Tag Archives: Transport

So many beautiful road bikes but

This morning I had to drive to and from Rothley for the morning service as Jane won’t let me cycle until this cough improves. On the way there and back I saw more more beautiful road road bikes than I have ever seen out and about before but sadly what is needed is not beautiful lycra clad people on shiney road bikes but ordinary people riding ordinary bikes to work, to school and to the shops.

No country has moved to riding bikes for everyday transport from cycle sport.

The increasing numbers of recreational cyclists are not bad news, it is great to see more people enjoying riding bikes, but sadly alone this is not the change we need to see.

It was also sad to see a number of drivers failing to wait until it was safe to overtake and many others passing far too close.


Bike for Life plus one

I’ll start with the confession. My Bike for Life is now¬†Bike for Life plus one. Yes I have bought another bike ūüôā

However, this should not be understood as a failure of my Bike for Life either as a project or the specifics of my Shand Cycles Stoater Plus. In fact quite the opposite!

My Shand is so delightful to ride (while being the most incredibly reliable, low maintenance and practical form of transport ever) that it has kindled more love and enjoyment of just riding my bike. Hence, for the first time in my life, I have joined a cycling club. The Syston Syclers¬†are new this year and have their “Sygnature” rides on Saturdays which suits me very well.

What I have, unsurprisingly, found is that a fully equipped Bike for Life is fine for the slower groups. So I have been one of the ride leaders for the steady paced 30 mile rides where we average around 12mph. The next group up which is now moving to 45 miles and around a 14mph average is rather harder work. On those rides many of the practical, comfortable, low maintenance features of my Bike for Life make it more difficult to keep up with everyone else on road bikes.

If I could be bothered to adapt my Bike for Life it is perfectly suitable for keeping up with these rides. But I would need to save weight and windage by removing

  • steel mudguards (with leather mudflaps),
  • front low rider racks,
  • front handlebar bag rack,
  • rear rack,
  • huge bell

I’d also move to faster tyres than 40mm Marathon Plus and possibly drop handlebars instead of my comfy Jones Loop H-Bar.

Of course that is not practical on a regular basis. So with a big 50th birthday this year, with permission, I started looking.

If money were no object then I’d have gone with a custom Shand Skinnymalinky (custom in order to have hydraulic disc brakes) with the electronic Shimano DI2 gears. That would have given me another beautiful British steel frame but aimed at fast day rides.

I looked at a number of bikes. The Genesis Equilibrium Disc is very nice. I also looked at the Charge Plug (4 and 5) and lots more.

In the end, thanks to a very knowledgeable and helpful lady at Edinburgh Cycle Cooperative in Manchester I looked at and fell in love with a Whyte Suffolk.

SuffolkIt is a British brand even if not manufactured here. It is an aluminium frame which was not my preferred choice (mainly due to higher environmental cost). But it looks great, has unique cable operated hydraulic disc brakes, Shimano 105 gear/brake levers and rear derailleur. It also comes with 28mm tyres with room for bigger and they also have a matching mudguard set.

So I now have three bikes for use each week:

  • Bike for Life: Everyday transport, Leisure, Family rides, Touring
  • Whyte Suffolk: Club rides, fast unladen day rides, exercise
  • Bullitt Cargobike: Shopping, Transporting stuff for work

Surplus to requirements (open to good offers) Giant Full Suspension mountain bike.



Excluding views of cycling campaigners

After being asked by the County Council I recently suggested some items for the Leicestershire Cycle Liaison meeting agenda. I suggested 5 items:

  • parts of the TfL February Board meeting briefing paper (PDF) [focused on the need for segregation and the benefits of segregation]
  • a report from someone involved in transport strategy for new housing
  • plans of junctions that have been updated or are being designed now to review for cycle safety
  • a presentation from the Council on what requirements for cycling provision are included in all design briefs
  • an update on the Council’s policy on 20mph limits/zones given the changing national picture.

I fully recognise that I am pushing hard at Leicestershire County Council whose understanding of cycling provision is limited to education, signposting and shared use pavements.

