23 November 2009

Fresh air

Felt unwell and unfit all week. Pootling around on the Yuba Mundo is great but there is nothing like a lung busting, leg grinding ride into the mountains. My morning was free the sun was out, the wind was not too cold or strong, so off I shot to them there hills. Great freedom,and I took a bike pump with me this time.

Grabbed a sandwhich in the last village before the hills and climbed into the sunshine. The farmers were out pruning the vinyards and I came across a few walkers who were as lucky as me to be enjoying the countryside.

19 November 2009

Death and rude people

My hack.

I live in an old European town. The road layout of my neighbourhood probably follows the layout of cart tracks winding their way around fields set down thousands of years ago. Today this is all built up and covered in an urban landscape. Blind curves, endless junctions, blind spots, narrow points, one way roads etc etc and of course littered with cars parked on double yellow lines. One result of all this is that it is not car friendly. Drivers used to driving in a straight line at speed on the phone, listening to music whilst picking their noses and talking to their passenger (not necessarily in that order) often run into trouble. My house is on a crossroads on a bend where one of the roads has only space for one car but two lanes and a pedestrian crossing added just to spice things up. There is a crash here about twice a month where people find out that there really isn't room to fit two cars, or that speeding round a blind corner on the approach to crossroads is a bad idea. I spent most of yesterday evening listening to the shouting match that usually follows the now familiar squeel of tires and sound of crunching metal. I had a look at both parties who I thought might end up rolling in the gutter throwing punches by the sound of things ( the cops showed up and stopped that). They looked respectable members of society and were over fifty. Yet they behaved like three year olds, shouting in the street at perfect strangers, jumping around, swearing, threatening, telling lies. Out of context it would be funny. But if you acted like that on foot they would come take you away for a drugs test... why is it acceptable to behave like that if you are a motorist ? Often through my kitchen window I hear near misses then honking and really nasty swearing. And we have all done it...
I think this behaviour comes from our belief in god given rights as motorists to huge freedom and superhuman speed that places us above pedestrians and cyclists and the resulting superhuman frustration that slowly builds up with obstacles, laws and other people "getting in our way". Add money (the cost of running,buying and repair) and watch us all turn bad.
This post sprouts from two things. Firstly I read a few days ago on citysimplicity (a really fantastic blog on all levels)

A Dangerous Annoyance (to read the blog post)

a post on how motorists treat cyclists. And secondly today I was on the way back from the Post Office on my hack bike (no cargo so no need for the Yuba Mundo) at a junction waiting to turn left facing oncoming traffic, just as I would in a car, when a woman in a huge 4x4 screamed through her windshield "get out my F*%!ing way" and raced round me missing me by inches giving me a look of disgust. She wouldn't have done that if I was in a car (Or we were both on foot). I am so used to this sort of thing, and people's attempts to clip me with wing mirrors or drive really close to show that I am a dangerous annoyance, that I don't even react outwardly any more. It was when I pulled away from the junction towards home that a few words in citysimplicity's blog came back to me, and started this train of thought ;

"As previously implied, I think everyone has their right to own and drive a vehicle..."

This is almost universally accepted even amongst cyclists. Shaken and angry, I looked up a few numbers. Cars don't just pollute our streets, but injure 50 million people and kill 1.2 million people worldwide a year, thats 2.2 percent of all deaths... motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among children worldwide.

Motor vehicle accidents are the sixth leading preventable cause of death in the United States[43] (45,800 people died and 2.4 million were injured in 2005).

You can bet that tomorrow if you invented an activity that killed and injured as many people as cars, polluted as much and restricted everyone's freedoms in so many ways, that it would soon be banned and that you would be jailed pretty quick...

This is about rights alright. Those who are free to do as they will, and those who have to adjust their lives to fit around the automobile and give up their freedom. We have two cars in our household... I am so sick of all this that I will be looking at ways to go without.

18 November 2009

Yuba Mundo at the pump track

Lucie learned to ride her bike in about ten minutes flat. I was amazed, and I wonder if it has something to do with all the hours spent on the back of the Yuba Mundo. Anyway as school was out and so was the sun we grabbed the bikes and headed for the BMX track two blocks away down by the river. I noticed as I held the back of her saddle so she wouldn't fall off as we made our way, that she had her balance, but that she didn't realise it. The next step was to put my hands under her armpits to catch her if she fell as she went along. We could both see that she was ready to go solo. 15 minutes later she was zipping round the BMX pump track !

I was soon being chased around on my Yuba by the kids and it was fun to ride on the slopes and banks.

We were all exhausted by the end of the afternoon and I attached her littlepinkbike to tag along on the back of theYuba Mundo, Mrs Yuba (first time) climbed on the back with Lucie and our 3 year old son with his push along motorbike. Lots of laughing, quite a band wagon, but within the load limit. It made people smile as we went by.

16 November 2009

Up the hill to the fort

Lost my photos of Saturday's market trip so Sunday's spin will have to do. Mrs Yuba mentioned that there was a medieval festival on the other side of town in an old abandoned stone fort. I had heard that a cycle path wound its way up the hill to it's gates, so off we set to discover this new path. We cut through town on a Sunday morning that was surprisingly busy and found the start of the path well hidden behind some recycling bins at the entrance of a commercial strip. We were soon riding along a small canal with huge oaks giving us some shade and came across this aquaduct.

The fort was on the top of the hill with a great view across town. I found the Yuba Mundo quite easy to pedal up dispite the slope.

It was overcast but warm (stung by mosquitos in the night, and it is november... !) We were of course the only cyclists and we watched hundreds of people trying to find a parking space as we pedalled by. We locked up infront of the gates, the kids who had put on costumes to fit in with the medieval theme (Gipsy dancer, fairy & pumpkin ?!? - their tastes !) jumping around with excitement. Note the medieval looking types at the gate...

After a chat with a guy about the Yuba Mundo as I locked up. -He found it a great idea and was surprised that I had managed to pedal up there, but he decided it was too big to store practically - unlike his SUV of course snigger... We walked in. The fort was full of stalls with medievalish activities, sword making, woodworking, birds of prey ;

, cooking in dubious hygienic conditions, taverns, grill, clothes etc etc. Everyone acting very very medieval. Fun for the kids and intresting to see that there are still some people who can do things with their hands, but the scene was not really my cup of tea. I don't find that epoch very inspiring and grown ups getting dressed up, being too extravert for comfort, and trying to sell me overpriced tat was a bit too much for me on a Sunday morning... but it was fun to see a medieval princess on her mobile phone for 20 minutes.

There was also a cage with two bored wolves and an excited woman who couldn't stop cuddling them to show how nice the animals were.

Things picked up when the wolves smelled the ham and smoked sausage grease on the fingers of the kids (we had just had lunch) and it was at this point we decided to leave...

On the way out we noticed that the herd of sheep that usually inhabit the hill were keeping a low profile well out of site of the wolves in a corner.

Nice day out, something for everyone, I went along for the ride.