One of the best things about spiked tyres is the feeling you get when you swap back to normal tread again. Ah, the silence.

On the other hand, I discovered that the bell doesn’t work any more. I’m not sure how this happened. I mean, how do you break a bell? I didn’t use it much in winter because sensible people don’t go outside when it is below freezing, and anyway, the spikes sound like a truck driving on gravel so people heard them when I was some distance away.

So now I’m back to riding most of the way to college every day or so instead of sharing a tram with lots of dozy commuters. Of course that means I’m occasionally sharing the road with dozy drivers instead, but that may not happen for much longer because a community group in Stuttgart has brought a private prosecution against the Mayor of Stuttgart for “Körperverletzung mit Todesfolge”, which translates as “Actual bodily harm causing death”. This is on the basis that the pollution is reaching lethal levels and he’s doing stuff all about it.

Apparently fifty years of giving cars as much space as is conceivably possibly need and then some in a city surrounded by hills has resulted in The Mother of All Traffic Jams and a fug of pollution so far above the European Standardised ‘Danger, breathe out only’ levels that when the City Government tried their usual tactic of sticking their finger in their ears and shouting “Cars are safe, Cars are safe, stop talking about this la la la, can’t hear you” they had a coughing fit.

Who’d have thought it?

German law allows for the government to ban motor vehicles in places when pollution gets so thick citizens can surf on the top of it, so our government could legally stop through traffic tomorrow if they wanted, but that may annoy some Very Important Drivers and a certain large car company who like driving big trucks back and forth to deliver to their main factories.

All that happened so far is a rather pathetic advertising campaign to get people to use public transport at half price. This is having as much effect as you’d imagine.

It will be interesting to see what effect the legal proceedings have. So far we’ve been entertained by a number of entitled motorheads having tantrums and demanding that people who don’t like breathing particles ‘just move somewhere else, duh.’ so they can keep driving where they want. Bless.

Meanwhile a rather cleaner version of Stuttgart is emerging on the classroom wall

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As I have a number of exams coming up, I should be concentrating on revision, but when there’s a sunrise that starts like this…

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…and then finishes like this…
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Then the only thing to do is drop everything and get out on a bike with Beautiful Daughter.

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Unfortunately the sun had decided to give up after the morning performance and the day had gone back to being grey, but it was a novel feeling not to have to ride on snow spikes…

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And we found cows and horses, which made up for any deficiencies in the weather as far as the cute one was concerned.

The rest of the world is getting madder and madder, but at least the sun has started to come out.

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Whoever invented spiked tyres was a genius.

Riding all the way into Stuttgart is still impossible even with spikes, so the current commute is as far as the nearest tram stop and back. This is only a few kilometres but means that I can at least ride that bit.

The local bus and tram company don’t seem to talk to each other so the bus frequently leaves a minute before the tram arrives. A cold fifteen minute ride is preferable to a freezing twenty minute wait for the bus.

Meanwhile, the mural is progressing:

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I have exams looming so blogging will be minimal for a while…

cafe_01It’s been snowing, with enthusiasm. The roads are cleared within a couple of hours and then ploughed every hour or so after that, and gritted in between so that the Very Important Drivers aren’t inconvenienced. Pavements are the responsibility of anyone living alongside them, if they can be bothered, and cycleways, well, no-one uses bicycles in winter. Well, no-one important anyway. Important people use cars.

I am a tad annoyed about this. Fighting to stay upright while bouncing along a rutted ice covered cycle lane in a gale, while drivers swish past on the cleared road does nothing for an even temper.

I’ll get over it. Doesn’t give me much to blog about though.

So, instead, I’ve got an update on our classroom art project, the one I got roped into last year. So far. People wanted a sketch of Stuttgart, but after making the more iconographic buildings things got a bit art deco and Steampunky, partly to give a slightly more utopian optimistic feel than you’d get from looking at the back end of Stuttgart as it really is, and partly because then no-one can say I got it wrong. I also have to design it so that everyone can be involved, so a lot of the city will be fairly simple shapes so that we can give people three colours and instructions on how to make base colours, highlights and shadow.

I still haven’t managed to get the Quadratura effect quite right, and the ‘cafe’ sign looks a bit lost. On the other hand everyone agreed to the idea, although that was probably because they knew they’d have to come up with another one if they didn’t.

Now I have to make a more detailed version ready for a projection, and a second window “with more forest and trees and stuff…”

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It’s that time of year when cycling is reduced to the bare minimum, of muck and slush and plans to start dog sledding.Of wrestling with the rain cover because without it Beautiful Daughter would start to lose extremities from the windchill.

And still people say she’s ‘Got it good’ while shovelling kids into their heated cars.

Yesterday the Elder Son and I spent twenty minutes changing the tyres on our shared bike for spikes. He’s discovered a new reason to go the next town and doesn’t want to have to wait for the ice to melt to ge there. I’ll need them next week to commute to college without ending up in a ditch somewhere on the way and many of the cycleways are currently under thick layers of hard packed snow and temperatures are reaching -14°c (Very cold °f).

If last year is anything to go by, expect reports of sudden warm weather in southern Germany for the next few weeks.

In December our glorious leaders, in the form of the town council, announced that they were introducing a new traffic calming scheme. Finally we are getting a speed limit of 30 km/h (Ca. 20 mph) through the village, instead of 50 km/h (30 mph). This, according to google and my rather wooly maths, will mean it takes 2 minutes 24 second to go through the village, instead of 1 minute 26 seconds. A ‘delay’ of 58 seconds.

