Categories
Ecological Environment Flight Science Society Technology Transport

Smooth Skin Can Save Serious Money

Non-Stick Vehicles
A good way to save money

Every woman knows that unblemished skin is essential to looking good.

In modern vehicle aerodynamics, not only does a smooth skin look good, but it can also save large amounts of money for the owner or operator.

The aviation industry has been aware of the importance of a smooth finish for many years, and has developed many ways of reducing skin friction. Flush rivets and streamlined fairings go a long way to increasing achievable airspeed and reducing drag (and therefore fuel burn).

The latest generation of transport aircraft now increasingly use composite materials such as carbon fibre to construct airframe components. Such materials offer two main advantages – a high strength to weight ratio, combined with the ability to be joined using high technology adhesives rather than rivets.

However, an aircraft in line service becomes dirty over time, and the dirt particles accumulate to cause a breakdown in the airflow over the wing surface, thus increasing drag. Paint finishes also start to blemish and break down, causing further erosion of the erstwhile smooth finish.

This is where the relatively new science of Nanotechnology offers significant improvements to aerodynamic performance.

Nanotechnology is defined as “The manipulation of matter at an atomic or molecular level.” The standard unit of measurement is the nanometre, which is defined as being one billionth of a metre. To put this into context, an atom of Helium measures about 0.1 nanometres!

Developments in this field have enabled the production of commercially available coatings designed to bond to a vehicle structure, forming a perfectly smooth coating which prevents the accumulation of dirt and debris and helps to shed water, and protect paintwork.
The process for applying the nano-emulsion is simple.

Firstly, the airframe is thoroughly cleaned, and then treated with an acidic solution which has the effect of positively polarising the surface. This enables the nano-emulsion to completely bond with the structure.

The final stage is applying the coating itself. Once cured, the coating is fully bonded to the surface.

The fully cured coating is extremely thin – 100 times thinner than a human hair, and the total weight of the treatment adds just four ounces (113g) to the weight of the aircraft.

It is estimated that a treated aircraft will return a fuel saving of somewhere between 1% and 2%!

A number of airlines have been quick to evaluate these products. In 2011, EasyJet, grasped the opportunity to run trials, and had eight of their aircraft treated with the nano coating.

A carrier such as EasyJet’s fuel bill will represent about 40% of its total costs, and be in the region of £750,000,000 ($1,185,000,000) per year. A 1.5% saving on this figure is a massive £11.25 Million per year. As fuel prices only ever go up, these figures are just a start.

There are also additional hidden savings, as treated aircraft will need washing and repainting less frequently.

Another significant saving may be made on the amount of green taxes incurred by the operator. In Europe, these taxes are quite high, and a drop in fuel burn results in a proportional reduction in greenhouse gases.

Recently, British Airways announced that they are conducting a trial on a Boeing B777-200, and is hoping to see cost saving in excess of £100,000 in the year long evaluation.

This technology is not just limited to aircraft operators. The coating is equally effective in a marine environment, and coating ship hulls will improve hydrodynamic qualities.
Road vehicles can also benefit from improvements to their aerodynamics and haulage operators with a large fleet may well be able to enjoy cost savings as well.

So our womenfolk were right all along. Smooth is essential!

Categories
Civil liberties Cycling Motoring Society Transport Travel

Should Cyclists Be Legally Obliged To Wear A Crash Helmet

I was sitting in the office the other day, when I overheard a conversation between two of my colleagues. Now, I should probably explain here, that one of the protagonists is a keen cyclist, and commutes to work by bicycle every day, regardless of weather – a distance of some thirteen miles.

The other party to the discussion was a self confessed petrol head, and drives a very powerful and sporty muscle car.

He was remonstrating with the cyclist, criticising him for not wearing a cycle helmet. Quite rightly, in my opinion, the cyclist was defending his position by saying that there was no legal requirement for him to wear a crash helmet, and as such he wouldn’t.

This got me thinking. Over the past three or four years, there has been some serious lobbying by some safety motivated pressure groups to make it a legal requirement for cyclists to wear crash helmets whilst riding their bicycles.

