Plymouth Car drivers: Please stop using the cycle lane

posted Jan 11, 2018, 6:28 AM by Ben Jane   [ updated Jan 12, 2018, 8:14 AM ]

I cycle to work all year round, almost every day and I’ve been riding from the West of Plymouth to Derriford for nearly eight years now. When anyone comments on how dangerous cycling is, I have always said that yes, Derriford Roundabout can be a bit hairy at times, as can areas around Crownhill shops but that much of it is really safe, in particular West Park and Crownhill Road where there’s a long dedicated cycle lane.

Since early December, 2017 however, this has changed quite significantly. For some reason car drivers travelling towards Derriford from West Park have collectively decided that it’s better if they start queueing in the bike lane as they wait to exit Crownhill Rd and go past the Police Station. The reason for moving across to the left has some merit, as it allows cars the space to continue travelling along Crownhill Rd towards Crownhill, however the reason that nearly all drivers have recently decided on this course of action must be a kind of herd mentality that favours the experience of other car drivers over the safety of another road user, cyclists. For most of the distance that cars are now pulling over, it’s not essential for them to be tight to the kerb to allow cars past on the right, but yet many cars choose this option. 

Why is it a problem?

The scene above is pretty typical for a weekday morning where up to around 40 cars can be found blocking the cycle lane leaving cyclists with two options; mount the pavement with pedestrians or ride in the fast flowing traffic left by their moving across. Neither of these are good for cyclists, and are particularly frustrating when there is already a dedicated cycle lane in place. Both pictures I've included show how it is possible for drivers to encroach on the cycle lane slightly yet still leave space for cyclists to pass quite comfortably. They also show how drivers that pull right over to the kerb restrict access completely.

Cycling is dangerous enough already

If any of this seems petty to readers then it should be viewed in addition to the other stresses and dangers that cyclist have encountered over the last year as a result of the roadworks at Derriford. Many drivers will say that it’s been a stressful time for all of us but as a car driver and cyclist I can say with some confidence that driving a car to work might be annoying but you don’t feel like your life is at stake anywhere near as often as when riding a bike.

What does the law say?

The Highway Code is quite clear on the inability of drivers to park in cycle lanes with solid white lines but is less clear on those that have broken white lines suggesting that it is possible if unavoidable. You won't be surprised to hear that my opinion is that driving in this lane is avoidable, there is even less need to block it entirely.

Less people cycling means more people driving

I’ve always been a relaxed cyclist, and have always seen many more good acts from drivers than poor ones. I’ve also been a great advocate for cycling and have encouraged many people to take up cycle commuting over the years. Part of the sadness of my recent experiences has been that I’ve become less positive about the experience and this means my advocacy is more hesitant. If we multiply this by the many cyclists that do commute to work then we’ll find it harder and harder to persuade people to take up this great form of transport that’s environmentally sound, great for our health and crucially for many car drivers, reduces the number of car drivers and helps reduce congestion. It surely makes sense for those in cars to help cyclists share the roads safely as it is a benefit to all road users in the end.  

What’s needed

The best long term solution would be to have a structurally dedicated cycle lane, as this would take away the option that drivers currently have of driving over the white line.

In the meantime we need to rely on the rational, conscious choice making of all the good drivers out there who need to realise the impact of blocking cycle lanes and avoid pulling over. Ideally, all drivers would avoid crossing the line but it would even be possible to place the left wheels on or even slightly over the white line and we could get past OK. 

Good drivers need to be confident in making the right decision and leave enough space, rather than follow the unthinking masses. If more good drivers left adequate space, many other drivers will follow suit, some consciously aware and considerate and many others less conscious in their decision making, but still leaving space. 

My polite appeal therefore, is that drivers of Plymouth avoid blocking cycle lanes as it's really dangerous for cyclists if you do. The cycle lane is there for a reason and that reason is to prevent accidents. 

How I use Screencasts for Teaching and Learning

posted Dec 16, 2017, 1:34 AM by Ben Jane   [ updated Dec 16, 2017, 1:41 AM ]

I've dabbled with screencasting for several years, but over the last month or so my use of screencasting has increased. Subsequently, I've had lots of positive feedback from students so I thought I'd share some of the ways in which I've found this method of communication useful. 

What screencasts have to offer

Less time spent repeating key information - If you've ever found yourself repeating the same content or advice on multiple occasions to the same students or maybe from one cohort to the next then screencasting can offer a means of recording short bursts of content that students can be signposted towards.

