• Get off and push!

    ... was how most posters greeted Erin Gill's confession in the Guardian that she recently received a £30 fine for cycling on the pavement. She had opted to cycle the 100-yard stretch to avoid an 'almost one-mile diversion' through a one-way system. Pretty dopey of her (even more so to moan about it afterwards - unless of course attracting comments was the real reason for her story, in which case well done because the story received about a billion).

    But there's a genuine issue here: the question of dual-use. I've always been a fan of pavements where the space is cut in half; with one side for pedestrians, the other for cyclists. This policy only works, of course, when there aren't too many pedestrians. A good example is on the Lea Bridge Road, where you can cycle most of its southern half on a track that runs along the actual pavement. Because very few people want to walk the length of Lea Bridge Road (apparently it's quicker to undertake the 5-hour bus journey), there's plenty of scope for carving up the useful space beside the road for both pedestrians and cyclists.

    I once raised the question of creating more dual-use pavements in a planning meeting. The gathered officers would probably have been more receptive if I'd suggested letting pogo sticks use cycle lanes. I got the feeling that it was considered somehow a capitulation to 'force' cyclists onto pavements, and away from the road where they have 'every right to be'. They do indeed have the right (most of the time, anyway). But that doesn't mean dual-use pavements aren't still really useful.

    This is a classic example of partisanship (which is necessary if you want to promote cycling in London) sliding into entrenchment and hostility (which just makes things worse for everyone including cyclists). What we really need from cycling campaigners is more bi-partisanship: so that cyclists work with the authorities and other road users to maximise the shared resource we all have (i.e. public spaces in London) to the best of our abilities. Alas, articles like the one in the Guardian risk creating more polarisation, especially since people often lose their social graces on the internet and just pipe up with whatever comes into their heads (all the more reason not to conduct public debates on forums, but that's another story).

    Even the tone of condemnation for Erin Gill had a kind of tribal righteousness to it: "they've got their designated areas, we've got ours, and ne'er the twain shall meet" seems to be the attitude of most cyclists to pedestrian spaces. Which of course is true legally (and much of the time morally, too). But the great thing about living in a democracy is that better outcomes - and better laws - can be achieved when people talk to each other and find common ground. That means common ground in the sense of engaging constructively, not just having the same enemies. It's no good if cyclists and pedestrians are united in a shared opposition to unnecessary car-usage but unable to countenance positive ways of getting more people cycling and walking. One such positive way, I'd suggest, is for more pavements to be legally designated as dual-use. Common ground, indeed.

  • 'London's True Colours': a film for the London Cycle Map Campaign

    ‘London’s True Colours’ is an exciting film all about the London Cycle Map Campaign.

    Brilliantly produced and animated by Stuart France from Stuff Animated in partnership with Cycle Lifestyle magazine, the film shows how the capital could be transformed by Simon Parker’s ground-breaking London Cycle Map.

    ‘London’s True Colours’ is available for free viewing on youtube and here at cyclelifestyle.co.uk (just below the magazine browswer on the right hand side). We hope you’ll enjoy watching it and sharing it with your friends.

    And – if you haven’t yet – please don't forget to sign the petition for the London Cycle Map Campaign.

  • 'The complete National Cycle Network' app

    'The complete National Cycle Network’ app, created by sustainable transport charity Sustrans, will be soon available from the iTunes store, making over 25,000 miles of walking and cycling network across the UK available for mobile phones. Created from Sustrans' OS-based online mapping facility, the routes on the app include all 13,000 miles of National Cycle Network plus a further 12,000 miles of regional and local routes and links, in both urban and rural terrain.

    The app integrates with the public transport network and provides links to the Transport Direct journey planning website, making it easier to get bus and train updates from any location, so you can plan longer journeys. The interface also recommends routes for local travel. All routes have been assessed and approved for inclusion and are shown at a 1:10000 scale.

    The latest developments and additions to the network will be updated fortnightly and users can plan and save routes or share them with friends. You can also record and keep a GPS track of your trajectory as you walk or ride along, and centre the map on your current location.

