Cycle parking in Saitama

I am currently in Saitama, a prefecture of Japan in the Greater Tokyo area. despite being overshadowed by nearby Tokyo, Saitama is a city in its own right and a dense one at that, more so than most cities in the UK. Cycling here is a mainstream mode of transport used by young and old, man and woman alike. There are parked bicycles everywhere.

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I have seen very little in the way of cycle parking facilities by UK standards, other than designated areas and structures to support cycles. No-one seems bothered about locking bikes up beyond a rear-wheel lock. These immobilised bicycles can be seen everywhere.

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I assume that this area outside a chain restaurant is designed for cycle parking.

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I spotted this cycle shelter by a small apartment building at around 16:45. I imagine it is more full after working hours.

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This higher-density facility was provided for a slightly larger apartment building.

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This alleyway near some fairly low-density (by Japanese city standards) housing is used for bicycle storage.

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This space between restaurants and other businesses is used for medium-density cycle parking for customers and staff.

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Underneath a Shinkansen train station, the large area is divided into blocks to help passengers find their bikes on their way home. Again, no Sheffield stands, just bikes on kick-stands with rear-wheel locks.

Brompton by air

I decided to try another type of multi-mode travel with the Brompton; bicycle and aeroplane. My existing suitcase is not wide enough to accommodate the Brompton, so after a bit of research on Seven League Boots I decided to opt for the Carradice Folding Bike Case.

Unlike their  excellent saddlebags, the Carradice Folding Bike Case (more of a bag than a case, really) is made from Cordura-type polyester material rather than cotton duck. Whilst I am a fan of cotton duck, the extra weight it would require would not be desirable when using this bag for air travel. However, considering the material used, I feel that this bag is a bit over-priced.

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The bag came with no padding, but thankfully it does adhere to gaffer tape quite well, making these stiff foam pieces ideal for protecting the rollers/rack in transit.

20121129_150241The bag is more than sufficiently large to fit any Brompton with a saddle attached, although configurations which differ significantly from stock may not fit. The Seven League Boots post suggested removing the saddle when using the bag for flying due to the risk of damage (particularly to a Brooks saddle) and storing it between the wheels of the folded Brompton. I use the telescopic seat-post, so I will turn the telescoping part of the post around to minimise the number and size of protrusions from the folded package, with the remaining protrusions covered over with bits of foam.

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Naturally I removed the clamps from the frame as these were an easy target for damage. I wrapped the clamps up in gaffer tape and stuck them to the frame in the middle of the fold.

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As recommended in the Seven League Boots post mentioned before, I taped the saddle into the relatively well protected space in the middle of the folded bike

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A D-lock can be locked through the frame to save space, with the gap in the middle of the fold useful for stashing bits like a locking cable. The frame from my T-bag is pushed down the side of the bike in the bag to offer a bit of extra protection as well as making the T-bag itself a less conspicuous, odd-looking piece of hand luggage.

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The final step in packing the bag is to place your trousers, jumpers, jackets etc into a standard suit bag and wrap it over the top and sides of the bike before zipping it up. This gives a bit more protection to the bike and also means that you don’t use up your entire luggage allowance on a bike. A toiletries bag can easily be seated on top of the folded bike underneath the suit bag.

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Add a couple of luggage straps and pack your hand luggage into the frame-less T-bag and you are ready to fly across the world. I’ve unpacked the Brompton at the other end and rather pleasingly, it has faired well. Now all I need to do is get to grips with cycling in a strange new land.

Safety tips for cyclists

Safety advice aimed at cyclists is nothing new, but in my experience it often tends to descend into little more than a motorists’ wish list for cyclist behaviour. Even worse is advice based on the false assumption that law breaking on the part of cyclists is the lead cause of cyclist injuries and fatalities. Instead, I thought it might be worthwhile to share my own experiences in the hope they might be useful to others.

Reading the road

Cycling on UK roads is a baptism of fire and anyone who has been doing it for any length of time will have learned to read the road ahead. The same cannot be said for everyone else. A worrying number of other road users will fail to consider what the road conditions will require of them 100, 50 or even 15 metres ahead of where they currently are. This failure is the root cause of several initially baffling behaviours. It is the reason that motorists will sometimes perform a risky overtake only to have to immediately stop at the end of a queue of traffic which was readily visible when the manoeuvre was started. It is the reason why a motorist may overtake you only to immediately make a left turn, or pull into a roadside parking bay. It is the reason why a motorist may overtake you on a cramped residential street only to immediately stop block your progress to allow an oncoming vehicle to pass, even though had they waited, there would have been sufficient room for you on a bike and the oncoming vehicle to proceed at the same time.

