I should stop reading The Guardian becuase it turns me into a ranting stereotype.
Chris Evans mentioned this story yesterday on his breakfast show and said "maybe she shouldn't drive." Driving is a skill, it requires hand-eye co-ordination and a high level of mental processing and decision taking. Yet we persist in assuming that everyone can learn this skill. While agreeing that permiership football should be left to the experts.
Jessica Reed's take for The Guardian? Poor woman, give her a bye and let her on the road anyway.
Even though she doesn't know the rules of the road or how to spot a hazard.
ACEM, the European manufacturer's association, analysed accidents in depth for the MAIDS study and found the following:-
"The cause of the majority of PTW accidents collected in this study was found to be human error. The most frequent human error was a failure to see the PTW within the traffic environment, due to lack of driver attention, temporary view obstructions or the low conspicuity of the PTW."
They hit us becuase they don't see us. I think the hazard perception test - though not perfect - at least tries to educate drivers about the idea that traffic is a dynamic environment that they need to pay attention to.
I would like to offer kudos to my dad in this post. He's worried about his sight and he's going to get it checked to see if he needs to hand in his licence. Another member of my family - who is not getting kudos today - suggested that he was being overzealous in observing the law. I think he's being incredibly brave. The other reason we die - or lose the use of parts of our body - is that people who can't see well enough to drive any more persist in taking to the roads because they aren't willing to balance their need for mobility against the needs of other people not to be hit by half a ton of car driven by somebody who is technically blind. Respect to a man who has driven for over 50 years but is prepared to walk away from it to keep other people safe.
OK. Back to being cheerful.
Friday, 18 March 2011
I should stop reading The Guardian becuase it turns me into a ranting stereotype.
Wednesday, 16 March 2011
Two excellent days this week, and it’s not even Friday yet! I am shortly to rejoin the ranks of the gainfully employed (subject to passing some security checks, which makes me nervous even though I have no reason to be. A bit like walking past coppers carrying guns in Oxford Street) so am trying to make the most of my last few days of leisure.
On Tuesday the chance came up to go to the High Court (even typing that makes me nervous!) to see the second day of the appeal brought by No To Bike Parking Tax against Westminster City Council. I’m a latecomer to the campaign, because I worked for a body that didn’t want to get involved, though two of my absolutely favourite people in the lobby back it and that’s good enough for me. The veterans gathering on The Strand in cool hi-viz (a sentence you won’t normally see me type) would have had every right to tell me to sod off. But they didn’t, because they are bikers. They said, hello, and what do you ride, and we like your camera, and told me about freemasonry. And then they gave me stickers, and a seat in the court. I made myself useful by helping add up the length of bike parking provided in the borough, which helped the NTPBT QC point out that Westminster plan on the basis of 8 bikes in a bay, or 0.73m per bike. That’s about one of Ruby’s panniers.
People who think they know like to say that bikers aren’t political. I think Warren and the campaign have soundly disproved that. And they’ve done some incredibly creative stuff – I absolutely loved their V-for-Vendetta themed action.
Peaceful protest at its finest.
Today I have been polishing the Triumph. Those of you who know my previous position on bike cleaning may be wondering what has happened to the real Highwaylass and how to get her back from Guantanamo Bay. Orange really isn’t my colour. But the Triumph is up for its MOT and I’m thinking this year is going to be a bit of a retro riding year, for which shininess is a must. Am I sounding convincing? Actually I just don’t want Caz to tell me off again for having rusty spokes.
And while I was in the garage, cup of tea and headphones to hand, taking life one spoke at a time with rubber gloves and metal polish and wire wool, I thought that I wouldn’t have been able to do either of these things if I’d had to negotiate my time with someone else. There are downsides to being single. I have to make my own cups of tea, for starters. And I do miss having a warm body to fall asleep on on the sofa. But the quid pro quo is that if I fancy spending my evening on my knees in the garage eliminating that last speck of rust from my rims, rather than sitting in domestic bliss on that sofa, that’s absolutely fine. When I am an old woman I shall wear hi-viz, and a jacket that doesn’t go. And I shall spend my pension on petrol and summer gloves and Altberg boots, and say we’ve no money for jam.
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Well, it’s a girl’s prerogative to be late, isn’t it!
In 2009/2010 8.8% of new bikers were female. I’d like to tell you what proportion of the current number of licence holders that represented but the DfT doesn’t seem to think that’s worth publishing – though they are quite happy to tell me that 15.3 million women hold a car licence. (If you can find the info in these tables Please let me know!)
I’m in a tetchy mood about data because I’ve just done my census form, which asked how many cars and vans I had available to my household but displayed no interest at all in my beautiful collection of superior mechanical motivation.
You’d have thought, as a minority, that bikers would be of interest to government types...and of course lady bikers are a minority of a minority, which brings me back to where I’d intended to start this post...
Being a woman on a big bike is usually guaranteed to make me stand out in any given crowd of bikers. And if I’m honest – which is never an unconditionally good idea – I like the notoriety. In the same way that a fan of an obscure group can’t quite reconcile the opposing desires for them to be a success without having to share them with others, I am conflicted about increasing the number of lady riders to the point where we become unremarkable. I might become a small fish in a big pond!