    As well as being a travel tool, the app can be used to find out what a particular area has to offer. Local grocery shops, schools, libraries, museums, sports centres and other amenities are highlighted, along with leisure attractions, places of interest and information on car clubs, bike shops and public transport.

    You can find out more from the Sustrans website, www.sustrans.org.uk. Going forward, the app sounds like it will be a really promising resource; at Cycle Lifestyle we'd be delighted to hear details and feedback from its users.

  • GeoVation Challenge Victory!

    I’m delighted to say that the London Cycle Map Campaign has been announced as one of six winners of the GeoVation Challenge 2011, run by Ordnance Survey. The theme of this year’s competition was ‘How can we improve transport in Britain?’, with over 150 individuals or teams entering. Following a 'semi-final' in March, the showcase final was held on May 4th at the headquarters of Ordnance Survey in Southampton, where the remaining nine candidates presented their ideas to members of the public and a judging panel of industry experts.

    We are enormously grateful to the judges for their support and feedback: Roland Harwood (Co-founder of 100%Open, and formerly Director of Open Innovation at NESTA); Richard Kemp-Harper (a member of the Technology Strategy Board); Andrew Goodwin (a senior policy analyst in the Strategy Unit at the Department for Transport); Glenn Lyons (Associate Dean and Professor of Transport and Society at the Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England, and leader of the Ideas in Transit project); James Cutler (CEO and founder (with Justin Saunders) of emapsite); and Peter ter Haar (Ordnance Survey’s Director of Products).

    We’d also like to thank the people who organised the event – especially Viv Alexander and GeoVation founder Chris Parker. And it was a pleasure meeting the other teams and various ‘helpers’ who attended – all of whom made for a fantastic experience from which we learned loads. Closer to home, we couldn't have succeeded without the efforts of Martin Lubikowski and Jon Haste, who have individually been responsible for drawing some of the maps that have been displayed throughout the campaign and competition. We're also grateful to Stuart France, who designed up a campaign guide for us in double quick-time, and Barclays Print who printed it even more sharply. Finally, a huge thank you to Cycle Lifestyle's copy-editor Rebecca Watts, whose brilliant advice, editing and logistical help was crucial throughout the bid.

    In view of our GeoVation success, Simon Parker and I are particularly pleased that his proposal has been spotlighted and supported by such a respected mapping organisation as Ordnance Survey. They’ve been around since the 1700s and are one of the world’s largest producers of maps, as well as being the national mapping organisation for Britain; so it is a huge honour that they have named Simon’s London Cycle Map, with its groundbreaking ‘compass colour system’, as an innovation that would ‘improve transport in Britain’ in the 21st century.

    We’re looking forward to the next step in the journey for the London Cycle Map Campaign. Watch this space.

  • Riding 'positively defensively'

    I really enjoyed this guest blog from a certain 'Gordon' on The London Cyclist site. One phrase I particularly loved was his tip 'ride positively defensively'. It's a nice way of summing up the attitude you need to thrive as a cyclist in London - being 'positive' in the sense of having confidence in your right to cycle, and in your road positioning and signalling (all of which helps reduce uncertainty in other roads users around you); while being 'defensive' in the sense of being vigilant to potential hazards such as pot holes, drains, adverse weather conditions, vehicles turning (especially lorries turning left), or pedestrians that look like they may step out ('the sooner you see something the more time you have to act', Gordon reminds us).

    The more I think about it, acting 'positively defensively' is a good maxim for life in general: being defensive in the sense of never being flippant, always being on the ball, and being aware of others around you and the potential consequences of your actions; while being 'positive' in the sense of being proactive, communicating clearly and being sure of who you are and what you know to be right.

    Positively defensively: 'this may sound like an oxymoron', notes Gordon, 'but it is one of the best bits of advice that I can give'. Indeed.

