Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Wednesday 30th June 10 Towards CarFree Cities IX Conference, day three

Up early again, and set off on the bike at 8.40 in order to get to Priory Street for 9am when the conference was due to resume.

The day started with a way of working called an Open Space, which I think originated within the Transition movement.

Anna Semlyen was the convener of this morning's Open Space, and she started us off with a poem she wrote.

She sent it to me:

Cutting Car Use

I want to cut car use
But what’s the use?
People love mobility and personal facility
As expressed by their motor
They don’t even need a coat or comfortable shoes
If they’ve a car they can abuse

Problems abound with getting around
Like personal safety
And nearly everyone seems hasty
Yet a slower pace brings a human face
And life’s not a race
In any case not driving is living
It’s giving time and space to every place

Painless ways around this maze
Include travelling less
That’s what’s best

Re-education, reorientation of mindsets
Is what lets us improve accessibility
But not remove personal mobility

More buses and trams
Won’t get rid of the jams on their own
Why not work at home?
Use lift share, delivery, increased flexibility?
An attitude change
Be prepared to rearrange
Schedules to timetables
If we’re to be able to stabilise emissions
And raise human conditions
In a world full of problems
Like dwindling petroleum

There are solutions to cars and pollution
If drivers would just think
Traffic really would shrink
Cars and their misuse
Are hearts and minds issues

Anna Semlyen

Open Space working was explained, including 'the law of two feet' which is that if your feet are in the ring of chairs, you can contribute, but if you want to move somewhere else, to a different discussion, you can take yourself there.

Firstly, individuals thought of a topic they'd be happy to have discussed, and wrote it on a post-it note, and then these were put on a table all together. We were told we had got 3 votes, and could place them where we wanted, on any of the suggested topics, put on with a 'five bar gate' method, to make counting easier. There were 6 top scorers but only 5 discussion groups so we had a vote to remove one topic, a simple majority by show of hands. Then people went to the circle of chairs which was discussing the subject they were interested in.
I attended one which was looking at developing a 'carfree association', a voice or representation for people who choose to live without a car. We heard from Dr Beat von Scarpatetti who has been central in the Club der Autofreien in der Schweiz (Swiss Carfree Club or 'CAS') and how that organisation came about.
They started in 2004 and approached two existing organisations, one called the Swiss Green Traffic Association (VCS) (click here for Google's translate this page service) and the more anarchic and militant Umverkehr which translates as 'reduce the traffic by 50%'. (click here to use google translate) This latter group gave CAS some money for setting up a website and for postage, etc. They now have 1300 members.

We debated whether a UK version could do something similar.

Then Joerg Schweizer presented a fascinating topic of Personal Rapid Transit, the future public transport for car free cities?
The problem... a big proportion of the population will not cycle. So what can technology do to help solve this? We need something which can compete with the car but is sustainable
Something Comfortable and easy to use, available at any time, a good image, universally accessible, short door to door travel time.
A particular problem is 'trip chaining' with transfers increasing journey time. Walking has no wait time, the bike a short time to get it out of the garage, car ditto, but the bus you might have to wait for quite a while.
Bikes fast and cheap for less than 5km but issues of luggage and weather.
We need a mode with the characteristics of no interference with existing modes and relatively cheap.
So, examples include:ULTra, rubber tyres on concrete (at Heathrow), 2getthere in Masdar City
and vectus. All these are light, small, 3 to 6 passengers, all electric. The stations are off the main route. A vending machine enables you to communicate your destination, then communicate to the vehicle using a smart card in a swipe slot. Then you press 'start' and away you go!
So, similar to the car in as much as it is private, on demand.
It is better: faster than a car in urban areas, smooth, jerk-free, quiet (or favourite music!), moving office, punctual, no congestion, safer, no parking space to find, can take bike on board, can make a roof over a bike lane in cities, accessible to all who cannot or should not drive! Also, it's NEW!
It could be described as worse than the private car: not door-to-door, no ownership, no personalisation, no complete control (but driver can exit at the next station with one press of a button).
Guideways are small as vehicles are lightweight ie static load 400kg/m, minimum curve radius less than 10m, with a cross section 1m2, so easy to route through the city... smaller than a bus lane, can be above ground level, can run into buildings such as a shopping centre or underground. The carrying capacity for ULTra is currently 600 veh/hr but could double (Vectus), and if you decrease the headway (time distance between two passing vehicles), could be 4000 up to 9000 an hour ie cabintaxi or an Automated Highway System, which might employ 'moving block' conditions.

Power needed 3 to 10 kW (3kW is a kettle, a Toyota Prius has a 33kW electric motor and a 52kW petrol engine)

Investment costs 6 to 14 million euro per double track per km, including 20 vehicles and 2 stations, with 1 to 5 euro charged per vehicle journey, but obviously these costs are very variable.
This system can also transport freight during night, palletised.
Masdar is planning a 60kn PRT network with 106 stations and freight with 2getthere
600 vehicles/h, 40kmh following a virtual track (magnets set in the roadway), using batteries which are recharged off peak or during the night
However, the city is surrounded by park and ride sites, and the daytime pop doubles.
There are problems, partly the whole city project is very expensive and it may be shelved

Citywide PRT in eu cities
Problems and solutions: Remove other modes such as cars and buses, just nice environment for pedestrians and cyclists. Stations have a visual impact. Higher capacities needed if entire motorised traffic shifts to PRT.
Blending into existing cities... above ground level, below with 2.3 m cut and cover trench needed

PRT attracts car lovers!
Complementary to walking and cycling.
Currently not suitable for entire city networks but could be introduced bit by bit.
Small companies cannot afford to introduce it large scale.
PRT network at Heathrow to be opened to all and then extended to a business and hotel area.

Vicki Hill, Sustrans "We Love Our Bikes Getting Children out of Cars and Onto Bikes - For Life!"
The Bike It project - getting children cycling.
We have to get rid if cars.
The quickest way is to get children to cycle, they grow up as cyclists and bring up their children as cyclists.
Sustrans is very political, meeting with ministers and headteachers.
What do they do?
Active Travel (bike hire for students, etc)
National Cycle Network 386 million journeys 120000 miles, volunteers keeping it tidy and clean
Cycling must be enjoyable, so sculptures and art on the network etc
Although global environment is important, Sustrans concentrates on local especially near schools

One of the ways that can be used to show how much pollution is caused by car journeys, and therefore prevented by cycling, is by using balloons. Vicki gives a class of 30 an ordinary balloon each, and asks them to inflate them but just hold them up in the air and not tie them up. She then says that a one and a half mile car journey emits about 60 or 70 balloons worth of carbon dioxide, ie twice what the class is holding up in the air. She then asks them to let them go (fun, 30 balloons shooting all over the place!) This is a very visual way of showing this, and children are often very upset by all this pollution.

Obesity is a massive problem, cycling one way to increase activity levels.
Sustrans also does DIY Streets, Safe Routes to Schools, Safe Routes to Stations just being developed, Personal Travel Plans and helps with School Travel Plans.
1% or 2% children cycle to school... easy to improve and can bring it up in certain schools to 60 or 70%.
Bike It was born out of Safe Routes To School, began in 2004 with 4 officers, now 60 officers, supported by the cycle industry (1penny per bike sold), Lottery, PCTs, LAs and others
700 schools a year approx, but got to keep going with the school year after year. They work with approximately 140000 kids/year.

A school with a good School Travel Plan gets given money from the LA, which can be used to build a bike shelter so, before Bike It, one school had 20 bikes, but after the intervention, now 120 pupils, 25 staff, 3 new bike sheds... you now stand out if you don't cycle... peer pressure.
The Virtual Bike Race concept allows competition with school against school! Very popular.
Some schools have banned kids from cycling in... this is illegal, and sometimes just saying that they could cycle in results in a massive 'modal change'.
Art is really important, such as murals, bike tread marks.
99% of head teachers recommend Bike It.
Kids who cycle to school have higher esteem, and weirdly, are have better results in Science!Attendance levels increase when the Bike It officer is in
'Wall of Fame'... names and pics of kids cycling in, taken down if not cycling in.
Decorating the shelter results in less vandalism.
Stickers and 'snap bands' (bike clips) very popular.
'Beauty and the Bike' is a Sustrans Project, (nothing to do with the film!) started in York with Lush... pink slap bands, pink reflective hi viz, with 'Babe On Board' on the back, vastly increases cycling amongst girls.
No one disagrees with the Bike It concept, press and politicians love it.

Cycling opens up loads of extras... children get a better idea of where they live, distances, etc etc

An excellent case study is Dringhouses Primary School in York, when in 2003 Catherine Heinemeyer did a school travel plan, mainly working just with the children and taking their views. A popular opinion was to have no cars in the streets surrounding the school. So, the headteacher, the wonderful Mrs Julia Elliott, tackled the parents face to face, and arranged with local pub car park a 'park and stride' idea. There was hostility and rebellion, but perseverance worked, and now if a parent parks their car at the school gates, the other parents deal with the problem!
Mrs Elliott organised a walking/cycling card, filled in daily, which rewarded with prizes
Vicki arrived in May 04 and was one of the first six Sustrans officers. She worked with Mrs Elliott and they did a huge number of promotions, projects and activities.
Children who cycled in got a raffle ticket, two if bring a parent! The prize was to win a bike.
Fancy Dress Mum and Bike competition, Most Rubbish Bike competition, Bike it Breakfast, Police Security Tagging, Cycling Paramedics, Poetry competition with the winning haiku going up on a plaque next to the bike sheds.
Cycling related activities fit in with the curriculum.
After school bike maintenance classes, the kids love doing it and the older ones enjoy showing the younger ones what to do. It has even been known for a child to deliberately puncture their tyre just to show how easy it was to repair!
Cycle with Santa... one teacher in the school has a white beard, and towards Christmas, there is a school cycle to the nearby shopping centre which is on the Sustrans network.
Staff are invited to take part in a Choc Challenge, as teachers are models for the kids behaviour, staff can win a bike if they cycle in regularly. Teachers can be shown how to use panniers as previously they said that they needed a car to bring all the books in and out of the school, which of course is not true.
Their School Travel Plan is still being updated, and last year they had a 'Biking Viking' cycle trip and this year, 'Roaming Romans'.
The results are that now 88% not coming by car, 22% cycling.