However, I was disappointed to get this reaction from a Cycling Campaigner:

I have found in the past, that talking about highly charged issues, like you have sent for comments, can really only be done, to have any meaning, with a keen cyclist. do you fall into this category do you happily cycle at 28 to 33 kms per hour.If you do then it can be meaningful as anybody can cycle slower and fall in with the existing infrastructure, its the keen cyclist that has the problem.

So by this persons definition I am not a “keen cyclist” as I do not ride between 28 and 33kms per hour (that is 17.5 to 20.6mph) and because I am not a “keen cyclist” I should be happy with the existing infrastructure as I am not one of these “keen cyclists” who has the problem.

I was almost lost for words and it took sometime for my blood pressure to subside enough for a reasonably civil reply.

I campaign for cycling infrastructure to the latest Dutch standards because I am concerned about a variety of crises we face as a country:

  • deaths on the roads
  • obesity
  • congestion
  • air pollution
  • health costs
  • peak oil
  • CO2 emissions

While walking and use of public transport can also help with some of these crises nothing is more effective at tackling them all than switching lots and lots of journeys to ordinary people riding bikes. Not only that but switching people to riding bikes also happens to be great for the economy with shops, employers, home owners, health service, road maintenance, emergency services all benefiting.

I do not want to be associated with an attitude that defines only fast sports cyclists as “keen cyclists” and which does not consider the huge numbers of people who would like ride a bike but feel it is too dangerous.

So I am not a “keen cyclist” despite riding nearly every day and 3,500 to 5,500 miles a year! Moreover, my focus in Cycle Campaigning is not on “keen cyclists” by this definition (although my experience of cycling in the Netherlands shows that even “keen cyclists” benefit greatly from Dutch quality infrastructure.

[Update] I have now had a gracious response to my response from the person concerned confessing that they were being selfish.


A Budget Bike for Life?

Following my last post A Bike that defies categorisation I started to wonder whether a budget bike for life was possible. So I have started to look around and build a specification.

As I looked, at least for the moment I had to rule out a Gates Belt Drive. I couldn’t find a budget steel frame with support for a coupler in the seat stay. That will have to come in the future. So a chain and chainguard is needed instead.

This is what I have so far, it comes out at around £1,500 at retail prices including shipping.


  • Frame: Cotic Roadrat with Fork¬†¬£300
  • Rear Wheel with Alfine 8 speed hub, Mavic Disc rim ¬£200
  • Front Wheel with Alfine Dynamo hub, Mavic Disc rim ¬£100
  • Alfine Chainset ¬£55
  • KMC 8 Speed chain ¬£10
  • On-One Mary Handlebar + stem ¬£25
  • Headset ¬£60
  • 2 x Avid BB7 cable disc brakes ¬£130
  • 2 x Brake Lever ¬£15
  • 2 x Ergon GP1 Grips ¬£25
  • Quality Brake Cables ¬£10
  • Front and rear LED Dynamo Lights ¬£170
  • Rear Rack ¬£35
  • Flat Pedals ¬£25
  • Carbon Fibre Seat post + clamp ¬£60
  • Saddle ¬£30
  • 2 x Full Length SKS Mudguards ¬£35
  • 2 x Inner Tubes ¬£8
  • 2 x Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tyres 700c x 35mm ¬£46
  • SKS Chainboard ¬£15

That sounds to me like a pretty nice reliable workhorse bike that will be good for reliable transport in all weathers. It won’t be as quick as a “road bike” but from my experience it will be possible to commute up to about 10 miles each way in ordinary clothes (especially if you are willing to change your shirt when you arrive at work). It will be able to handle shopping, towing kids in trailers or a childseat. It will be able to handle most Sustrans off road routes and won’t disintegrate on poor quality cycle tracks and roads. The only routine maintenance will be to clean the chain.

H’mm, wondering how that sounds to other people? My guess is that a manufacturer would be able to sell these at the Cycle to Work Scheme magic figure of ¬£1,000


A Bike that defies categorisation

David Arditti¬†has written an excellent post¬†Vole O’Speed: A post about bikes. In one part of the post he compares the category of a “Road Bike” and a “Hybrid Bike”. My Bike for Life is a¬†Bike that defies categorisation in these ways and deliberately so.

