Tag Archives: Copenhagen

Thoughts on progress

It seems that progress is something that we are bad at spotting.

I notice it in terms of my own progress towards a healthier weight and gaining fitness. It is easy to get mislead. This morning I looked in the mirror and grumbled there there was not a lot of progress to see in recent weeks. Yet I am now 6kg lighter than I was on January 1st, I am on target for losing 15kg by the  summer holidays and I have now ridden 1,000 miles so far this year. The numbers contradict my impression.

The same is true on a larger scale. There is a lot of talk about how much cycling has grown in London. Yet as freewheeler notes (Official: London’s ‘cycling revolution’ never happened) from an official report (Dec 2010 is a pdf):

Evidence suggests that the growth in cycle travel between 2001 and 2008 was largely caused by cyclists increasing their cycle trip-making. There is no evidence of a net increase in the number of cyclists overall


although many people have taken up cycling in the past decade, a similar number have stopped cycling – i.e. there has been “churn” but no change at an aggregate level.


Much of the growth in cycling since 2001 has been driven by existing cyclists making more trips by bicycle.


Research exploring the barriers to cycling and the factors which would encourage people to cycle more found that frequent cyclists were more likely to be put off by their experiences with traffic and other road users and to mention practical barriers, such as a lack of suitable parking or shower facilities (TfL Cycling Behaviour Survey 2010). For all groups, including frequent cyclists, safety was the most significant barrier to cycling in general and for specific trips. This suggests that, in order to realise the remaining potential from existing frequent cyclists, practical measures to increase safety and improve the provision of facilities will be the most effective.

I would also add from the key findings in the report:

There remains significant potential to increase cycle trip making amongst existing infrequent cyclists – safety, traffic and lack of facilities are the greatest barriers to this

So if the research shows that the greatest barriers to people cycling more (even among those who already cycle a bit are:

  • safety
  • traffic
  • lack of facilities

Then why oh why oh why are we not doing something about this?

Transport for London have their own report saying that safety, traffic and lack of facilities are keeping people from cycling. So lets see some action based on their own report. Why are we not seeing lower speed limits? Why are TFL not campaigning for tougher penalties for dangerous driving? Why are TFL redesigning Blackfriars Bridge to make it less safe for bikes, to increase traffic and to remove cycle facilities – DUH don’t they read their own reports?

Why are the cycling organisations still stuck on their idea of Vehicular Cycling? Again this report demonstrates that it is failed, it has not worked at all here or anywhere else in the world. Nobody has been able to point me to anywhere on this planet where there is even a 20% modal share of all journeys by bike with vehicular cycling.

Let us see some real campaigning for major changes in safety, traffic and facilities. Given the failure over many years of vehicular cycling why are the CTC not using my membership fee to campaign loudly and publicly for

  • full Dutch/Danish infrastructure
  • for 20mph speed limits (with rat runs blocked and other traffic calming measures) all over London
  • for large traffic free areas (how about a car free City of London? – it is only about a square mile after all; also Oxford and Regent Streets, the West End),
  • for significant increases in the size of the congestion charging area and it’s charges,
  • for cycle superhighways that are super,
  • for all taxis to carry bike racks for 2 bikes (as in Copenhagen),
  • f0r bike parking at commuter stations for 1 in 20 of the population,
  • for lifetime driving bans for drivers who kill,
  • for strict liability etc etc.

We have been kidding ourselves that there has been progress when there has not. What has been done, what has been the focus of campaigns has not resulted in growth and it needs to change and fast.


Transforming cities

This video demonstrates the way a city centre can be transformed for better.

I visited Copenhagen many times over nearly 20 years from the mid 1980’s so I have seen how nice the city centre was but how much better it got as speeds were brought down over a wider area and how more facilities were added for pedestrians and cyclists. I worked with friends who lived with frustrations that as car drivers it got harder to park but who also loved the life and energy and social atmosphere that grew where ever the streets were reclaimed from cars.

In Leicester the pedestrianised streets get busier and busier with people which makes a huge contrast with the nearby streets that are smelly, noisy and unpleasant places to be due to the clogged up traffic.

Imagine if Leicester took a long term view of it’s streets and started reclaiming them in an organised way. Keep cars out of the city centre, block more streets to buses, taxi’s and vans. Provide faster cross city cycle routes than mean we only ride on the main pedestrian areas to actually get to the shops rather than to commute.

