Promising Glasgow cycling strategy crippled by refusal to accept past failings

I’m going to keep this under 1000 words so we don’t all fall asleep. Expect lots of pictures. I’m also going to try and focus on the positives—for an (equally valid) negative view see Car Sick Glasgow.

Glasgow City Council released a draft cycling strategy which is open for feedback until 04 September 2015. From the cover page:

Our vision for Glasgow is to create a vibrant Cycling City where cycling is accessible, safe and attractive to all.
Glasgow’s Strategic Plan for Cycling 2015 – 2025

You can view a copy here, and provide feedback here. Please do! There are some suggestions at the end of this article.

I’m Glasgow city, and I have a problem with cyclists

I said I’d be positive, but there’s a stonkingly big elephant in this room I have to deal with first:

Glasgow City Council wrongly believes cyclists are getting a good deal in Glasgow, and this hugely damages the credibility of this paper.

Let me back that up. GCC claims the Glasgow cycle network is 305km long. Here’s a map:

Styalised map of the network

Those in the south side will find this map odd, as there is nothing cycle-friendly connecting the city centre to Queens Park. The answer is buried in the text:

The Glasgow cycle network … includes the National Cycle Network and other strategic routes, commuter routes, signed routes in parks and open spaces, signed ‘quiet ways’ and local routes, etc.
Glasgow’s Strategic Plan for Cycling 2015 – 2025, pg 16

Ingeniously; if a route is used by lots of commuting cyclists, it becomes park of the 305km cycle network, even if it has no infrastructure. Including Pollokshaws Road:

Victoria Road southbound
Four lanes of traffic, not a sniff of anything for cyclists. Still part of the cycle network.

and the five lanes of King George V Bridge:

King George V Bridge
See that strip of paint on the left of lane 1? You need to be in lanes 3,4 or 5 to go straight on into the City Centre. Good luck doing that whilst climbing the incline. But it’s ok. You’re on the network.

Both of those were shown on the map above as cycle routes and on my way home. There are many other good examples of four and five lane gyratories with no provision at all for cyclists being counted as part of the 305km total.

Talking of which…

"Glasgow cycle network increased by over 160% since 2006"

GlasgowCycleMan has done an excellent job picking apart the stats and discovered a document from 2013 that breaks down the total. Not only have GCC only added 4km of route in the last two years, only 3.3km of that total is pukka segregated “gold-standard” cycle route. 80km are shared use footpaths; every single footpath within a park adds another 70km, 85km are our bus lanes, and the rest is either on-road paint, a “quiet street”, or a normal road that happens to have a lot of bikes on it.

Also very dodgy is this claim:

Research from the Glasgow Centre for Population Health shows that cycling levels in Glasgow grew by 69% between 2001 and 2011, well above the national average of 11%. Glasgow was the top performing Council in Scotland for growth in cycling to work or study during 2001 to 2011.
Glasgow’s Strategic Plan for Cycling 2015 – 2025, pg 8

Normally councils use the Scottish Household Survey to determine modal share of transport, but across Scotland the cycling level grew from 0.7% in 2001 to 1.3% in 2011. That’s an 86% increase (increases in tiny percentages always sound impressive), but if GCC are only claiming a national 11% increase they must be using some other data set. They don’t share their working…

GCC need to realise that the people campaigning for better cycling conditions in Glasgow are out there on the streets every day. If you lie about your achievements, we’re going to call bullshit. Loudly.

Anyway, I’ve only got 400 words left, and there is some good stuff I want to call out too.

The Caps target is acknowledged

At a national level, the Cycling Action Plan for Scotland has a target of achieving 10% of all journeys to be made by bike by 2020. Glasgow has a part to play in achieving this target.

One might even say that Glasgow’s part to play is ensuring 10% of all journeys in Glasgow by 2020 are by bike… We are an urban area after all.

