Category Archives: Rest

Central Taxis – odd but nice gesture

I’ve repeatedly mentioned that I came off my bike a few weeks ago (oh! 4 weeks ago today, it seems), and when I did, I decided to get a taxi to Accident and Emergency rather than call an ambulance, as I needed to take my bike with me.

A few days afterwards, I dropped a note to them (Central Taxis, Edinburgh), asking them to pass on my thanks to the driver who took me to hospital. I told them the circumstances as to why I needed a taxi, and they then sent me vouchers for a future taxi journey, for no apparent reason. Hurrah! Being nice pays off once again, as it’s also netted me £30 of vouchers for being nice about a bike shop and £20 of vouchers for posting a review on a mobile phone web site, all in the past 3 months. All very unexpected, it has to be said, but pleasing all the same.

Public Transport in Strasbourg

Before I came to Strasbourg, I spent a fair bit of time looking into how we would get around the city using public transport, and how we would get from the airport to our house. I had rough ideas about this, but there were a lot of unanswered questions, mainly because the information on the various web sites was poor at best, but mainly shit. Hence, I am writing up some notes so that others in the same boat as me can have early info that, in general, the public system is actually pretty damn good. And I say that as a resident of Edinburgh, where the public transport (Lothian Buses, mainly) is excellent, so my standards are high.

First, the trams. There are currently 6 lines, which all generally intersect at one station in the centre, called Homme de Fer. The trams go to most of the places that we have wanted to go, but if they didn’t, there is also a reasonable bus service here too. To use either the bus or the tram, you get a ticket which can be used for both. Now, here’s the first thing that I could not figure out – where to get the tickets from. The web sites suggest you can get them from some shops and some tram stations, but from my experience, you can get them from any tram station, as they all have ticket machines that can sell a variety of tickets to you, and you can pay for them with a credit card or coins.

As there are 5 of us, what we did was use “Trio” tickets, which allows up to 3 people to travel for 24 hours. And we could get these at the tram stops. Alternatively, you can get tickets for individuals, if you are on your own, but if there is more than just you, a trio ticket is the way to go.

The next thing that had me worried was what you did with these tickets once you bought them.  What you do is “validate” the tickets at the tram stops before you get on the tram, but unlike London’s oyster card, you don’t validate it again when you get off.  Instead, it seems to work on the basis of trust, in that you could jump on and off without having a validated tickets, but I assume they must have conductors who check your tickets occasionally. When you validate your ticket, it prints when the ticket is valid up to, which is quite handy especially if you are running with multiple of the things. So, validate before using it, and that’s all you have to do.

Getting from the Entzheim airport to Strasbourg itself was another concern.  Some web sites claimed that you could get an express bus, while others suggested a train.  The latter is the truth. And the trip is actually really simple.  At the airport, you can get a ticket from the airport building itself for the “TER and Tram” – the TER being the train. The airport is linked to the train “station” by a covered walkway, you really can’t miss it.  Before you go into the covered walkway, though, you can get your ticket in the airport building, as there is a machine situated just before you enter the covered walkway. The ticket was 4 euros per person, and it allows you to take the train to the central Strasbourg station (Gare de Strasbourg) from where you can take the tram to your destination without paying any more. 

However, finding the tram stop in the Gare was not easy. The signs just stopped and we didn’t find it, instead we ended up outside and headed for a different tram stop.  The Gare’s tram stop is under the station, you do not go outside the station to get to it.  You do, however, go very close to going out of the station, but just before you exit, you instead go down three sets of escalators to the tram. The tram is signposted initially with ‘tram’ signs, but these then stop and change to just pictures of a tram, which is like a bus with a ‘<’ sign above it. Keep your eyes peeled, and just be aware that you don’t go outside, and you’re looking for escalators that go down, and you should be ok. So in summary, public transportation in Strasbourg is good, but is let down by shit and contradictory documentation on their web sites.

Cycling in Strasbourg #2

More thoughts on cycling while out and about in Strasbourg today. It’s still pretty cold, but at least it got somewhere around 6 celsius today.

So, I mentioned yesterday that there was good quality cycle segregation here, but then didn’t have anything to back this up. Today, I do. First, a cycle lane starting from a pavement. It’s a bit odd, tbh, in comparison to most of them, but there you go:

photo 1

Next, directly on the other side of the street, a cycle path shared with a pavement. These are both in Ostwald, outside the Simply Market (in case you’re desperate to know for some bizarre reason):

photo 2

Next up, it’s another shared pavement with a cycle path, which shows nicely how the bikes are separated from the road. This one is near Le Vaisseau:

photo 4

And finally, in the centre of Strasbourg, quite near the Gare:

photo 6

Enough about cycle paths. What about ridiculously bad parking, I hear you ask? Well, I’ve seen some shoddy parking around here, but this truly took the biscuit. My 8 year old daughter couldn’t squeeze through the gap, never mind a wheelchair!

photo 3

And finally, it’s Strasbourg’s equivalent to the Boris bike – I’ve seen quite a few of these getting used all around Strasbourg:

photo 5

Cycling in Strasbourg

I may be unable to cycle right now due to being broken, but that doesn’t stop me from being able to observe cycling habits, especially since I am away from home. Indeed, I’m in Strasbourg, in the Alsace, department 67 of France. And yes, they like cycling here.

So the point of this set of ramblings is merely to comment on what I’ve seen in the past 5 days, related specifically to cycling.

First of all, they don’t mind cycling in the cold, which is just as well because it’s as cold here as it is back in Scotland – indeed, colder on Monday and Tuesday, where it was a good couple of degrees celsius beneath what it was in Edinburgh. So they are not softies.

