Dear Jan Etherington, an open letter

Today the cycling community are rightly up in arms for one of the worst researched, offensive and completely untrue articles I have read in a long time. It was by you, Jan Etherington. For reference, this is what I am writing about: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9562836/Wed-just-grown-to-love-cyclists-and-then-Andrew-Mitchell-had-to-come-along.html

So, as you appear (from the article) to be lazy and need some help with facts, I thought I would clear some things up.

The “stoic girls” included Olympic Silver medallist Lizzie Armistead. Easily found on Google.

We don’t all run red lights. Try this for some decent journalism on the topic: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2012/may/14/cycling-red-light-jumping-iam-survey. Yes, some cyclists do, but one thing that does make me angry as a cyclist is those on two wheels that DO run red lights.

You say I believe I am from a superior race? How have you possibly come to this confusion? I think it’s much more likely that you are sneering at cyclists from your stationary bus, car or taxi on the way to your job, which it seems you don’t spend too much effort on anyway. I’m sure somewhere I read journalists have some responsibility. Maybe this might help you http://assembly.coe.int/documents/adoptedtext/ta93/eres1003.htm, although I am not sure how official that document is.

You say cyclists believe YOU (who says that you hope you cause us to fall off, hence risking death) are a lesser mortal. On the evidence of the article, you are.

I also live on the Olympic cyclists route.  Did you bother to ask if any of the cafes would be happier with less business? I’m sure the Box Hill cafe appreciate the roaring trade helping fun the National Trust. I’m pretty sure they are happy. Even if you are not.

Here is an absolute fact – if I had no spatial awareness I would have been seriously injured a number of times. Most recently a month or so ago when a car over took me and swerved in front (a right hook, FYI), hitting me. Luckily I anticipated the incident and stopped before I was seriously hurt. Who had no spatial awareness in that incident I ask?

You say we never stop to enjoy the scenery. Well I regularly stop to enjoy scenery while riding and often take a photo too.

As for your method of crossing the road, I would seriously recommend you look back to your childhood (stop, look and listen) rather than “try to amble across the road”. I’m sure electric cars will stop you from ambling across the road. Or would that be the vehicle driver’s fault too?

You say this in your article:

I make it a rule always to say “Good morning” to these belting bikers. With any luck, it will take them by surprise so much that they’ll slow down, or better still, fall off.

Do I misread this as you actually admitting to attempted assault, or worse, actual bodily harm? I would happily let the police decide on this if you are unsure. It sounds quite threatening at least. By the way, I am extremely offended by it.

Regarding my lycra I never actually planned to wear any until I found how mor comforatble and how much it helps against the wind, quite logical reasons for my outfit I think. Same as I wear football boots for football, I wear nice padded shorts for cycling.

This has turned into a much longer letter than I imagined, so I am going to down my keyboard and relax for a bit.

Yours,

Matt

Sometimes you should keep opinions to yourself

Before I start this rant, I will add the disclaimer that I should take heed of the title myself, I am under no illusions about this. Not following this advice started the whole thing.

However I was annoyed at the time and still stand by my opinions. I am referring to a twitter slanging match (there’s no other way to describe it) regarding, to put it bluntly, respect for the dead.

The offending opinion was: “There are fresh flowers outside Kensington Palace for Princess’s Di. WTF! She’s been dead for over a decade people! Time to move on!”

Wrong.

Now I must admit that I probably shouldn’t have used the “T” word in a reply, but I was angry. Why can’t people leave flowers at any location to remember someone. Especially someone that did change so many people’s lives be it from land mine charity work, AIDS and HIV awareness efforts or just being a public figure.

Fair enough, maybe there are better places for remembrance offerings, but is there any need to tell people to move on. When walking past flowers, my immediate response is a thought that it is good that people are being remembered, not that they were doing it wrong or should get over it.

In my opinion, that is just being a twat.

