• Thank you!

    Articles and features about Cycle Lifestyle magazine and our London Cycle Map Campaign have been cropping up all over the place, including this recent item on chainreactioncycles.com, this one from BikeBiz and this one from Boneshakermag.

    Thanks so much to everyone who has been helping spread the word. Your efforts are worthwhile and greatly appreciated. Yesterday, over 200 people signed the London Cycle Map Campaign petition. If we keep that rate up, there'll be over 21,000 signatures by the end of the year!

    All it will take is enough committed people to report, blog, tweet, facebook-post, chat to their friends, and write to their MPs about the campaign, and London could have the most innovative cycle network in the world in time for the Olympics.

    Keep it up Cycle Lifestylers!

  • Breadcrumbs and Totems

    Breadcrumbs and Totems? No, I haven’t completely lost the plot. In fact, this blog entry is all about plotting: plotting a route through London’s streets using a London Cycle Map.

    Since I started the London Cycle Map Campaign, the most common ‘objections’ I’ve heard are:

    1. You can’t actually use Parker’s map because there are no signs on the streets; and

    2. You can’t actually use Parker’s map because it doesn’t include enough detail to show which streets his coloured routes are on.

    Along these lines, one critic has lambasted the allegedly “mythical routes” on Parker’s map; another has called it an “utterly useless schematic diagram”. Time to roll up the sleeves again and get explaining.

    First, objection number 1.

    Simple: it misses the entire point of the London Cycle Map Campaign. If Parker’s map were usable right now, there would be no need for a campaign! The campaign is lobbying for adequate signage and markings on the streets, so that cyclists in London can follow coloured routes corresponding to Parker’s design. The sheer groundbreaking bolt-from-the-blue (or green or red or orange) brilliance of Parker’s ‘compass colour system’ is that, with adequate signage on the streets, cyclists would always find a long straight cycle route marked with a single colour leading them in the general direction of wherever they wanted to go. This is ‘almost as marvellous an invention as the bicycle itself’ – as one commentator has put it.

    Of course, the assumption is that roads can be marked in such a way as to make Parker’s routes navigable. In contemplating putting up a few more signs, I’ve heard many a borough officer grumbling about unnecessary ‘streetscape clutter’, as if the millions of cars currently smoking out London’s streets aren’t already untidy. But there is a legitimate query lurking in there somewhere. What is important is to explain how exactly the signage would work.

    A big part of the answer may be ‘breadcrumbs’. Bear with me. Traditional road-side signs (i.e. on lampposts) will be necessary whenever Parker’s routes turn corners or where routes intersect, but it will be markings on the road which do most of the work leading cyclists along. Just as Hansel and Gretel left a trail of breadcrumbs on the ground so that they could find their way out of the forest, the streets represented by Parker’s London Cycle Map could have coloured spots – ‘breadcrumbs’ – all along them, for cyclists to follow.

    These breadcrumbs needn’t be too big or obtrusive: no-one needs to worry that their hard-earned Georgian mansion with its Bentley parked outside is going to be devalued by ugly loaves strewn across the road. All that’s needed would be small coloured dots of paint every, say, 10 metres, accompanied by the occasional code (e.g. R1 or G2 or C6) informing cyclists exactly which coloured route they were on. Such a small and relatively inexpensive measure; but such a big, big help to uninitiated cyclists trying to plot their way through the quieter backstreets of the London Cycle Network.

    The breadcrumbs could even be illuminated – like, say, the little dots which heroically lead cyclists out of Cambridge along Ditton Lane. When you leave town along this road, the environment becomes more rural – and in the dark, rural can mean ‘scary’. Thankfully, Cambridgeshire County Council has sensibly studded the cycle tracks beside the main road with little lights which keep cyclists safely oriented. The lights are solar-powered, so they charge during the day then lay-out a glorious, gently-glowing trail at night-time. It looks like an airport runway, but more subtle: think LEDs rather than powerful uplights.

    Marking out a path with colours is not unprecedented. Hospitals use this principle to help people find their way about. Who can claim never to have been relieved to encounter those streaks of colours snaking around labyrinthine Victorian corridors, directing visitors through a gauntlet of incomprehensible -ology departments? How wonderful it would be if London’s thousands of kilometres of cycle routes were woven together in a similar fashion, with lines of coloured dots, like pearls.

    And regardless of the fact that it involves colours, Parker’s system is admirable simply because it imposes order on chaos. Like a magic eye, his map makes an identifiable pattern out of a tangle of London Cycle Network routes. We’re used to encountering logical organisation in so many other areas of our lives: whether it’s a decent map of a festival site, the intuitive layout of the internet, or the sequential orderliness of house numbers along a normal street. Why shouldn’t cyclists demand some organisation and logic when navigating through the capital on a bike?