As a free thinking adult, and a free spirit, I normally baulk at any sort of legislation that attempts to regulate aspects of my private life, and this includes the “Nanny State” mentality of coercing me to stop engaging in activities that are perceived by some unelected bur to be either dangerous or unhealthy.

So I decided to conduct a little research into the subject, and this is what I came up with.

Statistics. Lots of statistics, all of which can be distorted and twisted to put a particular slant on a story.

However, I have done my best to strip the spin and hyperbole from the stats and explain it as it is.

Firstly, one has to first understand why a crash helmet may be needed by a cyclist.

Advice to wear a helmet, means that the person or organisation feels that there is a great risk that a head injury may be sustained by the individual by taking part in the activity – in this case the relatively safe activity of riding a bike.

So, to put this into perspective, there is a need to assess the element of risk associated with cycling, and compare it with other common activities.

A little research throws up some interesting facts that the proponents for mandatory crash hats don’t tell you.

Firstly, according to Her Majesty’s government, there were over three times as many pedestrian killed on the roads in 2013 than cyclists. If we are to assume the pro helmet lobby’s argument that helmets should be mandated for the riskiest activities, then they should be advocating that pedestrians should be compelled legally to wear helmets! This is obviously ludicrous.

Naturally, everybody wants human activity to be as safe as is reasonably practicable. However, there is a fine balance between protecting people and demotivating them from being involved in an activity.

The health benefits of cycling are well known; excellent for cardio-vascular fitness, aerobic fitness and muscle bulk and stamina. Add to that the psychological benefits of riding a bicycle – greater hand/eye co-ordination, a very good stress buster, and a great sense of personal freedom and independence, and you have a formula for good health.

Given the stark warnings of an impending obesity epidemic, it would appear to be common sense for governments to encourage as many people as possible to ride a bicycle, not only as a leisure activity, but also as a means for commuting, and even a way of conducting commerce.

A second great driver for the encouragement to cycle, is the government’s commitment to comply with EU emissions reduction targets. Reduction in the use of hydrocarbon powered transport is central to this theme, and increasing the number of bicycle journeys is an excellent way of both improving national fitness levels, and reducing pollution and greenhouse gases.

To facilitate this, there have been a number of initiatives set up to encourage cycling in the UK. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has set up a public cycle hire scheme, administered and funded by Barclays Bank – colloquially known as Boris bikes to encourage Londoners to cycle.

This has proved to be a great success, and has now been complemented by the provision of a London-wide cycle network, consisting of Bicycle Super Highways – with an orbital route, and cross city routes.

Sadly, all of these initiatives may prove to be worthless, should the pro helmet lobby get their way, and legislation is passed to enforce cycle riders to wear crash helmets.

The statistics clearly show that in every country that has instituted compulsory helmets for cycling, there has been an immediate and irreversible reduction in the number of active cyclists on the roads.

For example, in Australia, there is a. Lear link between the decline in cycling journeys and the introduction of mandatory helmet law

I have to confess that I do wear a plastic hat – occasionally. The big difference is that I make the decision whether to wear one based on my own assessment of the risks associated with the type of ride on which I am about to embark.

If I am about to ride down a well maintained canal tow path, or ride on relatively quiet country lanes then I most definitely leave the helmet at home. However, if I am riding in a busy city or commuting to work, then I grab the bash hat from the cupboard, and reluctantly wear it.

If legislation were enacted tomorrow, then I admit here and now, that I will consciously disregard it, and continue to ride without wearing a helmet wherever I think it appropriate.

I have ridden bicycles since I was five years old, and as an adult have suffered numerous bike crashes. More recently I survived a near fatal cycle accident – and in most of these cases I was not wearing a helmet. Furthermore in all of my accidents, wearing a helmet would have had no influence on the outcome.

Additionally, there is always the potential for behaviour to be altered when wearing a helmet.
Riders may feel much less vulnerable when wearing a crash helmet, and may, therefore ride in a less cautious fashion, thereby increasing the chances of them being injured in an accident.

