• Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #8. Accessorised.

    #8. ACCESSORISED. Although Parker’s London Cycle Map proposal is based on the policy of minimum functioning – doing as little as possible to get a fully signed network of cycle routes up and running in the capital – that doesn’t mean that these routes couldn’t be improved over time.

    Once millions of Londoners had discovered how easy it is to ride a bike along coloured trails on the streets corresponding to the cycle routes on Parker’s map, the demand would soon grow for better provisioning of those routes. One important source of development would be infrastructure improvements, e.g. segregated cycle lanes. But that’s not all.

    I think Parker’s routes could be accompanied by all sorts of clever accessories to make the cycling experience more pleasant. How about...

    ...a public toilet at every junction?

    ...covered areas for cyclists to shelter in, or just take a break in?

    ...bike parking all along the routes, particularly at popular locations?

    ...staffed bicycle repair centres at each junction?

    ...refuelling stops, run by businesses, to help cyclists rehydrate and reenergise?

    ...London Cycle Maps positioned at every junction showing subsidiary local routes?

    ...Boris bike docking stations adjacent to the routes?

    ...flashing signs informing cyclists of areas of the network undergoing roadworks?

    It’s exciting to think of creative ways in which life could be made even easier for cyclists using the London Cycle Map and Network. It’s even more exciting to think that this wonderful project with all its accessories could be achieved right now, for a fraction of the cost being spent on other cycling schemes and campaigns.

    If the London Cycle Map was implemented, what accessories would you like to see accompanying its coloured routes?


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #9. A makeover for cycling.

    #9. A MAKEOVER FOR CYCLING. “Everyone hates cyclists. Even cyclists hate cyclists.” Malcolm Tucker, the offensive spin doctor from comedy The Thick of It, has a habit of telling it like it is.

    It’s peculiar that cycling is so unpopular. You’d think that the public would celebrate an affordable vehicle which reduces congestion on roads and public transport, lowers pollution (noise and air), and hardly ever harms pedestrians.

    Clearly, cycling needs a spin doctor. Not one like Malcolm Tucker. Not one who knows what the truth looks like yet uses his insight to make lies sound plausible. Cycling needs the anti-Tucker: someone who knows what the truth looks like and knows how to convey it to people.

    The truth is, cycling is the biggest shot in the arm a city can receive, so how do we make Londoners aware of this?

    A London Cycle Map would be a wonderful makeover for cycling in the capital. This is putting it quite literally.

    Parker’s map is a makeover of the current London Cycle Network, portraying it as a beautiful series of long, straight, parallel, coloured routes, rather than a bewildering squiggle.

    In turn, the map is a blueprint for a makeover of the streets on the network, showing how to furnish them with signs and trails of road markings to enable cyclists to ride from anywhere to anywhere in the capital by following just a few coloured routes, like on the Tube.

    Of course, the result would be so much more than a makeover. Non-cyclists who are worried about navigation and safety would know that they could ride throughout the capital, conveniently and confidently, on the generally quieter streets of the London Cycle Network. This could catalyse a surge in cycling in London.

    That’s the thing about anti-spin. When you make the truth compelling, you make the world a better place.


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #10. Open all hours.

    #10. OPEN ALL HOURS. A London Cycle Map accompanied by trails of road markings on the London Cycle Network would enable people to ride from anywhere to anywhere in the capital by following just a few coloured routes, just like on the Tube.

    But unlike on the Tube, the cycle network would never close. With streetlamps lighting the way, or otherwise with solar-powered lights studded into the tarmac, cyclists could use the routes of the London Cycle Map no matter how dark it was, late at night or early in the morning.

    At the moment, the most common options for night-time travel in London are night-buses (which involve hours of waiting around, take ages to get you home, and contain an astonishing number of drunks and strays) or cabs (which are either really expensive, or illegal and dodgy).

