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

“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.

At least Microsoft know Outlook 2007 isn’t very good…

Microsoft disclaimer!

So just after receiving an email asking why a complicated HTML email didn’t work in Outlook 2007 and explaining that since it uses Word to render HTML it was never going to display everything right. Obviously some people just don’t understand this.

However with almost perfect timing I got an email from xBox Live (Microsoft run) with the disclaimer above shown right at the top! Yes, Microsoft themselves are suggesting you read the HTML email in a browser rather than their own email client!

“Read this issue online if you can’t see the images or are using Outlook 2007”

Now I accept that Microsoft may be correct in that HTML should not have been used for emails at all, emails should be plain text, end of. However if you are then going to support HTML partially, whilst using HTML emails in your own marketing, with a disclaimer against your own product, something is very wrong somewhere! Anyway, all the clients I work for won’t pay for plain text emails, therefore HTML emails kind of keep me in a job!

Anyway, I found this amusing, hope you do too.

3 Capitals in 3 Days Cycle Challenge

I’m in!

My GP has signed me as fit to participate so on the 6th-9th June 2008 I will be cycling from London to Amsterdam and onto Brussels. That’s about 320 miles, approximately 100 miles a day 3 days running.

Starting at St Pancras in North London, we move straight onto Harwich, Essex (East coast, East of Colchester) where we will jump on an overnight ferry to Hoek Van Holland. Once in the land of windmills and clogs, the 59 miles to Amsterdam are tackled. Since that is only given 4 hours to be completed in, I think the 3 hours spare in Amsterdam will probably be a little rest for my body. But once 3pm hits we are straight back to the business of 60 miles on to Kinderdijk, near Rotterdam. Now by this point I expect my legs to either be the size of tree trunks or ready to fall off, so naturally the longest stint of the weekend is welcomed. 120 miles from Kinderdijk to Brussels where I assume there will be a huge party and I will be allowed to get extremely drunk and not move my legs for 21 hours until the 1556 Eurostar to St Pancras.

Here’s a rough map of the route to give you an idea of the scale of the task (click to enlarge):

3 Capitals in 3 Days Cycle Challenge route.

Then I’ll probably have to cycle home.

So that’s the itinerary, which I hope I will be able to keep up with – training better start now, but of course there is also the matter of the sponsorship of £1350 I have to raise by then for The Mines Advisory Group. So keep your eyes peeled for the fund raising site and blogs demanding your money that will be starting very very soon.

Please send me any possible fund raising ideas you might have as soon as possible!