Provide short summaries of key topic areas - These could be used to deliver content prior to a session, or to ensure that key concepts from a session are fully understood and not lost in a longer complex session.

Students are able to learn at their own pace - In addition to providing clarity on key topics, they can also be used to cover more content than you might cover in a "normal" ten minute period due to the fact that students can re-watch or slow down the video as they watch it online.

A task for students to complete as an assessment - For several years now colleagues and I have embedded a screencast in a year two BEd Phys Ed module. It's worked really well as a way of assessing complex knowledge and understanding but also introduces emerging professional educators how they might be able to produce their own resources for teaching and learning.

How to make a Screencast

There are a range of tools to use that include licensed software and free to use applications. It's not essential to have a webcam but you will need to make sure you have a decent microphone and this might require the use of a headset or a webcam. 

Here are three screencast applications that I've used:

Screencast-o-matic - Free to use application that allows the user to draw a square on the screen and record everything within that space. You need to pay to "Go Pro" to remove the watermark and have access to advanced editing features but you can do a lot with the free version. 

Panopto - A common tool used in many Universities to perform lecture capture in the classroom. It can also be used to make screencasts from your desk and offers useful editing tools if needed. Follow this link to read the Marjon MeLT team's explanation of how to use Panopto for screencasting.

What to do with your screencast

Options will vary according to the tool that you use but most will be accessible via a URL that you can embed in your VLE (e.g. Moodle, LearningSpace). There should also be an option to get an embed code which can be used to position the video itself into your VLE making it more visible and requiring less clicks for the student to watch it. The online free-to-access tools such as screencastify will also have the option to upload your video to YouTube creating an easily accessible channel of your own containing all of your screencasts. 

You may feel the need to make your videos more or perhaps less publicly available and these various options will allow you to manage access to your work.

What I've Learnt from making a number of screencasts.

  • Get over yourself #1 - Most people hate the sound of their own voice but remember that your students are already forced to listen to you droning on anyway so don't worry about how you come across in front of the camera. 
  • Get over yourself #2 - Any new software takes some getting used to but all three of these tools outlined above are pretty intuitive and way less complicated than much of the software that most people are already using. As with all new tools, you need to commit an hour to playing with it and anticipate making a few duff ones first but you'll soon have the skills to make good enough videos for your students. 
  • A bit of extra time now can save much more time in the future - A ten minute screen cast will take longer than ten minutes to make. My advice is to use resources you already have access to (such as lecture slides) or make very simple, quick new ones if needed. Screencasts can show any type of content that is on your screen so there's no limitations as to what you can film. An hour spent making a content rich, re-usable screencast can potentially save lots of time in the future though. 

Examples of how I've used screencasts

Explaining the requirements of part of an assessment package and going over key content - 

Academic Skills: Giving tips on how to do referencing efficiently - 

Explaining how an essay could be structured - 

Giving feedback to the group that complements individual comments on their submission - 

Practising for, and producing a recording of, a presentation given at a conference - 

Further Reading

Morris, C. and Chikwa, G. (2014). Screencasts: how effective are they and how do students engage with them? Active Learning in Higher Education, 15, 25-37. 

Physiology Lab Report Help

posted Dec 6, 2017, 1:43 AM by Ben Jane   [ updated Dec 6, 2017, 11:00 AM ]

Any sport and exercise undergrad will at some point be involved in a lab based assessment of aerobic capacity. In supporting my first year students in writing a lab report I put together a series of useful links from my website. 

I thought others might find them useful as well so here they are.

They all have a combination of relevant content as well as many links to further recommended reading and references that could be used to help produce the subsequent lab report. 

Some are focused on possible topics for consideration in the report itself and some are there to help produce a better quality lab report.

  • This page outlines a number of CV adaptations that occur with training. Don't confuse these with the short term response that we see in the test itself but in the discussion you might want to consider a paragraph on the different expected responses between trained and untrained and this page has some good references to read and make use of

New video resource: How to make referencing easier

posted Nov 29, 2017, 7:35 AM by Ben Jane   [ updated Nov 29, 2017, 8:11 AM ]

I regularly find myself talking to students about  the process of finding and presenting suitable citations in a piece of coursework for submission. 

Students must first grasp an understanding of the importance of referencing in academic work in general and then know the requirements of any particular institutional style. There are however, many students that seem to get stuck around this stage and continue to use labour intensive methods of including a citation within the text or the full reference at the end of the work. 

This short (4 min) video outline two methods that I personally use when I am preparing lectures or writing articles. The first method makes use of the cite function in Google Scholar and the second method makes use of Mendeley and the Word citation plugin that is available. 

