Monday, 27 January 2014

Operation Spoke - UPDATE

Since I wrote about Operation Spoke here on this blog, PCSO Mark Peacock has been in touch with me via Facebook to provide me even more information on the operation.

If you are active on Facebook, you can like the police's page to receive updates right in your news feed. Operation Spoke is a high priority for the constabulary as bike theft is a big problem. Every bicycle retailer in County Durham and Darlington can mark your bike with the FREE marking or paid marking kits from BikeRegister. All you need to do is take your bike to the shop and they will do the rest.

For Bishop Auckland, the points of contact for Operation Spoke are PCSO Mark Peacock and PCSO Carl Blenkinsopp.

I saw the video below just today which demonstrates the attitude of bicycle theft in society today. This needs to change, so help me help Operation Spoke raise awareness in people and change this attitude.

Blinging your bikes in Bishop Auckland

In an event not too dissimilar to this one, Darlington and Durham County Council's "Local Motion" campaign is encouraging kids from Bishop Auckland's St Anne's CE Primary School to decorate their bikes with the things that they hold dear.

In addition to this, Durham constabulary will be on hand to security mark bikes as part of "Operation Spoke". This is a great initiative that I have written about before and a superb opportunity for kids to enjoy their bikes and be in with a chance to win a prize!

See the full press release below, or click here.

"Primary school pupils are getting the chance to show their love for their bikes and scooters at an early Valentine’s Day event to boost active travel. Some 50 youngsters from St Anne’s CE Primary School. Bishop Auckland, have been asked to “bling”  them with all the things they love for the themed day on Monday January 27. It is all part of the Local Motion campaign to encourage children to walk, ride or scoot to school and make them aware of the health and environmental benefits from an early age. Police will also be on-hand to security mark the bikes as part of Durham Constabulary’s Operation Spoke to clamp down on theft. All those taking part in the event will get the chance to win a prize bike. Cllr Neil Foster, Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “This is another fun event to get across the importance of healthy living and also keeping your bikes secure. I am sure it will be a great day. The pupils will be arriving at school in their specially decorated bikes and scooters from 8.30am onwards."

via Durham County Council Press Releases

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Cycling on pavements - OK or not?

I read this article (link at the end of this post) the other day and it reminded me of the Cockton Hill, South Church & Henknowle area PACT (police and communities together) meeting I attended last week.

The topic arose in the PACT meeting due to some concerned residents complaining about cycling on footpaths around the area. Apparently in the previous meeting, which I did not attend, there was some debate about whether riding on the pavements is actually illegal or not. However, at the last meeting the PCSO (police community support officer) in attendance did clarify that it is part of the Highways Act of 1835, section 72.

How does this tie in with the article below? Well, the PCSO said that majority of cyclists stopped in Bishop Auckland for riding on pavements cite the reason that the roads are too dangerous. Now, Bishop Auckland is nowhere near as busy as London. But, at peak times, the roads do become very congested.

As a result of this, the PCSO said that he would only issue an FPN (fixed penalty notice) if the cyclist was riding on the paths irresponsibly. Some might argue that breaking the law and riding on the pavement is riding irresponsibly enough already. It looks like the policy in Bishop Auckland is to consider circumstances and try to use some sort of sensible judgement. In addition to this, the PSCO said that advice would be given to the cyclists in questions if seen and stopped.

Riding in the dark

I raised the question of cyclists riding after dark with no lights or reflectors, which is also illegal. This article goes into a lot of detail, the main points of which are:

  • Lights (and reflectors) are required on a pedal cycle only between sunset and sunrise.
  • Lights (and reflectors) are not required when the cycle is stationary or being pushed along the roadside.
  • When they are required, the lights and reflectors listed below must be clean and working properly.

The following items are the minimum required, on a bicycle or tricycle, in order to ride it legally at night:

  • Front Lamp

One is required, showing a white light, positioned centrally or offside, up to 1500mm from the ground, aligned towards and visible from the front. If capable of emitting a steady light, it must be marked as conforming to BS6102/3 or an equivalent EC standard.
If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.