Imagine if all the main routes into Leicester were transformed into pedestrian and cyclist friendly places. Think how vibrant the Belgrave Road could be if the restaurants could have outside seating, if the pavements were wider and full of people. If there were little noise and pollution from cars, if you could wander freely from shop to shop without being in danger from cars using it as a race track. All it would take is a clean sweep down the road leaving a minimised two lanes (one in each direction) with effective cobbled speed humps, wide cycle tracks on each side, wider pavements cleared of obstructions (the debris of a car focused street in terms of signs etc all blocking the pavement) for pedestrians, a 20mph speed limit and pedestrian/cyclist priority at every junction (so the pavement and cycle paths go level past every side street with cars giving way to get turn on/off).

Look again at the thriving streets in Copenhagen, they have not always been like this. I have been to many of them when they were car dominated and there were few successful shops and businesses, where it was unpleasant at night, where there were few people about.

We could transform our cities. As Leicester claims to be both an Environment City and a Cycle City it would nice to hope that someone has experienced the amazing changes that can come by a change of priorities away from the car.

Hat tip: If Things Are Not Good For Business, They Will Be Changed


It is just like London

A phrase about the Leicester Critical Mass on Girls on Cogs » Leicester’s Monster Mass made me laugh:

The aim  to encourage more cyclists onto our streets until Leicester gets to the level that London is at now

I laughed for two reasons.

One is an old family joke. Many, many years ago my brother and I were in our Grandpa’s car being driven around in a rural part of Cornwall. He saw three other cars at the same time and exclaimed that it was just like driving in London.

The other reason is a hollow one. How terrible it is for cycling in Leicester to have London held up as an example of what it would be good to be like for cycling. Look at pretty much anything on Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest to see why that is a really bad idea. Instead look to David Hembrow’s blog for examples of what it could be like.

Today I rode 14.8 miles to the Leicester Royal Infirmary, then the city centre and back to Syston. I guess I saw about 20 people on bikes. Not bad you might think. Compare it to this (and remember that the Netherlands would hotly dispute the claim that Copenhagen has “the busiest bicycle street in the western world). Our target should be that during a ride like mine today there should be 20 cyclists in view at all times. Compared to the Netherlands we are no where near reaching rural Cornish levels of traffic.

Anyway I am now a facebook friend of the “Critical Mass Leicester” and plan to go to their next ride (last Friday of the month) to meet some more cyclists (pity it is fancy dress, I hate fancy dress!).


Tips wanted for cycling in the snow and ice

Following my post Bullitt cargobike in English snow I am looking to collect wisdom on cycling in British winter conditions where there is snow and ice about.

There are plenty of films on youtube showing ordinary people cycling through snow, even blizzards in the Netherlands and Copenhagen.

However, things are somewhat different in the UK:

  • I have not yet been anywhere in England where any cycle path has been cleared of snow or gritted. Pedestrians are frequently forced to walk in the road due to ice on the pavement.
  • Generally we don’t get much snow (compared for example to the 40cm that fell in Copenhagen yesterday).
  • The result of doing nothing to make walking and cycling safer is that car traffic levels are often appalling when there is snow about. People panic about getting to the shops and so the roads fill up with frustrated and inexperienced drivers.
  • We have very little cycle infrastructure and what we have is rarely properly separated from motorised vehicles. Being on the road is very scary when there is snow about as the lanes end up narrower so there is little or no passing space and you are being followed/overtaken by several tons that can’t stop and do not realise how little control they have.

I am not very experienced to be offering advice. I have had 2 winter falls in the last 3 years. One where the bike just seemed to slip out from under me on ice and the other where I cam a cropper in deep snow when there was a frozen stream under the snow that I reached at about 20mph.

So I am interesting in hearing from more experienced riders.

Here are my initial thoughts:

  1. Consider studded snow/ice tyres such as the Schwalbe Marathon Winter range. I have got a front studded tyre on order for my Bullitt cargo bike (I think the front tyre is more critical as you can control back wheel skids but if the front wheel goes then you are likely to come off)
  2. I have been told it is a good idea to ride with lower tyre pressures fro better grip. Seems to me that works better if you have tyres with a lot of air in them rather than skinny road tyres.
  3. Lowering you saddle to make it easier to get your feet down might be a good idea.
  4. Make sure your bike is lit up like a Christmas tree. Car drivers are not expecting to find a cyclist on the road if it is not a summers day.
  5. Go slow, allow plenty of time. Use your bike as a support to walk across tricky bits. Don’t try to prove anything, particularly near moving cars.

