Not dangerous

As Easy As Riding A Bike

In 2013, we’ve heard a lot about the dangers of cycling. So, as the year comes to end, it’s time for a brief reminder of some things that aren’t dangerous.

Riding a bike without a helmet is not dangerous.Safe cycling in Assen

Riding a bike without hi-viz clothing is not dangerous.

DSCN0113

(Even when it’s a bit gloomy.)
Why would you cycle on the pavement here?

Riding a bike while keeping yourself dry with an umbrella is not dangerous.

DSCN0153Riding a bike while someone else keeps you dry with an umbrella is not dangerous.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 22.45.45Giving someone a backie is not dangerous.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 22.49.10Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 22.49.44

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 22.53.24

At any age.
Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 22.58.59
Giving a newly-purchased grill a backie is not dangerous.
DSCN0386Giving someone a backie while they tow a suitcase is not dangerous.

DSCN9847Listening to music while riding a bike is not dangerous.

DSCN9943

Listening to music and drinking coffee while cycling is not dangerous.DSCN9946

Taking the dog for a walk by bike is not dangerous.

Screen Shot 2013-12-30 at 23.30.08

DSCN9770
Even with plants from the…

View original post 100 more words

Advertisements

Films I Saw in 2013

31 films watched in the cinema in 2013.  A chronological list with notes on the notable ones:

  • Looper

A bit of hype surrounding this one and so I let it die down before seeing it, and so it was the first cinema visit of the year.  With all time-travel movies there are always paradoxes and the threshold of how much it can get away with mostly depends on either how good all the other things in the movie are, and/or how unforgivable or noticable the paradox is.  All this is mostly subjective as well, so here’s my opinion.  The paradoxes are not so big that they’re noticable until you really think about it, and the rest of the film is really quite good.  A well structured and engaging story with some good themes and ideas (which is a big thing with me – I would give a film more credit than it prehaps deserves if it has good themes and ideas).  Bruce Willis and JGL both great, and also mentioning Jeff Daniels and Paul Dano in the supporting roles.  Great film overall.

  • Django Unchained
  • Police Story

It was so good seeing this with an audience.  Haven’t done that before.

  • Swingers
  • Side by Side
  • Magnolia
  • Punch-Drunk Love

It has recently been brought to my attention that there are plot points in this that are problematic, specifically the phone sex-line scene towards the beginning that gives the film its rather loose payoff.  The rest of the film is also a male fantasy type romantic story, as sweet as I think it is.  As someone who grew up watching a lot of romantic comedies and with a slightly skewed and unhealthy idea of romance and dating, Punch-Drunk Love is really a film I identified with in terms of the sweet moments where Barry (Adam Sandler) and Lena (Emily Watson) interact.  The entire film seems like something PT Anderson, or any male neurotic writer/artist, would have written on a lonely summers day.  Having realised these things I don’t think I can really like is as much as before, but I do still love the scenes with Barry and Lena.  Of note is the scene in Hawaii where Barry is at the payphone trying to reach Lena – the light is fading outside and when Lena finally answers the phone the light in the payphone box lights up with a ‘ding’.  Also I love the music by Jon Brion.

  • Zero Dark Thirty
  • Vulgaria
  • Side Effects
  • The Great Gatsby
  • Grave of the Fireflies

I had never seen this before and didn’t know what it was about when going in.  I won’t say much more about it, except that by the end my face was flooded with tears.

  • Days of Being Wild
  • Populaire
  • Now You See Me
  • Man of Steel
  • World War Z
  • Only God Forgives

I watched this whilst I was in Amsterdam, so the subtitles during the dialogue in Thai were in Dutch.  It added an extra mystery to it all, where all I had to decipher what was being said was tone, pitch, pace and mise-en-scène.  The film is slow and stylised and pretty gruesome in parts.  It has a David Lynch feel to it, mixed with something else that I can’t quite put my finger on.  Kristen Scott Thomas is great in it, but not enough to be recommended.  Only watch if really interested, or fancy Ryan Gosling (or seeing him get beat the fuck up).

  • Byzantium

Brilliant.  Watch it.

  • The Master

“What the fuck is this about?” is still my reaction.  Caught this as a one off screening at the Prince Charles Cinema.

