August 11th - This is something I knew about, but had never seen in use. It’s a bit geeky, but I find it a fascinating demonstration of simple solutions being best.
As New Street Station is gradually turd-polished and sprinkled with cheap glitter, platforms are periodically closed to the public. At the moment it’s the turn of platform 3.
When the platform is closed, so is the adjacent track so that work can be undertaken in safety. The track is blocked, the overhead wires are grounded and these detonators are placed on the line.
Should a train get down here, the yellow disc, which contains a small but effective explosive charge, will be crushed by the wheels, activating the explosive. This makes a sound like a gunshot, alerting nearby workers and the driver.
This technology has been in use for decades, but I didn’t know it was still employed today.
June 10th - Waiting in the queue at the Arboretum Junction in Walsall this morning, I was pleased to note that this Ricketts Ltd. tipper wagon was kitted out with safety features - a reversing safety camera, cyclist warning notice. He seemed to have extensive mirrors too, but I couldn’t get them in shot.
The wagon was driven professionally and courteously, and I couldn’t fault it - it was nice to see. More and more tipper trucks seem to have these safety features - shame they aren’t on some bigger HGVs.
Well done, H. D. Ricketts - very considerate.
April 17th - The minutiae of drainage engineering are wonderful. I’ve been passing this array of manholes for a couple of weeks now, and noticed that new bars had been installed across the covers. It’s taken me ages to work out what they’re for. It’s not what one may imagine.
Opposite a small, automatic sewer pumping station on Green Lane at Bullings Heath, Walsall Wood, there is the concrete cap to what must be a storm buffer. A storm buffer is a large underground tank that, in time of heavy rainfall, collects drainage water and fills up, storing it and allowing slower discharge into the main network to prevent overload. There are lots around and they work well; you can tell this is one due to the large circular ‘cap’ evident with the access covers.
Recently, bars were mounted over the covers. Initially, I assumed they were to prevent access by drainers - a type of Urban Explorer that goes into sewers and storm drains to explore - but they aren’t actually secure. They’re secured with normal nuts and bolts, not locks. A couple of covers in front (not shown), which I think house pumps of valves - are not so protected.
They have actually been fitted to prevent internal pressure from blowing the access covers out. If the buffer filled to capacity due to a storm event, water pressure would increase against the hatches, and lift them out. That would then expose anyone walking through the subsequent flood liable to fall into a very deep, open manhole.
The bars are therefore a safety feature.
I wonder what has occurred, and where, to make this risk suddenly appreciated?
March 17th - Since I noticed the caution sticker on the back of the truck last Friday, I’ve been studying other such vehicles for similar safety features. Coming home tonight, I was surprised by this one: on the back of a very long, articulated fuel tanker, it warns of the wide turning circle and the danger of being on the left of the lorry as it turns. It also gives the equally sound advice about mirrors. Both these points are excellent.
Interestingly, it appears to be warning car drivers, not specifically cyclists. I find that a bit odd. Like the one on Friday, it’s also a wee bit too small to read from any distance or in a hurry.
Nice to see, though. Well played, ESSO, well played.
March 14th - In Birmingham, Newhall Street junction by the old Remploy headquarters. A great safety warning on the back of a truck. I only have two issues with it:
- It should be twice as big
- It should say ‘Do not pass this vehicle’
Regardless of how cycle lanes are marked, don’t come up the lefthand side of traffic folks. It’s not big, not clever, and is what kills most of the adult cyclists involved in road accidents in the UK.
January 27th - I was stood on platform 5 waiting for a train at New Street Station. I looked up at the odd, tube-like access bridge hastily added as a second access system here in the early 1990s, in the wake of the Kings Cross Fire; because New Street was classed as a subterranean station, it had to have separate access. So cranes added this monstrosity, now out of use.
Looking up in my early morning fug, I noted the arrangement of walkways, barriers, rails and safety harness mounting points spanning the top of the structure.
The only purpose to be up there is to clear the skylight windows.
If you design something, and most of the complex steelwork is to ensure the safety of a window cleaner whose job is to clear less than 15 square meters of glass, you’ve failed as a designer.
Sadly this monstrosity looks set to survive the renovations.
December 28th - Up on the Chase today for the first time in ages, and oh boy, it was good, but very, very muddy and the trails were treacherous. Be careful if you’re up there yourself; some quite popular tracks are blocked by fallen trees following the high winds. It could be very easy to plant into them if not paying attention.
Take care everyone.
November 24th - These little sets of steps near bridges are a mystery to many folk. They’re horse mounting blocks, intended for equestrians to easily mount or dismount their steeds as they use the bridge nearby, and rein their horses over.
This one, dedicated to the memory of great CTC cyclist Alan Woollat, is by the pedestrian bridge system over the A38 at Weeford. Before this bridge - which Alan campaigned tirelessly to get - cyclists, walkers and horse riders used to have to negotiate the A38 which was dangerous, even on a quiet Sunday like this. As a fringe benefit of the M6 Toll/A5 by-pass work, we got a few good bridges like this over local danger spots, and now we can all cross in safety.
Alan was a good man, and a fine cyclist. I think of him every time I use the bridge dedicated in his name.
April 4th - Time for my usual post-snow warning. The roads are murder at the moment, especially ones where snowploughs have been used. What’s happening is that melting snow that collected grit, marbles and detritus from the road, is concentrating the horrid payload and depositing it on the surface where many cyclists ride.
Hitting the polished gravel - known as marbles to motorcyclists - that gathers over junctions, on cambers and in gutters can be like hitting black ice. Silt and mud can conceal deep potholes and steal your wheels from under you. Debris like sticks, branches and littler can jam your wheels. Until the wind, rain and local authorities have done their cleansing thing, be careful out there.
November 17th - Winter, cycling in darkness. I really can’t stress this enough, but lights, folks, lights. Lights are about being seen - creating a moving point of highlight in a dark world. In an urban environment, that’s all you need: to this end cheap LED blinkies and such are perfectly adequate. In rural environments, and for moving at speed off road in the dark, good forward illumination is essential. The better the light, the sooner you see hazards, the faster you can potentially go. I use an LED light by Hope, of Barnoldswick in the UK; it’s their flagship R4 model, and is very bright indeed. This is a non-assisted photo and shows the light spread on a medium setting. I have a very bright rear light from the same company. I love Hope’s stuff. They keep me safe at night.
October 18th - Road safety in a time of austerity? Too expensive. Here at Station Road in Harden, there used to be a pedestrian crossing where National Cycle Route 5 crosses the road. This is a busy trail is a recognised safe route to school that takes a heavy cyclist and pedestrian load. Station road is busy and quite fast. Up until six months ago, there was a pedestrian crossing here, which was damaged by vandalism and taken out of use.
Solution? Remove it. Well done Walsall Council. Victory for common sense and safety there - not.