Measurable(ish) targets are set

And they are (with my comments):

  1. Continue to spend above the Scottish national average per head of population on cycling. (A figure in GBP would be good, but we can still measure against this)
  2. Increase in cycling to/from the city centre from 7,636 per day (2012-2014 average) to 15,000 per day by 2025. (will miss Caps target of 10% by 2020)
  3.  Increase in number of children cycling to primary school from 3.5% to 7% by 2025. (will miss Caps target of 10% by 2020)
  4. Increase Bikeability participation to 100% of primary schools by 2025.
  5. Increase the overall length of the Glasgow cycle network from 310km in 2015 to 400km in 2025. (Needs commitment to quality, not just length)
  6. 100% of city schools to have cycle parking by 2025. (How much of it? Caps again would suggest enough parking for 10% of pupils by 2020)
  7. Increase the number of riders in national cycle sport programmes from 6 (2014/15) to 10 (2015/16).
  8. Increase the number of clubs with junior sections from 19 (2014/15) to 22 (2015/16).
  9. Increase the number of volunteers working with clubs from 57 (2014/15) to 70 (2015/16).
  10. Increase the number of riders attending events from 4535 (2014/15) to 4800 (2015/16).

Commitment to high quality corridors on key routes

We will work towards creating a network of high quality cycle corridors on key routes to the city centre from the north, south, east and west.

City Ways will include off-road paths, segregated cycle tracks, buffer zones to protect cyclists if the removal of parking is not possible, and early starts for cyclists at signalised junctions.

These need to be good enough to handle high volume (cycle) traffic. 10% of all trips by bike, remember…

This is of little use without the detail of where the routes will be, but the idea is valid.
This is of little use without the detail of where the routes will be, but the idea is valid.

Lots of other commitments

There’s a whole page of them, but plucking out the best:

– We will improve our cycle network to ensure that it is accessible to all cyclists.
– We will continue to implement 20mph zones.
– We will continue to increase and improve cycle parking.
– We will consider the needs of cyclists when junctions are being improved.

Slightly less good is the reference to the outdated Cycling by Design as a “minimum standard”, but until the Scottish Government adopt a new standard nationally there’s no chance of any council being proactive.

In conclusion, here’s what feedback I’ll be giving.

  •  The strategy is generally solid and will complement the City Centre Transport strategy (which I talked about here). However, action is needed to back up the good intent. That Transport strategy promised a blanket 20mph across the city, and we’ve seen nothing more about that…
  • GCC need to acknowledge that advertising 30mph five line gyratories with no cycle infrastructure as a cycle route will get someone killed. Glasgow does not have a 305km cycle network.
  • The targets are OK, although need to be realigned to support the 10% by 2020 target GCC has been set. However, if it looks like the numbers are being fiddled (as they have been in this strategy paper), expect some blunt Freedom of Information Act requests.
  • The commitments are OK, although Cycling by Design is widely discredited as a standard.
  • The suggested governance arrangements are weak, and suggest that Land & Environmental Services (particularly the roads section of that department) are not involved in this. Has the head of LES (Brian Devlin) accepted the commitments on behalf of his department?

Please provide your own feedback! Let GCC know this is important to you.

Here’s the survey link again.

OK, that’s nearer 1250 words, but I included a few jokes, so hopefully you don’t feel too hard done by.

UK prosecutes channel tunnel walker using obscure 150 year old law

If you’ve been following the refugee crisis around Calais you’ll have heard about the Sudanese chap – Abdul Rahman Haroun – who walked almost all of the 31 miles of the Channel Tunnel before being arrested by British police.

Bit of background on this guy’s homeland. The UK warns against all travel to most of Sudan, citing the risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks and stating that consular assistance would be ineffective given instability in the country. From the Human Rights Watch:

Armed conflicts in several Sudanese states continue with devastating effects on civilians … [t]hese conflicts have been characterized by unnecessary and avoidable civilian deaths and injuries; sexual violence against women and girls; unlawful destruction of civilian property, and have forced hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee their homes. In the capital and other main towns, Sudanese security forces have repeatedly and violently suppressed protesters demonstrating against government policies… .  President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes in Darfur, was re-elected in 2015 in a poll that did not meet standards for free and fair elections.
Human Rights Watch report on Sudan (link)

Sudan has scored the lowest rating possible since 1991 in the annual Freedom in the World reports by US organisation Freedom House.

Almost exactly 80% of Sudanese people applying for asylum in the UK have been confirmed as “valid” refugees, which is astonishing given how vigorously our government tries to get rid of people (source; §8.3 of this).

In short, the odds are good that Abdul thoroughly deserves UK assistance (although if you were questioning that given he managed to get to Calais from Africa and then walked for ten hours in a pitch black tunnel, I question your humanity).