Roundabouts

Sometimes it almost seems as if roundabouts were left behind by an advanced but long lost civilisation and no-one is sure what they were built for or how their builders intended them to be used. The lack of a small set of standard approaches to roundabouts certainly doesn’t help. The rules of roundabouts are fairly straightforward, but there are several things to look out for.

The general principle of giving way to traffic already on the roundabout may not apply to you when you are on your bike if the other party is driving a luxury German car, such as a BMW, Audi or Mercedes-Benz. If you are already on the roundabout and encounter one of these vehicles waiting to get on, you may be expected to give way.

There are some road users who will use the other lane of a multi-lane roundabout regardless of the exit they wish to use. These people pose a risk to you when you are getting on a roundabout, as their road positioning suggests they are intending to leave the roundabout even though this is not the case.

‘Taking the lane’ is an unfortunate necessity on most roundabouts (effectively excluding most people from cycling them) but beware that some motorists will try to bully you to the periphery of the roundabout regardless of which exit you wish to use.

Finally, it is not uncommon to see motorists leave a roundabout whilst still indicating right. The result of this misleading signalling should be that you do not enter the roundabout even though the opportunity was there. However, in areas where this behaviour is particularly prevalent, it is important to beware of this behaviour becoming normalised; you could end up pulling onto a roundabout in front of a car which really is staying on.

Professional drivers

In an ideal world, professional drivers (delivery vans, taxi drivers etc.) and our interactions with them would be exactly that; professional. Sadly, in practice this is often not the case. I can only surmise that when driving becomes a major part of a person’s job they will often become blasé about it and safety suffers as a result. Add to this business models which encourage or even necessitate illegal behaviour and we have a recipe for unpleasant encounters. Thankfully, professional drivers are generally easy to identify by way of their commercial vehicles, so at least you’ll know to expect the worst when you see them. The ease with which commercial vehicles can be identified makes reporting bad driving much easier than with private cars, although typically just as fruitless.

Texting

I have covered this issue before. Thankfully, providing the vehicle is not a pimpmobile with tinted windows, it is at least possible to spot the characteristic position a driver’s head adopts if they are reading from a phone screen whilst driving. Spotting this characteristic tilt a few weeks ago probably prevented a collision between a texting motorist and myself on a roundabout in Wrexham. So engrossed in her texting was this driver that she failed to even register my loud subsequent significant list of graphic expletives.

Indicators

As mentioned above for roundabouts, indicators are not to be trusted. Most common is the  lack of indication by a driver about to attempt a manoeuvre, but it is not uncommon to see a driver indicating the wrong way, leaving an indicator on long, long after a turn has been made or indicating a turn of a particular direction several opportunities to make a turn in that direction prior to the one they wish to take. It is especially useful to be distrustful of turn signals when pulling out of a side road; just because the driver on the road you wish to join is indicating to turn down your road often doesn’t mean they actually will.

If there are any other tips or seemingly bizarre driver behaviours anyone feels I have missed, please share them through the comments.

Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner election

It has been around two-and-a-half weeks since I decided to attempt to directly engage with democracy by writing to the five candidates standing in the Cheshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections:

  • Ainsley Arnold (Liberal Democrat)
  • Louise Bours (UK Independence Party)
  • John Dwyer (Conservative)
  • Sarah Flannery (independent candidate)
  • John Stockton (Labour)

In order to ask them about whether, as Cheshire PCC, they would:

  • Protect vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists by ensuring that negligent drivers who kill or maim vulnerable road users are properly pursued and investigated by the Police
  • Tackle so-called minor motoring offences, such as speeding, red-light jumping, pavement driving and smartphone use whilst driving which diminish safety (both real and perceived) for vulnerable road users.
  • Deal with the blight of illegal and anti-social parking, which is particularly prevalent in Chester where there is currently close to zero enforcement against motorists who obstruct pavements and park in restricted areas.

Despite the widespread apathy towards these elections, only one of the candidates I wrote to replied at all. To my surprise, the candidate who replied was John Dwyer, the Conservative Party candidate:

“I realise that your focus is on cyclists and pedestrians but I feel there is a wider picture relating to all road users.

