Lea Bridge Road terrible redesign.

I moved to Walthamstow in March and so most days I travel along Lea Bridge Road in both directions to and from work. At first I was really pleasantly surprised as there’s a cycle path on both sides a fair bit of the way, sharing a lot of space with buses as well as sharing a narrow space with pedestrians. So far, I haven’t seen any problems, and pedestrians and cyclists have both been very courteous to each other.

In it’s previous form, my one major criticism is this, going eastbound:

Bike path bus stop

Bike path bus stop

The bike path line vanishes… and then bus stop. There was (thankfully only) one time I nearly collided with a person stepping off the bus even though I slowed and tried to keep an eye out. People coming off the bus maybe don’t know to look, and they step off far into the path as the bus drivers don’t look before opening their doors. Ridiculous design.

This aside, it’s a very quick road and can bring you very close to cars and buses. To my horror a few weeks ago a redesign has begun further east along the road just on the approach to Walthamstow/Leyton.

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Another vanishing bike path

Now, this bike path has saved me from being crushed by cars thinking there’s more space than there is by attempting to overtake me. Unfortunately, I have also had to scream at a bus as it edged into this bus lane right next to me. Nevertheless, I am (was) very grateful for it. The pavement has been widened seemingly pointlessly as it just adds half a meter to the other side of those pillars. Will this space actually be used by pedestrians? Valuable space has been taken away from the road.

The other side of the bridge, same direction

The other side of the bridge, same direction

I’m really hoping the bike path gets put back in here once the roadworks are finished.

So after my dismay at these changes, I looked to the other side of the road and saw another narrowing of the road:

Narrowing of the other side of the road

Narrowing of the other side of the road

Does this or does this not create a dangerous pinch point?

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The other side of the road, looking west

The answer is yes, yes it does.

Waltham Forest Council, what have you done? Cars already overtake dangerously here, I think it’s time we unfortunately prepare for some accidents.

 

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Kenya 2013 Diary: Day 2

14th February

We met our driver for the week in the morning, Amos, who was a man of great knowledge and humour. It was a pleasure to spend the time with him too.

The journey north to Aberdares national park was 3 hours but didn’t feel like it. The road was so smooth and the scenery so green there was plenty to see and some time to sleep. We were to spend the night at Treetops lodge situated in the national park itself and surrounded by a waterhole which is frequented by plenty of animals. You actually arrive at a sister hotel, Outspan, where you check in and have lunch, with Treetops itself is 30 mins drive away. Outspan had a gorgeous view of Mount Kenya and (the first and only) free wifi. What’s not to love?

 

The view of Mount Kenya from the gardens at Outspan

The view of Mount Kenya from the gardens at Outspan

If you choose to visit here, it’s worth noting that you shouldn’t take a large suitcase with you. My parents took a biggish one because they went to Zanzibar for a extra week and since you get taken by van to Treetops with lots of other people they had to take out overnight things into a smaller bag and leave their large luggage at Outspan. Though their luggage was safe in a locked room it’s just a bit of faff. If you need a lot of luggage because you’re away for a long time then it’s not a problem, but take an overnight bag to move things into.

 

You arrive at Treetops from safari van and a walk through a forest. This is your first view

You arrive at Treetops from safari van and a walk through a forest. This is your first view.

 

As soon as we arrived at Treetops a big bull elephant wandered up to the water.  He had a badly damaged trunk from wandering into villages before a fence was put up around the park, but thankfully he still can use it without any problem. It just looks like it’s going to come off whenever he flicks it upwards.

Elephant Greeting

 

A whole herd of elephants joined the male and stayed all evening. The male was eating red deposits on the floor which we were later told to be salt. Leaving small deposits on the ground is an attempt at deterring elephants from using their tusks to dig into the ground for the natural salt. It works up to a point, but the herd spent all evening digging and eating the mud.

The temperature dropped a bit being at a higher altitude so I was glad of the hoody I brought with me. I only brought it because of the cold in the UK! We had time to sit and relax and watch the animals. At 5.30pm Stephen, the naturalist of Treetops, gave a talk on the hotel and the animals there.

