How does one survive cycling in London?

Many people read my last post and asked me how did I manager to cycle in London. They find it scary (no wonder) and stressful (indeed).

My solution is two-fold: framing and intention.

Framing: I consider the bike as an instrument that will get me where I want faster than if I walked or took public transport (as I can go door to door). I am not trying to win a race or competing with anyone… and honestly, it would be quite ridiculous to attempt that with a folding bike. Let the fancy bikes speed ahead!

Intention: I try to be as generous as possible with everyone else in the street. Everyone in London is so goddamn stressed with everything, and rushing everywhere. So obviously they are going to cut corners to get to places faster. In contrast, when I cycle, I’m often where I would be in 40% or less of the time I would spend otherwise, so I have a lot of time to be generous.

Pedestrians will try and cross whenever they can. Motorists will speed ahead when they see an amber light (instead of stopping) which often results in they invading the Advance area for cyclists, or 👏🏼the 👏🏼 whole 👏🏼 zebra 👏🏼 crossing 👏🏼.

I used to get so upset with all this, but as we say in Spanish, if you want to get upset you have two tasks: getting upset and calming down. So I’d rather not get upset, but be more empathetic and generous instead.

I used to go to great efforts to place myself in the Advance area. But after being gifted with a few death threats from other motorists in the past just by placing myself in my designated area (which the Met police ignored very efficiently, I must add), I have decided that I’d rather wait behind the psychopaths’ cars. Let them speed ahead! I also leave enough space for cyclists and motorists in a rush to squeeze through the gaps as well. If they want to brave the side mirrors, the drivers spitting through the window while stopped on a traffic light, the doors that open unexpectedly and all that, let them do it! I’ll wait behind–or if the traffic is too bad, I’ll walk and push the bike on the pavement, and become a pedestrian temporarily, instead of breathing the exhaust fumes from the vehicles.

I also try to be super careful with pedestrians, by riding as slowly as possible in situations where there’s a lot of people on the pavements (rush hour!), and basically assuming any of them will jump on the road the minute I least expect them to cross.

I also used to get super upset at this as well (“Are you trying to kill us both!!? do you not see what YOU are doing??!”), but now I just try to imagine that…

  • they’re tired, or
  • they have had a bad night’s sleep/a long day, or
  • the layout of the street doesn’t make it clear enough that they’re walking on the cycle lane, or
  • they are just overwhelmed, and essentially can’t notice when very quiet cyclists approach (in contrast with a noisy motor vehicle).

So instead of getting upset, I try to just get on with it. It’s a busy city, full of people, and as I said, I’m in no rush. Everything’s chill, I say to myself. With enough warning, I’m more than pleased to slow down or stop and allow people to cross, even if there’s no explicit zebra crossing. Spending 45 seconds on that won’t make me late, and I might have contributed some good will to their day. Sometimes they even smile! I think this generosity is worth it.

That said, I’m considering getting one of those laser lights, as they seem to be more effective at announcing my presence than my super bright lights. TFL have installed them on their public hire bikes and I have seen pedestrians noticing them and not crossing the road immediately.

But you know what still gets me sometimes? The mansplainers—which are always a white man on his 40s. He shows up from nowhere, imparts you a lesson on whatever aspect of cycling he deems worthy to illuminate you on, and then leaves before you can even ask them to “get lost” 🙄. I mostly ignore them and give them a blank stare (“is this your voice that I’m hearing or is it just the buzz of the city?”), but some days I commit the error of trying to argue with them, and it’s always doomed to fail! 💩

Please note that I am not condoning other people’s irresponsible behaviour (jumping lights, crossing on red, etc) and suggesting we all work around that. I do wish people did abide by the rules, because it would prevent accidents, make traffic flows more efficient and make everyone more relaxed, and I also wish TFL improved infrastructure and signalling so flows were safer, more synchronised and efficient, but until all those puzzle pieces fall in place, this is my strategy to cycle without getting upset.

New cycle achievement unlocked

I normally cycle to work, but I hadn’t dared cycle to the gym from work yet. Those days, I took the tube, although I did find it cumbersome to walk to and from the station: it’s about 20 minutes extra I could possibly shave off if cycling.

“But what if I’m tired?”, I kept thinking. “What if cycling to the gym is tiring and then I am too tired to cycle from the gym?”

And so I kept taking the tube on gym days.

But yesterday something flicked on my brain and I was determined to do it. And I did it! 💪

It was mostly easy on the way in, but the way out took me through many, many back streets, and I spent as much time as if I had taken the tube, because I had to keep checking the directions on every turn: there were too many for me to remember, and London’s layout is very difficult to keep in your brain.

That said, I was very pleased with myself that I achieved this. Yay!

As a funny end note, I was tracking my route with Strava, which has “user-generated” segments in routes. One of the segments I went through has the best name ever: “little path of horrors” 😂–I don’t remember that area being particularly bad or full of potholes, but it made me crack up nevertheless, haha!

Electric Berlin to Spring-ish London

I came back from Berlin today.

Sorry I didn’t tell any of you, Berlin-based friends. This trip was for work and I ended up so tired every day, I barely had enough energy left to order dinner.

I love visiting Berlin–I like its edgy/artsy/DIY/independent vibe a lot. But I think this week was way too cold for my poor Mediterranean self. Thankfully, I did look at the forecast before leaving, so I was prepared.

