Let’s help give Chiswick back it’s villagey feel

The traffic along the High Road in Chiswick ruins the lovely villagey character and cafe culture that Chiswick once had. Sitting outside the High Road Brasserie I’m struggling to hear my companion over the noise of a truck accelerating past and the delicate flavours of my blueberry pancakes spoilt by the taste of diesel fumes in the air.

How will we ever return Chiswick to calmer more civilised place for humans?
Well good news – Will Norman and TFL have the answer. Through their mini-Hollands programme, they have managed to tame Kingston and car controlled Walthamstow and make them clean, green and spaces fit for humans to live, breath and unwind in.

TFL has the bold goal to make 80% of all trips in London by foot or by cycle which also has the side-effect of removing the noise and pollution of cars and trucks from our London streets. The side effect of these schemes and #CS9, in particular, is that ‘rat-running’ cars, on the increase now thanks to the WAZE and Google Maps apps, will be cut off and blocked from racing down our side-streets to cut through to the A4.

Already in central London 460,000 km are cycled every day – imagine how London would feel if these 150,000 daily trips were carried out by car rather than by cycle?

Cycle Superhighway 9 is just a tiny part of a bigger brighter safer and greener future for Chiswick and given the predicted increases in population and traffic in London, endorsing and supporting TFL’s vision for a nicer Chiswick is the only way we might return to the Chiswick we all want to work and live in.

TFL need your responses to their consultation before the end of October. Have your say here – and vote yes:
its go-ahead depends on you.

Following on from the debate about #CS9 at the George IV on Tuesday 17th October I’ve been thinking about the following points.

  1. The general consensus that Chiswick is happy to have a cycle lane just not along the High Road.
    If the cycleway doesn’t follow the High Street then there will be no reduction in the cycling casualties along the High Street and people will continue to be seriously injured and die along this stretch of road.

    People are dying and being seriously injured every year on the Chiswick High Road.

    Not only that but if the goals for increasing the number of journeys by walking and cycling are to be met then ultimately we will need to end up with high-quality cycleways along the Uxbridge, the A4 and the High Road. #CS9 is a very positive and simple start in the right direction.

  2. That TFL had specified the wrong type of road for the Cycle Superhighway along the High Road.
    TFL’s guide to cycling infrastructure was interpreted during the meeting that it recommended white lines painted on the road in a High Street setting. What the audience failed to understand, was that although people still think of Chiswick High Road as a High Street it is actually an incredibly busy road with hundreds of thousands of car journeys per week. This means the design warrants the segregated cycleway approach as it is the only way to safeguard its users.  In fact, even the original blue painted Cycle Superhighways were as dangerous – the only way to save cyclists from the risk of serious injury and death is to segregate them in space and time.
  3. That a Cycle Superhighway will have the wrong type of people speeding through Chiswick on their way elsewhere and will spoil the villagey atmosphere.
    I cycle to work in Chiswick from Ealing along this route. I am courteous and obey the traffic laws. I cycle in my normal work clothes to and from a number of local businesses along the High Road and my colleagues take the same route to work by bicycle as well. The High Road is often full of very busy, aggressive car and van drivers who are rushing through Chiswick to get to a destination elsewhere. These car and van drivers often break the law by using the mobile phones at the wheel and jumping red traffic lights. These people and the road that already divides the High Road makes a previously peaceful and green place feel grey, urban, polluted and dirty. As the figures and illustrations  just taking hundreds of cars off the road will create a more peaceful, less polluted, more human-friendly environment.  Safe and segregated cycling infrastructure is proven to do this across London and the World.

