Unfortunately, I was right (sort of)

So last week I predicted a total lack of interest on the behalf of the police in actually punishing genuine wrong-doing. And lo it came to pass that the inevitable happened and I was, quelle surprise, bang on.

The irony of also receiving, in the same post as a form letter saying (to paraphrase) "we couldn’t be less interested in proceeding in this case", an option for me to attend a Speed Awareness Workshop (at my own expense and within the boundaries of the force where I was photographed, rather than where I live, despite the same company being responsible for both) for an infraction that caused neither inconvenience nor damage to anyone, is infuriating.

Where are the Red Light Awareness Workshops? Or the Pay Attention to Other Road Users Workshops? Why does the clown who came 2 seconds from killing me get off scot-free?

It really is enough to make you wonder why you bother trying to obey the laws that can’t be objectively measured. If a crime that cannot be either witnessed by a PC or photographed doesn’t actually count, then what’s the point in obeying it; I’m confident that it’s not for the benefit of my health. With the cuts and bruises more or less healed, I’m absolutely sure of that much.

Update: still no real word, but after ringing them up and expressing my disappointment at the lack of action, they’ve actually decided to delve a little more. Yay for proactivity. Although boo for having to chase them before they actually take an interest.
[tags] cycling, london, law, traffic, speeding [/tags]

Getting to be almost too many to count

Methods of enumeration, or at least the introduction to enumeration, let me count the ways. So Elizabeth Barrett Browning tried it (and is probably the most oft imitated in the blogosphere). For those of us of a certain age, no-one expects us to be able to do it accurately the first time (and would that be Gen X or Y?). Manfred Mann went down and XTC counted up.

So what am I counting? The number of reasons for leaving Virgin Media. We’re hoping to move house in the next few months so it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle to change to someone new; there is no way we’ll be renewing them if or when we relocate.

Why? In no particular order:

Bandwidth: If I pay for xMb/s, then I expect some decent proportion of that. If you can’t deliver me that speed reliably (and you are a cable provider after all, so it’s not like you’re going to be able to blame attenuation, contention ratios and various other ASDL excuses) then don’t ask me to pay for – and certainly don’t taunt me with adverts all around the place claiming things you blatantly aren’t delivering. If I don’t pay your monthly fee, you’ll cut me off, but you’re allowed to not hold up your end of the bargain.

Traffic Shaping: While we’re on the subject of your end of the bargain, I’ve an unlimited data plan. In my dictionary, that doesn’t mean "in the bottom 95% of downloaders". You’re selling me unlimited and if you have no intention of following through on that, then change my T&Cs. If you want to cap my data plan, I have no problem with you having that power, just let me know in advance and I’ll decide whether that’s acceptable to me. Don’t advertise unlimited and then punish me for actually having the cheek to presume that’s what it means.

I’m quite a heavy podcast consumer. I’ve got loads on my queue, many of which arrive daily (Buzz Out Loud, tech5 and the BBC News, for example), a few times a week (Coverville, IT Conversations or Adam Curry), weekly (TWiT, Security Now and Fighting Talk) – and countless others from the Beeb, the Guardian or wherever else.

This usage is all perfectly legal – no question of P2P or filesharing, but they will certainly combine to gigabytes a month. I have no idea whether this puts me in the top 5% – I don’t know of a precise way to tell. I do know that I’ve noticed some traffic shaping when I do try to fire up some torrent clients. (And bittorrent isn’t automatically illegal – UK Nova for example will pull anything listed that isn’t there legally (e.g. popular series which it knows will be quickly available on DVD).

Net Neutrality: oh and isn’t this the biggie. Apparently the idea of a content provider (youtube, the bbc, google, this blog you’re reading) paying for its connection and you paying for your connection isn’t enough. The middle man should just be able to decide who you read and who you’ll get frustrated waiting for. Well Mr Berkett my opinion of you and your company is about the same as your opinion of net neutrality.

Phorm: if you’re in the UK and haven’t heard of Phorm then you really need to do more with your surfing, it has even got as far as the BBC. Basically (with the Carphone Warehouse and BT) what Phorm is about is illegally (and invisibly) intercepting your requests for web content and then changing the adverts that are shown, displaying instead content tailored to what it thinks it knows about you.

I mean, really, just where do you start?