  • Commando

One of a few really great cinema experiences this year for me.  Everyone in the auditorium knew what was what, and it was a lot of fun to see it with them.

  • Monsters University
  • Elysium
  • Kick-Ass 2
  • Frances Ha

One of my favourite films of this year.  Frances goes through the pride and insecurities of a 20-something in New York City, and it’s really funny, sweet, and go watch it.

  • Enter the Void

…By Gasper Noe and is very visually interesting and stunning.  With the lack of a conventional narrative it was good enough to keep me until about 15 minutes before the end where I lost interest.  The scene just didn’t seem to go anywhere or do anything new.  Other than that it’s a impressive piece of work.

  • Thor: The Dark World
  • Blue Jasmine
  • Philomena
  • Gravity
  • Blue is the Warmest Colour (La Vie d’Adèle)

The French title is a much more apt title.  The film is really about a part of the life of the main character, Adèle.  It stayed interesting throughout its longer-than-average running time.  Impressive and great performances.

I watched a few films at home as well.  Here are some I would recommend for various reasons:

The Wayward Cloud

A Taiwanese film that is half crazy slow paced weird shit and bit part musical.  The musical numbers are entirely separate sequences spread across the film.  The rest of it is slow and minimal.  The musical bits were quite fun and creative.  The rest of it was pretty weird.  Watch for something different.

Prometheus

Watch it just to see how incredibly awful it is.  Watch it, then read/watch some criticism of it.

Detachment

Adrian Brody.

The Front

Starring but not written or directed by Woody Allen.  Film is about artists in Hollywood who were black-listed after being suspected of being Communists.

Drug War

A cat and mouse thriller from China, but honestly, I think they knew what they were doing as it became super ridiculous and tongue-in-cheek towards the end.  Good fun.

The Raid

Lol, martial arts film of the type I’ve never seen before.  Other martial arts films have some kind of overall story.  This is just a plot that is an excuse for people to fight and get beat up in various, occasionally hilarious, ways.

That’s about it.  Thanks for reading.

The Loneliest Landscape

Sunday 29th September 2013

I had a rare Sunday off so decided to go on one of the bike rides listed in ‘Lost Lanes’, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now.  I’ve never been on long rides in the UK.  The longest I’ve ever ridden is from Rotterdam to Arnham over two days, which was pretty good as the routes in the Netherlands are very clear.  The National Cycle Route in the UK, I found out first hand today, isn’t as clearly marked.  It’s not as awful as I was expecting it to be from some of the feedback that I’ve heard from others, but it is inconsistent at junctions.  Some places are better signed than others.

I did route #6 from ‘Lost Lanes’, which starts at Gravesend and finishes in Strood via All Hallows.  A few things that I saw along the way that I felt were interesting follows:

Firstly, it didn’t start very well.  I arrived at Cannon Street Station for a train to Gravesend, but when I took out my wallet I realised I had left my bank card at home in my other jacket and I had no cash.  So I had to go home to get it before starting all over again.  That cost me an hour.  Anyway,

Image

Down the Thames river.

Coming out of Gravesend Railway station I was greeted with a road heavy with motor traffic.  I thought to myself ‘this is inviting for someone setting off on a gentle Sunday ride’.  It took a while before a gap opened up and I could finally join the road.  Around the first corner, though, and I found a whole queue of cars tailing back from a mini-roundabout.  I sneaked my way through and got onto the bank of the Thames (picture above).  It was good to see the Thames as I’d never seen it before.  Most of my experience with the river has been the parts that flow through London itself and it’s easy to forget that there’s more up- and downriver.

It wasn’t long before I encountered this:

Image

National Cycle Route 1 runs through these abandoned warehouses.  As interesting as it is, the road was cobblestones with a ton of debris, not exactly pleasant to ride on.  Is the point of the NCR to provide a good route from place to place or is it to take people on a tour of local areas?  I always thought it was the former.  Also, being new to this, I’m not sure how much preparation people do before going on one of these rides.  Do people know exactly the type of surface they’ll be riding on the whole route?  Or is that what touring bikes are for, and you use wheels and tyres suitable for anything surface?  Lucky I didn’t come with a road or track bike.  But there’s more rough roads to come.

