• The red tape issue

    David Arditti has written a fascinating blog about the problems the authorities face (and arguably are responsible for causing) when planning and implementing new cycle developments. He writes:

    "A mad system of red tape, legalism, and excessive emphasis on expensive public consultation over small matters currently strangles attempts to provide for cycling in our cities."

    There is much in David's blog which is relevant to the problems Simon Parker has encountered in getting his London Cycle Map proposal adopted. But red tape isn't Simon's only problem. HIs biggest problem is that the cycling community is currently not united behind him.

    I suspect, however, that the mindset which causes 'red tape, legalism, and excessive emphasis on expensive public consultation' is one and the same mindset which shuns a wonderful proposal like Parker's.

    It is a mindset, both inside and outside of the state, that's too focused on the ideological basis of the state to focus on actually - workably, affordably - getting things done. 

  • LCC comments on Parker's article

    Anyone interested in hearing the LCC's views about the London Cycle Map and the London Cycle Network will enjoy the debate currently taking place here.

    The link is to a great article by Simon Parker that's attracting some constructive attention.

  • 100 Reasons for a London Cycle Map: countdown complete!

    100 Reasons for a London Cycle Map: http://www.cyclelifestyle.co.uk/100-reasons. Please share, share, share!

    I’m excited to announce the completion of Cycle Lifestyle’s countdown of 100 reasons for a London Cycle Map.

    The countdown has shown what a wonderful thing a Tube-style cycle map and network would be for London.

    The benefits would range from helping non-cyclists give it a go, boosting the economy and complementing the cycle hire scheme, to making the capital greener, happier and healthier.

    Please help us promote the London Cycle Map Campaignby spreading the word about the 100 reasons and our campaign film.

    You could also proudly display the campaign logo on your website, join us on facebook or twitter, or otherwise tell your family, friends, colleagues, customers and MPs about the London Cycle Map Campaign and petition.

    Thanks so much for your support. All that remains to be said is: good luck team GB!

    Ben Irvine, Cycle Lifestyle editor


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #1. The Compass Colours System.

    #1. THE COMPASS COLOURS SYSTEM. It has been a pleasure to run through these 100 reasons for a London Cycle Map. Thank you to all those people who have helped us to spread the word. I have chosen to finish the countdown with the most important reason of all. It is the deepest reason, and that means it requires the most effort to grasp. The bottom line is, Parker’s map is not just any old map. It features a groundbreaking design which shows an ingenious way to transform the leaden awkwardness of London’s current cycle network into a golden ticket for mass cycling in the capital. I urge the authorities to take note: let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth.

    Parker's map is based on his 'Compass Colours System', an ingenious solution to the problem of mapping and signing a huge tangle of cycle routes economically and simply. Most (but not all) of the routes on Parker’s London Cycle Map are part of the London Cycle Network (LCN), a set of advisory cycle routes developed over several decades. To appreciate the brilliance of Parker's solution, it helps to contrast it with some alternative ways of mapping the LCN.

    The most obvious alternative is to number all of the 80(ish) LCN routes individually. With a route-numbering system like this you'd have to remember all the numbers of the routes for your cycle journey, and change from one to the other where appropriate. One problem with this option is that for many cycle journeys in a big city like London there would be a lot of route numbers to remember. But most importantly, representing hundreds of numbered routes on a single map looks cumbersome – the network still looks tangled, as you can see from this map.

    An alternative would be to number the locations where the routes cross each other, at points called 'nodes' – as in the node-based system in Flanders, Belgium. Again, however, in a big city like London you'd have to remember lots of nodes to get from one place to the other (up to 20 for a journey of seven miles), and hundreds of numbered nodes would make the map look cluttered, and hardly less tangled. There’s also something arbitrary about nodes: they’re just isolated points, therefore less informative than proper routes.

