15 Jul 2015

15th July 2015 Let's be careful out there!

Wednesday 15th 61-68F, 16-20C, another bright start but more windy today. Westerly gusts could reach 30mph later on what should be a sunny day. I had better go for a walk before it gets too hot. Or I start ranting on about something or other! Grrr! ;ø]]

As I was passing a large farmyard a pair of female pheasants were spotted walking out in the open. Just at that moment a large cat passed them going the opposite way along the drive. They seemed not to notice each other at all. This would suggest that cats do not form a normal part of a pheasant's diet.

Once upon a time...

I was just reading in the Danish news that 1 in 10 deaths, involving cyclists, occurred with electric bikes ridden by the over 60s. This is totally out of all proportion to the actual and total numbers of electric bike owners put together. Given my struggles to catch, or even keep up with, many electric bikes, I can well understand this age group's inability to cope with the higher speeds achievable.

There is also the likelihood that other road users might well misjudge the cyclists greater speed. They see a typical, elderly cyclist, who may not even be pedalling. The driver will completely misjudge the cyclist's approach speed and pull out in front of them. That short glance may not recognise that the battery-driven cyclist is travelling at typical racing cyclist speeds! Racing cyclists have nerves of steel and lightning fast reactions. They also do a lot of training rides. So carry huge number of miles in riding experience under constantly changing conditions. They survive on their highly polished skills in traffic. [Or die young.]

Now compare these highly skilled riders with a typical pensioner riding just a couple of miles to the shops a few times per week. Their shiny new, battery bike is always freshly changed. It will provide the power to travel uphill and down at speeds well beyond most normal, sedentary, pedal cyclists.

As far as I am aware there is presently no licensing, training, helmet or high visibility requirements, for battery-assisted cyclists. So one can easily imagine the Danish politicooze are now thinking furiously how they might be able to further fleece all electric cyclists. There must surely be some way of raising revenue from them. Even if it is transparently extra taxation rather than some real or even useful safety measure.

A high visibility vest/waistcoat ought [perhaps] to be an absolute minimum legal [and still useful] safety requirement for electric bike riders. Perhaps with high contrast/reflective "lightning" symbols on both the front and back to help to signify an electric cyclist is loose in the traffic.

History suggests that riding a moped usually required licensing and insurance. It would be a shame if electric bikes were so limited just as they are "taking off" as a relatively new means of [very green] transport. Do the Danish politicooze really want to push electric bike commuters back into their cars? They have already declared war on the cyclist by hugely raising fines for cycling misdemeanours! Even using up vital police manpower to hold very public fining campaigns on mildly errant cyclists. While doing little, or nothing, to make the cyclist's life easier, quicker or remotely safer. Meanwhile, real motoring costs drop year on year on year on year and speeding is a national sport. [After mobile phone use behind the wheel.] But then they [driving mobile phone abusers] aren't the low hanging fruit for deliberate police action for their politicooze masters. 

Given the ready availability of high performance "Cree" LED lighting then it cannot be beyond the wisdom of all that these could easily to be made into law. That these lights be used, in flashing mode, on electric bikes both day and night. Just as car drivers, and presumably motorcyclists, are legally required to have their dipped headlights lit, both day and night, in Denmark. The popular flashing bike lights, driven by magnets on the spokes, are simply too pathetic to be worth mentioning in this context. [Or any other involving cycling safety.]

I am not remotely a fan of steady light beams on cycles, no matter how powerful they might be. A fixed beam is so easily confused with so many other lights or even reflections of lights. A flashing beam is used only by cycles and is incredibly useful in both spotting and instantly recognising the presence of a cyclist. This valuable safety factor works at great distances, or close up, and even in heavily congested traffic. The bright flashing light reflects readily off wet roads and shiny vehicles even when the cyclist cannot actually be seen directly when hidden behind huge lorries and buses. A fixed beam cycle light could be at any distance and travelling at any speed due to their high variability in brightness. Most drivers have other things to think about than judging where that feeble light is coming from and what it might mean in their busy little world.

A new minimum standard of brightness, and frequency of flashing, will be required if lights are really to be made compulsory. I have tried a cheap, but very powerful, flashing LED light on my trike and found the frequency of flashing downright unpleasant at night. I think the frequency is probably too low and my eyes were struggling to adjust to the constantly changing difference in light intensity. A faster flash would be much preferable without losing its vital and uniquely valuable warning and road lighting value. My "Smart" lights flash in a complex, high visibility cycle and I find these fine on the eyes. Though the the front light is severely lacking in intensity, by modern "Cree" LED standards, the rear lights are fine.

Cycle helmets would have to be vastly improved before they could be considered remotely suitable for electric bike riders. Motorcycle helmets are total overkill on weight and rider's view alone. The present cycle helmet may be light and well ventilated but the actual protection offered remains highly controversial. A new [and much improved] helmet test standard might well be required if they are ever to be made compulsory for all electric cyclists.

Adjustable ventilation on helmets is strongly advised since the electric cyclist has very different requirements from a normal pedal cyclist. In fact the normal cyclist would eventually gain enormously from having adjustable ventilation as standard. It will help to match the seasons and the weather and the amount of energy being expended in different temperatures and wind and weather conditions. A racing cyclist speeding up a long climb, in a heat wave, has not remotely the same ventilation requirement as a cyclist plodding a few miles to work on the flat, in wet or sub-freezing, conditions. Yet both are offered the same basic helmet construction.

Only styling really separates helmets from each other at present. Which is really rather pathetic considering the huge reliance on helmets to protect the poor cyclist from illegally speeding, and usually sociopathically driven, drivers. i.e. That class of driver which thinks it enjoys a completely detached and elevated hierarchy over all pedestrians, cyclists and all other vehicles, except Ferraris. Their vehicles can be most readily identified by the row of fat ØØØØs on the bonnet and their pathetic driving skills, though not exclusively. If only their driving skills matched their grossly inflated ambitions and infantile delusions we could all sleep as well as they do. [Even behind the wheel.] I find it hilarious that so many can't stay on their on their own side of the road as they race between ridiculously overshot corners. Not that they are remotely alone, of course. It's just that they have no excuse when their vehicle is designed for excellent handling given a competent driver.

No matter how safety regulations may change to match new challenges it is still the cyclist who must always ride defensively and with intelligence. They are always the most vulnerable in any battle with far heavier and faster vehicles. Even pedestrians must learn to look out for their speedier, but still silent, progress. The speed and endurance available from electric bikes is evolving steadily into a completely new class of vehicle. This is placing a new and heavy burden on the elderly rider, in particular. They need to develop far greater skill than that required by a normal pedal cycle when ridden by themselves. Greater speed demands faster reflexes and much greater skill in cornering and manoeuvring. Particularly in the wet, in traffic and when braking hard.

Dealing with traffic, not yet accustomed to their greater speed, will require keeping all of their [remaining] wits about them. The rules may call for low maximum speeds but, from my own experience, this often exceeds even that of a fit and active cyclist. Every accident and every road death is no doubt being monitored with a view to changes in the law. The whim's of the politicooze, to potentially negative publicity, change with the wind and rarely match real needs of those it affects. So, let's be very careful out there!

A pleasantly warm and sunny day but rather windy. I was busy wasting my valuable remaining time, at home, on various silly projects. Cue: Chorus of Monty Python's "I'm a lumberjack..." So, another rest day for the wicked.


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