“Look! A Bandwagon, I better jump on it!” says Sebastian Shakespeare

Shakespeare was an excellent author of fiction. I fear Sebastian Shakespeare of the Evening Standard columnist of the same name is following in his namesakes footsteps.

Following the introduction of a death by dangerous cycling bill, Julia Hartley-Brewer gave typically misinformed and biased bullshit on her sad excuse for a radio programme and now it seems everypone has to have a go at Cyclists.

Well done for jumping on the cyclist bashing bandwagon with your article “Cyclists have had an easy ride too long” Sebastian Shakespeare, however as commented on your article, here’s my response to your drivel:

You say that cyclists should have insurance (I do have third party insurance, FYI) but try having a look at the uninsured drivers stats first. When that problem is resolved try bringing in another rule for the contraptions that will do minimal damage (in most cases) to a person or other road user.

We haven’t had it easy, how you would call being hit (side swiped on a straight road) by a HGV and hospitalised easy (myself, July 2010) I don’t know.

A minority will flount the rules, and I try to tell the law breaking fellow cyclists of the reputation they give us. But you say we run red lights, in the eyes of the law I could give you hundreds of car (and motorcycle) registrations each week that are all positioned in the cyclists area at junctions, ignoring the ASL (Advanced Stop Line) making life much harder for cyclists to be safe.

How about the traffic wardens look at them too, or is that victimising the car drivers too much?

I could go on, and I’d like to have a conversation with Sebastian, but (as he pointed out in his article) he’d rather speak to someone who has poor English language skills than hear my northern twang. My money is actually on the fact that he has some form of regional accent. Or maybe he is too focused on writing shit that he never speaks.  Maybe I should give him a Glasgow kiss to justify his apparent lack of respect for anyone.

I am fucking furious. Julia Hartley-Brewer is an idiot typically ill informed.

This afternoon I saw on twitter that LBC were doing a bit of cycling bashing. So I thought I would listen in, at no point would I have thought that I would get this angry about the presenter, callers or even the cyclist that phoned in.

When they started by stating numerous times (the ill-informed Julia Hartley Brewer and callers alike) that car drivers pay to use the roads so should have exclusive use of them, I was hoping for ANYONE to point out that Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) does not pay for the roads, but roads are paid for by regular taxation, so I do pay for the roads, even if I don’t have a car or a bike. Check ipayroadtax.com for more details on that, but safe to say they are wrong. I did call in but unfortunately LBC didn’t call me back.

And MOTs, licenses and registration plates for cyclists is a useless suggestion, considering the police struggle and pretty much fight a losing battle against motorists who drive without insurance, how the hell do you expect this to be enforced. If anyone has any ideas I’d love to know.  Before anyone mentions insurance, I have third party insurance on my bike, although I would never expect to use it.

Next, callers were virtually threatening cyclists. I don’t remember his name but the driver that said of cyclists “I’ve hit one before and would do it again. If they’re in my way I’ll run them down.” WHAT THE FUCK. I guess it says something that the caller drives a BMW but I wish he had given his number plate so I can avoid him altogether. And report him to the police if he tries to use his car as a weapon.

Cyclists that “wear lycra and think they’re professional cyclists” should dismount and use a footbridge (as suggested by a caller) is bollocks. We have a right to use the road and when we are traveling at a fair speed, why should we sacrifice journey time by minutes when we would only hold up cars for a few seconds, most of the time.

To the cyclist who is the only one who doesn’t break the highway code and thinks other cyclists (and I think he included the LCC in the statement) are arrogant scum is living in his own little world, I see hundreds of cyclists every year that are fine cyclists and don’t jump lights and so on.

And as for the presenter I don’t remember the complete build up, but saying that if you kill a cyclist you should be the one people feel for is pathetic, you come across as a selfish cow. You have no more right to use the road than a cyclist, and while I can’t remember the incident as you described it, I do remember thinking you did not have right of way, so it would have been your fault. Maybe you can email me at matt@mattbee.co.uk to explain it again, because I now simply believe you to be a danger to myself and other cyclists for not even knowing the highway code.

