January 2017

Not a huge amount has happened training wise in January, and absolutely nothing has happened racing wise, not even a single park run. I have managed to complete five more Strava challenges, taking my total up to 277. I missed out on the Lululemon running challenge, as well as the half marathon and the running monthly distance challenge. I did finish the run climbing challenge, mostly because of walking up Ingleton with the wife on the 1st. (https://beardsandtriathlons.wordpress.com/2017/01/01/ingleborough/)

The usual Veloviewer “wheel” shows where I got to this month, including South Lakes zoo, which was fun, except for the penguins, who didn’t look too happy. I had a good ride up to Ravenstonedale towards Kirkby Stephen, which is the ride line heading north.


There were quite a few rides around Blackpool and the Fylde coast, as I attempted to increase my Veloviewer maximum explorer square. It is now up to 15 x 15. (https://beardsandtriathlons.wordpress.com/2017/01/24/veloviewer-explorer-max-square/)

This is also the seventh post this month, a new record. This little blog has also had more views this month than it did in the whole of last year. Why is this? I’ve started to share a few of my posts, including a recent post about air quality, which had 31 views on one day. I have a list of blog posts that I intend to write in the future, which is now up to ten. I am going to make an effort to post more, and share some of the more interesting ones.

More ramblings and rubbish from the bearded triathlete soon.

Air Quality in Galgate

The air quality in most UK cities is appalling. London has managed to exceed air quality objectives for the year by 5th January. Lancaster is no exception, with a large Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) covering the whole of the one way system, as well as a couple of smaller AQMAs in Carnforth and Galgate.

Local authorities have a duty to monitor and report on the air quality in their area, and any areas where the quality is likely to exceed objectives, an AQMA has to be declared. The authority also has to come up with a plan on how to improve the air quality, although this is as far as the legal obligation goes.

Write a plan, publish it, everyone ignores it, air quality doesn’t improve, job done.

Improving urban air quality is easy, as approximately 70-80% of all pollution comes from motor vehicles. Reduce the volume of traffic, improve air quality, towns and cities become more liveable and fewer people die because of poor air quality. Everybody wins. I’ve never heard anyone comment that Amsterdam is a lovely city, but what it needs is more cars.

Back to Galgate, which is a small town a few miles south of Lancaster. Galgate straddles the A6, and current measurements from the Dept. for Transport has over 15,ooo vehicles a day passing through the its centre. The town is located between junction 33 of the M6 and Lancaster University, so without moving the motorway junction there is no alternative route.

Why am I blogging about it? My PhD looked at urban air quality, so I could be called an expert. This blog post, therefore, has two purposes; firstly to estimate what the annual mean NO2 concentration is for people living in the houses alongside the A6, and secondly to gain some valuable experience using the software Q-GIS. At Uni I used a Geographic Information System (GIS) for a great deal of analyses in my PhD, but the program that I was using wasn’t free. Q-GIS is an alternative which is open source, so completely free.

Back to the first purpose, Lancaster Council has placed five Diffusion Tubes in Galgate. These are a cheap and easy method to measure air quality and are generally attached to lamposts, being replaced each month (the diffusion tube, not the lampost). The cap at the bottom is removed once the tube has been deployed. A month later it is sent to a laboratory and a couple of weeks later you get the results.


Results from the five tubes in Galgate for 2014 are available from the Lancaster air quality webpage. This data, along with traffic data from the DfT, were used to estimate, or “model” the air quality for local residents in Galgate.

Specialists have many options to model air quality, but the two most commonly used are ADMS and DMRB. ADMS is a fairly complicated Gaussian plume dispersion model, which also costs almost £2000 for a single one year license. I use it extensively at work.

DMRB stands for the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges, which includes a free to use, Excel based spreadsheet which is reasonably straight forward to use for non specialists. Unfortunately it is not available to download at the present time. This is either because a new version will be released soon, or because it will be discontinued. I hope that it isn’t the latter for the reasons I stated.

Back to Galgate, and the map below (produced using Q-GIS and using Open Street Map), shows the centre of Galgate, the extent of the AQMA and the position of the diffusion tubes. The yellow road through the middle is the A6. It isn’t my best cartography work, but it is the first time that I’ve used Q-GIS, so I will improve.


Now for the complicated bit. Using information form the Council I knew how far each diffusion tube was from the kerb, and using traffic data from the DfT I could model the NO2 concentration at each diffusion tube. The road NOx results are then run through another free Excel spreadsheet, the NOx to NO2 calculator, to calculate the modelled NO2 concentration. These are used to verify the modelled results alongside the measured results from the Council. I ended up with a verification factor of 1.6916, which is good for any air quality model.

