Cycle Flag

I'm feeling pleased with myself, having cycled over 1000 miles this year on my new ebike (up from nothing in previous years).  But while all my years cycling in Edinburgh mean I'm pretty relaxed about urban cycling, cycling between settlements can be alarming.

I've had various conversations with the local police about close passes and one officer suggested a flag.  The commercial ones are just 32cm long as made of orange plastic with red reflectors.   But 32cm even if mounted on the outside of the pannier rank isn't much further out than my handlebars.

So this was my Mark 1 flag.  It's the tip of an old fishing rod with a flag made of fluorescent fabric, edged with reflective tape.   Its mainly held in place by the spring loaded bit of my pannier, supplemented by a couple of loose zip ties and a bit of my pannier rack elastics.   If hit, it would deflect.   It's 62cm long  the same as my handlebars so I could pull it across when in cyclepaths and know it won't get in anyone's way.   It makes my effective bike width about 90cm.  

The flag seems to help with urban and single carriageway country roads so I started to think about improvements.

   One issue is that flag needs to be able to pushed out and pulled back in - Eureka moment - telescopic.

So this is my DIY telescopic safety flag.



In the middle of January, I was cycling along a single track road with passing places and I was aware of a car behind me, giving good space but wanting to pass.    Moving left, I hit black ice and ended up sprawled in front of the car.  The driver was very good, scooped me up and drove me home while another woman took my bike into her garage.  The driver commented that my flag was very visible.  

I’ve a broken leg and a new flag.  

Simpler construction with just a rectangle of fabric and reflective material on one side, reinforced with stitching.   And I popped a reflector on the end.  The telescopic pole is a hand held telescopic flag pole.  They come in a range of lengths but this one, 120cm long which then could extend about 90cm beyond my handlebars is plenty long enough.   I doubt I’ll fully extend as it’s loooong. 


Fabric.   I tried just tape to tape but it was difficult to manage.


Cut a blunt triangle of fabric about 10 inches long and 8 inches deep.    I made the top edge 2 segments of  telescope long.   

Fold over the top and stitch a channel wide enough for the inspection tool to thread through.  

I found the handle of my Rolson inspection tool would pull off.  If it doesn't for you then stitch with the tool inside the channel.  

Put diagonal red and white strips of the reflective take over the front of the flag.  I left overlaps to fold over the edges.   You will probably need to cut a narrow final stripe.  
I chose red and white diagonal stripes as this is the standard for wide loads and it looks pretty visible to be in all conditions.  

Turn over the flag and fold in the overlaps.  I made a tiny error here and forgot to leave the channel open at the pointy end as well as the start of the channel and had to trim later.  

Put orange reflective tape on the back side of the flag.  I put these parallel to the top edge so that the flag would be stiffer.    Trim off overlaps.

I then edge stitched the whole thing (remembering to keep the channel free)

Slide the telescopic tool through the channel and reattach the handle.

Use the Velco ties to attach the handle of the tool under your saddle.  I found that if I walloped the end of the tool, the whole thing would twist but not fall off.  I didn't want to the attachment to be so solid that there was an risk that a collision with the flag would significantly destabilise the bike.

The whole thing retracts for cyclepaths and can be extended as far as you feel necessary.  I find that partially out is good in urban areas and I extend it fully when dealing with roads prone to psychopaths.    It's 75 cm from my mid line when fully extended.    Apart from when fully extended, I can reach sideways and pull the flag in and out while riding.

On country roads I now have vehicles waiting behind for a safe pass rather than squeezing through.  I am scrupulous in giving them a thank you wave or thumbs up, even though my belief is that this good behaviour is more out of concern for their paintwork than cyclist safety.

Lies, damned lies and polls

Having pointed out in my last post, the misfortunate of electing a UKIP MEP in 2014 with 140k votes, while there were 450k votes or more that clearly wouldn't have wanted this stacked up in useless piles, the question is whether anything can be done about this.

Now I spent most of my political life as a member of firstly the Liberal Democrats and then the Greens, both proponents of PR and both parties who suffer under First Past the Post.  So I am always wary of cries from major parties to vote for them for fear of letting the 'other' in.  And this is a PR election, just not a very good form of PR that doesn't let people express a second choice.  So if we are serious about blocking Brexit, we need to act.

Clearly in the Remain camp are the SNP, LibDems, Greens and CUK.  Labour appear ambivalent - foolishly so in my view, as the flight from Labour in the English local elections testifies.  And we have to count Tories as Brexiteers, prisoners of the ERG despite wiser counsel from such as Ken Clarke along side UKIP and Brexit, Farage's latest personal vehicle.

So, harkening back to #ToryFreeScotland, many people want a #BrexitFreeScotland.

But we are at risk of simply repeating 2014 again when despite there being 450k votes available to defeat UKIP, their 140k was sufficient to elect Coburn.

What could have been different?  Well, this is one simulation.  Click on the image title to take you to the website, then click on Scotland.  Select 2014 in the drop down box at the top and then play with the sliders to see what could have happened if some people had changed their vote.

