Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The "joys" of cycling - or not, as the case may be...

The following article applies to the UK only - similar situations, signs and systems, may also be found in other countries.

Over the last few months, whilst preparing for the long distance bike ride, I've encountered a number of situations, where cyclists, pedestrians and drivers are seemingly unaware of where, and where not, cyclists are allowed to go.

I'll start with "Toucan" pedestrian/cycle crossings

In the UK, where a road crossing is shared by both pedestrians and cyclists, the Toucan system is used - showing a red cycle and pedestrian, when it's dangerous to cross, and green when it's safe.

But, pedestrians often think it's a pedestrian only crossing, and take up the full width of the crossing, forcing cyclists to either dismount, or move out of the crossing's safety area.

Toucan crossing

Shared spaces

Whilst some shared spaces are clearly segregated, with marked cycle paths, other shared spaces are just that - a pathway, that can be used by both pedestrians and cyclists, with no segregation.

Unsegregated shared space

Whilst pedestrians have priority on unsegregated shared spaces, they are often advised, by various signs and notices, not to take up the whole width of the path. All too often, many do the exact opposite.

Pedestrians don't read signs (nor do many cyclists, for that matter)

I've been informed, a number of times, that I was cycling in an area, where cycling is not allowed. Often within feet of a sign clearly indicating that cycling IS allowed.

Confusion might be understandable here - a well signed pedestrian zone,
with a cycle route sharing the same space

Pedestrians often seem to have difficulty understanding that a blue sign showing a cycle, means that route can be used by cyclists. A similar sign, painted on the surface of the path, also seems to cause the same confusion.

Unfortunately, some cyclists are just as ignorant of road and path rules and etiquette, as many other users.

First rule (in the UK) - just as on the road - keep to the left! The number of casual cyclists who ignore this simple rule, is staggering! (Keeping to the right, would apply in countries where vehicles are driven on the right).

"No cycling" - means NO cycling! It's not difficult guys!

"Cyclists dismount" - means, get off your bike and push it!

Shared spaces, with segregated paths

Essentially, there are two types of such spaces. One, where a cycle path is indicated, usually at the side of a road shared by cyclists and motor vehicles. The other, where the space is shared by pedestrians and cyclists.

Cycle paths indicated on roads, are often found in built up areas. This is an easy, and inexpensive way, for town planners to claim, they are being bike friendly.

Courtesy of the Bournemouth Echo

Such paths are all well and good, if no cars are parked at the side of the road. But, when cars are parked, guess what? The cycle path is blocked! Forcing the vulnerable cyclist to manoeuvre into the path of the main traffic flow, and out of the relative safety of the marked cycle path!

This somewhat ironic shot was taken in Sydney, Australia - it's clearly not just a UK problem...
Courtesy of Momentum Mag (Canada)

Where cyclists and pedestrians share a segregated space, the cycle path is usually clearly marked, and often has a different surface colour, when compared to the adjacent pedestrian areas. Unfortunately, pedestrians often venture into the cycle path, seemingly unaware of its existence.

Segregated shared space

Segregated shared space pedestrian incursion

Parked vehicles

Let's start with drivers pulling out of a parking space, straight into the path of a cyclist. Sorry, but doesn't that go against the basic rules of driving, as per the Highway Code? "Mirror, signal, manoeuvre"?

Even worse! Parked facing the wrong way,
and unable to see oncoming cyclists, until it was too late!

All too often drivers make this very elementary mistake. Some may see the cyclist, but misjudge the cyclist's speed. Others, just don't register a cyclist at all, and pull out without indicating. They wouldn't normally do that if it were a car, bus or truck. But, if it's a bike or even a motorbike - they do! Sometimes, with rather nasty consequences, for those on two wheels.

But, with parked vehicles, that's not the only hazard cyclists need to be aware of.

Another hazard, is the sudden opening of a car door.

Whilst motor vehicles tend to pass further away from a parked vehicle, cyclists often pass much closer. Close enough for a door to form a sudden barrier, or worse still, to physically knock them off their bike - and potentially into the path of other road traffic.