Bike It is working with 12 schools in York.
Initially, they meet the Head. This will give them a good idea of the general attitude to cycling.
The first contact with the children is an assembly with a dramatic visualisation of how recently we have released all this oil and pollution. A toilet roll is fully unrolled and held around the perimeter of the hall, to represent Earth's time in existence. Vicki pulls a hair from her head and puts this right at end of the long line of paper, this hair represents when oil was taken out of the Earth and burned, increasing the CO2 levels dramatically.
A Bike It Crew is chosen, 4 enthusiastic volunteers. They run lots of the activities.
In the winter, they have a Light and Bright assembly, with everybody wearing hi viz and reflective gear and the lights are turned off and a torch shone around to show the reflective bits.
The City of York Council offers Bikeability levels 1 to 3.
Dr Bike comes into the school, and stunt bikes in playground as reward, bike rides and much much more!

I asked about anything which hadn't worked, and it was just one thing:
Cycle Trains... similar to a walking bus... usually dwindles away after first enthusiasm, as mostly relies on volunteer parent.
Someone else asked about whether the children cycle on the road or pavement, and the answer is absolutely clear, Bike It trainers do not like children cycling on pavements.

I asked about longitudinal studies, does this positive bike behaviour continue into adulthood?
Vicki said there were another couple of years before the first Bike It children to reach 18, and then Sustrans would like to see if the cycling behaviour continues.

We then did a quick workshop... plan an event to encourage children to cycle.
Group A went for a bling my bike, slow cycling competition, who gets to school quickest with different modes, Dr Bike, bike generator, DIY Streets for kids event.
We, group B decided to tack our event onto an existing event, and chose Anna's 'Eco Family Day': Sat 9th Oct, at St Lawrences Family Centre, Nappochino, toy freecycle, composting, bike generator Scalextrix, and much much more!

Steve Melia Carfree UK
CarFree UK has to date mainly been a small group of specialists working at policy level, dialogue with T4L, DoT etc.
noticed that there is no organisation which represents the 25% of people who are carfree,
but it has been done in Switzerland.

The aim of such a group would be to be consulted to give the other side of the argument to all the pro car stuff, and to provide information about living carfree.
Facebook group already up.
Could be a social group like Green Drinks, maybe link it to Transition, other local groups.
For people who live without cars
Promote carfree living
Expose barriers, ie conferences held in inaccessible places, health authorities building new hospitals with only car access etc.
Promoting motor traffic removal from cities.
There are risks, such as a local group being 'ruled' by a dominant person, or a renegade with views which don't chime with the views of the group.
Discussion about structure... or no structure
Discussion about who might do the local group work.

This was the end of the conference day for me and I was again exhausted so I packed up and cycled home.

I spent a half hour outside after tea, dealing with some compostables, and then came in and did all these notes. Bed after 2am.

The evening was punctuated by a knock on the door... a delivery man with a fairly large box and on the ground in front of him, a window-box sized planter with quite a few herb plants in. The box contained a clock/thermometer suitable for outside, and there was a get well card from Rory, my Canadian 'Novaterium' partner. He'd found Wilberfoss Nurseries and ordered these gifts for me. I was left speechless. Thank you Rory, you succeeded where most others have failed!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Tuesday 29th June 10 Towards CarFree Cities IX Conference, day two

Up at 8.30, in order to phone assorted people who need to know about my reduced ability, and I offered to do mostly balloons but not my full Circus Show. Most people seemed sympathetic about my situation.

I set off for the conference sometime after 9am, and got there at 9.40. I'd missed the address from Andrew Waller, the Leader of the Council, and unfortunately most of the presentation from Barbara Schmuki with A History of the Pedestrian: 'The Quick and The Dead'. So my notes begin with the questions that were being asked following her talk.

Were there any pedestrian groups mobilising to present their cause?
The Pedestrian Association (now Living Streets) was founded in 1929, but never had really enough members to have mass rallies etc.
Pedestrian planning started in the 1970s, but is most advanced today in places like the Netherlands.
Reinstatement of speed limits for motor vehicles... cars are being sold which are capable of 100mph, which means that technically they are not fit for purpose, as the speed limit in the UK is 70mph.
Measuring pedestrians difficult, quite often missed and therefore underestimated.
The numbers of pedestrian deaths are going down but this may be linked to reduced numbers of pedestrians, plus drink-drive laws being introduced.
Is part of the problem that road designers tend not to be pedestrians?

Joel Crawford, author of Carfree Cities and Carfree Design Manual, also
A Vision of Carfree Cities for the 21st Century
It is only a century since all cities were carfree, so what is proposed is not such a radical idea, especially in relation to current ecological issues and the economic climate.
Carfree cities would improve social cohesion.
Masdar in Abu Dhabi, being built now, will be carfree.
Existing cities will need decades of work, but full of problems.
Compact cities, less energy used, no emissions, although we'll still need electricity. Safety and noise will improve.
Beauty... maybe as an abstract object, the car could be beautiful, but a street minus all the accouterments of the car culture can only be more attractive.
Cities in history...Romans mentioned problems of freight.
Railroads noisy to start off with but now quieter.
Past 100 years the car has come to rule.
Jane Jacobs managed to save many parts of New York City from being bulldozed.
Kids on bikes a good yardstick to a safe area!
Small areas easy to make carfree, but as those areas get larger, this becomes more difficult. (BUT, Cuba went almost carfree overnight, so under duress, it is possible!)

Crawford's design of a new city of 1 million people, looks like a flower with 81 districts all 12000 pop within 5 minutes of the transport hub in the centre.
Every family has own house, backing onto a courtyard.
Narrow streets. Light rail. Metro Areas for utility.
Freight distribution from ends of petals, coming in by rail, road and water, then distributed using cycles and walking.
At the first Towards Carfree Cities conference in Lyon, Crawford developed a 'Lyon Protocol' a future Lyon.
It is really important to look after the needs of freight, deliveries... might be that in existing cities, truck deliveries are between certain hours.
Wireless light rail system.
Crawford's view of York is that buses should be out of the centre, keep them going in a ring outside the walls and then a 'jitney' or running board system to enable people to get into the retail area.
Zoning really important. Green spaces really important.
Would result in spaces far better to live in, far more sustainable, but it will take a while!

Has Crawford considered congestion charging? Yes and is not really wildly in favour.
With the centralised capitalist society be compatible with this type of development? He hadn't considered this in detail.
Will Peak oil force us into changing? How much of the world are we willing to wreck to keep our cars going?
Would living in high rise flats be better? Probably not as living high rise have historically got social problems.

Then it was one of my favourite presenters, John Whitelegg, Professor of Sustainable Transport, Professor of Sustainable Development, Green Party Councillor in Lancaster etc etc and his presentation was called, cryptically, 'Buttering Parsnips'. This is based on an old saying 'fine words butter no parsnips'.
His talks are always choc full of humour and he started by explaining the title of his talk and demonstrating the concept with an anecdote about a planned bypass labelled as 'sustainable' as it has a bicycle path next to it!
Lots of fine words, fine documents ie PPG13 Transport which contains the description 'to reduce the need to travel'.
Westbury Bypass trying to be justified using PPG13
He showed us slides of 'crap cycle lanes'.
Deregulation/privatisation of bus services been disastrous
Comparing Basle and Nottingham, with such different modes of travel.
Cycle counters on the side of cycle paths in the Netherlands.
Bikes can go on the front of Canberra buses.
Space should be reallocated in a similar way to other resources, ie more fairly shared out. Cars are big when they just contain one person and this is an unfiar share of space.
Action: change economics, speeds, minds of politicians, the politicians, the long march through the institutions...(ie the British Standards Institution)
Motoring costs have not risen but income has , bus and rail fares have.
Transport is subsidised, but car transport is subsidised far more (including all the costs) than any other mode.
So many worthy documents say to reduce speeds but still we have high speed limits in cities and urban areas.
York would be great if it were car free within the city walls... so many arguments for this.
SEI Transport Low Carbon Plan to be published in the end of July... easily accomplished! Sydney's 'No Excuse Zone' 750000 people live within this (cycling).
See Paul Hawken's Blessed Unrest might be the answer... TAKE ACTION!
Not a 'French Revolution', but putting up own 20mph signs, prevent bypasses being built, anti war in Vietnam demos etc.. Civil disobedience and NVDA works!

Definitions of traffic and sustainable travel... we need to call it 'motor traffic free areas' as pedestrians and cyclists are also traffic. Also, sustainable travel should be renamed low carbon travel as 'sustainability' is overused.
Should looking again at the scale of many things help forward our debate... what are people in York consuming, how much of this can be sourced more locally? Well, yes, the aim IS to have a lower consuming society, with more local goods and services replacing ones from further afield.
Talking about the 'destruction of capitalism' is not a constructive and helpful way of dealing with things! It doesn't go down well with people who have built their whole lives on the back of it...