Treetops 2

This is the waterhole on the other side of the building.

This is the waterhole on the other side of the building.

Treetops 4

Treetops 5

Treetops 6

Treetops 7

Treetops 7

 

Stephen’s talk

Elephants have been destroying the trees in the area which is why Treetops isn’t so much in the treetops anymore. Trees are being deliberately planted with the help of visitors staying more than 1 night and areas are being fenced off. The original Treetops was tiny…

The oldest picture of Treetops in the hotel.

The oldest picture of Treetops in the hotel.

It was built in 1932 in a single fig tree by Eric Sherbrooke Walker who wanted to try to curb hunting. It was burnt down in 1954 by Freedom fighters and a new one was built at the current site in 1957, across the water from the original. The position of the new building was specifically to be able to take better photographs with shade from the sun on one side. Up until 2011 facilities were shared. Luckily for us, it has undergone extensive renovation and can now accommodate 36 rooms with 84 guests each with their own bathroom.

Stephen went on to talk about animal behaviours, but I won’t spoil it by writing it all here. You’ve got to visit for that pleasure! He has written a book you can buy from the hotel which is well worth doing.

The uniqueness of Treetops is demonstrated by the alarm system in each room which you can switch on or off. If an animal arrives in the night the alarm will sound with 1,2,3 or 4 buzzes. Once for hyena, twice for leopard, three times for rhino and four times for elephant. At about 10.30pm the alarm buzzed once for hyena but they were difficult to see in the dark as they kept on the far side of the water.

Looking forward

2012 began well and ended well, with a bit of a slow decline in the middle. I’ve just passed my 1st anniversary with my boyfriend (so you can see 2012 started very well indeed). January also saw the start of my first job out of university from which I learnt great patience with other people and myself… but ultimately became my low point because I needed to do more. Thankfully I have a wonderful friend who thought of me when an opening popped up in a role which suited me much better, I applied and got the job and hence 2012 ended on a high.

2012 was a lesson in managing my money better and my blog post back in May is now firmly a musing from the past. The managing of money started in the form of cycling to work (saving myself about £100 a month when I still lived in Hackney). The lease ended on that flat in July and I took the opportunity to take a ~£200 a month drop in rent and moved into a room in a house in Harrow. So I saved money on travel, the gym, and rent. Huzzah! I’d made the decision to make sacrifices last year which I hope I can look forward to changing back in the near future.

So for 2013 I’ve decided to make aims rather than resolutions because everything’s getting settled anyway. A friend once said to me that once things start improving after university it’ll start to snowball. And it has! Great words of wisdom. So my aims are:

– continue learning Japanese. My boyfriend speaks Japanese and I wanted to learn another language so I began to learn hiragana over summer and for Christmas I was given books to really get me going. Long may this continue!
– I’ve invested some money in my cycling and got some road shoes with cleats and new pedals for Christmas too so there’s an aim here. The boyfriend and I want to do John O’Groats to Lands End in 2 years time so to build up slowly I want to be able to cycle from London to my parents near Dover. That’ll be around 80-100 miles. Sounds pretty good actually, I’m really looking forward to this one when it’s a little warmer.
– the next few are related to my living situation. I like my privacy and currently live in a room without curtains which backs onto a garden which backs onto an open playing field. The room the most depersonalised I’ve ever rented too, mainly because I knew I’d only be here for a short period of time. So my first aim here is to live in a flat which really feels like home. Now I have a full time job and can live a little further out of the centre of London (although within a 10 mile radius. Harrow is too far), I can afford to leave the student price bracket and feel more like an adult. Feel more settled and more at home when I get home… rather than like I’m squatting I’m someone else’s home. Which is kind of what it is, but doesn’t need to feel like it. Right? I can own furniture, good quality kitchenware, matching towel sets. Basically not feel like a student anymore with mismatching furniture thrown in by the landlord because they don’t think it’ll outlive a student lease. Maybe I’ve just had bad luck with flats. Apart from Hackney.
– secondly for my home I want to buy a really nice piece of artwork. For me this means large scale wildlife or space photography.
– to finish, I want to print and frame more photographs for my walls and shelves.

