18 Jan 2014

18th January 2014

Saturday 18th 37F, 3C, windy, overcast, raining.

I thought this image borrowed from the Danish DR TV News webpage was hilarious. The story was of the motorway in north Jutland/Jylland being closed for several hours because of snow. The police were using tracked vehicles borrowed from the army reserves to fight their way through to vehicles stuck in the snow drifts. All at god knows what cost to the taxpayer, per rescued driver, despite days of prior public warnings not to drive in the coming snowstorm!

Yet, oblivious to everything going on around him, a hardy soul on his bike just carries on regardless. Now we must all light a candle and pray that his lights were approved to the latest standards. Or he could have been stopped and heavily fined! No doubt the police have already set up a crack team of top forensic investigators to study this important example. Just in case it sets precedents for even heavier fines for cyclists. Surely there must be a rule somewhere about cycling in snow without due care and attention for stuck motorists?

Meanwhile, Denmark's very own Bag Lady is fighting for her political life. While the opposition leader [L.L. Antoinette] snuffles around the other side of the same gilt guilt free, swill trough. So many empty election promises... but at least The Bag Lady will go down in history as the one who kept the cycle lights shining brightly in these darkest hours for Denmark, transport equality and lip-service democracy.  http://www.dr.dk/Nyheder/Indland/2014/01/18/0118064011.htm

Little did I know what was in store for me when I had finished my walk and was enjoying my marmalade rolls and coffee: I headed off to a 10 mile distant builder's merchant on my trike with a strong tailwind. Then, on the very first (blind) bend a four wheel drive had overshot the corner so badly that his nearside wheels were fully 6 feet over the double white lines! You could say that he was driving too near the kerb on completely the wrong side of the road! With no road left on which to to recover he smacked, head on into a coach full of young children!

The coach driver was so shocked that he swerved, rolling the coach twice into an oncoming petrol tanker. The collision ripped the tanks wide open! Causing a massive explosion as the petrol ignited. The sound could be heard 20 miles away in Odense. (But not in Copenhagen) The devastation was totally catastrophic! By some miracle one child survived in critical condition at the rear of the coach. Though the last Danish air ambulance could not reach the site due to government cut-backs and all the international press helicopters already filling the skies. The entire village, including the 11th century church, was completely razed to the ground!

Of course The Bag Lady flew in, with her entourage of spin doctors. To "assess the damage for herself" and to pose for a sound byte for the TV cameras evening news. (Let's not forget that an election is due!) She denied her government's decision to scrap all Danish speed limits had anything to do with the carnage. Though she did hint that a careless cyclist was probably responsible for this major national  disaster, she did not expand on this vague theory. Perhaps the national security services had insider information from listening to mobile telephone calls from survivors? Not to mention those hugely inconvenienced by the fire on their rat run car journeys to the shops?

Unfortunately the Prime Minister could not stay long before climbing back into her private helicopter to return to Gormenghast Palace in Copenhagen. Where an emergency debate on the introduction of swingeing fines for cycling in snow was already under way. The leader of the opposition could not attend as he had a first class air ticket with all expenses paid (and salary) to some weekly environmental junket in a 5 star hotel somewhere warm at taxpayer's expense. This despite there being no sign of any progress from any previous climate control banquet.

Of course none of this really happened. Or it would have been all over the international news. In fact the coach wouldn't reach that blind corner for well over an hour. This was due to a total lack of any discipline in Danish schools and the very high proportion of dysfunctional children. So the driver had stopped in desperation at a motorway rest area. Where he steadfastly refused to re-board his own bus until the children could be brought under some semblance of control by their completely unarmed, female supervisors.

By the same token, the petrol tanker thundered through the village at 15mph over the marked speed limit without obvious incident.

Somehow, I also managed to avoid the four wheel drive on my trike. While simultaneously twirling my pointed finger around my right ear to indicate my tentative diagnosis of the driver's lack of morals, lack of driving skills and serious mental health problems. Whereupon he blasted his horn angrily to show that he was a driver (of sorts) and thus completely outranked me as a humble cyclist. Particularly in today's Denmark. No doubt the same moron is now planning a major terrorist attack on his old infant school. In revenge for ever having his (lack of) driving skills questioned.