Then I came across a sign that pointed to the right, but that road hooked back around to where I came from.  I went backtracked to the sign to discover that behind it and to the right was a very well hidden path where the NCR 1 continued.  It’s not obvious at all.

At this point I was feeling like the whole idea was a bit of a mistake.  The ride was grim and I wasn’t enjoying it.

Not long after this I was on a long straight paved road.  Only problem was there were a few people on moped who sped by at about 40mph.  The road led into a nature reserve, so no more motor vehicles, but it was a rough gravel road.

Image

Also had shit like this to contend with:

Image

Note the desire path to the right.

After exiting the nature reserve I was on a nice (ish) paved road with speed humps across the width of the road.  Not yet had I had a comfortable ride in over 6 miles.  First there was traffic, and then cobblestones, then speeding mopeds, then gravel, then metal shit, then speed humps.

Seriously, do I have incredibly high standards?  Remember, I didn’t just turned up at a random road expecting it to be great for cycling.  I am on a National Cycle Route.  I don’t think many cyclists like these obstacles.  I think they put up with it because it’s easier to get on with it and forget about it.  Or perhaps people have got use to whole thing and know what to expect.  As I say, I’m a first timer on these sorts of rides in the UK, I found it really quite annoying and I was disappointed.

There are more things that I have complaints on the second half of the ride as well, but I couldn’t be bothered to stop and take pictures of those.  My favourite one, however, was the NCR route sign directing me into a ‘public footpath’ where there were signs that said ‘Cyclists Dismount’, and technically there is no cycling on the footpath.  And this wasn’t a short footpath either.  Had I really dismounted and walked along the NATIONAL FUCKING CYCLING ROUTE, it would have taken me about 20 minutes or so.  But I cycled along it though, slowing down and passing pedestrians safely whenever I encountered them.  And by the looks of the tracks on the path, I wasn’t the only one who thought it would be ridiculous to walk it.

Anyway, between the speed humps and the ‘no cycling’ bits of a cycle route, there were some nice things to see.

Image

Here I’m in Cooling (there really wasn’t any angle to get a good picture of it.  You might be able to make out Charles Dickens on the sign.  Apparently when he was down here he saw the churchyard had little grave stones for children who had died and that inspired the setting to the beginning of Great Expectations.

IMG_4384

IMG_4385

Not the ones that Charles Dickens saw, obviously.

Compared to the very flat Dutch countryside, the British countryside is a bit more interesting.

IMG_4387

Higher hills than I saw in most of the Netherlands.

The Easterly point of the route is also the most Easterly point of the river Thames.  I rode a few miles down towards the Thames Estuary where the river Thames and the river Medway both flow into.  The very end of the route is on the banks of the Thames where the London Stone could be seen.  The Stone marks the end of the jurisdiction of the City of London Corporation and the end of the river Thames.

The very last portion of the route is a footpath and when I reached the end of paved road I was faced with a locked fence.  I was so close to the coast.

IMG_4389

There was an A4 in a plastic sleeve tied to a post that said something about re-paving of roads but I didn’t take any more notice of it.  All I knew was I had come all this way and I couldn’t make that last little bit of the journey nor could I see the London Stone.  Pissed me right off.

I did think about hopping the fence, but I thought better of it as I had no idea who owns it or what the general deal is with trespassing.  I assumed that hopping the fence would not be good.  So I turned around and rode back West and on to Strood.

The route to Strood had a few down gradients, which I was happy about.  However, one of them was dangerous as FUCK.  It was a narrow path that is shared use.  It’s so incredibly narrow only two people can walk along it side by side and not comfortably.  It has 6 foot fences that lined both sides of the path with foliage obscuring the view, and lastly, the path curves round making the whole thing one big blind corner.  Riding down it I would’ve picked up speeds of up to about 30mph maybe more.  If I had done that and someone was walking or riding up the other direction I wouldn’t have had the time or the braking distance or the space to avoid hitting them.  So I had to squeeze my brakes the entire way down using them to control my speed down.  And right down at the bottom where the path ends are staggered fences to stop me from bombing straight out of the path onto the road, but which I could easily have smashed into at 30mph and severely hurt myself.