The vast majority of motorists are decent hard working law abiding people like you and me. However, there is a small number who, quite frankly, don’t give a thought to others on the road. These are people who don’t tax and insure their cars, who drink and drive, who take drugs and drive and who regularly break speed limits, particularly in residential areas. There is also a minority [sic] who park carelessly causing obstruction in the way you have described in your letter.

Where these issues are presenting themselves I would want the police and other enforcement agencies, such as local authorities, to take steps to prevent the committing of the offences in the first place and to take appropriate enforcement steps where the preventative measures have failed to work. The Crown Prosecution Service has told me that if the Police and Crime Commissioner indicates to them that this is a particular issue in a certain area then they will judge enforcement to be ‘in the public interest’ and not dismiss prosecution as an option.

It is my intention to ensure that we have robust processes in place to provide me with the appropriate information to support the positive action I know you are seeking.”

I have not heard from any other the other candidates, other than Sarah Flannery‘s representative on Twitter, who led me to believe she may have intended to reply but has not done so at the time of writing. I can only surmise that the other candidates saw my letter was to do with pedestrian and cyclist issues and decided that it was not worth their time.

I was also interested to see that Rod King of Twenty’s Plenty had engaged with Louise Bours, the UKIP candidate to see if she was supportive of the campaign. The response given is quite telling. Unprompted, whilst professing some support for 20 mph, she chooses to defend the criminal behaviour of motorists who choose to ignore speed limits on dual carriageways.

Honestly, my attempt to engage with the democratic process, and the corresponding lack of interest from four of the five candidates has left me feeling rather disaffected with the whole thing.  However, I urge you all to go out and vote tomorrow, even if you just spoil your ballot paper.

A standards-based approach to roads

Dearest readers, I’ve got a bit of a confession to make; I’ve been learning how to drive a car. Don’t worry though, I’m not planning on buying one or giving up on cycling. In fact, one of the main reasons is  (as I have written about before) there is an awful lot of discrimination against non-drivers when applying for jobs which do not require any driving whatsoever. I will write in more detail about the experience of learning to drive in another post.

Whilst first-hand experience has only enhanced my belief that our current approach to road design always favours the convenience of motorists over the safety of all other road users (after years of UK cycling, driving is really easy) there is one aspect which remained the same whether cycling or driving; the inconsistency of the road experience. Many of the routes I have driven down on driving lessons are the sorts I would usually avoid when travelling by bike (such as the A55) which has allowed me to see areas of the road network which I have traditionally been effectively excluded from.

Grosvenor Court Roundabout

For example, in the centre of Chester there is the Grosvenor Court square roundabout where the dual carriageway surrounding the town centre meets the Foregate Street (the end Chester’s ‘shared space’ main shopping street) and City Road, which leads to the train station. The lane markings on this roundabout highlight the inconsistency in UK road design.

Entering this roundabout from Foregate Street, you are encouraged to use the left lane for taking the first exit or travelling straight on. The second lane is straight on only, with convention dictating that this lane is used when the left lane is busy.

Entering the roundabout in the left lane, with the intention to go straight on, you are then confronted with this. You must move into the middle lane to go straight on. Hopefully the person in the right lane knows not to enter this lane.

The two lanes are now both marked as straight on. Best practice dictates that if possible you should stay in the left lane.

Once again, a middle lane opens up. This time it is for the users of the right-hand lane to use, presumably for the purposes of traffic stacking.

Here, the left hand lane can be used to take the left exit, or to go straight on. Once again it is best practice to where possible, to stick to the left when going straight on here. In this image it appears that the driver of the silver hatchback has become confused by the layout of this particular roundabout and is in the process of changing lanes.

This is probably why the driver became confused, the left lane allows traffic to take the left exit or go straight on. There are four traffic lanes by this point.

This time, neither of the two left-hand lanes allow traffic to proceed straight on. Instead, the left two lanes are directed onto the A51, a short urban dual carriageway lined with various businesses.

Hoole Way Roundabout

This is the approach to Hoole Way roundabout from St. Oswalds Way (West). Here the left lane is for the exclusive use of traffic taking the first exit, with straight on traffic sent to the right-hand lane.

Here we can see that the right-hand lane can be used for taking the right-hand lane of the first exit onto Hoole Way, another short urban dual carriageway, or to stay on the roundabout in the leftmost of the three lanes at the traffic lights.