Drivers of vehicles may also be less considerate to riders who appear to be more “professional”

In a study conducted in 2006 by Dr. Ian Walker of the University of Bath, it was found that drivers of motorised vehicles passed much closer to helmeted riders than riders without. This would appear to support the idea that helmeted riders give the impression of being more competent and regular riders than those without.

Naturally, this places the rider at more risk through drivers being less tolerant of their vulnerability, and thereby increasing the chances of an accident.

Dr. Walker, a traffic psychologist, used a bicycle fitted with proximity detectors and a computer to enable him to establish how closely traffic passed him whilst he was cycling.
The research was conducted on public roads in the cities of Salisbury and Bristol.

In order to assess whether the wearing of a helmet influenced driving behaviour, he conducted half of the study whilst wearing an approved cycle helmet, and the other half bare headed.

During the study, data from over 2,500 overtake manoeuvres, was analysed.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was found that passing drivers were twice as likely to get particularly close to the cycle when he was wearing the helmet. The analysis showed that drivers passed closer by about 8.5cm than when he was bare headed.

It would appear then, that a drivers perception of a rider, is influenced by their appearance, and will affect the amount of safety margin they are willing to provide.

Due to the increasing popularity of cycling, and the Renaissance of larger sporting group rides, the study suggests that drivers (as a group) tend to perceive cyclists as a separate sub culture to which they don’t belong, and don’t understand.

As a result, unfair stereotyping, classifying cyclists as “Lycra-clad urban street warriors” prevails, and anyone riding a bicycle wearing part (or all) of the “uniform” are regarded to be more competent, experienced and predictable than those who don’t wear a helmet.

The flawed acceptance of this sub conscious fact, would go a long way to explaining why drivers pass extra close to helmeted riders.

There is an interesting dichotomy here. Most adult cyclists are also licensed car driver, and therefore know what it is like to drive a car, but relatively few motorists ride bicycles in traffic, so don’t understand or identify with the problems that cyclists face when riding.

Interestingly, the study also found that larger commercial vehicles such as buses, coaches and lorries pass even closer than cars.

The average car passed 1.3 metres away from the cycle, whereas the average truck passed only 1.14 metres from the bike. Buses were even bigger offenders, passing with only 1.1 metres of clearance. Not a lot of “wobble room” for the cyclist in the event that evasive action needs to be taken to avoid riding into a pothole, or drain head.

Despite their frequent bad press, the drivers of larger SUVs, 4x4s and People carriers passed no closer than the drivers of standard cars.

And what of “White Van Man”?

Well, the urban legend of white van man is still living up to public expectations, and will, on average, overtake cyclist 10cm closer than drivers of cars.

In order to further explore driver psychology, Dr. Walker tested if drivers would demonstrate more consideration to female riders. He therefore conducted part of the study wearing a long wig.

Whilst wearing the wig, the data clearly indicated that drivers passed with an average extra clearance of 14cm more space!

It is not clear from the study whether this is because drivers subconsciously regard female cyclists as being less predictable riders, or whether it’s due to some other factors not yet ascertained.

Whilst this is respected research, having been published in The Journal of Accident Analysis and Prevention, it does not seemed to have been offered the same level of media attention as the vociferous pro helmet lobby, which has been given under the guise of complying with the Health and Safety fixated and risk averse culture that is the norm in Britain today.

One of the major collateral problems of legislating for helmets to be worn by cyclists, is that it implies that cycling is an intrinsically unsafe activity. This affects public perception adversely, subtly persuading potential riders that they must be coddled up in high visibility clothing, helmets and so on in order to commute a few miles to work, or to make a quick trip to the shops. A lot of people therefore give up cycling, because of the extra inconvenience of having to take so many steps to protect themselves in what is really a quite benign environment.

This is also reflected in the usage statistics of various city bike rental schemes, such as the Boris Bikes operated in London. The public cycle rental system in Melbourne, currently gets used for just 150 journeys a day. Melbourne operates a mandatory cycle helmet policy. Conversely, in Dublin, (where the climate is far less conducive to riding a bike) where there is no helmet law, the scheme enjoys over 5000 journeys a day, despite Dublin being hilly, and full of old cobbled streets.

I believe the two sets of factors are linked.