Dogs, and their owners

One of my greatest bugbears is dog owners. I love dogs, I've owned and enjoyed the company of several of these wonderful creatures, but I don't necessarily "love", their irresponsible owners.

A whole series of instructions for shared space users -
all too often ignored!

Many shared spaces advise dog owners, to keep them on leads at all times - advice, all too frequently ignored. Free running dogs will often suddenly change direction, and run into the path of an oncoming cyclist. Whose fault is that? Well, as far as many dog owners are concerned - the cyclist's! Why? Because they're there, and the dog owners think their dogs have priority, over everything!

But free running dogs, are not my greatest bugbear. That goes to those dog owners, who whilst quite rightly keeping their dogs on a lead, use those, almost invisible (to cyclists anyway), extendable leads.

These form a potential hazard across the path, for both pedestrians and cyclists, with the dog on one side, and the owner on the other. Sorry, but this type of lead is for lazy dog owners, who can't be bothered to properly lead train their dogs, or keep them under control, whilst off the lead. Rant over!

One way systems, where a contra-flow cycle system exists

Not far from where I live, there is a one-way street (for vehicles), which is also a two-way (contra-flow) street for cyclists. Whilst I've not encountered problems from drivers, some pedestrians seem totally unaware of this.

Cycle contra-flow on a one-way street

On one occasion, whilst on my bike, I was informed by a pedestrian who had stepped out in front of me, that I was going the wrong way along a one-way street. Ironically, this occurred just in front of a sign (see the very same sign above), clearly indicating that a contra-flow exists for cyclists!

National Cycle Network

Thanks to the charity Sustrans, a national network of cycle routes is being developed, throughout the UK. In some places, Sustrans invests directly, with the help of lottery funding, into projects to help improve access to safe routes for cyclists and pedestrians.

One such project exists close to where I live.

Adur Ferry Bridge

The Adur Ferry Bridge - this bridge has replaced a former 91 year old, narrow concrete footbridge, across the River Adur, between Shoreham Beach, and Shoreham town centre. The new bridge forms part of what will eventually be the 361 mile National Cycle Network (NCN) Route 2, from Dover in Kent, to St Austell in Cornwall.

NCN Route 2 marker

And, yes! We'll be following parts of Route 2 on the cycle ride. But, we'll be deviating northwards, once we pass Bournemouth, to pass along other NCN routes through Somerset and North Devon, as a significant part of the western section of Route 2, has yet to be developed.

Additional information and links

The JustGiving pages for the dementia charities can be found at:

Alzheimer's Society page - or text ASDP84 £2 to 70070 (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

Dementia UK page - or text BIJJ81 £2 to 70070  (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

@inmemoryofmymum can be found on both Facebook and Twitter, so you can follow the ride there too. You can also find me on Facebook - Martyn Feather (Skippy), and Twitter - @ZkidooKreativ

The text and photos contained within this blog are the intellectual property of Martyn Feather, unless otherwise indicated. © Martyn Feather 2017

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Cycling4Dementia - raising dementia awareness, on two wheels

On 10 September, I, along with a good friend and former neighbour, Allan Lind, will be embarking on a 350 mile bike ride, in support of dementia charities, and to raise dementia awareness.


Over the past five years, I've been a full-time carer for my Mum who was officially diagnosed with vascular dementia, in 2011 - although she had been showing the signs of the disease, for a number of years before that. From late 2012, she became totally bed bound, and fully dependent on others, for all her daily needs. For me, it was a 24/7/365 role.

Sadly, Mum lost her dementia battle on 6 March this year.

In the first few weeks following her death, I felt lost and alone. I was grieving - not just because of the loss of someone very close to me, who I loved dearly, but also the loss of the daily routine I'd grown used to, over five long years, and more.

During those years of caring for Mum, I'd been active on Twitter - Tweeting and taking part in Twitter chats about dementia. I'd also set up a blog about design for dementia, as well as a small forum for fellow family carers (or caregivers to our American friends), and former carers.