    The problem shared by these route-numbering and node-based systems is that neither numbered routes nor numbered nodes are as user-friendly as colours. One of the great things about catching the Tube in London is that the coloured lines are a simple and compelling way of presenting journey information visually. This is true of both the Tube map and the signage on the Tube network. On the map, following a coloured line with your mind's eye makes it easy to trace the route you intend to pursue. And, likewise, on the actual Tube network the coloured signs make it easy to work out where you're going, because you can clearly see the markers you’re looking for amidst the numerous other distractions you encounter in a busy underground station.

    So the logical option would be to use 80 colours to mark all the routes on a London Cycle Map, right? Not quite. The problem is, there aren't 80 colours that the human eye can distinguish easily. The Tube map contains about the maximum viable number – and even then it uses graphics as 'colours' for some lines, such as the Docklands Light Railway.

    Parker's system is ingenious because it divides 80 routes into a manageable number of colours. Five colours, to be precise. How on earth is this possible?

    Well, Parker’s first trick is to derive the fewest possible routes from the 80 shorter ones which form the 'raw material' of his London Cycle Map. The simplest way to do this is to turn two or more routes into one, wherever possible. This gives you a smaller set of longer routes. Parker's system creates about forty longer routes in this way.

    This yields a simpler map than before, but forty is still too many for each of the routes to be given its own easily distinguishable colour, as on the Tube map. With London being so big, and having so many cycle routes, that's just the way it is. So how do you represent 40 cycle routes with fewer than 40 colours?

    This is where Parker's system really comes into its own. His second trick is to group the routes by colour depending on their orientation with respect to a series of compass axes (hence the name 'Compass Colours System'). All routes on the North/South axis are allocated a particular colour. All routes on the East/West axis are allocated another colour. All routes on the North-East/South-West axis are allocated another colour. And so on. Actually, things are slightly more subtle than this. In his London Cycle Map design, to achieve maximal economy, Parker divides the compass with five axes, rather than the four usually defined by the North, South, East and West axes and their diagonal combinations.

    Colour-coding London's cycle routes by compass axes may sound abstract, but it has some important practical consequences. One consequence is that compass-coloured routes are always straight. This is a good thing, because the aim of cycling in London is usually to travel to your destination as directly (and hence energy-efficiently) as possible. Parker’s map would help you to do this. You’d seldom need to change from one route to another when using it, especially since Parker’s routes are long as well as straight.

    Another consequence of colouring routes by compass axes is that routes of the same colour are always parallel to each other, never intersecting. That is, on Parker’s map, routes of the same colour always head in the same direction, so (with a couple of exceptions) they don’t cross each other. For instance, no red route crosses another red route. No green route crosses another green route. And so on. Each of the parallel coloured routes on Parker’s map has its own number, i.e. Red 1, Red 2, Red 3, Green 1, Green 2, Green 3, etc.

    Giving parallel routes the same colour is important because it means that while cycling on a route you’d only have to concentrate on following its colour not its number, since all the other numbered routes of that particular colour would be irrelevant – you wouldn't encounter them. This would make cycling on Parker’s routes really simple; as if you were using a mini-map (i.e. one containing only one route of the particular colour you're following) within a larger map. Of course, you might deliberately swap from, say, one red route to another red route via a second colour. And in this case you would need to make sure you’d paid attention to the number codes accompanying the second colour and the next red route. But in almost all cases it would be impossible to swap accidentally from a route of one colour to another route of the same colour. As long as you kept following that particular colour, you couldn’t go wrong.

    The overall effect of using long straight routes coloured in parallel is that Parker’s map covers London with waves of coloured routes at five different angles evenly spread throughout the 360-degree range of a compass. This might sounds complex, but in reality it yields the map’s stunning simplicity. Imagine you were somewhere in London, and wanted to get, say, four miles away. Because Parker’s system dissects London so comprehensively, wherever you were there’d be five routes near you, each of which extends out in one of ten different directions evenly spread throughout a 360-degree range. To appreciate this, just draw a star with five lines, and look at the centre of the star. From there, you can 'travel' towards the edges of the page in ten different directions. On Parker's Map this means that, wherever you were in London, you would always find a long straight cycle route nearby which is marked by a single colour and which runs in the general direction of your destination, wherever that may be. And, at the start of your journey, all you’d have to do is get onto that route.