Crucially, neither method requires me to type out every detail in the reference. If you are a student and are still typing out every aspect of the source's details for every reference then you should watch this video. 

Related Links

New Resource: Better Paragraphs = Better Grades

posted Nov 29, 2017, 5:56 AM by Ben Jane   [ updated Nov 29, 2017, 7:58 AM ]

Recently, I've found myself having many conversations with students that are in essence, me advising them on how to write better paragraphs. We tend to discuss the topic in hand and I try to highlight areas and issues that might constitute critical analysis, but much of the conversation is about the structure and flow of a good quality paragraph. 

Too many paragraphs that I read in submitted work fail to deliver the full potential of the student's knowledge and understanding. Sometimes they are too short and fail to fully explore a concept, sometimes they are too long and waffley and lose focus at some point. Whether short or overly long, they often lack clarity and purpose and are more a series of almost related sentences rather than a mini-essay with a start, a middle and an end as they should be. 

After having many such conversations with students of all stages, including both undergraduates and postgraduates, I decide to write out the advice that I have found myself repeating so often. In the following link, readers will find advice on how to structure academic paragraphs, tasks to help develop academic writing skills and further links and resources on related topics. 

The full resource can be found here

My Dangerous Commute to Work

posted Nov 22, 2017, 4:41 AM by Ben Jane   [ updated Nov 22, 2017, 4:42 AM ]

Through a combination of good luck and effort on my part, I've been fortunate enough to cycle to work for over twenty years now. That time period covers 2 cities, 5 jobs and 10 residential addresses. 

In all that time, I've loved my ride to work and even more so my ride home. It's a great way of getting exercise, beating the traffic, being environmentally friendly and having a stress-free buffer between home and work. 

The last few months however have been the most stressful, scary and dangerous that I have experienced in all of that time and that is entirely down to the major roadworks that have been taking place around Derriford, in Plymouth.

While there may be longer term improvements in cycle infrastructure waiting on the other side of these roadworks, we are currently ten months into a fifteen month project and throughout that period cyclists seem to have been treated as second class citizens at most opportunities. 

I've taken the liberty of outlining all the areas that I have felt more exposed to danger due to the ever-changing closures, re-alignments and general road management that has taken place during the project so far. 

While I understand that we need to take a step backwards sometimes in order to see progress I think more effort has been needed in liaising with cyclists throughout the renovations and in making sure that clear access routes are maintained for cyclists just as they have been for motor traffic.

New Resource: Chronic Exercise-Induced Cardio-Respiratory Adaptations

posted Jun 30, 2017, 5:28 AM by Ben Jane

Anyone interested in improving performance, whether it be for sport or for general everyday living, should take an interest in the underlying factors that limit performance and the potential that these factors have for improvement.

Why the need for understanding the physiological adaptations?

An understanding of how various aspects of our physiology adapt when placed under conditions of stress can allow a coach or exercise professional to construct an exercise programme that will create the right level of stress and overload to elicit positive adaptations and improve fitness yet limit subsequent levels of unwanted fatigue. 

There are lots of good exercise physiology textbooks that cover this topic however they aren't available to everyone and vary in the levels of ease with which they communicate the subject knowledge. After teaching on a number of courses where I thought student's levels of understanding could be improved I've put this resource page together. It's been produced in a way that I hope is accessible to those who just need key exercise physiology knowledge yet also contains content that can extend and support more advanced students.

The full resource page can be accessed at

(Re) Naming and (Re) Framing NCDs

posted Jun 22, 2017, 8:10 AM by Ben Jane   [ updated Jun 23, 2017, 12:58 AM ]

The term "Non-Communicable Disease" or NCD is used in a wide range of public health settings and refers to a medical condition or disease that is not caused by infectious agents. It is however, a group of conditions that the public health community has had mixed success in addressing.

In this month's edition of The Lancet Global Health, Luke Allen and Andrea Feigl have presented their work on the renaming of NCDs and the idea that a new name could have a positive effect on the ability to make more significant in-roads in reducing the prevalence of a wide range of diseases.

The idea is presented that the term "non-communicable disease" makes it hard for policy makers and the general public to fully comprehend the range of social influences on their own health and that of others.

Reframing Non-Communicable Diseases as Socially Transmitted Conditions (SCTs)

The authors highlight the core characteristics of all NCDs pointing out the levels of global burden, the preventable nature of NCDs and the various risk factors and determinants. 