Now, the UN refugee convention (which the UK is signed up to) recognises that refugees may have to use unconventional means to achieve safety, which is why there’s a bit which says:

The Contracting States [including the UK] shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.
1951 UN convention relating to the status of refugees (link)

(If you’re wondering, there’s also UK case law that confirms this protection holds even if you’ve travelled through other countries without claiming asylum first.)

Previously the UK government has “misunderstood” this legislation, but the Criminal Cases Review Commission and Lord Justice Leveson (a pretty senior English judge) raised a bit of a fuss about it. The former expressed concern that hundreds of people have been wrongly convicted in a “significant and widespread … abuse of the law”, while Lord Leveson just said that he wanted to “kill this problem [abuse of the law by UK officials] stone dead”.

Therefore the Home Office has got devious…

The Free Movement blog believes Abdul has been detained and will be charged with “obstructing a carriage on a railway”, using the Malicious Damage Act of 1861. The vast majority of this act has been repealed due to being wildly out of date, however, the bit about blocking trains remains. And that’s what Abdul is being strung up with.

Nothing to do with illegally entering the UK.

Obstructing a carriage.

Makes you proud to be British, eh?


PS: the article is a rehash of “Channel Tunnel Man: Refugees should not be prosecuted for irregular entry”, which was posted on Free Movement on 11 August 2015. It’s a fascinating blog, if you suspect the UK isn’t quite playing fair in this area…

Vulcan XH558 on farewell tour

If you haven’t seen the last flying Vulcan XH558 yet, you’ve got until the 6th September to sort yourself out. The Vulcan to the Sky trust have decided that there are so many hours on the airframe that it wouldn’t be safe to carry on into next year, so she’ll be retired to a ground display after this season.

Vulcan 2

I could wax lyrical about the “tin triangle” for far longer than you would ever want to read, but I’m also listening to that rarest of events: England Doing Well At The Cricket. Therefore, I’ll just give you a few photos I took when we saw her fly overhead Woodford aerodrome two weekends ago.

Vulcan 3

The display calendar is here. Treat yourself.

You won’t get a second chance.

Vulcan 4

Garmin announce GPS stuff, lights, and radar

I do like a good gadget, and was therefore delighted when Garmin announced a slew of them over the last few days.

Your best bet for more information is the DC Rainmaker blog, as Ray has already had a play with all of the goodies.

Here’s what’s coming in September 2015.

A new mid-range GPS, the Edge 520

Edge 520 images

This looks like a big update to the 500 and 510 (ie the middle-of-the-road GPSes that do everything you could want except for navigation). This has a bunch of extra features (again, go see DC Rainmakers review), but the most intriguing of which is the addition of Strava segments.

As you approach the segment you get a distance count down and then a virtual partner showing you the current fastest time on Strava. My Edge 810 has always been able to do this with segments from Garmin Connect and it works really well, except no-one uses segments on Garmin Connect. Strava, however, is wildly popular, and hopefully is the start of a glorious partnership between the (relative) sturdiness of Garmin hardware and the much better software of Strava.

I’m also happy because a load of the new 520 features (including the Strava-ness) are coming to the Edge 810 and 1000 later this year. Given the 810 is now almost three years old, that’s some pretty decent hardware support.

Two new entry-level GPSes, the Edge 20 and Edge 25

The Edge 20 and 25

GPSes is an ugly word, isn’t it?

The Edge 20 and 25 drop in at the bottom end of Garmin’s lineup, but if all you’re after is some basic GPS tracking and speed and the ability to then dump that data online, this might be all you need. The RRP of just over £100 is still a lot to ask given most smartphones could do the job, but these are a lot neater on your handlebars (not too mention having a better battery life than a phone using GPS, and being waterproof and rugged).

Not for everyone, but nice to have the option available.

Both use GPS and GLONASS (handy if the USA decides to stop sharing its space-based military hardware), with the Edge 25 adding in Bluetooth and ANT+ support so you can pair with your phone as well as other bike sensors (cadence, power, etc).

The Varia bike-mounted radar system

Varia lights, radar and display
Smart lights on the left, rear-facing radar in the middle, radar display on the right

Talking of military hardware…

The Varia system consists of a rear-facing radar with built in rear light, front and rear “smart lights”, and a radar display (which sadly isn’t a glowing green screen).