    Now look at it from the point of view of your destination. That would also have five different long straight routes near it, which extend out in ten different directions. One of these routes would extend out towards where you are, using a single colour. Hence, in order to get from where you are to where you want to go, you’d just need to end up on that route.

    And here’s the crucial point. Since it’s true that wherever you are in London there would always be a long, straight coloured route that heads away from you in the general direction of your chosen destination, and vice versa, it’s virtually impossible to find any two points on Parker’s network that aren’t connected by a direct trajectory comprising just a few coloured routes. Think of it this way: every point on the map is ‘reaching out’ via a long straight coloured route in more or less every possible direction, so any two points logically must ‘reach out’ to each other more or less directly – like Adam and God on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

    Sometimes, of course, the route that you started off on would be identical to the route you’d need to end up on: in this case, one straight coloured route would lead you all the way to your destination. Other times, you’d need to thread your start and end routes together – perhaps with a third or fourth route in between. But in either case you’d just have to use your mind’s eye to trace the straightest trajectory linking where you are to your destination on the map, and then remember the colours and numbers of the routes along that trajectory.

    Well, that’s my explanation for how Parker’s London Cycle Map achieves such amazing economy. But in a way it doesn’t matter if it’s correct. The fact is, Parker’s Compass Colours System would enable you to get from anywhere to anywhere in London on a vast network of cycle routes simply by remembering (in almost all cases) three routes or fewer. Without any explanation, that’s impressive enough: after all, you don’t need to know how an engine works to be able to drive a car. Parker’s system blows the current cycling mapping options in London – and, indeed, any others I’ve seen across the world – out of the water.

    Cycling owes Simon Parker a debt of recognition. He spent years poring over numerous maps of London’s cycle routes (a numerousness which is itself part of the problem, of course), and it took incredible perseverance for him to distil the Compass Colours System out of that tangled mess.

    If we implement Parker’s scheme, regular Londoners will be able to cycle throughout the capital, safely and simply, by following a few trails of colour, just like on the Tube: a scenario beyond people’s wildest dreams until Parker came along. Imagination is a wonderful thing. Turning it into reality is finer still.

    Please help us by proudly displaying the London Cycle Map Campaign logo on your website, joining us on facebook or twitter, or otherwise telling your family, friends, colleagues, customers and MPs about the campaign and petition.


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #2. YOUR comments!

    #2. YOUR COMMENTS! One of the best things about the petition for London Cycle Map Campaign is that it features thousands of comments from signatories explaining why they want to see a Tube-style map and network of cycle routes in London.

    Here’s just a selection of these comments, which say it all really:

    “This would make life soooooo much easier!”

    “The advantages would be immense.”

    “This is a great idea. Let’s get it implemented and make London the world’s cycling capital!”

    “An excellent idea which will help to make travelling around London easier, safer and greener.”

    “It would help when I visit London and have to find my way around by bike.”

    “I can't believe something like this doesn't already exist in London!”

    “Although I don't live in the London area anything to encourage cycling anywhere in the UK is a good thing.”

    “I have not yet seen a better potential cycle map of London than this one. This captures the way we cycle.”

    “This small investment will have HUGE payoff for years and years to come.”

    “I LOVE cycling but don't always feel safe to in the capital... Brilliant idea!”

    “I'm very excited about the launch of the London Cycle Hire scheme and a map to make cycling safer and easier is the only component that is missing!”

    “Please, please, pretty please!”

    “Great idea! Why has the Mayor not pushed for this already?”

    “I cycle everyday but still have difficulty finding out the quickest and safest routes.”

    “Make it happen!”

    “London should lead the world with this!”

    “It is ABOUT time!”

    “This would be both very helpful and also increase safety on London's roads for cyclists.”

    “As someone who is looking to work in London with a commute from the countryside by train it would be nice to have a nice clean way of getting around the city without needing the massive local knowledge that I would currently.”

    “An up to date cycle map of London is essential. Not all cyclists have fancy phones that support apps.”