 

There were also three very strange but obviously genuine fears from the local community:

  1. A lot of roads in Chiswick are 20 mph and there is no way of policing speeding cyclists.
    There are three answers to this point:
    a. It is actually quite difficult and energy consuming to cycle at sustained speeds above 20mph and would be impossible along this route – most cyclists hit 15mph at a peak around town and it’s only possible to sustain speeds greater thatn 20mph for long journeys without the stop-start of city cycling.
    b. The route for the cycleway is along the High Road which has a 30mph speed limit.
    c. I’m pretty sure everybody who lives in Chiswick, bike users and pedestrians alike would love the 20mph limit to be policed but unfortunately, the Police rarely prosecute car drivers for breaking this limit let alone the less dangerous bike users.
  2. The TFL scheme is very expensive and cyclists should pay for it.
    The entire route (from Olympia to Hounslow) would cost £70 million which is funded by TFL, not the tax-payer. To put this in perspective, the new Power Road bridge on the South Circular is costing half this at £35 million just for one bridge that is about 25 meters long.
  3. Cyclists are currently cycling on the pavement and this is very dangerous.
    It does appear that cycling on the pavement is becoming more prevalent and is something that as someone who cycles I have previously been very critical of. However, since the risk this poses to pedestrians is insignificant compared to the numbers of pedestrians struck by cars whilst they are on the pavement the Police have decided to turn a blind eye.
    The obvious question is “Why do cyclists feel the need to cycle on the pavement when it is slower and hard to do?” And the overwhelming answer is because they are intimidated and scared of being on the road, the obvious answer to this problem which will be solved in one stroke is to provide safe, segregated cycleways.

In summary, a cycleway should be built along the Chiswick High Road to save people like you and I who bike to and from work in Chiswick from serious harm and possible death.

So let’s build #CS9 along Chiswick High Road and make Chiswick a safer, quieter, greener space for all.

Have your say here – and vote yes:
its go-ahead depends on you.

Are you a Community Ghost?

Deborah Orr’s lovely article in the Guardian this week ‘Value your health: head for the inner city, and swerve the ‘burbs’ got me thinking. Her premise is that people who live in the Inner City are healthier than people, like me in Ealing, who live in the ‘burbs’.  The reason? Because people in the Inner Cities walk more.

The ‘burbs’ of Ealing have wonderful opportunities for walking and active transport so I feel that the ‘burbs’ can be just as healthy,  and certainly significantly more active than people who live in the countryside and rely on their car as the only form of transport.

Beyond the obvious and frequently stated advantages of active modes of transport (I’m grouping  walking and cycling  here) that could address a number of our nation’s ills in a stroke:

Personal benefits:  Walking and cycling reduces obesity, decreases high blood pressure,  and can often help with depression.

Physical benefits:  Walking and cycling substantially decreases air pollution (BBC).

Business benefits: Local shops thrive as people walk and cycle to them, rather than drive to supermarkets.

There’s also compelling evidence that there are substantial social benefits to active transport in the ‘burbs’ too.  The neighbours we all know in our community are the ones getting about by foot, the ones on their bikes, the ones who stop for a chat whilst walking their dogs. These are the people who are the heartbeat of their communities, encouraging social bonding, acting as the glue in our country. In fact when we examine the NHS’s ‘Five Steps to mental wellbeing’ we see that “To Connect” is number one.

It is impossible to connect with your neighbours in the ‘burbs’ if you walk out of your house straight into your car (that you obsessively) park directly outside your house.  There’s no opportunity for your paths to cross with others, no casual serendipitous encounters. Not only is this having a detrimental effect on ourselves, but also on our society as a whole.

I believe that millions of people missing out on these community micro-interactions means we are less likely to tolerate our neighbours and this is responsible for the increase in tension and hate across the country and online.  

This is a big part of Yuval Harari’s book “Sapiens”, where Yuval speculates that without the ability for humans to ‘gossip’ and interact frequently in their communities we wouldn’t have been as successful at colonising the world as we have been.

These vital micro (or as long as you like!) interactions that would have previously occurred as we walked out of homes to go to the local football game, left our houses dragging our kids on foot to the local primary school, or as we wandered down the road to pick up some food from the local shop: They’ve all been lost.

The good news is, they’re  actually still there. Just a small change in behaviour has meant I rarely spend a day without bumping into one of my friends or acquaintances from my social network by accident – making me really feel part of a network – connected in the real world.

So why not give it a go next time you go to pick up your car keys or maybe try a change in behaviour once a week and see how different it makes you feel – I guarantee it will make you feel healthier, happier, more connected and have better interactions with your friends and family.