    Of course, cycling is currently an option too: people could cycle at any time even without a London Cycle Map. But non-cyclists’ worries about navigation and safety are compounded at night by the problem of reduced visibility. On a comprehensive network of signed routes, people would feel less disorientated and more visible to drivers, whatever the hour.

    London looks especially beautiful at night, but it’s a scene that most people only experience through a grimy window pane. A London Cycle Map would enliven the streets after dark, and make early mornings and late nights a joy to behold.


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #11. Boost the economy.

    #11. BOOST THE ECONOMY. Economies thrive when large numbers of people are in a position to exchange the fruits of their labour with one another. For this to occur, not only do people need to communicate (the internet has made this easier), they also need to physically interact.

    Unfortunately, London’s travel network is not nearly as efficient as its information network. Congestion on roads and public transport is a constant drag on people’s time and energy.

    Arguably, modern societies have prioritised communication over transportation to such a degree that the economy has been compromised. There’s no point creating a thriving virtual world of commerce if the real world infrastructure restricts people’s movements.

    In making it easy, spontaneous and quick to get around the capital, a London Cycle Map and network would boost levels of connectivity in the real economy. Whether on conventional or electric bikes, Londoners would be able travel on safer, quieter streets, following a few trails of colour, just like on the Tube.

    By bringing more people together in this way, A London Cycle Map would facilitate the rewards of exchange and trade – of labour, services and even goods – thus boosting the economy.

    Don’t listen to the naysayers. Trade is a win-win, so a strong economy is indispensible to a thriving society. And if we want to solve the problems of the world, we need to be adequately resourced and organised. A London Cycle Map would boost the economy and help London to thrive and progress.


  • John Pilkington's fabulous adventure from Georgia to Afghanistan - a Sustrans talk

    On Thursday 26th July Sustrans are hosting an evening with explorer and broadcaster John Pilkington who will be recounting his exciting journey across Central Asia.
    In 2011 John followed an intriguing branch of the Silk Road from the Caucasus across the Caspian Sea to Samarkand. He then turned south-east to explore the High Pamirs of Tajikistan and Afghanistan – a region well-known to Marco Polo – before reaching a spectacular finale at the source of the Oxus in the heart of Central Asia.
    His stunning photos and informative commentary make this a talk not to be missed.
    When and where:

    Thursday 26th July 2012

    at The Gallery, 70 Cowcross St, London EC1M 6EJ

    (near to Farringdon tube station).

    Doors open 6 p.m. Talk starts 6.30 p.m. Refreshments available.

    All proceeds from ticket sales will go to Sustrans.

    Book your ticket here.

  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #12. Rational, not sensational.

    #12. RATIONAL, NOT SENSATIONAL. ‘Reason is the slave of the passions’ said the 19th-century philosopher David Hume. No it isn’t! Yesterday I declined to eat a piece of delicious-looking cake because I reasoned that it would only add to my un-delicious-looking belly.

    Reason is more like a horserider to the passions: the relationship is one of mutual influence and benefit. Occasionally, I allow myself to eat a piece of cake to satisfy my appetite.

    But just because reason isn’t slave to the passions, it doesn’t mean that the passions can’t get out of control, like a bucking horse which rattles its rider off course or even topples him.

    The modern media tends to incite the bucking horse of passion in all of us, because it is easier for journalists to grab people’s attention and money by rousing their passions than stimulating their sense of reason. MURDERER ON THE LOOSE is a much better headline than THE SUM OF A TRIANGLE’S ANGLES EQUALS 180 DEGREES.

    Most mentions of cycling in the media tend to be about dangerous cyclists or the dangers of cycling. Even when coverage is positive, it tends to be about the hardships cyclists suffer – bike theft or the aforementioned dangers.

    And even when cycling campaigners focus on those dangers, it can have a counterproductive effect: relentlessly describing the safety problems surrounding cycling tends to put would-be cyclists off just as much as it puts the authorities to shame. I often think of this when I see all those white painted ‘ghost bikes’ dotted around London. They are meant to commemorate cycling fatalities and thereby ‘send a message’. The problem is, I think non-cyclists may simply be terrified by that message – presumably not the desired effect.

