United Kingdom

Voter Form - Fail!

Today I received my electoral registration form. As usual, no changes - so very easy. However, I did not one logical fallacy on the form.

We are supposed to register everyone at the address on the 15th October - but in order to save the costs of a reminder message, they would like people to do this by the 15th September. This is a physical impossibility if one is striving for accuracy!

As no changes are expected, I took advantage of the 'as far as I am aware' clause and registered by phone (you dial a number, and key an ID and pin code, printed on the form).

Sky Sports sponsors the London Freewheel

It has been announced that Sky Sports are the title sponsors of the London Freewheel in 2008. This is a devastating blow. Last year the sponsors were Hovis and we got free sandwiches. I'm not exactly going to get a free satellite dish out of it, am I?

The freewheel is a good event, is free, and takes place in the second half of september. It's worth making the effort for if you can get into London.

Further reading: Press release about a summer of cycling and an Evening Standard article where Boris exalts Londoners to dust off their bikes. Also, here is a summary of the freewheel. Finally, the BikeforAll site on the freewheel sponsorship.

Long Road to London

Yesterday I thought I'd take my new bike out for a spin - then I thought about going on a long bike ride. Path to LondonThen I decided to attempt to cycle into central London from home, and finally I decided to do this on the old bike as I didn't want to do anything too ambitious on the new bike until I've broken it in a bit more.

So it was, that I set out on a ride from home (on the Surrey/Hampshire border) to Central London.

I planned a route with the aid of the Surrey Cycling Maps and the Transport for London cycling maps. Both sets of maps are free. Unfortunately there was something about them which made going from one set of maps to the other tricky for me - I'd love it if the maps were downloadable as jpg so I could use them in OziExplorer - or better still, if the data were handed over to google to allow cycle routes to be planned as easily as road routes!

I worked out a rough route on the paper maps, then used the mapmyride website to store the route electronically. This was then downloaded to my Garmin GPS 60. This is not an expensive device, but it is good enough for my purposes.

Essentially, I can download a route to it, and it will tell me which way to head in order to reach the next waypoint. It doesn't know about roads, buildings, cliffs and the like - and so the directions are only as good as the route that it has been fed.

Thus it was that I set off.

I had a later start than I hoped for - and was slower than hoped for as I stopped to go to the supermarket for some sustenance (I had forgotten breakfast too!). Getting to Woking took longer than usual, but I was soon in new territory, going past Woking and was at my first major landmark. The psychological barrier of the M25.

Crossing the M25

It was really great getting to this point under my own steam - for me it is the boundary of London (it isn't really, but nothing else is that obvious).

I cycled on, through Addlestone, and onward.

Hampton Court provided my next stop. It's a lovely place to go through, open grassland (and a road, admittedly) - with deer.

The deer were quite used to the cars, and so were not too phased by someone on a bicycle. They were quite bold (for deer) - though never totally unwary.

Deer at Hampton Court

I crossed the River Thames several times. Having crossed near Hampton Court, I went south of the river again at Teddington Lock. Nice place.

I had chosen to go through Richmond Park as well. This is a lovely place to go through - the paths are smooth, traffic-free and there are herds of deer. The deer are different to Hampton Court - and again, they are relatively used to people. This was a much larger group, and they formed a protective ring around their youngsters.

As I watched and waited, they all moved across the road - that was good to see, it had echoes of 'mass migration' about it, but in miniature!

From Richmond, I carried on into central London, thanks to the cycle maps I had very few busy roads to travel. I arrived at Buckingham Palace, and being a Sunday the mall was closed to cars, so I had a lovely cycle down toward wesminster. There was traffic over Westminster Bridge, and then I was at Waterloo, some 69km after I set out.

I made it to London!

It was my longest cycle by far so far. I may have cycled further 'back in the day' - but then, I never kept track of this sort of thing when younger (I did get lost many times though - though the only time I had to be rescued was when I went for a walk, and I went so far the soles of my shoes caved in!)

My normal commute is about 18km each way, so this represented nearly a fourfold increase on my longest ride (or doubling of my daily ride). I did arrive at Waterloo wondering if I shouldn't just cycle back home - but felt like this was asking for trouble... however, I think I could have done it. Maybe another day.