What about the drug dealers? The underground economy in a car free cities... Well, one theory which drives drug use is unhappiness and maybe in a car free city there would be a better standard of living and increased happiness, so perhaps reduced drug use? It s unreasonable to think that sustainable transport will cure all society's ills. How much is the car involved in criminality? A study was done on lorries (sponsored by a trades union) which found that all lorries broke the law every day. Also that a new motorway opened up a rural area to criminals from Liverpool, so cars are also implicated in crime.
We currently have the possibility of a global economic collapse. Therefore anything which might reduce government revenues could be seen as bad, and anything which increases revenue could be seen as good. So how about a carbon tax? This raises the concept of how we value time, lives etc. So fuel use (which raises funds with taxes) is seen as good when appraising projects.
How do we get rid of the view that the CarFree movement is self serving for Guardian readers? We need to talk the same language as the rest of them, so for instance, data needs to be collected about how an increase in cycling has a positive impact on the revenues on bars and restaurants.
Deliveries... how can this be facilitated? Warehouse near motorway junction, with lorries visiting, and then smaller vehicles using a 'postal' system with one courier delivering to several different destinations (load consolidation outside the cities) Who pays for this change is the more difficult question.
We need to concentrate on 'Resilience' and the current system is incredibly non-resilient ie Hospitals can survive for just 3 days without fuel, drug deliveries, etc etc,
Accessibility issues... in a car free city the public transport would be level access for wheelchair users etc, and roads would be clearer for ambulances and taxis etc. A car free city wouldn't add to the number of disabled people... 3000 people a day killed globally on roads, but many many injured too.
Disabled people might still be able to use their own private transport. Some people depend on local personal services such as the local post office. A car free city wouldn't have 'food deserts' and would be well peppered with local services.
Is the planning structure partly at fault? For instance, people in Sweden recognise that climate change is happening, yet they are planning more motorways. Maybe this is because there is a time lag between understanding and policy. Maybe it is a problem with lack of 'joined up thinking' or integration.
What policy would be best to put into a 2011 manifesto to increase votes and work to the agenda of climate change, unhealthy cities etc? Perhaps put a stop on roadbuilding. Label the air quality problem as a REAL health issue, the fatalities on the roads as a REAL health issue. 'Disappearing Traffic' study in West of England has shown that traffic from a closed road does not reallocate to other roads, it does just disappear.

Lunch was good!

Stephen Stradling: The Psychology of car dependence
In Paris on a conference about electric French, clean cars 'le voiture propre'
The most important thing about cars is the psychology connected to them. The word 'automobile' is a stroke of genius, as it promises independence, autonomy.
Will technology save us, will the market provide?
Definition of driving includes the functional activity but also an expressive activity, involves spontaneity 'I could jump into the car if I wanted to'.
Despite the average car being stationary most of the time. Driving projects an image, give a feeling of power, being in control, makes me look like an adult.
Different drivers exhibit different attitudes to their car/driving: attachment to their car
Die-hard drivers 25% 'Clarksons'
Car Complacents have no strong like or dislike, the car is just part of their life.
Malcontented Motorists don't enjoy driving any more (and may be ready for change?)
Aspiring Environmentalists: use other modes but still use their car for some trips

Only 19% of drivers say they admit to speeding, so the argument that 'all drivers break the speed limit' is rubbish.
The vast majority of all groups 'enjoy travelling in their car' BUT half of drivers are already cutting car use.
People are very adaptable but very resistant to change
Car drivers may be seen as villains but they see themselves as victims... they may be ready for help!

Karen Sandqvist
People love cars but hate traffic, repelled by asphalt.
Cars have some good and a much bigger sphere of bad influence
There is an initial Romantic stage of car use (US 1900-1940) dreams of cars, then a Transitional phase (cars a necessary evil)
The appeal of cars: dominance and power, sensation of speed, 'freedom', comfort and protection, convenient, status and identity.
This last thing can change such as the status of smoking, used to be hip, now a bad habit.
Freedom concept... romantic adventure, reaching any place, getting away from cars and asphalt 'into the country, into nature', everyday mobility, getting away from social control. (ie taking your sweetheart out in the car).
Unfreedom: stuck in traffic, no entrance, no turning, no stopping, no drinking, no sleeping!Everyday life without the car/car for special occasions.

Gary Haq: Perception, Attitudes and Behaviour, the York Intelligent Travel Project, 5000 individuals in the City, in collaboration with CoYC, and a bus company, and a large employer who offered phones to do the survey
There was a perception amongst those who wanted to change 'we just haven't got around to it yet'.
The public transport system perceived to be old, despite it having been recently renewed.
Free 6 month bus pass offered as a thank you for taking part. Potential cyclists were given a map, pedestrians a pedometer.
6 months later there was a change in behaviour, but a year after that, the majority had reverted back to their old behaviour.
So behavioural change is OK but it is attitude change which is more important.
Change has to be easy and cheap! Report published (I think, still trying to find it!).

Has anyone looked at car dependence and replacing it with our need to belong to a social group, by maybe having wifi access on public transport?
Liz Apt, Australian invented Personal Journey Planning, she succeeded because she was dynamic and enthusiastic
Social Norms and deviant behaviour re smoking can we move this to driving?... it has worked with seatbelts and drinking, will it work with the 'drive 5 miles less' message?
How to change social norms? Celebrity?

Discussion hosted by Anna Semlyen, author of Cutting Your Car Use
Normalising low carbon lifestyles is something I like to think is a positive thing. Loads of people are feeling guilty about their car behaviour, guilt might be a way of getting some people to change. Actually guilt is just one reason to why you need to change (it makes you feel bad) and the other side is to know how to change.
Teleconferencing is an alternative for academics to avoid travelling, works in some situations but not many at the moment.
How do we deal with people who have not got a car but want one? It really revolves around the quality, cost and reliability of public transport.
Car sharing... more attractive to call it 'offer a seat' in your car. A positive message.

Psychology of Car Dependence: Strategies to Overcome It!
Mind Shift Mode Shift: A Lifestyle Approach to Reducing Car Ownership and Use, Using Behavioural Economics Stephen Young, University of Brighton Business School
He is a senior telecom expert with a special interest in ICT and climate change, as well as his travel and behavioural economics
the four wheel detox
We are the early adopters... we are 'not normal', the normal people are not in the room!
He gave up his car because of Margaret Thatcher and her comment about the great car economy. Owning a car means you are £1000s worse off, more likely to be overweight, more likely to die or be injured in a car crash, breathes more pollution, etc etc
SO, the 4 wheel detox:
Traditional economics has some 'tablets of stone', assumptions
Behavioural economics combines psychology and economics, acknowledges that we behave irrationally, make mistakes etc
People have both situations going on
Compared Spock with Homer Simpson, rational with realistic/emotional
Reframe- how does your car ownership/use affect YOU, your health, time, wealth etc
His website has quotes from 'cool' people who are carfree eg Dave Gorman, Alistair McGowan, Adam Hart-Davis and others.
How are questions framed (should we join the Euro or should we abolish the Pound?)
Change the default position, so make the norm not owning a car.
Salience.. something you notice, it stands out ie the media focusing on a rail ticket which cost £1000 (however, less salient was the news that this ticket was then withdrawn as it became known that an all stations month rover was just £600, apparently)
But when you own a car, the costs are not salient, 'direct debits are semi-invisible'.
Loss aversion... people hate things being taken away from them, so 'carfree' indicates cars being removed.
We are bad at judging risks... after 9/11 more people died than in the planes that hit the Twin Towers as people shifted their mode to cars... Cars are far more dangerous than air travel, and the increase in car use raised the numbers who were killed.
Social Marketing a key area.(Viv Case)
'My time is so valuable that I choose not to drive myself around', 'I'd rather be working/reading/relaxing'

Oyster cards make paying for public transport invisible, thus more popular
Smart Card from Netherlands which enables the user to get on the tram, bus or hire a bike.
When are we most vulnerable to giving up our car? Some people move in and out of car ownership.
US ZipCar on campus gets students to become a member of ZipCar which is a habit might translate into them not becoming car owners, and be low car users (with occasional hire car use).
Youth discounts on public transport could help young people to get the bus habit.
Free is a positive adjective but carfree isn't positive... loss aversion.
We need a better term for carfree... but what?
So, if car use is an addiction how do we do the CBT to move people on... 12 point plan?, your GP? Detox? Make it a lifestyle choice, cf Carbon Detox
How can we give alternatives to cars? We could offer carfree streets as sociable areas, ie places to meet neighbours, and this is really valued, it is seen as a privilege. see Freiburg as an example.
Should sociologists be employed to see if we can achieve behavioural change?
Renting a car is easier if you live near the place where the car is... so, near the airport, it's easy
Home deliveries might help.
Need info for tourists about public transport and taxi services, not just parking and directions to places by the private car.

I came home and had a bit to eat and jumped on the bike again to go back to town.

The film night was at City Screen and was sponsored by my favourite bike shop Cycle Heaven. At 8pm I met up with a new friend Catherine whom I've met through a website called Freeconomy, and whilst I was waiting for her in the foyer I met a nice Cycle Heaven person and others, and then a foraging/abundance friend Clare, who didn't need a lot of persuasion to come to see the CarFree films.

