Arguing in a bike, swishing, and pollution

Arguing in a bike, swishing, and pollution

I cycled into town with the kids this evening and they had a huge fight in the bike. The fight was because Daniel said he can click his fingers and Elizabeth says he can’t. This is the downside to having kids in a bike. When you’re in a car members of the public can’t hear your kids arguing in the back and so parents are spared the embarrassment. But in the bike every pedestrian we cycled past heard it. Thankfully they very rarely fight and had made up by the time we cycled home which was just after this next photo was taken.

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One of Ben’s old PhD students from New Zealand is visiting. He lives in China now and complained about the pollution there. Walking along Union St in Aberdeen he commented on how great it was to breathe the fresh air. Union St is one of the most polluted Streets in Scotland. Thank goodness we don’t live in China. I would not like it at all. Aberdeen is a great place to live. While the rest of the UK has been complaining about the heat we have been lovely and cool with temperatures no higher than 20C this past week.

A couple of days ago I went to a swishing night which is an event where you take a heap of clothes you no longer want and swap them for clothes other people no longer want. As one mum put it: it’s like shopping without spending any money. It was fantastic and I got the dress I’m wearing in the photo at swishing. I would definitely do it again.

I planted a couple of sweet peas in a small patch of dirt on our footpath. They started flowering a couple of weeks ago and look lovely.

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My kids addressed the city council petitions committee

My kids addressed the city council petitions committee

It has been an eventful day. Sometimes I wish my life was dull and uneventful because right now I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. Today, Daniel, Elizabeth, and I presented a petition to the petitions committee at the city council. The petition is asking for cycle paths that children can use to cycle to and from school in safety. We were given 10 minutes during which we could argue our case and then answer questions. Both the kids spoke and they delivered their messages beautifully. The only blunder was my own when I accidentally turned off Daniel’s microphone. The microphones were such that when you turned yours on it disabled everyone else’s. Coming from a family where everyone talks over one another I think these microphones are a wonderful idea.

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What did we talk about in 10 minutes? We gave an example of what we want using this photo of Dutch children cycling to school in the city of Groningen.

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I also made the point that the Netherlands has not always been this way. In the 1970s it was just like most British cities are today with cars ruling the roads. I shared some then and now photos which I got from the blog, A View From the Cycle Path. Here is a then and now photo from Assen in the Netherlands. It’s exactly the same street in both photos.

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I wanted to make the point that the Netherlands was at the same point back then that we are now. This means it’s something we can do here too; all that’s required is the political will to do it.

Elizabeth spoke about the cost benefit ratio of spending on cycling infrastructure. For every £1 we spend on cycling infrastructure we get £5.50 back in benefits. This is according to data from the UK government.

Ben took this photo of the three of us outside. I deliberately wore this old-fashioned dress because I wanted to make the statement that I’m not a cyclist. I’m just a mum who uses a bicycle to get around and I frequently ride my bike in dresses and long skirts. I’m not an athlete or a superwoman, I just want to make the world a better place for my children.

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Inside my greenhouse

Inside my greenhouse

It’s a lovely drizzly day today. I cycled to Newton Dee thinking I’d have the bike path all to myself but there were lots of people there – dog walkers, cyclists, and joggers. I love it when it’s overcast and I don’t have to squint. Squinting is annoying because it gives me wrinkles and somehow squinting and frowning affects my mood. Try relaxing the muscles in your face except for those that make you smile for about 30 seconds and see how you feel. Now frown and squint for 30 seconds and see how you feel. It’s much more pleasant to smile and not frown, don’t you think?

I took a photo of Busby, my trusty steed, outside Newton Dee.

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I’ve got seedlings growing in abundance in my glasshouse right now. All the plants in this next photo were grown from seed.

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My tomatoes were also grown from seed and one of them is beginning to flower.

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These are carrots in this next photo and also grown from seed. I’ve never grown carrots before so not sure how they’ll turn out.

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Why does the Aberdeen city council think it’s acceptable for children to cycle in the bus lane?

This is the expectation on Union St because there is no cycle path. Children are wobbly on bicycles and do not always cycle in a straight line. Buses are huge compared to bicycles, especially children’s bicycles. Visibility is also poor for bus drivers. Children are slow cyclists and cannot keep up with traffic. Children on bicycles in the bus lane are a nuisance to bus drivers and are putting their own lives at risk.

We want to encourage children to ride their bicycles to address the obesity crisis, traffic congestion, pollution, and climate change, but the city council needs to give them road space away from cars, trucks, and buses.

