Saturday, 20 December 2008

Dropping Out Of The Race To Save Another

The British Yachtswoman Samantha Davies, who is currently taking part in a solo round-the-world race, changed her course to try and save a fellow yachtsman.

The French sailor Yann Elies, who was also taking part in the race, had got into trouble after a wave hit his boat and he broke his thighbone.

The British woman diverted her course and sailed nearly 40 miles out of her way to try and reach to Frenchman.

She wasn't the only one to forgo their place in the race, as fellow Frenchman and sailor Marc Guillemot also changed his course to help out.

Helping Out

Guillemot was the first to reach Elies boat, which was 800 miles off the coast of Australia, and managed to throw painkillers to the injured man.

However the seas were too rough to be able to get on board or move Elies from his own boat to another.

Davies said to The Guardian that "there's no way we can get him off his boat and onto one of ours. The plan is to stand by and be moral and phycological support for him while he's waiting the real rescue".

She said that as soon as she heard to news she was determined to sail to the aide of her competitor and friend.

The Race

All three of the competitors were taking part in the Vendee Globe Race, which is essentially a race around the world, on your own, without stopping off anywhere and without any external help.

The competitors set off on the 9th of November this year. The starting point was Les Sables D'Olonne in France.

There are eight 'gates' that competitors must pass through in order to complete the race, and the total length of the course is around 24,000 miles.

Davies was competing on her boat named Roxy, while Elies' vessel was named The Generali.

History

This is not the first time in the history of the race that a competitor has been in trouble.

The Vendee Globe Race covers some stretches of water that are thought to be particularly dangerous.

In the race beginning in 2004 and ending in 2005, over a third of the boats that took part were forced to retire from the race.

According to The Telegraph, there were also several fatalities during the races that took place in 1992/1993 and 1996/1997.

Time Credits

After Elies was rescued by an Australian Navy Ship, both Davies and Guillemot returned to the race.

They have been told that they will recieve time credits for helping out their competitor, and will not lose their position in the race.

It was great to see such an uplifting story in the news, celebrating the willingness of people to help others when they were in need.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

New Test in Northern Ireland

The new motorbike test that was supposed to come into force in September this year has just been introduced in Northern Ireland.

The new test involves having to complete the original theory test and practical test, but now also includes taking part in a manouvres test as well.

It has been introduced by the Driver and Vehicle Agency as part of the European directive.

The test was supposed to come into force across the whole of the UK in September 2008, however there was a mix up. It will now be introduced in the UK in March 2009.

Whats Involved

The new manouvres test will involve a number of exercises that have to be completed. These include:
  • A slow riding exercise where the rider has to ride alongside the examiner at a walking pace.

  • A slalom and a figure-of-8 exercise. In the UK these are taught at a basic level during the CBT test.

  • Walking the bike in a 'U' turn, and then riding in a 'U' turn.

  • Getting the bike both on and off the motorbike stands.

  • Riding the bike in a curve, in either second or third gear at a minimum speed of 30km/h (roughly 19mph).

  • Emergency braking exercise, as well as an avoidance test at a minimum speed of 50km/h (roughly 32mph).
After passing the test you will be given a certificate, that like the theory test, is valid for two years and must be presented when taking a full test.

Comments on the Test

Environment Minister Sammy Wilson, who is a biker himself, has said of the test that "it is important that motorcyclists are fully equipped for the challenges they will face on the road. The new motorcycle manouvres test will enable examiners to test core skills in an off-road environment".

Others have suggested that it will help to reduce the number of motorbike casualties on the road.

DVA Chief Executive Brendan Magee has said that "only candidates who demonstrate the ability to carry out these manouvres safely will be able to progress".

UK Centres

In the UK, the test was due to be introduced at the end of September. It involved various new test centres being set up where the manouvres test could take place.

However the centres were not ready in time for the introduction date, and the government faced a lot of embarassment as learners were charged for the new test but could not take it.

In the end the introduction of the new test was put back until March 2009, so that the new centres could be set up. This did however leave a lot of angry new riders out of pocket, having paid for the new test.

So we'll have to wait until March to see if this time, the new test will go ahead.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Manchester Says No

On Friday, the city of Manchester voted whether or not to introduce and Congestion Charging zone like London's. The outcome was an overwhelming 'No'.

The idea was introduced after the success of the London Congestion Charge, which was put in place by mayor Ken Livingstone in 2003.

The city has been discussing the possible introduction of a Congestion Charging Zone since 2007.

Manchester is not the only UK city to consider a Congestion Charging Zone proposal, but they were the first to apply for backing from the Transport Innovation Fund.

Referendum

It was decided that the citizens of Manchester should be able to decide themselves whether or not the plans should go ahead.

Cars were to be charged £5 a day to travel into the centre of Manchester. For the first years trucks would be exempt from the charge, until a study into it's effectiveness was carried out.

If there was a positive response to the proposal, the new Congegstion Zone would be effective from July 2013.

However, on the 12th December 2008 all ten of the Manchester boroughs that make up the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities voted against the plans.

Significance

Apart from London, Durham has also introduced a Congestion Charging Zone in the busiest areas of it's city from 2002.

Cambridge is one of the cities that is considering introducing the charge, along with Manchester.

However, Manchester would have been the biggest city to introduce such a charge since London in 2003.

Had they gone ahead with the plans, it is thought they would have been the first of many large cities to bring in such a charge.

By saying no, there is a suggestion that other cities and congested towns will also follow suit.

Motorbikes

One part of the proposal from Manchester's AGMA was that motorbikes would not be charged to enter the city.

This is the same as London and Durham, and is also what Cambridge have suggested would be part of their own proposal.

In effect, the introduction of a Congestion Charge in Manchester could have lead to an increase in motorbikers, as drivers try to find a cheaper way to travel.

An increase in the number of bikers can only be a good thing: with better awareness paid to motorcyclists.

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Ace Cafe Xmas Toy Run

Every year just before Christmas, the Ace Cafe hosts the Xmas Toy Run - whereby hundreds of bikes ride from the Cafe, stopping off a three London hospitals to give out presents to children.

This year is the first time I have taken part, and it was such a great atmosphere that it will definitely be on the calendar for next year!

Although I had been planning to take part in the Ace Cafe Xmas Toy Run for several weeks, I forgot about the event until late on Saturday night.

I had planned to decorate my bike, however by the time I remembered all the closest shops were shut. I had a little bit of wrapping paper left over and decided to wake up early the next morning to do the best I could.

Childrens Presents

Every biker that turns up to take part in the run brings along a childrens toy, wrapped up and labelled with age and sex. I brought a couple of Doctor Who books.

These get put into sacks and loaded into the back of a van, which comes with us an the run. After parking my bike and handing over my presents, I headed inside the Cafe to get a cup of tea.

The great thing about bike runs, is that you always meet new people, and everyone is very friendly. I got talking to a couple who were riding a new CBR 1000, as well as someone who had the 'naked' version of my bike.

At around 10.30 in the morning, bikes started to line up on the road opposite the Cafe, getting ready to leave. I finished my tea and heading over to put on all my thermals: it was a very cold day!

Ready for the off

I found myself somewhere in the middle of the bikes, with a Police escort bike to the right of me. Once all the bikes were out of the parking lot, we were off!!

Having a Police escort was amazing. Being able to get all the bikes onto the North Circular at once, while the Police blocked the cars from moving was a sight to see.