In my opinion the categories of bikes sold in most British shops do not reflect the needs of reliable, convenient, long lasting, pleasant transport.

  • “Road Bikes” are impractical, their 23/25mm tyres do not cope with cycle tracks, potholes and daily use carrying loads. They are designed for speed, not comfort and so you rarely see anyone riding them in normal clothes. They come without mudguards (and often without the space for mudguards to be fitted), racks, lighting and pedals that can be used with normal shoes.
  • “City Bikes” are poor relations of real Dutch bikes. They frequently don’t have the features that make Dutch bikes reliable, long life, comfortable and practical. Eg chain guards, hub gears, dynamo lights, hub brakes.
  • “Mountain Bikes” are also impractical for transport in many ways. They come with knobbly tyres which while often quite puncture proof are very slow on roads. They come without racks, lights, mudguards and chain guards. They have low gears designed for climbing a mountain off-road but irrelevant for getting to the supermarket or work.
  • “Hybrid” is such a vague term that it can include what is essentially a road bike with flat handlebars (and with nearly all the disadvantages of a “road bike”) or a mountain without knobbly tyres, to a more traditional town/city bike (although typically without hub brakes or lighting).
  • “Dutch Bikes” we are starting to see a number of places selling Dutch Bikes, these are much closer to being what is needed. However, Dutch bikes are not perfect everywhere in the UK. Many designs assume fairly flat terrain (heavy and few gears) and good quality infrastructure (typified by not enough volume of air in the tyres and by a very relaxed riding position which I think works best when in a more cycle friendly environment).

It was partly in response to this that I came up with the phrase “A Bike for Life” when I started looking for a practical bike that defied these categories.

By a “Bike for Life” I mean:

  • A bike that will last a lifetime
  • A bike that is completely practical for everyday life
  • A bike that is reliable for everyday life
  • A bike that enhances life

Lets look at the features of that make a bike for life fit these criteria:

Last a Lifetime

  • A steel frame because unlike Carbon or Aluminium it can be repaired (plus with the added bonus of a lower environmental cost)
  • Components that are chosen for long life that can be serviced and won’t break. So handbuilt wheels with big tyres, hub gears, hub dynamo lighting, disc, hub or roller brakes (that work for ages without adjustment and which don’t wear out rims)
  • Security fastening of wheels etc so that the bike can be quickly locked more securely (I use Infinity3D)

Completely Practical

You need to be able to ride all year round for normal tasks in normal clothes. This implies:

  • Hub Dynamo lighting: always there, automatic, maintenance free. I use a Schmidt hub dynamo and eDelux front light¬†(on two bikes) and a B&M rear light (on my Bike for Life).
  • Racks: Ideally front and rear. I have chosen Stainless Steel racks from Tubus for strength and long life.
  • Either a chain guard (to keep oil off your clothes) or a belt drive (no oil in the first place). I chose the belt drive.
  • Full length mudguards, preferably with mudflaps to keep you dry.
  • A stand for easy parking.


  • Puncture proof tyres on strong wheels. So 35/40mm tyres with loads of puncture protection (I use¬†Schwalbe Marathon Plus).
  • Hub gears which last far longer and require far less maintenance than do derailleur gears. My (expensive) preference is for Rohloff for performance and reliability (amongst other things moving the indexing into the hub reduces gear cable problems)
  • Hub, Roller Brakes or¬†Disc brakes (hub gears are the lowest maintenance, disc brakes the most powerful)

Enhances Life

This will be more subjective, but for me it includes:

  • The bike being great to ride, so not frustratingly slow or heavy.
  • The bike being comfortable despite the poor road conditions and infrastructure (big tyres, seat post suspension, ergo grips, Jones Loop H-Bar handlebar).
  • Supporting local manufacturing which helps with community, with our own economy and the environment. For me that included¬†Shand Cycles, Hope, Middleburn, Brooks, Carradice, Atomic22, BridgeStreet.