That said, the terrain they cycle on is unbelievably easier than in Edinburgh, for two major reasons. First, it’s flat. Second, they have better cycling segregation.

The first point – the flatness. It’s unbelievably flat here. Indeed, I might have to go for a run, because despite the fact that I have not run for many, many weeks, it’s going to be really easy in comparison to back home. If you try going for a run in Edinburgh for more than a mile, you’ll change altitude more than you would in an entire marathon in Strasbourg, I’d guess, because I have yet to see anything that closely resembles an incline. This therefore makes the cycling really easy.

The second point – the segregation. There’s loads of it, where cycles get nice clear lanes on the roads, or the pavement is split in two for cycles and pedestrians. It’s fantastic. And what is even more fantastic is that the cyclists all quietly cycle around pedestrians without batting an eyelid. Amazing.

I was in the centre of Strasbourg this lunchtime and the number of bicycles parked in the green grassed area directly outside the Gare de Strasbourg (the main train station) was frankly in the territory of what you’d see in London – flipping crazy amounts of bicycles. Stunning.

The main things that I have been surprised about, though, is the speed these guys cycle at and the types of bikes they cycle. Speed is slooow. Types of bicycle – crap. But the same was true in Amsterdam, where the bikes looked like they were all 30 years old, and people were in no hurry. It’s bizarre. But then, this is a city (or maybe country, I don’t know) where they think nothing of taking two and a half hours (yep, 150 minutes) for a lunch break, so why hurry, when you have time to eat, sleep and play 7 games of squash before returning to work, with a leisurely half marathon run thrown in for good measure? But it’s the bikes I’m most amazed at. I’ve only seen one bike so far that I would consider remotely acceptable, and tbh I still wouldn’t ride it… it was a Specialized (good start) mountain bike (ouch) with disc brakes (ok) – it went by too fast to see any other detail, other than the fact that the rider was dressed like a prick (fitting nicely with the colour scheme of the frame). All the rest are truly old bikes. Still, it means theft is less of an issue, I suppose, and who needs a higher-specced road bike with wide selection of gears when there are no hills? So I suppose it does make sense.

Derek, Channel 4

I watched the last episode of Derek on Channel 4 tonight. I’ve watched the entire series somewhat concerned at what was going to happen; for some reason, I had a bad feeling that they were going to suddenly start being mean about people with learning difficulties, or something along that line. However, after the 2nd last episode, I was fairly confident that they were not going to do that, and that they were instead going for a specific message, although I didn’t really know what that was going to end up being. Having watched the last episode, I can simply say that it’s excellent, and if you’ve not seen it, you really should – it’s fantastic, and what a great finish to the series. I was very nearly in tears at the end, similar to the last episode of Blackadder Goes Forth. Let’s not go overboard here though – Derek is not as good as Blackadder, and it’s completely different, but in terms of a blinder of a last episode, then I do have to say that it compares favourably with the boys going over the top at the end of Blackadder.

Quite how they are going to match the quality in a 2nd season, I don’t know. Indeed, I’m a little disappointed that there is going to be a second series, because I thought it was an excellent end to the story. But what do I know – if they came up with something this good, why can’t they do it again?

Virgin Media Traffic Management Policy

I’m seriously considering changing broadband provider because for many weeks now, Virgin Media’s 10Mb connection in my house has been operating at no more than 3.5Mb. Also, their traffic management policy pisses me right off. However, on the latter point, I have now discovered that they are finally documenting, in full, what their policy is. In the past I’ve attempted to find this info out to no avail, but maybe my searching skills were not l33t enough. Or more likely, they probably hid it well. Either way, it’s currently here:

I’m now considering upgrading to 100Mb, as it turns out that it is the exact same price I am currently paying for the crap 3.5Mb I’m getting. But only if they fix my speed back to 10Mb sharpish, otherwise it’s off to BT I go.

SanDisk Sansa Clip+: Volume too quiet? Fixed!

SanDisk Sansa Clip+About a year ago, I bought a SanDisk Sansa Clip+ for the wife who was training to do a MoonWalk. She wanted to listen to the radio, and the Sansa seemed to fit the bill perfectly. The only problem was that the volume was too low for her to hear it when she was outside, even when turned up full.

So I was giving it a go yesterday to see whether I could use it when commuting along cycle paths with one headphone in (the left ear, keeping the right ear totally free). But alas, it was still just too quiet. The odd thing was, though, that it gets awesome reviews on Amazon. Did I get a faulty gadget? No, because I recalled others having the same issue when I tried to fix it last year.

But there is a fix after all. It turns out that the volume is limited on the device if you set it to Europe when you turned it on the first time. This can be resolved by resetting it to factory settings, and this time choosing North America. The down side to that is that it seems to skip even numbered FM frequencies (jumping from 99.3 to 99.5 to 99.7 etc), but the stations I listen to are luckily on the odd numbers. There are other settings that you might be able to choose that could also sort the volume issue out too, but I tried North America, then went into the Volume settings and chose ‘High’. Bingo! It’s now loud enough.

Chain whip bent; Spring?

weatherHoly crap, this is a weather forecast that brings a smile to the face! Whether it happens or not tomorrow remains to be seen, but damn, that’s cycling weather! (Note that I’ve cycled in pretty much all weathers in the past year)

In other news, I can’t get the cassette off my wheel, which I’d like to do as I’ve purchased a pair of Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels for my commuter. I’ve got the front wheel on, but no amount of force can remove the cassette. I appear to not know my own strength, as I managed to bend my chain whip trying to get it off. Arnie’s got nothing on me.