As we were going up the hill, all I could see in front was a sea of all different kinds of bikes; from cruisers and sportsbikes, to tourers, scooters and even a couple of trikes.

Fancy Dress

Most of the riders had either decorated their bike, or dressed up themselves. It was great to see a snowman overtake you, followed closely by a santa clause and a turkey!

There were many notable costumes, one of which was a woman who had turned herself and her bike into a moving Christmas tree, complete with fairy lights.

Another was the couple who were both dressed as bears and riding with a sidecar. Riding in the sidecar was a soft toy bear!

The best dressed bike had to be the one that had been made to look like a reindeer, complete with red nose and antlers!




The Hospitals

By the time we reached the first hospital, St Mary's, it was time for a well earned rest. Not that we had ridden far, but it was so cold everything felt a bit numb.

I got talking to a guy who had only recently taken up motorbiking, and this was his first big ride out. He told me he was thinking of buying heated gloves after today!

The van was unloaded, and a few people went it to give out presents. All too soon it was time to get back on a head off to the next hospital.

The great thing about the Police escort, was being able to go through traffic lights even when they were red. All the cars and buses stopped to let us pass, and many people honked or waved hello.

The second hospital was St Thomas's in Lambeth, where we stopped for quite a while, and I got talking to a woman dressed as a turkey.

She was videoing the ride as she was riding pillion on the back of a bike belonging to a snowman.

End of the Day

After the third and final hospital, where there was not enough room to park all our bikes so we all parked in a long line downt he side of the road, we headed back to the Ace Cafe.

I didn't stay for long once we were back, just long enough to buy a cup of tea and sit inside in the warm!

In the end it was a great day, everyone who was stopped to let us pass was friendly enough, and it must have been an amazing sight to see hundreds of Santa's ride past on motorbikes!

Friday, 12 December 2008

TRIP OF A LIFETIME: Plans Wrecked!

Just as things started to become more concrete on the bike trip round Europe, everything has come to a shuddering halt.

Over the past couple of weeks I have been looking into getting together a worst-case cost for the whole trip.

It looks like not only would it be an affordable holiday, but also I could afford to stay in an actual hotel once in a while, and even go shopping on the odd occasion.

I have managed to get hold of some hard panniers for my bike that are pretty sturdy and also don't feel as heavy as others I've seen. After a bit of bargaining, they turned out to be relatively cheap as well.

I've asked for various things for the trip for Christmas, and I have been faithfully promised by various family members and friends that I should find them under the tree come Christmas morning.

University Course

As part of my Broadcast Journalism course at university, I have to put together a documentary, either for radio or television.

I have been considering making the trip the focus of the documentary, as it would be a great way to record everything.

I am planning to take a module in Travel Journalism after the Christmas break, so hopefully this class will help turn it into a great project.

It also seems like a great way to combine the two interests into one: journalism and motorbiking, as well as travel!

Spanner in the Works

However, recently it has turned out that all my well laid plans may not be able to go ahead after all.

As part of the course, I also need to complete three weeks work experience at a radio station newsroom. This is due to take place in January.

I have been really looking forward to putting to use everything I have learnt, and getting to see how a real newsroom works.

Last night I had a phone call to let me know that I had been accepted onto a work experience placement - but it wouldn't be in January as expected. It is in April - the month that I have planned my trip for.

New Plans

So now I'm thinking about how I can work around the setback. I still want to go, and I do have three weeks in January when I won't have anything to do.

I'm not sure how much I fancy the idea of riding around in the middle of winter however, so I not sure if that idea will last long!

I could reduce the trip drastically and try and do less in a shorter period of time. I still have a week in April that I might be able to fit something into.

For now the trip takes a backseat as I focus on getting ready for Christmas, then a media law exam in January. Hopefully I'll think of something and still be able to complete the trip!

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Backlash at Tennant's Back Pain

Doctor Who star David Tennant, who is currently performing as Hamlet, has been unable to perform for the past few days.

His part is currently being played by his understudy, Edward Bennett, as Tennant is out with a back injury.

Most of the reviews of his performance have been positive, and according to BBC News, he recieved a standing ovation.

The show's director Gregory Doran spoke about Tennant missing the performance, saying that the actor was very upset at not being able to perform.

"Before this injury, he has only ever been off for one performance in his entire career to date, and is hoping that he will be able to return to the show as quickly as possible".

Well Recieved

The play has moved from it's run in Stratford-Upon-Avon to London, and is showing at the Novello Theatre.

Monday was the first run in Hamlet's shoes for Edward Bennett, but it was Tuesday night's performance that mattered most.

This was press night; a night of critics followed by a morning of reviews. It seems he had nothing to worry however, and The Guardian was just one of the positive reviews he recieved.

He had originally been playing Laertes, a smaller part which involves a fight scene with Hamlet. With Tennant out, the whole cast was moved around to accomodate the new protagonist.

Tennant Backlash

What was most striking about the reports of the change, was the way in which many papers took the opportunity to strike at David Tennant.

The Telegraph ran with the headline that Tennant had dissapointed theatregoers, instead of concentrating on the success of the understudy.

The success of the play had been sold on the fact that the Doctor Who star was taking the lead role, but it is a notable achievement to find an understudy who still recieves an ovation despite the Tennant fans in the audience.

It seemed to be suggested that Tennant - who never missed a night in 60 performances while in Stratford - was letting audiences down.

He had taken a year off from acting in Doctor Who to concentrate fully on the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Hamlet.

He has already released a statement saying that after surgery, he hopes to return to the show as soon as possible.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Ace Cafe: The Legend That Is

Every country has places that must be visited by every biker, at least once. In the UK, one of those places is the Ace Cafe.

It was originally built in 1938, as a road side stop for truckers using the then new North Circular road.

Being open 24 hours and also being so close to a main road, meant that it was soon taken over by motorbikers - the 'Ton-up' boys.

It closed in 1969 when the rock n' roll era was up; but was reopened again on the original site in 1997 - now catering for all bikers as well as car enthusiasts.

The Cafe is now famous for it's event's, from bike nights and car meets, to motorbike runs and charity causes.

Charity Supporter

This year, the Ace has been supporting the charity Jeans for Genes, and according to their website, "aims to raise £100,000 to create The Genetic Road Map".

The Jeans for Genes charity aims to 'change the world for children affected by genetic disorders', and hold their main fundraising day during October.

Bikers have been urged to get sponsored for ride outs, or simply to donate during the many key events at the Cafe through the year.

This isn't the only charity work that is supported by the Ace Cafe however.

Every year at Christmas, hundreds of bikers bring a childrens toy to the Cafe, and then ride out to hospitals around London to give them to children who will be in hospital over Christmas.

Global Attraction

Although based in the England, it's not just a place to visit for UK bikers. The Ace is known across Europe, and and ride out you can often meet foreigners come for the day.

One of the biggest attractions is the three day Ace Cafe Reunion event, usually held in September.

Part of the event is the Continental Run, which starts at a cafe in Germany, and picks up riders while going through Holland, Belgium and France.

In the past it has been estimated that around 15,000 bikes have taken part on some point of the run, and over the three days, 40,000 bikers have celebrated the Ace.

The Reunion includes a run from the Ace Cafe to the famous Madeira Drive in Brighton - known as the Brighton Burn-Up.

This event can attract riders from as far afield as America and even on the odd occasion, from Australia.

In the Media

The Cafe has often been the subject of media attention since it's opening nearly seventy years ago.