Reduced stress Christmas Shopping

Today we went for reduced stress Christmas Shopping. So here are our top tips for getting the Christmas Shopping done with less stress:

  • Order lots online 🙂 We use a variety of fair trade organisations such as Traidcraft and charities for many of the presents we buy. Much reduced stress from not having to fight through crowds of shoppers and from the good feeling that comes from buying good that have been fairly traded and where our money helps others.
  • IMAG0250When you go shopping make a nice day of it by cycling into the main shopping centre (for us Leicester City Centre is only about 6 miles). We didn’t check the temperature this morning (our only thermometer is part of the car dashboard). But it was quite cold (below freezing anyway) Although nothing like Copenhagen 🙂
  • Gloves are critical, a nice hat helps. But elsewhere we both ended up removing a layer after a while.
  • Having bikes with cargo capacity is helpful. I think the ultimate would be a Bullitt with the lockable aluminium box. You could just move from shop to shop locking the shopping in it as you go to save you having to carry it all.
  • The money you save on car parks and fuel can be used for nice fair trade coffee 🙂
  • As you are not dictated to by traffic jams or availability of car parking you can be more flexible. Zipping across town for a specific shop is easy.
  • You can also enjoy  a nice cake with your coffee as you will burn off the calories as you beat the cars home 🙂

The only downside is the attempt by car drivers to pass their stress onto you with crazy overtaking, usually combined with a sudden stop. How come so few car drivers look ahead of the bike they are dying to overtake in order to see that there is a stationary car 20 metres ahead. Or a long queue of cars unable to overtake a bus, in which case why overtake the bike that is already in the queue. Coming back through Thurmaston this was particularly noticeable, makes you wonder just how many car drivers have had their brains destroyed by some mystery virus. Maybe it is particularly triggered by darkness outside.


Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space: The Dutch ThinkBike project in DC

I have never been to Washington DC and so don’t know the places they are talking about BUT Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space: The Dutch ThinkBike project in DC sounds very sensible.

I only wish places in the UK would invite experts from the Netherlands or Copenhagen to our cities to give us some advice. After all it is not very far to come and they could stay with me to save costs.

Sadly British transport planners seem to live in a strange bubble, believing that nobody else has anything to teach them.

Even more sadly British transport planners have an utterly dismal record when it comes to designing and building transport that is not car centric.


Segregated cycle facilities in London

This Is the LCC pro cycle lanes or not? is a great post trying to work out the position of the London Cycling Campaign on segregated facilities.

Having used segregated facilities in The Netherlands and Copenhagen I am a great fan.

London could have segregated cycle facilities, it would make a huge difference to the number of people who ride bikes.

It worries me that the LCC and CTC will not make a clear stand for segregated facilities. Without these facilities cycling will not grow to a significant level.


First cargobike?

On being first!

Bullitt at CostaMy LarryVsHarry Bullitt Clockwork is not only my first “proper” cargobike but I think it is proving to be much more significant than that.

It seems that for nearly everyone around Syston and wider Leicester it is the first cargobike they have ever seen.  I find this strange as we have seen, known and ridden a wide variety of bikes over the years. Have so few people really been to the Netherlands or to Copenhagen?

So far as cycle advocacy is concerned it appears that simply riding around on a Bullitt might be doing more to show an alternative to cars than I had realised as it is just so visible. Maybe to go further I need to get the childseat option and borrow a few children younger than our own to highlight just how good these are for family transport.

Flat White Coffee

Image via Wikipedia

Anyway after visiting someone this afternoon I realised that I was well on the way to the city centre. Well I was at least 2 miles out of 6 so it felt like I could pretend that it was nearly most of the way 🙂 So I popped in for a nice Costa Flat White after accidentally finding myself in Waterstones.

Of course if I had gone for that visit by car there is no way I would have ventured into the city at 5pm. The traffic was pretty slow which meant that I was about as fast as cars to the central ring road and from there left them way behind as I cycled straight to the bike rack outside Costa. They would have a circuitous route to a car park and then a 5 minute walk. Oh and of course they would have to pay for the car park and afterwards queue out of town while I enjoyed a gentle meander through Abbey Fields and Watermead Park 🙂

Even when I don’t need the carrying capacity of the Bullitt it is a great bike to ride in traffic. It is very confidence inspiring, plenty fast enough and very comfy (especially with my new saddle, more on that later).


Cargobikes are normal

Well at least cargobikes are normal in a  few places such as the Netherlands and Copenhagen. In Syston most people have never seen one before.

This great film from Streetfilms.org shows you how normal cargobikes can be:

Note that amazing statistic from Hans – who sold me my Bullitt 🙂 25% of Danes in Copenhagen with 2 or more kids have a cargobike!!!!

When you have watched the film about Copenhagen Cargo Bikes you will probably enjoy a few others:

Note that while Copenhagen is a fantastic cycling place it is still well behind many cities in the Netherlands. But the Dutch model is so far beyond British experience that people seem to not be able to grasp it. Maybe the Danish model could get us started (at present British infrastructure is so far behind Copenhagen that it is as if we have not even started).


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