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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Cycles paths. over protective parents and Lance

Cycle path etiquette

I was on the Bristol to Bath cycle path the other day. For a change it was during the week and it was quite empty but for a few cycles, dogs and push chairs - but nothing to bother getting a nice ride (34 miles if you were asking) . It occurred to me that one of the slight problems with mixed use paths is etiquette. I have a bell on my bike. But when to use it and how do you judge the likely outcome of using it? I generally ring a double "ting" when within 50 yards or so of a walker and at the same time make a judgement over what will happen next. 

What would be nice is that people accepted the "ting" as a friendly "hi, just coming past" but from the expressions and actions I've seen ,I'm not sure this is the case. The most extreme reaction is to react as if wired to the mains and run randomly across the path as if they keep moving, you can't hit them. This is of course the reverse of reality. People with dogs fall into two camps, those who call their dog/pull in the lead and those who think that Fido is intelligent enough to stay out of the way. I can vouch that Fido is not and thinks that cyclists are new play friends to run around with. I go really slow if I see an untethered or uncalled dog on my route. 

Over protective parents?

But its the reaction of parents that bother me mostly. Not grand parents - who are old enough to think that cyclists are not devils on wheels trying to kill or maim their offspring. Last weekend, I "ting'ed" behind two adults with walking child and their reaction was to quickly block the path. I wondered what was going on, until the child was picked up and the parents slowly gave way. I suppose I might have been a danger to  the child, but I nearly parked my bike up this guy's backside. No one was in any danger, I cycle slowly past children as do most cyclists - we were all kids once.

I do see this a symptom of over protective parents. The news outlets seem to suggest that kids are in constant mortal danger. But such shielding of kids will only make them less likely to assess danger and risk themselves and so be over cautious or to take more extreme risks. 

Now before I say "back in the day" its clear that people of my generation had much more leeway to explore for themselves. And I think that supported self reliance and appropriate risk taking is a good idea. I enjoy speed and risk as much as the next person, after all I own a 1000cc motorcycle and can be seen "making progress" across the Cotswolds.

I do wonder if the over protective: what time are you back, I'll pick you up, take you to school attitude that some parents demonstrate is self defeating and will reduce the number of people who cycle? Some research has been done which suggests that compulsory helmets reduce cycling because "it must be dangerous" if helmets are needed. Now I am pro helmet, not compulsion. I probably had my life saved by my helmet. Hitting a tree stump with your head at 25mph is a good recipe for brain damage - but my Giro deformed like a good 'un and I just had concussion. (Which has worn off, ok, it was over 5 years ago)

Personally, I think getting into scrapes and losing skin is the best way of assessing risk. Pain is good for judgement. Risks need to be taken. Exposure to risk and reality a good thing. A few of those drivers in the rain on the M5 last week might like to think about that too. Air bags and ABS etc is no use if you hit that spray covered truck at 50mph, regardless of how good a driver you think you are, the insulation from risk in modern cars almost encourages poor decision making!


Oh dear. I feel personally let down by Lance. I wanted to believe that he was the man he said he was. I once wore a "Livestrong" wrist band (now safely "lost") I think we all knew that turn of the century cycle racing was involved with drugs but somehow I liked to think that it was "just dabbling" and that it really hadn't made such a difference.

I suppose I could not have been more wrong. But what bothers me is the denial and the facts - as reported in the press - that Lance was druggist in chief for his team and is reported to have bullied his team mates into the systematic doping that it is alleged went on in his team.

The evidence is clear that the peloton is at worst not drugged up much. Times over identical stages have increased since 2000, often by quite large amounts. But riders are still getting banned. I love cycle racing. The TdeF is one of the big spectacles in modern sports - but cycling is especially prone to cheating as it relies upon fitness and recovery more than skill and so the rewards from drug or substance abuse are greater than for say football. You can be as fit as you like, but if you are no good, it will never be enough. 

The stand taken by British Cycling is to be applauded and I believe that British Cycling is clean. I use the same sports science that they do (not so extreme) in terms of training and recovery products. In effect, smart eating. It must still be frustrating if you think that competitors are not playing by the rules. Blood samples are kept from winners for years now - so if anything turns up, samples can still be tested. This is I hope a good incentive not to cheat. I guess we'll find out over the years to come.

Recipe of the week - Great British food revival

I saw Michel Roux Jr supporting the British strawberry. Michel is a British as I am, being born in Britain and basing his cuisine on good local food. Its just a shame I can't afford to eat in his restaurant!

None the less this strawberry souffle recipe looks fantastic. I would recommend looking at the programme which examines the development of better strawberries for the supermarket. This may avoid having little choice but to buy "Elsanta's" which taste of turnip. Always look carefully at the variety and don't just opt for the cheap big berries - they will taste of very little. This recipe will be much improved using a good strawberry. You just have to wait until next year to try it unless you can get some good frozen ones. I'll be on the lookout for some next week!

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