I re iterate my previous statement, that statistically, more pedestrians are killed every year on the roads of Great Britain. If we are to legislate purely on injury rates, then pedestrians should be legally obliged to wear walking helmets, and wear high visibility clothing, and maybe should carry approved lights during the hours of darkness.

This is plainly ludicrous, but you can see where I am going with this.

It seems that even the respected organisers of charity bicycle rides have been caught up in the scientifically flawed argument that helmets must be worn as a condition of riding, despite the fact that the Road Traffic Act, and the Highway Code makes no such stipulations that riders should wear a helmet.

I have a helmet for such occasions, and wear it at the start, when there is high traffic density and other hazards that I have personally assessed for risk. However, once away from the start, I will pull over, and confine the helmet to the saddle bag, where it belongs and ride with either a baseball cap or nothing at all, depending on the weather.

I have ridden on many rides in this fashion, including the London to Brighton road ride, the London Bridges ride, and The London to Oxford ride.

Last year I participated in the London to Brighton Off Road ride.

This ride is truly off road for a distance of eighty miles, and involves the rider in traversing rough country, fields, woodlands, river beds, grassy heathlands and the South Downs. It takes place in September, and when I did it, the weather was cold, wet, and windy, and the conditions were muddy and treacherous, particularly when riding down trails with tree roots, exposed stumps, loose shale and mud.

I wore a helmet for the whole ride, as it was immediately apparent that the chances of crashing and coming off were very high, and the nature of the terrain made the chances of subsequent injury quite high.

Furthermore, due to the relative remoteness of sections of the ride, getting quick medical assistance would be difficult.

In essence, I believe it is the responsibility of the rider to establish whether a helmet is required, or in the case of a child, the parent should make the assessment.

Too many children are growing up in a heavily risk-averse society, where they are paralysed to take any sort of action, or participate in any kind of sport or activity without the psychological prop of some sort of “Protection”

If I feel like riding down hill on my road bike, with my nose on the handlebars and nudging the speedo past 40 miles an hour, with no helmet, then it is my inalienable right to do so, and I don’t require the permission of some do-Gooder to do it.

Naturally, it’s up to me to ensure that I am carrying adequate insurance in the event that I sustain an accident, but I carry that as a matter of course.

There is, of course, another, more sinister aspect to this, and that is the actions of the judiciary.

The judgements passed in some recent cases relating to cyclists make interesting reading.

A cyclist who was knocked off his bike and seriously injured was deemed to be partially responsible for his own “accident” as he chose not to ride on the cycle path provided, but instead opted to ride on the road.

Whilst there is no legal requirement to ride on a cycle path, it is apparent that the judge in this case decided that he should have used it as it was there.

In another case, Mr. Justice Griffith Williams stated “I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that a cyclist who does not wear a helmet, runs the risk of contributing to his/her injury”

This in my humble opinion is poppycock. Cycle helmets have a design limit to protect the head in a crash situation at Impact speeds of a maximum of 12 miles per hour. I frequently double that speed whilst cycling. It may protect if I were to fall on my head from a stationary condition, but that is not a very likely scenario is it? Unless of course I had ridden down the road to my local, and imbibed six pints of old and grungy.

My recent near-fatal cycle accident actually happened on a cycle path – where the fence (topped with barbed wire) had fallen over the path due to inadequate maintenance. The path was strewn with debris, and was littered with ruts, potholes and overgrowth. In hindsight, I would probably have been safer using the road.

However, should I have been riding in the road, and suffered another type of accident, would I have been apportioned an element of blame due to not riding on what was proved to be a highly dangerous piece of cycle way.

You decide.

But my point remains. As an experienced rider, and a free citizen, with a democratic right to free choice, I will continue to make my own assessments on the requirement to wear safety equipment.

I am solely responsible for my safety. I will NOT be wearing a helmet anytime soon, unless I feel it is warranted.

Now…….where is my long blonde wig?

Mark Charlwood
November 15th 2014

Categories
Airport Flight internet Society Transport Travel

Getting Social at the Airport

Over the past few years, there has been a silent revolution taking place. The humble cellular mobile telephone has developed from an unsophisticated brick just about capable of making telephone calls, into a slender touch-screen smart device able to send video by email, and hook up to the internet from just about anywhere!