This lane is labelled with a straight arrow, indicating that traffic using this lane may proceed straight on. However, in this case, this is actually referring to leaving the roundabout at the next exit, St Oswalds Way (East)

Both of these roundabouts have significant internal inconsistencies in their design, in addition to differing from each other. Despite this, they are actually next to each other on Chester’s bizarre inner ring road (bizarre because despite it being a dual carriageway, not one of the roads feeding in or out of the ring road is a dual carriageway).

The result of these inconsistencies is confusion. Whilst locals will become familiar with the particular peculiarities of the roads, junctions and roundabouts in their area, those visiting an area, or who do not frequently use a particular road, junction or roundabout will not be. The non-standardised nature of the design of roads, junctions and roundabouts in the UK means that experience of other roads, junctions or roundabouts on the road network will not necessarily prepare a person for using any other road, junction or roundabout.

Add to this distraction, lapses in concentration, poor maintenance, vastly different modes of transport sharing the same infrastructure and good old fashioned incompetence and we have the British road network, a recipe for a disaster which claims thousands of lives each year and which effectively restricts the choice of transport for many to only the most heavily armoured modes.

I decided to write this piece during an ISO 9001 training session. Whilst not exactly riveting stuff, it impressed upon me the value of consistency. Most of the problems with the UK road network find their root in this lack of consistency, standardisation is sorely lacking in almost all aspects of road design. This is why there are inconsistencies between the roundabouts examined above; there is no standard[1][2][3] to make road features such as roundabouts consistent internally, let alone consistent with with each other. The result is that a road user has no idea what to expect when encountering a roundabout or large junction for the first time.

This is also why we have little cycle infrastructure, with much of what has been provided being less than useless; there is currently no requirement to provide cycle infrastructure on any road and where planners choose to add it, there is no standard to ensure cycle infrastructure is consistent, safe or functional. All that exists is guidance which offers generally poor solutions and is easily ignored by highways engineers and local authorities. This lack of standardisation makes cycle infrastructure especially vulnerable to corner cutting and thoughtless, dangerous design choices based on the whims and prejudices of the individuals responsible for a given project. The situation is little better when it comes to pedestrian infrastructure.

Before I took driving lessons, I wanted the UK to adopt a Dutch approach to road design because I was a cyclist. Having experienced the roads from the perspective of a motorist, I  want it just as much. Regardless of mode, the road user experience needs to be consistent in order to be safe. This consistency means making sure road users know what to expect when tackling a particular type of junction, it means that the safety and convenience of a particular group of road users can’t be subordinated (or ignored altogether) based on the whims of individual planners or councillors. Regardless of how you travel, we should all be able to agree that it’s time for a standards-based approach to road design.

Obligatory yearly lighting post

October, only a few weeks left until we fiddle around with the clocks so that suddenly everyone finds themselves riding home in complete darkness where before it was still reasonably light. As has become traditional at this time of year, I am writing a post about bicycle lighting. Hopefully each year this obligatory post will become more useful as my own experience with this equipment increases.

B&M Lumotec Retro (Front: 17 lux Halogen)

My first dynamo lamp. Purchased shortly after the DL-1, I was mostly attracted to this lamp because unlike most of the battery lamps I had seen, it actually went well with the aesthetic of the bike. Entirely sufficient for urban riding, and fairly adequate for slower riding on unlit paths, it was much better than any battery lamps I had used at this time. The automatic on/off via light sensor was a pleasing feature, which I discovered also controlled a rear light connected through the front lamp (later discovered to be a standard feature for lamps with sensors). The sensor also helped to mitigate the main limitation of this lamp; the halogen bulb. Unlike LEDs the lifespan of this type of light source is something which needs to be considered, so it is important not to just run the light all the time. This lamp was eventually retired in favour of the Philips SafeRide.

The P-type Brompton came with the basic Lumotec lamp, which is the same as the Retro but without the chrome-esque shell, stand-light or automatic on/off via light sensor. Very basic but adequate for urban use, although I’d recommend a battery companion to substitute for the stand-light.

B&M D-Toplight Plus (Rear: LED)

My first rear dynamo light, added to the DL-1 a few months after the Lumotec Retro discussed above. The light output from this model is a single point source which is not diffused as well as on other models I have tried since, but otherwise it performs its job perfectly well and is still in service on the DL-1.