But that is 5 years ago and much has changed.  Polls are odd things and every one has a margin of error.  The big national polls typically sample 100-200 people in Scotland which isn't enough to get a statistically robust sample.  I look for polls with sample sizes of over 1000 for Scotland.

Here is the Survation Poll  (Fieldwork 18 - 24 April 2019, sample 1018 in Scotland) translated into seats:

SNP Lab Con UKIP Green LibDem Brexit CUK
Stage 1 39.0 20.0 16.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 10.0 4.0
Stage 2 19.5 20.0 16.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 10.0 4.0
Stage 3 19.5 10.0 16.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 10.0 4.0
Stage 4 19.5 10.0 8.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 10.0 4.0
Stage 5 13.0 10.0 8.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 10.0 4.0
Stage 6  9.8 10.0 8.0 2.0 3.0 6.0 10.0 4.0

By Unknown - Gooreen collection, Public Domain,
This poll puts Labour and Brexit neck and neck for the 6th seat with the SNP a nose behind.  Within the margin of error of polls, its hard to predict.

You can select this Poll on the voter switch simulation map mentioned above and try out switch strategies for yourself.  

What's certain is the CUK, Greens and LibDems are not part of the mix and that's 13% of votes that could be pivotal in determining whether Farage and Co get to smile on 23rd May.    Even tenth of those votes switching could make the difference but within the accuracy of polls, I'd not like to call it that finely.  

It's up to Liberal Democrat, Greens and CUK voters whether they want to switch and where.   It may be that Independence pushes most Greens to SNP (and the SNP seem to be casting their net that way with recent changes in approach to climate change).

But assuming that even UKIP supporter realise that Brexit is now the main de facto Brexit Party, I'd not like to rely on luck.

So its with some sadness, that I won't be voting LibDem or Green at this election (sorry, Sheila).  I certainly think CUK should chuck it in at this point.  

I'll vote SNP.  

If you can't bring yourself to do that, perhaps due to a strong unionist bent, then I'd suggest LibDem.  CUK are untested but the profile of voters is 'LibDemmy'.  

And of course LibDems might be an acceptable home for Labour and Tory Remain.  


I get slight cross when the method of allocating seats for the European Parliament Elections is referred to as complicated.  So long as you can divide by 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and 9 its really easy.

Lets look at the last European Result in Scotland in 2014.  Scotland has 6 MEPs to elect.

2014 Election
Party SNP Lab Con UKIP Green LibDem Brit1st BNP NO2EU Total
Votes 389,503 346,219 231,330 140,534 108,305 95,319 13,639 10,316 6,418 1,341,583
Stage 2 194,752 346,219 231,330 140,534 108,305 95,319 13,639 10,316 6,418 1,341,583
Stage 3 194,752 173,110 231,330 140,534 108,305 95,319 13,639 10,316 6,418 1,341,583
Stage 4 194,752 173,110 115,665 140,534 108,305 95,319 13,639 10,316 6,418 1,341,583
Stage 5 129,834 173,110 115,665 140,534 108,305 95,319 13,639 10,316 6,418 1,341,583
Stage 6  129,834 115,406 115,665 140,534 108,305 95,319 13,639 10,316 6,418 1,341,583

The SNP has the largest number of votes, 389,503 so they get a seat (red).  But for them to get a second that pool of votes would need to be shared between 2 MEPs so their vote is divided into 2 for Stage 2.  

In Stage 2, Labour has the highest number so they get an MEP and their vote is divided by 2.

In Stage 3, The Tories get a seat and their vote is divided by 2.  

In Stage 4, the SNP get a second seat.  Now if the SNP were to get a third seat, their vote would need to be shared between 3, so their original vote is now divided by 3. 

In Stage 5,  Labour get a second seat and like the SNP in Stage 4, their original vote is not divided by 3.  

In Stage 6, UKIP has the highest number and therefore takes the final seat.  

You'll notice a few things here : the parties will very low number of votes - Brit1st,BNP, No2EU didn't get a look in.    But neither did Greens or LibDems.  Greens would have needed some 32,000 more votes to overtake UKIP - an increase of some 30% on their performance.  For Greens to have won, they would have needed to find nearly 1 extra voter for every 2 they had.  That's a big hill.  The hill for the LibDems was even steeper.

The SNP was the numerical runner up.  But for them to reach 140k they too would need  to find another 32,000 voter (32,100 to be exact).  That's because the 129,834 figures is a third of their original vote.  However, it is perhaps easier to envisage the SNP finding an extra 8%.   

However you wish to cut it however, UKIP with 140k votes won despite there being nearly 450k unused votes between SNP, Labour, Greens and LibDems and I'm hoping very few of those voters would be happy with the thought that their votes sat in a useless pile while UKIP got elected.  

And that's the weakness of d'Hondt : it's the second dumbest electoral system after first past the post as it doesn't allow transfers between parties.   And of course, parties get to decide the order of candidates on the list and there is nothing voters can do about this.

If you'd like that explained a different way, watch this video

You Tube

If you've read this far and want to know how my preferred system of proportional system works see