78 year old woman cycles over 10,000 miles since 2003

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At 65, most people are thinking about getting a senior citizen bus pass. But for Montana woman Ethel MacDonald, that’s when she took up tour cycling.

Fourteen years later, the retired French teacher has covered more than 10,000 miles across Europe and North America and she’s not stopping yet.

CNN spoke to her by phone in Galway, during her recent tour of Ireland’s coastline.  “I like what I like to do without having to wait for someone else to be ready,” explains the 78-year-old great-grandmother.  The appeal of biking alone on the open road, she says, is “just feeling like I’m my own boss.”

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Just some of the European destinations MacDonald has visited.

Her companion on her Ireland trip is a pink Brompton folding bike, which she’s used on five trips around the US south. She keeps another bike with a friend for her tours of mainland Europe.

This seasoned biker reckons she’s traveled at least 10,000 miles.  “Usually my trips are close to 1,000 miles in three to four weeks,” MacDonald says. “I’ve been doing it for 13 years, and I’ve done at least one trip a year and often two. It would easily be closer to 13 or 14,000.”

Read more about the Great Grandmother and her cycling.

Quad bike gritters deployed to keep London’s cycle routes ice free

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Transport for London will keep cycle routes in London ice-free this winter by using quad bikes equipped with gritters.

The responsibility for clearing ice from cycle routes in the British capital is split between TfL and individual London Boroughs – including Cycle Superhighways.

“When a Cycle Superhighway sits on a borough road the council maintains and grits it,” a TfL spokesperson said. “When it’s on one of our roads, we grit it. Most of the Cycle Superhighways are on our roads.”

While the majority of the road network can be treated using conventional lorry gritters, the narrower lanes used for cycles are inaccessible to large vehicles. At 1.2 metres wide, the motorised quad bikes can fit into a bike lane and the majority of footways with ease.

Rather than using salt and grit, a substance called Pathway KA is used, which contains potassium acetate to melt ice. The quad bikes can carry up to 500kg of ice-melting chemicals.

A TFL statement said:

“Although there hasn’t been significant snow falls for three winters now, TfL and London Councils develop coordinated plans every year, alongside the emergency services, to keep the rail and road networks open and running in case of any severe weather”.

“This includes key arterial roads, cycle routes and footways around bus and railway stations, hospitals and police, fire and ambulance stations across London.”

“TfL and London’s boroughs will also ensure that the Cycle Superhighways and other cycling routes remain safe to use during the winter months.”

Chemical warfare against bike thieves

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If you’ve ever had a bike stolen, your compassion for bike thieves probably went right down to zero percent. After losing a few bicycles, Daniel Idzkowski spent time thinking how to deter thefts, and he’s come up with a nasty surprise for thieves- the Skunk Lock.

When a thief breaks or grinds into the Skunk Lock, it releases a potent (but non-toxic and legally compliant) formula which makes breathing difficult, may compromise eyesight, and induces vomiting in the victim! It’s pretty hard to pedal off on a bike when you’re suddenly choking and puking instead, and this scene would likely draw enough attention for the thief to abandon the attempt…

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The Skunk Lock’s creators say any bike lock can be cut in less than a minute with the right tools on hand. With their clever design even well-equipped bike thieves can still be deterred, and just when they think they’ve almost got your bike they’ll get a face full of skunky chemicals instead!

The Skunk Lock is made from hi-tensile and hardened medium-carbon steel like a typical U-Lock, but its unique feature is the pressurized noxious chemicals hidden inside. Once the chemical chamber is compromised the formula escapes into the air, choking out the thief and making them sick to their stomach. Not only that, but the chemical spray will also ruin any clothing it touches, which actually costs the thief money.

While the Skunk Lock should effectively deter a thief at close range, the chemicals don’t expand enough that innocent bystanders would be impacted any more than noticing the smell. If the chemicals get sprayed on your bike the company provides instructions on how to remove the formula, but by design it should project towards the thief.

The lock does not rely on any electronic components, and it’s guaranteed to be safe for normal use without accidentally deploying its chemical weaponry. The chemicals are contained within a sealed chamber inside the U part of the lock, so nothing short of power tools or prying it apart will release the substance.

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Each lock comes with a unique code which customers can use to get extra keys if needed. Skunk Lock plans to provide overnight delivery for replacement keys.

The Skunk Lock’s Indiegogo campaign has just begun, so they still need some funding to go to production. Early bird buyers can currently pre-order a Skunk Lock for $109 USD, and delivery is expected for June 2017.