In 1964, the Cafe was the centre for the film The Leather Boys, which focused on the rocker scene that was big at the time.

It also came under a lot of critisism from the press as well, who saw the place as a centre of young untrustworthy youths.

The bikers were stereotyped as being loud, rude and uncaring, riding too fast and having to thought for other road users.

Charlie Boorman has visited the Cafe in his TV series 'By Any Means', riding to the Cafe on his bike and then leaving on a bus.

The Ace Cafe has gone from truck stop to rocker's world to it's new incarnation celebrating motor love - and it's the only greasy spoon to be seen at.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Interviewing LCC and MCN

As a journalism student, I often practice putting together interviews and radio packages. One of my recent radio packages was on the 'motorbike's in bus lanes' story.

This is the news that Boris Johnson has announced that from the 5th of January this year, motorbikes will be allowed to use all London bus lanes as part of an 18 month trial.

I have already blogged about the news before, so if you want to read what I said on the story you can click here.

London Cycling Campaign

As part of the news package, I wanted to make sure I got the arguement from both sides of the debate.

I called London Cycling Campaign, who are against the trial as they believe there is no evidence to suggest it will be safer or reduce congestion, and spoke to Charlie Lloyd.

He told me, among other things, that there was evidence to suggest the scheme would have no significant impact on the safety issues for any road users.

Charlie Lloyd has written about the LCC's opposition to motorbikes in bus lanes on the bikerforum website.

On it he says that previous testing suggested that "any benefit to motorcyclists might be outweighed by increased risk to pedestrians and cyclists".

Motorcycle News

In order to get a balanced view of the arguement, I also rang Motorcycle News, who campaigned for Boris to release a date for the trial to begin.

The mayor released the date of the 5th January 2009 before the petition was handed to him - though they did manage to collect 3,900 signatures.

I spoke to Steve Farrell at MCN, who told me that there would be many benefits to both motorcyclists and other road users.

It would mean bikers could travel without the fear of being caught by cars who aren't looking for motorbikes while filtering, and the road would be freed up for car drivers and other motorists.

It may even encourage more people to get on a bike, therefore reducing the amount of congestion on the roads of London.

Interviews

Obviously I had a bit of a bias on the story, being a biker living in London myself. However I tried to make sure this wasn't evident.

I have uploaded the package on the story below. Both interviews have been cut to fit within the two minute maximum.

Any feedback on whether the package works well and is interesting would be much appreciated!

Monday, 8 December 2008

A British Obama?

An American lawsuit claiming that Barack Obama is 'too British' to be President of the United States has been turned down by the US Supreme Court.

The appeal claimed that when he was born he had held 'foreign citizenship' - even though he had been born in Hawaii - and therefore he shouldn't be eligible to run for and hold the Presidential Office.

His father was a citizen of Kenya, which at the time of Obama's birth was under British juristiction. The case argued that because of this, Obama would have been been a British citizen 'at birth'.

The Telegraph have said that the case gained a high profile as it was distributed to Supreme Court Justices by Justice Clarence Thomas - who Barack Obama said he would not have nominated.

Constitutional Rules

Article II, section 1 of the US Constitution requires that "no person except a natural born citizen" is eligible to be President.

This means that the country's leader cannot have emigrated to the US, no matter how long they have lived in the country.

This rule only applies to the Presidency: hence the Governor of California is Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was born is Austria. Under the constitutional rules he cannot run for President.

Hawiian Birth Certificate

According to the BBC News website, Barack Obama's aides posted his birth ceritificate on the internet during the election campaign.

It stated that he was born in Hawaii; and therefore was a 'natural born' citizen of the United States.

It showed that he was born on the 4th August 1961, in Hawaii, and was verified by Hawiian officials - clearing up any possible accusations of non-citizenship that may have been around during the campaign.

Lawsuit

The lawsuit was brought about by a retired lawyer from New Jersey, called Leo Donofrio, and was one of many that claimed Obama did not abide by the constitution and therefore could not be President of America.

Although it agreed that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and had a Hawaiian birth certificate, it argued that he was still born with foreign citizenship.

It stated that:

Since Barack Obama's father was a citizen of Kenya, and therefore subject to the juristiction of the United Kingdom at the time of Senator Obama's birth, then Senator Obama was a British citizen 'at birth', just like the framers of the Constitution and therefore, even if he were to produce an original birth
certificate proving he were born on US soil, he still wouldn't be eligible to be president.


Other Cases

This was not the only case that was brought to the Supreme Court's attention on the subject of Obama's right to be President.

A second, from the Pennsylvanian lawyer Philip Berg, suggested that the circumances surrounding Obama's birth are unclear - and he could in fact have been born in Kenya.

It suggests that Obama has a Hawaiian birth certificate as his mother flew to the state in order to register his birth - therefore giving him American citizenship.

Surprisingly, this suggestion has gained a number of backers who believe the birth certificate is suspicious. This blog by SodaHead has more details on the case.

Tenuous Link

The lawyer has also contended that both John McCain, and Roger Calero of the Socialist Workers, are also not eligible to run for president as they are not 'natural born citizens'.

The electoral race for President has been closely watched by many countries, as the world asked 'was America about the see their first black President?'

Although Barack managed to keep the race issue largely out of the limelight, it cannot be ignored that he will go down in the history as the first black President.

And while this is the case, could it not be argued that these attempts to stop Obama becoming President are simply attempts to stop a black man leading America?

Sunday, 7 December 2008

TRIP OF A LIFETIME: The UK Version

Being a student involves spending a lot of time in the pub. On Friday, after a particularly drunk birthday night out, a friend invited me to Ireland for a few days.

It sounded like a good idea: I'd ride to Liverpool and get the ferry into Dublin. Surprisingly, the next morning it still sounded like a good idea.

That was when I thought I'd look into it for real, and a plan started forming...

Instead of riding straight to Dublin, I could ride south to a friend in Winchester. Then I could head into Cardiff where a couple of friends from uni live, and eventually head north to Holyhead, where the ferry crosses into Dublin.

Practice Ride

It will be a good practice run for my big trip after easter, and hopefully will also remain relatively cheap, with petrol and food being the only costs.

According to Google Maps, the entire journey would take around 15 hours, so theoretically it could be done in a day.

However I am currently thinking of doing it just after New Years, and I imagine the weather won't be the warmest! The ability to stop every few hours (and hopefully overnight) would be very welcome.

This all depends on the kindness of friends of course, and what they're up to. In the end it could turn out to be quite an expensive trip, but well worth the effort.

UK against Europe

While travelling through Europe and seeing all the sights sounds a lot more glamourous, I'm actually quite excited at the prospect of doing this ride.

Having the chance to visit friends I hardly see, and also to visit Wales, a country I haven't been able to see much of, is a fun idea.

As for Ireland, it's somewhere I've always wanted to visit but at the same time never really got round to it, so seeing the country while in the tow of a native would be the best way to see it.

After this, I will hopefully know a little more about planning for a long trip. The amount of clothes and baggage that is safe to take is the question I am most interested in being aswered.

The Road Less Travelled

While I like to think that I can move around the country quite happily without getting homesick, I'm still not a well-travelled girl.

I have lived away from home at boarding school for my A-Levels, then moved to Essex University for three years to study, and finally I have moved down to London for a year.

Yet I still haven't seen much of the country I live in. There is a saying where I live, that states "if you go north of Watford Gap, you get a nosebleed!"

