Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Field Study's Man in E17 and the zen of junction navigation

I've started to wear a helmet cam to record some of my cycle journeys, particularly my commute to and from work; Walthamstow to Bermondsey. I sometimes do my work, delivering and distributing leaflets, by bicycle (when I can carry the load safely) but for a greater proportion of the work I use a small van. I think I have  a motorist's and cyclist's perspective of conditions on the road - as culturally and cognitively dissonant this may be.

I'm not sure I actually like wearing the cam considering the connotations of surveillance, voyeurism and narcissism about it. Recently I was hit by a car and did not react to the incident so well and so thought a cam might be a tool useful in defusing some of the anger and frustration I feel at the design of and conditions on London's roads. I haven't yet used the cam to record my van driving.

I'm inclined to agree with Freewheeler (Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest) that the design of the roads makes (vehicular) cycling and motor vehicle use nigh on incompatible. I've been cycling in London for nearly 14 years (cycling for 40years) and despite some high profile, though largely cosmetic, cycling 'innovations', cycling does not seem any easier and more enjoyable. The same goes for driving in London. I am sceptical about claims that more people cycling in London will improve the situation. Some of the claims seemed to be based on statistical jiggerypokery as much as my lay persons understanding of statistics can justify that viewpoint. Of course a huge critical mass taking e.g. Tower Bridge, might make for a safer cycle crossing but how would a relatively huge 10% or 20 % increase (over what period?) make that a safer bridge to cross? Would the '20%' arrive at the same time to form an ultra resilient cycling phalanx capable of shoving wayward juggernauts out of the way? I realize this is a partially flippant comment about a complex issue but looking at the recordings I've made in the last few days has reminded me of just how horrible some places in London are for cycling. Tower Bridge/Tower Bridge Rd is one example.

The logical supposedly sensible answer is to find a less congested and hazardous route and/or time of day to cross and not be, as some persons have said to me, a victim or even a martyr! Crossing London's bridges safely by bike is difficult. 

Some cyclists appear to have adopted a more 'zen' approach to navigating the capital's bridges, rendering themselves immaterial and thus capable of extraordinary feats of survival 

The clip below (top) was filmed using a helmet cam late afternoon on 24th Sept. I was standing with my bike at the corner of Tower Bridge Road and Tooley St, waiting to cross at the pedestrian crossing. . 

 Here I was at the Bakers Arms studying the advance stop line there and the improbable lightness of being a double decker bus. It really is crap there but, of course I don't have to use that junction.

And here at the junction of Southwark Park Rd and Drummond Rd in Bermondsey, a clip of an encounter that is a little bit vague but recalls how a motorist has chosen to overtake me as I begin to turn right, making, I assure you, a very clear hand signal having positioned myself in the centre of the road. Listen to that acceleration! Phew, thank you for missing me! 

Every Day is a Good Day
"Everyday is a good day." (Nichi nichi kore kõjitsu.)
Yün-men (Unmon) Hekiganroku

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