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Undercover bike cops launch ‘best ever’ cycle safety scheme in Birmingham

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When Mark Hodson gets on his bike in the morning, like many cyclists in the UK, he has come to expect a few close calls. Perhaps drivers will whizz past him too close, or someone will even try a ‘punishment pass’.

Luckily, Hodson is a West Midlands Police traffic officer, albeit in plain clothes, and just yards up the road a colleague in a police car is waiting to pull over drivers that give him less than 1.5m space when overtaking (a distance that increases for faster speeds and larger vehicles).

That driver will be offered a choice: prosecution, or 15 minutes’ education on how to overtake a cyclist safely. The worst drivers, or repeat offenders, will simply be prosecuted.

This tactic is part of a ground breaking new initiative launched by West Midlands Police, in partnership with Birmingham City Council, to tackle cycling safety.

The Highway Code states drivers should give cyclists at least the same amount of space as they would give a car, but often this is not the case. Over four trial days ahead of the scheme’s launch 80 people were pulled over for close passes.

This morning Hodson and his colleagues pulled over eight offenders within an hour – people who could have been prosecuted for their driving. Among those stopped were lorry drivers, and a pupil under supervision by a driving instructor.

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s senior road safety and legal campaigner, praised the initiative. “This is the first time a police force has come forward with a plan to prioritise enforcement against close pass drivers. It is quite simply the best cyclist safety initiative by any police force, ever.”

He called the mix of education and enforcement “a simple but effective way to combat a long-standing concern”. He hopes other police forces around the country will follow their lead and is going to approach five police and crime commissioners looking for cost-effective ways to tackle road danger, with the ‘blueprint’ from the West Midlands.

He says the operation is cheap – costing £70 for a mat to demonstrate safe overtaking plus a police or community support officer to be the cyclist – and efficient: based on the West Midlands’ experience, 20 drivers can be prosecuted within two hours.

When asked whether it could be rolled out nationwide, a National Police Chiefs Council spokesperson said: “Police forces are committed to keeping the roads safe. Individual forces are always looking for the best ways to help their local communities, and the West Midlands initiative is a positive step. All forces aim to develop new and effective means of keeping people safe on their roads.”

Denise Mueller sets women’s bicycle speed world record at 147mph

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Denise Mueller set the women’s bicycle world speed record by riding 147mph while drafting a modified Land Rover. The bike was a completely custom creation by KHS and DaVinci Bikes, outfitted with a dual crown suspension fork and cirrus Body Float suspension seatpost. The latter two, along with the overall design of the bike, were to reduce vibrations and subtle bumps from creating instability, which would be disastrous at those speeds. Check out the bike and more details, below…

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Other custom touches include double-reduction gearing, massive 60 tooth chainrings, custom built 17-inch dragster wheels with shaved tires, an elongated frame, and steering stabilizers.

Mueller is an accomplished bicycle and motosports racer, the current National Criterium Champion, and a 15-time National Champion, as well as a mother of three. Her coach, John Howard, set the men’s speed record 30 years ago by riding 152.2mph. It was beaten in 1995 by Fred Rompleberg of the Netherlands with a top speed of 167mph. The team said she’d like to top that number, but their current track isn’t long enough. Regardless, she’s not just the new women’s record holder, she’s apparently the only woman to ever seriously attempt the land speed record for bicycles.

Follow future progress and get more info and history at TheProjectSpeed.com.

Richard Branson ‘thought he was going to die’ in bike accident

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Virgin Group founder Richard Branson was recently injured in a serious bike accident while cycling on Virgin Gorda, an island in the British Virgin Islands.

Branson shared images of his injuries after the accident and described what had happened in a blog post Friday:

“I was heading down a hill towards Leverick Bay when it suddenly got really dark and I managed to hit a ‘sleeping policeman’ hump in the road head on. The next thing I knew, I was being hurled over the handlebars and my life was literally flashing before my eyes.”

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Branson said his helmet helped mitigate most of the damage. His bike fell off the cliff. He cracked his cheek and cut his chin, knee and shoulder, among other things, but hasn’t sustained any serious injuries apart from some torn ligaments, he wrote.

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Branson was preparing for the Virgin Strive Challenge, in which he, alongside his children Holly and Sam and several others, will travel more than 1240 miles from the summit of the Matterhorn to the summit of Mt. Etna in Sicily. The challenge, whose goal is to raise 1.5 million pounds ($1.98 million) to help a charity organization called Big Change that funds innovative projects from young people in the UK, and entails hiking, running, swimming and cycling.

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Despite his most recent accident, he still plans to participate in the challenge next month.