    Perhaps the biggest problem with sensationalism is that it unsettles the minds of the journalists and campaigners as well as their audiences. In this way, bucking passions come to define rather than inform policy. Instead of reasonable and progressive policies we get sensational but static ones.

    Here’s an example. From fearful cycle campaigners we’ve recently heard an impassioned cry for segregated cycling facilities on main roads, but without much thought as to how this could be realistically implemented on a sufficiently widespread scale in a metropolis like London. Influenced by those campaigners we’ve now got a mayor whose policy is to waste taxpayers’ money reviewing those campaign proposals.

    And the likely result is that cycle development in London will, for the foreseeable future, consist of a lot of grunting and whinnying and going nowhere, a paltry three new cycling schemes at a time.

    The London Cycle Map Campaign seeks to put reason back in control of the agenda. Sure, we know that cycling is too dangerous in London, especially on main roads. But we’ve been influenced rather than overwhelmed by this fact. Instead of sending out cynical press releases every time another cyclist gets killed by a lorry, we’ve thought about how to fix the problem.

    We’ve come to the conclusion that Simon Parker’s London Cycle Map is the best way forward. By providing signs and trails of surface markings throughout the London Cycle Network as depicted on Parker’s map, the authorities could - and should - enable cyclists to get from anywhere to anywhere in the capital by following just a few routes, on generally safer, quieter streets. This is a rational (affordable, effective and achievable in the short-term) way of addressing non-cyclists’ combined fears about safety and navigation. A Tube-style map and network for cycling would lead cyclists safely and simply out of harm’s way.

    The thing is, you have to really think about it to appreciate the brilliance of Parker’s London Cycle Map. And that’s hard to do in the modern world, while the internet scatters your attention and the media bombards you with sensationalism.

    If, despite this, you’ve managed to tame your passions and appreciate how a London Cycle Map would get Londoners riding en masse, then please help us promote the London Cycle Map Campaign.


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #13. Making London happier, supported by Action for Happiness.

    #13. MAKING LONDON HAPPIER, SUPPORTED BY ACTION FOR HAPPINESS. I’m thrilled to announce that Action for Happiness, the worldwide movement to promote happiness and well-being, has come out in support of the London Cycle Map Campaign. In the words of director Mark Williamson:

    “We are of course hugely supportive of encouraging more people to cycle and would be very happy to be named as a supporter of the campaign.”

    It’s easy to see why. Many aspects of cycling are conducive to happiness. The physical exercise. The stress-free travel. The health benefits. The freedom. The reliability. The affordability. The sense of community. The glow of doing your bit for the environment.

    In bringing cycling to the masses, a London Cycle Map would massively boost happiness in the capital.

    Instead of being scared of cycling, or cooped up in a traffic jam or on public transport, Londoners could cycle from anywhere to anywhere in the capital by following signs and trails of road markings on quieter, safer streets.

    In turning our city into a chilled out place that’s pleasant to live and travel in, creating a Tube-style London Cycle Map and network would truly be an action for happiness.

    By signing the petition, you can act now.


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #14. Similar schemes are thriving in Edinburgh and Birmingham.

    #14. SIMILAR SCHEMES ARE THRIVING IN EDINBURGH AND BIRMINGHAM. Edinburgh is unusual in the UK in having a network of off-street, totally traffic-free cycle paths and footpaths throughout the city. Many of these routes, which are used by thousands of cyclists and pedestrians every day, were once railway lines.

    It is apt, then, that a few years ago Mark Sydenham decided to create a simple map of Edinburgh's many off-street pathways, based on the iconic London Tube Map. Designed by Martin Baillie, the map is cleverly called the Edinburgh Innertube map.

    Within just a few weeks of its launch, 30,000 copies of the map were distributed throughout Edinburgh. A further 50,000 people have downloaded copies since, or viewed the maps online, and surveys suggest that cycling has gone up by 26% on the paths included on the map. All in all, a big, big success.