B&M Lumotec Lyt Plus (Front: 25 lux LED)

Originally bought for the Yuba Mundo, coupled with a Basil Nordlicht bottle dynamo, this lamp was later moved to the Brompton for use with a hub dynamo. Being designed for a bottle dynamo, this lamp lacked the automatic on/off via light sensor of the Lumotec Retro, but made up for it with a ver noticeable boost in light output, combined with a much more useful beam shape. Sadly, the rigours of small, high-pressure wheels proved a bit too much for this lamp and the stand-light feature was lost, despite my initial success in restoring it. I have seen the current version of this lamp used on larger bikes with great success, so don’t let this experience put you off, just don’t pair it with a Brompton or similar small-wheeled bike. The Lyt is currently back on the Yuba Mundo, where it is paired with my old battery LED lamp to compensate for the lack of stand-light.

Spanninga Brompton (Rear: LED)

Branded by Brompton but made by Spanninga, this light is similar to the D-Toplight plus, except the design diffuses the output of the single LED more effectively producing better side visibility and generally being less irritating for following traffic. As was the case with the Lyt, the stand-light feature of this light failed, but unlike the Lyt, my attempt to fix it is still holding up nicely. Whilst sold as a Brompton accessory, this light can easily be coupled with any bike with a 50mm spaced rack mount. This light is now been put to work on Ms C’s Brompton.

Philips Saferide (Front: 60 lux LED)

Put simply, the best lamp I have ever used. The Saferide lacks some of the useful features of its nearest competitors, such as automatic on/off via light sensor or daylight running lights, but it makes up for this with its superior illumination. The beam is wider than the B&M Cyo, providing a similar level of illumination over a wider area which is particularly useful for turning. This lamp puts out a broken ‘halo’ which is wider than the beam and allows hazards such as foliage to be spotted ahead, although others have reported this ‘halo’ as an irritation. I took it out for a spin with a friend who has an Edelux, and the Saferide is easily its equal. The only major downside to this lamp is that it uses a non-standard bracket, meaning it can’t be paired with a Brompton without some sort of modification/bodging.

B&M Cyo T (Front: 60 lux LED)

The Cyo is not quite as good as the Philips Saferide, but it is a pretty close second. The ‘T’ version comes with daylight running lights and automatic on/off via light sensor. It also uses a standard mount which allowed me to use it on the Brompton. The daylight running lights are designed to increase daytime visibility for the benefit of other traffic, although as I am the one on the bike I have no idea how much of a benefit this actually provides. Come nightfall, the daylight running LEDs are dimmed and the main beam is turned up to full. The resulting beam is great, but a bit narrower than the Saferide, putting it at a disadvantage for cornering. For a Brompton I would recommend. For other bikes, consider the Saferide first.

B&M Toplight Flat Plus (Rear: LED)

I got this at the same time as the Cyo, but didn’t actually get around to writing about it. This particular light is cheap and cheerful, using a single LED without the same efforts being made to diffuse the light as with the D-Toplight or the Spanninga Brompton lights. As a result, side visibility is poorer. This light is currently fitted to the Yuba Mundo, along with the permanent rack-mount battery light which originally came with the DL-1 which can be switched on to provide a bit more light at the back should it be needed. There are definitely better lights available from other manufacturers at around this price point.

B&M Toplight Line Plus Braketec (Rear: LED)

The Line Plus diffuses the light from two LEDs into a line which is supposed to make estimating your distance more easy for following traffic. I’m not sure how much effect it has in practice, but the light is certainly very bright and seems to be more diffuse than in the other lights I’ve used. This particular version of the Line Plus has Braketec; a signal processor detects the change in AC frequency when you slow down rapidly and increases the intensity of the light for a few seconds. I am unsure as to how useful this feature is in practice, but I think it is a pretty neat idea. This is the best of the rear lights I have tried, and I would recommend either the standard Line Plus or the Braketec version depending on whether or not the idea of a bicycle brake light appeals to you.

As always, the development of dynamo lights continues its onward march. Presumably in response to the Philips Saferide, B&M will be releasing a new front lamp at the end of 2012, the Luxos. I have no first hand experience of this lamp, but it certainly looks impressive on paper; 70 lux output as standard with the option of a handlebar-mounted push button which can be used to briefly illuminate the stand-light to full intensity when stopped, operate a 90 lux floodlight when in motion during darkness and to switch to flashing mode under daylight running. There is also the option of USB charging, which would be a welcome alternative to current homebrew options or prohibitively expensive add-ons such as the E-werk. The beam shots provided by B&M look promising, but I am still looking forward to seeing some unbiased reviews.