I still take part in Twitter chats, and I still run my small forum - but I now needed something else. Something to occupy the time, I'd once spent, caring for Mum.

A late night chat with Allan, resulted in the idea of the bike ride - in memory of Mum.

This was to prove to be the very tonic I needed.

Where from? And where to?

As the ride is to be in memory of Mum, it made complete sense to start from somewhere near where she had last lived. And to finish, somewhere near a place, she had once lived and worked.

So that was it - from Southwick in West Sussex, to St Austell in Cornwall.

Southwick, West Sussex

Southwick is just a few miles from Lancing, where Mum last lived, and Southwick Christian Community Church is where we'll be setting off from. The Church and its Pastor (Lynda Hulcoop - who performed the service at Mum's Celebration of Life), have, in many ways, been enthusiatic supporters, of our venture.

St Austell, Cornwall

St Austell is a place where Mum, along with Dad (who we lost to cancer in 1994) and I, lived for a number of years, during the 1970s and 1980s, after Dad had left the Army. Mum worked for English China Clays (now Imerys), as PA to the marketing director, at their former HQ, John Keay House (now Cornwall College). John Keay House, is where the ride will finish.

Planning the route

Following the National Cycle Network to Cornwall

The majority of the route will follow parts of the National Cycle Network (NCN). Some parts will be on minor roads, with light traffic, whilst other parts will be on paths, tracks and trails, with no traffic. As a result, the planned route, is hardly direct. It meanders through the countryside, and along parts of the coast of southern England, sometimes passing through villages, towns, and cities.

New Forest National Park

Overnight stops will mainly be at campsites near the route, and we may be stopping off, for one night, at a forum friend's house, in Somerset.

The major towns and cities include: Worthing, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis, Chichester, Portsmouth, Southampton, Christchurch, Bournemouth, Dorchester, Taunton, Barnstaple, Bideford, Bodmin, and finally St Austell.

Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth

We'll be starting near the South Downs National Park, passing through the New Forest, and Exmoor, National Parks, close to the edge of Bodmin Moor, and right next to the Eden Project.

For beer aficionados, the end of the route also passes close to St Austell's well known, independently family owned, brewery. My old school, is right next door to it!

St Austell Brewery

Planning everything else

The last few months, since deciding to undertake such a challenge, have been filled with researching and selecting the various "bits of kit", we'll need for the ride.

As we'll be totally unsupported, we'll need to carry everything we need, in backpacks and/or in pannier bags, on the bikes. We'll need to be prepared for whatever the British weather decides to throw at us, as well as carrying essential food, water, clothing and shelter.


Such a distance shouldn't really be attempted, without a certain amount of training. So, for the last few months, we've been on numerous bike rides, in and around the local area. Gradually increasing the distance, and difficulty, of the rides. Taking in some interesting, and challenging, hills, and riding, head on, into strong westerly winds. The winds we are most likely to encounter, on our east to west route.

But, cycling alone, is not enough. Various other strength and cardio exercises, are needed too! More of this, will be included in a later post.

Staying connected

In our modern world, we'll be expected to keep everyone updated about our progress during the ride. After all, if it's possible from the International Space Station, what excuse do we have? So, we'll try to keep in touch, and post daily feeds and updates.

I've covered much of this in an earlier post here. And, it is my intention, wherever possible, to post frequent updates, here, as well as Facebook and Twitter (links are provided at the bottom of this page).

After the ride, I also intend to produce a YouTube video, and an online album of photos taken along the way.

Media coverage

I'm still working on this one. We've had some interest - with an article published in a local newspaper. The biannual magazine, published by Mum's company pension scheme (Imerys UK Pensions), is also interested. However, that's it, at the moment.

I've contacted some media outlets, to no avail, but there are still plenty more - and once one is interested, maybe we can get more on board - only time will tell. If that fails, we'll just storm the BBC studios in Southampton, when we pass through! Only kidding!

Besides, the power of the internet gives us much more coverage, than many major media outlets, so it's no big issue.

Raising funds and awareness

We'll be wearing both Alzheimer's Society and Dementia UK cycling jerseys, whilst on the ride, as well as carrying and displaying banners, whenever we stop.

