Ripwell Reports. Puffergate.

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The famous historian and cyclist, Giles Ripwell, tries to get to the bottom of the latest furore involving Team Sky.

Crikey! It seems that hardly a month has gone by in the last year and a bit where there hasn’t been some kind of scandal surrounding Team Sky, the United Kingdoms of Great Britain’s number one cycling outfit. What with the TUE’s, jiffy bags, testosterone patches, recovery injections, and stolen computers there are now more gates in Sky’s recent history than in the founder of Microsoft’s house during a family get together. All of these episodes have hurt Sky’s reputation but they have managed to carry on regardless and have had a rather successful season. However Puffergate, the newest hoo-ha, might cause Team Sky to discombobulate like your laptop after a Windows update.

But that’s enough of the computer based analogies and time to find out exactly what the devil has happened and what the future may hold for those concerned with what has happened.

Last week it emerged that a top cyclist going by the name of Mr Christopher Froomes returned an adverse analytical finding for a drug called Salbutamol during this years Vuelta de a España. It turns out that the fellow ended up winning the championship which is why the whole thing has created such a storm. In fact, this Mr Froomes has made a habit of winning some of the biggest races over the years and is even honing in on the EPO enthusiast Lance Armstrong’s world record of seven Tours des Frances. Not only could Christopher lose this years Vuelta de a España championship but his previously unblemished reputation and worldwide appeal could get utterly crushed.

“Ruddy heck Giles!”. I hear you say. “Could?”. “Should don’t you mean, the chaps a fraud, a cheat. Bang him up and throw away the ruddy key!”. Well as it happens this adverse analytical business means that he gets the chance to prove his innocence before getting handed a ban. The drug found in his system, Salbutamol, is legal, but only up to a certain level. Twice that certain level was found inside the urine of Mr Froomes so he has a big task ahead of him to clear his name.

To find out which way this case might go I thought I should get the views of those inside the peloton. I contacted a certain Herr Tony Martin first as he has been known to be outspoken on the issue of drugs in the past. Unfortunately he just started banging on about the World Cup and I have no interest in football. Most of the other riders I know are away on training camps so I was left with no choice but to give my old friend Bradley Wiggins-Sir a call.

After leaving Team Sky and setting up TEAM wiggins, Mr Wiggins-Sir has left the cycling world and taken up rowing. When I heard about that I thought “How marvelous! There is nothing I enjoy more than going to a regatta, I simply must invite Bradley along”. I used that as an ice-breaker when I phoned but he barked back at me “Not that type of flippin rowing Giles! I do the indoor type Giles!”. After we discussed what this meant the conversation moved to Mr Christopher Froomes. Mr Wiggins-Sir found it highly amusing that he rows nowhere near water and Christopher needs to prove he was severely dehydrated on the day of his adverse what-not. The two have never got on to be honest. Soon Bradley was in full flow. “Ees never going to get a Knighthood now, that will show him. He he he. I tell you what Giles, get this, ees a right pain in the asthma!”. I wondered if that was the same as a triamcinolone injection but the last time I mentioned that he wasn’t too happy.

I thought I would ask Mr Wiggins-Sir about his wife’s recent comments on Christopher. He told me “I’ll let her tell you herself Giles but she out at the post office. She needs to send some rabbits to South Africa in time for Christmas”. “Anyway she’s right, I was pushed under the bus”. I asked Bradley if it was the same bus he got the jiffy bag sent to but he must have been busy as he hung up.

So Mr Christopher Froomes faces perhaps the biggest challenge of his life now. Can he prove that he took a legal dose of Salbutamol on that fateful day and save his career? And what of his team? David Brailsford-Sir already resembles something of a modern day Choppy Warburton and his antics risk the reputation of his riders. Will a guilty Froomes sink the whole team?

Some say the future and credibility of cycling is at stake, but just like a few years ago when the future and credibility of steak was at stake cycling will survive until the next ruddy well scandal.

 

 

 

Ripwell Reports. What’s In The Jiffy Bag?