Bikes for Life

I would be so happy if a shop would start selling “Bikes for Life”, by using less exotic components than I chose it should be possible to achieve the magical ¬£1,000 Cycle to Work Scheme limit.


Everyone wins from cycling, even those that won’t ever cycle.

Our lives are full of people complaining about cyclists.

Yet this excellent post Take Away Space From Cars to Reduce Congestion For All includes these essential reminders:

  • It [Cycling] is here that there is the greatest unmet demand. ¬†It‚Äôs also incredibly cheap compared to other ways of moving people around and provides¬†paybacks in the region of 40:1;¬†4:1 just from the health benefits.
  • Building cycle infrastructure is what‚Äôs best for those people who will never travel by any other way than driving too
  • Everyone wins from cycling, even those that won‚Äôt ever cycle.
  • The argument that says that where we have a limited resource (in this case, space) that we should prioritise use of it for the least efficient use of that resource (cars) is fundamentally flawed.

Read the post and get everyone else to read it too.

Investment in making Cycling feel safe is a huge win for everyone!


Transport planners missing visibility

I met a professional Transport Planner today. He showed some pretty pictures of a new street design which included lots of shared space. He wanted to tell us how great this was for cyclists and it was only late in the discussion that my brain clicked in and I pointed out that there was not a single person on a bike anywhere in any of the images we were being shown.
If you are not showing people on bikes as a normal part of all your street scenes then do not try to pretend that this is a cycle friendly design!!!
A cycle friendly design will show people of all ages on bikes.
We should see young children on their parents bikes and in trailers, we will see young children riding alongside their parents, we will see older children riding to school, people doing their shopping, people collecting their pensions, people socialising, people commuting, people exercising, people touring the county, people cycling to tea shops, people cycling to restaurants, people cycling to Church, to cinemas, kids hanging out with their friends on bikes (and scooters and roller blades), cargo bikes being used for deliveries, cargobikes being used as mobile shops and lots of bikes simply parked.


When your street scene shows all these then I might believe that you have designed cycle friendly streets!

Note that of course we should also see people using mobility scooters, people in wheelchairs and pushchairs. Without these the street is still just for cars and agile pedestrians rushing to and from cars.

What is not shown cannot have been given any priority!



Funding bike facilities

In a comment on Leicester on a Saturday evening JPR said:

what do the authorities say, is there no way to privatise a project that will build and maintain such schemes… cos the council ain’t gonna do it are they

Funding anything is very difficult when the costs and benefits are not aligned. There are plenty of great benefits that come from implementing great cycle facilities but it seems to me that the departments responsible for the funding will not gain many of the benefits. This is exacerbated by timing issues. The cost benefits of cycling facilities will take time to appear while most of the costs are up-front.

Let’s imagine for a moment that Leicester (and Leicestershire) invested in a high quality cycle infrastructure.

A high quality infrastructure would include the following:

  • Segregated cycle facilities into the city from all directions. These would be wide (over 2 metres for single direction travel), they would have priority over all small side roads and driveways. They would be level across all junctions with clear markings and safe crossings of all junctions. For some this would be fully grade separated (see¬†Multi-level roundabout – the safest solution for a junction).
  • The City Centre closed to private cars with cycle facilities separated from buses and taxi’s.
  • Safe routes to all schools including bans on parking within a 1/2 mile of all School Entrances
  • City wide 20 mph speed limit. Slower speed limits in residential streets and outside schools
  • Rat runs through residential streets closed off to motorised vehicles with short & direct routes provided for pedestrians and cyclists
The experience around the world is that when a high quality cycling infrastructure is created that feels safe from door to door then the take up is very significant. For a relatively compact city like Leicester 30% of all journeys to be by bike is a reasonable target.
Notice also that all these changes make the city a better place for everyone, not just for cyclists. We all benefit from reduced casualties on the roads, reduced pollution, reduced congestion etc
In hard financial terms a great cycling infrastructure will generate considerable savings:
  • Lives would be saved. There would be a significant reduction (as we have seen in the Netherlands) in the number of Children (and Adults) killed on the roads. There can be a debate about how much money should be spent to save lives. However, at present the road system is by far the largest external cause of child death in the UK.
  • Emergency services would cost less. If less people are severely injured on the roads then we will save money both in the initial emergency and also in the longer term care and rehabilitation of victims of crashes.
  • Health care savings will be made in three areas (reduced illness due to reduced pollution, reduced obesity will reduce the load on the NHS and the reduction in injuries in crashes)
  • Education. Many studies have shown that children who walk or cycle too school are more awake and do better.
  • Reduced congestion would generate savings for many businesses
  • Reduced oil dependency will see significant savings in the money going abroad to buy a dwindling resource
  • Employers will need to pay lower expenses to staff who cycle rather than drive for work
  • Employers will save money through needing to provide less expensive space for car parking.
In addition to savings, a quality cycle infrastructure will generate income:
  • A study in Melbourne demonstrated that if you allocate the same size space to cycle parking as for car parking in a retail area you generate significantly greater sales income
  • People who cycle save money which would be spent mostly on imports (cars and fuel) and they spend it in the local economy.
  • Cyclists and Pedestrians are more likely to spend money in the local area rather than drive somewhere else. This helps local businesses.
What we now need is politicians who can recognise all these positives and be willing to divert resources into creating a quality infrastructure. We also need people who can help us better align the costs and benefits so that better decisions can be made.







How can enthusiastic cyclists help change our infrastructure?

A few days ago I wrote “Would like to ride, but too frightened so ‚Ķ ?” about the things people, who are too frightened to ride bikes, can do to make cycling safe enough that eventually they too will be able to cycle.

Now I want to consider “proper” cyclists. There has been a huge increase in the numbers of people riding good road bikes at weekends and on summer evenings. This has been accompanied by the tremendous growth in Sportives, especially ones that run on closed roads.

If you are one of these cyclists, excellent. It is great isn’t it ūüôā Great fun, a lovely way to see the countryside, enjoy time with friends and get fitter.

What I would like to do though is to encourage you to take your hobby one step further, take a step that will start a move into cycling as transport, cycling for utilitarian purposes. I want you to trying riding an upright bike, in normal clothes, at slow speeds during your normal week for some of the normal journeys you make (to the shops, libraries, gym, work, pub, restaurant, friends, whatever). As you are already confident on a bike I want you to lead by example, to show others how bikes could transform our transport situation. As you are already confident you can do this before we have the infrastructure others will need and you can do it so the planners will accept they need to create a proper Dutch style infrastructure.

I want you to do this because I believe our country needs millions more people using bikes for transport. We need this to tackle the big problems facing us:

  • The death of Children. Approximately half of all non medical deaths of Children are caused by road transport. Cars kill children in far greater numbers than anything else. By using your bike for transport you will practically eliminate your chance of killing a child.
  • The death of health. Using cars for transport destroys our health through lack of exercise causing us to be obese, they kill our health through the¬†pollution¬†we have to breathe. By riding your bike you will contribute to a longer life for yourself and cut negative impacts on others.
  • The death of community. Studies keep demonstrating that high levels of traffic tear communities apart. They make them less friendly, less safe and less pleasant. People on bikes do the opposite of all these. They bring transport to the human scale, they encourage interaction and they deter crime. By riding your bike you will meet people in your neighbourhood, for you it will appear a friendlier place (sadly apart from the lunatics in cars who will still offer you abuse.
  • The death of the economy. We are living through a very difficult time for our economy. Cuts are biting and many are struggling. Studies have shown that every kilometre a car is driven in Denmark costs the economy 20 cents but that every kilometre cycled benefits the economy by 30 cents. Cities around the world have found that increased cycling has been a key to improving their economy in 101 ways. By riding your bike your on finances will improve, you can be among the first to see the end of the recession.
  • The death of happiness. Sadly despite the promises of the adverts driving cars has not made us happier. Instead we have got more stressed and more held up in congestion. We are losing more and more time and money to keep our cars on the road. The solution is simple, improve life for yourself by doing what you enjoy for leisure (cycling) for practical purposes. Riding your bike will improve your quality of life and help others to improve theirs, it will make you happier.