Cycling infrastructure returns more to the community than it costs to build. A study commissioned by the City of Sydney found for each $1 that was spent on cycling infrastructure, $3.88 was returned to the community through improvements to health, pollution, and congestion –
https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2458-13-963

A University of Auckland study found the benefits of spending on cycling infrastructure were 10-25 times greater than the costs. – http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307250/

A recent Finnish study also found benefits outweighed costs even in the worst case scenario:
http://www.flanderstoday.eu/innovation/cycle-highways-pay-themselves-say-researchers

Compare this to building roads for cars and in all cases the costs outweigh the benefits.

For why building new roads is not cost effective see the theory of induced demand:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand

For something more academic try:
http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.447.73&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Sometimes adding additional roads to a network can impede the flow of traffic. See Braess’ paradox for more:
https://rachel.blog/2014/03/31/roads-traffic-and-braesss-paradox/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braess%27_paradox

If you live in Aberdeen please write to the city council and ask them to provide space away from traffic for children to ride their bikes.

Pedal on Parliament 2017 Aberdeen

Pedal on Parliament 2017 Aberdeen

We gathered on the Beach Esplanade at 11am this morning for the Aberdeen Pedal on Parliament ride. This is the third year running for Aberdeen and the sixth year for Pedal on Parliament in Scotland. We were an energetic, cheerful, and brave crowd hoping to convince the Aberdeen City Council to give some road space to cyclists in Aberdeen. It was nice to meet some kindred spirits and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I think there were around 80 of us which is a bit pathetic. Come on Aberdeen! You can do better than this! Judging by the Tweets I’ve seen the crowd in Edinburgh looked more impressive.

Before the ride:

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We cycled along the beach to Castlegate in the city centre.

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There were three cargo bikes. Those two fellows both have an Urban Arrow which is what I wished I’d bought instead of the Butchers and Bicycles. I’ve sold that bike now for a huge loss.

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Here’s the Aberdeen group, a great bunch of people:

The leader of the Aberdeen City Council, Jenny Laing, was there at Castlegate to greet us at the end. I had a satisfying rant to her about the lack of cycling infrastructure in Aberdeen and what’s needed; she listened and seemed to agree with everything I said. But this is typical of the city council: they listen and agree then do nothing.

Pedal on Parliament this year coincided with the marches for science, a worldwide initiative to support science and evidence-based policy making, both of which I fully support. There wasn’t a march in Aberdeen but I believe the Edinburgh march did not clash with Pedal on Parliament as they are at different times and I’m sure there were people going to both events since they have some shared goals. If government policy was evidence-based we’d have cycling infrastructure in Aberdeen.

Pedal on Parliament 2017

On the 22nd April mums, dads, sons, daughters, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, and friends will be cycling in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Inverness (Glasgow on the 23rd April) to urge our politicians to improve cycling infrastructure all over Scotland. That’s this coming Saturday! Tomorrow! We need as many people as possible to have the greatest impact so please join us.

The benefits of ditching the car in favour of the bike are so far-reaching we cannot let our politicians ignore them. A study published in the British Medical Journal yesterday found,

Cycle commuters had a 52% lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 40% lower risk of dying from cancer. They also had 46% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 45% lower risk of developing cancer at all.

Source: https://theconversation.com/cycling-to-work-major-new-study-suggests-health-benefits-are-staggering-76292

Cycling also makes you feel good, it reduces pollution and traffic congestion, it reduces our greenhouse gas emissions, it helps people to lose weight, and it’s fun. However very few people cycle to work, school, or the shops in Scotland because there’s nowhere to cycle unless they are prepared to brave the roads alongside cars, trucks and buses. We have to start allocating road space for cyclists and make our cities more pedestrian- and cycle-friendly. The only way this will happen is with pressure on politicians from us, the general public.

Spending money on cycling infrastructure returns more in benefits to the community than it costs to build. A study commissioned by the city of Sydney found that for each $1 that was spent on cycling infrastructure, $3.88 was returned to the community through improvements to health, pollution, and congestion.

A University of Auckland study found the benefits of spending on cycling infrastructure were 10-25 times greater than the costs.

A recent Finnish study also found benefits outweighed costs even in the worst case scenario.

If you want to participate you can find out when everyone is meeting and where at the following links:

Pedal on Parliament 
POP Edinburgh 
POP Glasgow 
POP Aberdeen
POP Inverness 

Making friends at school and cycling in the rain

Making friends at school and cycling in the rain

It’s tough when your kids don’t have any friends at school. That has been the case for Daniel until this year. He was put into the wrong year when we first arrived and was the youngest in his class both in age and maturity. The children were all nice to him but they didn’t view him as a peer. We pushed hard last year to have him repeat the year – there was resistance from the school because their philosophy is to teach to the individual rather than move individuals around to suit teachers. While I agree in principle, our concern was not so much with academic progress than with socialisation. Finally we got our way and he’s repeating primary 5 this year and made friends fairly quickly at the start of the school year.