But dry spaces like an office plus warm clothes tend to cause a lot of static electricity on me, and I ended up getting shocks with everything I touched, metal or not: tables, doors, my laptop, my phone, people (I’m so sorry I gave sparks to so many people this week when shaking hands), chairs, sofas, and would you believe it… AN APPLE! Have you ever had an apple shock you? Well, I had, and it was a most puzzling experience! I could even hear the spark! 😱

It reached a point in which I was afraid of touching things–I became a hesitant creature which delayed touching whatever it was I had to interact with, while I tried to decide what would be the best way to maximise surface contact so the shock was less focused and painful. For example, I tried to grab the door handle with the palm instead of the tips of the fingers. Or quickly tried to place both palms on my laptop after coming back to it, for the same reason. Or I devised futile solutions to reduce my electric potential such as walking barefoot, or touching the floor with my hand before touching the door. Eventually, nothing worked and I got the shocks anyway ⚡️. Ahhh!

I also somehow managed to just visit Vietnamese and Japanese restaurants while I was there. It wasn’t intentional-it’s just it’s such a great place for Vietnamese food; I always find fantastic stuff while there, really fresh and fairly priced.

That said, I was happy to go back to London, if only to not to get more shocks!

Berlin had turned the “brutal cold that makes your nostrils want to retreat into your skull” into “acceptable winter chill with sunny intervals” yesterday, but it had migrated into “somewhat miserable damp day” today. This was topped by the ever-so-claustrophobic experience at Tegel–I’ve never seen an airport so cluttered!

What a nice surprise it was when we landed and the sun was shining. I didn’t even care that much that they dropped us in Terminal 5C and I had to take the train to T5. There were still a couple hours of daylight when I arrived home!

DAYLIGHT…!

I have not seen much of it this week, and I felt as if it was suddenly March and the air is full of promises of Spring and flower scents, and songbirds.

In truth, what it was possibly full of is toxic gas fumes and other pollutants because people can’t be arsed to take public transport or walk, and so keep using taxis and ubers, and ordering take aways and buying online stuff that needs to be delivered to your doorstep… but let’s skip over that part and the noises, and just focus on the fact that I could aimlessly walk around my neighbourhood during daylight, looking at the roofs and the facades tinted in yellow, appreciating the distinct architectural styles… and all this without carrying a bag or backpack or my luggage, and also without being covered in layers of winter clothes. What a wonderful feeling!

I missed this.

Extreme decoupling or all-as-a-module

I opened my laptop in the morning and found one of my open tabs in Nightly was for Vue.js. I don’t even remember how I ended up there. Was I reading about frameworks? Did anyone send me the link? Who knows!

But I was curious. I am not a megafan of frameworks, but I like looking at them. One, because their idioms are often adopted by other developers, so it’s good to be aware of where are things going. And two, because frameworks do lots of “magic” in the background, and I always want to know how they implement their “magic”—maybe I’ll want to adopt some of it!

So instead of closing the tab, I perused the page. It has a virtual DOM as React does, but they seem to take great pride on their overall minimalism (small file size, little intrusiveness). The examples are amongst the most readable I’ve found for frameworks when it comes to the JavaScript API; the HTML directives are as alien-feeling as most frameworks.

Later I was discussing this strange incident with friends (“I found an open tab in my browser—do you think this is a signal from the universe that I should get into Vue.js?”) and Irina also highlighted the fact that Vue.js “components” might be simpler to build than the equivalent in React, and also be less coupled.

This derived into talking about The Dream:

You know what the dream is? Have everything be an npm package that I can plug in to any framework I like. And everything is packages packages packages

📦.js

Oprah giving free packages away to everyone
You get a package! And you get a package! And you get a package! And you get a package! And you get a package… everyone gets a package!

(Irina demanded an Oprah themed meme)

And of course this reminded me to earlier conversations with chameleonic Jen about modularising everything and maximising reuse. She would propose, for example, abstracting a card game into separate modules; one for handling the rendering, other for handling card games in an abstract way, another one for handling a specific type of game. This way you could build multiple games by just providing an implementation for the specific game. (Games are notoriously often not built this way).

Likewise, Aria talked about radical modularity at Web Rebels and the notion that if your modules are small enough, they are done. Finished. You rarely need to ever touch them again (unless there’s a bug). Watch the talk: it’s very inspiring.

I really like this “pure” idea, and can work very nicely as long as you keep your data and logic separate from your view.

Unfortunately, the issue is that UI code often intermingles both data and view, so you end up declaring your data as instances of whatever base component the UI is using, which is not very maintainable on the long run. If you want to change the UI you will need to take the ‘data’ bits out of the UI code, or write some sort of adapter between “UI code” and “data”, to have to only change “adapter” when you decide you don’t like your current view layer. This could be a performance hit, so you might want to sacrifice flexibility for performance.

But hey… everything in computing is always a trade-off!

 

A very quiet Saturday

I was overly ambitious with my running a few days ago, and I hurt my ankle, and it didn’t help that I couldn’t stay home Friday and work from there, as I had to go somewhere and walk a lot in between places. By the time I was back home, my ankle hurt way more than in the morning, so yesterday I decided to just stay in and enjoy a quiet, restorative Saturday.

It turned out to be way quieter than I expected, as the internet connection went down for a few hours.

Mind you, it’s not like I was totally disconnected from the world, as I live in an area with 4G coverage and all that, but I am way more conscious of the data consumption when using my phone, so that meant I self-restricted myself to the essentials all the time the connection was down.

I found it very interesting (although not entirely surprising) that I got a lot of things done…

Continue reading “A very quiet Saturday”