The films started with Das Rad, a German animation about the 'experiences' of two piles of rocks as time goes by and 'civilisation' comes and goes. Very clever.
Then, from the Darlington Media Group, an edited version of a brilliant film called Beauty and the Bike, about a group of British teenage girls being introduced to lovely Dutch bikes and 'discovering' the joys of cycling, then visiting Bremen and meeting up with some local girls and experiencing the much more cycle friendly roads (and cycle paths) there. The German teenagers get a shock when they visit Darlington. This film moved me to tears. I want to see the full 55 minute version. (8 minute version)
Then there was Park(ing) Day from New York, about a day where a whole load of car parking places were made into something else, from parks to art spaces.
Paris Skates was very surprising, 5000 in-line skaters regularly taking over Paris streets on a Friday night, and up to 15000 of them on Sundays for a Rollerblade Parade. It looked like loads of fun!
The next up was a trailer for a film called Auto Mat and it looked quite shocking.
Many of the films were from Street Films which is an excellent resource for inspiration and entertainment. (tbc)

Monday, 28 June 2010

Monday 28th June 10 Towards CarFree Cities IX Conference, day one

Yesterday I privately planned to go on my bike to today's conference, despite assorted people saying 'that broken ankle will surely stop you cycling' and 'make sure you do nothing for a week' and similar opinions. Gill suggested that I go on the No.10 bus, but I knew that this choice would involve a walk with crutches from home to the bus stop, only 3 minutes walk away, but a 5 min walk at the other end from the Bar Convent... and I've found walking with the crutches very difficult. If I cycled, I would have a 30 second walk to the garage and a 30 second walk at Priory St. I feel more at home on my bicycle than any other form of transport, so it was a no brainer.

I took my laptop in the pannier as I'd planned to take a few notes at the conference and then put them into this blog when back at home in the evening. My crutches went into my trailer. I found cycling in a plaster cast not too difficult, and I just had really slow acceleration as I usually push off with my right foot and I didn't use this much at all, just letting my left do all the work and letting the right follow it round.

I got to the Priory St Centre really easily and crutched my way in, registration was outside with Ivana, and I was happy to pick up a goodly pile of Carbusters magazines.

So, I got myself settled in the Denham Room for the morning's presentations. Here follow my impressions of the presentations. I may have made mistakes or missed stuff, but it's an overview, the best I could do.

Beyond the Car - Streets as Places with David Murphy and Daniel Mourek from the Czech Environmental Partnership.
People were asked to introduce themselves, and where they are from...which included Australia, Oregon USA, Mexico, Brazil, Vienna Austria, S. Africa, Switzerland, California USA, Croatia, Oxford UK, Lancaster UK, Italy, Sweden, Sydney Australia, Germany, Belgium and others.

There are several regional programmes, including Greenways, which are corridors for non-motorised transport. But, people are the real capital, despite the Czech Environmental Partnership being a grant making organisation.
History... Central and Eastern European Greenways Program, started in 1996.
Aiming to reduce exclusion, Sustainable Cities....What are the preconditions for a Sustainable City? Some degree of democracy, 'Social, Environmental and Social Justice', and some other factors... much of the World is just emerging into this, or is weak, or these are not present.
Over 70% of people in Central and Eastern Europe live in cities. Many of these countries are big exporters of cars, but also massive producer of bikes!
Very high fatality rates on the roads, especially Poland and Czechoslovakia.
So what makes a great street? People first, recreation, safety, farmers markets with connections to the countryside. A community designed around cars and traffic results in cars and traffic. Land use planning and traffic engineering closely interconnected.
Small scale solutions for neighbourhoods, needs a paradigm shift.
Cars, seen as fast, are actually slow in cities. Bikes, seen as slow, are actually quicker in cities...

'Mental Speed Bumps' was mentioned as a resource.

Streets themselves can be destinations, should be connected to the nearby land use. Street life is at 'ground floor level'. Amenities should be for all people... such as benches to sit on. But the responsibility shouldn't be just with the local authority, it needs local input. Streets should be able to have a change of use, such a Paris Beaches, Broadway petanque. Seasonal use.
The street is the only place where you can meet all other groups in society

Other projects:Mobility Plan Manuals; Clustering; Safe Routes to School (based on Sustrans) cylobus; Traffic Calming; competitions to choose diverse methods which work.
Small steps make a difference!

Richard Smith, Living Streets (used to be the Pedestrian's Association) based in Newcastle.
Putting People First! Safe, attractive enjoyable streets where people want to live, shop, enjoy life, play, relax.
Walking is really important... health, social, getting places, available to all.
Living Streets is mentioned in the Department for Transport's Manual For Streets
Important issues: Clean and well maintained, attractive design, well lit and safe, local amenities within walking distance.
Fitter for Walking Projects (Doncaster/Rotherham, many other places) - local residents can nominate themselves to participate.
How to achieve? Engage with communities, suporting tools and actions, community street audit, Fitter for Walking Standard, walking map, 'walk doctors', Step Up (secondary school programme) Station Travel Plans, Joining up with employers and of course Celebrate success!

The next presentation was DIY Streets- creating people friendly streets, affordably, facilitated by Katherine Rooney and Liz Smith from Sustrans
Sustrans has had quite a bit of success, such as a street in Bristol which was redesigned by the residents
Used straw bales to test the new layout.
Clapton Terrace Hackney, used to be a 'rat run', with wheelie bins on pavements, is now a shared surface with communal bins;
Elacombe Rd Torquay, created a chicane which slows the traffic, one way system;
Beechcroft Rd Oxford, currently in process of calming this street with just £7k... however, has needed 18 months negotiating with LA to put planters on the road!

Then it was time for the workshop! Street design toolkits... a 'street in a box'
Workshops in groups... our group found it difficult to agree because at least one person wanted to do away with all parking entirely. I, (and maybe others?) thought this was a bit unrealistic, and we spent the whole 10 minutes 'discussing' how to deal with the differing needs of car owners, disabled people etc, and we didn't come up with a street layout.
The groups then moved onto different tables and thought about and discussed how their own scenario might fit the next table's road layout. I stayed with our unresolved street and it was singled out as being the most realistic by the leaders of the workshop which I was pleased with.
Other groups had decided to do away with parking, or made it underground. Most groups had dealt with speeding traffic as it is relatively easy to deal with using 'gates' at the end, obstructions such as trees, planters, nips and chicanes. As this was a fantasy scenario, some groups did what they'd REALLY like to do in real life, which is to ban all or most motorised traffic. So, play areas were popular, trees, social spaces. There was mention of trying to persuade people to car share, although the person who offered this idea said it was a 'pipedream'.
In real life, the process usually starts with a strong existing community, and planning starts with a 'DIY street in a box' workshop very similar to what we had just done. Sustrans is usually invited in by residents involved in, for instance, Transition Towns. Getting people to the meeting involves offering food and childcare, and sometimes closing the street and having a street party. It's good to have professionals there who know about the placement of the sub-soil services/utilities, and who knew about the results of closing a street on the surrounding roads. The process is not quick, sometimes several years.

Someone mentioned the Future Cities Game.

LUNCH was very nice!

After lunch in the main hall... a welcome from Randall, who introduced the rest of the team: Richard Lane, Ivana Jacobkova, Simon Field, Anzir Boodoo.
Activities later in the conference to include: cycling tour of York on Wednesday, a boat trip on Wednesday evening, two excursions, one for a meal, one with music and bar, National Railway Museum visit, Visualising a Car Free Quarter (in a park)
Then, from the World Carefree Network, Cigdem Cevrim announced next year's conference which is to be in Mexico.
Then Steve Melia, from CarFreeUK told us a little bit about this organisation, which started in 2005. He suggested that there needs to be an organisation to represent people who live without cars! There is an 'Activists Meeting', on Wednesday which will hopefully launch this.

Cycling City York with Graham Titchener, the Programme Manager.
Intro to York... very flat... but this results in flooding.
Pop 193000
105 square miles
160km cycle routes
The aim of the Cycling City York Programme is to encourage more people to cycle, safely.
There is a priority of works:
Soft measures (social change) (lowest cost)
Improvements to infrastructure (higher cost)
New Infrastructure (highest cost)
The main audience is lapsed cyclists, ie 32% of respondents in questionnaire (2008) This questionnaire showed that 57% already cycled, 11% never cycled and 32 % used to cycle but don't now...
Barriers to cycling: weather, health, safety, dark, lack of confidence, lack of awareness of routes, increased speed of journey
Working with Nestle, 15% more people cycling
Accurate statistics for people cycling and walking in UK difficult to get,but, from the 2001 census, 13% cycle to work, 7% cycle to school, and overall 13 to 15% cycle. This is now likely to be a bit higher.
Wanting to achieve 25% increase in cycling levels, 100% increase in children cycling to school, 10% increase in cycling to work.
Current work, Orbital Route (includes the Clifton Green, a junction where two car-lanes have been reduced to one for motor vehicles and one for cycles)
Major infrastructure, minor infrastructure, work place initiatives (can be the most impact) Schools, Participation initiatives (such as bike purchases through work, and loans from North Yorkshire Credit Union) events, marketing and communications. Disabled cycle riding, over 50s rides, Parent/Carer cycle route, guided rides, cycle maintenance, cycle try out sessions, competitions, police liaison such as stopping light jumping, pavement riding, riding with no lights ie antisocial behaviour, disrespect on the roads. (this has been with motorists too)
Looking ahead, LTP3, LDF vision, CCAAP and foot streets review.
Business advisory service.

Graham spoke very quickly and at times must have lost some of the visitors for whom English is a second language, as I didn't catch everything he said. He did pack in a lot of information though, in a fairly short time.

Then there was much discussion about dangerous/antisocial driving and cycling, and how to deal with it.!

Next up was my friend Gary Haq, from the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York.He presented information on a project he's working on, called Tackling Transport in Africa, the TEST Network (Transport and Environmental Science Technology)
SEI is the leader of the partnership of Southern African countries: South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania.
Driving Forces: economic growth, urbanisation.
Pressure: motor vehicles, poor air quality.
State: air quality, crashes, congestion.
Impact: ill health, death and injury, ecosystem.
Response: better infrastructure, public transport, regulation, management, enforcement.