Don’t be a community ghost.

Clean Air Day

It’s National Clean Air Day today, so I wrote the following letter to my MP.

Hi Ruth,

Congratulations on your re-election to represent the people of Chiswick again. I am extremely concerned about the air pollution situation in this country and the lack of will by the current Government to address this with a cohesive plan.

Therefore I am writing to you, to see if you can help to improve the air locally.

I work at the Barley Mow Centre in your constituency and to get to work each day I cycle through Ealing, Acton and Chiswick. I am dismayed that each day I see a number of drivers of lorries, van and cars sitting by the side of the road with their engines on. Although this may seem like a trivial issue it isn’t from an air quality point of view and it is harming all of us. It is particularly disturbing to see Mothers in the cars with the engine on unnecessarily outside schools adding to the air pollution there.

I think that it is a case of educating people of the dangers – often when I speak to people who are idling their cars they are unaware that it is harmful and unaware that we are in the middle of an air pollution crisis.

I think as a start, a simple education campaign (on social and print media) would be a simple and cost effective start to addressing this very serious problem. I would love to have the opportunity to speak to you about my concerns, or even take you for a little cycle ride around Chiswick so that you can understand the problem.

Thanks for your time,

Darren

There’s also a great flyer about idling here:


PC World Customer Service Problems

Update on the PCWorld DPD eCommerce problems.

25/04/2017 @ 9:30

Soon after I published my blog post about PCWorld’s terrible customer service I started receiving some strange comments on it.

At first, I thought they were a friend messing around with me. So I thought nothing of it but they kept on coming and they were getting more disturbing!

I thought this was quite strange and a little worrying. I ssh’d onto my server and started checking through the Varnish access log.

The following IP address was being used to post the comments.

I searched online to find the IP Address 164.38.32.100 and it came up with the following results:

i.e. that it was owned by Dixons Stores Group, Stevenage. Which means somebody from PC World in the Stevenage store was defacing my blog to get at me!

I also tracked the comments down to articles from David Thorn’s blog http://www.27bslash6.com/frogs.html

At first one of the PC World support agents, Matt Bagshaw, said that he’d sort the misdelivery out and called me to apologise for his company defacing my blog.

I said that I was willing to be patient but three weeks later I still don’t have my Mac Mini and there hasn’t been any compensation or decent apology from the PC World branch in Stevenage that defaced this blog.

When IT goes bad – a story of PCWorld and DPD system failures

Timeline of how PC World and DPD deliveries completely fail their customer.

27/03/2017 @ 10:49

I made an order for 3 items with my PC World business account.
The PC World website did not confirm which delivery address the order would be shipped to.

27/03/2017 @ 10:50

I received the confirmation email from PC World stating an incorrect delivery address.

27/03/2017 @ 10.51

I called PC World to amend the delivery address on the order. PC World said that the order had already been completed and I should contact DPD the following day to change the delivery address

28/03/2017 @ 8.00

I received a message from DPD saying the order would be delivered (to the wrong address) that day. I found that I couldn’t change the delivery address on the DPD App. I called DPD they said they couldn’t change the delivery address.

28/03/2017 @ 8.30

I called PC World and this time they said they could change the delivery address. They said it would be all sorted.

29/03/2017 @ 8.00

I received a notification from DPD that the order would be delivered today. I received a notification from DPD that PCWorld had updated the address of the order. All looked good.

29/03/2017 @ 12.00

I received a notification from DPD that my order would be delivered that day. I contacted DPD via their chat app and by telephone and told them not to deliver as it was the wrong address. DPD confirmed they had seen the notification for the change of address and verbally confirmed they wouldn’t deliver.

29/03/2017 @ 14.16

I receive a notification from DPD to say they have delivered the parcel to the wrong address that they said they wouldn’t deliver.

29/03/2017 @ 15.00

I contact DPD and tell them they need to redeliver. They say they will return and pick up the parcel and return it to PC World.

30/03/2017 @ 13.52

I receive a delivery at the correct address but it only contains two items of the order.