  • Rear Lamp

One is required, to show a red light, positioned centrally or offside, between 350mm and 1500mm from the ground, at or near the rear, aligned towards and visible from behind. If capable of emitting a steady light it must be marked as conforming to BS3648, or BS6102/3, or an equivalent EC standard.
If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.

  • Rear Reflector

One is required, coloured red, marked BS6102/2 (or equivalent), positioned centrally or offside, between 250mm and 900mm from the ground, at or near the rear, aligned towards and visible from behind.

  • Pedal Reflectors

Four are required, coloured amber and marked BS6102/2 (or equivalent), positioned so that one is plainly visible to the front and another to the rear of each pedal.

The PSCO again reiterated the fact that cyclists stopped for this would be given advice about basic cycle laws and safety. In an amendment to the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, PCSOs will soon be able to issue FPNs to cyclists riding without lights/reflectors in the spring of 2014, when the bill gets passed.

Right or wrong?

Personally, I think that the majority of people riding bicycles who I would call "cyclists" do ride on the roads and have appropriate lights and reflectors. I think this is because they have sufficient interest and knowledge about cycling to actually enjoy it as a hobby or embrace cycling as a form of transport. Unfortunately, the "cyclists" that the residents originally complained about are people who do not care about what other people think. These people will cite the roads are too dangerous and get away with it and will not buy lights. For a bike to be legal when it leaves the shop, it must be fitted with reflectors and a bell. Sometimes these are deemed "uncool" and removed. This sounds harsh, but it does happen because I have seen it.

Therefore I think that the powers of the police and the police community support officers should be used. For instance, if a car drove on a pavement and a police officer saw it, action would be taken. Same if the vehicle had no lights on at night. The rules are in the Highway Code and should be adhered to.

The views offered from the police in this article come from one PCSO only and not the entire force. I do not know if this attitude of determining the issuing of FPNs depending on circumstances is adopted by all officers or not.

What do you think?

Original article content:

Let cyclists go on pavements if roads are dangerous, minister tells police
He said enforcing laws which prohibit cycling on the pavement is a matter for police, but added that discretion should be exercised “where a cyclist is using the pavement alongside a dangerous section of road out of fear of the traffic”. Mr Goodwill ...
Derby motorists and cyclists in war of words over riding on footpaths
Let cyclists use pavement to avoid dangerous stretches of road, says Transport ...

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Best of 2013 - Le Stag!

Now that we're well into 2014, I've been thinking about what I'll be doing on two wheels for the next 12 months.

But in thinking about that, I realised that  I never got around to blogging about the highlight of my biking year in 2013 - Le Stag!

Due to travelling all day and night from Morzine back home in a slightly tired and emotional state (hungover), the days after Le Stag were used to clean clothes, recover and ride around Hamsterley Forest. Then life took over and the post was "going to be done at the weekend", but things kept cropping up.

So I'm doing it now!

Le Stag, July 2013

What was Le Stag? If you follow Bishop Auckland Biking on any social media, you may know what I am talking about. If not, I'll tell you. This was my best friend Sam's stag do (bachelor party).

Groom and best man (if I do say so myself!)
I was his best man at his wedding in September and therefore charged with organising his "last few days as a single man". That's not really true these days as I feel that stag dos are more a celebration of friendship and show your friend that you are happy for them for their forthcoming nuptials.

A number of ideas were floated around but the one that stuck was heading to France to catch some of the 100th Tour de France and partake in some two-wheeled adventures of our own.