Wherever we can, we'll chat to people, and explain whatever we can about dementia, its effects on those living with it, and their families. As well as what can be done to help those living with dementia, have a life that is as normal, happy, comfortable and secure, as possible.

Wrist Bands

I also have quite a few "I'm Dementia Aware" wrist bands, which we'll be selling - at £3 each - the proceeds of which will be going to the charities, and I've set up two JustGiving pages, at the following links:

Alzheimer's Society page - or text ASDP84 £2 to 70070 (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

Dementia UK page - or text BIJJ81 £2 to 70070  (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

Other links

@inmemoryofmymum can be found on both Facebook and Twitter, so you can follow the ride there too. You can also find me on Facebook - Martyn Feather (Skippy), and Twitter - @ZkidooKreativ

© Martyn Feather 2017

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The sensitive issue of being "caught short" on a long distance bike ride?

OK, this may be a somewhat sensitive subject for many, but it does need to be addressed, just in case. So I'll try to be as lighthearted as possible.

Dig a hole and bury it! I hear some of you say. But this, is often not an option in many places, especially managed campsites, even though they may be advertised as wild. Many people use these campsites throughout the year, so several hundred holes containing human waste, is hardly practical or hygienic. Where this practice is permitted, make sure the spot you choose, is well away from water courses (ideally, at least 100 metres, and no less than 60 metres), and human habitation, including campsites.

Some campsites we'll be using, like the ones mentioned above, are basic, and verging on wild camping. By basic, I mean no toilets and no showers. No showers are fine for a day or two, but no toilets could be a problem, especially for, errm, essential bowel movements, or poo! Some of these sites have disposal facilities for chemical toilets, but try carrying one of those on a bike!

There is a product called "Bog in a Bag" (as seen on Dragons' Den), which consists of a folding, three legged stool, with a removable section, to reveal an opening for a bag with an absorbent pad - you do your business in the bag. This, whilst a seemingly good idea, has a problem with its size. At 65 cm long when folded, it's still not that practical for carrying on a bike.

Bog in a Bag

There are similar products available, such as those manufactured by TravelJohn.

Is there another solution? Well, yes!

It's pretty basic, but this solution has been used by many, including Special Forces, for quite a few years. The trusty old bin bag! If you're prepared to squat, whilst doing the necessary, then, no problem.

As stated before, the "Bog in a Bag" disposable bags, contain an absorbent pad for bodily fluids. There's no such pad in a bin bag. But, there is a solution to this too.

When space is very much at a premium, you could use absorbent continence pads, or even puppy pads. A bin bag (ideally bio-degradable), with a continence pad or puppy pad, will work in exactly the same way as a "Bog in a Bag" disposable bag. They take up significantly less space, as well as saving you oodles of cash!

Poo disposal...

Yes, this could be a problem. What to do with your bag of poo, when you've finished? I'm not suggesting you adopt the Special Forces routine of carrying everything with you, including bodily waste, until you reach a safe haven. But, disposing of a bag of poo, can be an issue, for some.

You can, if it's just one bag, probably get away with disposing it in a general/household waste bin - no-one is really going to notice - hopefully. Such an action however, is entirely within the law - but we know what some interfering busy-bodies can be like! Soiled disposable nappies/diapers and sanitary towels, are often disposed of this way. Unfortunately, it all goes to landfill.

DEFRA's guidance on Healthcare waste gives the following advice:

"If the waste is non-hazardous, and as long as it is appropriately bagged and sealed, it is acceptable for the waste to be disposed of with household waste. This is usually the case with sanitary towels, nappies and incontinence pads (known collectively as sanpro waste) which are not considered to be hazardous when they originate from a healthy population."

You could, if they're available, dispose of the bag in a doggy poo bin - or carry it, until you find one. After all, there's not that much difference between doggy poo and human poo, although the bins are often marked "Dog Waste Only" - but, unless someone is a poo expert, or scatologist, as in the likes of BBC nature presenter Chris Packham, and goes "rummaging"!!! - who is going to know?