But then I give myself a slap and say that riding motorcycles is one of the best things in the world and everyone who thinks they might like it should try it at least once. One of the joys of my plunge into the world of twitter has been getting to know a whole posse of lady riders, both here and in the US, from the fast and fearsome @MissBusa and coffee’n’customs connoisseur @FieryPinkGirl to two of he UK’s finest, @xemmasulway and @warriorwoman *
We are the minority of the minority. Which is nearly the same as being the best of the best ;)
I leave you with words from Theresa Wallach, who crossed the Sahara by sidecar and Panther, with Florence Blenkiron to do the spannering and the French Foreign Legion for entertainment. Before World War II she took a degree in engineering from University College London and rode in trials and at Brooklands . Her book, Easy Motorcycle Riding, was published in 1970 by the same company that produced Graham Hill’s Guide to Racing Cars. In it she says:
“You are on your own. You are not protected by two tons of steel, rubber, foam padding and safety glass. Neither are you steering two tons of guided missile toward other cars, people and property. If you are prepared to accept the responsibility of your own actions, then motorcycling can be both safe and thrilling. Riding is an art as well as a craft and no amount of explanation can take the place of experience.”
Here’s to all the artistes and craftswomen out there on two wheels – all 8.8% of us!
*other twitter friends – I love you too but there wasn’t room to put everyone in by name...
Posted by Highwaylass at 16:30 PERMALINK
Sunday, 6 March 2011
This year I am feeling a little retro. I think it is time to tackle the Round Britain Rally on my approaching-classic-status Triumph Adventurer, who will be 11 in May this year - do I only have two years left before it becomes a stroppy teenager, refusing to do what I ask and shrugging me off with a roll of the headlamps?
I am driven to this thought for two reasons. The first is that MOT time is here for the Triumph With No Name and I have a sinking feeling that we haven't actually turned a wheel since the last one, apart from up into and down out of Mel's van. Which is a terrible thing to do to a beautiful motorcycle.
The other reason is that Ruby is definitly having to go up for sale. If I get a half-decent price for her, I can pay half my tax bill. Needs must...
Friday, 4 March 2011
Moira Stewart, the woman with the best laugh in the world, says this morning that the Government is thinking of moving the May Bank Holiday - either to April, or to October when it will be called Trafalgar Day.
The unions say it's a slight on the workers and an excuse for unfettered celebration of capitalism. The government say it will boost tourism.
But there's a more important reason not to move my day off to October!
Like Goldilocks's porridge, a Bank Holiday in May is just right for riding. April is just a bit too soon and you can't count on the weather. And October? You must be joking. I do ride in October, but it needs careful preparation and a great deal of insulation.
And yes, that will be the content of my reply to the Government if they ever get round to publishing a consultation paper instead of just talking about it.
The full story, from the PA:
May Day bank holiday 'could move'
(UKPA) – Feb 5, 2011
The May Day bank holiday could be scrapped and replaced with a new holiday in the autumn, under plans being considered by the Government.
The possible move to an October bank holiday - potentially called UK Day or Trafalgar Day - follows calls from the tourism industry for a better spread of public holidays across the year.
But unions accused the Tories of attacking the celebration of international workers' day on May 1.
Government sources denied there was any political dimension to the proposal and stressed that it was subject to consultation. It will be contained in a forthcoming tourism strategy.
Tourism Minister John Penrose said: "Tourism businesses in the UK are brilliant at providing a quality experience for their customers all year round, but Government should play its part in helping them do so.
"An autumn bank holiday, possibly to be branded as a new UK Day, would not only help the industry but also give us all a new focus for celebrating the best of what this country does, and all the things that make us a world-class nation.
"But before we try to take this further, it's really important that everyone has a chance to consider it properly.
"If people decide they'd rather hang on to the May Day holiday, then so be it, but we ought to consider the options in a sensible way before the country reaches a collective decision."
Any change would not take place before 2013. There are additional bank holidays this year and next year to celebrate the royal wedding and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee respectively.
The Government is studying the move because the Easter holidays can fall very close to the May Day bank holiday, while an autumn holiday - during the half-term break - would help promote the tourism industry in the later part of the year.
Copyright © 2011 The Press Association. All rights reserved.
Thursday, 3 March 2011
Two posts on one day! Inconceivable. But my friends with children have all made massive efforts to create costumes and "authentic Roman packed lunches." I don't have any children but I do have a *lot* of books. Which is why I had to give the 2 Polish guys who moved me into storage and out of storage into my house a rather large tip. Twice.
Anyway, because, as with children, dogs and motorcycles it would be invidious to pick a favourite, I have used a careful scientific formula and picked a book at random. And then another one because it wanted to be mentioned.