Did everybody go through this feeling of settling into a home after university? I hope so, I don’t believe I’m one of a handful of people who wants matching towel sets.

2013 is set to be brilliant.

Another account of a London cyclist’s commute

It’s been a long time since I updated this blog, but I should get more time now I have a new job with more regular hours. I thought I’d give a quick update on my cycling and provide a bit of an insight into what it’s like to commute into Central London. There are plenty of personal accounts of London cycling, one more won’t do any harm.

 

I lived in Hackney when I began this blog and started to cycle to work in Kensington which was about 7 miles each way. Nice and easy, but took a while because of the copious number of traffic lights going through the busiest parts of London. I quickly got used to the distance and the inclines, and I was cutting down my time to about 45-50 minutes. I then moved out to Harrow which is a hell of a lot further to Kensington than Hackney was. Almost double, in fact, but my time is only 5 minutes longer! But I was up for the challenge and quite enjoyed the lack of traffic lights stopping all the time. (I still stop at a red light.)

 

It got quite exhausting doing 12 miles to work and 12 miles home again every day, and for the first couple of months I was lucky enough to have my boyfriend living with me who was happy to provide dinner and support when I got in to recover. Now he’s gone back to Uni in Scotland, it’s become that little bit harder. I am adapting although this does take the form of rubbish food for a quick hit of calories/carbs/sugar. I’m aiming for this bad habit to change once I start my new job and have more time.

 

I do shift work at multiple jobs which can range anywhere between 9-1, 9-5, 10-2, 10-6, 1-5, 1-9, 9am-11pm, 9-6 etc etc which isn’t always giving me the time to eat at regular intervals or at a good time to eat enough a little while before I get back on the bike to get home. Once I do regular 9-5s, I can get into a better routine to change this. I’m thinking of investing in buying energy bars in bulk to give me that boost to get home at the end of the day. Thoughts?

 

So I was doing the Harrow-Kensington ride on my hybrid initially and the behaviour of drivers was different on my A404 route in compared to the through-central route. The roads are at times wider so cars gave me more room which was quite pleasant. To make the commute easier, I recently bought a road bike and carried my bag on my back. My hybrid had a basket on the front which meant I could just pop my handbag with a change of clothes into it and off I went. The only thing which changed was the bike and where I carried my bag but I noticed a dramatic change in the attitude of drivers towards me. I don’t think I changed my cycling style or my attitude towards other road users but cars were driving extremely close to me, cutting me up, telling me to get out of the way – just generally driving very dangerously around me. I’ve had more near misses on my road bike in a month than I had on my hybrid in 4 months. 

 

I like to think of myself as a considerate cyclist: I stop at red lights, I let cars out of junctions if there’s traffic behind me and I’m holding them up a little, I don’t squeeze past cars to get to the front of a queue unless there is a very clear passage to do so, I signal to drivers who are hovering behind me if I’m happy for them to squeeze by me because I’m ready and aware of them. So the only change really has been my appearance. Today I read an article in the Psychologist (here) which identifies these change in attitudes and it makes complete sense. I went from a vulnerable looking lady with her handbag in a basket to a confident looking road cyclist. I should be able to handle near misses, huh?

 

I find it frustrating to say the least, and I know expressing my fear in the form of shouting when I’m nearly hit isn’t the safest way to deal with it. All my near misses have been when I’ve been going in a straight line and cars are cutting across me from impatience or lack of observation. I suppose the positive is that I’ve become extra aware of what’s going on around me and looking much further ahead up the road.

 

I think my message to drivers who see cyclists as an inconvenience is: I’m just trying to get to work without spending a significant portion of my income. Please be patient and considerate. If you hit me then you’ll only be able to tell my family and friends you did so because you didn’t want to wait 5 more seconds for me to get out of your way. Cyclists are not trying to be a deliberate inconvenience.