In parallel with the advancement of the mobile phone is the explosion into public consciousness of the benefits of social networking websites such as Facebook and Linkedin.

Individually these are both very powerful drivers of social change, but combined they are truly awesome in their ability to change our lives – hopefully for the better.

The Airline industry has been quick to identify the potential to engage with their customers using these new technologies. One of the earliest initiatives, now commonplace, is self service check in, either from a home or office PC, or performed using a smart phone.

Ownership of smart phones has dramatically increased recently. Results from the 2011 SITA/Air Transport World Passenger Self Service Survey shows that the use of such ‘phones by travellers has doubled to 54%. Of those users, 74% are business and first class travellers.

Imaginative high-tech marketing can help tie customers very effectively to an airline.

KLM has been very creative in the way that it has embraced smart phone technology.

According to a report published by Brand eBiz, KLM recently launched an I-Phone application quirkily called “Shake and Travel” The user either inputs the preferred choices, and shakes the phone, and the application cleverly suggests a destination together with the ticket prices and flight information. A simple push of a button will enable the user to book the selected flight on line.

The more adventurous can simply shake the phone and take pot luck on where the phone suggests that they go.

The Dutch Daily News recently reported that KLM have introduced “Social Seating”, whereby passengers visit social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn to select as seat mate who shares a similar disposition and taste as them. This is a truly inspired piece of marketing!

Travolution also reports that KLM provides a Live Flight Tracking application which enables individuals to simply input a flight number and see the position of the aircraft displayed on a world map. Users can also check on flights operated by Air France and Delta Airlines.

In a further attempt to encourage passengers to bond emotionally with them, KLM have launched their “Passport” application, enabling passengers to convert photographs of their experiences into inspiring films.

United Airlines have cleverly chosen to integrate their loyalty programme, Mileage Plus, with the social sites Facebook and Foursquare, and are offering bonus mileage points to travellers who share their locations at airports throughout the United States. The passenger benefits from information about dining offers locally and gets a further fifty point bonus if check in is completed via the social site being used.

Emirates are also busy developing their Facebook application to enable them to emotionally engage with potential customers.

Oman Air is not slow to see the potential – they have just launched Facebook pages in four different languages to enable customers to leave feedback and remain connected.

The smart phone and online connectivity has had a seismic effect on the way in which airlines and airports conduct their business. Singapore International Airlines has withdrawn is self service check in kiosks at Changi Airport due to low usage – a direct consequence of passengers checking in for flights off-airport.

It’s not just the airlines who are embracing these changes. Passenger Terminal Today reports that East Midlands Airport in Nottingham, England is using an animated holographic image of a virtual Terminal Assistant, who reminds travellers of the security requirements for travelling through the airport. This “friendly face” delivers the security message in a very human fashion, and is probably easier than reading the requirements on a video screen.

In another first for an airport, Moscow Airport is reported as launching the world’s first check in that can be accomplished on a video link from the Skype internet telephone service. (Wall Street Journal).

Airline Loyalty programmes have been here for thirty two years in a virtually unchanged manner. However, they are now metamorphosing and being assimilated into a global marketing machine that will change the way that we travel forever.

Categories
Aircew Cycling Society Transport Travel

California Dreamin’ – Cycling the Golden Gate Bridge

California Dreamin’

When The Flowerpot Men were urging us to go to San Francisco back in 1967, I very much doubt that cycling was uppermost in their thoughts.

I expect that the only peddler that many of the Hippie generation were interested in was the one who dropped them their daily fix of psychedelic drugs.

Flower Power and the Hippie dream was all 50 years ago, and a lot can happen in half a century.

Having said that – the 60s ethos appears to be alive and well (if in a slightly diluted form) and living happily in California.

