• The capital’s New Year’s resolution: a London Cycle Map

    It’s that time of year when millions of Britons resolve to ride their shiny new Christmas bicycles to burn off a few calories.

    It’s also a time for the cycling community to make a resolution: to give new cyclists all the help we can.

    The mayor will soon be publishing a new ‘Cycle Vision’ for the capital. At Cycle Lifestyle magazine, we want to make sure that a Tube-style map and network of cycle routes is on the agenda.

    To help us achieve what would be an amazing, world-first for London, please help us spread the word.

    The text below explains in simple terms what the London Cycle Map Campaign is all about. PLEASE RE-USE IT!

    Let’s get everyone talking about this amazing plan to make the capital a happier and healthier place, where cycling is a mainstream activity.

    The London Cycle Map Campaign

    Rail and road commuters in London can experience more stress than a fighter pilot or a riot policeman going into action, according to a BBC report. No wonder so many Londoners are turning to the bicycle as a means of transport. Cycling enhances health and well-being, bringing the benefits of community, security, freedom and affordability to every day.

    Yet, when it comes to cycling, the question on the lips of most Londoners is not why, but where? Would-be cyclists are put off by the thought of getting lost on a bike and straying onto the capital’s busiest roads and junctions. In order to coax more Londoners onto two wheels, we need to make cycle navigation easier.

    At present, there are thousands of kilometres of cycle routes in London, like a huge tangle of spaghetti spread across the city. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent adding cycle lanes and other infrastructure improvements to these routes, most of which were developed as part of the London Cycle Network (LCN) project that began 30 years ago. Its founding aim was for people to be able cycle all over London on a vast, joined-up network of quieter, safer backstreets.

    And you can – in theory. In practice, the LCN routes are poorly signed and even more poorly mapped, and underused as a result. The signs aren’t regular or informative enough to allow you to follow them as you go along, and the available maps – an online overview of the LCN, and 14 separate Transport for London paper guides – are far from user-friendly. If only there was a way of getting cyclists flowing round the LCN, it could become a vast set of capillaries, cleaning and revitalising the capital.

    Simon Parker has come up with an amazing proposal for achieving this: a London Cycle Map. His great innovation, as detailed in the film London’s True Colours, has been to identify an incredible pattern in the capital’s tangle of cycle routes. Like a ‘magic eye’ picture, his map shows that within the chaos there’s structure: a series of long straight routes, like waves, transecting London in all directions and providing a direct connection between any two areas. His design is ‘almost as marvellously simple an invention as the bicycle itself’, as one commentator on cyclelifestyle.co.uk has said. Using Parker’s map, you could cycle from virtually anywhere to anywhere in the capital, by remembering no more than a few coloured routes then following signs and markings, just like on the Tube.

    Well, you could if these were put in place. The cost of doing so could be covered entirely by sponsorship, and the rewards would be immense. Potential, not just regular cyclists would soon know they could confidently navigate beyond their local comfort zone; all Londoners, including the poorest, could get around in the capital for free; and visitors could experience the real London firsthand, cycling on its beautiful, bustling and cosmopolitan backstreets.

    The novelist Victor Hugo once said: ‘an invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come’. The time has come for a London Cycle Map; but like all great ideas it needs support.

    You can find out more at www.cyclelifestyle.co.uk (especially our 100 reasons for a London Cycle Map), and there’s a petition at www.petition.co.uk/london-cycle-map-campaign. You could also join us on facebook or twitter, recommend our film London’s True Colours, or just tell your friends about the campaign and petition.

  • Cars, T-junctions and you

    A superb article on the London Cyclist blog has drawn attention to how easily drivers can miss passing cyclists when looking from side to side at a T-junction.

    It happened to Bradley Wiggins recently. When a car rolls up to a T-junction, the driver's gaze can sweep past a passing cyclist, in a series of visual jumps, so that the cyclist remains unseen in the gaps.

    The article has lots of advice for cyclists on how to avoid trouble when passing T-junctions.

    - High visibility clothing helps drivers see you.

    - Look at the head of the driver who is approaching the junction or has stopped. The driver's head will naturally stop and centre upon you if you have been seen.

    - Recognise that with a low sun, a dirty windscreen, or one with rain beating against it, drivers are likely to have less of a chance of seeing you.

    - Ride in a position further out from the kerb as a driver is more likely to be looking in this location.

    The article explains the science behind drivers missing passing cyclists when approaching T-junctions. It is worth reading in full, being a fine example of using insights about human nature to provide practical, sound advice, in this case advice for both drivers and cyclists on how to make cycling safer.

    Above all, the article exemplifies how it is much more constructive to stop complaining about problems on the road and instead begin to understand the true sources of those problems.

    Knowledge is power; complaining isn't.