This does a couple of things, depending on how you set things up:

  • The radar detects vehicles approaching you from behind. Those are displayed as approaching blips on either the standalone radar display, or on the right hand side of the screen of a compatible Edge GPS. The range is about 150m, and it can track multiple approaching vehicles.
  • The radar comes with a bank of red LEDs. As each vehicle gets closer more LEDs light up and then start to flash. Which presumably makes you more noticeable when you need it, and saves battery life when you don’t.
  • The Varia front light pairs with your GPS and adjusts the beam angle depending on your speed. As you go faster, it throws more of the light further down the road.
  • If you’ve got the Edge 1000 (which has an ambient light sensor), both Varia smart lights will adjust their brightness to avoid dazzling those around you.
  • If you’ve got two rear smart lights and an Edge in navigating mode, the left or right rear light will blink as you approach a turn.

If I’m reading that right, to get absolutely everything you’ll end up displaying three rear lights: one radar with lights; plus two smart rear lights which give you the indicating. Plus obviously a fourth “dumb” rear light, because having all your reward visibility dependant on the Edge on your handlebars not crashing would be A Bad Thing.

Unless you’re in a velomobile that isolates you a bit more from the outside world and also needs indicators (because you can’t stick you arm out), I’m not really convinced that the radar unit is much more than a gimmick. For it to work you’d need the display/Edge to be constantly in your line of vision, and the only bike where that is the case is a recumbent.

Cockpit view

Which comes with a mirror.

Still, lights that adapt to speed and ambient light are definitely good things (my Luxos IQ2 does so already), and if Garmin are going to throw research money into expanding their range of cycling kit, everybody wins.


PS: All images from the Garmin website, with the exception of the M5 carbon recumbent cockpit just above, which is from the review I wrote here.

GCC seek feedback on soft segregation experiment

Well, they’re not seeking it yet, but they will be very soon according to this Go Bike post.

On Aikenhead Road eastbound Glasgow City Council have put up four different types of “soft segregation”, plus a mandatory cycle lane and an advisory one. The hope is that a bunch of people will submit feedback on which one makes them feel the safest, and then GCC will pick the cheapest the one people like the best to roll out elsewhere.

Soft segregation means that some kind of barrier exists between you and motorised traffic, but it still relies to some extend on drivers behaving themselves. None of these will stop people blocking the lane with abandoned vehicles if they really want to.  Viz:

That being said, any segregation is better than just paint.

Before I quickly canter through what’s there, if you want to see it for yourself you want to head east from the north-western end of Aikenhead Rd, where it joins Cathcart Rd. There’s no infrastructure connected to it, but the A728 bridge over the motorway is particularly unpleasant. Approaching from Butterbiggins Rd is less perilous, and also means I get to type “Butterbiggins”.

One more thing.

The demo lane is far too narrow

I’d have laughed, if it wasn’t for the concern that the my handlebars were about to catch on a bollard. The usable width is definitely no more than 80cm, and at times (when drains protrude from the gutter) much less than that. At one point the entire width is covered by ironworks, which would be a delight in the wet:

ironworks in cycle lane
Do you want to come a cropper on the paint, the ironmongery, or the rumblestrip and cats eyes?

In Scotland we’re stuck with the outdated Cycling by Design as guidance, but even that recommends a minimum usable with of no less than two metres. As such it’s hard to get a real sense of what these lanes would be like as every one feels claustrophobic at this width.

Why so much paint?

The width failing is exacerbated by the abundance of painted lines. In segregated infrastructure there’s no need for double yellows within the lane – it just narrows the safe surface. There’s also no need for the additional white dashes on the right. Just give me a wider lane!

Where some colour would be useful is on the tarmac itself to really drive home that this surface is for bikes and nothing else. We use red (the Dutch colour of choice) for bus lanes, but blue or green would work well. Here’s how these lanes could look:

Demonstration cycle lane
That left hand kerb with the pavement is angled rather than vertical, again maximising the usable space. Because the double yellows are outside the bollards (another suggestion to drivers that they shouldn’t be left of this), there’s no need for any white paint at all.

(I no longer have a copy of Visio, so expect many more diagrams like this!)

But enough of my art. Let’s look at the six lanes.

Lane 1, the mandatory cycle lane.

Mandatory cycle lane with bus stop.

The lane starts with a stretch of mandatory on-road cycle lane, with the only unusual feature being the use of rumble paint on the right hand white line and a bit of a paint buffer.

These don’t work. They’re constantly blocked by parked vehicles, and GCC and the police show no interest in enforcing the mandatory-ness.

Also note how no effort has been made to safely integrate the bus stop.