Of course there are plenty of other dynamo lighting options out there which I have not yet tried myself, but I hope that this post if of some use to those currently looking into trying dynamo lighting this winter, or upgrading from the set-up currently used.

B&M Toplight Line Plus Braketec rear light

For a while now I’ve had my eye on the B&M Toplight Line Plus with Braketec. The standard Line Plus uses a pair of LEDs and some clever optics to produce a line of red light rather than just two spots. The logic behind this is that diffusing the light into a line makes it easier for following traffic to judge the distance of the light, whilst also being less likely to irritate those following.

The Braketec version of the light also features a signal processor which detects the change in the dynamo AC frequency when the bike slows rapidly, momentarily increasing the brightness of the light to indicate the rider is braking. Whilst I have my doubts about the usefulness of turning signal lights for bicycles, I expect that a brake light will at least be correctly registered by following motorists despite the relative rarity of brake lights on bicycles. However, the main reason for wanting to try this light out are not because of the potential minor safety benefits which come from the brake light function, but because it is quite a clever idea, executed in an interesting way.

The light is bright, although the rack mounting on the Brompton makes for rather poor side visibility. Thankfully this is made up for by the reasonable side visibility of the front light an the reflective sidewalls of the Marathon Plus tyres. The brake light function works without any calibration required, regardless of whether you are using a hub dynamo with large wheels, small wheels or a bottle dynamo. It just works.

The effect is pretty clear in the video, but viewed by the human eye rather than through a digital camera it is much more pronounced.

Brompton rear frame replacement

Ms C’s twelve year old black Brompton L5 has a rusted-through chainstay-bridge. Combined with the twelve year old hinge, this had led to a fair amount of left-right movement in the frame. Whilst still rideable, it seemed like the sort of thing which should be taken care of sooner rather than later.

I had toyed with the idea of getting the existing rear frame repaired, but considering the cost of a brand new Brompton rear frame, the latter seemed like a better option. It also provided the opportunity to bring the back end of the bike up to the current spec, allowing the use of a Brompton six-speed set-up in the future if desired. An entirely new frame also offered the possibility of a different coloured rear frame, which would set the bike apart from the crowd due to Brompton’s policy of using the same paint colour on the rear frame, fork and stem.

The rear frame comes with almost everything you need, non-turn washers, hinge spindle and countersink socket head screws, except for the brass bushes. Whilst these may not need replacing on a less-worn machine (where the rear frame is broken but the hinge is fine), it is still irritating to have to buy an entire rear hinge kit just to get these brass bushes. It would definitely be appreciated if Brompton started including these as a part of the rear frame replacement kit, or at least made them available separately.

The rear frame comes with non-turn washers for both Sturmey-Archer and SRAM hubs.

Replacing the rear hinge requires a special 3/8 inch reamer (shown in this picture guide) which has a pilot section to ensure that the brass bushes are reamed in the same and correct plane. However, this special reamer costs around £200. For the first time in a decade, I was seriously considering getting this job done at a bike shop. I even got a quote for the job and parts from Bicycle Doctor, but thankfully I came across these instructions showing how to do the job with a conventional (cheap) 3/8 inch reamer. Still, this is not an easy or quick job and if you value your time, it might be worth getting it done at the bike shop.

Thankfully, my time is worthless, so I did it myself. The bolts which fix the rear frame to the main frame via the hinge spindle are fastened with a torque wrench in the factory, and held in place with a liberal quantity of thread-locker. The trick to getting these bolts to loosen up is to heat the area up with a hairdryer or heat gun, which weakens the grip of the thread-locker a bit. Once one of them starts to give, tighten it up again, heat the other side up and loosen that off whilst holding the other bolt in place. This may not always work, one bolt might remain stuck in the frame at which point a bit of drilling is required.

The chainset needs taking off to access the rear hinge bolts

Once the bolts are out, the rear frame can be detached and the hinge spindle should slide out relatively easily. The brass bushes are pressed into the frame pretty tight, with no protrusions which would help remove them. Thankfully brass isn’t all that hard and seeing as we aren’t interested in keeping the old bushes, they can be forcibly removed by winding in a 13/32 inch tap and knocking it out with a hammer. I didn’t fancy buying an obscure imperial-sized tap and so decided (after trying to bash the bushes out from the inside using a screwdriver) to file away what remained of the original bushes. This was probably a bad idea, but on this fairly old frame it actually worked out rather well, which will be explained in more detail later.