A couple of weeks ago he got his very first birthday invitation for a party today at Laser Tag. We cycled there on Busby in the pouring rain. Here’s where car drivers get to look smug in their nice warm cars. I got absolutely soaked and discovered that my waterproof raincoat isn’t very waterproof.

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I was hot when I got there, thanks to the cycle ride, but after an hour of sitting indoors in wet clothing I started shivering and developing hyperthermia.

After laser tag they had a go on the climbing wall. Daniel did pretty well.

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When you cycle places it’s easier to stop and enjoy the surroundings which in this case was a marvellous display of daffodils on the banks of the River Dee.

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They beach is always nice to look at except for the oil tankers on the horizon.

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The view from the cycle path

The view from the cycle path

The other week I wrote about how the view on my ride to Newton Dee is different all the time. Today it looks like this.

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The cycle path had a thin coating of snow which made a nice crunching sound as I cycled along it.

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What do you think of my hat? I got it in Dublin about a year ago. The sunshade is just wide enough to shade my eyes from the sun.

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I feel very safe on Busby in the snow. Indeed I feel safer on Busby than in a car and probably go faster, as I’m sure my brother-in-law can attest (he was forced to follow behind me in the car one snowy day over Christmas and from what I gather only the local ants were going at a slower pace).

I got a new saddle for Busby about a month or so ago. It’s a Brooks Cambium C19 which is made from rubber and aluminium rather than leather.

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It looks really nice and suits Busby.

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It’s not a soft and cushiony seat but comfortable, nevertheless. I can tell the bones in my pelvis are taking the weight rather than my private bits and so I can recommend it. I haven’t gone any great distance on it yet – I’m a commuter cyclist and cycle every day but only short distances. The furthest I’ve gone is Newton Dee which is about 8-9 miles in total and it’s fine for this length of time. It’s definitely a huge improvement on the haemorrhoid seat.

Never put cyclists between parked cars and traffic

I was nearly doored this morning by a motorist opening her car door on us as I cycled passed. Fortunately I always take a wide berth around parked cars – for this very reason – and as it was the door missed the three of us by mere centimetres. It was a mother dropping her children off at school and she was very apologetic. She said she checked her mirror but didn’t see us.

Cyclists should never be put between parked cars and traffic. Not ever. Unfortunately this is common in Aberdeen. To reduce the risk I take a wide berth around parked cars but the problem with this is that we end up taking up a lot of space on the road – much more than we ought to. This means cars cannot easily overtake us and we’re slow. I could never go as fast as a car which means cars and buses stuck behind us have to drive very slowly.

I feel so frustrated that more isn’t being done to make it safe for cyclists. I want to reduce my carbon footprint. I want to make sure I exercise everyday and I’d love it if my kids could exercise everyday by cycling to and from school but it’s too dangerous right now. Getting regular exercise reduces the health burden on the NHS. It also reduces air pollution. Why is there such a barrier to doing the right thing? There’s no incentive not to drive and definitely no incentive to cycle.

 

Appreciating weather

Appreciating weather

I took this photo on my ride to Newton Dee today. I go to Newton Dee at least once a week, sometimes twice, if I’m lucky. The view is never the same. Sometimes it’s rainy, sometimes sunny, sometimes dark and gloomy, sometimes sparkly white with snow, sometimes frosty, sometimes clear blue skies, sometimes a mix of blue and grey, sometimes red and orange, sometimes there’s mist in the distant hills which is what I saw today. This is what I love about living in a temperate climate: the variability. People claim to love sunny, clear blue skies but when everyday is a sunny clear blue day it loses its appeal. I know because that’s what I had growing up in Brisbane with its merciless blue sky.

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Bobbin bikes

Bobbin bikes

Elizabeth took her new wheels for a spin today.

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She let me have a turn.

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Her new bike is a Bobbin bike and is exactly how a bike should be with mud- and chain guards, a step-through frame, and a basket on the front for carrying things. Without the mud guards she would end up with a black line of dirt and mud all the way up her back. Why would anyone want that? And yet most of the bikes you see in a bike shop today do not have mud guards. I am constantly bewildered by this. The basket provides a receptacle for carrying things – where can you put belongings without the basket? The step-through frame means she can go from walking to cycling and cycling to walking without having to stop the bike. It might be a little while before she’s capable of doing that but it’s something I value greatly on my Dutch bike. It makes cycling more efficient as it allows me to maintain the momentum. A chain guard is also essential as it protects your clothing.