I then picked two houses, one south of the crossroads where the front door opened directly onto the pavement, and one north of the crossroads with a very small front garden. I then ran DMRB once again, multiplied the road NOx concentration by the verification factor, ran these results through the NOx to NO2 calculator, and here are the results.

  • North residential property 37.07 ug/m3
  • South residential property 37.97 ug/m3

The units are micro-grams per cubic meter, and the air objective is only 40 ug/m3. The people living in these houses are being subjected to extremely poor air quality all of the time.

If you have driven or cycled through Galgate, or used the train, you can’t help but notice all the new properties that have been built. I then ran the model once again but with a substantial increase in traffic to reflect all of the new properties. Revised results are below:

  • North residential property 38.62 ug/m3
  • South residential property 39.58 ug/m3

The Institute of Air Quality Management has produced a handy guide to compare the increase new developments have upon existing residential properties.


The change in concentration at the two properties is 3.88% and 4.03%, relative to 40 ug/m3. Using the chart above this is a “Moderate” impact. Moderate doesn’t sound too bad, but there is only one level higher. “Substantial” should be renamed “Holy S*** that’s bad”.

If you’ve seen the news, you might have heard about the new Garden Villages that are going to be built. One of them is planned for Bailrigg, the area of land just north of the University. The proposal is for 3500 dwellings. Standard traffic consultant figures estimate that each dwelling will result in four car movements per day. That is potentially a lot more cars through Galgate, although the Garden Village plans do include ideas about moving the motorway junction.

My own view is that local authorities should have a legal requirement to improve air quality, and until they do, it will be business as usual. More roads, more cars and substandard cycling infrastructure.

Veloviewer Explorer Max Square

I’ve been a big fan of Veloviewer for many years, but for me one of the most exciting features was the introduction of the Explorer Score (almost up to 6000). The obvious extension was to see what your maximum explorer square is. This was introduced a couple of years ago, and when I first noticed it, I had a few 9 x 9 squares in the Lancaster/Preston area.

At the time I was living in Hull, so I then made an effort to increase my square there. It took a while, but eventually I reached 12 x 12. This involved cycling and running down more than a couple of dead ends and farm tracks. To get bigger would be a struggle with the Humber Estuary to the south and an army barracks to the north east. There was the potential to increase it to the west, but before I could I moved back to Lancaster.


After a few months I had managed to reach 14 x 14, which again involved dead ends and even cycling through a caravan park near the coast. I also cycled out to a farm with my running shoes and crossed a couple of fields just to add one more square. From here it would be again difficult to increase the size, due to private land without a single path or track, and also the sea to the west.

Recently I noticed that I could potentially obtain a larger square stretching from Fleetwood to Preston. Half a dozen rides later during December and January and I am now the proud owner of a 15 x 15 maximum explorer square. I had to cycle down more dead ends and caravan parks, and even a dual carriageway.


Once again I am limited to how far I can extend it, with sea to the north west and to the south Preston Sewage Treatment Works. To the north east there are a whole range of tracks that would be great for cycling….


…but, no access. I could possibly run or walk, or even cycle at 3am. There is a chance that I could get to 16 x 16, as I only need another 7 squares, but with the Ribble Estuary any more will be virtually impossible for me.

The approximate distance from one side to the other is only 20km, so imagine how larger the largest maximum square of 60 x 60 is. Somewhere in excess of 80km I guess. There was a thread on Facebook where people were describing what they had done to obtain new squares, including Fat Biking across a frozen lake and being turned away by gunpoint from army sites.

For now I think I’m done trying to extend my max square, but maybe one day I could canoe across the Ribble?

Whatever the question, the answer almost always is Cycling

Bad day at work, or your train was delayed by two hours, go out on your bike and everything feels better.

Still feeling fat and unfit after Christmas, go cycling.

Gym membership too expensive, if only there was something else, like maybe a bicycle.

Driving to work leaves you stressed and full of road rage, cycle to work instead and be a victim of road rage.

Car journeys feel like your moving too fast and you can’t see the countryside. You’ll never miss a thing on a bike.

Parking your car in a city centre costs a fortune, cycle racking is free.

Fed up with the school run, cycle instead and tell the kids to cycle too.

Too old to be sitting poolside drinking all day on your holidays, get out there on a bike, see the bits the locals keep to themselves.

Obesity crisis, NHS crisis?

Congestion in your town/city is a joke. Help to solve the problem by leaving the car at home.

Air pollution got you choking, you know what the answer is. I’ll come back to this issue in the future as it is something I’m qualified to talk about.

Zombie apocalypse, get a bike, escape zombies. Walking dead, where are the bicycles?

