Archive for May, 2009

Foggy Mornings and Apparitions.

So the last couple of Melbourne mornings have been high on the fog-o-meter meaning that visibility has been lower than usual on the morning commute. This morning it was difficult to see 20 metres ahead at some points. I had no camera with me, but thankfully someone did so I can show you the conditions.
Princes Bridge May 22nd 2009

It varied from pea soup to chicken soup, but it was pretty soupy for most of the ride. As I was stopped at an intersection waiting the Green Light of Go, I noticed a fixed gear cyclist who had pulled in front of me sussing out my bike. Now admittedly, my bike is a bit daggy. It has little flair. It is functional and I do like it very much. And despite it being a single speed freewheel, I have no aspirations to become a fixed wheel freestyler. I have two brakes, one on the front and one on the back, and my rims are designed to accommodate them. So anyway, I was being sussed out by a chromed up fixie with bright green Deep-V rims as the lights turned green. I was then lucky enough to witness a sight which I had assumed I would never be lucky enough to see again.

To my right flew past an apparition of mixed-metaphors. I had seen this cyclist once before and had assumed that it was some kind of once in a blue moon occurrence, but here he was again, right there in front of me. The Cyclist Who Cannot Be Named. Now this gentleman was dressed appropriately for time trials or other such serious cycling business. He had on full lycras and and rather aerodynamic helmet. The amazing thing was the steed he was riding. Now the first time I saw him, I thought he must have had to take his ride to the shop for some work to be done on it, and was forced to ride his sister’s bike, or some such scenario. But this morning I saw him once more. The same outfit, the same bike. I was too shocked to actually notice the make of his ride, but I couldn’t overlook the front and rear baskets, each filled with bags, so therefore very practical. I also couldn’t help notice his rusty, creaking mudguards, clunking away as he rode off. The radical juxtaposition of pro-cyclist style coupled with the get-about-town-with-your-groceries was a little disconcerting for an early morning commute through heavy fog, and the image has been burned upon my retina.

This cyclist is an amazing example of serious practicality. Just as the fixie guy was sneering at my dual-braking capacity, along came the modern saviour of all practical cyclists everywhere. As mentioned before I was sans-camera, so I have used my “skills” to mock up something similar to the melting pot that is this amazing cyclist.
bike_pro-with-baskets

Now I can understand the gravity of publishing images and concepts as revolutionary as this, and am prepared to offer online counseling to anyone who feels that this information is too much for them. In the meantime, spare a thought for this saviour of practical cycling. He may pass you at an intersection of cool, and provide the light you need to move on to the next step of the velolutionary chainring of salvation, as he did for me. He may be real, he may be an illusion, but he lives in my heart.

PS. Any resemblance to Daniele Nardello is probably because I nicked a photo of him for the mock-up.

This is why it pays to wear a helmet!

The father of the 12-year-old Victorian boy saved by a country doctor who used a household drill to bore a hole in his skull has praised hospital staff, saying the procedure was carried out ”like a military operation”.

Michael Rossi’s son, Nicholas, was not wearing a helmet when he fell off his bike late on Friday while riding outside a friend’s house in Maryborough, 170 kilometres north-west of Melbourne.

From The Age

dr-drill

OK, so I’m not the king of safety. Although I did recently buy a flouro vest, it looks so damn awful that I can only wear it to bush doofs with my furry shorts and my glow stick earrings, but I always wear a helmet. I remember the olden days when it wasn’t lawfully required of a cyclist to wear a helmet and how odd and constrictive it seemed at the time to have to wear one. But now, as an old man, commuting during peak hour I could never go back to those free and easy days of no head protection.

Last night while riding home I encountered a rare Safety Cyclist. She was fully decked out in flouro, and was obviously very safety conscious. So safety conscious in fact, that as she rode alongside a footpath, she rang her bell constantly for the entire duration. As she was directly behind me I wondered if she was attempting to alert me to a problem I may have been having. Was my rear light off? Was my bag open and spilling onto the road? Were my shoes on the wrong feet? As I pulled to a stop at the lights I glanced behind to discover it was the Safety Cyclist I had passed earlier, and that she was busy alerting all pedestrians to her presence. I have no problem whatsoever with using your bell to alert pedestrians, as they often need alerting, but to me the concept of ringing your bell continuously seems to mimimise its effect on the foot walking population. I usually find that it works best when trying to attract the attention of a particular pedestrian as they are about to step out in front of you, usually doubled up with a bit of voice power to emphasise the urgency of the situation. I find that bell ringing alone doesn’t usually cut it. People seem to ignore it. Which is why ringing your bell for the whole time you are riding adjacent to a footpath seems like a bad idea. How will the potential stepper-outer notice me if someone is ding-a-linging away like there is no radio attached to her handlebars?