So after studying the Tour schedule, maps and working out some logistics, a plan was devised. We'd arrive late Wednesday 17th July and find our chalet in Morzine. It was called La Maison Rouge, so we would have no problems finding a massive pink building. The building wasn't pink and we eventually found it after driving up and down the valley side numerous times. It was 2am when we finally got in.
La Maison Rouge? La Maison Brun more like


We went to Thonon-les-Bains and white water rafting, "to break the ice" as Sam put it, to get things going. And it did - heart rates, adrenaline and lives were flashing before our eyes. A bet was placed to see who would be the first to fall into the cold water. I don't think I lasted more than a minute before I was in.
White water rafting - huge amounts of fun/fear


The day when the bikes started. This was stage 19 of le Tour, 205 km from Bourg-d'Oisans to Le Grand Bornand and was the final mountain stage of the race. We drove to Thônes and headed up the mountain to wait for the riders to come through. We were approximately 20-30 Km from the finish.

The caravan came through first, with all of the people in the cars/vans throwing out sweets, caps, sausages(!?) and jerseys out to the crowds, keeping us entertained. It was quite a spectacle and lasted a while and between us we managed quite a haul.

Then we started to see helicopters in the distance, more important looking cars coming through and the clouds rolling in.
Helicopter and rain - heading right for us
Pierre Rolland was the first rider to pass us. He led a group by a couple of minutes, but he couldn't hang on to the lead.
Pierre Rolland of Team Europcar
It was as if someone flicked a switch as Rolland came past in the dry, but humid conditions as the rain started to fall. The drops were huge and rumbles of thunder could be heard. Those of us who had come prepared began getting waterproofs on. It was so hot and clammy though, I just stayed as I was.

By now the atmosphere felt very tense, not just down to the rest of the race being a few turns down the road, the helicopters buzzing about our heads, but that impending feeling of a thunderstorm brewing. It was extremely exciting!

Shortly after the rain started, the rest of the riders started coming through. I don't have many photographs due to the downpour forcing everyone to hide their cameras, but the photo below should give some idea as to what the riders had to endure. The stage was eventually won by Rui Costa from team Movistar.
Battling gravity and the rain
As we walked down the mountain back to the car, the thunder and lightening was immense. The thunder and lightening struck at the same time, seemingly right around us. It was exciting but frightening at the same time and was an experience I'll never forget.

On returning to the chalet, we watched the highlights on TV and were surprised when we made a brief appearance on TV!


Mountain biking! We hired bikes from Alpine Sports in Morzine. Despite a mix-up in the booking (we had less bikes than people), I would recommend using Alpine Sports if you would like to go mountain biking in Morzine as the owner, Mark, went out of his way and arranged bikes for all of us, calling in a favour from other rental shops. The bikes we had were a mix of GT Force 2 "All Mountain" bikes and GT Fury downhill bikes. I took a DH bike as some of the lads weren't used to riding bikes and these Fury bikes were heavy! The Force bikes were light and nimble, despite being full suspension.

GT Force looking down on Morzine
To get the best out of the mountain biking in Morzine, the ski lifts are equipped to take you and your bike up the mountain; another first for me. An unusual feeling being so high up in the air, swaying about with only a metal bar in front of you for safety!

The routes were well marked and there were plenty of them, for all abilities of biker.

The first ride we did is shown below:

We stopped at the bottom for some lunch and a drink, and the guys knew we were coming as Mark from Alpine Sports had phoned ahead. Another reason to hire your bike from him! After some petting of the local cows, we headed out for some more riding.
Cows. With bells on.
Unfortunately, on this ride, Sam's father-in-law to be came off his bike and shattered his collarbone. Sam had to take him back and to hospital as they both had hire of the same car. This was disappointing, but it's one of the risks of what we were doing. In fact, despite the experience we had and the terrain we were on, to only have one injury is good going! The rest of us continued on the ride and crossed into Switzerland to ride back to where we had lunch and then down into Morzine.

The end

By far and away, this was the best bike-related adventure I had in 2013. After flicking through the photographs and looking at the routes etc, I'm disappointed in myself for not writing about it at the time. I suppose I have got to relive the adventure to some extent however, so its not all bad! Sam is talking about going back to Morzine for more biking, but in the same sentence he mentions Alpe d'Huez...

At Avoriaz.

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