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Yesterday, Beautiful God-daughter -and others- were giving flute recitals, so naturally I went to watch. The Xtracycle can be seen above in the large plaza outside the town arts centre where the performance was held. It is a very tasteful rebuild of an old tram depot.

The tram used to run through here to a couple of other places, including this town. Unfortunately the line was closed in 1978 ‘for economic reasons’ and ‘because we need the space for cars’. Of course. A local group tried to build a museum on the edge of the town but the local government decided to use the space for a petrol station instead.

A walking/cycle way runs along the old tramway, which is a nice thought, but really, we’d have preferred to have the tram.

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Track on old level crossing

But the shell of the old tram depot has a few cycle racks in one corner, so that’s sustainable transport covered.

In 1995 a new road bridge was built over the valley, making it easier to drive, walk, and cycle from one side to the other. It was promptly closed to pedestrian & cycle traffic because it was ‘unsafe’, so schoolchildren now have to be driven by their parents or take the bus.

And the town centres on both sides are crammed full of cars.

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Eldest son on tramway.

So now the local governments are looking at plans to possibly, maybe, build a new tramway and/or railway running along a similar route, at a cost of millions of Euros…

Ah, well.

More importantly, Beautiful God-daughter was awesome…

“The least fit ten-year-old English child from a class of 30 in 1998 would be one of the five fittest children in the same class tested today.”

From the always interesting No Tech Magazine. link to full article here: http://www.notechmagazine.com/2015/06/the-inactivity-pandemic.html

If ony there was a simple and inexpensive way to change that.

Riding the Bakfiets to the local metro station to pick up the boys* I noticed a cyclist coming towards in full lycra with helmet riding an ancient and rather dusty bike. Nothing unusual there: this time of year the routes over the fields fill with luridly clad riders on bikes which look like they’ve been in a cellar for the last twelve months.

What was odd was that I could hear a tinny voice coming from a large plastic object on his handlebars. I thought this was a cell phone using the hands free facility until he came closer and I realised it was a radio, fastened onto the handlebars and blaring out 80’s hits from the local station.

The end is nigh, I tell you…

And speaking of abominations being where they should not be, my computer seems to have picked up some adware called cheapo-o, which I can’t get rid of. I’ve shut down the add-on but according to several websites there’s still spyware lurking on the hard drive. Of course they all want me to download another programme to get rid of same, but as that’s apparently what caused the problem in the first place I’m not touching them. Can anyone recommend a safe way to remove this rubbish?

*It is downhill coming back: I’m nice but not that nice…

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I’ve discovered a traffic-free route to the next big town. It even includes this bridge over the river so instead of fighting my way down a steep, traffic filled hill or across a multi-lane junction I can now go straight from my preferred route down the hill and onto the cycleway that takes me into the centre of town and hardly have to deal with cars for the whole route.

Black and white photo an attempt to make ‘where I went on my bike’ shot look artsy.

I call it the Bridge of Irony because it was mainly built to link two sections of the huge Mercedes plant in this part of the valley…

I’ve said before that cycling into the next big town is a simple matter of pootling through vineyards and gardens. Unfortunately riding back out again is rather harder work.

Step one is simple enough: find the shortest traffic free route through the suburbs of the town and  avoid being run over by the dustbin lorries that seem to infest these back streets.

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The next image was taken about 500 metres behind the church seen above. The weathervane on the tip of the tower is directly behind the camera, which makes this hill seem rather excesive, frankly.

This road is closed to cars, but there are always one or two who decide to take the short cut. Inevitably they decide they want to overtake on this section.

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At the top of the climb is a housing estate in a forest built in the days when everyone was going to use cars, and therefore with no infrastructure for bicycles whatsoever. Often when I ride here the local drivers have tooted encouragement, waved enthusiastically out of the window as they pass, and for some reason pointed frantically at the pavement.

I don’t know why this happens often here but almost nowhere else. Perhaps they just aren’t used to seeing cyclists on the road.

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The secret exit out of the top of the housing estate into fields.
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And the top of the climb looking back to the north, 20 minutes and about 200 metres after the first photograph. The reward for this climbing is a magnificent view towards the distant hills that mark the watershed between Rhine and Danube. Typically on the day I had my camera, it was too cloudy to see beyond the next plowed field.

So last night I was riding the Bakfiets along the main road in the village, in the dark, and noticed I was being followed by something with a lot more lights than I had. Looking back this turned out to be a Big Black Truck.