The down side to this, is that most dog poo also goes to landfill. It won't start to rot down properly, until the plastic bag has decomposed - hence the need for bio-degradable bags. And, to be perfectly honest, I wouldn't actually recommend using a dog waste bin.

Flush and chuck* (maybe I should trademark this!)

Alternatively, you may choose to be super hygienic, and empty the contents of the bag, down a loo, when you find one, and "flush" it away. In this case, DON'T use continence pads or puppy pads to absorb liquids, they'll block the system! Then you can dispose of, or "chuck", the empty bag, in any available bin.

In conclusion...

If you're worried about being "caught short" whilst on the trail, carry some bin bags and continence pads. Dispose of them responsibly, and remember, in the UK, you can lawfully use standard household refuse bins. How you dispose of the bags of poo, is down to you and your conscience. This is, however, one occasion where you can safely use baby wipes for personal hygiene, without the fear of blocking the loo, or indeed the whole sewage system! Unless of course, you choose the "flush and chuck*" method, in which case, stick to standard toilet paper.

"Yuk!" Some may say...

If none of this appeals, and I can understand why it might not, then I guess you'd need to plan your route accordingly. Making sure, the necessary facilities are on hand, whenever you need them.

Happy biking!

Additional information and links

I've set up a JustGiving page, initially to help fund the ride, as we need some equipment to help us along the way

The JustGiving pages for the dementia charities can be found at:

Alzheimer's Society page - or text ASDP84 £2 to 70070 (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

Dementia UK page - or text BIJJ81 £2 to 70070  (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

@inmemoryofmymum can be found on both Facebook and Twitter, so you can follow the ride there too. You can also find me on Facebook - Martyn Feather (Skippy), and Twitter - @ZkidooKreativ

* The text of this blog is the intellectual property of Martyn Feather, including the term "flush and chuck". © Martyn Feather 2017

Friday, 14 July 2017

Storing digital photos and videos, and surfing the net, whilst on the road...

Photo and video storage

When planning the bike ride, one issue became almost immediately apparent. How to "safely" store videos and photos taken whilst on the ride.

Photos are less of an issue, as I have 3 x 32Gb SD cards, which will hold several hundred images each, but videos are a problem.

My Contour Roam 3 action camera stores videos in 3.66 Gb segments, and when set to full HD, this accounts for about half an hour of recording time. So a 32 Gb SD card will hold just 8 segments, or around 4 hours recording time, (and also limited to a battery charge life of around 2.5 hours).

Contour Roam3

OK, I could just switch the camera on and off, and record "of interest" snippets along the way, but even then, 32 Gb would not be enough for 8 to 10 days of cycling.

So, is there a solution?

Well, there are several. Buy a lot of micro SD cards, or buy a specialist portable photo storage device, or buy a compact 10.6" or 11.6" laptop.

Enough 32 Gb micro SD cards, to cover 4 hours recording each day, would cost somewhere in the region of £130, nearly enough to buy a small laptop.

A portable photo and video storage device can cost anywhere between just over £100 (of limited use), to well over £700! These can read from SD and micro SD cards, as well as enabling you to view what's on them (more expensive models only). But, apart from storing videos and photos, they don't do much else.

Portable photo storage

So that leaves the compact laptop. But, there is often a snag with these too. Many come with just 32 Gb of internal storage, in the form of an eMMC drive - and that's nigh on useless for storing videos, and pretty much anything else, for that matter.

There are however, a small number of compact laptops that come with HDDs (hard disk drives) with around 500 Gb of storage.

Fortunately, I have one of these, an Acer Aspire R11. It's not the fastest laptop on the planet, in fact it's pretty sluggish. But, with patience, it can do a lot more than just store videos and photos. A RAM upgrade would probably speed it up - a bit!

Acer Aspire R11 - 11.6" laptop

As it runs Windows 10, it can, if somewhat slowly, run various video (PowerDirector 14) and photo editing (Photoshop Elements) software too. It's about the same size as an A4 refill pad, and can easily be carried in one of the bike pannier bags.