    This leads to objection number 2. How will people know which streets Parker’s routes are on in the first place? I’ve addressed this question many times before, so I’ll put it plainly here. In the case of the Tube map, you’ve got to use another map, or ask someone, if you want to find out where the Tube stations are. If you don’t do this, you can’t get onto the network (or off it, to your final destination). The same goes for Parker’s routes: you’d need to use another map, or ask someone, in order to get on and off the London Cycle Network.

    But there is another option, and this is where ‘totems’ come in. For the majority of Tube journeys, people don’t need to consult an extra map showing them how to get to and from the stations. People just know where the stations are. They’re landmarks in London, with their ‘roundels’ jutting out from street-side buildings, like beacons. People meet at Tube stations, indeed, precisely because we all know where the most famous ones are.

    The point is: one day the junctions on the London Cycle Network could be as deeply embedded in Londoners’ minds as Tube stations. At every junction could be a tall post with a sign – perhaps a sphere – on top, signifying which two routes were intersecting: a ‘totem’. So, ‘C2G3’ would be at the intersection of C2 and G3, ‘G106’ would be at the intersection of G1 and 06, and so on. Over time, the totems could be given colloquial (and more memorable) names, relating more directly to the local area – just like Tube stations, such as St James Park, Baker Street, Barbican, and so on.

    What a prospect! A grand and proud city draped in glorious strands of colour, punctuated occasionally by totems thrusting skywards, asserting London’s commitment to modernisation. All it would take is a little imagination. And all that would take is to shake off the old prejudices, the old arguments with car drivers, the old ways of mapping cycle networks; to look forward instead. Now that’s worth plotting for.

    Please help us by signing the London Cycle Map Campaign petition.

  • The Big Green Bike Ride

    When you first get into cycling, you hear about people going on rides that make your jaw drop. A mate of mine just got on his bike one day and cycled, on his own, from London to Edinburgh, stopping off at friends' houses all along the way. I still remember looking at him in awe when he rolled up at my place (then proceeded to eat my cupboards bare).

    But the more of these stories you encounter, the more you realise what a remarkable machine the bicycle is, and what possibilities it offers not just for getting from A to B, but experiencing the world in a new, beautiful and thrilling way as you go.

    If you like the sound of riding to Edinburgh, but don't fancy doing it on your own, the Big Green Bike Ride is a 500 mile London to Edinburgh sponsored cycle challenge for Friends of the Earth. Taking place in May 2012 cyclists can choose to take part in the full 6 days, or join for a single day of the route. There will be breathtaking scenery, historic landmarks, regionally-sourced organic food, tented villages, and great company. So if you’re interested in the environment and enjoy cycling then you can sign up here.

  • 1,000 signatures for the London Cycle Map Campaign!

    I’m delighted to say that 1,000 people have now signed the London Cycle Map Campaign petition.

    Fittingly, the 1,000th signature was accompanied by a comment which really says it all:

    Love this idea, great for tourists and locals.

    Public interest in the London Cycle Map Campaign is intensifying as the 2012 London Olympics approaches. With millions of visitors and hundreds of millions of viewers around the world rolling up for the ‘greenest Olympics ever’, the capital is calling out for a better system of cycle routes and mapping.

    In step with this mood, political interest in the idea of unifying and improving London’s cycling infrastructure has been growing too. In 2010 Labour Baroness Oona King was championing the idea of a cyclists ‘Tube map’, and more recently Green Party mayoral candidate Jenny Jones has promised ‘a safe cycling network for the whole of London, not just blue paint and hire bikes in zone 1’.

    The London Cycle Map Campaign is calling on politicians and cycling campaigners alike to ensure that the London Cycle Map idea becomes a stated electoral issue in the run up to both the 2012 mayoral elections and subsequent Olympics.

    We believe Simon Parker’s ‘compass colour’ mapping system is genuinely groundbreaking and would offer an economy of navigation unparalleled by proposed or existing cycle networks anywhere in the world. His map is also – importantly – beautiful, iconic and inspiring, and would send a statement to cyclists and non-cyclists in London and the world over.

    Let’s make it happen. Here’s to the next 1,000 signatures...

  • Race against the GB Para-Cycling team

    On 15 September cycling enthusiasts will be given the chance to test themselves against GB Para-Cycling team riders at the Cyclothon UK Endurance Race taking place at Brands Hatch racing circuit. The team, which won 17 gold medals at the Beijing paralympics, will be racing against a host of sports stars including 2003 Rugby World Cup winners Mark Regan and Victor Ubogu, as well as cycling enthusiasts looking for a once-in-a-lifetime challenge.

    On the day, Britain’s leading para-cyclists Shaun McKeown, Darren Kenny, David Stone, Karen Darke and Rik Waddon will be making their first public appearance following the UCI Para-Cycling Road World Championships in Denmark on 8-11 September, where medals for Britain are expected.