I am very sorry that LBC couldn’t call me back so that I could defend cyclists and point out their errors, ask why they think the aggressive behaviour of some motorists is acceptable and why a 4 year old case has brought the fact that a cyclist could kill a pedestrian into the media spotlight when hundreds (or thousands) of cyclists AND pedestrians are seriously injured by motor vehicles all the time (no pedestrian deaths in the last 4 years involving a cyclist hitting a pedestrian, there have been 3 people killed by cars or lorries in the past 2 weeks!).

And don’t get me started on Advanced Stop Lines (ASLs)… when will drivers/motorcyclists get punished for entering those I wonder.

An open letter to Middlesbrough Football Club Official Direct Store

After visiting the Middlesbrough Football Club site and MFC Official Direct shop (http://www.mfcofficialdirect.co.uk) today, I was left embarrassed as a Boro fan at the state of both web sites. Below are open letters which I hope representatives of both will see and respond to.

Dear MFC Official Direct

When seeing an advert for the 30% off sale and Boro replica kits for only £15 I was very happy and ran straight over to the store to get myself a replica home kit.

However the experience I had left me shocked, disappointed and embarrassed. Now let me say that I am a Boro fan and a front end developer (so I can understand when things aren’t perfect), but still feel the need to expose the pitfalls of this site in public.

My first issue was when I tried to update my delivery address, having moved jobs and so I couldn’t have the parcel delivered to my old place of work. However it appears I am not allowed to move companies, the company name could not be edited. ANYWHERE. Not on that form, not on my account page, not on mange addresses through my account page, nowhere. The company isn’t even called Gyro International anymore!

Following that annoyance, I thought “Fine, I’ll just add a new address. But then I couldn’t add a company name to go with that, and being in a shared building with many other companies and nowhere to add a company name and few form fields for address I thought I would have it delivered home.

Delivery details on MFC Official Direct Store

I thought that would be fine, but alas no. Following selection of delivery type in step 2 I was thrown to the confirm order page. Step 4. Hold on. That’s missed step 3, and I haven’t entered my payment details yet? But I’m on the last step? Oh well. I guess this really is a good shop! That was confirmed by a nice page telling my my order has been successfully placed! Excellent, I don’t have to pay it seems. Maybe now Mido is back he is funding a shirt giveaway to try and make someone love him!

Alas no, after a second or two I was delivered and Sage Pay (formerly Protx) payment page. Now this possibly isn’t MFC Official Direct’s fault, however it is still part of a flawed process. And anyone that spends £12.7m on Alfonso Alves must have some cash somewhere to invest in a seamless checkout process. Or at least one that allows the checkout page to be on brand, not hideous and at least not be included as step 5 of 4.

The hideous Sage Pay checkout screen.

So after all that and finally getting my payment details in, I notice that Sage Pay have thankfully printed my delivery address so I know its right:

Flat E
London

(They printed my postcode too, but that’s private!)

Now I know the postcode will probably mean that as a delivery address might just make it, and maybe the full address has been stored, but why print only part of the address. Thinking about it, there are quite a few flats in my area so Flat E, Putney might not make it. My address is a required 2 lines before the town and postcode so why not just show me the details so I don’t think you’ve lost half my address along the way. Same goes for invoice address. Just show it all or people (including myself) might not be confident you have managed to pass the correct delivery information and that we may never see our goods, many of which are quite expensive on the MFC Official Direct store.

Anyway, after this traumatic experience it’ll be a while before I use the MFC Official Direct store again, however I also have some gripes with the Middlesbrough Football Club website itself, so this probably isn’t the last you’ll hear from me. Thankfully however, at least the agency that built the site are linked to in the footer, so it can act as a reminder to never, ever recommend Black Magic Digital of Glasgow as a digital agency. They apparently missed out on the user experience chapter of every book they ever picked up.

Yours,

Matt Bee

Boro Fan and Front End Developer