It’s Veganuary. Go vegan for January! Five comedians say why you should give it a try in the video below. I can add one more good reason – you can stuff your face as much as you want and not get fat. It’s very hard to be overweight and vegan but you’ve got to make sure you stick with it and avoid dairy products like ice-cream, cream, cheese, and butter. Eat only vegan foods and you can eat as much as you want.

The photographer’s muse

One of my Aussie friends is a photographer and many years ago I was a muse of sorts for his art. Last week he was sorting through some photos and found some of these old ones. Here they are, photos taken of me in my home about 15 years ago. Stewart is very talented and I have high hopes of a making a cameo appearance in one of his films one day, preferably opposite Benedict Cumberbatch.

We’re back in Aberdeen and I’m a bit sick, having picked up a bug over Christmas, but it didn’t stop me cycling to Newton Dee yesterday. Here’s a pic of me from yesterday looking a bit more wrinkly than I was in the photos above but I would say I’m happier and more confident. Getting older and having frown lines is a positive thing.

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I dragged Grandad along for the ride and he seemed to enjoy it.

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Why do some people hate cyclists?

Why do some people hate cyclists?

After being the recipient of some verbal abuse recently I got to thinking about what it is that aggravates some people by the sight of cyclists. Why do people have such a passionate dislike of cyclists? To be clear, the cyclist-hating types are a minority and on the whole my experience of motorists here in Aberdeen lifts my heart – they overtake slowly and give us lots of space on the road. But critical thinking has been drummed into me from a young age and I will always do it, even though I’m not very good at it, so I can’t help but wonder about the minority and I have a couple of theories.

The people who hate cyclists usually justify their views by saying cyclists run red lights. It’s true that some cyclists go through red lights but some motorists also go through red lights and yet the same passionate dislike is not directed at all motorists. It’s likely that the percentage of cyclists who run red lights is higher than the percentage of motorists who do the same because there are more motorists and running red lights is more heavily policed for motorists. But it also carries a greater risk for cars since cars travel faster and they’re bigger and heavier and can cause more damage. Bicycles are lighter, there’s better visibility on a bike, and they’re more nimble. For these reasons I don’t think it’s rational to dislike all cyclists because some of them go through red lights.

Here are my theories:

  1. Seeing cyclists makes them feel guilty about sitting in a car and not getting the benefits of exercise while polluting the air at the same time.
  2. Sitting in traffic is stressful and when you’re stuck waiting in line it’s aggravating to see someone else come flying past straight to the front of the queue.

Perhaps the best way to counter this irrational dislike is to demonstrate that all of us are cyclists including our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, sons, and daughters.

Some cool things from the #cycling Twitter feed

 

Before I go to bed each night I read the #cycling Twitter feed. There’s some good stuff there. Here are some of the things I’ve seen recently.

I thought this was very funny: a car drove into a high-viz shop.

This is inspiring. There are 6 children on that bike! I thought I did well with two kids but this woman is definitely superwoman.

This is completely nuts and has to be seen to be believed. You’ll need to click the link to watch it.

This makes me so happy. It’s heart-warming to read news like this.

This makes me feel virtuous.

And this one was not in the cycling feed but astonishing and worth sharing.

Don’t swear at mothers cycling their kids to school

I was cycling my daughter to school this morning – she is only 6 years old – and a man in a van shouted at us, “You should have a fucking helmet on”.

I was wearing a helmet. I was wearing a Hövding which is the safest most effective helmet you can buy.

I understand that the man did not realise I was wearing a helmet but even if I wasn’t wearing a helmet, his accusation is unfounded and unkind, especially given it was within ear-shot of my 6-year-old daughter. Do people who think it’s acceptable to shout accusations about helmets at cyclists do the same to smokers? Or to people who don’t get any exercise? Or to heavy drinkers?

Life is about managing risks. A sedentary lifestyle carries a far greater health risk than not wearing a bicycle helmet. If people care about cyclists, and I’ll assume the man in the van was concerned about my well-being, then what would help us most is if they lobbied the council and government to build somewhere safe for us to cycle, so we don’t have to ride alongside vans, trucks, and buses. Off-road, dedicated, cycling infrastructure will have the biggest impact on our safety.

The safest place to be a cyclist is the Netherlands. Have a look at the following video of kids cycling to school in Assen. How many helmets can you see?