My high spot at the end of the ride was cycling down the mall - that was my 'finish'. Getting to Waterloo was anti-climactic. I'd just done a big ride, and I wanted a finish line - dammit, I wanted a medal for finishing! If I'd have known that Waterloo would've felt like 'the way home after finishing' instead of 'finishing', I'd have done a lap of honour on the Mall!

Anyhow, that was my big ride - about 43 miles. Not bad, I could have gone further, but I was being careful, I didn't know how I'd react the next day. As it is, I've a bit of soreness in my thighs, and that's about it. I did a few stretches on the train to try and prevent leg muscles cramping up.

Key Details: Date: 2008-06-29 Distance: 69.8 km. Speed: 19.24 / 47.33 km/hr (avg/max) Duration: 03:37 (ride time, stopping for the M25, level crossings, deer and supermarkets not included)

Labour got a bloody nose...

Ha! Labour's got a hammering in the local elections. I'm pleased. Why? Not because of the 10p tax rate, or because of the continual tinkering Labour has done to our constitution without a clear plan. Not because of the imbalance they've created in our constitutional settlement by giving each part of the UK a degree of self determination except England. Not because of the spin or the lies. Not because of the wars. Not because of the increased cost of living with house prices much higher than incomes.

Well, maybe I'm a little annoyed for those reasons.

Why am I mostly annoyed with Labour?

Mostly because of the way they've systematically undermined civil liberties in the UK. It's been a little chip-chipping away. Detention for 90 days without trial. No? 28 days then... let's make it 42... ID cards (if you have nothing to hide), terrorism bills used on people who shout 'nonsense' or wear a T-shirt in the wrong place, removal of the right to protest in central London (people have had problems having a tea party in parliament square, must have been the protest cake).

All done with the best of intentions, and, as it's to 'help the fight against terror', done in a way that the vast majority won't mind; until, like the proverbial lobster, they find the water temperature has been gradually increased and it has become too hot.

When I grew up, the IRA were regularly blowing places up (yes, I know about July 7, I was in London, that doesn't change the point). Regularly. They blew up central manchester in one of their last acts before the ceasefire. They blew up parades, children got killed. They even blew up the government of the day during their party conference.

The UK never took measures like the current lot feel are necessary. It's Orwellian... keep the populace scared of the 'invisible enemy' and you can keep power....

Gits. They've done more to disrupt the 'way of life' in the UK for the long term than any mis-guided bomber(*).

For that reason alone, they deserve to lose the power they temporarily wield.

Next week on More 4 at 10pm, a documentary called 'Taking Liberties' will be shown This is repeated at 11pm on more 4+1. Please try and watch it.

(*) Yes, it's true that really devastating attacks are possible, dirty bombs and all sorts. However, one can never totally shield against things like that. Even if we choose to live in a full-blown totalitarian regime. Is that truly how we want to live, on the off-chance that it might stop a theoretical risk?

By the way, I'm feeling much better now. It's all good. Thanks for asking (or not).

London Freewheel 2008

Good news. The London Freewheel 2008 is now taking registrations. The event will be on the 21st September.

I adored this event in 2007, and have been waiting with anticipation for 2008 to be confirmed.

As last year, now I have the slow torture of the wait all over again!

I hope that this year I'll be able to persuade the other half to come along....

Electoral Reform in the UK

Democracy isn't Deskbound Make Votes Count has re-branded their campaign, and produced an action plan, which I reproduce below:

Continue on to the MVC WebsiteView the Campaign Launch Photos

6 Things you can do
1. Petition the Prime Minister. Sign our petition to Gordon Brown

2. Pledge to a Consultation. Sign the pledge and show people's willingness to be consulted

3. Write to your MP. Ask them to forward your comments to the Minister

4. Contact your nearest PR Politican. Enlist the support of your MEPs/AMs/MSPs

5. Have your say: Governance of Britain. Tell the Ministry of Justice that voting systems matter

6. Donate to the Campaign. Help us maximise what we can achieve

If you would like to post this to your website, see the previous post for the code.

London Freewheel 2008?

Last year, I took part in the London Freewheel. It was a great event, and I'm hoping it'll be repeated in 2008. Periodically I do a search to see if it is to be repeated, and to put the date in my diary.

No luck yet. I'd appreciate a 'heads up' if anyone hears details.

