we have a very different society.  A society where a law written in 1931 now adds to the death of many cyclists.   Rule 64 has now become lethal.

In 2012 no one walks anywhere.  In most parts of the country (excluding city and town centres obviously) pavements are deserted.   There are no children playing on the paths.  There are few people walking to the shops, walking to visit their friends and relations or walking to work.  Pavements now are totally under used.  Society has changed so much that in most parts of the country pavements are only serving as a space between driveway and road, with the occasional pedestrian needing to use it for a short distance.  Now it is perfectly safe to allow cyclists, if they wish, to ride on all pavements unless stated otherwise when in high pedestrianised areas.

In 2012 roads have now been so widened, are so fast and so congested that it's insanity to expect anyone not encased in a metal box to be anywhere but on a pavement.  Even our residential roads where children used to play happily and safely are now full of parked cars and motorists using them as short cuts at speeds that will kill or maime.

In 2012 cars have become so very safe for the driver and his passengers that they have become even more lethal for anyone on foot or cycle.  The safer the motorised vehicle has become the more daring and dangerous the driving.  Is it any wonder that the majority of people feel it's too dangerous to cycle on our roads.

Once upon a time it was illegal to shoot the kings deer.  Was that law moral and just in a time when thousands of peasants were dying of hunger?  No! of course it wasn't.  No more than it is moral or just to force nervous, young or elderly cyclists out into the path of killing machines today.

In the cities it maybe that more young, healthy fit males are taking to commuting by bike,  but here in the country and quieter towns it's the elderly and the families that are taking to their bikes because they are willing to risk breaking the law and pavement cycle.

Every day hundreds of normally law abiding people are breaking the law and risking fining or court simply because they can't (not wont) cycle in amongst the traffic of today.  For many it's a choice of breaking the law or of not cycling at all.  And illegal or not, pavement cycling is getting more and more people on their bikes.

Until this country builds a real, safe, Dutch style infrastructure, rule 64 needs removing from The Highway Code and in it's place pavement cycling etiquette rules written.  People should be given a legal choice of whether to cycle on road or pavement until cyclists have a place of their own within our infrastructure.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Cycling Christchurch - A35 Lyndhurst Road

This shared use pedestrian/cycle path runs from the beginning of Lyndhurst Road (A35) in Dorset for approximately (not measured) 1 mile, where it peters out on the upward journey on the wrong side of a busy 40mph main through road just crossing the border into Hampshire.

Most times the traffic is in actual fact traveling at 10mph over the speed limit and it's extremely dangerous to cross this road at this point.

For much of this cycle path the width is between 18 and 24 inches.  Way too narrow for myself and trike.  I therefore have never attempted to actually use this wonderful bit of cycling infrastructure.

I haven't seen any part of the path being maintained since it became shared use.  It's overgrown, narrow and knobbly from start to finish.

Basically it's a case of "Well, pedestrians don't use it so if you want to cycle on it you can, but don't expect us to take care of it.  You use it at your own risk"

Lyndhurst Road (A35) Hinton Christchurch

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Walkability - Learning to Vehicular Walk - Just Imagine

Since the removal of all pavements and pathways to make room for more lanes for motorised vehicles, many people are too frightened now to walk.
The government and some walkers say that walking is just as safe as it ever was.  Sharing the same space as fast moving traffic need not be dangerous as long as we follow The Highway Code and take a Walkability course.

We are advised to sign up to a Walkability course to give us confidence to vehicular walk.

Walkability teaches us to how and when to "take the lane", how to join and flow with the traffic to navigate a roundabout and junction safely, how to walk passed the door zone of a parked car, how to give good indication and make eye contact with drivers.

Although not law, we will be required to wear a walking helmet and a high visibility jacket for the Walkability training.

It's said that once anyone from 8 to 80 has learned Walkability and how to vehicular walk it is perfectly safe to walk on our roads with the traffic of today.  We can rest assure that our 8 year old child will be perfectly fine walking to school on their own amongst the traffic, assuming their school does allow walking and has the facilities needed.  We could even encourage Granny or Granddad to walk to pick the kids up from school.