Unseen Places

So I have never seen Scotland, or Ireland, or Northern Ireland. I have visited the outskirts of Wales, but barely ventured in.

My mum was born in Liverpool, and I have never visited the city. Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Leeds are all cities I'd love to see but have never made the opportunity available.

The English Tourist Board has loads of great tips on travelling round the United Kingdom, and if this trip comes to fruition, I plan to make full use of their ideas.

At the moment this all depends on finding out if the offer to visit Dublin still stands: but I'll find that out tomorrow!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Finding a Good Bike Mechanic

Part of the joy of owning a bike is being able to understand how it works, and be able to fix it when it goes wrong.

There's a lot more to looking after a bike than there is a car. Every week the chain needs to be tested - too loose and it could come off, too tight and it could snap. Both options end in a horrible mess.

It needs to be kept lubricated (much easier with a ScottOiler). If you plan to carry a pillion, everything needs adjusting to the extra weight. Tyre's need to be inflated properly at all times. Brakes need to be able to stop in time. Rust can be a pain (and it shows more than a car!).

If like me you're not yet confident enough to carry out the more complicated tasks, you need to be able to find a good garage that can do it for you.

Bad Experience

Just before moving down to university in London, I made sure everything on my bike was in top condition. After all, I'd be riding 100 or more miles in one trip, every week now.

Everything was fine until 2 days before I was due to leave. Then my back brake started playing up. With my usual garage unable to find space, I had to use someone else.

I took it to the only place I could find that had time to look at it and fix it. They told me the brake disc needed changing - but when I asked about the pads, I was told they should last another 6 months at the very least.

I paid up and had to work done. Everything was fine until about two weeks ago when I noticed a sound coming from the back wheel.

It turns out my pads have worn through, right to the metal, and have been rubbing on the new disc. I now need not only new pads, but new seals and another new brake disc - just two months after it was done.

Trust the Professional

I know if I'd known enough about my bike to understand what was going wrong then there would have been a chance this wouldn't have happened.

I am learning, but only as things come up that need to be looked at. My mistake was to trust the guy who seemed to know much more than me: and after all, he did work on bikes for a living.

The total cost to me for having a new disc, pads and seals was £205. I had to get it fixed while down in London, as by the time I realised what was happening, the back brake had become dangerous to use, and certainly not up to a 100 mile trip.

When I had my new brake disc fitted the first time around, it cost me around £100. As a student, I can tell you that £100 goes a long way. That's about two months of food shopping, with change to spare!

Good Garages

This time however, I made sure the garage I went to had a good reputation. I took it to Grays Moto Bikes in Harrow: not the closest garage to where I am living but the one I felt most confident going to.

I also looked into ways to tell what kind of a reputation motorbike garages around you have. I found a website that allows you to search for garages that have signed up to a code of practice - hopefully meaning they are more trustworthy.

The best way to find a good garage is by word of mouth. When I first moved down to London and didn't know any bikers, I headed to the Ace Cafe one day on a ride out and asked around. The garage I took my bike to was one of the ones mentioned.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Celebrities In The Headlines

It was recently announced that John Sergeant had decided to quit 'Strictly Come Dancing' so as to avoid winning. What was more surprising was the way in which this made the main news headlines.

There are many newsworthy topics at the moment: with the financial crisis, it seems there are always companies and banks in trouble.

The American presidential election has only recently taken place, and what plans the Present-elect Barack Obama has in store for the US are in many people's minds.

Somalian pirates have recently hijacked a super ship carrying 2 million barrells of crude oil, and we don't know as yet how the situation will be resolved.

Yet John Sergeant quitting Strictly Come Dancing has become headline news. Not only was his decision featured prominently in newspapers and websites, but it also made the BBC's evening news bulletin.

Front Page News

While surfing YouTube, I found that I'm not the only one who thinks that the story, while newsworthy, is not front page news:



However, Sergeant quitting the show was just the start of it. The story was dragged out over the next few days, as he and his dancing partner gave interview after interview on their reasons for leaving.

Reality TV Shows

The fact that he had been a bad dancer and should not have got as far as he did then sparked it's own story, with the press asking 'is this the end of reality TV? Are the public showing that they've had enough?'

Celebrities who had been on the show previously or had taken part on other reality television shows were dragged in to have their say on John leaving.

The consensus was finally reached that 'Strictly' was just a reality show and in fact not a dance show, so the public we allowed to have their joke. A consensus that most of the public had already figured out years ago.

BBC Bashing

You would think that would be the end of it, but in true Daily Mail style, the paper found an angle that meant they could carry out their favourite BBC bashing pasttime.

The suggested that the BBC had forced the political commentator to quit, as he was turning their show into a joke by always getting through.

They couldn't get a good quote out of Sergeant however, and had to report that he was:

Seemingly bemused by the lines of reporters gathered, he said: 'It is quite absurd that I should be in this position having a news conference.

'The reasons for leaving; well it is like, when do you leave a party? You leave before the fighting starts and I think that is what has happened on this occasion.

'We had fun dancing and dancing is a wonderfully enjoyable thing, but if the joke wears thin, if people begin to take things very seriously and if people are getting so wound up that is very difficult to carry on the joke, then it is time to go.'

It seems Sergeant himself couldn't understand how he had managed to get himself into such a position.

The story continued as polls and petitions were set up asking whether he should have left or not, and campaigning to get him back onto the show.

Politicians intervened to give their views on the whole issue: and not just any politicians, both David Cameron and Gordon Brown made sure they had their say.

'Public Fury'

According to Sky News, the BBC were being swamped by complaints that the director general Mark Thompson had let this disaster happen.

The public were furious at what had happened, and were planning to march to Broadcasting House with a petition demanding that he was reinstated on the show.

It became an issue that was discussed on Question Time, with everyone eager to make sure the public knew they were as against Sergeant leaving as the rest of the country.

The whole issue begs the question, if it had not been front page news in the first place, would the 'public fury' been as harsh?

Friday, 21 November 2008

Bike Safety And The Law

By law, once you have a bike license and road-legal bike, all you need to be legal is a helmet. Yet is this safe enough? Should the law be changed to enforce more safety clothing?

According to the DSA website, all the safety gear you need to get out on the road is a helmet, while visors, gloves, boots and other protective clothing is only recommended.



During training, both on a CBT course and a full license course, instructors are expected to explain the importance of other safety equipment while the actual purchasing of it it left up to your own disgression.

Common Sense

The majority of serious bikers take the safety talks into consideration, and wear at least gloves and a jacket, as well as boots and padded trousers on longer rides.

You would be unlikely to see a biker come past you on the motorway wearing no more than shorts and a T-shirt to go with the helmet. You might see it on slow roads, through villages or country lanes in the summer.

It's common sense; every biker who's come off knows what it feels like, and every biker that hasn't can imagine what it would be like.

New Riders

For new riders however; those on 'L' plates and on nothing bigger than a 125cc engine, you will often see out in basic clothing: and especially in warmer weather.

For riders who have only taken the CBT in order to get out and about before they can drive a car: they often don't want to spend more than they need to and will buy only the helmet as a safety measure.

In these instances, safety is not the most important issue. Should the law be changed so that new learners are expected to buy extra safety clothing?

The downside

Introducing such a law would of course mean that the cost of starting out learning to ride would rise, as learners would be expected to buy gloves or a jacket, or both.

Such a requirement may stop would-be serious riders from starting the process. Although many young riders will eventually give up riding in favour of driving, there is a number that would 'go the whole distance'.