Lane 2, bollards

Bollard-delineated cyclelane

I should mention my camera is mounted just above the front wheel. The bollards are about a metre high.

These were confidence-inspiring, and the only example that would stop large vehicles trampling over lanes to unload. If I was being picky, I’d rather swap out the blue cycle logo for more reflective surface. It would be easy to merge back into traffic (not that I’m suspicious that GCC may occasionally forget that cyclists need to turn right).

The best of the bunch.

Lane 3, Rosehill Highways Cycle Lane defenders

Lane defenders

Hard to see even in daylight (why on earth pick black plastic?), these would be murderous in the dark and are just the right height to whip out your front wheel from beneath you. The tiny reflective strips run along the sides, so wouldn’t help at all.

Further negatives:

  • No “road presence” at all. I’d be amazed if drivers even noticed them.
  • Could easily be driven over.
  • Completely prevent cyclists merging back into traffic.

Absolutely not. Ever. Do not want.

Lane 4, Cyclehoop Armadillos

Cyclehoop armadillos

Cute, but a little tricky to spot against the white paint. So long as GCC went for the taller versions I could get along with these (particularly if they were interspersed with the odd bollard or taller obstruction). Again, easy to merge through.

A quick Google suggests they might be a little fragile.

Lane 5, Rediweld Orcas

Rediweld orca lane dividers

My second favourite after the bollards. I liked the very forgiving concave cyclist side, and the vertical motor vehicle side. Struck me as a better-designed Armadillo.

Could maybe do with being a little taller, and again; would benefit from being alternated with something taller. I’ve also couldn’t find any comments about durability.

Lane 6, advisory paint

Advisory paint cycle lane

Advisory cycle lanes are of no benefit to anyone, so let’s not talk about them further. Just be aware that this experiment finishes at the entrance to a large factory, so be extra careful of left-hooking lorries.

Bonus comment: the bollards in the above picture have a better reflective surface that the ones in lane two.

Conclusion: make it wider, blue, and use bollards and orcas and much less paint.

And definitely don’t use the Rosehill defenders.


PS: I’ll update this article as soon as GCC reveal how you can submit feedback.

Short review—M5 carbon highracer

The M5 carbon highracer makes the High Baron redundant, and the MetaBike survives only because of its versatility. This is a spectacular bike.

(When you’re done here, you can see all the other recumbents I’ve reviewed on this page.)

It’s been a rather fine day today for a variety of reasons, but the one I’m going to share with you is that I squeezed in a 30km ride on the carbon M5 highracer that’s loitering at Laid Back Bikes in Edinburgh.

I used my usual Edinburgh testing circuit, which is respectably lumpy (for a route that doesn’t go very far), and covers a good range of surfaces, gradients and corners:

Map and elevation profile of route
It’s also a loop – I was having a Garmin Moment at the beginning.

You can get all the data from the ride here, but a few quick caveats/excuses if you’re going to dig through that link:

  • The boom was a touch short for me due to the demo bike’s chain and cable lengths stopping it extending further. I was definitely off full leg power.
  • I was dragging the brakes on the descents to stay sociable with Bruce, who was on an upright (and provided the camera for all the photos).
  • Both of us were taking it easy.
  • I was starving.
  • I’m not very fit at the moment…

But enough about me. More about the M5.

Set the scene for me.

We’re talking about highracers—fast recumbents with normal road bike-sized wheels front and back (622mm). The M5 competes against:

  • Optima’s Baron High Racer (my short review here, with Dave McCraw’s review of the bike he eventually bought here).
  • A MetaBike (my full review of the bike I own here).
  • The Nazca Gaucho (which is a little heavier, and has suspension).
  • A variety of American-style  “stickbikes” like the Bacchetta Corsa.
Four highracers
MetaBike top left, then moving clockwise: High Baron, Bacchetta Corsa and Nazca Guacho. Top two photos are mine (and top left bike is mine too!), bottom two from the manufacturer’s websites.

In my mind the Baron has always been the best riding of the above, but lacks versatility and simply refuses to stop (and not in a good way—it’s almost impossible to set up decent braking on it). The Gaucho is capable, but a more like a very fast tourer than a full-on racer. The MetaBike has “livelier” handling than either, can take racks, mudguards and hydraulic discs, and has a very efficient drivetrain.

I know very little about the Bacchetta Corsa and its compatriots, having only ridden one once about 100 metres.