Although motorists do not read the section on walking in The Highway Code and therefore have no idea how to safely overtake a walker or understand why a walker will on occasions be walking in the middle of the lane or indeed understand why as a walker we are not walking as tight to the left as possible, it is still worth while we, as walkers, know rules of the road.

Walking helmets are not mandatory, and although they have only been proved to protect the head if we trip and fall and hit our head on the crown, and certainly wont save us from serious harm or death if we are run over, there are both pros and cons of wearing one.

The downside of wearing a walking helmet is that they are cumbersome, hot, mess up the hair, and basically pretty useless if one is simply a steady walker.

The upside is, if we happen to be run over when not wearing a walking helmet, we will automatically be considered the guilty party.  So wearing a helmet is definitely a plus on that occasion.  It could mean the difference between the driver of the vehicle being taken to court or being sent away and told not to do it again.

As walkers I am sure the majority of us would like to see the return of the pavements and pathways.  To expect vulnerable flesh and blood to share the same space with vehicles traveling at anything up to 70 mph is absolute madness.  It's totally insane.

Instead of pavements and pathways totally separating us from cars, buses, and lorries we have simply been offered Walkability courses to learn how to vehicular walk.  In other words, to pretend we are cars.

How many walkers are going to die on our roads before we once again have segregation.

Monday, 17 September 2012

My First Cycle Out After My Heart Attack

I'd promised my Daughter that I would only go out on the trike if my eldest Granddaughter came with me.  Which she did.

Our Aimee loves cycling anyway, and she wasn't at work today, so she didn't mind in the least keeping me company for my first post heart attack ride.

I planned for a 30 minute run out at the most, taking it steady and avoiding any steep hills.  We took a mostly off road route through country lanes, into, and around, our local Woodlands Burial Ground.

The Burial Ground has a lovely atmosphere, with plenty of open space, tracks for walking and cycling, along with a large pond in the centre.

It was sheer joy being on the trike again.  I could have ridden for many more miles.  I certainly had the energy and strength.  But sadly Aimee had a hair appointment that we needed to get back for.

I suppose for my first time out after the attack and the surgery 40 minutes were enough, although I can honestly say that the ride didn't tire me one whit.

Hoping to get out again for another ride tomorrow.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

11 Days & Counting

It's been 11 days since my heart attack,  11 days since my last cigarette and 7 days since my procedure to implant the stents.

The hardest thing has been not knowing how far to push, or how far not to push my recovery to build up strength again and get back to normal living.

I was collected from the hospital last Saturday by my Niece, and driven directly to her Mother's (my eldest Sister) home, where it was planned for me to stay until the Monday.  My Sister Barbara is 13 years my senior, a very fit, energetic woman, but can't make a cup of tea to save her life.

Although I did not lounge in bed all day but got up as normal I have to admit to not bothering to get dressed all the time I was there.  It was far easier and more comfy to stay in PJs as I was not going to leave the house throughout the whole of my stay.

It was lucky that the weather for the weekend was sunny and warm which meant although I couldn't get out and about we could spend most of the days sitting, eating, drinking and yacking,  in the garden.

I actually did more pottering those 3 days than I first thought I would due to the fact that all the time I was there I only allowed Barbara to actually make me 2 cups of tea.  The rest I made myself on the pretext of needing to get some exercise and not sitting lounging all day.   I didn't have the heart to tell her that her tea was vile, as she was so good to me and waited on me hand and foot.

On Monday evening I was collected by my Daughter Sarah, and Co. to be taken back to their home and stay until my daughter deems me fit enough to be left to my own devices once again and allowed back to live by, and take care of myself.

On Tuesday when all went off to work I was left in the capable hands of my youngest Granddaughter Jess (15), to be there "just in case", and more importantly to make me tea.  I was also made to promise that I would do no more than lounge around, play on the comp and wander out to the garden.

