‘Faecal bacteria’ – why not just say poo!

My daily trawl of the BBC News website has highlighted another disturbing news article, this time about the amount of ‘faecal bacteria’ on commuters’ hands in England and Wales – ewww! Makes me glad that I don’t generally have to use a bus more than once a week. And it also makes me think that I could get a bit obsessive about wearing rubber gloves every time I use public transport if this sort of bacteria is likely to be doing the rounds on Cardiff Bus!

Ewww, I wonder if it’s possible to travel by bus and not touch anything on the vehicle! I have absolutely no desire to repeat the sickness bug which we all suffered with last week. Maybe this could be another good reason to reconsider commuting by bike!

Back on the bike (at last!)

I managed to persuade myself to get back on my bike yesterday after a very long gap. I can’t remember exactly when my last bike ride was, but I’m fairly sure it was while the kids were still in school. So at least seven weeks then. Anyway, on Friday I decided that yesterday would be the day, as I had to get to work early in the morning and coincidentally I didn’t have the right change for my bus fare! And so, rather than asking my husband to bring home £3 for my day pass, I got out to the shed, checked the tyre pressure and the brakes and sorted out the things which I would want to carry in my pannier bags.

I was so lucky with the weather yesterday. When I woke up it was grey but warm, which were ideal conditions for cycling to work. This meant that I arrived nicely warmed but not soaked through with sweat! I made it to the office in about twenty to twenty five minutes of gentle ambling along the road. During the course of my shift the weather got better and better so that when I left work in the afternoon the sky was blue and the sun was shining brightly – what a shock to the system after a month of grey day after grey day. I was glad that I’d prepared for all eventualities by bringing both my raincoat and sunglasses, as the brightness of the sunshine definitely called for some protective eyewear!

I cycled up the Taff Trail for a while, and then after passing Llandaff phoned my husband to see whether he and the kids would be interested in meeting me somewhere for a while before I went home. He was, and so we arranged to meet at Roath Park Lake. And so, once more in a relaxed and unhurried way I cycled across the north of Cardiff to the Lake, where I was able to sit and relax for ten minutes and people watch before my family caught up with me.

Sitting on that bench on the warm and lovely day was so relaxing, I think I might take myself up there occasionally when the kids are back in school. It’s not too far to cycle from here, and is mainly fairly flat. There are plenty of benches once you get there to sit and watch the world go by. The children always enjoy a visit to the lake, even when we don’t buy them ice cream or let them play in the play area.

I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got home. I surprised myself, actually, with how tired I was. I cycled somewhere around thirteen miles all told, which just shows how much my fitness has decreased since I was last out on my bike. However, I’m sure I’ll feel the benefits by tomorrow – no pain no gain and all of that!

*By the way, I’d like to point out that these photos were taken earlier in the year, not yesterday. Taking photos yesterday would have involved raising my arms above handlebar height, an activity which I just wasn’t able to do! And so I thought I’d share some old favourites from previous visits to the places I went yesterday. You see, if you know where to look, Cardiff is a really pretty city with many oases of calm dotted about the place. And these locations, naturally, are among my favourite places to cycle. Still plenty more places to explore though, so cross your fingers for more fine days for me, or alternatively the will power to get out in the rain!

Cycling tips

I’ve just found this article on the BBC website with ‘tips’ for bicycle riding commuters, taken from the example set by the medal winning British Olympic cyclists in Beijing. All well and good, and as with the commenters on the article I both agree and disagree with various of the pieces of advice offered. However, my biggest stumbling block which has stopped me getting on my bike for the last month has been the rain – I don’t think we have had a consistently dry period in the last month. And if we did I was either in work or asleep! Roll on September, if the dry weather is returning as promised, so that I can get back to my cycling for fitness and fun.

Self powered transport

I want to be able to travel by bike or foot power more often. I’m missing so many good photos because we’re hurtling by (as much as one ‘hurtles’ at 30mph!) and I can’t lean out of the window to capture the moment. My father, on the other hand, is cycling regularly, and as a member of the slow cycling movement, is taking the time to admire the views and taking the opportunity to photograph things which please his eye.

A prime example of something I missed happened only yesterday. We were driving past Roath Park Lake (one of my favourite places to relax) in rather a hurry to get to our destination, and there were dozens of people enjoying the weather and taking the chance to get out on the lake in boats. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many people out rowing, and I would have loved to have got a photo of it. Instead, I offer this much less busy shot of the lake this afternoon;

We managed to have an impromptu picnic lunch by the lake today, and so I snapped these energetic people out on the lake for your viewing pleasure!

I think that I need to focus efforts on teaching my children to ride their bikes so that we can all get out together in the holidays.

On another note entirely, I found what we think may have been a baby ladybird crawling on my leg earlier;

This photo has obviously been enlarged somewhat, and as you can probably tell, the ‘ladybird’ is at this point sitting on the tip of my finger. If anyone has any idea what sort of insect this might be, please let me know! I’m hoping that it’s not actually a ladybird-locust hybrid as I put it in my mum’s back garden to live!

A passion for cycling and my trip to Oxford

I saw recently on the BBC News website that Bristol is to be England’s first cycling city. Well since spending a weekend in Oxford I think that the residents of that city must be feeling pretty sick at that news. Oxford already is a cyclist’s ciity. It has plenty of well marked cycle lanes as well as a multitude of parking facilities for bikes. It even has a bike park by the station which has space for dozens if not hundreds of bikes to be parked safely, a significant part of the bike part is even under cover.

(I apologise for the poor quality of this photo – it was taken from the top of a moving tour bus!)