On the other hand, I also witnessed another rare creature on the evening commute yesterday….. The Duffle-Coated-Hands-In-Pocket Cyclist. Admittedly, the weather is turning a bit chillier of late. We have had some nastily cold mornings in particular. 3º was the lowest morning commute so far, and it’s only just autumn! So rugging up is completely understandable, although I do find once you get going, that being to rugged up only makes me feel like a steamed wanton by the time I get to my destination. That was until I spotted the Duffle-Coated-Hands-In-Pocket Cyclist. Obviously I have been doing it wrong all along! The way to keep warm while riding isn’t to wear thin layers and ride like you would normally, it is to rug up and then cycle really slowly with your hands in your pockets! Now why didn’t I think of that. I do have a nice thick duffle coat which I haven’t pulled out due to it not being cold enough yet. Perhaps if I allow an extra hour on my commute I will be able to wear it and not break into a sweat. Double win! I always find cycling without your hands on the handle bars during peak hour is a bit risky, usually I witness the cycle-couriers pulling such stunts, but to place your hands in your big thick woolly pockets while travelling (albeit it quite slowly) next to maniacs stuck in peak hour traffic looking for any way to sneak down a side street to get stuck at a different intersection (without indicating, of course) seems like too great a risk for me. Guess I’m just a wuss.

At least if you are wearing a helmet as you paddle foot along with your hands in your pockets, the doctors might not need to use a rusty old power drill to release the blood clot in your brain. But they might need a shovel to scrape you off the road.

Bike Blotz on a Friday night

OK, so I may have sounded flippant when describing the amount of policing of the recent cycling ‘Blitz’ on Melbourne’s streets during the week. I saw a total of 6 police during my morning and evening commutes to and from work, so to me there didn’t seem to be heaps going on towards it. Jump to Friday night, when I have actually left the house and landed in the ‘big smoke’ for an evening of square dancing and virgin mojitos. Now, for some inexplicable reason, well it is actually quite explicable, just a tad uninteresting, I had left my bike in the city on the way home from work so had to catch the tram back in to meet my bike and my friends. Well, my bike at least.

Catching the tram in the evening can be a very surreal experience, especially when one is not used to bright lights, loud talking, fresh faced kids ready to party, and homeless dudes. I was lucky enough to have a pair of fresh faced kids ready to party come and sit next to me. I thought I was pretty cool, sitting there, holding my bike helmet staring off into the not too distant future, when these two cool kids came and sat next to me. It became apparent that one was way cooler than the other, and it took great strength to not just obviously listen in on their conversation. So I continued my vague stare into space, while my ears were trained on their very interesting dialogue. It went a little something like this….

Cooler Kid: So Jonno is going to cull the guestlist at *some club*… do you think I will get kicked off it?
Not As Cool Kid: How would I know?
Cooler Kid: Well, I don’t go there very often, but when I do I always bring a crowd with me.
Not As Cool Kid: I guess you’ll be OK then.
Cooler Kid: Yeah.

guypants

And it went on like this for a long time. It seems that the cooler guy is on the guestlist at every cool club in town, and is probably the coolest guy in Melbourne, if not Australia. The other guy was going along with it, but was bummed about not going out on a date with some girl he met. Perhaps this isn’t very interesting, but during the journey I realised that I had left my bike lights at home by accident. How annoying. Now, cycling at night with no lights in not one of my favorite things to do, but I can usually manage if required to. This is where the bike ‘Blitz’ comes back into it. There were police on every corner. I went to collect my bike, and police on horseback rode by. I met my friends and we went to ride to get a coffee, and there were dozens of police out there policing. It was incredible. It may have a little to do with late-night-alcohol-fuelled-violence but this was unprecedented.

After a few hours square dancing, it was time to call it a night. I collected my bicycle and prepared to ride home, lightless in the early hours of the morning, but there were still cops everywhere! They probably had other things on their minds, like violent assaults and vomiting teenagers, but I decided not to risk it and walked a few blocks on the footpath. Soon enough there were no longer any police around, so I jumped on my bike and rode on into the night, dodging drunkards on the street hailing cabs as they puked.

Pregnant Driver Tries to Wipe Out Merri Creek Bike Path

In breaking news, a pregnant motorist has driven her car down a Merri Creek embankment in Fairfield today. Witnesses claim she was heading for the bike path, but then realised she had left her bike at home, and was actually driving her car. She managed to pull up just metres before the bike path. Apparently a group of training cyclists took the opportunity to hurl abuse at her as the sped by, narrowly missing several children on the training scooters pushing along the Merri Creek bike path.
200-merri-crash-200x0

Bike Blitz more like Bike Blotz

So the Victorian Police are having ‘Blitz’ on cyclists this week so put an end to the mounting issues of ‘cyclist drama’ and do you know what? There are no cops around. One would assume they would be patrolling Swanston St, as it is the main route for cyclists entering/leaving the CBD, but on three rides during the announced ‘Blitz’ I have seen only two cycle-cops, yesterday morning, sitting by the side of the road having a chat. There was not one on the ride home last night, and none this morning. Perhaps they are patrolling another street, or maybe they are not blitzing during peak hour. Of course yesterday evening there was the usual gaggle of pedestrians crossing against the lights on Flinders St, making the usual weave between rank Taxi’s, illegally parked fruit vans, trams and gung ho cyclists as typical as every other non ‘Blitz’ day. How disappointment. We’ll see how this afternoon holds up.