Sunday, 13 January 2013

Great Movie Cycling Scenes: The Wicker Man

Nicolas Cage steals a bike at gunpoint in The Wicker Man.

A classic of truly awful cinema, the Wicker Man was written and directed by noted misogynist Neil LaBute. It is a train wreck of a film, with a script that makes absolutely no sense, but well worth watching for its unintentionally funny scenes - especially if you have a fridge full of beer. The movie launched the internet meme 'Not the Bees'.

I saw it when it first came out because I'd always been a fan of the original 1973 version (not the greatest film - interesting idea but poorly paced) and I wanted to see if the update could do better. It couldn't. Sadly, the people who made this stinker have gone on to make more bad movies, though none quite so bad as this. LaBute still has his fingers in the Hollywood pie, though we should perhaps be thankful that, since The Wicker Man, he hasn't been allowed to direct or script a full-length movie.

After the bike theft, Nicolas Cage's character gets into a pretty sticky situation involving lashings of honey, a bear suit, woad-painted women, broken legs, bees and human sacrifice involving barbequed bike thief. If only real life cyclists got to enjoy similar vengeance on their persecutors.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

False Courtesy and Rules of Priority

Today, another rant. Sorry.

This morning, while my daughter and I were turning left from the main road at a T-junction, an oncoming car at the same junction was turning right. We stopped, but the oncoming driver, rather than taking her turn, motioned for us to go.

We, of course, refused to go. I waved at the car with the standard 'get out of the way' gesture and apparently I used some choice words concerning the 'right of way', because the crossing guard (it was near the school entrance) heard me and laughed in agreement.

The rules of priority are not just a decision that any road user can simply change on a whim. I cannot turn left while an oncoming vehicle is turning right - I am required to wait. If I don't, and I am hit, it is my fault because I failed to respect the rules governing priority or 'right of way'.

The Maryland Driver's Manual states:


Right-of-way rules provide drivers with guidance
for situations when other drivers or pedestrians are
present. These rules determine which driver should
yield the right-of-way and the sequence for entering
and driving through an intersection or other driving

You should yield the right-of-way to:
• the driver who is at or arrives before you at
the intersection;

• drivers in the opposing traffic lane, when you
are making a left turn;

• the driver on your right, if both of you arrive at
the intersection at the same time;...

These three situations - the first three listed under the rule - are the most common situations in which drivers urge me to go despite the fact that they have priority.

When motorists urge me to go when they have priority, it shows that they have no idea of the rules of the road. Not only that, but this false courtesy endangers other road users because it arbitrarily replaces tried and tested rules with chaos. I really wish people would stop doing this. Is learning the rules of priority and putting them into practice really so difficult?

Friday, 4 January 2013

Wool Conquers Winter

At the start of the new year I find myself the only cyclist on my daily commute and surely one of the only cyclists in Silver Spring. The 'Bike to Work Day' crowd are nowhere to be seen (I doubt we'll see any of them for another three months yet) and the roads are left to the lazy lard-asses in their cars and those of us who have figured out that cycling in winter is by no means uncomfortable if you know how to dress for it.

Last year, with no winter wool to speak of, I couldn't do without my winter jacket, and still I never felt warm (still, I wasn't going to let a bit of cold force me off the bike). This year I finally managed to scrape together enough cash to splurge on a couple of layers of wool, and it's really made a huge difference for me. I haven't even needed my winter jacket yet.

Yesterday was pretty much the coldest it's been in the last 3 months -  it was in the high 20s fahrenheit when I woke up. I got out my wool long underwear for the second time this season and topped that off with wool socks, jeans, T-shirt and a nice thick wool sweater. Still no need of a jacket - with two layers of wool and some nice thick woolen gloves a jacket makes it just a little too hot.

I also bought my daughter a set of woolen underwear, a good pair of ski gloves and a 3-in-1 ski jacket. This year our commute is quite a bit longer (she's on her bike for at least an hour every day), so she really needs something to deter the chill. If it gets colder, I think she'll need a thick sweater, but so far she says she's comfortable.

I reckon the teachers at my daughter's school have yet to discover the merits of wool, as they are bundled up in their polyester jackets and still looking cold, while I'm cycling by looking like I'm enjoying a different season. Of course it's not just their choice of fabrics - they're not getting the exercise either, so that plays a big role.

I wish I'd figured out the benefits of wool sooner.