I’d love it if Cardiff were so well geared up for cyclists. As it is we have limited parking places and badly marked cycle lanes – in some places cyclists are asked to share pavements and in other areas we are expected to fight for space on the bus lanes. And two of the main places to park bikes in the city centre are widely acknowledged to be targetted by bike thieves. So, to sum up, to get into town I have to hop on and off pavements, stopping every short while to cross a side road, or cycle in bus lanes while hoping that the bus drivers will be in a good mood and not in a rush so that they will allow me plenty of room. Then, once in town, I am expected to leave my bike in an area known to be frequented by thieves. Mmmm, tempting! I’ll definitely leave my car at home for that!

Cycling in Cardiff

I went out on my bike with my Dad for a short trip yesterday morning. We debated whether or not to go, and in the end decided we might as well as, despite the weather being inclement, neither of us would melt in the rain and we really wanted some fresh air and exercise. The rain didn’t bother me. The wind did. I really really don’t like cycling in windy weather. As my dad put it yesterday, with a hill you know what you’re up against and can plan accordingly. When it’s a windy day, you don’t know when you’re going to be buffetted, and you’re not even guaranteed to build up momentum going downhill, let alone on the flat.

However, we saw some nice things on the coast road; the usual array of animals, but as a special treat we were lucky to see an extremely newborn foal, just about tottering on his legs around his mother, while the mother unconcernedly munched on some grass. I obviously made too much of a fuss about childbirth!

I also fitted my cycle computer yesterday, and as a result spent far too much time watching the numbers scan between all the different readings and not enough time studying the road – I’m lucky I didn’t end up in one of the reens!

Somewhere I plan to take my bike soon is the Cardiff Bay Barrage. As of last Friday morning, the public is now allowed to walk and cycle along it, and I’m fairly sure (from reading the website) that I should be able to get to Penarth across it. I’ll let you know! Anyway, hopefully I’ll be able to do that ride towards the end of the week. Something else I plan to do soon is to go further afield from Cardiff by taking my bike on the train and then cycling back. I think I should easily be able to cover 15 miles, and so I’ll have to get a large wall map of the area and see how far away I can get! Also, I’m looking forward to going to Bristol or Bath on the train, cycling to whichever one I didn’t travel by train to, and then getting the train back. Eventually I’d like to travel to somewhere just over the other side of the first Severn Bridge and then cycle back, because I’ve been really taken by the idea of cycling over the bridge since I found out that it was possible! I’d love to hear from anyone who has cycled over the Severn Bridge before, and also anyone with any route recommendations in South Wales and the bit of England that South Wales is stuck to!

Cycling in Cardiff

I’ve recently taken up cycling again. The only time I remember feeling completely happy with my figure was when I was cycling almost every evening in my mid-teens, so as my doctor has recommended low-impact exercise for me I thought that cycling could be the way to go. Walking is not for me, not for the purposes of exercise anyway, as I’m too impatient and want to travel faster, so getting on my bike makes far more sense. I’ll have a much wider range of places to go as I can cover far greater distances, and I can save a little bit of petrol as well. My good friend Hannah (who you can see here dressed as Scarecrow) bought me a wicker basket for the front of my bike, so I’ve no excuse when I just need a couple of bits and pieces from the supermarket – I can just hop on the bike and get out in the (relatively) fresh air for a bit. I think I may have mentioned before about all the gadgets that I have on my bike. Well, tomorrow I plan to fit my cycle computer, so that I can track how many miles I do each week, and hopefully see an upwards climb in the distance I cover.

(My soundtrack as I’m cycling around has been ‘Bicycle Race’ by Queen. I don’t take an MP3 player out with me, I can just hear it in my head every time I get on the bike, especially the following verse;

Bicycle races are coming your way
So forget all your duties oh yeah
Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today
So look out for those beauties oh yeah
On your marks get set go
Bicycle race bicycle race bicycle race

I can’t imagine why – can’t be anything at all to do with the fact that I’m cycling to lose weight as well as to get fitter :-). The other song which I can always hear is another Queen song – “Don’t Stop Me Now” – it’s my happy song, and I always can hear it in my head when I’m especially contented or excited about something I’m doing.)

The ride to my parents’ house is a good one on a bike. They live almost exactly two miles away, and there are a few up and downhills on the way there (only one serious hill though), and as I like to visit them a couple of evenings each week, that four mile round trip will be a really good starting ground for my new exercise regime. I can feel that I may start even to make myself feel guilty if I let myself drive over there in any but the worst weather now!

I’m actually quite excited about getting out on the bike more. I have waterproof trousers and jacket, so moderately wet weather needn’t bother me too much. And we have a bike rack for the car, so in theory I could go off and rather than worrying about turning round at the right time when I’d still have enough energy to get home, I could always phone my husband and ask him very nicely to come and find me and give me a lift home! I had thought that maybe one Saturday I could cycle into work and then go for a ride up the Taff Trail in the afternoon – he has already agreed to pick me up if I do something like that. Hmm, food for thought. I’ll have to start exploring good cycle routes a little further afield.

Having mentioned my desire to find safe places to cycle, I have been looking at the Sustrans website and the CTC website, and find that this area is really rather lacking in cycle paths. I know that for my journey into town I’m expected to share the footpath and then the bus lane (not too happy about the latter idea, and I don’t suppose that pedestrians would be too happy about the former!), but I wish that I lived nearer to a dedicated cycle route. However, for now I think I’ll have to stay in the quieter residential streets as much as I can, and avoid the roads with denser traffic.