As I intend to try to post photos and videos daily, whilst on the ride, as well as updating my blog (that's the plan anyway) - this seems to be the ideal solution. Only time will tell.

Note: Ideally, you should take more than one storage device, in case one fails. So, if a compact laptop is an option, an additional portable external hard drive, might be advisable.

Accessing the internet whilst on the road

WiFi hotspots in urban areas, are generally plentiful, but that's definitely not the case elsewhere. And, one of the things about cycling along National Cycle Network routes, is that these routes often take you well away from urban areas, in our case, through places like the New Forest and Exmoor. Guess what? No WiFi hotspots!

OK, it's still not as bad as it seems. Some of the campsites we'll be staying at, do have WiFi. But, they also have limitations. Most are fine for surfing the web and checking emails, but video streaming and video uploading, is very much discouraged - after all, doing so, could potentially deny others access to a fairly reasonable, but not great, WiFi connection.

So, is there another solution?

Well, yes - sort of!

One option would be to tether a smartphone to the laptop and use the phone as a WiFi hotspot. Not exactly the best option. My relatively inexpensive Chinese 3G smartphone takes two sim cards, so theoretically, one could be a data only sim. But, using the phone as a WiFi hotspot can drain the battery quite rapidly. (I do have an 18500 mAh portable charging bank, if needed).

Another option would be to buy a sim free (it still needs a sim card, but is not locked to any particular network provider), portable WiFi hotspot device. 3G (21 Mbps download) versions can be bought for around £30, whilst 4G (150 Mbps download/50Mbps upload) versions are currently available at around £65-70.

Huawei E5330 - portable WiFi hotspot

Then, of course, you need to buy a data sim. There are various options available, including pay as you go tariffs, to monthly contracts. Three, for example, have three (no pun intended) pay as you go data sim tariffs, 1 Gb for up to 1 month for £10, 3 Gb for up to 3 months for £16, and 12 Gb for up to 12 months for £40.

But, hang on! This will only be needed for 10 days! And, if I went for the 4G device with a 12 Mb data sim, that would cost over £100! Nah! That ain't gonna happen!

So WiFi hotspots, when available, it is then. But, I might, just might (and don't quote me on this), buy one of the cheaper data sims (3 Gb*) for my smartphone, just in case. And use it, only when absolutely necessary. But, probably not!

Reality check!

It would seem that daily updates, may not always be possible.

*3 Gb is just about enough for 15 four minute videos, and nothing else!

Additional information and links

I've set up a JustGiving page, initially to help fund the ride, as we need some equipment to help us along the way

The JustGiving pages for the dementia charities are now live:

Alzheimer's Society page - or text ASDP84 £2 to 70070 (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

Dementia UK page - or text BIJJ81 £2 to 70070  (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

@inmemoryofmymum can be found on both Facebook and Twitter, so you can follow the ride there too. You can also find me on Facebook - Martyn Feather (Skippy), and Twitter - @ZkidooKreativ

© Martyn Feather 2017

Monday, 10 July 2017

Article from the Lancing Herald about the bike ride

350 mile cycle trip will be ‘a kind of therapy’ for grieving Lancing son

A former graphic designer from Lancing, who spent five years as a full time carer for his mother until her death in March, is cycling 350 miles to fundraise for dementia charities.

Martyn Feather, of Beachcroft Place, Lancing, said vascular dementia had left his mother Jean – a proud Yorkshire woman who travelled around Europe with her soldier husband – a ‘mere shadow of her former self’.

Caring for bedbound Jean had been a 24/7 task for Martyn, who documented his experiences and provided practical advice in his blog,

In the difficult weeks since her death on Monday, March 6, Martyn has come up with a plan for a ten-day cycle trip to raise funds for Dementia UK and the Alzheimer’s Society in honour of his mother.

“Whatever I can do to help others living with dementia, and those family members who care for them, I’ll do it,” he said.

“That will be Mum’s legacy.”

