Saturday, 31 October 2009


The weather forecast for tomorrow is a bit horrible, so if I was going to manage a long ride this weekend, it meant I needed to make an early start today. As happens far too often, things didn't quite work out that way. I still hadn't set off by lunchtime, so I wanted to find a fairly short afternoon ride, that got me home before darkness fell, and the ghosts and ghoulies came out.

I decided to map the bits of Binfield that were still missing from OSM. Around here, Bracknell is one of the few areas with relatively low coverage on OSM, but taking on the town itself looked a bit daunting. Binfield is a village on the edge of Bracknell, and it looked a more manageable size.

A half day outing, and a 25 mile ride got me out there, around most of the areas that were missing from the map, and back home again. The journey there and back was very nice, with the trees looking particularly gorgeous this year. But if anyone from Binfield reads this, I hope they will forgive me for saying that, while it seems pleasant enough, it's not a particularly interesting destination. The biggest novelty was discovering how many houses had been decorated for halloween. There were huge spiders, gigantic webs, gravestones in the gardens, and stuff like that all over the place. I don't remember seeing anything like it before.

Now I am home I've added the traces of the roads (but not the spiders) to Open Street Map. At the level of detail that I collect, I think Binfield is pretty much complete. So next time I feel like a half day filling gaps on the map I fear it will have to be Bracknell itself. Unless I come up with a better idea by then.

(PS the picture has nothing to do with Binfield, but it seemed appropriate for the date)


Friday, 30 October 2009

Don't keep calm and carry on.

For no good reason, except that I like this. There's more here.
Good advice for 2009

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Milton route, the clod's cut

Cycle map has now rendered my efforts last weekend to trace the Milton Cycle Route in Buckinghamshire. As a result I can now see where I made a couple of errors (paradise lost). I've fixed them in the database today, but it will be another week before it is rendered again, and I won't see whether the fixes worked (paradise regained) until next thursday. Meanwhile the glitches are almost cunningly hidden by a page curl in the image above. They will be visible to all on the tile server for the next week.

My little contributions are a tiny pimple on the mass of information that has been produced collectively for OSM. It's a slight disappointment when I don't get it quite right, but it still pleases me to see my efforts appear. Nowadays, Mapnik renders database changes almost immediately, but that doesn't help a lot when adding cycle routes to existing ways. The cycle map only seems to render on Thursdays. The wait is a bit frustrating, and it's a little embarrassing to know that my mistakes will be around for a few more days, but there are also some advantages to this delay in the process. The sense of anticipation lasts for longer. More importantly, by the time I see the results from one weekend, another weekend is looming. The results of one edit are a bit of an encouragement to get out on the bike and fix the next gap on my to-do list. Let's hope for decent weather this coming weekend.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Visualising traffic data

I'm not sure if it is the original quality of the video, or a lot of activity slowing down the server, but this is a bit difficult to view. It's worth the effort though, for some stonking visualisation of traffic data.

There is more about it all here.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Milton route, director's cut

I plotted bits of the Milton cycle route last weekend, and today I think I've managed to trace the rest. We'll see what it looks like when the OSM cycle map is rendered later in the week. At the moment it's a bit of a mess because I made a mistake in tagging last week.

Apart from getting caught in one shower, and a bit of a gusty wind today wasn't at all bad for a ride; and because of the clocks going back I managed to make quite an early start, and for once I was home in plenty of time for dinner.

The route meanders around Penn, Amersham, Chorleywood, and the Chalfonts. I rode through Beaconsfield on the way there and back. Some of the best parts were riding through autumn woodland, particularly here in Philipshill Wood. At one point I got mixed up with a bunch of runners, who were involved in a big event. Lots of people had come out to cheer then on, and for several miles it felt as though I had a crowd of supporters.

I enjoyed the day, but I have mixed feelings about the route itself. It covers an interesting variety of landscape and some pleasant towns and villages. But there are too many suburbs for my liking. It's probably inevitable in the Chilterns that the route is quite hilly, but it is also a bit complicated. There were too many junctions where I needed to check the map, and so many changes of direction that it was difficult to keep track of where I was heading. There are several off-road stretches that don't really work with a road bike, and although they could be bypassed, that would mean missing some of the best parts of the ride.

The route borders on a number of fairly large towns, and I suspect it would suit someone who lived locally, who wanted to get to know the area better. Coming from further afield, there are more interesting alternatives.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Improving road safety for pedestrians and cyclists in Great Britain

The full report by the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee can be found here.