As crew for a major UK airline, I frequently fly to the USA, and decided some time back, that when I was next on a San Francisco layover, I would rent a bicycle, and enjoy some California Dreamin’

I had done a little research into bike rentals before my trip, and had decided that a company called Blazing Saddles (www.blazingsaddles.com) offered a good range of bicycles at a very reasonable rates, with a well appointed Mountain bike starting at just $9.00 per hour ($36.00 per 24 hours), and a range that includes Hardtail MTBs, Full Suspension MTBs, Comfort Tandems, High Performance Tandems, and High Performance Carbon/Alloy Roadies.

An Electrically assisted Bike is also available at $69.00 per day. Trailers and Tag-alongs are also an option if required.

In the highly unlikely event that they can’t help, then Bay City Bikes also offer a good range of cycles for similar prices. They are also located on Fishermans Wharf and may be contacted at http://www.baycitybike.com

Included within the rental package are a Helmet, a Handlebar Bag, and a lock. Cycles are all fitted with sturdy rear racks, bells, and bungee cords.

So it was, that on a pleasant June Sunday morning, four of us decided that we would cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge, and then ride into the little town of Sausalito.

The plan was to enjoy a relaxed lunch at a waterfront restaurant, and then ride back on the ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf. All in all a total mileage of about 9 miles.

This would ideally suit our party, as some of the riders were quite inexperienced, and there were some quite steep hills to negotiate on the way to the bridge.

We decided that as we were in no hurry, we would catch a cable car from Market Street at 1000, and enjoy a scenic trip through the City on the way to Fisherman’s Wharf, where Blazing Saddles are located.

Riding the Cable Cars is a highly recommended part of the trip, especially for movie buffs, as the route crosses California Street made famous by Steve McQueen in the film Bullit . Other films made around the City include Mrs Doubtfire, and of course, the hit 1970s cop drama The Streets of San Francisco.

The Cable Car also passes Crookedest Street. This little street gets its name because the road is a series of very tight hairpin bends compressed into about half a city block, all of which clings precariously to a very steep hill. Walking down it is “interesting”, but I imagine the bin men, and emergency services have a nightmare accessing any of the houses there!

Blazing Saddles have a number of locations spread throughout San Francisco, but we would be renting from their Hyde Street branch, which is located about two blocks from the beginning of the cycle path leading to the Bridge.

The cable car route terminates about 100 yards from the shop, which is immediately identifiable by the selection of cycles outside.

Blazing Saddles is a very efficient operation. We were greeted at the reception desk by a team of friendly and knowledgeable staff, and we were rapidly talked through the options, and the required paperwork.

We opted to take the additional insurance that covered the bikes against all damage, and all decided on “Comfort” Mountain Bikes. These differ from the standard models in that they are fitted with a gel saddle disc brakes and front suspension. A good decision, as the difference in price is only a dollar an hour!

We also decided to take advantage of Blazing Saddle’s offer of ferry tickets, which meant no queuing up to buy them at Sausalito. These tickets are offered on a sale or return basis, so it would have been foolish not to have taken advantage of the offer.

We were also given a voucher for a free appetiser at the Paradise Bay Restaurant in Sausalito, and reduced rate secure bike parking adjacent to the restaurant.

We had to leave a credit card number as a security deposit, and we where then whisked to the cavernous area behind reception where we were swiftly fitted up with bicycles.

The staff in bike despatch give a rapid fire briefing on the cycle controls; it is important to listen to this, as the brakes are set up in a different way from in the United Kingdom. In Britain, the right hand brake lever operates the front brake, and the rear brake is activated by the left brake lever. In the USA that convention is reversed.

Missing this piece of vital information could mean an interesting emergency stop scenario, and a subsequent in depth look at the inside of an American Emergency Room.

Having been given our bikes, and had saddles adjusted, we were instructed to ride towards the exit, and come to a complete stop so as to ensure the brakes were working satisfactorily.

We were then free to depart for the Bridge.
The route heads west past aquatic park on a dedicated cycle path, running adjacent to the waterfront, and is well maintained and free from potholes, and is mainly of tarmac or concrete surface. Within half a mile or so, there is a fairly steep (but luckily short) hill leading into Fort Mason Park. At the top of the hill is a vista point, giving a view over the bay.