Triple Play: this isn’t really a criticism, but it doesn’t make it any easier to break away. Because Virgin deliver their broadband via cable, that’s also how we get our TV and landline. So by lying about what they’re providing to us, they’re able to subsidise the package price and tie us even more tightly in. If we want broadband from another provider I need either a BT line and then a Phorm-free ISP (I wish I could return to my old provider Eclipse, they were ace) and then also into the arms of Freeview or Murdoch’s Sky for the TV. Not much of a choice, is it?

And I’m not the only one. Charlie Stross wonders if Virgin are nobbling his wireless router – I’ve not seen that, but I’d consider that unequivocally another good reason if I did. Cory is off too.

Virgin Media: just say no.

[tags]virgin media, net neutrality, broadband, rant, cable[/tags]

If there’s no money, there’s no interest

Recently I was sent a fixed penalty notice for doing 20% over the speed limit. That sounds like quite a lot and it is certainly sufficient to be banged to rights. I was doing 36 and it was a 30mph zone. Strictly I do deserve that ticket. The fact that it was a deserted road on a Sunday afternoon is totally irrelevant. No police officer was present at the location of the offence and, as such, they rely on the evidence provided by a camera, which is believed unequivocally. I’ll get points on my licence and some level of fine.

Compare that to this morning’s events where on my normal route to work I was setting off from a set of lights at which I’d stopped, it had been red but which had just turned green. To my left a car driver had gone through the red lights from the minor road that joined my major road. He had realised rather late that this was a bad idea; most drivers would have thought that the red light was enough. He stopped lest me and three lanes of my fellow travellers mowed him down.

Trouble was he stopped dead in the middle of my lane, about 6 feet from where I was accelerating away from having been stopped and the third thing I thought was, “I seem to be on the ground”. My second thought was “I seem to on his bonnet”. The first had been “What the <blazes> is that car doing there?”

After relatively cordially exchanging details, having a following driver give me his details just in case I needed him as a witness and a couple of fellow cyclists check up on me (the espirit de corps de velo is mostly alive and well), I went on my relatively careful way.

The trouble is, that while perfectly cordial on the phone and then in person, I’ve not really been led to believe that the police will do anything. I’ve given them a detailed statement, the details of the witness and the mark and details of the errant driver. While I’m absolutely convinced that the police have better things to do with their time, I’m even more convinced that my infraction pales into insignificance with that I suffered this morning.

I’ve been left with a few cuts and bruises, the bike’s faired better but has a few new scratches. If I’d been in a pub and received similar, someone would have been arrested. But because no police saw the event and it is, in effect, more or less my word against his, I’ve been left with little confidence that the driver will be punished at all.

So my word as an upstanding, tax-paying citizen is worth less than that of an automated revenue generating camera. Which is a fine state of affairs, guv’nor, and no mistake.

[tags]cycling, accident, speed cameras, london[/tags]

What I learned on my way home yesterday

It was a pleasant enough evening, so I headed home "the long way", including a detour to Richmond Park. Nothing too extreme, but probably about 25km in all. It’s not going to prepare for anything loopy, but better than nothing.

I had quite an eye-opening ride, apparently I’m a bit dim and my fellow travellers were kind enough to educate me:

  • I didn’t realise that WVM were unofficial agents for HMRC, as one helpfully pointed me at the cycle lane that runs next to Priory Lane, "you don’t pay road tax, get off the road on to the cycle lane". (A shame that I didn’t have my P60 easily to hand.)
  • Apparently minicabs are now driving instructors too, as one was telling me how to indicate (or should that be gesticulate?) after he’d not seen my signal. (He was too busy breaking the 20mph park speed limit to get away to be able to see if his advice had been well taken.)
  • The summer cyclists have a different rule to the rest of us. Red lights are "only for sheep who can’t think for themselves or see that the road is clear ahead".
  • Range Rovers really do have the right for more roadspace, that can only be why, when approaching a bottle neck as the road narrows, one overtook me and forced me to stop rather than get run off the road.
  • Apparently it is now socially acceptable to harrang other people merely for being where you don’t think they should be. Tourists and slow coaches get in the way on the tube, but aren’t you meant to mumble under your breath at them while tutting rather than (hilariously) screaming and trying to run them out of the way?

I know I’ve complained about lack of tolerance for these things before, but as long as it grinds, it’ll be worth howling at the blogosphere for.

I genuinely think that London’s roads are a friendlier place than they were 10 years ago, but some evenings I am reminded that it’s a fine line between getting home in one piece in a good mood and remembering that the average fellow road user is likely to want you to not be there and is prepared to forego normal social mores to let you know that.

[tags]cycling, london, richmond park, wvm[/tags]