It has been almost three months since the Fancy Bears international hack team leaked the medical documents which showed Bradley Wiggins had received three highly questionable medical treatments during his days as a Grand Tour contender. It has been two months since the revelation of a potentially sinister package being transported across Europe by Team Sky employees. It seemed for a while that Wiggins and Sky’s worlds could come crashing down. The one man who could have helped the situation, David Brailsford, has remained fairly quiet, possibly wanting the whole thing to blow over. After a period of relative respite that tactic may have been working but things will start hotting up again as on Monday the 19th of December Brailsford will need to appear in front of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in Parliament.

With the story being quite a mess and so many unanswered questions I sent my undercover reporter, the well known historian and cyclist, Giles Ripwell on the case to summarise what has been going on and try to answer the what everyone wants to know.

Ripwell Reports. What’s In The Jiffy Bag?

It has been over a year since I last rubbed shoulders with the fellow going by the name of Mr Bradley Wiggins-Sir. I was riding for his side TEAM wiggins in the Tour de of Britain and remember having jolly good chats with him during the stages. Since then I hadn’t heard much from him. Apparently the British weather had finally got to much for him in his old age and he would only cycle on the indoors roads doing Olympic Pursuits. I thought he had forgotten his old pal Giles until he called me in July. He was very emotional and explained to me through sobs that the dastardly Mr Chris Froomes had won another yellow jersey. A couple of months later I heard from him again but this time he was in much better spirits. Jingos! He had won another Olympic gold medal and told me it was now Wiggo-Sir 5 FroomesDog 0. Since then, as you might have heard, he has been involved in a touch of controversy and I was sent on the case to find out was has been happening. I tried contacting him to see if he could give me any information but I was told that he’s only talking to his new best friend, some fellow going by the name of Mr Andrew Marr. So with Mr Wiggins-Sir gone quiet I had to figure out what has been happening myself.

The whole situation started in September when some Russian computer buffs started a fancy new website where you can go and look at medical files of athletes that have been in the Olympics. It caused quite a stir to begin with until everyone realised that most of the athletes medical information was stuff we already knew or contained information on drugs and medical practices which everyone has agreed for a while should be more tightly monitored. Unfortunately for Mr Bradley Wiggins-Sir his information was among that of a small group of people who’s information raised some alarm bells. Three of Wiggins-Sir’s courses of drugs looked highly suspicious and one of those was just before the Tour de France which he won against Mr Chris Froomes. I have complete faith in my good friend though and firmly believe that those drugs were taken for genuine medical reasons and not to enhance his performance. There would be no need for him to dishonestly take any drugs to win the race as I’ve been told of an unsavoury character calling himself Mr Sean Yaytes who would have brought harm to anyone trying to beat Mr Wiggins-Sir, including his team mate the scoundrel Mr Froomes.

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Ripwell Reports. Roseburn to Leith Walk Cycle Route.

Over the last few months I have been following the final stages of Edinburgh City Councils planning process to build a new cycle route from the west of the city, near Murrayfield stadium, through the centre of the capital to the east in Leith.

The bold scheme which includes plenty of segregated cycle lanes will provide a safe and direct route for those wanting to commute to the city by bike (as well as making improvements to pedestrian safety) and the desired outcome is more people on bikes, less in cars which leads to less pollution and a clearer, healthier, happier Edinburgh.

However, being bold and ambitious the planned route has inevitably been met with scepticism and objection. The reasons people give when they say they are against the route are the same ones which are echoed across the country every time new or improved cycling infrastructure is put on the agenda and they are born out of prejudices and misinformation either personal or fed by the media. Perhaps the biggest thing holding back progress though is the human follies of fear of change and comfort in the status quo.

I sent my investigator, the well known historian and cyclist Giles Ripwell, to report on the project. He found out about the various campaigns who are for and against the scheme and revealed the concerns people have which make them wary of something which may be of a benefit to them in the future. He also reports from a highly charged public meeting which showed the type of miss-information and stubbornness which campaigners for safer cycling constantly have to battle against.