  • Lazy, languid, long-distance cycle rides

    "If you have a bike that works, stuff those trousers into those socks. Set off. See where you end up." So says James Walsh in a recent Guardian article, which I really enjoyed.

    The weather right now couldn't be more perfect for Londoners to go exploring on a bike. Yet it makes me sigh to think that so many will celebrate the bank holiday weekend by spending their hard-earned money on an evening's quick fix in some overcrowded pub, with a DJ playing rubbish 'music' so loud that socialising means virtually sniffing another person's ear as you shout platitudes into it. Much better, surely, to enjoy a quiet night then a long, exciting day after - getting up early enough to experience the capital's car-less streets on a bike, or maybe riding out into the countryside, to breathe in some fresh air, hear the sounds of the wildlife, and even see some real-life country folk/investment bankers.

    None of which costs a thing. Except, perhaps, the street-cred that comes with wearing your trousers outside your socks.

  • London Cycle Map on Google Maps

    See it here.

    When people first take a look at Simon Parker's London Cycle Map, they often say 'how do I know what streets the routes are on?'. It's a fair question, because his Tube-style diagram of the LCN doesn't show where its routes are in reality.

    What isn't fair is when people suggest that this is somehow a deficiency of Parker's proposal. After all, the whole point of his London Cycle Map is that, with proper signage on the streets, it would be possible for cyclists to navigate in London without having to know or remember hundreds of street names and turn rights and turn lefts for their journey. If Parker's system were implemented, you could get from anywhere to anywhere on the current LCN by remembering no more than a few coloured routes.

    In other words, the Tube-style format for the London Cycle Map has been chosen precisely because it simplifies the overly-complex route information which is presently available; hence, not showing which streets the routes are on is the genius of Parker's map, not it's glitch, as some falsely suggest.

    But, of course, cyclists would need to be able to get onto Parker's network of signed routes in order to make use of the LCN, so people would still need to be able to consult a map which does show which streets the routes are on. The situation would be no different from catching the tube: there's no point having a tube network unless you know where the stations are - to be able to get on and off the network at the start and end of your journey - so all the stops are marked on a supporting map (e.g. an A to Z), showing exactly where they are on London's streets.

    For this reason, Parker has programmed the routes for the Greater London Cycle Map into the Google Maps interface - to reveal what a supporting map for his network might look like. Although not the finished article (for instance, none of the route codes are visible unless you click on the lines, and the central area hasn't been programmed in yet), the result is a quite beautiful image, and the mind soars when thinking about how much easier cycling in London would be if the capital were criss-crossed with Parker's coloured routes in this way.

    (Note that there are some discrepencies betwen the Greater London Cycle Map illustrated by Jon Haste, and the routes on the Google Maps interface. Parker's exact route choices are constantly evolving following feedback from borough officers, transport planners and members of the public).

  • Paper copies available (and why we print them)

    Last week, almost 20,000 paper copies of issue 5 of Cycle Lifestyle were sent to over 500 distribution points across the capital. If you want to read a real copy, then you can pick up one from one of our distributors. We'll also post you a copy if you like.

    I'm often asked why we print Cycle Lifestyle - why we don't just run everything online. I've thought long and hard about this, and it all came out last weekend in an article called Why we print. If you can squint your way through it, I hope you in it something that rings true.

    In the meantime, feel free to enjoy the website!

  • Why we print

    You probably won’t read this as closely as you could do. Try it, and you might find out why it was so hard to.

    The explosive growth of the internet, the inexpensiveness of online publishing, the ease of blogging, tweeting and posting on forums, and environmental fears about depleting the world’s resources: all these factors seem to militate against Cycle Lifestyle’s policy of continuing to print our magazine on paper. Why do we do it?

    On the positive side, we do it because we want to put a real publication into people’s hands – whether they’re sitting on the tube or bus, relaxing in a student union or cafe, or waiting in the reception area of a school, business or surgery. We want our magazine to be beautiful, colourful and tactile (and smell nice too!), albeit printed sustainably. We want it to be taken home by people and left on the coffee table where it looks inviting, then read again and passed onto friends. Above all, we want our positive message to be as homely-yet-inspiring as cycling itself: something that’s more simple, practical, effective and sociable than the high-tech alternatives.