    “My wife and I are both regularly in London on bikes and this sort of map would be a great step forward!”

    “A great idea and vision for future cycling that can be replicated across the UK!”

    “Fabulous idea, a long time coming.”

    “I spend a lot of time in london, and commute to work by bike when staying. A map would be good for letting me know how to get around at weekends.”

    “As a regular visitor and a cyclist this map would be very useful.”

    “I'm from Barcelona (Catalonia) and I love London and the bicycle. Congratulations for the initiative.”

    “Would be great to arrive in London by train and explore it easily on my own bike. Let's set an example to the world and show it off in 2012!”

    “This would be very handy as I am often trying to plan safe routes from home to various places but standard maps aren't much use on this front.”

    “As a regular cycle commuter who knows only a few routes in my area of London, this would be really useful for me.”

    “Desperately needed. I'm always having to consult an A-Z despite having lived in london for 3 years.”

    “This is a matter of urgency. If we want more people cycling then a unified cycle map is a necessity.”

    “What a brilliant idea. Let's make it happen.”

    “I would love to see this happen. I spend a fair bit of time in London - a good cycle map would really help me in getting around. Obvious next step from the 'Boris bikes' scheme!”

    “Trying to piece together all the borough maps is just crazy.”

    “If Boris really wants to make London a 'cycling city' then this is a must!”

    “14 huge cumbersome maps. Great if you are only going a short distance and can keep the map folded. Awkward if you want to travel any distance.”

    “This is an excellent suggestion. A single map showing all the routes is long overdue and will help to increase cycling withing the capital.”

    “I cycle every day to work, but to venture outside of my normal route is hard without a GPS. We need a map.”

    “You have spent a lot on cycle lanes, so it's time for a decent map.”

    “I've cycled on roads and cycle routes in London for years and I feel it's safe to say we're a bit behind the times when it comes to provisions for cyclists. More needs to be done to encourage people to cycle more; a clear, simple map could really help, along with clearly marked out routes.”

    “This is a great idea to improve London for everyone and would attract more tourists.”

    “Please get this map together. I’m fed up of creating a cycle route on Google maps.”

    “This is a superb idea and I would really like to see it taken forward. It could make a huge difference for cycling in the capital.”

    “Really happy with moves to support cycling so far but this would help still further.”

    “Great opportunity to achieve the obvious. Must be a private sector sponsor out there to turn this into a reality.”

    “I have to travel to London a lot through my work and I would bring my bike to get around if a map such as this was available.”


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #3. Romantic cycling.

    #3. ROMANTIC CYCLING. A romantic city break doesn’t have to break the bank. There’s a beautiful capital city right here on our doorsteps, and it can be explored for free. It’s easy to forget this when we’re wrestling through crowds of commuters, but London is the perfect backdrop for romantic cycling, with its winding streets, stunning architecture and breathtaking riverscapes; the city really comes alive on a bike.

    And romance comes so much easier on a bike. Maybe it’s the spontaneity, the sense of ‘you and me against the world’, the youthful high-spiritedness, the racing heart, or the rosy glow that comes from riding around in the fresh air. Or maybe it’s just the thought of snuggling on the sofa at the end of an active day. Who knows? With characteristic mystery, love is conjured up by cycling.

    Given that so many couples are so bored of the same old places to go on dates – bars, restaurants, cinemas, and so on – it’s a shame that more Londoners don’t try romantic cycling. Perhaps people are put off because exploring the capital by bike means constantly making decisions or ultimately even getting lost, which can be stressful, especially when it involves straying onto one of London’s many major roads or junctions. Nothing lowers the libido like a bendy bus!

    A London Cycle Map would be a wonderful resource for romantic cycling. Following trails of colour on the safer, quieter streets of the London Cycle Network, couples could enjoy romance off the beaten track; exploration without the trepidation.


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #4. The people’s Tour de London.