It is more fun to read the whole thing, rather than wasting effort on the bizarre and inaccurate press reporting from the usual organs. Especially the transcript of the oral evidence where MPs quiz the Permanent Secretary, and Head of the Road User Safety Division from the Department for Transport. It reads a bit like a rancid blog.

The following exchange pretty much captures the tone....
  • Q18 Mr Curry (MP for Skipton & Ripon): No, you have got the wrong question, I am sorry. Why are cyclists such irresponsible and arrogant road-users? The only time I have been knocked down in my life was by a cyclist going like a bat out of hell outside the House of Commons, dressed like Darth Vader, as they all do! Many people think that cyclists are hugely irresponsible, that they do not take any notice of the red lights, they think that road traffic cones are not for them, it is very competitive and that they are dangerous.
  • Mr Devereux (DfT Permanent Secretary) There are, without doubt, some elements of the cycling community who are in that position and there are equally, I imagine, rather more people who are far more dangerous drivers as well. The population is not homogeneous, as you well know, and cyclists—
  • Q19 Mr Curry: If a cyclist or any driver of a car drove his car like cyclists ride their bikes, there would be nobody left on the roads of Britain at all.
  • Mr Devereux: Sorry, you are assuming that all cyclists cycle the way the dangerous cyclist who went past you—
  • Q20 Mr Curry: No, I am not. I am saying that far too many are. We seem to regard cyclists as living in some sort of superior moral category when they actually do not have any.
  • Mr Devereux: I do not accept that.
Good to see our elected representatives informed by a broad sense of perspective, and resisting the temptation to be influenced by anecdotal evidence of a single incident. As in "Wouldn't it be good to see..."

There is some excellent CTC stuff on all this here and here

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

'tis the season...

..for the press to publish articles about cycling in winter weather.

This morning I turned to one in today's Guardian, but it's almost all about fashionable winter cycling clothes. I've already got my gloves to keep my hands warm, and an old anorak to keep the rain off. I think I would look silly in a furry cycling helmet (some would say I look silly enough without one). I might convince myself that I need something more conspicuous for safety on dark evenings, and I've been thinking about investing in a proper winter top, but I've already been mulling that one over since last autumn.

What I really need as the weather changes is plenty of good reasons to brave the elements and get out on the bike.

Of course I've already got my annual mileage goal to work on, and various other targets. I've a list of things that I want to add to Open Street Map. On top of that, Rob Ainsley at Real Cycling is a great source of interesting ideas for slightly off-beat day trips. And if all else fails, I can start working on next year's batch of Jenkins churches. So I'm well prepared to address the "nowhere to go" excuse. But I'm open to other suggestions.

As an encouragement to get out on the bike, it seems to me that the idea for the ride comes first, and the clothing and the equipment are a long way down the list. If you agree, then it would be a public service to suggest compelling ideas for winter rides.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Milton route revisited

After yesterday's fiasco, today I decided to have a another go at tracing the southern part of the Milton route. This is a 25 mile local cycle route in Buckinghamshire that loops southwards from Amersham, through Chalfont Saint Peter, Chalfont Saint Giles, Seer Green, and Penn. It is named after John Milton, who retired to Chalfont Saint Giles to avoid the plague in London.

Yesterday I traced a little bit of the route around Seer Green, but I got horribly lost. Yesterday evening I took another look at the maps, worked out where I had gone wrong, and today I managed to trace the section from Seer Green almost to Penn. In the grand scheme of things none of that is very impressive, but I enjoyed myself, so that's OK.

It was a lovely day for a ride. A little bit nippy, but it was nice sunny autumn weather, and this part of south Buckinghamshire is pleasant. Not all of the route is great, but the woodland where I lost my way yesterday was particularly nice, and I rode through some pleasant villages.

Paradise would be putting it a bit strong, but I didn't get lost. So "Pleasant countryside navigated successfully" would be a bit more accurate than "Paradise Lost". If only John Milton had worked harder on his cadence and navigation skills, and wasted less time on blank verse he might have made a name for himself.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Milton Route

What with a weeks holiday, backlog at work, and various other distractions my cycling log is all going a bit pear shaped. I've fallen behind plan again, and this weekend I'm making a concerted effort to get things back on track. I need to cover a lot of miles, and I am out of practice.

Today my plan was to trace the Milton Route in Buckinghamshire. It should have been a ride of about 50 miles - but it didn't quite work out like that.