30/03/2017

I contact PC World and DPD and both parties deny responsibility for the miss-delivery. PC World say they will investigate. DPD deny any knowledge of the re-route and re-collection.

31/03/2017 – 18/04/2017

Emails and calls to PC World and met by no response.

18/04/2017

I start using Twitter to engage with PC World support and they start to respond, however, they don’t appear to have any CRM to keep records of the situation. I have to explain everything anew with every contact I make.

In the meantime the order is lost and my company is out of pocket, and my staff are waiting for their equipment that was ordered affecting productivity.

The Carbon Cost of Skiing


We love to ski almost as much as we love the environment but there is an obvious conflict between the two. The two factors that most concern us most are the CO2 emissions from the travel and the air pollution from vehicles in the vulnerable mountain regions.

Looking into travelling to Mt Blanc, we found the following:

Mode Flying Train Driving Hybrid Driving Electric
CO2 750kg 50kg 300kg 208kg
Cost £1047 £1400 £103 n/a
Local Emmissions hydrocarbons, CO, NOX, SOX and black carbon No NOx / No particulates reduced NOx / few particulates No NOx / No particulates

Taking the train is the clear winner, apart from when you consider the financial cost which is around £1400 for four people at peak time. The attractive solution would be to go by electric car which would be very cost effective and negate the tailpipe emissions that are causing the air quality issues in the Mt Blanc region.

In conclusion, the only way to significantly limit the impact of our ski holiday on the local environment is to take the train or hire an electric car.

Thoughts on Beyond The Flood

After watching Beyond The Flood we came to the conclusion that the world is in dire peril and how we approach this information comes down to the following metaphor: When the Titanic was sinking how did you choose to spend your last 15 minutes? Were you fighting for a place in the lifeboats, hiding in your cabin, jumping into the sea, tapping out the mayday in morse or in the ballroom dancing?

Well, DiCapprio during his discussion with Obama makes the point clear: it would be immoral to stand by and do nothing, or even to party on as if nothing is happening. With this in mind we’ve resolved to make 3 major changes to our lifestyle:

  1. Given that cattle are responsible for 18% of global emissions worldwide we will reduce out beef consumption to 10%.
  2. Our rainforests are being destroyed at the rate of 300 football fields each hour to make way for palm oil production we will attempt to remove unsustainable palm oil from our diet completely.
  3. This is the most important issue of our times and that of our children, we must continue to keep tapping the mayday on the morse code, and tell our friends, family and politicians to do all they can to avert this disaster.

What are you going to do?

Vintage bike frame to Fixie Project

1952 Rotrax Fixie

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Given a clean and straight vintage bike frameset from the 50’s just add the following for a simple and great fixie:

  1. Flip flop rear track wheel (check rear dropout width)- Rayleigh £78
  2. Any old modern front wheel from Gumtree – Campagnolo Khamsin £20
  3. Modern Bottom Bracket English Thread (check axle width for a straight driveline and diameter and thread type) – Shimano £16
  4. Seat post 27.2mm (double check diameter!)- Campagnolo Aero £34.99
  5. Saddle- Brooks B17 Saddle £90 new (great secondhand)
  6. Crankset- Sturmey Archer FCS 44T x 170mm £23
  7. Track chain- Miche 1/8 inch £7.99
  8. Fixed Rear Sprocket- Miche 17T 1/8 inch £9.99
  9. Aero quill stem 22.2mm (check diameter)- Nitto £22.00
  10. Bull bars (watch compatiblity with the stem)- Pattern part £6.00
  11. Flat bar brakes (optional)- Tektro FL750 Silver – Pair £19.99
  12. Brake callipers check frameset drilled holes are present and in the right place – measure drop to make sure your frame works with 700C wheels. (optional)- Miche Silver – Pair £23.00
  13. Brake cableset- Jagwire set £4.06
  14. Faux leather bar tape- Deda £7.79
  15. Coloured Tyres- Lithium 2 Red £26

So that’s a unique to you Fixie with a vintage frame which will be great for thousands of miles all in for £380 (less if you use secondhand parts) + whatever you can get the vintage frame for.

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