The new brass bushes can be press fitted with a quick-release skewer from a front wheel or a piece of suitably sized studding and some washers & nuts. I used the (non-QR) skewer from the Brompton dynamo front wheel. The first attempt didn’t go well and the bush started to bend, but thankfully I managed to repair the damage with pliers and it went in (after a bit more filing) on the second try.

Once removed, the damage to the old rear frame was even more obvious

Next comes the tricky bit, reaming the bushes without the special (and expensive) Brompton-specific reamer. The bushes are brass on the outside and some sort of yellow plastic-like material on the inside. The above linked guide suggests that it is important to not remove too much material, but I had to remove what seemed like rather a lot of material. Eventually I put the reamer in a battery drill, which helped to keep it straight. The reamer I used (made by Dormer) was just long enough to remove material from both of the fitted bushes at once, which kept the holes in the bushes in the same plane (the intention behind the design of the Brompton-specific reamer).

On a frame of this age, it is possible that even after replacing the hinge, there will still be some play in the new hinge. Thankfully, my cheapness in wanting to avoid buying a 13/32 inch tap, I may have inadvertently stumbled on a work-around for this. By filing away most of the old bushes instead of fully removing them, I had effectively left a brass shim in place in the frame which allowed the new bushes to be fitted with less play.

About halfway through the reaming process

The new rear frame decked out with the old parts

The new rear frame was bolted on with minimal fuss. Ideally the bolts should be held in place with Loctite 243, but I used Loctite 271 as it was al I had to hand. I will probably regret it if I have to do a subsequent replacement in the future.

Sadly, by this point I had noticed that the rim on the rear wheel had worn to the point of cracking and would not be safe to put back in service. I ordered a new rim and spoke set so that the 4/5 speed hub could be re-built before the bike was fully re-assembled. The old spokes and nipples were a bit past it, and I didn’t want to get 90% of the way through building the wheel just to have a spoke snap or for the threads to strip.

Once the rear wheel was re-built with new spokes and a new rim, the bike was put back together with relative ease. I am told it rides much better now.

‘Do no harm’ – An open letter to Dr Andy Eynon

An open letter to Dr Andy Eynon reported by the Daily Echo as being the Director of Major Trauma at Southampton General Hospital. A copy of this letter has been posted to Dr Eynon.

As a society we place a certain amount of trust into those who have earned the letters “Dr.” in front of their name. These letters suggest that an individual is exceptionally knowledgeable in their chosen field. However, there comes a danger with these two letters; a tendency to believe oneself an expert in other fields, fields which may be at best only tangentially related to the area of expertise lies.

When I first read the Daily Echo piece, I was interested to see if your call for compulsory cycle helmets was due to the publication of a new piece of research from a research group you head. It had been a few months since I had checked the latest research into the effectiveness of cycle helmets and the wider impact of making them mandatory, I found myself wondering if a number of new, ground-breaking articles had been published which had tipped the consensus in this area. The previous consensus I had garnered from a wide reading of the research in this area had been that, at best, under some limited circumstances, cycle helmets may provide marginal protection to the individual in the event of a road traffic collision. On a country-wide level, when cycle helmets are made mandatory, the criminalising of cycling without a helmet costs many, many more lives through inactivity than could ever be saved by cycle helmets. A quick check of your name on Pubmed didn’t show up any research into effectiveness of cycle helmets, nor the public health costs associated with helmet compulsion laws.

There are people out there who are doing this research, people with PhDs, or who are working towards them in exactly this area. I have no doubt that you are good at what you do, and should I sustain a major trauma I trust you would do an excellent job of the repair work. However, you simply do not appear to have the necessary credentials to call for a mandatory cycle helmet law. Your position allows you to project your opinion on the matter to a wide audience, but in the process you are drowning out the voices of the real experts in this field. Of course the general public will not necessarily appreciate this distinction, but I find it hard to believe someone such as yourself could not.

I appreciate that in your line of work you are uniquely privy to the damage which poorly-driven motor vehicles can do the bodies of cyclists. I also appreciate that anecdotally it may seem to you that the frequency and/or severity of injuries sustained by cyclists are related to whether or not they were wearing helmets. However, I trust that you can appreciate that “I reckon,” is not a suitable basis for policy, even if it comes from someone with those two little letters in front of their name.