I started late, my progress was slower than it should have been, and I clearly wasn't going to make it all the way round. So my revised plan was to leave the northern part of the route for another day, and trace the southern part.

I got myself to Seer Green easily enough, and headed off westwards for Penn. When I eventually arrived in Chalfont St Giles (to the north) I realised something was wrong. A quick check on the map, change of direction, and I headed off for Jordans to the south). When I arrived in Chalfont St Giles for a second time I realised something was still wrong.

When I'm driving it is just annoying to get lost. When I'm cycling it's a more of a mixture. Partly I'm baffled about where I went wrong. Partly I'm amused that I was riding round in circles. Partly I just enjoyed pootling around.

I've traced a bit of the route, and if nothing else I suppose I've established that it might be useful to get the rest onto OSM. If I ever get myself organised enough to do it.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Simpson lever chain

The National Cycle museum stand at the Cycle Show was not typical, but it was one of the most interesting and busiest.

The Simpson Lever Chain was invented by William Spears Simpson in 1895.

"The tops of the triangles had cross bars that engaged the perimeter of the rear chain wheel's flange at a much greater distance from the wheel's axis than would an ordinary chain and chain wheel. Thus Simpson could claim that his chain provided more power through greater leverage.

In the fall of 1895, Simpson offered ten-to-one odds that riders with his chain would beat bicyclists with regular chains. Later known as the Chain Matches, these races at the Catford track in London attracted huge crowds estimated between twelve and twenty thousand in June of 1896. Simpson's team not only included the top racers - Tom Linton, Jimmy Michael, and Constant Huret - but also the Gladiator pacing team brought over from Paris. Pacers enabled a racer to ride faster by shielding him from air resistance. Although Simpson won the Chain Matches, they only proved that the Gladiator pacers were superior to their English rivals."

There is more about the Simpson chain here and here. There is a very clear explanation in French here (roughly - "it is composed of a series of triangles. The inner hinges of the chain engage with the gear at the pedals, and the outer ones with the rear wheel").

"If it has merits, now is an appropriate season to consider its possible future influence. If it has none, it will disappear into the limbo of forgotten novelties."

And it did.

Cycle show

I spent a few hours mooching around the Cycle show today, and there was a lot to see.

The biggest stands from major manufacturers didn't seem quite as big as last year, but there were a lot of specialised products of different kinds; lots of folding bikes, and fixies; several different electric bikes; and what felt like a lot of retro design.

There was quite a bit of cycle mapping. I bought some Sustrans route maps to help work out which trip to do next spring, and I picked up a few TfL cycle maps for weekend outings. There were digital maps from Memory Map; and GPS devices from Garmin and others. I had a bit of a play with a Garmin Oregon loaded with OS maps. It seemed nicely designed, and easy to use, but suspect it is of more practical use to walkers. Before buying one I would need to be convinced that I could read it while riding a bike. OSM cycle maps on a Garmin don't include all the detail that you get on an Ordnance Survey map, but that seems to be a good thing when you are on the move.

I can't help feeling that the most interesting parts of the show were the slightly odd-ball stands, like the exhibits from the National Cycling Museum - which was one of the busiest stands I visited.

These bikes for the London Cycle Hire scheme were shown on the TfL stand. They look very smart, but a bit heavy. I was told that they ride better than you would expect from looking at them. It will be interesting to find out for myself next year.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

And how right they are

Women find fans of cycling the most attractive.

Cycling came out as the top choice of hobby for prospective partners with 36% voting in its favour; beating football (17%) and rugby (14%).
 Cyclists were also frequently described as ‘kind', ‘considerate' and ‘intelligent'.

From Cycling weekly, a survey by the Cycle Show, and an increasing number of links from insecure male cyclists.

Sunday, 4 October 2009


We've just returned from a week in the Coquet Valley. We stayed a few miles from the place in the picture. It's a glorious part of the world. The scenery is beautiful, and it's a handy centre for exploring some of our favourite bits of Northumberland. We had more than our fair share of weather during the week, and I didn't get much cycling done, but we did a lot of walking.

Where we stayed there was no mobile phone signal, and no broadband connection, which has been a bit weird. I hadn't realised how much I've begun to rely on the internet to check bits and pieces, like how long it will take to get somewhere, and whether it will be open when we arrive.

There is quite a bit of Northumberland that still needs to be added to OSM. Others are making more useful contributions, but I thought I might be able to do a little bit, and I did manage to collect a few GPS traces. I wasn't very systematic about it though, so I haven't added a huge amount. Just the odd street, and a few other details.