From: http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2016/09/video-roundup-children-cycling-to.html

Party preparations!

Party preparations!

We’re having a party this evening and I ordered Marks and Spencer catering which I collected this morning. The lady in M&S asked me how far away my car was parked and I had to explain that I would be taking it all on my bike. I think she thought I was nuts. But it all fits. Who needs a car?

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On the way to M&S I cycled through a slightly industrial area where fish is processed. Someone was out on the pavement squirting it with a hose and accidentally sprayed me with an arc of fish-perfumed water. Now I stink of fish. Nice. At least he said sorry.

The River Dee has ice in it. I’ve never seen ice in this part of the River Dee so close to the sea.

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The mighty bakfiets

The mighty bakfiets

I’ve started cycling Busby (bakfiets) again. I’ve had it with Harald (Butchers and Bicycles). We cycled to Newton Dee on Saturday and took both cargo bikes. The plan was the children could cycle themselves as far as possible and when they got tired we’d put their bikes in Busby and they could sit and ride in Harald. It was a bit of a disaster. Daniel complained the entire time about his uncomfortable seat. Elizabeth cried about having cold feet. And my arse is still sore thanks to the new haemorrhoid bike seat. I’ve since put my old uncomfortable seat back on Harald. Busby also had a problem with brakes but I’ve since managed to fix that. Oh and it also poured with rain.

I have now accepted that Harald was a waste of money. It’s particularly disappointing because the amount we spent on him is around the amount it would cost the four of us to fly home to see our families. Instead we got a bike that I find very uncomfortable to ride and not very suitable with heavy cargo in a city with hills. Anyone want to buy a second-hand Butchers and Bicycles trike? Going cheap 🙂

Busby the bakfiets on the other hand is a work of art. Despite having one less wheel I find him more stable and much easier to manoeuvre. The main problem is Busby is heavy, especially with a 9-year-old and 6-year-old (soon to be 10 and 7). When I first got Busby the kids were 6 and 4. I think what I should have done is add electric assist to Busby instead of getting a new bike. This is also very expensive to do however I’ve seen this new product called add-e. Has anyone had any experience with it?

If Aberdeen had cycling infrastructure my problem would be solved because the children could cycle themselves around instead of me having to take them. But there isn’t any cycling infrastructure and so they’d be cycling alongside cars, trucks, and buses which I don’t want.

I started a petition recently to get cycling infrastructure to and from the local primary school. If you live in Aberdeen please consider signing my petition:

https://www.change.org/p/keep-our-children-safe-3355ed9f-d327-4399-bb0e-7d58edf09e63

Daniel told me yesterday he finds Busby more comfortable to sit in. They have to sit on the floor of the box but I’ve put two pillows in there so it’s very soft. A nice man at the bike shop also gave me some fairy lights for Busby so now Busby has fairy lights too.

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Government loses fight to poison the people

I’ll acknowledge there’s a bit of click bait with my title but it’s not so far from the truth. Yesterday the high court ruled that the British government’s plans for tackling air pollution are so feeble they’re illegal. Air pollution from motor vehicles kills 50,000 people every year and the government is required under EU law to keep pollution within certain targets. If these targets are exceeded then they’re supposed to to do something about it as quickly as possible.

In 2015 Client Earth sued the government over the issue and won. In response the government produced a plan to tackle the problem only Client Earth said the plan was ineffective and took them to court a second time this year. The judge ruled in favour of Client Earth yesterday and the government must now produce a more effective plan to tackle the problem which is a good result for all of us.

While I’m really happy with the outcome I feel angry and disappointed that a charity had to sue the government just so the population can breath clean air. Why can’t the government do the right thing and address the problem without the need for all this time and money spent on legal fees? I would love it if people stopped driving cars when they don’t need to. I would love it if people bought electric cars instead. I would love it if people walked, cycled, or used public transport. But they don’t and they won’t unless the government steps in.

On other matters I was out on Busby today because Harald has a flat tyre. Harald has puncture-proof tyres but I cycled over a particularly long thorn yesterday. I was unlucky. However it was nice riding a bakfiets again. I’m getting good at switching between the two bikes. Previously it would take me about a week or two to get used to the steering on Busby because the front wheel is so far away from the handlebars but I have no problems now. I can go from one bike to the other and feel fairly comfortable almost right away. I am more comfortable on Busby but he’s such a heavy bike and I struggle with a full load on hills now.

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Busby has a chain guard which meant I could wear my lovely long tartan skirt and I got a couple of compliments about it from on my bike.

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