Africa's population and economic growth growing faster than many other places, and often their cities exceed WHO guidelines for air pollution.
Motor traffic is a serious source of air pollution, and growing rapidly. Africa's growth is faster than what many places experienced in the previous century.
So the aim of the network is to share knowledge
Road Safety In the EU, 17 people die per 100,000 due to roads (I think these are the figures), but in Africa, 28 per 100,000
Cause, human error, speed, vehicle maintenance, infrastructure.
Congestion is a problem too for several reasons.
Research into what the levels of the problems are, sharing this knowledge ie best practice case studies, training programmes and seminars, scientific publishing coming soon!

The discussion commenced: someone suggested looking up the African Bicycle Network and comments included learning from OUR mistakes so African development doesn't repeat our path (should that be road?)

Then it was Bernie Cullen, the Director and Project Manager from Bikerescue in York, which is a Community Interest Company which began in August 2006
Bernie is qualified as a bike mechanic, and a founder member of Cycleworks, a bike shop Cooperative on Lawrence St. Then she met Andy Scaife who was wanting to rescue bikes and send them to Africa.
She showed us photos of 'Art Bikes' and told us that the project had rescued about 4,500 bikes in 3 years.
Bernie is keen on 'being the change you wish to see in the World' so she is especially keen to work with girls to get them skilled in bike maintenance, but she's also proud to work with lots of volunteers, in fact the project couldn't work without them, stripping bikes down for refurbishment.
They had grant of £2500 to buy tools and a bit of money from Cycling City York, plus specific funding for things like training for girls.
They now collect bikes from all over Yorkshire, but want to set up more local initiatives, such as in East Yorkshire.
Also in the future there will be a 'hub station' (ex electricity sub station in the centre of York) with 100 secure cycle spaces, cafe, showers, lockers, repairs, community repair workshop, bike hire... starting work on the building starts next week! (to open in 5 months, hopefully!)
Bernie would also like to do something on the lines of 'Fix my street' website so a forum or portal at the hubstation for cyclists to communicate with planners.
Also, apprentice training scheme to teach people to become mechanics.
Although the project is called 'recycling', it is in fact repair and reuse, which is better than recycling. They currently sell 20 bikes a week and had a turnover of £100,000 last year.

Then there was discussion, which included talk about the culture of buying new but poor quality and inappropriate bikes (such as off road bikes which children are expected to cycle to school on, with big fat tyres slowing them down, or jump bikes which break when used for jumps.
There was a question about the other bike shops attitude to Bikerescue. They do work with other cycle shops to take their unwanted throw outs... but there is one bike shop (part of a chain) which won't work with them and cuts their old waste frames in half to prevent reuse.

Re-Cycle sends bikes to Africa.

The next presentation was 'The arguments against car use and how to win them!' with Simon Field.
Common pro-car myths number one: car use is good for the economy with fuel tax, building roads boosts productivity, more traffic means more wealth
Reappraise road schemes to include external costs
Traffic is an effect of economic growth not a cause
Time is conserved not saved.
Roads do not reduce traffic, see the Newbury and their Bypass... traffic levels now higher in the town AND on the bypass!
Pedestrianisation is successful... more footfall in pedestrianised streets and more spending in shops (20 case studies in Britain and Germany)

Myth two: there is no alternative to the car... too far to walk/cycle, public transport poor.
Responses: 25% of car trips under 2 miles 60% under 5 miles, yet a car or van is used for 21% of trips under 1 mile!
German data: people often overestimate public transport costs by 21% and journey time by 45%

Myth three: it's what we want/the people want
Responses: people actually want access to jobs, goods, recreation, so the private car is a derived demand.
Lobbying for high quality alternatives
Where choice, people respond positively such as pedestrianisation

Greenwashing: for instance, 'green/low carbon/zero emissions cars'
We must consider net emissions, not just tailpipe emissions;
is there enough renewable generation capacity for the national /global fleet;
land take, visual intrusion, tyre noise, human error/accidents ALL THE SAME (in fact quiet cars might increase accidents so there's even been talk of giving them noise generators!)
Target group: public
demonstrating public interest in car restraint
carfree UK's carfree associations
How? develop vision
promotion through media, newspapers etc
study tours (ie Friebourg)
innovative urban transport planning such as certain towns in the Netherlands
cartoons and films, humour

reaching people who matter... politicians and economists and planners
making the subject 'sexy'... how to do this?

Next was Mari Jussi from Estonia (SEI Tallinn and FoE Estonia)
No country, nation or city is lost to car culture, it is a matter of choice.
Tallinn's modal split is 26% car, 41% public transport, 30% Walking, 3% bike. 50% households own a car. Cycling is increasing.
See Freiburg for a good example, car use has reduced. Stockholm has also shown decreased car use, and public transport and cycling has increased.
Predict and provide for cycle use... for instance, 200 cycle spaces provided at the Song Fest 09, but 600 turned up... a surprise!
Find bad examples of transport issues from your city, ie pedestrians not provided for.
There is scepticism about the causes of climate change so these may not be used by planners.
Joel Crawford designed a carfree city based on walking and cycling and public transport... Kulli

Then it was Milan Boric from the Yugo Cycling Campaign in Belgrade:
Cannot recommend public transport in his country, as dirty and polluting!
Many people afraid of cycling in traffic.
Pedestrian crossings only allow 10 seconds to cross, not enough

Matt Wilson Bicycology UK
Our political and economic situation (capitalism) is not amenable to our arguments.

Questions/discussions: Use the peak oil argument (although some people still think there is a technological 'fix' to this!)
'Choice' hard to take that away? How do we argue against that?We need to offer the eco-option as a real reason, and keep it appealing and exciting, not a doom and gloom.
Certain ethnic communities in Leicester are pro cycling and walking, for health/obesity reasons. But in Lancaster, the same modes are popular for eco reasons. In Leeds, the reasons are different again.
Reframe the question 'How do we best use our collective power to push for change?' What argument convinces people best?
25% of households in UK live without cars. Who is offering them choice? Who is giving them a voice? Who is the 'Jeremy Clarkson' of the non car-using percentage of the population? Need to develop a grouping for this.
Another issue is that walking and cycling doesn't bring in any income for governments, so there is not a lot of immediate financial reasons to reduce parking, car use etc.
Disasters and horrors like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Canadian Tar Sands do tend to play into our court, but we need to encourage people to make the link between their use of oil and these events.
'Public transport' is not really that... it is now privately owned. So the aim is to make profit for the shareholders NOT to provide a service
Why is public transport not free? It can be financed in other ways than from fares (apparently)...and privatised bus services are still subsidised by the LAs and some of the costs to the company/local authority are in fact all the ticketing stuff.
The argument that there is a 'right' to use a car is similar to the American 'right' to bear arms, which here in the UK, we deem too dangerous to allow.
The current system, based on increasing economic growth year on year is one of the reasons we are in the current mess. However, with spending cuts due, some of our arguments may be better received as they require no capital expenditure.
The UK was facing fines for air pollution in many cities, but recently the EU has backed off and is only getting shirty about the Heathrow area pollution.
The UK's road building programme collapsed following a significant uprising from people opposed to the continued building of new roads... so one way to change the situation might be direct action.

It was now 5.30pm and people fairly quickly dispersed, and I was tired too so I put my crutches in the trailer and cycled home. But I popped in to Country Fresh and they offered me a sack of biodegradable resources, and as I cannot now deal with these at home so easily, I went to St Nicks to add to their composting system. And I got home after 6pm. I spent a short while dealing with emails and relaxing with Scrabble on facebook, and then worked through my notes from the conference and put my blog together. I hope it is interesting and useful to delegates who didn't see the presentations I did, to refresh memories for those who saw the same ones as me, to provide easy links to websites, and to open up the conference content to anyone who's interested.

Bed shortly before 2am.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Sunday 27th June 10

Slept well and then in the morning had to decide what to do about my ankle. I rang NHS Direct and they assessed my situation and suggested that it was just a sprain and did not advise me to go to Accident and Emergency. But, a facebook friend Graeme advised me that it wouldn't do any harm to get a second opinion... as he'd been diagnosed with a sprain but later, following an X-ray, it was re-diagnosed as a break. Gill also was keen for me to get an expert opinion.

So, I had an early lunch and then got bus times, and walked slowly round to the No.6 bus on Tang Hall Lane, which goes into town and then back out, past the Hospital on Wigginton Road. I got in there before 1pm and was 'triaged' by 1.15. Then there was a two hour wait and I was prodded and told that I need to see a more highly qualified practitioner, and a nurse called Simon called me back in 10 minutes later. He asked questions whilst prodding and said I needed an X-ray.

I hobbled down to the X-ray department and had two taken; a new system with the image recorded electronically and sent wirelessly to the computer system, where the image can be brought up on any screen. Ten minutes later I saw one of these images, and it was plainly obvious that I had broken a bone. Simon told me that it was the ankle-end of the fibula, a fracture called an avulsion fracture, which is when the ligaments and tendons pull off a bit of bone. This would explain the audible noise I heard.

So, he offered me a cast, although it wasn't strictly necessary, the ankle heals more quickly with a plaster cast, so he took me to the plaster casting room and put one on me. This was interesting and we chatted about stoves (he has one too!) and funerals. He reckoned that the way to deal with the problem of using up space in graveyards was to replace horizontal burials with a vertical auger hole grave. The pot he put on is a temporary cast; just a week, to be replaced in 8 days time with a weight-bearing one, in a colour of my choice! In the meantime, I had to use crutches.... a first for me, and remarkably difficult, especially in the sweltering heat.