(Edit: Scary, as of 13th Jan, this site is the number one link in google UK when searching for 'London Freewheel 2008' - Murk)

(Edit: As of 14th Feb, I've been told that a provisional time for this is the 3rd week in september, I'd guess the 21st - Murk)

(Edit: As of 5th March, Freewheel registration 2008 is open. It will be the 21st. - Murk)

The Freewheel

The London Freewheel was a great event. Unfortunately, South West trains chose today to have engineering works, meaning that getting into London with a bike was more problematic than it need have been. I managed to get in via a different route (despite several pieces of misinformation from train staff about which route to take). I had a ticket to London Waterloo, but got off a little early at Clapham Junction, I then cycled to the common. I was one of the first cyclists to arrive.

There were free apples and sweeties. This was nice.

Waiting for the start, I did 4-5km just going round... and round... and round.

More and more people arrived, I think there must have been a 1500-2000 at the time we set off. We were funnelled onto a path out of the common and set off in small groups. Encouraged to ride no more than two abreast, the practicalities of groups of people bunching up at traffic lights meant this injunction was more honoured in the breach - though on main roads it was followed. We followed a route up to Buckingham Palace, where we joined the Car-Free route.

There were various stalls along the mall, and I visited the nice people at Evans Cycles and they reindexed my gears for me, for free (I had them close, but it wasn't quite right - all they needed was a little lube on the cable).

The route went from the Mall, around the back of Downing Street, left onto Parliament Square, onto Whitehall and then down onto the embankment. It went through the Blackfriars underpass (which was good fun - I would never dream of cycling there with cars about). We then went over London Bridge, before returning.

At various points there were photographers, and one could pose for free photos (which should be available for download tomorrow - they give you a reference number to find your photo).

I did a total of three laps, I could have done more, but I spent some time in the day browsing the stalls in 'the festival' (they should have had the stalls moved out a bit, made them double-sided - and had one side for pedestrians, and the other for people on their bikes (one way only). The other slowing factor was a bottleneck around parliament square and nearby areas.

The nice people at Hovis gave out Free Sandwiches. Red Bull gave out free caffeine based stimulant. Thames Water gave out free water (duh!), though their water bottles sucked. That was okay as Evans Cycles gave out some nice 'Tour 07' water bottles.

How could the day have been improved?

Well, it would have been nice if there were the opportunity to try a 'fast lap' or a signs saying 'slow? stay to the side', and sometimes the marshals would stop the flow to allow one person to cross on foot, and then stop again within seconds - the marshalls could have bunched the pedestrians a little more. Also, at places like parliament square, there is a subway under Whitehall which could have been employed.

Other than that, it was a great day - and I'm looking forward to the date coming round again.

One other improvement: Annually simply isn't often enough.... monthly would be great. What about weekly....?

My total cycle today was 52km. I probably could have doubled that quite happily without stopping for the stalls, and if there had been fewer bottlenecks - it was just great to peddle on reasonably good roads without fear of being flattened.

I've just uploaded my photos of the day.

London Freewheel

I've been looking forward to this weekend for some time. It's the London Freewheel on Sunday. The north of the river From St. James' Park to London Bridge (and over the bridge) is given to the bicycle. Unfortunately, the better half isn't confident enough on the bike to join me, so I'll be going alone - except for the expected 30 000 other people who will be joining me.

My only real worry is getting into town with my bike, with South West trains only allowing two bikes per train....

Even on foot, 30000 bikes should be a sight to behold.

London Freewheel

I've got back on my bike in the past few months, totting up 135km since the start of august (I know some folks do that in a day, but I'm building from nothing here). I've even booked myself on a cycle maintenance course at the end of the month! Anyhow, I've just signed up for the 'London Freewheel'. Essentially, there'll be a traffic free route by the river on Sunday 23rd sept, which will be given over to those of us with two wheels. Lovely!

My only trouble will be getting the bike into town, with lots of others trying to do the same!

Uk Visa Refusals Ridiculous

UK Tourist Visas are being refused for odd reasons A common reason for a visa refusal is you wish to go to the UK for a holiday. You have never previously undertaken any foreign travel before and I can see little reason for this trip. This is rather a catch-22!

Another reason for rejection was the applicant not having sufficient command of the language for the purposes of tourism. This is a daft - how many Brits go abroad without having an adequate knowledge of the local language?

Another was rejected as the applicant had little or no idea what you plan to see or do. I often go on holiday with little idea of what I'll see when I get there, that's the point!

Let us hope that countries for which UK citizens require visa do not begin to follow suit!