I am not a physician, but I do know that “do no harm” forms the very core of medical ethics. Whenever someone in your position ignores the body of evidence in this area and calls for mandatory cycle helmets they do a great deal of harm indeed. Mandatory helmet laws are a disaster for cycling rates, whilst providing no meaningful benefit to those cyclists who remain. Many more are harmed through inactivity than could be saved by even the most generous estimates of cycle helmet efficacy, whilst those who wish merely to get around on a bike are needlessly criminalised.

If you are genuinely interested in improving cyclists’ safety, I urge you to publicly retract your call for a mandatory cycle helmet law. Instead of ineffective ‘more padding’ approaches to road safety, put your efforts and influence behind campaigns aiming to reconfigure our road network to make cycling (and walking) safer, more pleasant and more convenient. By fixing our road network we can gain both a reduction in injury rates for vulnerable road users and a reduction in all of the costly medical conditions which are exacerbated by our increasingly sedentary lifestyles, through an increase in cycling rates. If you want to make a positive difference for cyclists, reject helmet laws and support the work of organisations such as the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain.

Note to reader: I am happy for this letter to be edited and re-used by anyone, anywhere in the world where a physician starts to think their expertise extends into areas it clearly does not.

Trying to make the case for helmet laws

It seems like a refreshingly long time since helmets were being discussed, but sadly thanks to the recent Olympics and a certain sports person the chatter about helmets has returned. A recent YouGov poll put support for mandatory helmets (just for cyclists that is, not pedestrians or motorists) at 79% amongst the general public, whilst a Guardian poll targeting cyclists themselves showed 79% opposed. With this in mind, I decided it would be an interesting exercise to try to make a case for cycle helmets.

Harm reduction in the event of a collision:

Misleading promotion of the effectiveness of cycle helmets by manufacturers, combined with a tendency within the media to explicitly report the lack of a helmet in the event of a collision involving a cyclist who doesn’t choose to wear a helmet has led the majority of the general public to believe that a cycle helmet will offer its wearer a meaningful amount of protection in the event of a collision involving a motor vehicle. Sadly, this kind of collision is far beyond the specification of all cycle helmets on sale in the UK today. Cycle helmets are designed to provide limited protection in the event of the rider falling off a bicycle travelling at low speed, where no other vehicles are involved. The general consensus from the  research into the effectiveness of cycle helmets in the event of a collision involving a motor vehicle puts the actual level of protection afforded to the wearer of a helmet somewhere between zero and negligible.

Reducing the wider costs of cycle-related head injuries to society:

If a cycle helmet was designed which actually could provide its wearer a useful level of protection in the event of a collision with a motor vehicle, in a society such as ours where the cost of healthcare is paid for by taxation, an argument could be made for a state intervention to make the wearing of such a helmet mandatory when cycling, to reduce the costs of treating injuries sustained by cyclists. This was done twenty years ago in Australia, but to the surprise (I certainly hope) of legislators, it resulted in a huge fall in the rate of cycling (with the remaining cyclists not being protected in any useful capacity by their enforced headgear).

With cycling offering significant health benefits to its participants, the fall in cycling rates would cost more to the public purse than the savings made by the reduction in injuries provided by mandating these as yet non-existent cycle helmets providing a useful amount of protection to their wearers in the event of a collision.

The question of ethics:

Even of a cycle helmet could be made which provided a meaningful amount of protection to its wearer in the event of a collision involving a motor vehicle, and the wearing of these helmets could be made mandatory without the added healthcare costs associated with cycling rates being reduced, there would still be a difficult ethical question to answer. In short, our society would be implying that it is the duty of the vulnerable to protect themselves from the actions of those who are not. Expecting the vulnerable to protect themselves from those who create the danger, rather than expecting those who are the source of the danger to moderate their behaviour is a truly grim proposition.

If we as a society fully accepted this, it would be very difficult to draw the line. For example, would people be expected to protect themselves from shooting or stabbings with protective gear? Would mugging victims be offered no sympathy if they had not taken self-defence classes? Is the convenience of members of an in-group (motorists) more important than the lives of members of a minority (cyclists) group? If we accept the state has a right to intervene in the issue of personal protective equipment for cyclists, would we also accept the state making staircase or shower helmets mandatory? What would the implications be for pedestrians or even drivers of smaller, less armoured cars?

Even if a practical, effective cycle helmet could be designed and made mandatory without doing so incurring a greater burden to the public purse than existing cyclist injuries (through reduced health benefits, increased congestion and a complex series of knock-on economic effects) there would still be the problem of the ethics. However, at least if we did get beyond this issue of ethics, we would all have plenty more to be worried about than cycling or helmets.