I managed to get to the bus stop without falling over but not without plenty of grunting and puffing.

When the bus came 15 minutes later, I asked the driver if I might change from the number 6 to the number 10 at Rougier Street, and he gave me a ticket to enable me to do this. I got off at Rougier St and went up to the No.10 stand... the next one was 50 minutes away, so I went back to the No.6, which would get me fairly near to home sooner, but with a longer walk than the No.10. It was a tough walk, but I saw one of my neighbours, a gentleman who has had his leg amputated, who was washing his car, and I stopped and chatted to him and sat on his wall for a few minutes.

So, home to put my leg up and to try to reduce the swelling. A sedentary evening.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Saturday 26th June 10, Sheffield Green Fair

Up early as I needed to be out of the house at 9am, to get on the 9.28 to Sheffield so I could be in good time for the start of the Sheffield Green Fair at St Mary's, a church more or less in the middle of Sheffield. I left the house feeling low as there was grumpiness and rudeness all around, but the ride to the station and then nearly an hour of reading NewScientist cheered me up, and by the time I got to the venue, I was happy. I expect this is partly because I love what I do, and this is one of the best gigs of the year; I'm amongst friends and people who share similar political views to me.

I got changed and was ready to roll before 11, which is when it officially opened. I was pleased to see my sister Anna on the Sheffield Freegle stall (very similar to Freecycle) and Douglas, who was as usual, looking dapper and lovely with a well-trimmed beard. I did some unicycling round, but the ground is pretty uneven and I came off a couple of times. I suppose this ought to have been a bit of a warning... because at about 12.30, I had just done a unicycle round the site and I arrived back at my performance area, which is right next to the church and is flagged with gravestones and they are sloping and not very even. I hopped off but somehow I went over on my ankle, there was an audible crack and searing pain. I fell on the ground and within about 5 seconds I was experiencing the most excruciating pain I've had for a long time, if not ever. I felt myself beginning to slip out of consciousness with it... everything started going white and I went dizzy, and had to go and sit down, then lie down on some table-like gravestones where people had been sitting watching me. Some people came to my aid, including a first aid person who I think was a Doctor... she prodded my ankle a bit and decided that I probably hadn't broken it, 'just' sprained. The loud crack would have been a tendon snapping.

I've done this twice before, same ankle. The first time was in Devonshire Green in Sheffield, about 10 years ago, and I, yes, hopped off my unicycle and misjudged the landing and went over on it. I was convinced that I'd broken it. I went to Sheffield hospital where X rays showed my Navicular bone was in two pieces, so they put it in a cast, gave me the X-ray images and sent me back to York, saying to present myself to York hospital on the Monday. The surgeon there took one look at my foot and the X-rays and told me I had an 'accessory Navicular', not a fracture, and the pot was cut off. My sprained ankle slowly got better. The next time, I was in Bradford and walking along to a Permaculture place, and I slipped off the kerb and turned my ankle, and fell into the road. So I have a known weakness there.

So, I was given ice in paper towels and someone gave me paracetamol and Ibuprofen, and a few minutes later I went inside out of the sun and had some lunch with Anna my sister and Ali and her daughter. After this, I decided that I ought to continue working to the best of my ability so I got a chair and blew up some balloons, stuck them in my uni spokes and before long had kids all around clamouring for balloon models. I did this for an hour and then my friend Tannis turned up. She's from Canada and she found me through my blog, she was interested in the composting, and some of the community development that I do. So we'd chatted on facebook and I was glad to meet her. We went for a coffee, and then it was time for me to prepare for my Balloon Workshop by blowing up a whole wheel full of modelling balloons. That show was at 4pm and it went really well.

I went to get paid after this, and as I hobbled back, I turned on my ankle again.... more uneven ground and a yelp of pain. But I was determined not to let this stop me doing what I'd planned, which was to walk back to the station and have a drink with Tannis, so we did walk, very slowly, to the station, where we met Andy (Sheffield World Naked Bike Ride) and Keith, and we all four had a really nice hour and a half, pint and a half, chat and a half.... mainly suggesting places that Tannis should not miss visiting whilst in the UK.

But towards 8pm I had to peel off and go and get the train home, and I found cycling not a problem, so was home at about 9pm. Gill gave me a bag of frozen peas to put onto the affected area to help reduce the swelling, but said that I really ought to go and get it X-rayed. But Graeme off facebook reminded me that casualty on Saturday night should be avoided, and a Sunday morning trip would be more sensible.

So I sat and enjoyed Glastonbury on BBC3 and put my foot up to help the swelling go down. The bruise is beginning to show, it looks disgusting.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Friday 25th June 10

Another good day... Up early enough to help the kids get out of the house peacefully and then persuaded Gill to spend some time with me which was really nice.

Later, we were downstairs and we had the conservatory door open and we heard a pretty distinctive noise, so we looked outside and yes, it was a thrush breaking a snail shell on the path, to get a bit of escargot lunch.... that's a first right outside the back door. Over the past few weeks, we've had a family of blackbirds coming into the conservatory through one of the top-light windows, which have been wide open... and they've been eating assorted fruit which I've brought back to the house for drying. The first one to come in was a young one with a big bald patch on it's back and a lump on the side of it's beak, and it has brought the rest of the family with it, so we've had up to 4 in there at once! The nicest thing is, that one of them sits and sings loudly in there! We feel so lucky with our wildlife-friendly garden.

After lunch I decided to go to Country Fresh to get fruit and veg... but as I'd be halfway to Cycle Heaven, and I was rung up about them having a leather saddle with springs in the shop for me, I decided to go and get that, as my plastic saddle has begun to seriously fall to bits. The busy people at Cycle Heaven couldn't find the black Brooks saddle mentioned in the phone call... but found me a brown one which was old stock and therefore cheaper! Yay! Still expensive though, but it ought to last for years. I was told that it might be uncomfortable at first as it moulded to my shape, but it wasn't, it was fine. I'm very pleased with it.

I did some work in the garden, assorted compost-based stuff, until 3 when Gill went to school, and I got ready to go to St Nicks for a meeting with John and Edward to catch up with the progress of rehabilitating me into York Rotters, as the current situation is still causing me anguish. Yesterday I attended a private meeting with a friend and two of his neighbours, but was told beforehand that I wasn't allowed to be a volunteer Rotter, but to go as 'John the Composter', because I am currently banned from doing the core Rotters work of giving home composting information to groups as I upset a couple of people at a stall we had late last year with my over enthusiastic and inappropriate humour. It is important that York Rotters is seen to be a professional group offering mainstream messages, and talk of compost toilets or composting funerals is strictly a no no. So today was an update on where St Nicks had got to in helping me back into the role I'm really good at, and due to some staff changes, they haven't got very far in finding me a 'buddy', but they have set a date for some 'diversity training' which will help people understand about disabilities including Aspergers, which should be interesting. Also, the Rotters newsletter has got a section 'meet the Rotter', a chance for people to introduce themselves, a mini autobiography . I've submitted mine and I sincerely hope they will print it word for word, as I was very careful to put stuff in which will help people understand my, ahem, 'special needs'! There was also a suggestion that I should perhaps concentrate on my (paid) John the Composter work, rather than the voluntary York Rotters role. However, Edward saw how passionate I was about the group and the work we do, and how proud I was about how successful it is, and he made it clear that he could tell how much I really love York Rotters, which I hope helps the other managers and volunteers welcome me back soon.

I added a small sack of goodies to the public composting area, which hasn't had any deliveries of sawdust from the pet shop for a while, which is a pity, and cycled home. I then spent a good two hours dealing with an old heap which has had 'visitors' and I bagged up all the mature compost and will rebuild the structure in a way to make said visitations much more difficult, ie on a pallet with a solid base, and up on top of another pallet to make lodging underneath less attractive.

I came in after 7pm for tomato soup. Then went and spent an hour doing Ben and Jill's compost bin, scooping stuff out from the base and putting it through the rotasieve, removing uncompostable 'contraries' and putting uncomposted sticks and bits of Yellow Pages back in the top. I'll get paid in Yorkys for that, which is nice.

I spent most of the rest of the evening with Glastonbury Festival on BBC2, and it brought back really good (albeit hazy) memories of 10 Glastos I attended or worked at when I was younger. Those were the daze!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Thursday 24th June 10

Up early enough to see the boys off, despite being out and about at 2am, on a mission to rescue logs from a bonfire pile on a building site. I've now taken all that I can take from there, and fully expect to see the rest of the stuff go up in smoke quite soon. The logs that I rescued I split and stacked, I think there's between 300 and 400 kg that I got from this place over the past few nights. That's a good week's winter heating, at least.

I decided to check with Catherine the York Rotters project manager about the current thinking about composting in blocks of flats, since a friend who lives in a block wants to compost and some of the neighbours do too. I confirmed what I thought, that there are a series of Environment Agency forms to fill in if they decide to have a communal compost heap or wormery, but if they do it unofficially then they'll just have to keep quiet about it and get on and do it without the authorities getting involved. Catherine reminded me that I'm currently not allowed to address public meetings as a York Rotter, because of my Aspergers and the twitchyness of the Council, York Rotters' funder, being worried that I might mention compost toilets or other 'horrific and wayward' composting subjects. So I told Catherine (and later, John from St Nicks too) that it wasn't a public meeting. However, they were still unhappy about my going as a volunteer Rotter, wearing my York Rotters tee shirt. Whilst stacking logs I had a wild thought that if they want me to go as John the Composter, which is my business, that as the 'client' isn't paying (they are expecting a volunteer Rotter) then I should invoice York Rotters... but of course I won't do that. But I am angry that I'm still being prevented from doing what I love. I do hope we resolve this soon.