Disappointingly, the weather in June is characteristically foggy in the morning, and only the first tower of the bridge could be seen, and the fog horn sounded moodily melancholy.

We decided not to let this dampen our spirits, so we continued on, with a gentle descent through the pleasant grounds of the park, at the bottom of which our sign-posted route took us through a car park, and out again onto a wide, well maintained path. This is shared space, with a pedestrian footpath of about ten feet in width, and two cycle lanes clearly marked for two way bike traffic.

As this was a Sunday morning, every cyclist in the San Francisco area had decided to get their bikes out, and the air was filled with shouts of “On ya left dude” and “Comin’ though” On the whole, other riders were courteous, and polite.

The route remains fairly flat in the main, and passes a tidal marshland nature reserve, and a variety of birds and fowl may be seen here if you bother to stop and look. The route then passes Crissy Field, an old army airfield, but which is now a part of the Golden Gate Nature Reserve Area.

Eventually, the path sweeps left, culminating in a short, steep uphill climb on Long Avenue.
This intersects with Lincoln Boulevard, but this is probably the only stretch of the route which uses roads. Within a hundred yards or so, the route forks right and heads to the base of the bridge.

As the vehicular traffic across the bridge is very busy, there are segregated paths for pedestrians and cyclists, but quite sensibly, the Bridge authority has ensured that cyclists and pedestrians do not conflict with each other. This is done by the simple expedient of splitting the walkers and bikers onto either the east or west side of the bridge.

So, as it was a weekend day, cyclists were obliged to use the West path and walkers the East. This system is excellent, and makes for a good flow in both directions.

So with the last climb of the ride, we wound our way under the bridge, and up onto the bridge itself, where we stopped for the obligatory photo by the Golden Gate Bridge sign.

The ride across the bridge is a little chilly, mainly due to the coastal breeze, and in our case, the mist. However, the road surface is well maintained, and clearly signed.

Once over the bridge, a steeply descending curving path leads down into the town of Sausalito.

The town is obviously a prosperous area, and the houses and streets are beautifully maintained, and spotlessly clean.
The cycle path disappears here, and the ride into town is conducted on public roads, but the car drivers in this idyllic spot are courteous, and generous in their encounters with bicycles – of which there are literally thousands!

We cycled to the western edge of the town, where we found our restaurant, and duly handed our cycles to the valet, who ensured that they were parked and locked in a secure area – and all this for just one dollar per bike.

The restaurant, The Paradise Bay, is in a nice location overlooking the waterfront, and we chose to sit outside to enjoy some top quality fish, and sample some of the local ales – in my case Steam Bitter, which is a refreshing way to end a fabulous ride.

Having eaten and drunk to our capacity, we cycled the half mile to the ferry terminal, and were soon boarded, along with about a hundred and fifty other cycles for our half hour crossing of the bay, back to Fishermans Wharf.

A short ride along the sea front took us back to Blazing saddles, where we returned the bicycles, and settled our bill – which came to just $40.00 each for a whole days use of the bikes, and the ferry tickets which normally retailed at $10.00 each one way.

Lastly, We all purchased a tee shirt proclaiming the we had “Biked the Bridge”

So – if you are looking for a fun day of leisure riding then I would thoroughly recommend Biking the Bridge, and Blazing Saddles are there to help you do it.

Mark Charlwood©
17/06/2014

 

 

Categories
Civil liberties internet privacy Society

The Internet of Things – Sinister Threat, or Powerful Friend?

Ask most people what they understand by the term “Internet”, and the majority will respond by explaining that the World Wide Web is accessed on their laptop computers, tablets, or smart phones to enable them to shop, communicate, and maybe conduct some research for business or educational purposes.

The expression “internet-enabled” is casually bandied about, referring to maybe a camera that will download photos automatically to a social networking site via the internet.

At the moment people access the internet, using a fixed dedicated interface device such as a desktop PC, Laptop, or smart phone.

However, the exclusive status is about to change, as more and more “inanimate” objects are being Internet enabled, becoming what is known as Ambient Intelligence.

The humble fridge in your kitchen may soon be able to assess stock levels, and reorder supplies when a preset level is detected. The vacuum cleaner may soon be able to communicate with a centralised home computer to decide which rooms require cleaning, and in what priority.

