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there are too many cars in central Amsterdam

Transport, Travel, — June 2022

Even just on a ten day visit, one of the most striking things about Amsterdam is that there are too many cars in its inner city. The one-way "cars are guests" streets, with regular speed humps, work well to slow motor traffic, but in many places the network structure only inhibits through traffic on these rather than stopping it. And at a larger scale there are still major through routes within the S100 ring-road. (more…)

York as a model for central Oxford

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Based on a four day visit to York, I think its city centre should be a model for Oxford's. York has pedestrianised a huge chunk of its centre, and it's really great to walk around. After a bit it just feels entirely normal, just as it does in similarly pedestrianised European cities, and it really shows up just how horrible walking around central Oxford is.

At least during the daytime, outside loading hours, there are no cars at all, moving or parked in the core area of York. This means that one never has to think about traffic at all, or even about getting around parked cars, which makes for a completely different feel to bits of Oxford such as Catte St or Turl St or New Inn Hall St or Merton St or Pembroke St, where anyone walking is likely to encounter at least one moving motor vehicle and many parked ones. (more…)

cycling Oxford to Langford Locks

Books + Ideas, Oxford, Travel — August 2020

Parcelforce tried to deliver something to me at work and left a card. Rather than paying for redelivery I decided to get some exercise cycling up to their depot in Langford Locks, on the NW outskirts of Kidlington. Rather than braving the Banbury/Oxford Rd and the A4260, which looked a bit hairy on Google Streetview, I cycled up the canal instead. (more…)

passport renewal - art, banknotes, traffic

Books + Ideas, Transport, Travel, — September 2019

I had to go into London to renew my Australian passport, so I took the opportunity to visit some attractions: the Bank of England Museum and the Guildhall Art Gallery. (more…)

A 9km Chilterns loop walk, Pishill + Maidensgrove

Travel, — May 2019

Yesterday Helen and I did a lovely walk in the Chilterns with our friend Jude, a 9km loop starting in Pishill and having lunch at the Five Horseshoes in Upper Maidensgrove. (more…)

yes, Norway is expensive

Travel, — August 2018

It seems to be everyone's first question about Norway. And yes, it is indeed expensive. (more…)

Transferwise: foreign exchange transfers and payments

Technology, Travel — July 2018

Transferwise was originally a foreign exchange transfer service, but for some time it has offered a "Borderless" account — with sterling, Australian dollar, US dollar and Euro bank accounts as well as the ability to hold balances in two dozen other currencies — and now a debit card attached to that account. (more…)

Begbroke-Bladon-Woodstock walk

Oxford, Travel — May 2018

Helen and I did a lovely walk on Sunday with our friend Jude, starting at Begbroke, going through Bladon and Blenheim, and finishing in Woodstock.

Camilla was in Wales making a coracle, so we picked a walk we could do by bus on a Sunday (when many services out of Oxford don't run). We caught the S3 and got off at the Royal Sun at Begbroke. From there we walked past the lovely little St Michael's church (we didn't go in because there was a service in progress), across fields, and past some oak trees, to join the bridleway through the woods of Bladon Heath. That runs to Bladon, where we followed the back lanes to the church; we ate apples on a bench in front of Winston Churchill's grave.

We went into Blenheim by the Bladon Lodge entrance, then went into the Pleasure Garden for lunch (and a quick look at the Butterfly House though that was just too hot). Then we walked across the bridge, looked at the Harry Potter cypress, and went out the green gate to Woodstock, where we had a drink in the Oxfordshire Museum (where there was a lovely textile art exhibition) before catching the bus back to Oxford.

It was a lovely day, sunny but not too hot and with some shade from trees. 8km (5 miles) in about five hours, and there was a little bit of complaining, but I'm reasonably confident we'll cope ok with 9-11km stretches along Hadrian's Wall in three months time.