Gill went to her birthday lunch with Melody, Natalie and Alison. I worked outside and came in over lunch, watched some Wimbledon tennis stuff. I heard someone with a chainsaw nearby so I went to say hello, and was promised some apple and pear logs to pick up later.

I did a bit of log stacking in the afternoon, but to do this I needed to clear up a lot of aluminium cans which I've collected over the past months. So I had a stamp-fest and filled a sack with them, and then I stacked the very dry logs from the building site. Gill came back at about 3 and I went to school to pick up our youngest... he walked some of the way home and had a lift on the pannier rack for the rest.

Our eldest went down the garden at about 6pm and came back in excited, as he'd had a close encounter with a 'bird of prey', and he gave us a quite detailed description, it was grey and had a stripe on the underside of the tail. This only matched a Honey Buzzard, in the assorted books we have... but I wonder how likely that is?

I enjoyed tea... some burgers made of rice from yesterday, along with pan-fried new potatoes and some asparagus, Gill's favourite birthday vegetable.

But then at 6.45 I set out to go and visit a friend called Owen, who lives in a flat in a block of six. He wants to do some composting, and had asked for a York Rotters visit, to which I'd agreed. I went to his flat and two other residents came to join the discussion. Earlier, I was asked/told to not go as a York Rotter but to go as John the Composter. But this turned out quite lucky really as if I'd been with my 'official' tee shirt on, I'd have had to give them advice about Community Composting and the dreadful Animal By-Products Regulations, but as I was 'just John' I was able to give them two options.

So, there are no regulations at all about what a householder can home compost in their own garden or property. BUT, if you have more than one household contributing to a compost heap, or in a communal garden, then officially, this is known as Community Composting and the ABPR comes into play. This means that any food waste which has come into contact with processed food, or dairy, or meat/fish must not be composted on an open heap or in a dalek... it has to go into an 'in vessel' system where the temperatures are controlled and measured, and any Community Compost set-up needs a licence from the Environment Agency.

So my talk explained what composting was, and how to get the best results, and why it was good... and then the choice: for one of the residents to set up a compost bin or two, and for it to be used by that person and others, if they wished, without the owners explicit knowledge (!) and not have any of the red tape, or to contact the authorities and get the permissions and get assistance from York Rotters (although probably not me). I explained about Bokashi and wormeries and tumblers. We looked at the potential positions for the bin/s and then I left them to decide what their approach would be. My guess is that a simple dalek system will be used and it will be unofficial, without the ridiculous rules and regulations. 40 minutes later I was cycling home, and I picked up the apple and pear logs which were promised earlier.

Later on, Gill and I had a game of Scrabble on a board, but it was an awful, low scoring game which I won.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Wednesday 23rd June 10

Another reasonably productive day, and a definite highlight at the end.

So, a slow start to the day... bits of washing up and stuff around the house, Gill went out to get a pre-birthday hair do, and came back looking even more lovely than she usually does.

In the afternoon, I took a shopping list to Country Fresh, picked up a couple of sacks of goodies, then went to Alligator and did the same. Round to Cycle Heaven to find out if the saddle I'd ordered was in yet, and weirdly the order had been cancelled. When I got in, I think I found out why... they did have one in. I'll pop in sometime and have it fitted.

From here I cycled along the West bank of the river and then crossed at Lendal Bridge to go and visit my dentist, as I was wondering when my next appointment was. I got a date in August.

Then on to see Sarah who used to run Kyi Po on Goodramgate. She found that the 'vegan only' fare wasn't attracting enough custom, so she started selling alcoholic drinks (vegan ones) and has now completely changed to being Gluggles, an off licence. Sarah had invited me to go there and pick up a few bags of flour which were left over from the old shop, and I was pleased to see Matt there. We chatted for a few minutes and he showed me the selection of local wines, including a range from Ryedale Vinyeards, and several from a little further away. We discussed carbon footprints and carbon rationing.

Then I went to Sainsburys to get cereal, bread, vegan ice cream (for Gill), asparagus (ditto) and cheese. And then home.

We had an early 'toastie' tea, as my eldest had agreed to come with me to a lecture at the University, as part of Insect Week. We set off cycling soon after 6pm and got to the Physics block in good time for the 3-part event. It was entitled 'The Wet, Weird and Wonderful World of Garden Insects'. First up was Duncan Sivell, who is the Biodiversity Acton Manager for Buglife, the only charity in Europe working to conserve all invertebrates. He talked us through the various insects found in ponds, such as diving beetles, scavenging beetles, Reed beetles, assorted sucking bugs including skaters, water scorpions and two sorts of 'skimmer', which I know as water boatmen, the dragonflies and damselflies, 'riverflies' including Caddis, May and Stone flies, and the true flies including one of my favourites, the drone fly, a hover fly which has a larva known as a Rat Tailed Maggot. He also talked a bit about ponds and the Million Ponds Project, which I think I'll register with, as I'm in the process of building one.

The next presentation was by Dr David Chesmore, who is very keen on moths and butterflies, but researches invertebrate noise in the physics/electronics department. He described his work as the 'Weird' bit of the lecture, and described how invertebrates make noises, and why, and then played some sound files for us, things like woodboring beetle noises, plant hoppers, grasshoppers, cicadas and more. I never knew that the Tiger Moth responded to bat noises by emitting it's own bat-like noise to confuse them. Or that some web-building caterpillars have sound battles to win access to each other's tent-like homes.

The final presenter was my friend Anneliese Emmans Dean, who is a brilliant poet and performer, and she presented some of her insect photos, stories and poems. I always enjoy what she does. I think she was definitely the 'Wonderful' part of the presentation.

My son enjoyed it lots, and we chatted to some of the other people for a while afterwards before cycling home. I was extremely happy to have had an evening out with him, really glad he said yes, and I think he was too.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Tuesday 22nd June 10

A hard working day in the garden. I finished off the chainsawing which I started yesterday, and split some logs which I liberated from a bonfire pile on a building site last night. I cut a load of hedge with the shears and cut back a huge bush which was towering over our currant bushes, and shredded some of this material but not all. Some of the shrub needs the bigger stems cutting out as they will make good kindling in a year or two.

Around the middle of the day it was too hot to be outside so I used solar hot water to do a load of washing up.

At 6.15 there was a Hull Road Ward Planning Panel at Tang Hall Community Centre, where we faced a large pile of applications, and we didn't stop til 7.45. Some of them were quite complex, and unusually we made quite a few comments on the applications. On the way home I visited a friendly bin and got 75kg of chapati flour, 3 unopened sacks, two brown and one white. Amazing. I'm ashamed of the wasteful society we live in.

I had a bit of tea and then another hour in the garden, but came in at 10.45 when it got too dark to continue.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Monday 21st June - Summer Solstice 2010

A lovely day... not only the turning of the year but really sunny and I enjoyed myself. Got up just in time to wish the boys a happy solstice before they rushed off to school.

I had a morning doing a report for the York World Naked bike Ride, as we had issues with the police on the ride, who said they were only there to observe, but they prevented some of our marshalls from keeping the ride safe by 'corking' a junction where it would have been dangerous for a motor vehicle to split the group... but later they did some traffic management themselves. Ideally we need a situation like in Manchester where we had police outriders keeping the riders safe.

Gill and I spent some time together over lunch and after lunch I hopped on my bike and cycled over to Kutters/Shannons to get my new chainsaw chain, which cost me £21, but rejuvenates my chainsaw.

On the way back I went to Nationwide, which is the Building Society where I have two accounts, my Fiddlesticks/Composter account, and my savings. Last week I saw a poster which said that my savings account, a 'cashbuilder' was changing, and that any cheque I had made out to a third party would cost me an extra £10, which is ridiculous. So today I asked what the options were to make this situation better, and I had a meeting with a nice guy called Ross who worked out that the account I needed was a Bonus 30. This allows me to make one withdrawal per month, and if I don't make any withdrawals for a year I get some kind of bonus payment... but as I'm not that bothered about a bonus, this doesn't really matter. I might use this purely for savings and see if the Credit Union has a better deal for the occasional withdrawals I make to get magazine subscriptions and the various other things I use this account for.

Anyway, Ross was nice and we got the paperwork sorted, and I came home. I wanted to see if my chainsaw was any good so I got the electrics sorted out and chopped up quite a lot of logs, and split some, and stacked too. A good session... very hot and sweaty but good honest hard work. The chainsaw is working well.

Gill made a quiche for tea. She is the best quiche maker in the World.

Later I sorted out some compostables and found that for some reason one of the shops had thrown out more or less a whole sack of new potatoes, possibly because some fruit or veg had leaked onto them and some of them were damp. So we'll be eating new potatoes for quite a while!

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Sunday 20th June 10

Another work day, but I didn't have to leave York until the 12.15 train, so I was able to stay in bed until 10am. But after this I had to get everything ready... all the circus kit out of the Curver box it was in yesterday (fits into my trailer) and into my sports bag, which is how I transport it when going somewhere by train.

So, by 11.30 I had got my ironed costume and all the circus gear I needed into their bags and rucksack, my hair plaited, armpits washed, and then the bike sorted, unicycles stowed and by 11.45 I was off and heading for the station.

I met a nice student (Politics and Economics) and we talked about sustainability, co-operatives and other stuff. The journey to Leeds went quickly.