It is these new riders who might be dissuaded from learning to ride so early on. Yet if you have a passion for something, surely nothing will stop you from getting there eventually?

At what point are riders considered able to make their own decision regarding clothing? Riding 2 miles through a village or very slow traffic is different to 100 miles on motorways and A roads.

Imposing such a regulation could suggest that riders aren't mature or skilled enough to know what's the safest option, thereby mollycoddling bikers.

The upside

The most important arguement for introducing stricter safety regulations for new riders is that it would result in a safer riders, and could also lead to a reduction in serious injuries for bikers.

The cost could also put off those that don't plan to ride safely once legal on the road. Those who do decide to take the test, and eventually go on the

There are many arguements both for and against stricter regulations on protective clothing. Surely the possibility of safer riders is an issue worth considering?

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Getting There...The Basics

Sitting in the kitchen in Halls last night, conversation turned to biking and one of my flatmates asked how easy and what it cost to get up and running on a bike.

After trying to explain the various tests and rules he still had a confused look on his face. So I thought I'd go back to the basics and use my experience as an example.

Provisional License

First thing is to get a provisional license, which is the first step for both car and bike tests. You can apply online through the DVLA, and it costs £50. If you want to start out on a moped you can get a license from 16.

As I had already passed my car test when I started learning to ride I didn't need a provisional license as a full car license can also be used.

Compulsory Basic Training

The next stage is the Compulsory Basic Training, or CBT as it's usually called. This is a one day course (but can be longer if you don't finish) and covers mopeds up to 50cc, 125cc mopeds and 125cc motorbikes.

A CBT is not a test and it's up to the disgression of the instructor if you pass or not. It means you can ride on the road with a learner badge on front and back.

Doing a CBT on a 50cc moped is all you can do if you're under 17. Once you've completed it you can ride a moped up to 50cc, and only on a Learner plate. Once you hit 17, you'll have to do it again on a 125cc motorbike if you want to get a full license.

A CBT costs around £100 including bike and equipment (helmet etc loan) and lasts two years. If you haven't passed the next stage in the 2 years you have to retake the CBT.

My first CBT ran out before I had a chance to take the next stage, and I had to retake the course. It meant I had all my own equipment and my own bike though, so it only cost around £80.

Theory Test

This is pretty straightforward; you need to pass both parts of the Theory test - the questions and the new hazard perception part.

The questions come first and are different for cars and bikes. Even if you've got a car license you still have to do the Theory Test again for bikes. You get 57 minutes and you have to get 43 out of 50 to pass.

The hazard perception test is currently 14 clips of road senarios. You have to get 44 out of 75 to pass. The whole test costs £30 and you'll get told if you passed or not straight after.

Standard Access Test

If you're under 21, have your CBT and theory test, you can do your standard access test. You can just book the test and do it yourself, but the chances of passing are much higher if you get training off an instructor first.

Training is usually between 3 and 5 days (depending on your experience) and you get the test on the last day. It can cost anything between £300 to £600 depending on how long you need, and if you need to borrow a bike and gear.

Once you've passed you can ride any bike as long as it's restricted to 25kw. This restriction lasts for 2 years; after that you can ride any bike without the restriction and you have a full license!

Direct Access Test

Finally; if you are over 21 you can do the Direct Access test. This is the same as the standard access test except its done on bigger bikes (usually 500cc's). Again it'll cost around £300 to £600 for the training.

If you reach 21 before your standard accest restriction is over, you can also take this test if you don't want to wait for the 2 years are up.

I took the standard access test and although I'm over 21 I've decided to wait till the 2 years are up instead of doing another test. After all it's just more money and as a student that's something I'm lacking!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Somalia Pirates Biggest Haul Yet

Pirates off the coast of Kenya have hijacked the MV Sirius Star, a 'super tanker' with 2 million barrels of oil on board.

According to BBC News, it is thought to be the biggest ship that has been hijacked by pirates so far.

The ship was boarded at the weekend, and it is thought to have taken less than 16 minutes for the pirates to take control of the ship.

There are currently 25 crew members still on board, two of which are Britons.

Earlier today, negotiations with the pirates started, and Vela International, who are leading the negotiations, have stated that all crew members are safe.

The ship is classified as a VLCC (very large cude carrier) and is owned by the Saudi oil company, Saudi Aramco.

Fairytales

Pirates are not people you expect to exist in the modern-day world, and are usually relagated to children's stories and blockbuster films.

It seems that as technology has advanced for the world, so has the equipment that the pirates carry also advanced.

It is being reported that instead of swords and cannons, the pirates were armed with rifles and grenade launchers; and instead of a wooden ship with a skull and crossbones flag, they arrived in speedboats.

Biggest Yet

The super tanker is over 330 metres long, or around 1,080 feet, which is as long as an aircraft carrier. Its total depth is around 31 metres.

The ship can carry up to 2 million barrels of oil, and it is though that the cargo the MV Sirius Star was carrying is worth around $100 million.

The boat was owned by Vela International, the group that are dealing with the current negotiations, and was one of 19 other VLCC's.

On board were 25 crew members, and apart from the 2 Britons there were sailors from the Phillippines, Poland, Croatia and Saudia Arabia.

Impossible Attack

You would think that an attack on a ship this large would be impossible, especially from a small group of pirates.

However, none of the crew were armed with anything that they could have used to combat the pirates, and it is not common practice to take security members as crew on baord ship such as these.

Talking to Sky News, the US Navy said that they 'have been warning shipping companies to do more to protect their vessels and their crew but to no avail'.

Once the ship was fully loaded, the depth from deck to sea level would have been around 3.5 metres, which would have made climbing up the side of the boat simple, and possible in a matter of seconds.

The ship was also much further north of the area that is being patrolled by anti-piracy ships, around the Gulf of Aden, and therefore lacked protection. This report gives an insight into what pirates look for in a ship.

Safety

Despite this incident being the first major piracy attack that has hit the headlines, it seems that piracy is actually a common occurrence, especially around the Gulf of Aden.

According to this website, there were over 200 recorded attacks last year, and this year the number has already reached 199. And that's only the reported attacks.

After an incident like this where everyone is waiting to hear what will happen to the boat and the crew, it begs the question, will security on board boats this size soon become a neccessity instead of a luxury?

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Riding In The Rain

My commute from home to university takes about an hour, with the roads being winding, smooth and traffic free. It's a great ride: except that is, when it's raining.

It seems a bit of rain can turn the nicest of rides into the journey from hell. However smooth and traffic free the roads, with a bit of rain there's suddenly twice as many dangers to look out for.

Riding in the rain takes a lot more effort than it would do if it was a nice, dry day. However, I know there are things I can do to make sure not only it's a safe ride, but that I even enjoy it.

Keep Warm

Staying warm and dry is a pretty important factor. We all know the dangers of riding when you've lost the feeling in your fingers, your head hurts from trying to concentrate on the road and you can feel cold water running down your back.

Waterproof trousers are a must, and preferably thick: there's nothing worse than feeling the rain hit your legs like pinpricks through thin trousers. I usually wear my padded combat-style Joe-Rocket's over jeans: it keeps you warm and means you can change later.

To keep extra warm, try wearing a pair of tights underneath it all. It may sound like it only applies to girls, but I was actually given this tip by a male biker friend. Just buy extra large!

I was reading this article that has some great suggestions on warm clothing and waterproofs, and is worth a read.