I think Sarah forgot that I had just spent the last 3 days doing exactly that and really should start thinking about being a bit more active.  But that also turned out to be another day that I had my shower and got directly back into another clean pair of PJs.

It turned out a fun day.  Jess is great company.  We watched a couple of dvds, she cooked cakes, and I taught her to clean out the aquarium, (my aquarium - in Sarah's house - my job to clean out each week - Long story, just don't ask), as I wont be able to lift heavy buckets for many weeks.

The following day on Wednesday I am now getting a bit worried that I'm not getting enough exercise to start building up my strength and more importantly my heart.  So with just Jess and me spending another day on our own together, armed with a mobile and my nitro pump spray, Jess and I set off for slow, steady, 20 minute walk in the sunshine. 

Thursday I had a change of keeper.  Jess was back to school but my eldest Granddaughter Aimee (20) was stuck with me.  Now Aimee is not so easy to lead in the direction one wants to go.    She took her caring of me very seriously.  I wont go into details but I was lucky to be able to be out of her sight long enough to go to the loo on my own.

I had a bit of a fight on my hands when I suggested a 30 minute walk in the sunshine to give me some exercise.  "Too soon.  You are meant to be resting.  You don't need to be walking around yet."  -  In the end we did have a lovely 30 minute walk.  Timed by Aimee.  I had after all said I wanted a 30 min walk and that is exactly what I got.

However, when Sarah and Jess came home later that afternoon, they needed to drive into town to pick up a new pair of shoes for Jess, so I suggested that Aimee and I went with them for the ride, which we did, so I managed to get another 45 minutes out of the house.

Yesterday I also managed to get out and about for a bit.  I asked Sarah to drive me into town to just visit W.H.Smiths.  There was a few bits of stationary I wanted to sort out my filofaxes.  From there we drove to my flat to pick up a few bits I needed to take back to Sarah's.  Not good news on arriving.  A pipe was found to be leaking in my airing cupboard.   Not a pretty sight with all my towels, sheets, etc., dripping wet.

One phone call to the association though and it has been left in their capable hands to send in a plumber and get it fixed while I am not there.

So you see, I haven't really been getting much exercise since coming out of hospital, but it's hard to know just how much or how little is the right amount of exercise at this point.

I am still covered in many painful bruises.  Walking and sitting for the first few days was extremely painful from the bruises left around the femoral artery.  Although the bruising is still there and very nasty at least it isn't so uncomfortable now.  Same with my right arm and from where they entered the artery there.  That is still very painful and in actual fact is still keeping me awake at night.  The twitchy, twingy pains one continues to get in the chest after stent implants is a bit worrying as one is never sure if it's a normal twinge after this procedure or if it's the start of a new attack.  Those pains should soon disappear though I am told.

So finally we come to the fags, or lack thereof.

I can't say I am proud of myself for quitting.  It hasn't really been my choice.  It has only been the sheer fear of another heart attack that has stopped me lighting up again.  And quitting has made me miserable.   To be in pain, scared, and having ones independence snatched away, albeit for a short time, is not a good time to quit.  To add insult to injury it hasn't been the fags that have caused this, although they wouldn't have helped, hence the quitting.  This would have happened if I had never smoked in my life.

Funnily enough not one of the many Doctors I have seen have even suggested or advised I quit.  The simple question of "What are you going to do about smoking" 2 days into my hospital stay, and my answer of - "I had my last fag ever before my heart attack" was enough for them.   No discussion, no lecture, just a simple, "Would you like help?  We can offer help with quitting.  Would you like a nicotine patch?"   I didn't need any help.  Once I had decided "no more fags" it really was just a case of no more.

But the good news is, that my full recovery relies on 3 of my favourite activities.  Walking, Swimming and Cycling.  It's now just a matter of waiting and building up slowly until I am ready to do all three again.