    So much so that Birmingham has recently followed suit with its own Toptube map, showing the city’s traffic-free cycle network, a scheme which has been similarly successful.

    These schemes not only demonstrate how inspiring and useful a Tube-style diagram of cycle routes can be, but also how the efforts of dedicated enthusiasts can make a huge impact. I have great admiration for all the people involved in the Edinburgh and Birmingham projects.

    Which invites a question: why are we campaigning for a London Cycle Map, whereas in Edinburgh and Birmingham they’ve just gotten on with it and created their maps?

    The reason is that there are some important, and illustrative, differences between the London Cycle Map proposal and those maps.

    Based on my understanding derived from conversations with Mark, both the Innertube and Toptube maps show cycle routes which only need to be signed at intersection points, not continuously. They are routes whereby, once you are on the route, you are led along by the natural environment, so that the only time signs are needed when one of these cycle routes intersects with another.

    In fact, in most cases signage isn’t necessary at all. By marking stops and intersections on the map with names – such as ‘Middleknowe’ and ‘Lauriston Gardens’ – which correspond to their actual geographical location (e.g. a particular street or landmark), a cyclist can decipher where and when to change routes on the network, or to get on or off it.

    This is a very clever way of doing things. It enabled the Edinburgh scheme, for instance, to thrive with minimal initial investment plus a modest (but still impressive) sum of £98,000 in funding which followed. Mark hopes in the future to be able to include various on-street routes on the map, which would require continuous signage. This way, Edinburgh could slowly develop a more comprehensive hybrid cycle network involving both on- and off-street routes.

    So would this approach work in London? The answer is yes, but we can – and need to – do things differently here.

    If we started out by creating a Tube-style map of off-road routes that don’t need to be signed continuously, not only would we encounter a lack of such routes, we would also find that they aren’t necessarily very useful. Many of London’s off-road routes are more scenic than direct, like a steam railway that doesn’t necessarily take you anywhere you want to go. A map of those routes certainly wouldn’t catalyse a cycling revolution among London’s commuters any day soon.

    We would also find that, when we supplemented this skeleton of signage-lite off-street routes, by incorporating streets and on-street signage onto the map and network, the design would rapidly become unacceptably complicated. There just wouldn’t be enough colours to code all the possible routes. We would soon have to start repeating colours, and the whole thing would become very confusing – more like a Jackson Pollock painting than Beck’s inspirational Tube map.

    As any manager will tell you, sometimes bottom-up approaches solve problems, and sometimes top-down approaches are needed. Good policy-making consists in recognizing where one or the other is necessary.

    Parker’s London Cycle Map is a top-down approach. He has recognised that if we want to create a useful, city-wide network of cycle routes in the sprawling metropolis of London, we need to do so according to a plan. His plan shows how to deploy colours as economically as possible, by using an ingenious system of parallel coloured routes, connecting all areas of the capital. He has eschewed many of London’s off-street cycle routes, which are too minimal to form the basis of an effective network, in favour of the streets of the London Cycle Network. The capital already contains over 2000 kilometres of these safer, quieter streets, which are provisioned with cycle lanes, and Parker’s map includes most of them. If we install road markings and signs on the streets corresponding to Parker’s routes, we could enable Londoners to get from anywhere to anywhere in the capital by following just a few coloured cycle routes, rather than remembering hundreds of turn-rights and turn-lefts.

    For reasons of design complexity, and lack of infrastructure, an Innertube or Toptube-style bottom-up approach, using off-street cycle routes, wouldn't be as tailored to the capital as a London Cycle Map is.

    That doesn’t mean Mark Sydenham and his colleagues haven’t done a marvelous job in Edinburgh and Birmingham. It means that in London we need to take the baton, but take it to where we need to go. To get there, we need the authorities to put up the signs corresponding to Simon Parker's London Cycle Map.


    Edinburgh's Innertube map

    Birmingham's Toptube map

  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #15. A metropolis in your pocket.