Ride Safe

The most obvious thing to do is to ride safer, though there is a suggestion that you shouldn't change how you ride in the rain to riding in the dry.

There are plenty of guides on the internet offering suggestions on changing the tyres, suspension, cornering and more. There's plenty of things you can do to your bike to make it safer to ride on wet roads.

Most of time however, I just want to get on my bike and go, not spend my time checking everything is ok before I even start the bike, and I'm sure there are plenty of riders out there who feel the same.

So the basics I try and remember are to take it a little slower, keep back from cars who sometimes decide to slam on the brakes, concentrate harder and avoid all painted lines and pot-holes like the plague.

Keep Dry

You can buy waterproof covers to fit over boots. I still ride in trainers or fashion boots, so for the wet I just slip the boot covers over the top. I use Weise covers, which have elastic at the top, and can be pulled up over trousers for even more protection.

Waterproof jackets are pretty useful, but in my wisdom I currently only have a leather jacket. It keeps out the cold and most of the rain, but in a downpour it's not all that helpful. I try and wear a cheap kagool over the top to help a bit. I've never tried an oversuit: any input on their usefullness would be most appreciated!

I've got a lovely pair of Spada Chill Factor gloves to go under my normal gloves, and they do the job very well. Though I have been known to cheat and turn the grip heaters on!

The one area I've always struggled with is my helmet. Wearing a neck guard helps a little, but on long rides my visor has to stay open so I can see the road. I always know I'm going to arrive with no feeling in my nose and having eaten at least one fly!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Road Tax and Impatient Cars

There seems to be an expectation of bikers to annoy other road users by flying past cars and zooming off into the distance. So why is it when you try to take it slow, you still annoy the driver behind you?

Part of the joy of riding comes from not having to hang about in traffic jams, of being able to get places quicker than others. But sometimes, the joy is in taking it slow and enjoying whats around you.

However, it's not often you get the chance to enjoy it for long before an impatient driver appears behind you trying to force you into moving faster. Having a car close to the back of you gets quite unsettling and the choice is to pull over or give it some gas.

Frustration

You can see them trying to get past you, and you can feel the frustration that you don't move over shooting from their eyes. But why should you? Every biker pays Road Tax, so why not use the whole road?

Being forced to ride on the left of the road so someone can pass leaves the rider in a dangerous position. After all, there's less protection on a bike and riding at the edge means more chance of hitting those potholes.

There is an assumption that because a bike is smaller, they're not entitled to the same amount of road as others. Drivers are willing to take the chance that if a rider comes off, they will more than likely end up hitting their car, all to get a bit further up the road.

Dangerous Manoeuvre

Even if a bike doesn't move over, cars will inevitably use part of your side of the road to squeeze past. Yet when they overtake another car they'll move right into the opposite lane to avoid a collision.

If there's something on the road that needs avoiding; such as roadkill, potholes or water, we're going to swerve towards the car. At best the car gets scratched; at worst we're on your bonnet. And there's no one to blame but the driver.

Drivers should try treating a bike like just another car. Give us space when your behind, give us space if you overtake and please make up your mind; either get annoyed at slow riders or fast riders, not both. You've gotta let us win sometimes.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Barack Obama President - But Not For Three Months

Barack Obama was named the next President of the United States last Tuesday - but he won't take power until January.

This seems like a very dangerous position to leave the country in; especially considering the difficult financial times the country, and indeed the world is facing.

The current President George W Bush has become nothing more than the face of the country, and although he holds the power, there's not much he can do with it.

During the election race between McCain and Obama, George Bush even invited both to the White House to discuss what to do about the imminent recession.

End of Bush

The President-elect has already announced today that he is planning to scrap some of Bush's newer policies.

In fact they have very different views on many issues, such as the the Iraq war: one started it and the other wants to end it.

Barack Obama has said previously that if he was elected, he would

Call my attourney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the Constitution.


Surely now it's just a waiting game for the rest of the world? If Bush was to try and run a world conference, no one would take him seriously.

Bush has however said that he wants to make the transition from his leadership to Obama's as smooth as possible.

Inauguration

Obama isn't handed the keys to the White House until January 20th 2009. Between his election and his inauguration, there's nothing but paperwork to be done.

There's the official votes from the Electoral College, which isn't until the 15th December. Then there's the new Congress session to begin, and finally Congress will formally count the votes, on the 6th January.

Obama started to recieve the President's Daily Brief from the 6th November, ensuring that he was kept up to date with everything going on in Washington.

He is in effect, the man with the power. He is the man who will inherit the financial crisis, and it will probably be stabalised while he is in office.

So why does the world need to wait until January to be allowed to recognise it?

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Bus Lanes in London

According to MCN, London Mayor Boris Johnson is planning to allow motorbikes to use bus lanes in London.

Starting from the 5th of January 2009, an 18th month trial run will start, and if the scheme is successful then the decision could be made permanent.

Cyclists are already allowed to use the lanes, and allowing motorbikes to do the same will hopefully reduce traffic and congestion in the city.

Across the rest of the country, bikes are already allowed to use the bus lanes in other cities. Boris Johnson said he has "long been staggered that while motorcyclists can use bus lanes in many other cities and some of our Boroughs they were not allowed to use the Transport for London red routes".

Boris Johnson is head of Transport for London and as a keen cyclist he says that "one of the ways we can ease congestion is by encouraging more people to get on their bike, whether pedal or powered".

Strong opposition

Even though the Mayor made the idea part of his manifesto, he has faced strong opposition from the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) who, according to BBC News, presented him with a 3,000 strong petition asking him to reconsider.

The previous Mayor, Ken Livingstone, decided against allowing motorcyclists to use bus lanes in March this year, after a report said there were no conclusive benefits.

However, he was later accused of doctoring the report to show a lack of conclusive support for the scheme, as MCN reported.

New Resident

Having recently moved to London from an area that is usually free from masses of traffic, it's a shock to suddenly find myself constantly on the clutch trying to to battle the congestion.

Not being able to use the bus lanes seems like a waste of a perfectly good bit of road. The area of London I live in has many bus lanes but a lack of buses, and allowing someone to use the lanes seems like a sensible idea.

However, head further into the centre of London and you find plenty of buses all happily taking up space in the bus lanes. Surely by using the lanes in these areas of the city you're not only disadvantaging those on the bus, but also yourself as you fight to pass busses.

The idea that motorcyclists will endanger cyclists, who are already allowed to use the lanes seems like an idea based on stereotypes. Surely the majority of bikers will respect cyclists, and not aim to knock them into the road?

Sunday, 26 October 2008

TRIP OF A LIFETIME: Start Planning

After writing my last blog I recieved a comment from Jophiel Wiis, who is planning a motorbike trip round New Zealand and Australia.

His really is a trip of a lifetime, the kind of thing I one day hope to have the time to do, and I started thinking about extending the route and length of my trip.

I speak relatively good German and I was thinking of extending the amount of time I spend there. As Jophiel is from Denmark, I have also considered riding North through the Netherlands, then the tip of Germany and heading into Denmark before back through Germany.

He also suggested looking into funding for the trip. Instead of this, I have been thinking about using the trip to make my final project. It's only an idea for now but as I have a chance to think about it I'll hopefully expand on the idea.

Places to Stay

Right now I'm trying to finalise a route and look into places to stay along the way. After travelling across America I found the use of hostels a nessessity and I have been looking into hostels across Europe.