So what’s different about the M5?

It’s plastic for a start, which makes it remarkably light. Viz:

M5 at arms length.
True, Bruce isn’t the slightest of individuals, but that’s still damn impressive for a recumbent.

The carbon is very nicely done (as you’d expect; this bike isn’t cheap). However, it also reduces the adjustability. You can still adjust boom length (accommodating a range of leg lengths), but it doesn’t go that short. I certainly wouldn’t order without testing if I was under, say, 5’9″.

Seat angle though is very reclined, and you can only modify that by adding spacers. Happily I like a very laid-back position, but if you’d rather be more upright; tough.

Under seat view of the M5
The under-seat support, with spacer washers at the top. Whilst we’re here, note neat internal cable run to the rear brake, and the way the power-side chain idler is free to move left and right to improve efficiency as you move across the cassette.

You can see from the photo above that the return chain is “dropped”—it runs alongside the front wheel. This is the most efficient option, but severely limits your ability to turn the front wheel right. Even more so than the MetaBike with its hideous heelstrike, this is a recumbent that is turned by leaning, or not at all.

Chain blocking steering
That’s the limit before you start eating your own chain with the tyre, and don’t even think of trying to pedal at the same time (photo taken from the front, looking almost straight down the centreline of the bike).

There is an option to hitch up the return chain above the front wheel, to give a chain run very like the Nazca Fuego lowracer. If you’re planning on doing urban riding or anything with hairpins or switchbacks, you should definitely do that.

Apart from the dropped chain, the other thing that immediately struck me is the handlebar.

M5 handlebar
Garmin, model’s own.

There’s not much of it! The gripshifts work nicely, but because your entire handhold is rotating you need your other hand on the bar to keep you steady. Changing gear whilst indicating would be an acquired skill. Changing gear whilst braking is similarly dodgy.

Talking of which, the brake levers are mounted beneath the tiller, point directly back toward the rider, and are operated with the thumbs by pushing upwards. This is weird as hell to start with, but I acclimatised fairly quickly and only had one “phantom trigger finger” moment when I clutched at where brake levers would normally be.

All this makes for a very compact cockpit, perfectly positioned to get your elbows tucked in to your sides and minimise wind resistance. Here’s roughly what you can see from the seat:

Cockpit view
Much like the MetaBike, the M5’s cockpit puts a Garmin exactly where you want it. Because it’s so close to your face the mirror can be very small and still give a great view of what’s behind. The brake levers are those flat paddles beneath the Garmin, and push upwards.

Again, those under average height might struggle; this time with difficulty seeing over the handlebars.

A few other bits and pieces:

  • Rims brakes only on this model, although a front disc fork is an option.
  • All cabling is internal apart from the front brake, which is so short a run it wouldn’t be worth it.
  • There are mudguard bosses for the rear wheel, but you’ll have to bodge something at the front.
  • 25mm tyres or skinnier.
  • No rack mounts, but M5 will sell you a small carbon tailbox for 600 of your finest Euros. As you can see in the top photo, this demo bike is using a much cheaper Radical Design seat bag (a Solo Aero Narrow)
M5 front brake
That’s the front brake, complete with external cabling. Note how low down the fork the dropped return chainline is.

Enough design details. What’s it like to ride?

Give me one final techy paragraph?

The M5 has a much longer wheelbase than any of the other highracers (54 inches between contact patches, compared to the 47″ of my MetaBike). This extra length is used to move the seat between the wheels and improve weight distribution fore and aft. It also makes the seat a full five inches lower than my MetaBike (the M5 is 21.5″ from the floor to the lowest part of your backside). The M5 feels more like a lowracer with big wheels than a highracer.

Chainstay of M5
This photo doesn’t fit the text, but we should still take a moment to appreciate that chainstay.

That weight distribution is matched to spot-on frame geometry to give a ride that simply can’t be beaten. It’s better than the High Baron, and knocks the MetaBike into a hedge. It carves corners like it’s on rails, yet shimmies elegantly round potholes. The bike leaps forward as you put the power down, yet the steering stays light and neutral. There’s a limit to how fast I’m prepared to go on someone else’s bike, but at 60kph it still only needed fingertips on the bars and had plenty left to give.

The carbon works brilliantly as well. This thing is properly light (for a recumbent), and so stiff that I couldn’t detect any boom-bobbing at all. Here’s a 500m sprint up a 6% grade that I used to test that:

Speed at the top, then heart rate, grade of incline, and cadence. Spot where my current acute lack of fitness kicked in.