  • Local shopping scheme rewards cyclists in Wanstead High Street

    At Cycle Lifestyle we love hearing about clever new ideas that aim to help get people cycling. One innovation I came across recently really caught my eye, and is especially topical at this time of year when bargain-hunters hit the High Street en masse.

    Sustainable transport charity Sustrans has launched a groundbreaking new scheme that rewards shoppers on Wanstead High Street for cycling to the shops.

    The ‘Biking Borough Shops’ scheme, which is funded by Transport for London and delivered in partnership with London Borough of Redbridge, aims to reduce congestion in Wanstead by encouraging more people to cycle to their local shops and cafes.

    Over a dozen of the High Street’s independent shops have joined the scheme so far, including a grocer’s, butchers, drycleaners and delicatessen.

    Shoppers participating in the scheme must collect 20 points on a loyalty card by making a purchase at a participating retailer. Sustrans will reward completed loyalty card holders with a new bicycle pannier, which will help local residents carry their shopping on their bikes.

    The scheme is part of the Redbridge Biking Borough project which provides skills and support to people wanting to make more local journeys by bike.

    Emilie Charlesworth, Sustrans Cycling Promotion Officer for Wanstead, who established the scheme, said; “Cycling to the shops is quick, easy and cheap, and good for the environment.

    “Choosing to do your shopping by bike also supports local businesses and helps to ease traffic congestion on your local roads.

    Rachel Root, owner of High Street gift shop The Orange Tree, and Chair of the Wanstead Business Partnership said; “I’m all for preserving the High Street’s village feel and promoting local, independent shops.

    “This scheme will see more local residents shopping in the area and encourage people to cycle rather than drive to the High Street from surrounding areas like Aldersbrook and South Woodford, saving time usually spent in traffic jams and finding parking.”

    Congratulations to everyone involved in this exciting new scheme, which we’ll watch with interest.

  • Boxing Day Ride

    Like millions of Britons, I went out this morning for a bike ride to burn off a few Christmas calories.

    I was joined by my sister, Claire, who was sporting a brand new Marin she’s planning to ride to work in 2013, and my old friend Dave McKinnon. Dave is visiting from Australia and has that classic Aussie mindset of being get-up-and-go but laid back at the same time – perfect for cycling!

    It was great to see so many Londoners out and about, taking a walk in their shiny new Christmas clothes. We saw a fair few cyclists too – most no doubt enjoying the opportunity to cruise around in lighter than usual traffic.

    We headed through the back streets of Highams Park and Walthamstow, down to Coppermill Lane – the subject of ‘My favourite Cycling Street’ in Cycle Lifestyle issue 8 - before stopping and turning round at the River Lea.

    Claire, who works in regeneration, told me about Waltham Forest Council’s plans to improve access to the wetlands and the reservoirs beside Coppermill Lane, and to turn the whole area into a nature reserve. I’m really excited about these proposals, which promise to make one of London's best kept cycling secrets even more special.

    Anyway, lunch is on the table, so it’s time to eat drink and be merry. And then ride it all off again tomorrow.


    Me, Claire and Dave in front of the Walthamstow Reservoirs

    Dave, Claire and me beside the River Lea

  • Merry Christmas...

    ... from Cycle Lifestyle magazine! x

  • Putting all the pieces together

    It’s exciting that Sustrans, one of Britain's major cycle advocacy groups, has come out in support of the network approach to cycling in the capital, through their Connect London campaign.

    The major benefit of a city-wide network of quieter, backstreet cycle routes is obvious. All Londoners would reliably be able to cycle from A to B on safer, more pleasant streets, thus removing the main barrier to cycling: fear.

    Of course, we already have such a network: the London Cycle Network. But, despite thirty years of development, it is unfinished. In effect, Sustrans are proposing to finish the job.

    Sustrans have sensibly pointed out that the network approach is consistent with the London Cycling Campaign’s call for better facilities on London’s major roads and junctions; indeed, a network would complement such facilities, by making them more useful, as part of a city-wide infrastructure. (Moreover, the LCC was originally founded upon a commitment to a network, and a few years ago campaigned directly for a ‘Bike Grid’ before changing emphasis.)

    At this stage, there are a few details missing from the Sustrans proposals. They could do worse than checking out Cycle Lifestyle’s 100 Reasons for a London Cycle Map for a few suggestions.

    Some aspects of the Sustrans campaign are especially underdeveloped, but especially important. For instance, there isn't much detail about how the network will be mapped. The squiggly map provided in the Connect London report barely differs from the inadequate London Cycle Network map already in existence.

    Sustrans Connect London map (a slightly different version can also be seen here):

    London Cycle Network map (an online LCN map can also be seen here):

    Nor is there any detail about how Sustrans envisages the network to be signed. The main objective of a network is to provide continuous, safe cycle routes, and so the main determinant of the success of the network is going to be how easy it is to follow those routes. This consideration is especially important when Sustrans are aiming for a network that will support cross-city journeys as well as local journeys.