Myself and Giles are not involved in any of the campaigns and our thoughts are purely personal. The comments made in the meeting are not satire.

Ripwell Reports. Roseburn to Leith Walk Cycle Route.

The Roseburn to Leith Walk cycle route has been a project which The City Of Edinburgh Council has been putting together since the initial feasibility study in early 2014. They are keen to fulfill their promise to “make Edinburgh’s transport system one of the most environmentally friendly, healthiest and most accessible in Northern Europe by 2030” and the route they have been planing would help them achieve that. Original public consultation was promising with 72% of respondents strongly supporting and only 15% strongly against it. There were some residents and businesses along the route who rightly had concerns about some aspects of the plan, it was going to impact their day to day lives after all, and most contentions centred around the Roseburn Terrace and West Coates parts of the plan. A local residents group going by the name of Roseburn Cycle Route was set up and started spending plenty of time gathering facts about this and other schemes to provide evidence based answers to peoples worries. They broadly support the councils plan and believe it will be a benefit to the area.

Everything seemed to be going along smashingly but as the saying goes “Turning roads into cycle paths turns people into psychopaths”. Along came a fellow calling himself campaigning force Mr Peter Greggsons and his organisation Suits Not Kids. He was very much against the proposed infrastructure. Rather than encouraging safe, pollution free transport which would benefit future generations he would rather be a thorn in the councils side so no money gets wasted on bureaucracy. Being “a cyclist himself” though he formulated an alternative route for the council to consider and called it the “Roseburn Vision” or the “NCN1”. The vision must have been something special because a petition in favour of it gained 3500 signatures before it was even released. It may be possible that the signatures were from folk who read alarmist posters titled ‘Save Our Shops’ which ignored evidence which Roseburn Cycle Route had already gathered and suggested businesses could lose customers and close down because of the route. One real fear that businesses had was the loss of loading bays. This was addressed by the council and their plans were revised. Roseburn Cycle Route were happy with these challenges to the council, and the changes, as it gave businesses a better deal than the original plan while keeping the scheme on track. Suits Not Kids weren’t finished however and pressed ahead with the vision. Loading bays weren’t their only gripe with segregated cycling.

Another group which had concerns about aspects of the project are Living Streets Edinburgh. They are a local group of a national charity which campaigns for everyday walking. In principle they support new cycling infrastructure as long as it doesn’t take space away from existing pedestrianised areas. They also want pedestrian safety to be a consideration in any new cycle schemes and had highlighted a few areas in the councils plans where cyclists and walkers could come into conflict. They seem to have been working with the council in a calm and constructive way to try and provide a better deal for those they serve. A few of their concerns have been addressed but they are still very unhappy with the part of the route which will cut through a heavily used pavement on Princes Street.

After further consultation the council drew up an alternative plan which would go before the transport committee as well as the original. The decision on whether Option A (the original) or Option B would get the go ahead would be made by the committee on the 30th of August. A further decision to delay the decision or reject both proposals could also be made but with plenty of research and fact gathering already done this was unlikely. However,

The Meeting

A public meeting was set up by those opposing the cycle route and was held on August 2nd. Some of Edinburgh’s councillors who are on the transport committee, and therefore responsible on deciding the outcome of the matter, were present. So the anti-routers were anxious to put their views across and were probably ready to listen to the other sides arguments too as they must have wanted what was best for Roseburn. With the final decision less than two months away this would be their final opportunity to have their say so they would have had plenty of information to share with their guests to try and bring them round to their way of thinking.

Here is a not so brief summary of a long and heated meeting (my notes are in brackets):

Phil Noble the senior cycling officer on the council kicked things off. He explained that the project was part of the councils plan to make Edinburgh a people friendly city. He said surveys showed that large numbers of people in the city wanted to cycle but they wanted safer and more direct routes so the plan was there to make that happen. He added that cycling routes converged at Roseburn hence the importance that it is designed properly to ensure it is a safe through route. He went on to say workshops were held with locals, cycle groups and businesses to help the design and there was a need for an alternative to the NCN1 as it was less direct and came into contact with trams. He finished by saying he had spoken to every business in the last two months and after listening to concerns changes were made to the plans so now loading bays were to be on both sides of the road at Roseburn Terrace.