There are plenty of places to stay and at a relatively cheap cost as well. I would quite like to get the chance to camp, especially the further south I go, and the European Park Guide has been a great help.

However, this raises the question of luggage. I already have a large back box to cart my things from home to uni and back again, but I need panniers, and then possibly a tank bag as well.

There are a plethora of clever luggage accessories available for bikes, and all can be found at decent prices if your willing to compromise a little. The question is, just when does too much become too much?

Leaving it Behind

I'm trying to learn lessons from Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor, who often talked about taking everything and the kitchen sink, then finding they didn't need it.

If I was to take camping equipment as well as clothes, maps, waterproofs, basic equipment etc then the bike would end up pretty heavy. How much of that do you actually need?
Answering Questions
In order to get any further than just having a hazy idea of going on a trip sometime next year, I need to start answering some of the questions.
The most important is where I will go, how I will get there and how long it will take.

Monday, 20 October 2008

TRIP OF A LIFETIME: The Beginning

After watching Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman go the 'Long Way Round for what must be the 20th time, I decided the time has come to sort out my own trip.

Obviously it's going to be pretty much impossible to pay for a three month journey from the UK all the way to New York, but I can try and organise a journey through parts of Europe.

The Ace Cafe

There are several places that are a must go at some point for any biker. The Ace Cafe in London is one of these, and luckily for me is only a 20 minute ride from my university. It's also somewhere I haven't been yet.

I have ridden past it on a trip back from Brent Cross shopping centre, but have never had the nerve to stop off yet. Even though I've been riding for several years, I'm still worried about making a fool of myself in front of other bikers!

The Nurburgring

Apart from the Ace Cafe, the Nurburgring in Germany is another must-see for me, and I'm sure for many other bikers. Getting the chance to try out my bike on one of the world's most famous racetracks is something I have to try.

The Ring is still under German road laws, and although there is generally no enforced speed limits, some areas actually are restricted. You are also not supposed to overtake on the right; though how strictly the Police enforce this is unknown!

Basic Route

The idea of riding through Europe is an idea I have had many times, but never really looked into it seriously. As I will have three weeks off over Easter, it seems as though this would be the best time to try though.

This gives me around 6 months to look into making a serious plan; but at the moment, a basic route would be to go into France via the Channel Tunnel, up through Belgium, across into Germany and the Nurburgring, south through Switzerland and then Italy, back into France and possibly into Spain depending on time.


View Larger Map

On a Budget

As a student this would have to be very much on a budget, so I will be looking in to cheap hotels and hostels, cheap travel through the tunnel, and cheap (yet rewarding) places to visit.

I also need to look at buying basics to carry on the bike; I have a 42l back box, but thats all at the moment. Instead of going for a very expensive Satnav, I recently bought a magnetic map holder for the tank; is this enough or will I end up getting very lost?!

Asking for Help

If anyone has managed to travel round Europe on a bike and knows of anywhere good to stay, interesting places to visit, or any information on roughly how long a trip like this would take would be much appreciated!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Councils Could Lose All Interest In Icelandic Banks

After the collapse of Icelandic banks, it has emerged that UK Council's may lose all the interest they have gained from investments - that's even if they get back the original investment.

When the Icelandic banks collapsed, the Icelandic government were quick to reassure UK investors that they would get back all their money, and that any deposits were safe.

The banks have collapsed as a result of the global credit crunch, and possible recession, that is hitting the finances of the world.

Council Money

It then emerged that various UK councils, as well as police forces, had money tied up in the banks. Once the money was frozen the government became involved, hoping the broker a deal to ensure that UK investors would get their money back.

The Independent has reported that the councils could lose up to £60 million in interest - money which they may have based future spending on.

The three local councils that are thought to be most at risk at the moment are Uttlesford in Essex, Wyre Forest in Worcestershire, and Tamworth in Staffordshire.

The Audit Commission, who are overseeing proceedings with the UK money in Iceland, have also had to admit that they have around £10 million invested in one of the bigger Icelandic banks, Landsbanki.

Facing Problems

Plymouth City Council, based in Devon, has already shown signs of strain. The council has around £13 million tied up in Icelandic banks, and has had to borrow £9 million in order to pay its bills.

Other councils who may soon become a concern include Braintree in Essex, Cheltenham in Gloucestershire and Daventry in Northamptonshire.


With so many local councils being hit by the collapse of the financial system in another country, it makes you question how long it will be until the whole local government and national financial system in this country goes under?

Government Support

So far, the British government has been able to prop up ailing banks, starting with Northern Rock a few months ago. Essentially, we all own the bank (and as such, also own shares in various football teams which the bank supported!).

The government also managed to help out other banks before they started facing the same kind of problems, with a massive government loan. Banks that didn't take any part of the government loan, such as Barclays, managed to find money elsewhere.

But if the local government itself starts losing money, how long would it be until this spreads upwards, towards national government?

If that were to happen, how long would it be before the government was no longer able to keep the credit crunch at bay?

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Cost, The Whole Cost, And Nothing But The Cost

It’s often been suggested to me that the cost of getting on a bike must be much more expensive than driving a car.

After all, after passing the driving test all you need to pay for is the car itself, while after passing a bike test you need a helmet, jacket, gloves, trousers and boots before it’s really safe to ride.

So I thought I’d look at the difference in start-up cost between riding a bike and driving a car, to see if this really is true.

The Vehicle

Buying a car or a bike has the same principles; the more you pay, the more you get. Keeping costs down and buying an older, smaller car is the same as buying an older (though not necessarily smaller) bike.

I paid £1650 for my second hand, 2004 Suzuki GS500F. It was restricted already to meet the Standard Access regulations (saving me around £100), and the seat height had also been lowered. The mileage was 11,000 miles.

For around that money, Autotrader says I could buy a second hand 2000 1.3 litre Ford KA, having done 70,000 miles.

The Clothing

My first helmet cost me £100, and by law that’s all you need to legally ride a bike. However it didn’t feel that safe (And was also pretty cold!), so I bought other gear to wear as well.

My leather jacket cost £250 – but that was one of the more expensive. I could have bought a textile one for under £100. My waterproof trousers cost £140 – and again I could have paid under £100 if I had just wanted to buy cheap.

The gloves cost £50, and I haven’t got round to buying boots yet. Instead I wear my trainers still, but if I were to buy some they would cost in the region of £120.

So far it looks like it really is cheaper to drive than ride. The Ford KA cost £1650 as did my own bike, and I’ve spent £440 more on clothing without counting boots.

Making it Legal

But what about insurance, tax and MOT, which both cars and bikes need to be legal on the road? The cost of petrol is also important.

My tax for the full year is £48, and for my old 125cc motorbike it was only £15 for the year. The most expensive bike tax is £66 for the year. For a car the tax can again differ, but even the cheapest petrol car costs £120 for the year.

I am lucky enough to be not only a woman, but keep my bike in a relatively safe area and also keep it garaged. My insurance at the moment is £50 for the full year, but in the first year of riding it was £75.

That’s with no claims made, and no points or accidents had. I put the same details into Direct Line’s insurance for the Ford KA, and I was told that insurance for a full year would be £895.

The cost of an MOT is usually around the same for both: mine costs £20 and a car could be done for the same. Sometimes you can even find places who will offer free MOT’s on cars if you’re a regular customer.

So the average cost of getting a bike on the road (excluding the cost of the bike itself), is £583, while the average cost of the car is £1015.