So my randomly chosen book for World Book Day is: Back on the Road, by Che Guevara. "Indispensable to get inside the iron-willed personality that Ernesto Guevara de la Derna successfully forged for himself with the written word as his constant accomplice." [ISBN 1-86046-848-9]
I'm sure, like Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, everyone has their own idea of who or what Che was. For me, he was a man who never asked someone else to do something that he wouldn't do himself. He was a man who questioned every assumption he grew up with. He was a traveller who wanted to see for himself how other people lived in Latin America. He was a man whose friends cherished him, which means he was doing something right. And, above all else, he was a great writer.
Another reason I love this book is for its foreword by Alberto Granado - the other one in the Motorcycle Diaries. Alberto wrote his own journal of his travels with Che, which is rather more fun to read and contains a lot of the more light-hearted moments that went into the movie.
Alberto finishes his introduction by considering why Che wrote so little about his first meeting with Fidel Castro. "Would I be wrong in thinking that as he wrote about it he was paraphrasing for himself the words of the Master, Jose Marti: Some things must be left in silence." Which I need to remember for myself, in a world where it's so tempting to share every passing thought in 140 characters or less just so that I can be sure I'm still alive.
The other book that fell into my hand as I passed the shelves was "Poetry to heal your blues." My blues are at last wearing off, but there is always room for a poem.
by Adrienne Rich
You're wondering if I'm lonely:
OK then, yes, I'm lonely
as a plane rides lonely and level
on its radio beam, aiming
across the Rockies
for the blue-strung aisles
of an airfield on the ocean.
You want to ask, am I lonely?
Well, of course, lonely
as a woman driving across country
day after day, leaving behind
mile after mile
little towns she might have stopped
and lived and died in, lonely
If I'm lonely
it must be the loneliness
of waking first, of breathing
dawns' first cold breath on the city
of being the one awake
in a house wrapped in sleep
If I'm lonely
it's with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore
in the last red light of the year
that knows what it is, that knows it's neither
ice nor mud nor winter light
but wood, with a gift for burning
When it comes to the Round Britain Rally I am not famous for my stability. Ruby is prone to flinging herself at tents, other bikes, and most recently a neighbour’s caravan, which was innocently parked and minding its own business when she wantonly pressed herself against it.
Since my first rally in 2003 I’ve had five addresses, including a temporary stint at the Polar Bear Training Dojo, four jobs and three surnames.
Two different partners have come to the Annual Dinner with me. Twice I had to cancel because I couldn’t guarantee that there wouldn’t be a domestic over the coffee and mints, which rather disturbs the digestion of everyone else round the table.
All this change is rather exhausting.
But sometimes change is for the better. For as long as I’ve been going, the Annual Dinner has been at the Manor Hotel Meriden, though JD and others recall an earlier venue with happiness, I think mainly because of the size of the puddings. General belt-tightening and the feeling that the Manor was a little too corporate led Dave the D on the search for a new venue: and he picked a winner.
In autumn the RBR Camping Section meet at Conkers for the adjudication weekend-cum-massive barbeque. Conkers has a Camping and Caravan Club Site, a Youth Hostel (of the new, shiny hotel-style), and a Forest Discovery Centre. Which is available for functions. So Dave booked it. The RBR likes Conkers, Conkers likes the RBR but no-one likes the Youth Hostel, which is why I was camping. In February.
I say camping...wallowing might be a better word. The site was a bit anxious about the state of their grass, and as the site manager’s boots sank into the squelch, I understood why. But I am rarely daunted, so Paul put the kettle on, Jim supervised and I got the tipi up while only covering most of my jeans, my boots and the sleeping bag in pale beige mud. Ci, Jim’s new Jack Russell, enjoyed helping.
The plan had been to walk to the Forest Hall but Jacki and Phil offered to drive, and it would have been rude not to accept ;)
Some things change, some things stay the same. Dave the D’s children get a bit taller each year, there are a few more auction lots (including the RNLI flag which we were given by the crew at the Lizard to take round all the other stations), and Rufus gets a fancier outfit, but the main business of chat and catching up continues unamended. This year I thought I would innovate by wearing a dress, though some are disputing whether there was enough of it to count as such, and by wearing heels, though Miz felt the fact I was carrying my army boots in lieu of a handbag rather spoilt the effect.
The food was fabulous – especially the apple pie. JD wanted two helpings and Paul narrowly avoided having none, being away from the table when the waitress came round to ask “custard or ice cream?” “Say ‘A bit of both’ next time,” he advised. Which I think is a rule that could apply to many of life’s decisions.
And no-one is saying that RBR'ers are competitive but as soon as it became known that there were helter-skelters in the centre there was a rush to become the first All-Rounder. An honour which I think was nabbed by JD...
Graham has studied the map and persuaded me that I can do 2/3 of the Air Ambulance run and still put in my 2 days at Cadwell Park for Hopp Rider Training, so that’s the new plan for May. I was gutted when the date was moved because I was so looking forward to doing this run for the first time without having to worry about whether I was going to be dumped when I got home.
Some changes are for the better!
Archimedes didn’t just need a lever to change the world. He also demanded a strong place to stand. This year I am finally standing on my own two feet – but I’ve still got the stabilizers on. When Ruby has a wobble, my RBR friends help pick her up. And it’s the same for me. See you all at the A.R.S.E!!