    Simon Parker’s London Cycle Map fills in the gaps in the Sustrans proposals.

    He has invented an ingenious and beautiful way to map London’s current cycle network (with a few extra routes included) – by representing the network as a serious of long straight coloured routes connecting any two areas of the capital.

    In turn, Parker’s map suggests how to sign the routes on the London Cycle Network: with coloured road markings and signs corresponding to the coloured routes on the map. Following the routes on Parker’s map would be as easy as navigating on the Tube – in both cases, by remembering a few coloured routes and where to change from one to the other.

    Finally, Parker’s map suggests how to reconcile local journeys with longer journeys on the London Cycle Network. His map defines cycling motorways, as it were, that connect the capital at a macro level. But these motorways would also need to be fully integrated with borough level – micro level – cycle facilities. To achieve this, every junction on Parker’s network would display not just a London Cycle Map but a detailed local map showing how Parker’s routes connect with the local cycle network.

    In order for Sustrans to succeed in finishing the London Cycle Network, then above all they will need to solve the problems that Parker’s map has solved – the problems left unsolved by the original London Cycle Network. Yes, the solutions are subtle. But they provide the innovations that Sustrans will need if their Connect London proposal is to be genuinely groundbreaking. We would love to work with Sustrans to help deliver the cycle network the capital deserves.

  • Storybikes update

    If you fancy getting away from it all without the hassle of airports and passports, then a cycle tour in the wild border region between England and Scotland can hardly be bettered.

    On a Storybikes tour, you’ll be led round this stunningly beautiful territory and regaled with stories by experienced tour guide Andy Hunter.

    Storybikes are offering three tours in 2013:

    -       The Snowdrop tour, mainly in the Scottish Borders (17 - 23 February)

    -       Galloway (7 -13 July)

    -       Hadrian's Wall (28July - 3 August)

    An earlybird discount of 10% is given on the cost of any of these tours when booked more than 8 weeks in advance.

    In addition to these longer tours, shorter Edinburgh tours take place on Saturday afternoons on a weekly basis.

    Any of these tours can be arranged for groups at different times, depending on availability.

    Storybikes now has a Facebook page, an occasional blog http://storybikes.com/blog/, and is on Tripadvisor here.

  • Thames Bridges Bike Ride

    3 Routes, 2 Wheels, 1 Cause

    On Sunday 12 May next year, over 2,000 cyclists will participate in the Stroke Association’s 2013 Thames Bridges Bike Ride. The now famous bike ride has three different routes for 2013, all of them crossing London bridges to raise money for the Stroke Association.

    Starting in central London and travelling across some of the city's most beautiful bridges, the Thames Bridges Bike Ride is a fantastic way to see London from a different perspective. There are 3 routes to choose from – the 8 mile family friendly, the 33 mile standard and 50 mile extended route which all end in Hurst Park, near Hampton Court, so there’s something for everyone!

    The routes take you over some of London's most iconic and well known bridges, including Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Waterloo Bridge and Hampton Court Bridge.

    All for a good cause

    All the sponsorship money raised will go towards helping to prevent strokes, and support the 250,000 people in the UK who are living with the effects of a stroke, through services, research and campaigns, so you know all the hard work on the day will be worth it.

    Party at the Finish!

    After you finish your cycle along the banks and bridges of the Thames, there'll be plenty of live entertainment in Hurst Park – including live music, caterers and a beer tent for you to enjoy will all your friends, family and other cyclists. 

    How to register

    Register now to guarantee your place – don’t miss out on this fantastic event. To register simply visit www.stroke.org.uk/tbbr or contact us via email at events@stroke.org.uk for more information. 

    The Thames Bridges Bike Ride takes place on Sunday 12 May 2013. Registration fees are £16.00 - £30.00 for adults and £8.00 - £12.00 for the under 16s. For more information on how to enter, click on the link below.

    All other information

    • Start times: every half hour from 8.00am to 11.30am. NB Cyclists taking part in the extended route are restricted to start times between 8.00am to10.00am
    • Minimum ages: family route (no min), standard route (10), extended route (16)
    • All cyclists under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult
    • Start postcode: SE16 2ES
    • Website link www.stroke.org.uk/tbbr

  • What a piece of work is a bicycle!

    “What a piece of work is a man,” said William Shakespeare. And what a piece of work is a bicycle!

    But when you put them together… that’s when the superlatives really come out.

    The bicycle is often called the best invention in history. With the same effort as walking, a person on a bicycle can travel up to five times the distance.

    A new book Cycling Science reveals the secrets behind how this simple concatenation of metal and rubber performs such engineering marvels.