    #4. THE PEOPLE'S TOUR DE LONDON. Congratulations to Bradley Wiggens on his magnificent Tour de France victory. Those of Cycle Lifestyle’s readers who are perhaps casual or commuter cyclists may not be aware of the scale of Wiggins’s achievement. This year's Tour spanned 21 days, in a series of separate stages, and covered around 2,173 miles. Tour racers typically burn up 6,000-10,000 calories a day, riding an average speed of 24mph for 125 miles a day (with only two rest days), and scale the equivalent of three Mount Everests. The challenge is one of the most arduous in all of sport.

    The fact that a Briton has won the Tour for the first time reflects the growing popularity of cycling on these shores. You often hear people bemoaning the ‘lack of a cycling culture’ in Britain, but things are changing. In London, particularly, cycling has been on the rise for decades.

    But we shouldn’t get too fixated on the idea of a cycling culture. If any country has a cycling culture it’s France, yet only three per cent of journeys in the capital, Paris, are undertaken by bicycle. Watching the Tour racers finish the event on the beautiful Champs Elysees, it’s easy to forget that despite having its own hire bike scheme, similar to the Boris Bike scheme it inspired, Paris has hardly any more cycle journeys than London, where around two per cent of journeys are undertaken by bike.

    So if it isn’t the lack of a cycling culture which is holding cyclists in Paris back, what is it? I suspect that Paris’s problems are the same as those of London (or any other metropolis): too many major roads and junctions blocking the path of would-be cyclists. It doesn’t matter how many hire bikes you line the streets with, if your city is a vast bowling green for trucks and buses, cyclists will shy away.

    It was notable that the Tour riders traversed Paris on a network of signed routes, away from the traffic. If Paris’s regular network of cycle routes was as easy to follow as the Tour de France routes were, I have no doubt that more Parisians would cycle.

    In London, we’ve got a cycle network which, like in Paris, is inadequately signed. Parker’s London Cycle Map shows how we could place coloured signs and trails of road markings throughout this network to make it possible for cyclists to get from anywhere to anywhere in the capital by following just a few coloured routes on safer, quieter streets.

    The metropolises of London and Paris don’t need a cycling culture; they need a cycling infrastructure that's easy to access. A London Cycle Map would enable the people of London to ride, like triumphant Tour riders, on safe, signed cycle routes. Let’s show that Britain’s cycle development is world-beating too.


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #5. Unburdening people and planet.

    #5. UNBURDENING PEOPLE AND PLANET. Motor vehicles produce hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, ozone, acidic compounds, and carbon dioxide, all of which are harmful to the environment. These harmful effects include poor air quality, destruction of the ozone layer, acid rain, and global warming: around 20% of carbon emissions come from road traffic. Urban traffic emissions are especially harmful, where low speeds, short journeys, congested conditions, cold engines and frequent accelerations combine to increase the concentration of pollutants.

    Car usage in cities is, on the whole, utterly self-defeating. With a few exceptions (when heavy loads or hurricanes are involved), cycling is quicker, cheaper, more pleasant, less stressful, healthier and more invigorating. Through car usage, human beings are self-flagellating their way to environmental oblivion.

    People often self-harm when they feel trapped. Looking out upon London’s grisly and labyrinthine road network with its lurching great rivers of trucks and buses, non-cyclists naturally feel that their movement is restricted. How do we set Londoners free and alleviate the environmental burden caused by unnecessary car usage?

    A London Cycle Map would make it so much easier to navigate by bike in the capital. With signs and trails of road markings throughout the London Cycle Network, cyclists could slip their way through the traffic delta, on quieter, safer streets. These long-straight coloured cycle routes would connect every single area of London, making cycling as simple as catching the Tube.

    Harming the environment in the long-term is self-harm enough. Doing so while harming ourselves in the short term, day-in, day-out, is just plain silly. In getting millions of people out of their cars and onto their bikes, A London Cycle Map is a clear example of a policy that would be great for people and planet.


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #6. If Olympics VIPs can have special routes, why can’t we?

    #6. IF OLYMPICS VIPs CAN HAVE SPECIAL ROUTES, WHY CAN'T WE? From 25 July to 11 September, London’s streets will be equipped with a network of special routes for athletes, VIPs and games employees travelling between Olympics venues. As TfL’s informational video explains, ‘roads across the whole of London will be affected’.