They also highlight the increasing awareness of commercial influence and socioeconomic inequalities that are best addressed at political and strategic levels rather than focussing solely on aspects of personal control and behaviour and advocate shifting the focus of interventions further upstream (see image below for an example from Let's Get Healthy California)

"STCs are driven by urbanisation, industrialisation, and poverty, the availability of tobacco, alcohol, and processed foods, and physical inactivity. STCs also share a common set of solutions focused on addressing the complex and often unjust structure of society"
(Allen & Feigl, 2017)

To read the paper and to review the discussions that informed and underpinned it see the link below.

Read the paper here

Allen, L. N., & Feigl, A. B. (2017). Reframing non-communicable diseases as socially transmitted conditions. The Lancet Global Health, 5(7), e644-e646.

New Resource: Exercise Programming

posted Jun 13, 2017, 6:56 AM by Ben Jane   [ updated Jun 13, 2017, 6:58 AM ]

Across all three years of undergraduate study I work with students that need to develop their ability to write effective exercise programmes. For some, it's about working with high-performance athletes and producing a detailed yearly plan and for others they might be working with a client that's interested in going to the gym or exercising at home to stay fit for life in general.

Either way, those inexperienced with writing programmes often find it difficult to know where to start, what to include and how to balance variety and interest with consistency and focus. 

All too often, we find that students get a number of the basics wrong and for many, even the initial presentation and organisation is not conducive to producing anything of a particularly high standard. Many beginner programmes are over-complicating, and as Mike Boyle so eloquently put it in his latest book, too many people are trying to think outside the box before mastering the box itself

In order to try and support this stage of professional development, and along with Ben Anniss, a colleague of mine, we've put together this resources page that includes several planning templates, a number of key papers that should help with the underpinning theories of planning and links to relevant pages on my website.

Please let me know if you find it useful.


Book Review: Athletic Movement Skills

posted Mar 4, 2017, 11:51 PM by Ben Jane   [ updated Mar 5, 2017, 1:44 AM ]

Click to hide.When it comes to Strength & Conditioning books, Human Kinetics has been on good form recently with Mike Boyle’s updated Functional Training For Sport, Nick Tumminello’s Building Muscle and Performance, and Brad Schoenfeld’s Science and Development of Muscle Hypertrophy all finding a place on my shelf next to Dan Lewindon and David Joyce’s 2014 title, High-Performance Training for Sports (see my review here).

It seems that they still have more to give though as this month sees the release of another title to add to this list in Clive Brewer’s Athletic Movement Skills: Training for Sports Performance, a book that sets out to “present proven protocols for evaluating, correcting, training and translating athletic movement to athletic dominance”.

With over 400 pages, it's the biggest of the books mentioned above but is still great value CPD at just over £20. It contains many practical examples and activities that can be used by coaches at all levels and there are some informative tables and figures that I can see myself using to help my students develop programs for their own clients (see below: p321) (I included this as I found some of the excerpts on the HK website somewhat uninspiring).
There’s a great panel in Mike Boyle’s new version of Functional Training that’s titled “There’s a reason there’s a box” [p58] and in it he recommends constraining the use of out-of-the-box thinking in emerging professionals, at least until they start to know what’s in the box in the first place. In this way Brewer’s book will help in allowing both new and established coaches to soak up some of the hard won knowledge of the experienced coach/author.

It took me a few minutes to get over the slightly self-indulgent foreword of Loren Seagrave and there are a few sections in the first half of the book that made me wonder who the book was designed for. Sections on motor units, levers and muscle structure can be found in many intro texts and although fundamental to the work of a coach I would imagine many readers flicking past those sections having already covered this content elsewhere. Beyond those sections the book has lots of good practical session content and guiding principles to consider. Brewer’s knowledge of platform based Strength & Conditioning work is evident throughout but is very much balanced with other areas of conditioning and coaching work appropriately illustrating the need for a more blurred line approach to the coach-conditioner job roles.

I felt like I was gaining more novel insights as the book progressed and the last two chapters, “Developing functional strength progressions”, and “Applying principles in practice” contained many good schematics and guiding principles that I’ll be using myself or recommending to students.

Brewer returns to the principle of “training the movement rather than the specific muscles” throughout, echoing Verkoshansky at one point in emphasising that the fundamental phenomenon central to all sporting tasks is movement. With that in mind, this new book should be of great use to those involved in the physical preparation of athletes by helping to bridge the gap between the areas of strength & conditioning and sports coaching, two areas that are often treated as being more exclusive to each other than they should be. 

BJ - 5/3/17

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