So whether or not the acronym MAMIL (Middle Aged Men IN Lycra) applies to you, as a cyclist you can be part of a revolution that will transform your life and our communities into better places. I hope you will join us and get out of your lycra and on your upright bikes.

If you are interested in transformation of our country then I suggest that as well as riding your upright bike you also join the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain.


Do It For The Children

Following an impassioned post by David Hembrow in  Stop the Child Murder Karl has written Do It For The Children in which he notes:

Now the killer fact: In the UK, providing your child doesn’t have an inherited / genetically based disease (congenital defects, child cancers, etc), then the thing that is most likely to kill them, most likely to stop you becoming a grandparent, and most likely to stop them reaching their full adult potential . . . is still a road traffic incident.

That comes after noticing

The UK has seen a 50% improvement in road traffic deaths in the last 35 years, yet the Dutch have achieved a 78% improvement in the same period.

Clearly making the roads safer for cars has been unsuccessful in keeping children alive compared to making the roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

However, making the roads safer for cars has not only failed to protect children it has had a number of other very negative effects:

When the focus is on making the roads safer for cars the key effect is not only children are killed but also there are other side effects:

  • congestion: More people are encouraged to travel by car. This becomes a vicious circle as the more people travel by car the less safe walking and cycling feel so the more people travel by car and so on. However, wide we make the roads, however efficient we make junctions congestion still gets worse.
  • obesity: The UK has the worst levels of obesity in Europe. Our preferred means of travel is a key element in this. Simply we get less exercise as we drive everywhere.
  • school achievement: studies have shown that children who walk or cycle to school are more alert and better behaved as they are properly awake and have had some exercise
  • pollution: we fail to meet the targets for pollution as we refuse to accept the role of the car (and especially cars stuck in congestion) as a key cause. This has knock-on effects on people’s health and happiness which negatively impact the economy.
  • carbon footprint: transport is a large factor in our national carbon footprint and cars hugely significant within this. We have built an infrastructure and culture that commits us to an unsustainable carbon footprint.
  • energy dependency: we have passed or are passing peak oil. From here on global oil production (from industry figures) is in terminal decline. Yet we continue to build an infrastructure and culture that is dependant on oil
  • But to repeat the point David and Karl make. Our car focused transport policy kills Children. Until we change our policy as they did in the Netherlands and as they have since done in Copenhagen and are starting to do in many other cities we will still kill Children.

Our transport policy is not working and as a result our children are being killed. So let us change the policy.

Let us stop the war on Children and make the roads safer for them. That requires

  • A high quality segregated cycle network which covers whole journeys with safe crossings at junctions and with low levels of traffic. Note there are easy tests of the quality of a cycle network. Is it being used by children and Mum’s? Are people switching from their cars to use the network? Is 50% of all journeys by foot or bike a goal that we can see annual double digit progress towards?
  • 20mph speed limits in all towns on all roads in those towns except major trunk routes which ALWAYS have fully separated cycle and pedestrian paths and where every single junction has a safe crossings for cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Strict enforcement of driving offences: speeding, parking (especially on paths and cycle routes), mobile phone usage etc. The penalties to be significant with long term loss of driving license being expected by all.
  • Always, automatic and immediate removal of driving licenses for life for anyone who kills a pedestrian or cyclist while driving whatever the¬†circumstances.
  • Always, automatic and immediate ¬†confiscation of the vehicle from anyone who kills a pedestrian or cyclist while driving whatever the circumstances.
  • Just as Paris is considering ban the most polluting vehicles from all city centres (SUV’s, road legal racing cars etc). They frighten pedestrians and cyclists, take up too much space and damage the city environment too much.
  • Targets for all schools for % of children walking or cycling to school. Helped by enforced no parking within 1/2 mile of the school.

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