I can’t say that there was anything along the way that I found particularly interesting and the ride wasn’t very nice either, but I eventually got to Strood.

IMG_4390

 

It’s not a very good picture but the place on the other side of the river (Medway) is Rochester.  It actually looks quite nice over there and I was tempted to ride over to take a gander.  But it was getting late and I was feeling kind of odd after the ride, and so I got on the train home.  I did see a submarine though.

 

IMG_4393

 

Overall, I’m glad I did it.  It was an experience that I won’t forget.  There were moments when I stopped and I was truly alone and I could hear the silence, or near enough.  I came across a few other cyclists, all of whom I waved to and said a quick ‘hi’ to as we passed each other.  Not enough of them, though, I felt.  In the little villages I saw rows of cars.  I saw more cars in those villages than people.  I couldn’t help but think how much they must rely on their cars to get to other villages and towns, and also how uninviting cycling is as an alternative that they would ruin otherwise picturesque villages, filling it with pollution and dirt.  I also saw a few people walking down the country roads, I thought how much more convenient it would have been if they were on a bicycle.  The only reason that I can see, through my bias eyes, is that cycling is seen as just for leisure – that’s what I was doing there on a bicycle after all – and not for anything ‘useful’.  That makes me sad.

When I arrived back in London I was so happy to be riding around on London streets again.  It was Sunday night so there wasn’t much traffic, which meant it was a really nice journey home.  I actually felt like circling the block a few times because I just felt like cycling.  I take that as a sign that the day as a whole was a positive experience.  I look forward to my next ride.

Why I Run Red Lights On My Bike

Thought Catalog

Recently, a cyclist in San Francisco was convicted of manslaughter for striking and killing a pedestrian. According to witnesses, before the cyclist, Chris Bucchere, struck the pedestrian, he ran a stop sign and several lights, including the one at the intersection in which he struck and killed the elderly man (Bucchere stated previously that the light was still yellow).

The details of this case leave me feeling conflicted. While this case is indeed a tragedy, and I feel terrible for the family of the man who was killed, I also can’t help but feel for Bucchere. His story could be mine. After all, I too am a cyclist, and I also run red lights. I am not ashamed of this, because it is one of the most common, generally harmless traffic violations that a cyclist can commit. The problem arises from the fact that non-cyclists don’t understand what they’re seeing…

View original post 1,051 more words

Skyrides, and suppressed demand

This echos my thoughts on the upcoming Skyride thing in London.

As Easy As Riding A Bike

Going on a Skyride is a curious experience for someone interested in increasing the use of bicycles as a mode of transport; both uplifting and dispiriting in equal measure.

It’s uplifting, because seeing thousands of ordinary people out on bikes shows you what Britain could be like. Skyrides demonstrate that the British public really quite enjoy riding bikes, and that antipathy to ‘cycling’ comes purely from the conditions they are usually forced to ride them in; namely, on busy roads, in close proximity to motor traffic. Create pleasant conditions for riding, and people will do so. Skyrides are a clear rebuttal of the tired argument that the British public are too lazy to ride bikes; that when they say they want cycle paths, they are actually coming up with excuses that cover their laziness. Thousands of people battled into the centre of Southampton yesterday for no other reason than the…

View original post 455 more words

The troubling attitude behind the “Nice Way Code”

As Easy As Riding A Bike

A few weeks ago the The Times covered the thoughts of Richard Allchin –

Bradley Wiggins’s former manager has urged cyclists not to jump red lights and to respect the rules of the roads, adding that motorists will only stop acting “selfishly” if those riding bicycles do the same.

[Mr Allchin] said today that he had carried out research at a junction near his home in Hampstead in north London and explained: “I reckon 90 per cent of cyclists go through the lights. It’s every kind of cyclist: women, men, casual cyclists, racing cyclists. If we want to make the roads safer, then cyclists have to stop acting so selfishly – and then perhaps the drivers might.”

This is the idea that good behaviour towards people on bikes from those driving cars is contingent upon much better behaviour from those bike riders. If we can somehow stop people cycling through red lights…

View original post 1,094 more words