Thursday, August 28, 2008

Emphasizing safety reduces the number of cyclists

The Irish Times has an article on cycling safety

The basic thrust of the article is that enforcing use of helmets and recommending reflective jackets just creates a false perception of how dangerous cycling is.

In cities where cycling is more the norm (Copenhagen and Paris are mentioned) there is less emphasis on helmets and reflective gear. People ride in normal gear and there are more cyclists.

There is even a website devoted to cycling fashion in Copenhagen

Having ridden in Dublin I have to say I'd be wary of not using a helmet there. Whilst there are bike lanes they are not well thought out, they invariably come to an abrupt end just where a cyclist needs protection. The roads are in poor condition in many places and there are many wheel swallowing potholes to contend with. Finally, drivers are not really cyclist aware or cyclist friendly.

The contrast when I was in recently Paris was marked. Parisian drivers are not noted for patience and care, but like most French drivers they are very aware of cyclists and invariably treat them with care and respect -- the Tour de France no doubt plays a part here.

I'd guess it is a slow process changing the cycling culture in a city from what it is in Dublin to what it is in Paris, but as the Irish Times article suggests, the authorities can really help by emphasizing cycling as a safe and healthy activity.

I was also interested in the "slow bicycle movement" mentioned in the article. One of my pet hates in Dublin is cycling behind some racer who doesn't have mudguards -- or worse still one who has one of those flimsy guards that protects himself, but does nothing for the poor cyclist behind.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dove rescue

This poor dove managed to get itself stuck in the drainage outlet of the pool where I am staying at the moment.

Fortunately, my wife spotted it. It was in a pretty bad way at that point. The following pictures were taken over a period of about four hours, during which it slowly stopped shivering and eventually started to groom its feathers, before finally taking a little walk and flying off.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Check your software license before you park


We don't want your cars here if they use that stinky GPL license ;)
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Paris free bike scheme

I'm currently in Paris. As I love all things two-wheeled, the free bicycle scheme was something I had to try.

For 1 euro you can get a day pass to use the bikes. For that, you can use bikes for free, so long as you return it to a velib station within half an hour. You can get a weekly pass for 5 euro, or a full year for 29.

Here is a velib station:

The stations are rarely more than 300 metres apart, but tend to be on side-streets and can be a bit tricky to spot as you ride through the traffic. The velib site has pdf maps to help you find them.

Here are some pics from a recent site-seeing tour:

For those concerned about riding in the Paris traffic, there are a lot of fairly quiet side roads you can use. Further, the Parisian drivers seem to be very aware of cyclists and more considerate than most.

Since you can drop a bike off at any station, bikes do tend to migrate downhill, towards the river. I'm staying in Montmartre, and the ride out there gets a bit sweaty on a hot day, so it is tempting to bike into town and get the metro back.

To combat this, the Parisians have invented anti-gravity:

Sunday, August 3, 2008

How to stop Vernon Coleman killing you

Vernon Coleman is a prolific writer, much of what he writes is complete nonesense.

This piece in his latest book on peak oil, gives a good idea of what his writing is all about.

One of his more popular books is, "How to stop your doctor killing you". The book rambles on repeating the same ideas. Whilst it has some interesting comments, such as the extent that drug companies influence the medical profession, it contains a lot of dangerous ideas.

Unfortunately, my 77 year old father read this book a little while back. He picked up a number of crazy ideas from the book. He became very concerned about cancer (if you're 77 years old and haven't got cancer yet, then actually you probably don't need to worry too much about your diet -- much more important to get a good balanced diet than follow the Coleman diet).

Vernon argues against having unnecessary X-rays. Yesterday, my father was seriously ill, bleeding internally and needed 10 pints of blood during the day. The doctors urgently needed to do an X-ray. Five doctors could not persuade him to have it done. Fortunately, my sister was there and managed to persuade him to have the X-ray.

Vernon Coleman, as the title of your 1994 classic goes, "I hope your penis shrivels up".