Questions were then taken from the floor. There were some worries raised about businesses having to change delivery times and whether the design of a junction was right. When someone asked why a segregated lane was causing so much hostility when it would reduce risk things started getting animated then the anti-routers fired their first shot. “It’s not safe to load from the other side of the road” one of them cried. But, there’s loading on both sides he was told.

Next up was Peter Greggsons from Suits Not Kids. The leader of the anti-routers was bound to have some good points to make. He admited to being  a cyclist and doesn’t think the proposal is right. He confessed that if he cycles 2 miles he gets sweaty so it’s unlikely that other people would cycle further. He then claimed that tram tracks weren’t as dangerous as made out before suggesting that better paint on cycle lanes was the way forward. He then explained that there’s 28 shops on Roseburn Terrace and loading would be cut by half, (or in real life, 22%).He said shoppers won’t be able to (illegally) use loading bays if lorries are there, (presumably the cycle lanes kerb also means they won’t be able to drive onto the pavement to park too). Mr Greggsons added that the NCN1 just needs better sign posting and suggested that more should be done to encourage the use of buses. Some might have thought he had completely missed the point of the council trying to improve conditions for cycling but he had one more trick up his sleeve to get them on side, the petitions. He pointed out that the petition in favour of the scheme had people living in areas away from the proposed route and therefore they shouldn’t carry as much weight. (For clarity from henseforth I will refer to these people as commuters). He then proudly mentioned the survey which showed 90% support for the vision.

Peter Greggsons then took some questions. Firstly he was asked: “Do you think it’s alright to fill in petitions with false addresses?” He said “yes” and “because it was for an anti-gun petition”. Next someone told him the point of scheme was to increase cycling and reduce car use which the vision wouldn’t do. Ah but “commuting cyclists would have different view from council and may not use their scheme.” (Presumably the commuters who agreed with the scheme in the original petition). He claimed the council didn’t use an economic case but improved health benefits as justification for the scheme. (Improved health is a benefit to economics) A respiratory physician, siding with Greggsons, said option A would be a disaster as it will increase congestion and pollution which is a cause of respiratory disease. (Apart from the fact that when recent roadworks which reduced some of the stretch down to two lanes showed there was no increase in congestion he may have a point).

A Gentleman from Donaldson’s Amenity Association was next to speak.

He said he was also a cyclist and sees the proposal as dangerous so current commuters won’t use the scheme. In his opinion filling in pot holes and better signage would be a better solution. In fairness to him he said he wants safer cycle routes. But still opposes the scheme. The fellow then mentioned Holland where good cycling infrastructure is common and explained it works there because it doesn’t get as dark so cyclists don’t need to worry about lights from oncoming traffic. He finished by saying the project would aggravate drivers because they will have space taken away from them and aggravating drivers doesn’t help cyclists and pedestrians. While he was talking someone in the audience asked hiw many people are killed along the stretch. “Typically one a year” was the answer. Someone was heard saying “All this for one cyclist  a year?”

Next up was a trader from Roseburn Terrace, a chap called George Rendall. He would be the final member of the opposition to speak.

He was adamant that shops will close if the plans go ahead. He said that he had asked every commuting cyclist if they would use it and no one had said yes. Furthermore, in his opinion, pedestrians will be terrified to use the pavement. (Though I assume they’ll be able to get down the pavement without cars parked on it). He explained that 50% of customers come by car but cyclists wouldn’t use his service because they can’t collect shopping by bike. “It’s illegal to carry large objects by bike” he added. A point was raised from the floor that other bike lanes show trade goes up. “Roseburn is different” was his reponse.

Next up was Roseburn Cycle Route who would be putting the case for the project to the concerned public.