Cycling infrastructure in Lancaster

We have a new bypass in the area, linking the M6 with Heysham, called the Bay Gateway. I’m not going to write about that road, even though it has a good quality separated cycle path along the whole length of the new section.

I’m going to talk about a section of the A6 heading towards Lancaster which crosses over the new link road, and in particular the traffic lights shown below.


Smooth road surface and a cycle lane that is not too narrow. What could be wrong with this? With a little more thought this could have been much better. There is no good reason why cyclists should have to stop at this junction, when heading south. Pedestrians will never cross here, and the reason for the lights is to allow traffic from the right to join the A6. If the cycle lane had been raised, as a pavement, or a kerb, then cyclists would be physically separate from the traffic. I’ve tried to show what I mean on the photo below.


If this section of cycle lane was raised, and carried on a little further, beyond the car, then there could be a permanent green light for cyclists. There is still plenty of room for traffic to join the road from the right without impinging upon the cycle lane, as long as there was, as I have stated, a physical barrier. In Holland and Germany this junction, even with my recommendation, would still be classed as very poor for cyclists. This junction as it is, is good for Lancaster, which shows just how far we still have to go, especially as less than a mile down this road it narrows with cars parked all over the place. I won’t even mention that the A6 from Galgate to Lancaster is in the top ten most dangerous roads in the country, and nothing has been done to improve it by the local council since this was announced over two years ago.

2016 – End of year review


Before I give you run down on 2016, a quick re-cap on December. I completed another 9 Strava challenges, taking my total to 272. I also added 67 more explorer tiles, 140 new segments and completed the Lancaster parkrun once.


So what did I do in 2016. I managed 17 races/events, which surprised me, and it did include a continuous triple ironman (blog entry coming soon), 4 sportives and 11 parkruns.

Distance wise, VeloViewer once again comes up trumps.


It wasn’t the highest total for cycling, but it was for running, even with hardly running in the last couple of months. Over the year I also rode 8 different bikes:

  • Brompton (borrowed) 126km
  • Fuji 164km
  • Trek Cobia (sold) 227km
  • Colnago (given away) 501km
  • Trek 920 645km
  • Principia 763km
  • Forme 2618km
  • Scott 11149km

Most of my miles have been done on my Scott, which is in for a much needed service next week at The Edge Cycleworks in Lancaster. Next year I vow to ride my Fuji and Principia more. I have new tri bars for the fuji and will attempt to set it up more comfortably.

One measure that I love is the explorer score, which shows new places that I’ve been, and has gradually increased over the year.


Some more interesting cumulative stats from my years on Strava:

  • Kudos; 2012 – 61, 2013 – 1591, 2014 – 5234, 2015 – 15150, 2016 – 40273.
  • Explorer; 2012 – 1402, 2013 – 2624, 2014 – 3938, 2015 – 5096, 2016 – 5932.
  • Maximum explorer square; 2012 – 6×6, 2013 – 9×9, 2014 – 9×9, 2015 – 12×12, 2016 – 14×14.

Plans for 2017:

  • Increase my explorer score, and take my max square to 15×15 or more.
  • Ironman UK. Not sure how that happened.
  • More photos, stopping more often to look at the views.
  • Make the most of every day.
  • Support my beautiful wife as she attempts to swim 50 miles and run 500 miles in 2017.
  • Achieve 300 Strava challenges.
  • Blog once a week, and maybe even blog about last years triple 🙂

Here’s wishing you all a great 2017. Keep on keeping on.


Last year, on 2nd January, me and Helen (my beautiful wife) ran/walked up Ingleborough, although we didn’t get all the way due to the heavy mist. We couldn’t see a thing, so we turned back early.


This year we tried again. The weather in Clapham was great, sunny, no wind and not too cold.


There is a waterfall behind us, honest.


Progress was good, and we soon made it past the narrow gully with the rocks and over the last sty. You can see the top was covered in a light dusting of snow, which from down here was fine. Gradually as the path got steeper the wind picked up, until almost at the top the wind was ferocious, with ice covering most of the rocks.


Wearing ALL my clothes 🙂


Nelly, our dog, wasn’t happy at the top, and my foot was beginning to hurt, so we made the decision to head back down, passing loads of people all on the way up. I couldn’t believe how many people there were. Why aren’t you all in bed hungover?

We stopped for a break and our sandwiches in a sheltered area near the sty, and then set off down the rocky path.


We saw an 80 year old couple near these rocks. I hope that we are still able to get up there in 30+ years. Once past these rocks the path is easy once again, and soon we were back in Clapham. We had only done 11.5 km, but it had taken almost four hours, which is a testament to how tough the route is.


Once again we didn’t get all the way to the top, although Helen had a crazy idea that we could go in the summer. As I said – crazy.