Amsterdam - first impressions

Transport, Travel — November 2017

Some thoughts on Amsterdam, mostly about transport. (For comparison, the population of Amsterdam is about 900,000 - say 5 times the population of Oxford, but 1/10 the population of London.) (more…)

a vintage VW campervan to the Peak District

Travel, , , — August 2017

When Camilla suggested we hire an antique campervan, I was a bit sceptical at first: I don't get excited about cars the way she does, and it seemed likely to be an expensive faff. But we had a lovely weekend in a classic old VW campervan called Blossom, spending three nights in the Peak District (five miles or so west of Chesterfield). (more…)

Studley Green to Piddington loop walk

Travel, , — August 2017

Helen and I did a nice walk in the Chilterns with our friend Jude, a loop from the Studley Green garden centre to the Dashwood Arms in Piddington and back. The weather was perfect, warm but cloudy, with a gentle breeze and occasional patches of sun, and maybe half the walk was under trees. (more…)

Coombe Hill walk

Children, Travel, , — April 2017

Helen and I did a really nice walk in the Chilterns yesterday, from Coombe Hill down to Wendover and back. This is a loop of about 6km, with maybe 130m down and then up, offering a good variety of terrain and views. (more…)

Balinese music - Legong dance

Children, Travel, , — January 2017

Yesterday I set Helen up with the iPad, only to have her come to me after five minutes saying "Enough iPad, I want to watch some Legong Dance". And so we watched nearly an hour of Legong Lasem and Barong Taru Pramana. (more…)

a Lake District trip, staying four nights in Grasmere

Travel, — October 2016

We spent four nights in the Lake District in August and had a fantastic time: driving up on the Thursday and coming back on the Bank Holiday Monday gave us three full days, and we had really good weather. (more…)

Australian animals are no more dangerous than British cows

Life, Travel — October 2016

Living in Britain, one encounters a regular series of stories about how dangerous Australian animals are. (Otherwise, the UK media treat Australia pretty much the way the Australian media treat New Zealand.) And most people accept this as gospel, to the extent that it's often given as a reason for not visiting Australia. In fact, this is complete nonsense: British cows kill as many people each year as all of Australia's "dangerous" animals put together. (more…)

a Chilterns walk: Pulpit Hill + Ninn Wood

Travel, — August 2016

I took Helen on her longest walk yet, doing a near three mile circular walk in the Chilterns (more…)

an Easter in Wales: gypsy caravan + owl cabin

Travel, , — April 2016

We had a lovely Easter outing, spending three nights in a caravan and cabin combo just into Wales, a little northeast of Abergavenny, and using that as a base for trips into the Brecon Beacons. (more…)

my commute

Oxford, Travel — January 2016

My cycle to work is about 3.6km and takes maybe 15 minutes, which I think is about the perfect length. It's enough that I'm getting at least a small amount of regular exercise, but not so long that it ever feels tedious, and even on the rare occasions when there's serious rain (or it's dark on the way home in winter) it's not too daunting. It's also an attractive route, much of it quite pleasant cycling. I begin with a description, which I follow with some commentary on Oxford cycling infrastructure, on which it doesn't shed such a flattering light. (more…)

Oxford cyclists, imagined, actual and potential

Oxford, Transport, Travel, — February 2015

A dual network strategy for cycling would only make sense if we had a bimodal population of cyclists. To illustrate this, consider Frideswide Square, where the planners are clearly picturing something like this.

On the one hand, the bulk of cyclists are expected to be vehicular cyclists, confident enough to take primary position going around the roundabouts and happy to cycle in dense 20mph traffic flows. Alternatively cyclists are allowed to use the pavement, mixing it with pedestrians with no segregation — the planners seem to be envisioning a small number of families on Sunday outings with children, happy to meander around pedestrians at 5mph and not needing to actually get to or from Fridewide Square. (more…)

Harcourt Aboretum + Warburg Nature Reserve

Travel, — November 2013

Taking advantage of the last few weeks of nice weather, we visited Harcourt Aboretum on the last Sunday of October and then Warburg Nature Reserve on the first Sunday of November. (more…)

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