The Sights I See

Commuting each day from Lancaster to Leigh via Wigan wouldn’t sound as if there was too much to see, but you would be wrong. Let me tell you about some of the sights that I see.

I am sure that The Preston International Hotel easily matches the delights of Vegas or Monaco.

The Wigan football stadium is majestic, although I would prefer to visit it for a non sporting occasion.

The Swan and Railway pub near to the station. Trip Advisor has some good reviews, so it could be the one nice pub located in an oasis of turgidness that is King Street. The most depressing selection of drinking establishments ever gathered on one street. Although I was interested in seeing the covers band Slipknowt.

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There is a caravan park near Scorton that has a big slide going into the river. That looks like fun.

Virgin trains reserve two seats for cyclists. What they say is ‘Reserved cyclist’, which is me. But what if you’re an out going kind of person riding a bike, where do you sit. Is there a reserved seat for ‘Flamboyant cyclist’?

Santos & Co. have been making sweets in Wigan since 1898, including Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls. Give ’em to your granny and watch the bugger go, as Mike Harding used to sing.

Not a sight, but at 17:15 every day, an automated announcement at Wigan train station telling you to keep an eye on your belongings as any unattended bags will be removed without warning. Surely this is a warning.

There are some nice statues.

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The Silverwell pub still has a banner outside advertising Euro ’16.

A Doctors surgery on Organ Street.

On 13th April 2017 I saw a narrowboat navigating the Wigan series of locks. First time I had seen a moving boat on the canal.

The Virgin ticket inspectors had badges with ‘Revenue Protection’ printed.

Have you ever seen a pedestrian crossing for horses? There is one in Wigan.

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Bikes on Trains…. again

I’ve blogged about the problems I’ve had with taking my bike on a train before (here), and once again I’m the victim of the vagaries of Virgin Trains.

Last week I tried to catch the 17:38 train from Wigan to Lancaster, with my bike. I had a bike reservation, so no problem. I would never try to take a bike on a train without a reservation, unless the company don’t do them (here). The train was a little delayed, but not enough for a refund. The platform staff were all ready to unlock the bicycle storage compartment, when the train manager said ‘no more bikes’. Both myself and the platform staff mentioned that I had a reservation, but the moron on the train wasn’t having any of it. He’d let a load of people on with bikes who didn’t have reservations.

If that happens it’s quite simple. One of the people without a bike reservation gets off the train and I get on. I’ve seen it happen in the morning at Preston, where someone without a reservation had to make way for four bikes, who had reservations.

The unsympathetic train manager suggested that I get the next train. Great idea, except I don’t have a reservation for that train, and I’ll have to wait another 45 minutes. I wasn’t happy. The platform staff told the train manager that he was in the wrong, but there was nothing more they could do. As I watched the train roll out of the station without me, one of the platform staff got on the radio to get me a reservation for the next train. He also told me that he wouldn’t let the train leave the station without me on it. They couldn’t have been more helpful. Complete opposite of the tosser on the train.

At Wigan today, the platform staff asked me it I’d complained. I had, but hadn’t had more than an automated response, so he told me to complain again. Not a good system, although to be fair to Virgin, they do appear to be the best of a bad lot.

Wigan Train Station… again

I’ve blogged about Wigan Train Station in the past where I mentioned about the new code and security for the cycle store (read about it here). This morning I saw a notice taped to a couple of bikes.

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This is good, as it can be really frustrating not being able to park your bike because there are bikes that have been dumped and never move from one week to the next. If you’ve ever lived in Oxford or Cambridge you’ll understand how many bikes are abandoned, so it’s good that Wigan Station are doing something positive.

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The bikes in question are old and cheap and they could have been used as an excuse to be in the bike store, pretending to unlock a bike, but in reality eyeing up other bikes.

Next on the agenda must be to stop people parking in the short stay disabled spaces.

Too close

I’ve blogged about the joys of commuting between Lancaster, Wigan and Leigh a few times before (here, here and here). I’ve lost count of the number of close passes and near misses that have happened to me in the last six months, but today’s encounter was the worst.

I was cycling through Lancaster, making my way to the train station, along the A6.

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The cycle lane is little more than some leftover paint, but it is better than nothing (maybe). As I came towards the traffic lights with Meeting House Lane, a car pulled alongside me with the left indicator flashing. The passenger definitely saw me. You can guess what happened at the junction.

 

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The driver didn’t bother about me in the slightest, and just turned left on me, leaving me with no choice but to also turn left. If I had tried to go straight on I would have ended up a crumpled heap on the road. If I’d been lucky I would only have suffered cuts and bruises and a buckled front wheel. I could have ended up with a ruined bike and a broken collar bone.