Cue howls of protest from local drivers.

This limit will apparently cause chaos. And… and… er… traffic jams, yes, lots of traffic jams… and it’ll cause more of that… oh, what was the word… began with a P… pollution, that was it. Pollution. Because er… slowing cars down means they pollute… more… Yeah: pollution bad. But not bad enough to stop me driving.

Besides. It’s not because of cars. It’s because there are too many Lorries. yes. All the noise and pollution is the fault of the 1300 lorries that drive through the village each day, not the 13000 cars: it’s all the trucks. And what about those busses getting priority at lights? How dare these lesser road users get priority over me? Don’t they realise that as a car user I am a superior being? And of course buses take up too much space as well. Get rid of them.

So what we need is more roads. nice fast roads running around the village so the lorries can go around the village and we can drive in the centre as much as we want. That’ll solve everything. What? The new road will go through a nature reserve. Ah, well, at least the roads in the village will be nice and clear.

After all, building roads for the last fifty years has worked so well for everyone, hasn’t it?

Xtrabauble.JPGIt is Christmas eve here and all around us people are opening presents, but because we are traditionalists our boys are being forced to wait until tomorrow morning as they would in the UK.

So, in the unlikely event anyone is online and reading this, happy Christmas to all three of my readers, and thanks for following along my misadventures.

Normal service will be resumed as soon as we have all recovered.

You know when you realise you should have just kept quiet?

As part of our Occupational Therapist course we have art projects, and each class is supposed to make a mural for their classroom. This is quite a welcome idea because our classroom is a concrete fridge looking out onto a busy main road. It is dark, sterile, and apparently houses a breeding colony of spare tables.

We were divided into groups to make proposals for the murals, and told which walls were possible candidates (not the one with an ugly mural on it already, sadly) and off we went.

One issue we have in the college is a lack of space to relax, so we put two and two together and decided that the mural should be something to make the darker end of the room look a bit brighter and more airy and a place you could enjoy being in. As we have a coffee machine in the corner we went with the flow and said it could be a cafe.

So I was told to draw a sketch, which I happily did, on the basis that it kept me busy.

The group liked it, or possibly just didn’t want to draw an alternative, so I was told to make a more detailed sketch. This time I was worried as I knew what would be involved if the design was accepted, and in particular who would be expected to make the picture.

They liked that too. Then someone suggested a skyline of Stuttgart viewed through the window using the method known as Quadratura

And someone else who I will one day force to eat my paintbrush said “Yeah, sure. Andy could do it.”

I know I’ve painted pictures before, but I’ve no real training whatsoever, and this is massive: about 2m by 4m (Ca 6′ by 12′).

And that’s just one. Current plans are for there to be two or possibly three ‘windows’ across the entire dark end of the room.

Looks like I’ll be busy over the holidays…

Well, the pollution alarms are continuing: we had some rain so a lot of last months crud is currently heading downstream to northern Germany and ultimately the Netherlands (sorry) but apparently it didn’t get rid of all the muck so our elected leaders are getting to grips with the situation, and taking a proactive approach to solve the problem once and for all. Yes, once again, they are Putting up Signs. In this case they are very large signs facing the main roads suggesting that drivers might, just possibly want to consider using the half-priced public transport, maybe?

Judging by the numbers of traffic jams in Stuttgart, the signs aren’t really working. Traffic delays are the main subject of conversation at college: people are taking up to an hour and a half for journeys that only take thirty minutes before*.

I’ve also seen the traffic jams because I pass them on the way to college, usually on an empty cycle route.

I think that Stuttgart could save a lot of money if instead of making the ‘Please consider public transport’ signs very large to be seen from a speeding car, they make them postcard sized and put them alongside the road, so that drivers have something to read while waiting for the traffic jam to lurch forward another twenty metres. Something like “If you are reading this, you could have saved 20 minutes by using a tram”.

*When public transport is delayed by ten minutes this is evidence that the whole system is unreliable and that sensible people should use a car, but a traffic jam is simply an annoyance, the fault of all those other cars and evidence that the government should just build lots more roads.

There’s a great deal of hand-wringing at the moment in Stuttgart. It turns out that if you spend forty years building a transport system for rich people in private cars, eventually you run out of space, and rather more importantly, fresh air. Stuttgart is now registering the worst air pollution in Germany, and is breaking the EU limits on a pretty regular basis.

This of course has nothing to do with cars. Well, it is possibly connected to the numbers of cars, but it is really because Stuttgart is in a valley. Yes, that’s the problem, the valley. Not the cars. Anyway, we can’t really do anything effective to stop the pollution because that would mean stopping the cars, and we can’t have that. We just have to hope that the wind picks up and blows the particles outside of the city, which I’m sure will make the citizens of the next town really happy, or that it rains and washes all the muck down the drain, where it can flow into the river and be someone elses problem.

Unfortunately this hasn’t helped much, and neither has building more roads, so now the city has resorted to having a ‘Feinstaubalarm’ which roughly translates as a ‘Pollution alarm’, and on these days, adults can buy half-priced ticket, which should get people out of their cars.

Or not, if the traffic jam outside of my college is anything to go by.

Even so, the hotels association has started complaining that because of the Feinstaubalarm: people are ‘cancelling bookings’. When a journalist checked, this turned out to be about ten bookings in the last month cancelled because of the Feinstaubalarm.. perhaps. The Hotels Association demanded that the government should just sort out the traffic problem by ‘Making sure traffic flows freely’ and ‘Getting rid of traffic jams’.

That’s that, then. Problem solved…

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