Tag Archives: London

Gaining freedom of the City

In the last few weeks our middle son has suddenly realised how much more freedom he gets from his bike. There is no doubt that having a girlfriend who loves to cycle and it part of a cycling family has been a significant encouragement 🙂

So now he rides off to the other side of Leicester to meet the girlfriend, then together they rode to swimming at Beaumont Leyes.

We are fortunate that there is some cycle infrastructure here, it is of a poor quality (lots of sharing with dog walkers, terrible surfaces, narrow obstructions, overhanging brambles) and takes approximately twice as long as the straight route down the Melton Road.

However, poor quality though it is he feels a lot safer using it and now intends to switch from commuting to College by train to using his bike (I suspect a secondary motive that he thinks he will get to pocket the train fare).

Having the confidence to set out to places you have not cycled to before (as Beaumont Leyes swimming pool today) knowing that you will be able to get there ok is the key to having your freedom.

Sadly as our son is gaining the freedom of Leicester many are being denied the freedom of London as Transport for London are about to start work on making Blackfriars less safe for cyclists and less convenient for pedestrians. This goes against a vote in the London Assembly and against 1,000’s of people protesting.

More details at Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest: Blackfriars Bridge: the battle against TfL’s anti-cycling, anti-walking agenda commences.



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.


Getting confused in London #ride:8.64miles

This morning I 0cycled with Pete Philips from the President Hotel (somewhere in London, but I don’t really know where and I don’t recommend it so can’t be bothered to find where it is) to Methodist Church House on Boris Bikes.

This evening after Methodist Council and after an extra meeting of a few tweeters I cycled back from Methodist Church House to St Pancras Station on my Birdy folding bike. On the way I went wrong a few times partly through not recognising which way I had come from St Pancras on Monday (exacerbated by the large number of one way streets) and partly because there were a few signs showing a cycle route to St Pancras but they kept abandoning me.

I don’t ride in London very often but it does seem that there are more cyclists about (I was about 20 cyclists back at several traffic lights). There were a few idiots with no lights and a few who went through red lights (although none that I saw that inconvenienced any driver or came anywhere near a collision), however, the huge majority stopped at traffic lights and had good lights on their bikes.

Still a huge distance to go in terms of infrastructure, but there were a few useful bits (sadly some blocked by badly thought out roadworks).

Also the Boris Bike worked well and was a very effective and way of getting from the hotel. Saw lots of them in use.

Despite being relatively slow to fold and somewhat awkward to carry when folded my Birdy worked very well for 8.64 miles today 🙂 It got me from the entrance to Leicester Station to home in Syston in 25 minutes 13 seconds, 5.35 miles and a moving average of 12.74mph with a maximum of 21.28mph 🙂 Certainly a lot faster and more comfortable than a Boris Bike but the mudguards are not as good.


Multi-mode travel

This morning I had a very good journey to London for the 2 day Methodist Council meeting.

It was a 6.8 mile ride to Leicester Station on the Birdy (average speed 11.5mph). With an hourly train service from Syston and the time of my London train this made riding the Birdy quicker than catching the train. I took my time folding it and put inside it’s neat cover and it fitted fine in the luggage rack.

Given the impossibility of being sure that you can fit an ordinary bike on the train this was a good solution.

I also had plenty of time at St Pancras so after unfolding the bike I was able to ride it along the empty platform and then found a nice back street route to Methodist Church House rather than simply riding along Euston Road as I have done in the past. With one slight diversion due to an unexpected one way street it was only 2.7 miles (average 10.5mph).

Overnight I have left it securely at Methodist Church house as they had arranged transport to and from the hotel.

Tomorrow I can reverse the journey.

Would I do it everyday? H’mm, I think I would probably swap for a Brompton to get that quicker and smaller fold to make the train bit easier. On the other hand with it’s full suspension the Birdy copes really well with the rollercoaster sections of the Cycle path alongside the Melton Road and between the Abbey Pump Station and Abbey Park. It yet again confirmed for me that despite a really comfy rucsac that it is much better to have the load carried by the bike. Unless things have changed a lot with the new Birdy the Brompton has advantages in this area with big front bags and a rack that is part of the normal fold.

Better still though would be either lots more bookable space for normal bikes on the train or excellent secure storage at Leicester as I could have easily used a Boris bike at the London end (even if not quite with the door to door convenience).


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!).


The trouble with trucks and cyclists…

Some good points after a horrific incident at i b i k e l o n d o n: The trouble with trucks and cyclists….

I do not believe we should have to share the road with criminal drivers and criminal companies and I do believe that more should be done about this issue as a matter of absolute urgency

As one of the comments points out

it seems to me that there is a culture of excessive risk-taking in the HGV industry and a very lax approach to enforcement on the part of the regulatory authorities. The result is that whereas we would hope that HGV drivers would be the best and most careful drivers around given the risks involved, it seems they are often the worst and most reckless.

The post highlights some of the facts about the state of play with the road haulage industry:

  • And let us not forget, as has been highlighted here before, the inherent criminality of the road haulage industry here in London; 70% of ALL the lorries inspected by the Met Police Commercial Vehicles Inspection Unit since 2005 have been found to have some form of illegal defect;
  • Meanwhile, the firm which employed killer lorry driver Dennis Putz – the drink driving criminal who had some 20 previous driving convictions when he ran down cyclist Catriona Patel whilst under the influence of alcohol and whilst using his mobile phone – has been involved in another fatal collision.  This time it’s a passenger in a cab which was struck by a Thames Materials truck after it smashed through the central reservation on the A4.  The driver is being questioned on suspicion of death by dangerous driving, driving while unfit and possession of a controlled substance.  This is the same firm – with whose 32-tonne trucks we ‘share the road’ – who the Traffic Commissioner tried to shut down in 2002 so concerned were they with the volume of convictions and inspection failures that the firm carried.  The order was overturned on appeal due to faulty paperwork, and the firm’s trucks have gone on to kill since then.

It seems to me that it should not be contentious to implement with immediate effect a clampdown on all commercial vehicles. If they are breaking the law then they need to be taken off the road immediately. Not only that but the company should not be allowed to put them back on the road (driver or vehicle) until that have shown that they have put in place appropriate training/procedures to increase safety and to avoid breaking the law.

If 70% of HGV’s are illegal then why are they not been taken off the road!!




20 is plenty for us

Another good film from Streetfilms (well worth going and watching their archive when you get time).

One great quote: “Speed becomes greed when it stops people walking or cycling on the streets where they call home”

The campaign is at 20 is plenty for us.

Also this one about an amazing transformation through DIY Streets

Hat tips: Streetfilms | No Need for Speed: 20’s Plenty for Us and Streetfilms | London’s Do-It-Yourself Approach to Safer Streets


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.


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