    For more details visit www.cyclothonuk.com

  • 10 things you can do with a bicycle...

    Apparently bikes aren't just an ingenious way of getting around in an urban space and making yourself feel jolly in the process. Thanks to my friend Dan from manufacturingchange.org, I found out today that bikes can be used for all sorts of engineering and development tasks. For those concerned about the fate of Blackfriars Bridge, number 7 on the list might prove especially popular.

  • Cycling boosts the economy

    Cycling generates nearly £3bn a year for the UK economy, through bicycle manufacturing and retail, and cycle-related employment, a report by the London School of Economics has found.

    With an estimated 13m cyclists now in the UK, there was a rise of 28% on the number of cycles sold in 2009. This amounted to £1.5bn spent on bikes and another £850m on accessories, while the 23,000 people working in cycling contributed more than £600m to the economy in wages and taxes.

    The report suggests that rising fuel costs, improved cycle networks, concern for the environment, and the pull of the Olympics are all possible factors for the increase in popularity for cycling.

    Whatever the reason, the trend is good news for all of us: a further 20% increase in cycling levels by 2015 could save millions of pounds in reduced congestion, pollution levels and NHS costs.

    The report also reveals that regular cyclists take 7.4 sick days per year, compared with 8.7 sick days for non-cyclists, saving around £128m through reduced absenteeism, with projected savings of £2bn over the next 10 years.

    Dr Alexander Grous, of the LSE, who conducted the research, said: "Structural, economic, social and health factors seem finally to have created a true step-change in the UK's cycling scene."

    It’s a step in the right direction, that’s for sure.

  • Locking (up) your bike

    Now this is what I call a bike lock...

  • Bike paths artworks

    As a big fan of footballer Ledley 'Ledders' King, who is an England international defender and captain of the mighty Tottenham Hotspur, I was pleased to hear that a new public artwork has been unveiled in Mile End Park, Tower Hamlets, with three local heroes Ledley King, Sylvia Pankhurst and an iconic canal towpath horse immortalised in steel as part of charity Sustrans’ 'portrait bench' initiative.

    The bench is situated in Mile End Park alongside the new Meath Bridge, which having been installed in 2009 is already making a major difference to how people make their everyday journeys in the Borough. The characters were all chosen by the local community, and are part of a national project which is adorning new sections of Sustrans’ National Cycle Network in communities across the UK. Over 240 characters will be immortalised in steel when the project is completed.

    Ledley King said, To be recognised for any achievement is always a privilege and is especially welcome when it is something determined by the people of the area from which you were born. I’m proud of my roots in East London and I have fond memories of playing football there as a youngster.

    “I hope the bench will contribute to the overall improvement of the area in which it is situated.” 

    Susan Homewood, of the Sylvia Pankhurst Trust, said, “Sylvia Pankhurst was a selfless and inspiring figure whose fascinating real-life story, set here in Bow during World War I, continues to give young people the confidence to do great things for others. We’re sure portrait bench will encourage further generations to learn more about her.”

    Mark Blackwell, from British Waterways, added, “The canals have played an important part in the history of East London, and we’re delighted that local people have chosen to honour the working horse through Sustrans’ portrait bench initiative.

    "The capital’s canals and towpaths are a green route through the city for walkers and cyclists; they are a haven for nature, a place to relax and a link to the past.”

    Indeed. Congratulations to Sustrans on a worthy initiative.


  • Cycling Festival, 8 Setember 2011, 6 - 8.30pm, London

    This is no ordinary cycling festival. Intelligence2 are a global forum for live debate who are committed to creating knowledge through contest. They're bringing together the most articulate amateurs and professionals from the world of cycling to celebrate the endeavour and endurance, the risk and reward of cycling's extraordinary partnership between man and machine.

    At Cycle Lifestyle we were delighted to encounter an event which 'fuses' thinking with cycling. I've always felt there to be an important relationship between the two activities. Cycling boosts your brain and makes you think - and thinking boosts your intelligence and makes you more likely to appreciate, and partake in, all the benefits cycling. Boris Johnson captured this relationship well when he said 'a cyclised city is a civilised city'.

    We'll be attending the Cycling Festival and handing out free copies of Cycle Lifestyle as well as posters for our London Cycle Map Campaign. None other than mapping experts Ordnance Survey have declared Simon Parker's imaginative proposal to be one that would 'improve transport in Britain' - it's another fine example of where thinking meets cycling and great results follow!

    Also taking part in the Cycling Festival will be: Bella Bathurst, Geoff Dyer, Patrick Field, Graeme Obree and Will Self. It promises to be a unique and fascinating event, so I hope to see you there.


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