183 is about my max heart rate on a recumbent, so I couldn’t put much more through the pedals than I did.

The carbon (and having the seat between rather than on top of the wheels) also soaks up a lot of road buzz. It’s more comfortable than my MetaBike, despite being on skinnier tyres.

I loved it.

You’ve already gone on too long. Give me a snappy conclusion.

(Ignoring cost…)

The High Baron is dead (and not only because everyone at Optima is busy building Urban Arrow cargo bikes at the moment). It still rides beautifully, but the dodgy braking never endeared it to me and the carbon M5 is better in every way I can think of.

The MetaBike still has a place because of its versatility. It’s nowhere near as refined as the M5, but it’s still the quickest bike that can take proper mudguards, a rack, and 28mm tyres. It’s ability to run disc brakes fore and aft should also not be ignored—all three of these bikes quickly reach speeds where rim brakes don’t cut it.

The MetaBike then remains the sensible choice for a fast highracer that can do a little bit of everything.

The carbon M5 is the bike you’ll wish you’d bought instead.


PS: Thanks to Laid Back for the loan of this demo bike, and to Bruce for chaperoning me, navigating and providing the camera.

PPS: Somehow I only managed to get the one photo of the entire bike, which you can see at the very top. I blame Bruce.

Alton Towers

It’s a tragedy when people get maimed in crashes.

A string of unfortunate coincidences (almost always triggered by human error) leads to smashed metal, splintered bone, ripped flesh.

Victims with watershed-friendly “life threatening” and “life changing” injuries. Limbs missing. Days and weeks wired into machines that breathe for them and circulate their blood. Families by their bedside asking unanswerable questions.

Lives shattered.

603 people have been seriously injured or killed in crashes on UK roads in the nine days since the Alton Towers crash. But we don’t care.

There’s no media attention. No pledges to improve. No inquiries. No independent investigations searching for answers like we have for sea, rail and air. Tragedy on the roads is a part of our lives that there is no desire to change. If those four teenagers injured at Alton Towers had instead been hit by a lorry on the B5417 ten minutes before they arrived you wouldn’t have even heard about it.

If there’s any doubt in your mind, tell me how many of these people (killed in the last week of May) you remember:

At around 6:40am on May 28, an as yet unnamed woman was killed when she was struck by a van which then collided with two other vehicles. A little over an hour later, Esther Hartsilver was crushed by an HGV in Camberwell. That afternoon, April Reeves—aged just 7—was killed in front of her family in Weston-super-Mare.

On the same day, a man was left “fighting for his life” in a critical condition in a collision with a car and another—also reported as “fighting for his life”—had to have a bus lifted off of him. Two days later, a fourth fatality: a woman was killed after being struck by a car in Aston Clinton. And another man in a critical condition.

And that’s just people on pedal cycles.

Never mind Alex Weatherley who was killed when struck by a car which left the road, the three people killed on the A421 (including a schoolgirl), David Lister who was killed in a collision with a car in Lackford, Jeannette Dixon who died in Harrow, the motorcyclist who died in Pembrokeshire, John Walsh who died near Bury St Edmunds, Scott McCallum who died on the A90, the teenager who died in County Durham, the man killed and the man left in a critical condition in Harrow, the two-year-old girl killed and boy in critical condition after a car left the road, the woman killed and the several injured on the M73, the man killed on the M74, another man killed on the A90, Thomas Edwards who died on the A3400, the man who died on the M1, the man killed in Northern Ireland, Amar Atwal—aged 12—who died in West Bromwich, the man who died in Somerset when his car left the road, the moped rider killed in Leicester, the man killed in Lancashire when his car left the road, the man killed on the M5, the two people left in a critical condition after being hit by a bus in Glasgow

Beyond the Kerb blog, from the post Them and Theirs

Any of them?

I’ve no real conclusion to this article, and certainly no solution. I hope those involved in the Alton Towers crash recover quickly, and that they are able to get compensation from the company to help rebuild their lives. I’m glad the continued media focus will drive through safety improvements and reduce the chance of something similar happening again.

And I’m sorry if you or a member of your family are one of the 67 people across the UK who haven’t come back home today.


PS: Figures based on annual averages, and post inspired by this thread on CityCyclingEdinburgh.