The trip will start from Southwick Community Church and end at John Keay House, in St Austell, Cornwall – where Martyn’s mother worked for many years as personal assistant to the managing [sic] (marketing) director of English China Clays.

Martyn said of the trip: “It’s a kind of therapy.

“Going through and organising it, it’s helped me.”

The 60-year-old, who enjoys cycling but has never travelled such a distance before, will be joined by his friend and former neighbour, Allan Lind.

Their journey, which starts on Sunday, September 10, will follow national cycle routes, taking in landmarks including the Eden Project in Cornwall.

The most challenging aspect will be ‘the hills and the wind’, Martyn anticipated.

He hopes the trip will raise awareness of dementia – a disease which has no cure but ‘affects so many people’, he said.

He will document his journey and his preparations in a blog:

The original article can be found here

Additional information and links

I've set up a JustGiving page, initially to help fund the ride, as we need some equipment to help us along the way

The JustGiving pages for the dementia charities are now live:

Alzheimer's Society page - or text ASDP84 £2 to 70070 (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

Dementia UK page - or text BIJJ81 £2 to 70070  (if you wish to donate more just enter a different figure after the £ sign - e.g. £5)

@inmemoryofmymum can be found on both Facebook and Twitter, so you can follow the ride there too. You can also find me on Facebook - Martyn Feather (Skippy), and Twitter - @ZkidooKreativ

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

In case of emergency

Naturally, when planning a longer distance ride, and calling at, or travelling through, places where nobody knows me, one of my first thoughts (at least) is, what happens in the event of an emergency?

How can I carry vital medical information, in a compact form?

Well, after a little research, looking at both emergency bracelets and cards, a military related thought came into my head - dog tags (US military style)!

OK, so they don't hold much information, just five lines of text, each. But, when researching further, I came across a company that not only provides the said dog tags, but will also supply them with a QR code label on the back.

The label on the back carries the emergency "star of life" symbol, the instruction "Scan in an emergency", along with a unique ID number and the all-important QR code.

Upon scanning the QR code, the first responder can access a web page with up to 1500 characters of further important personal information, such as emergency contact, next of kin, any medical conditions and medication, along with up to 10 photos for identification and/or important medical related documents.

All this for well under £20, and, for the web info, 99p per year, after the first year. Result!

Of course, as anyone can scan a QR code with a smart phone, it is very important that only essential first responder contact and medical information, is stored on the website. Great care should be exercised when uploading such information, in order to avoid identity theft etc.

The website suggests the following information:

Next of kin 
Medical history (relevant)
Doctors contact number
Driving licence number
National health number
Holiday itinerary (where relevant)
Contact details
Photos of the user, carer or guardian etc.
Any other useful information

One of the companies providing this service also supplies helmet stickers, velcro wristbands, keyrings and asset tags, all with relevant, and unique, QR codes.

As this is a result of my own research, and because I'm not receiving anything in return for this blog post, I'm not including any links to the websites.

Further note

A cheaper, simple, single, un-embossed dog tag, carrying just the QR code sticker, is also available. However, in areas where there is no internet coverage, not even basic information will be available to first responders. That's why I prefer the embossed dog tags, as they can at least provide the following basic information:

First tag:

Last name
First name and initials - blood group
Date of birth
NHS number
Basic address info: house number and post code - country (i.e. UK)

Second tag:

Last name
First name and initials - blood group
NI number
Basic address info: house number and post code - country (i.e. UK)
Religious preference - or no preference - or medical condition if relevant

So that's it! A simple, easy to wear, and compact way of carrying essential emergency information, when taking on a challenge, of whatever kind.

Additional information and links

I've set up a JustGiving page, initially to help fund the ride, as we need some equipment to help us along the way

The JustGiving pages for the dementia charities are now live:

Alzheimer's Society page -

Dementia UK page -

I've also created another page, which gives a brief description of the ride, and the route, here

@inmemoryofmymum can be found on both Facebook and Twitter, so you can follow the ride there too. You can also find me on Facebook - Martyn Feather (Skippy), and Twitter - @ZkidooKreativ

© Martyn Feather 2017