As soon as he started people began walking out. “We need to act on air pollution.” The reply from the floor was “I don’t want to hear this waffle” as more people got ready to leave. Roseburn Cycle Route were putting across the reasons for a safe cycle route into the city. Here are some of them: A healthier mode of transport was needed as increasing obesity costs NHS £600m pa. There is a need to tackle congestion as there’s not space for everyone to drive into the city. 43% of hoseholds don’t have cars but cars have on average only 1.2 people in them. (More walk out). Population is growing in Edinburgh and they can’t keep using cars. They stated that 50% of people live within a 15 min cycle to work but what’s stopping them? The answer is dangerous tram tracks, unsafe and busy roads meaning no safe route into city. So, they pointed out, the plan is for people who don’t currently cycle but want to because,after all, why should you be brave to take a mode of transport? To answer questions on design it was pointed out that the plan uses best practice from elsewhere. And as for the cost? Forcasts show that the route will deliver £13m in benefits. Throughout Roseburn Cycle Routes slot people had been trickling out.

There were then more questions and points raised from the floor.

There was a complaint about cyclists speeding in Roseburn park, at 30mph. (It’s not know whether the complaint came from one of the many drivers that nonchalantly speed through Roseburn Terrace).There was then a complaint about pavement cycling. (It’s not know whether the complaint came from one of the many drivers that illegally park on the pavement on Roseburn Terrace). Another concerned resident pointed out that London and Europe have different climates and people won’t cycle in Edinburgh. He certainly has a point as Amsterdam, with a similar annual temperature, has slightly more rainfall over a typical year. Another point was made that pollution was not going to fall. (An opinion, not fact).

It was now down to the final speaker, David Spaven from Living Streets Edinburgh

More people were leaving. He Welcomed the scheme as it would improve walking safety as well as that for cyclists. He had concerns about floating bus stop and speeding cyclists. His view was that they need to turn Roseburn into people friendly not vehicle friendly place. Option B was his preference as both pavements are widened in that plan. He said he was impressed with the councils willingness to listen to his concerns. He was not keen on the vision, which has segments which both cyclists have to use together. He believes shared use is no good and does nothing for pedestrians and infact makes things worse for them. Greggsons defended the vision by saying he hasn’t seen conflict on one of the shared use paths in Edinburgh.

And with that the meeting drew to a close.

I would like to thank Mr Ripwell for his report.

The decision on which option (A or B), if any, will get the go ahead is being made by the Transport Committee of the City of Edinburgh Council on Tuesday the 30th of August. I hope they honour their promise to “make Edinburgh’s transport system one of the most environmentally friendly, healthiest and most accessible in Northern Europe by 2030” and ignore the baseless reasons behind opposition to the scheme.

I have to thank @PidginPosting for providing me with most of the information I used in this post and I would encourage you to visit Roseburn Cycle Routes website as well as CyclingFallacies.com.

Ripwell Reports. The Menace on the Roads. And Pavements.

 

 

Welcome to the first instalment of ‘Ripwell Reports’ where the well known news personality, Giles Ripwell, carries out investigation into a subject which is bothering an increasing number of people in a piece called “The Menace on the Roads. And Pavements”.

Ripwell Reports. The Menace on the Roads. And Pavements.

There are many subjects these days which the general public have an interest in but know absolutely nothing about. Luckily, the media pick up on pick up on these interests, investigate the topic, provide a fair and balanced report of the topic and them decree whether it is a problem or not. In turn, citizens pick up the information provided and use it to have healthy and friendly debates about the subject on social media. At the moment though there is a certain topic vexing the nation which seems to be sending everyone into a ruddy rage. The media is telling us that the nation should be at breaking point because of it. You will have heard of the problem. It has only been on every form of media. Radio phone ins, newspapers and internet websites are choked full of angry but well balanced debate and stories concerning certain red light jumping, uninsured pavement hogs. So what is the story with these braggarts? What makes them tick? What is been done to stem their growing numbers? But most importantly will we ever be able to share the road safely with these characters in their four wheeled steel boxes.

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