    There are fascinating facts galore in Cycling Science. Here are just a few:

    -       Getting a lightweight bike would save an average novice cyclist 25 seconds across 25 miles, but getting fit would save 5 minutes 30 seconds.

    -       Bikes first had full (back and front) suspension way back in 1890.

    -       Spoke tension is set by wheel builders who pluck the spokes and tighten them based on the tone produced.

    -       Some frames actually push you forwards, not backwards, when designed to make use of the same mechanism which gives a plane's wing lift.

    In chapter 1 of my first book Einstein and the Art of Mindful Cycling, I wrote about how reflecting on the design and science of the bicycle adds inspiration to each cycle ride, and that by learning about how bikes work, we can feel more at home in a complex modern world with all its technical challenges. Cycling Science comes highly recommended.

  • Is there a TABOO against cycling?

    When I first started Cycle Lifestyle magazine in 2009, I was fascinated by the question of why there is so much hostility among the general population towards cyclists.

    You’d think that people everywhere would welcome with open arms an affordable vehicle that alleviates congestion on roads and public transport, reduces noise and air pollution, and hardly ever harms pedestrians. Alas not. Buy why not?

    I’m still no closer to finding the definitive answer, but, occasionally, possibilities suggest themselves to me. There is one in particular I find very plausible, precisely because it doesn’t try to make sense of why noncyclists are so hostile. Rather, this particular explanation is based on the sheer arbitrariness of noncyclists’ hostility.

    The arbitrariness has all the hallmarks of a taboo.

    Taboos, found in all societies, are arbitrary moral prohibitions against certain behaviours or items. Taboos are reinforced by ostracizing people who break them, or sometimes even by violence. Taboos, once established, are very difficult to eradicate.

    The idea that there is a taboo against cycling (in Britain, anyway) explains a lot. It explains why so many people are so quick to casually condemn cyclists. It explains why people are so confident in their condemnation despite this being based on scant evidence, or none whatsoever. It explains why people are generally not swayed by the tidal wave of evidence showing that cycling is a beneficial force for individuals, communities and economies. It explains why cyclists are often subjected to ostracisation or even violence.

    The psychology of taboo also explains a lot about the cycling community. When certain groups are ostracized by society they can become more extreme in their views as a result. This can lead to confrontational behaviour which, although entirely understandable, is counterproductive.

    It often takes heroic leaders like Gandhi or Martin Luther King to inspire minority groups to respond to persecution in a measured and constructive manner.

    Some might think that mentioning these illustrious names is a little over the top. The struggles of cyclists hardly compare to the monumental struggles of blacks in America and the Indian Independence Movement, surely?

    I’m not so sure. Every day, millions of Londoners experience dreadful stress getting to and from work. Reports have estimated, for instance, that rail and road commuters in London experience more stress than a riot policemen or a fighter pilot going into action. These stressful moments blight people’s days and lives. If this isn’t a humanitarian issue, I don’t know what is.

    At Cycle Lifestyle we want to help lift the taboo that currently oppresses cyclists in the capital and beyond.

    But we think that confrontational campaigning is not the right approach. For instance, the assumption of London’s most ardent cycle campaigners is that there is a territorial war taking place between motorists and cyclists, and that cyclists should ‘reclaim the streets’. This includes, without exception, London’s major roads, which allegedly should all be ripped up and redesigned with segregated cycling facilities incorporated – to hell with the motorists.

    Although not always unhelpful, this approach is unrealistic – prohibitively expensive or impossible – when applied to all or even the majority of London’s main roads. Worse, it feeds into the hostility which noncyclists feel towards cyclists. The idea that motorists in London are cyclists’ enemies simply provokes noncyclists into reinforcing the taboo against cyclists.

    Instead of pursuing counterproductive campaign strategies, Cycle Lifestyle is championing a better option. There are thousands of kilometers of cycle routes already in London. Many of these routes are on backstreets, or, where possible, on well-provisioned main roads. You can more or less get from anywhere to anywhere in London on its comprehensive network of cycle routes. In theory.

    In practice, these cycle routes are impossible to follow because their signage and road markings are useless. The London Cycle Map Campaign is calling for the authorities to make the capital’s cycle routes more accessible, by painting easy-to-follow trails of colour on the streets, and erecting corresponding signage.

    Simon Parker’s amazing London Cycle Map reveals an ingenious way of colour-coding these cycle routes, so that any two areas of the capital would be connected by a single, coloured route that could be followed safely and simply.

    If that doesn’t lift the taboo against cycling in London, I don’t know what will.

    Yet the taboo surrounding cycling makes it hard to convince the public what a wonderful idea Simon Parker’s London Cycle Map is. And, even more tragically, the same taboo also tends to make cyclists indifferent to the idea. Cycle advocacy groups are so busy campaigning confrontationally that they are overlooking a measured and constructive way to make cycling in the capital mainstream.



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