I waited for Alan at the pre-arranged place and ate my sandwiches, and he arrived at 1pm, and took me up to Middleton Park, where I was due to do my stuff from 2pm til 4pm. The Friends of Middleton Park have a really good range of activities this summer, including a Shakespeare production, several bands, and they even had a dog show!

I got changed and ready to work, and before 2pm kids started arriving and wanting to try out the 4 wheel unicycle and 2 wheel unicycle toys, so I did a bit of a workshop before doing my show to about 30 people, which went well, with loads of participation, and the workshop afterwards had nearly everybody involved... I was really pleased. I was especially happy to meet a little Fiddlesticks fan who's seen most or all of my shows in Middleton Park (this is my fifth), and her enthusiasm for devilsticks and poi and other circus/performance skills is really good to see. The balloon show afterwards was equally popular and had everybody having a go. I had quite a queue of children wanting replacement balloons, and didn't get finished til after 4pm. I think Alan was really pleased with the turnout and the interactive nature of what happened. I certainly enjoyed it.

A swift car journey back to Leeds Station and then a 15 minute wait before I got the Glasgow train, and I dozed until York, but also had a nice conversation with a Lesbian lass in a very fetching hat.

I called in on Country Fresh, who had closed but left me their donation to my compost heap, four boxes, which I managed to condense into three... one on top of the unicycles and two on my pannier rack.

When I got in, Gill was with Melody, who had come to pick up some more Chapatti flour and give us some almonds in their shells.

Within half an hour, Gill had a pasta-based meal for me and the boys. I then did a couple of hours work in the garden, lifting hidden paving slabs in the bog garden area, pulling up brambles and ground elder, and using this as a layer of stuff on top of all the Country Fresh rottables in the latest pallet heap.

I came in just before 11pm and then did emails and other electronic stuff....

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Saturday 19th June 10, CTC Rally AND 5th York World Naked Bike Ride

Up early as I had a busy day ahead... a full day of entertaining at the CTC Rally (the 'York Cycle Show') and then the Fifth York World Naked Bike Ride at 5pm.

So I left in good time, popping in to see Richard at Country Fresh as I haven't said hello to him for a few days, and then along Fulford Road to Hospital Fields Road and down to the Millennium Bridge.

I was pleased to find that the lovely Racecourse people had left Ebor Way open; the covered pathway with nice smooth concrete, which is ideal for teaching/learning unicycling. But before I got started, I visited the volunteer repair stall, which wasn't for repairing volunteers, but for voluntarily repairing bikes and the like.... so I gave them my unicycle which had a slow puncture, and they repaired it! For free! very kind of them... Then I visited the control tent and said hello, letting them know where I was planning to work. So, by 10.20, I was set up in Ebor Way and was soon busy with lots of children, a few teenagers and the occasional adult.

I worked solidly, without a break, until about 2.30 when, for some reason, the Racecourse management decided to shut the gates at the North end of Ebor Way, so that the flow of pedestrian and cycle traffic stopped, reducing the number of people using my services. But, at this time a young female unicyclist, R, whom I've met on several occasions, turned up and had several spins around on one of my unicycles, which was encouraging for other children her age and size (she's now 12) who were trying to learn by using the 3 sets of '4 wheel unicycles' and the one '2 wheel unicycle' thing (pedal go and fun wheels). However, this activity dried up, leaving me just with R, so I decided to decamp for the last hour onto the main field. But it was REALLY cold and much more windy here, and there were hardly any people wanting to try out stuff, so R and I just unicycled around a bit. The lumpy bumpy field wasn't as easy to unicycle around on, and at one stage I fell off and took the scab off my knee, which started to bleed again.... what a nuisance!

However, that last hour came to an end and at 4pm I was able to say bye to my little friend and cycle off into town to join the World Naked Bike Ride participants. I had brought with me a mask, requested by Melanie, 10 bamboos, for the flags, gaffer tape, for fixing bamboos, the megaphone, and my flagpole and flag. I got some of it set up and met up with Janie (ex Spencer Tunick, ex Manchester WNBR) and her son T, who has not ridden a bike very much, and curiously, was dressed as a mobile phone! Then I had to do some announcing, including Councillor Andrew Waller's message to the group, following his being contacted by a few members of the public unhappy with what we had planned to do. Some people are unhappy with public nudity, others about using Memorial Gardens as a starting point, citing 'disrespect'. So, to try to counter this view, I announced that the ride was dedicated to those who had been killed whilst cycling, especially those serving their country, the cyclist regiments and battalions.

Then Jesse Schust did a bit of an announcement; he's been looking after the UK WNBR for a few years and he's standing down, and I believe it is Tony who is going to keep those wheels turning. Then we moved to the start of the ride, which is a car park quite close to the River Ouse, behind a block of flats or apartments. Councillor Dave Taylor was being Dick Turpin for a while, and he launched the ride.

We'd discussed how the ride would be managed and I was asked to do the 'rear guard' and keep at the back of all the riders, so I kept this position all the way. It was a very slow ride, at walking pace for quite a bit of the way.... just as well for one participant who walked and jogged the whole way round with a skateboard under his arm, completely naked apart from shoes!

Our route went over the River Ouse, to the Minster, down Petergate to Church St and Parliament St, then wriggled round to Coppergate and Clifford St, round the oval road which goes past the Castle Museum, over to Tower Gardens, down river to Blue Bridge and onto Millennium Bridge. The other side of this we continued down river as far as the snicket which leads fairly steeply up to Terrys on Bishopthorpe Road. From here we went towards Bishopthorpe and crossed onto the start of the Route 66 cycle path to Selby, to the place where to occasionally used Racecourse Road crosses the cycle path, and where Ruby Milnes was tragically killed in 2008, when a lorry delivering portaloos to the Racecourse collided with her.

So this was the half way point, and we'd planned to have a 15 minute rest here, but it was REALLY cold and windy, so we had a brief stop of about 5 minutes. I did an announcement about the serious message of the ride; our vulnerability as cyclists, and I mentioned Ruby. We had a one minute's silence. After which people were keen to keep going!

I counted the participants here, and there were 97, and two had left the ride at the Millennium Bridge, so the number as far as I'm concerned was 100 on this ride. My CTC Rally friend R turned up here and so I said goodbye to her again. Our route back was along Albermarle Road, The Mount, Blossom St, Micklegate, Coney St and into Museum Gardens where people dismounted to get to the area where we got back into ordinary mode. There was a bit of discussion about the police presence. They had been understaffed due to other things going on, so we had mainly 'PCSOs', and their role was supposed to be 'observers'. However, when a couple of our stewards 'corked' a junction (stopping traffic to allow the riders to go through all in one block, for safety reasons) the PCSOs intervened and tried to prevent our people doing this. But later in the ride, the police behaved more sensibly and on one occasion corked a junction themselves, on The Mount, and then on Mickelgate, told us to stay as a block and ignore the lights which were changing, and if we'd obeyed them we would have been split as a group. We did get split a couple of times and this did not enhance safety. Ideally we need to be treated as a procession or convoy and kept as a group, and my guess is that next year, we'll try to sort this out beforehand.

So, it was a successful event with no accidents or incidents to speak of, no aggression from motorists and I heard no negative comments from members of the public. I was really impressed by Janie and especially her son who are both pretty novice cyclsts and for them, it was a tough ride.

I cycled back with Michael Nugent, our volunteer CRU... cycling response unit, a self employed ambulance bike rider from Essex who is a keen naturist, and I'd offered to give him somewhere to kip for the night. He'd parked outside our house and cycled in with Jesse, whom he'd given a lift to, and he had a wander down the garden, I picked some spinach and Gill added this to some noodles and other veg which we both enjoyed. After this he said hello to the children and then we had an hour in the Beeswing down the road, good chats.

A few more chats and laughs when we got back, and jolly conversations with Gill, but then he was tired and as he had to get up and go at some ridiculous hour, he went to sleep on the futon in the front room.

I wrote my blog. Which I hope gives you a flavour of an unforgettable day. But only if you were out in it would you know how cold it was!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Friday 18th June 10

Quite a busy day, did a load of pruning and planting potatoes, working with Gilly.

Had a phone conversation with Tony about a message to the organisers of the York World Naked Bike Ride, and then dealt with replying to that...

After lunch I cycled down to town to get my dynamo/front light connection sorted out... the wire had come out again, but Ash was his usual wonderful self and made it work again. I had time to pop in to Nationwide to get a cheque out for the CarFree Conference fee, and I was annoyed to see that one of my accounts has had the terms changed, so that I won't be able to take a cheque out unless I pay a £10 fee, which is very annoying. It means that I will have to go in and move my savings from the Cashbuilder account to another... a complete bally nuisance.

Then I delivered the cheque to Ivana at St Nicks, as she's looking after that side of the conference. Found a couple of logs, picked up a sack of compostables from Freshways, and home just in time to go and pick up our youngest from school. It was 'lolly Friday' so he had a lolly and we walked most of the way home together.

When I got back, Gill and our eldest went out to town on the bus to pick up a new pair of specs and were back in just over an hour. I had a quick tea and at 6pm, Tony rang and arranged to meet me at the Racecourse to give out WNBR leaflets to the CTC Rally attendees.

I got there at 6.20 and immediately started giving out our leaflet to people arriving at the site for their weekend's camping or caravaning, and there was a lot of enthusiasm for the ride. Tony arrived from Selby on his racing bike and he also gave out leaflets, and went round the campsite too.

I came back via a freshly felled tree and got in at 9pm. Lots of pretty frantic emailing and facebooking stuff... oh, and washing up, blog and interspersed family stuff! Busy busy busy...