It's not always going to work out cheaper on a bike than a car, but at least it may disspell the idea that a car is always the best option financially.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Best Broadcast Interview Award With Johnston

Carrie Gracie, presenter of 'The Interview', has won an award for her interview with the BBC Correspondent, Alan Johnston.

The Nick Clarke Award for 'Best Broadcast Interview' was won by Carrie after her interview with the Gaza Correspondent, who was kidnapped and held for nearly four months.

Alan Johnston was the BBC's Gaza Correspondent, who was kidnapped by Palestinian militants in 2007.

There was a massive backlash to the kidnapping, with the BBC launching an appeal, and there were protests worldwide. Pressure was put on the political party Hamas to try and have Johnston released.

The BBC compiled a timeline of events from his capture, through the stories of murder, to his release on the 4th July 2007.

Carrie Gracie's interview with Johnston covered his feelings while incarcerated, his feelings towards his kidnappers and his plans for the future.

The full interview can be heard here.

Speaking to BBC News, Kevin Marsh ,the former Today editor and one of the judges for the award said of the interview that it was "conducted in Nick's spirit, offering a rich radio experience of remarkable quality".

The award was launched in honour of the fromer presenter of Radio 4's The World at One, who died in 2006. The winner of the award is given a dozen bottles of 'good claret' - as Nick Clarke himself would have enjoyed such a prize.

The interview with Alan Johnston by Carrie Gracie is notable, in that it is the first time the award has been given out.

The Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer said "I believe Carrie Gracie will be the first in a long line of terrific broadcast journalists to win an award named after one of the BBC's greatest interviewers".

By giving out awards such as this, it gives journalists something to aspire to as well as recognising quality in an interviewer.

I find the award notable because one in the future I plan to be among the terrific broadcast journalists to win the award!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Speed Limits at Night

Take a ride down the motorway during the day and you're bound to encounter plenty of traffic. But late at night it's a completely different story.

Some parts of the motorway are so full of traffic at peak times that it's impossible to reach speeds close to the national limit, let alone to go over it.

Come late evening and into the early hours however, and you can go for miles without seeing another vehicle. So why is it that speed limits need to remain just as stringent?

We all understand that speed kills; and through villages and towns it can be harder to spot a pedestrian in the road in the dark. Yet on motorways; cyclists, mopeds, learners and especially pedestrians are supposed to keep well clear.

It seems to be a matter of trust. Despite the speeds that most cars and bikes can now achieve, motorists are not trusted to stay safe, even when there are few others around.

Crashing at 80 or even 90 on a motorway, late at night, while no one else is close by, still must be safer than crashing at 70 at 5 in the evening, during the start of rush hour traffic, while other vehicles are all around you.

The outcome may not be as good for the driver as it would be at 70, but there is a much lower chance of involving anyone else. Besides, many cars are now equipped with the safety measures to help combat a high-speed crash.

Most motorists understand the need for speed limits throughout the day and at peak times; no matter how hard we moan about them. We even pay attention to the lowered limits through accidents and roadworks.

There is currently a stretch of motorway covering around 3 junctions on the M1, that has just been turned into 4 lanes either side. The roadworks are ongoing throughout the day, and the limit is set at 50.

This stretch is covered by 'average-speed' camera's, ensuring that no one breaks the limit. Throughout the day the traffic flows freely, using all 4 lanes; yet remains at a speed of 50.

Late evening and you can cover this stretch seeing only one or two others. Yet everyone still plods along at 50, despite the fact that workers are tucked up in bed for the night: thanks to the cameras.

Is there not a case to suggest that areas like this should be given some leeway at night? Perhaps its time motorists were trusted a little more, and the cameras were turned off in the late hours.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

BBC World News In America...1 Year Old

Last week the BBC World News in America celebrated it's first birthday. What is the difference between British and American broadcasting that mean the US needs a British style news?

Having studied at an American university for 6 months in 2005, and being a broadcast journalism student, this is a topic that I have a lot of interest in.

Rome Hartman wrote on his blog about the celebration, and gave a brief history of the service. He suggests that the BBC covered news events that the rest of the American press wasn't touching on.

I spent a lot of time watching the TV while in America, and watching the news every night has become part of my daily routine, after sitting with my family every evening for 23 years.

Apart from what was going on in America, I was on the look out for news from the UK and Europe. It didn't take me long to realise that global news events were hardly ever covered.

Two major news stories happened during my time studying in the States. Firstly, Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, where friends were living at the time, and I was anxious to hear everything I could on the event.

The American news channels covered this admirably, though I still managed to find out additional information by checking the BBC News websites.

Secondly was the Buncefield Depot explosion, which I had a vested interest in as it was only a few miles from my home in the UK.

I didn't even hear of the story until almost two days after the event, when a friend from the UK rang and told me about it. Once again I reverted to the BBC News web pages to find out the full story.

It turned out to be quite a major event, with most of the European press being interested int he story, and it was covered by French, Spanish and German news.

The American press however, didn't even mention the story.

This experience leads me to believe that the BBC World News service is indeed a service that the US is in need of.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Motorbike Privileges and 39 Points

Trawling the BBC News website this morning I found an article about a biker from Southampton who's been banned from riding and recieved 39 points on his license.

He'd been caught speeding on camera, seven times in the space of a month; sometimes the camera has even managed to catch him pulling a wheelie.

As bikes have no front numberplate, the BBC report says that police eventually managed to catch him thanks to his flashy jacket, of which there are only two in the country.

Bikers already get a bad rap in the press, and are stereotyped as ignoring the rules of the road and seeing themselves as invicible. With a story like this, questions about motorbike rules could become an issue again.

Everyone, whether on a bike or in a car, has pushed the boundaries of the speed limit from time to time. Yet on a bike, riders are somehow more distictive and prone to critisism about speed.

There is an inate negativity that all bikers face from the rest of the public, and by showing a lack of respect for the cameras, it can also be seen as showing a lack of respect for other riders.

The motorcycle community is already facing the possibility of stricter testing, stricter rules and regulations, and stricter costs of keeping a bike on the road.

Drawing attention to the privileges of riding is something that needs to be avoided: through this stunt he may have lost his right to ride, but he may also have an impact on the right of others to ride.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Profiting From The Credit Crunch

As the financial markets start to tumble and the western world fears a recession, not everyone feels so glum.

President Ahmadinejad of the Islamic Republic of Iran has announced that while America has started to decline, the Iranians should get ready to 'manage the world'.

So far the share prices on the Tehran stock exchange have hardly been affected by the credit crunch that is reaching the West.

In fact, many stockbrokers are seeing the crisis as an opportunity for their country, and a prime investment time.

Mr Ahmadinejad has said that the crisis will not affect his country, and that they have excess amounts of cash in the economy.

One of the senior clerics in Iran , Ayatollah Jannati, has said to BBC News "we are very happy that America's economy is in jeopardy and they are paying the price for their misdeeds. God is punishing them".

Foreign investors however are unlikely to be successful if they want to invest in the country. Foreigners need government approval if they wish to invest, and this proccess takes at least a month.

However many have warned the country that it will not be long before they are also hit by the crisis, and the chances are that it will be worse for Iran than it is for America.

Saeed Layez, one of Iran's outspoken economists said to BBC News that it will be worse for their country "because of the oil price and our dependency on oil income".

The country has faced high inflation as well as high unemployment for a long time, and the fact that property prices are likely to fall if the financial crisis does hit could be a good thing for the poorer classes.