20 December 2011

Spokespeak: York's bike registration scheme

Operation Spoke is York's bike registration scheme.

Local police have their eye on several dodgy lockup-garage dealers in the area - the sort of people who advertise lots of bikes of hazy provenance on Gumtree or eBay.

(One of the suspected fences, apparently, is a teacher. If you're offered a bike that seems too cheap to be true in York by a man with patches on his elbows and red pens in his top pocket, beware.)

But it's hard to prove a bike has been nicked - which is where this database comes in.

We stumbled across a Spoke Registration Event on Sunday (top right), ambling round a deserted York College.

No elaborate bike surgery involving transponders inserted into down tubes here. All that happens is a bloke writes a code number in various places on your bike with a special pen (right).

The writing only shows up under UV light, if you take your bike into a disco for instance, or a public toilet in Hull.

Well, he said it was a code number he was writing. It could have been Ha Ha Big Nose. Probably best to be nice to registration teams, just in case.

There's a national self-registration scheme at immobilise.com, but Spoke sessions are worth dropping in on, partly for peace of mind, but also because you get lots of free yellow things (right): keyrings, spoke reflectors, trouser bands.

There may be something predictable about our young cycling nephews' cracker fillings next weekend...

15 December 2011

You're in: York Planets trail dog's verdict on cyclists

The York to Selby rail trail - which features a must-see scale model of the solar system - also has an intriguing sculpture on the bridge over the Ouse, a couple of miles south of York, near Naburn.

It features a Dilbertesque man made of wire, fishing from the bridge, his bike laid down behind him. He has evidently just caught a train (geddit?).

What I only spotted recently, though, was that the dog accompanying him is clearly peeing on his bike.

I rather like this; it's an appropriate comment on how cyclists and our facilities are treated generally.

Such as here, for example, on the cycle track in the centre of York, near the Nestlé factory, yesterday.

The fencing on the edge of this building site collapses regularly, providing a nasty potential hazard for inattentive cyclists on dark evenings.

Unless, of course, it's more ironic wire sculpture?

05 December 2011

Markt man: Biking Brum's Christmas canals

German Christmas Markets seem to be everywhere these days. We've been visiting a few - Leeds, Sheffield, York, Birmingham (right, picture Stephen Harper) - in the echt German way.

That is, on bikes, and not spending more than we can afford.

Which means not spending anything, when they want four quid for a sausage.

The Birmingham trip was an excuse to cycle the canal network, with its exciting tunnels (right) and quaint bridges.

It's a little-known fact that, compared to Venice, Birmingham's canals actually have more Somalian muggers.

So the handwritten warnings on the scruffy underpasses and abandoned-factory walls imply, anyway.

A more enticing canalside notice (right) was here, somewhere en route to Bournville.

I had no idea Birmingham was so liberal these days. First it's latte cafes in Gas St Basin, next it'll be naked saunas in Selly Oak. Now that would be authentic German.

Obviously we didn't, out of consideration for the camera-toting trainspotter in the picture (right) awaiting the flypast of a goods train from Immingham.

Canals apart, Birmingham is a horrible city centre to cycle in, with fast heavy traffic ripping along the dual carriageways, and virtually non-existent provision for cyclists.

The odd Sustrans route, such as NCN5 which passes through the Rea 'Valley' and a park by Edgbaston cricket ground, can't really make up for it.

German visitors might at least politely recognise some elements of the Christmas Market; I doubt they'd be as complimentary about the cycle facilities.

01 December 2011

Art monitor: Bikes compulsory at Royal Academy

With the ambiguity of the underground's legendary 'Dogs must be carried' notice in mind, I was amused to see this sign in the courtyard of the Royal Academy, London, the other day.

What about visitors who don't have bikes? Perhaps a Barclays Hire Bike will do?