    This ‘Olympic Route Network’ (plus the ‘Paralympic Route Network’) will feature ‘marked lanes that can be used by only athletes and accredited vehicles’. Any driver stopping or parking in these ‘games lanes’ risks a fine of £130 and the removal of their vehicle.

    The games lanes will be ‘clearly marked and signposted’ and will ensure that ‘everyone involved in the games can move around London efficiently’.

    This implies, of course, that it’s acceptable for anyone not involved in the games – i.e. all Londoners, at all times – not to be able to move around London efficiently!

    But on a more positive note, the Olympic Route Network has some encouraging implications for the London Cycle Map Campaign, which is calling for a map and network of signed cycle routes throughout the capital.

    The Olympic authorities have shown that it is possible, and indeed desirable, to create a network of designated routes throughout London.

    They have shown how easy it is to put up signs and to paint new lanes and markings on the road surface, to make the network functional and visible, all within a very short space of time.

    They have shown that vehicles stopping or parking in lanes designated for other road users are hazardous and disruptive and that this behaviour can and should be eradicated by imposing harsh penalties.

    The obvious question is: If VIPs can have special routes, why can’t cyclists?

    It’s not even as if the London Cycle Map Campaign is asking for new cycle lanes to be created to the detriment of existing road users.

    With 2000 kilometres of London Cycle Network already in place in the capital, we’re asking simply for that network to be properly signed and marked. Doing so in accordance with the routes shown on Simon Parker’s London Cycle Map would enable cyclists to get from anywhere to anywhere in the capital by following just a few trails of colour, on generally safer, quieter streets.

    Unlike the Olympic Route Network, no-one else in London would be affected negatively. On the contrary, millions more Londoners would be encouraged to cycle, and reap all the benefits of a cheaper, healthier and happier way of travelling.

    The Olympics has shown that this kind of network can be created quickly and affordably, and be properly regulated to protect the interests of its users.

    There are no excuses. The privilege deemed suitable for Olympic VIPs – to ‘move around London efficiently' – should be the right of all Londoners. A London Cycle Map and a signed network of cycle routes would achieve this.


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #7. A network is more than the sum of its parts.

    #7. A NETWORK IS MORE THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS. Imagine you were put in charge of TfL’s cycling budget and asked to make 50 junctions safer for cycling in 2012 (which they have recently promised to do – well, for cycling and walking). Which junctions would you choose, for maximum impact?

    Perhaps you’d pick the worst 50. Or the most popular 50. Or the 50 which are most suitable for cycling.

    Whichever 50 you chose, there would still be many thousands of unsafe junctions you didn’t choose. And when non-cyclists were deliberating about whether or not to cycle they might reasonably wonder how they could avoid those junctions. If non-cyclists felt unconfident about avoiding those dangerous junctions, they wouldn’t cycle.

    What if instead you chose to focus your efforts on creating a network of safe cycle routes connecting every single area of the capital with every other, in a vast grid? A comprehensive network would ensure that non-cyclists could ride to wherever they wanted to go in the capital without worrying about straying onto unsafe roads and junctions.

    The key point is this: the sum of this network would be more than its safety-improved parts. If the same number of improvements were scattered around the capital at random, they would be far, far less useful.

    Of course, you might need to improve a few more than 50 junctions to make this network feasible! But here’s the best bit: over the last 30 years, around 2000 kilometres of London Cycle Network have been created already. That is to say, there is already a good-quality network of cycle routes in London, on safer, quieter streets. It just needs a few tweaks to get it finished.

    So now imagine again you’re in charge of TfL. Which 50 junctions will you improve? How about bringing the London Cycle Network even nearer to completion, by updating 50 more of its junctions?

    Then, how about painting the streets of that network with trails of colour, to enable cyclists to ride throughout the whole capital by following just a few of the coloured routes on Simon Parker’s London Cycle Map?

    Now there’s a good investment.



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