About a thousand trucks drive through the village every day, which causes much harrumphing from the locals while they wait to pull out from side streets in their 4 x 4’s. This one had just squeezed around the sharp corner at the top of the hill and was rolling  about fifty metres behind my back wheel. I looked again to signal for a left turn, to find it was still there, but noted with surprise that he was hanging well back, giving me space and allowing himself a generous braking distance. Gratified that he was doing his best not to glue me to his massive bull bars, I signalled, pulled across the road and waved to acknowledge that I had seen the fifty tonnes of black and chrome just behind me. I was rewarded by a short flash of headlights with enough candlepower to safely guide ships, which projected my shadow on the buildings opposite.

It being rather late, there was no traffic in the opposite direction, so I could pull into our street easily enough. I stopped to wave again and got a quick honk on the horn and a wave from the shadowy figure in the cab as the behemoth rumbled out of the village into the darkness.

Why can’t it be like this more often?

(And let’s not ask why cyclists are sharing space with such massive vehicles on narrow roads in a small village, that’d spoil the story…)

 

 

Due to some monumentally bad planning on my part, I managed to have four appointments in our local big town on different days last week. The town in question is only a bit over five kilometres away, which comes in at a mere 3.2 miles, but before you serious transport cycling types scoff, it is also almost 200m lower, or a rather more respectable 620 feet, most of which is crammed in a relatively short part of the ride.

The quickest way (down) is the busy, but straight main road.

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 but if I have the time, it is far more pleasant to use the old road…

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…which meanders without any urgency through the vineyards…

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…especially as this route is closed to motorised traffic, so I can stop and take pictures.

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This was another one of those mornings when I was reminded there are far worse places to live and ride a bike.

You really aren’t supposed to have this much fun on the way to an appointment, especially when the reason was to pick up my results for my carpentry apprenticeship…

Coming back to our village this week, I came across a new bit of shared use pedestrian/cycle route that hadn’t looked like this two days earlier.

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The previous surface had been getting rougher by the year, but even so I couldn’t help feeling there were other places they where this could have been more useful.

Cynical people would of course suggest that this wasn’t the point: it is March, and the surfacing budget must be spent before April the first.

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Obviously there wasn’t that much left in the budget, as this is the other end, just at the bottom of a hill where a nice flat surface would be really welcome. If you are wondering how long the largesse lasted, the barn above is the same as the one in the previous picture.

Still, this is the second year running that the tarmac leftovers were used on this route, and at the current rate the whole way to the next village should be nice and smooth in about six years or so…

Eldest son’s school seems to carefully plan parents’ evenings to be on the wettest day of the term, so as usual I arrived after a good invigorating shower. And, as usual, the evening went on… and on… powered by a group of competitive parents who wanted to know every way their child could get the best possible grades in maths and science (but who were notably silent when the art teacher asked for questions). By the end, it was nearly tomorrow morning and pretty dark. Thankfully it had stopped raining and the hours in an overheated classroom had dried off my clothes nicely.

I probably should have thought about the route back a little more, perhaps considering that as it was dark, the forest would be better avoided, and the surfaced route by a well lit road would be more sensible, but I was tired and cold, and the ‘begging buttons’ don’t work after ten, so I decided to take the short cut. What could go possibly wrong?

I know, I never learn. Things began badly when I was dive bombed by a bat*, then turned off the road into darkness and realised the crucial difference between this route and the other forest trail is that other one is straight, wide, and flat, and has the lights of the next town at the end as a guide. The ‘short cut’ has none of these advantages and is a winding, twisting strip of potholed gravel. For added fun there is a fork in the woods at the darkest point and a deep drainage ditch which could easily double as a tank trap if Stuttgart were ever attacked from the north.

In daylight this is a pleasant winding trail you can ride along thinking happy thoughts about squirrels**, whereas at night thoughts run thus: “This is dark… ouch… where’s the turning?… was that it? oof… no it isn’t… yes it is, brakes… tree stump… must avoid tree stump… and the ditch… ouch… hang on, it isn’t that steep in the day is it?  pothole… oof… corner… is that a lurking shadow creature hiding by the trail ready to attack unwitting cyclists… oh, no, it’s a bush… ow… with roots… Hat blowing off… must hold… oof, pothole… hat… corner… getting steeeeper…

And then as usual, just as I was starting to get the hang of things, the trail widened and I was able to see the lights of the next town.

Then it started raining again…

[Update: It seems I’ve been here before…]

*Either we have our own version of the ASBO Buzzard of Scotland or I sound like a bug on sonar. I’m not sure which is worse.
** When it isn’t raining, of course…

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The ‘BMX Track’ reopened in summer, having had more maintenance than most of the local cycle infrastructure has seen in several years,* so we spent part of an afternoon trying it out. Unfortunately the lumps are now just a bit too fierce for the Xtracycle, which provided a great excuse is why I had to be content with sitting in the shade and photographing the boys enjoying themselves instead.

Ah, the joys of being able to ride with short sleeves.

Only a few weeks until spring…

*Which is why most of the infrastructure looks like a BMX track.

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