What saved me was the indicator, so I was ready to be ignored, as was the fact that I was also turning left. I never indicate at this junction, as that is a guarantee that a driver will turn left on you. The photos above were taken later in the day, but it wasn’t dark when the incident occured, and I was wearing one of those stupid fake police jackets that say ‘Polite’ on them. You’d have thought that there would be no way you could miss me, although apparently you can.

That particular junction is a known danger area for pedestrians and cyclists. The Council has even added a mirror on the traffic lights so that lorry drivers can see cyclists. There are also signs telling everyone to look out for cyclists.20170424_182104

I was visibly shaken as the car continued up the road. It then turned into the station, which was where I was going. The car parked up and the passenger climbed out. I thought about going over to confront the driver, but I wasn’t rational and my body was flooded with adrenaline, so I left it.

All I want to do is go to work and then come home unbroken. I don’t want my wife worrying every day, not knowing if I’ve made it to work safely, or if I will be coming home again.

The cycling revolution has a long way to go yet.

Wigan Train Station

Half of my daily commute is by train, the other half by bike. Instead of taking my bike on the train every day (I’ve had some problems, see here), I leave it (him) a couple of nights a week in the secure bike storage area at Wigan train station. I use two large D-locks and my commuting bike is old and undesirable, plus, as you can seen in the photo below, there is often a Police van parked there.

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Tuesday morning when I punched in the code for the bike area, nothing happened. I tried a couple more times but it was obvious that the code had been changed. I went back up onto the platform to customer services, who directed me to the ticket office. Before I was given the new code I had to show my train tickets, some ID, my postcode and then sign a form. Apparently the bike storage area had been abused. No complaints from me if it’s a bit harder for thieves to obtain, although I’ve not had any problems in the six months that I’ve been using the area.

On the other hand, if the code hadn’t been changed in the last six months, how long had it been since the code had been changed.

When I returned to put my bike in the lock-up later that afternoon, I had obviously forgotten the new code. I should probably write it down before I forget it again (too late).

Train Refunds

Did you know that if your train is delayed you can claim a refund? I had been taking a train almost every day for a few months before I found out about this. How much refund depends on how late the train is, with a full refund only available if the train is over two hours late. I probably missed out on £20-30 of refunds in three months.

Some train companies give refunds if the train is 15 minutes late, including some Virgin services, but not the one I use.

The first time that I applied for a refund was at the end of January. I Googled Virgin Train refunds, found the correct website, filled in my details and uploaded a photo of my tickets. A day later I received an email telling me that I’d not provided the correct information, and that I needed to supply proof. Seeing as I had given them a photo of my ticket, along with details of my booking number from Trainline, I asked what I had missed. No reply was forthcoming, but a week later I received a cheque for £8.25. The second time, I supplied the same information as before, and received a cheque for £4.13 a week later.

The cynic in me would suggest that the first time that you apply for a refund, Virgin automatically send an email saying that you’ve not supplied the correct details, hoping that most people will be put off.

Although, it’s cliched to be cynical about Virgin Trains.

Commuting and Air Quality

Part of my commute involves cycling from Wigan train station to my office in Leigh; the red line in the image below. The blue splodges are Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs). In the smaller inset map you can see the Greater Manchester AQMA in the middle (lots of splodges), with the Liverpool AQMA to the west and Sheffield’s AQMA to the east.

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The Manchester AQMA was created with air quality modelling software, so only those areas where the annual mean concentration is above a certain level are highlighted. You can see the various splodges that I cycled through in Wigan, with a few more at busier junctions all the way to Leigh.

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I would have liked to have used the ‘clip’ function in QGIS to calculate exactly how far I cycle each day inside the AQMA, but my GPS route doesn’t have the required attributes to do the job. I’m sure there is a way of converting to the correct format, but my knowledge of GIS isn’t the best. My commute is just over 11 km, with approximately 1 km inside various sections of the Greater Manchester AQMA.

Most of my journey is busy with traffic, so I am probably exposed to quite high levels of pollution, but studies have shown that the exercise from cycling benefits me far more than the exposure.

As I near the end of my commute in Leigh, there is another splodge of AQMA right on top of the office where I work, quite apt for a bunch of air quality scientists.

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The NO2 annual mean objective is 40 ug/m3 (micro grams per cubic meter), and as any good air quality scientist will tell you, if you are exposed to pollution concentrations above 40 you will die tomorrow, and less than 40 you will live forever. I’m joking of course, but this is why air quality is an objective and not a hard and fast ‘level’, which any city in the UK should be able to achieve, if it is a priority. Cars would appear to be more of a priority in most cities, especially between Wigan and Leigh.