Meanwhile, the world continued to turn and everybody lived happily ever after. Whatever. 19 miles.

Plus 9 more miles after lunch. I punctured for the second time in two weeks! Probably the flinty sand strewn everywhere amongst the branches and twigs, compost and gravel moraines despoiling every village and country road.

I checked the tyre inside and out under a street light but could see no protruding flints. So I put a new tube in and promptly punctured again within a hundred yards. As I only had a couple of miles to go I rode home with a good tail wind and the inner tube valve bumping noisily on the road. Naturally I was showing more lights than a North Sea oil platform. Just in case the police helicopter was scouring the countryside for cycle terrorists riding without lights.

I still consider it my moral duty to continue cycling while the world burns around me. Every cyclist pushed back into a car by the heavy handed campaign against them is an increased CO2 burden. A further load on a changing world which now sets new weather extremes with each passing season.

The car takes up another space on the already overcrowded roads. All jam-packed with a yet more, one person, seven people capacity, people carrier. A car means a further drain on limited global energy reserves. An increased burden on the hospitals and health system and reduced life expectancy. More accidents to pedestrians and other road users. When did you last hear of a pedestrian or cyclist killing a car driver in a collision?

A car means a reduced need for local shops. Since the driver will shop in the out of town supermarkets and malls on their way to and from work. Which leads directly to the loss of local amenities for the elderly. Who become even more isolated and must rely on buses to reach the nearest shop. The loss of the local shop as a meeting place is a major loss to the social network of any neighbourhood or village. Inevitably leading to early admission to old people's homes and the village being taken over by commuters. House prices soar beyond the means of ordinary people. The village becomes a stone dead dormitory. Except on warm weekends when the lawns are tended by raucous, ride-on mowers.

The extra car means noise and pollution in the neighbourhood. As every car is run for 20 minutes every winter morning to de-ice the windows and make it toasty warm for the driver on their sleepy/road rage commute. With reduced air quality and increased road noise there is a loss of value to great swathes of roadside housing. Increased road wear, road and motorway building (at taxpayer's expense but journey time reduction only 'enjoyed' by a tiny minority in the absence of road closing accidents)

What about the loss of natural peace to every corner of every country in the world? A single vehicle can easily be heard from a mile away in quiet countryside. From how far away can an endless chain of mixed traffic be heard? How many children will grow up without ever having experienced the "peace and quiet" of the countryside? Or even in their own neighbourhood? What effect does this have on the mental health of all those growing up in the chaos of constant noise, constant movement and the nagging, potential danger when they must cross the road or go to school?

Most drivers consider it far too dangerous for their children to walk or cycle to school. I wonder why? Could it be their own behaviour behind the wheel which terrifies them into providing a private taxi service? How does that effect the behaviour of their offspring at school? And later, when they become car buying auto-fodder? Do as I say? Not as I do?

Are the occupants of the family car completely blind to the fact that the driver is constantly breaking the speed limit and jumping red lights? Are they deaf to the derogatory remarks made by the driver about many other road users and cyclists in particular? How does this affect their own driving behaviour, later in life, when their role model has been so tragically poor? You think I exaggerate? Look around you.

The only time you notice a cyclist is when they are in the way of your personal (and often illegal) progress. Your sense of superiority over cyclists and pedestrians is a complete myth. Even your journey times are longer than cyclists in cities. They have been for well over half a century! This is despite the destruction of many historical town centres as a "necessary sacrifice" to the car culture.

Sunday 19th 35F, 2C, severe gales, heavy overcast, but dry. The forecast is that it will gust up to 45mph all day. I have a puncture to mend but first I shall walk for an hour. The walk did not go well. My hip is hurting like hell today! The wind was already fierce despite not being expected to peak until this evening. I wore my cycling sunglasses but still the white horses in my tears were crashing against my cheeks hard enough to cause subsidence. My hands were cold from the wind despite the thick winter gloves. I was bullied uphill only to fight for every yard coming back down. There will be no cycling, nor walking, today!

Click on any image for an enlargement.

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