    #15. A METROPOLIS IN YOUR POCKET. Look at the picture below. London is absolutely huge: a sprawling mass of people, cars, businesses, roads, buses, parks and attractions, too big for most of us to see it all in a lifetime. So big that it takes many years of dedication for cabbies to get to know their way around.

    Yet Simon Parker has managed to fit London onto a cycle map that fits in your pocket! (As opposed to the twelve TfL paper maps currently available, which you could wallpaper a room with; or a smart phone browser, which cannot display the whole cycle network – only local areas – in a useful format).

    Just as Harry Beck did for the London Underground network, Parker has ingeniously mapped the London Cycle Network, which extends throughout the capital and comprises around 2000 kilometres of safer, quieter streets.

    Just as the authorities equipped the London Underground with signs corresponding to Beck’s coloured routes, the authorities today should equip the capital's streets with signs and trails of road markings corresponding to Parker’s coloured cycle routes.

    Then, just as users of the Tube can get from anywhere to anywhere in the capital by following a few routes (and identifying where to get on and off the network), users of the London Cycle Map would be able to get from anywhere to anywhere in the capital by following a few cycle routes (and identifying where to get on and off the network).

    And just as the Tube promotes expansiveness and exploration, a city teeming with connections, the London Cycle Map would bring people and places together.

    If we’re serious about promoting cycling in London, we need to acknowledge how big our city is. Only then can we appreciate Parker’s achievement of fitting it onto such a compact map.


  • Olympic countdown - Reasons for a London Cycle Map, #16. Inspiring more women to cycle.

    #16. INSPIRING MORE WOMEN TO CYCLE. According to a TfL review, London’s frequent cyclists are typically males in the 25-44 age bracket. Why is that? Perhaps these men are at their peak, so they’re busy and they’re confident – and cycling is fast, fulfils a desire for autonomy, and offers a fitness and energy boost without the cost and time commitment involved in working out in a gym.

    These explanations, though, should apply not just to men at their peak, but women too. Maybe, rather than these positive incentives, there are some disincentives which explain why fewer women than men cycle in London.

    One major deterrent could be the fact that female cyclists make up a far higher proportion of deaths involving lorries than male cyclists. Given that non-cyclists are terrified above all of lorries, that statistic is bound to scare women especially.

    Perhaps women are also particularly put-off by the thought of getting lost on a bike, thereby ending up in heavy traffic or, worse, in an unfamiliar and isolated place, such as an industrial estate. London’s existing cycle routes have a habit of petering out in unexpected places.

    An obvious solution to the problem of getting lost is to carry a detailed map, such as an A to Z. But perhaps this solution is not always as helpful to women as it is to men. As any stand-up comic (or cognitive psychologist) will tell you, there are differences in spatial reasoning between the sexes, and, although there are countless exceptions, men tend to find navigating easier.

    Most people would also admit that women generally spend longer getting ready to go out than men do. So maybe the extra hassle of planning a route, carrying spare clothes, changing clothes, etc, has a deterrent effect.

    A London Cycle Map would counteract all of these possible deterrents, therefore making cycling a more attractive option for women.

    The routes of the London Cycle Network which Parker’s map rationalizes are generally on quieter, safer streets, without the heavy traffic characteristic of the capital’s major roads and junctions.

    With signs and trails of colour on the roads, those routes would be as easy to follow as the lines on the Tube – so getting lost on a bike would be a rarity.

    Also, since the London Cycle Map is based on the design of the Tube map – a famously simple and brilliant nagivational aid – navigating by bike would be as easy as it is on the Tube.

    And by removing the need for advance route-planning or having to remember hundreds of turn-rights and turn-lefts en route – users of the London Cycle Map could get from anywhere to anywhere in the capital by following just a few, straight coloured routes – cycling would become more convenient, spontaneous and fast.

    By removing all these barriers to cycling, maybe the London Cycle Map would encourage more women to give it a go.



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