Your shopping basket may soon be enabled, and will monitor what products you are buying, and may look at patterns – maybe you are buying unhealthy food combinations, and may then upload this data to your medical centre, where your Doctor may be able to assess your diet.

Maybe government departments will monitor your spending habits to see if you are buying things that when used in combination may be dangerous.

Checking care labels on articles of clothing before loading the washing machine may soon become a thing of the past, as the item will have a microchip woven into the fabric which will communicate to the washing machine the required cleaning programme.

Already home management systems are on the market that enables a multitude of tasks to be automatically conducted with many of the functions being controlled remotely using a smart phone or a tablet computer, via the Internet.

The development of the Radio Frequency Identity Device (RFID) tag has had a profound and dramatic effect on the way we live our lives.

Initially developed for stock control and security purposes, this small chip may be programmed with a unique code that is associated with a particular product. The chip is passive, and will activate and transmit its code when interrogated by a reader device.

Stock may then be tracked within a warehouse, on board transport, and ultimately into the supermarket. It may be tracked again at checkout, and once paid for may be deleted from the system.

The same technology is used in bank cards, credit cards, Identity Cards, and documents such as passports and official documents.

If this technology is taken a step further, RFIDs may be attached to small inert chips, and placed under the skin of animals, and ultimately even human beings.

Even more chilling is the development of the Internet for security and control purposes. In the past, Governments had fairly limited means at their disposal to monitor its citizens.

Closed Circuit Television Cameras have been in use for decades, but have always relied upon human operators to monitor the captured film. Up until recently, the UK had the greatest number of cameras per capita than anywhere else in the world.

However, that is all about to change, and not necessarily for the better. The new Chinese city of Shenzhen already has a network of over 200,00 cameras monitoring its population of 12.4 million. Over the next few years, this is expected to increase to about two million.

In itself, this may not be so alarming, but when coupled with biometric data and RFID chip technology, this will enable a whole new concept in government control, and state intervention into private lives.

Facial recognition software has now been developed to the extent that it’s possible for computers to not only recognise an individual face, but also to interpret the mood or emotional state of the individual.

The covert monitoring of an individual’s body language and emotional state may be conducted by government agencies, and uploaded to powerful computers. Behavioural algorithms will analyse the data, and appropriate measures may be taken I. The event that adverse behaviour is detected.

This has both positive and negative aspects. A severely depressed individual, contemplating suicide by jumping off a bridge will naturally display strong emotional and physiological signals, which would be detected, enabling trained paramedics to be called to assist.

An individual contemplating criminal activity will also display behavioural markers that will trigger police officers to atend the scene.

However, what of the innocent individual who may be bored, mildly intoxicated, or awaiting a romantic liaison? They too may be targeted for intervention at some level.

In future, it may be possible for your local supermarket to monitor your internet enabled shopping trolley, and capture your facial image at the check out. The image may then be stored in a database containing your shopping profile.

It would then be possible for a network of cameras located in public places to recognise your image as you go about your daily business, and using your stored shopping preferences, display personally targeted advertisements on screens located, for example, on bus shelters, or mounted on the walls of buildings.

Individuals with medical conditions could be monitored effectively without the need for attending clinics at hospitals. Imagine if a pacemaker could monitor the state of a patients heart, and uplink real time data to a medical team. Early detection of a problem could result in the patient being called in for treatment before the condition becomes life threatening.

We have all become quite blasé about the internet, but it is very much a double edged sword. Used intelligently, and in a benign and sensitive way, it can improve the lives of everyone, empowering them to live a better quality of life.

Unscrupulous use of the internet by state governments for controlling the population leads to the undeniably sinister erosion of personal freedom.

Big Brother is out there – just waiting for the right moment to step in and take over our lives completely.

It is up to us, the general public to remain aware of the risks, and not allow ourselves to sleepwalk into computer controlled servitude.

You decide.

Mark Charlwood
17/06/2014

Mark Charlwood MSc reserves the intellectual copyright to this work. Re publication of this work is prohibited without seeking permission.