    So why is online content found wanting in these respects? People often talk about ‘webpages’ as if publishing on the internet were just a matter of swapping paper for pixels, a mere change of medium that doesn’t change the message. But it’s hardly that simple. Just as recording a musical performance alters the sound experienced, so the online rendering of written text alters the way it is encountered.

    For a start, there are the physical actions and sensory stimuli involved in scrolling and clicking that have no parallels in holding a physical document such as a book or magazine. But much more than this, there are the coloured hyperlinks that saturate webpages, the array of navigational devices in a browser, the online forms to fill out, the numerous different windows or other software applications (such as video games) often in use concurrently, the sporadic alerts from emails, RSS feeders and social networking sites, and the multimedia contents surrounding online text – video, graphic and auditory offerings. Printed pages have no such accompaniments.

    So what? In his fascinating book The Shallows (resist the link, I dare you) Nicholas Carr cites dozens of studies by psychologists, neurobiologists and educators which suggest that online content promotes cursory reading and hurried, distracted thinking. The problem is, our concentration gets disrupted by all the usual paraphernalia in our browsers, and so we pay less attention to the words we’re scanning. It takes bigger, bolder, more shocking content – as on the billboards in Piccadilly Circus – to grab our interest when we’re on the internet. CYCLIST KILLS PEDESTRIAN. Are you still concentrating?

    It is, of course, possible to think deeply while surfing the net, as it’s possible to casually skim a book or magazine while barely conscious (as anyone who’s been to university will confirm). But the fact is, the web is designed, unlike paper publications, to encourage its users not to get immersed in textual content. The underlying business model of the internet is for its custodians (foremost among them, Google) to profit the more its users hurry through links and pop-ups, like rats running through a maze. Whenever we go online, we willingly enter and bankroll this ‘ecosystem of interruption technologies’, as the writer Cory Doctorow calls it.

    And ever-willing we are. The net is utterly compelling to us, even as it bombards us with its distractions. It ‘seizes our attention only to scatter it’, as Carr puts it. ‘We focus intensively on the medium itself, on the flickering screen, but we’re distracted by the medium’s rapid-fire delivery of competing messages and stimuli’. It’s a carnival procession that we can neither take our eyes off, nor get a proper look at.

    There’s arguably even something of a narcotic quality to the internet’s hypnotic effects, as is commonly remarked. By yielding up nugget after nugget of new information, the net delivers high-velocity rewards to the nervous system, leading to the repetition of physical and mental behaviors – the same kind of positive reinforcement that’s triggered by any recreational drug.

    No wonder research continues to show that reading linear text – the likes of which you get in a plain old book or magazine – leads to better comprehension, remembering and learning than text peppered with links, or surrounded by multimedia content. In paper publications we tend to read sentences as they were written – threaded together in rational connection, forming ever-longer and stronger chains of reasoning – in an alert and calm way that’s quite different to scanning pixilated sentences. In a study of online ‘reading’ conducted by Jacob Nielson, the vast majority of participants were seen to skim words quickly, with their eyes jumping down each page as if tracing out a letter F: a sort of buzzing, intense, hyperactive apathy.

    If you want to learn anything, that’s F-ing useless. The most significant difference between the two kinds of reading is how they affect our ability to remember what we have been exposed to. The most important factor in forming a memory is attentiveness. The more attention given, the stronger the memory gained. ‘For a memory to persist’, the psychologist Kandel writes, ‘the incoming information must be thoroughly and deeply processed. This is accomplished by attending to the information and associating it meaningfully and systematically with knowledge already established in memory’. Hence, we remember less when we’re inattentively skipping from the top to the bottom of webpages, or surfing between sites – hardly thinking about what we’re doing as we do it – than when we calmly focus on a paper publication resting in our hands (as you would in an old-fashioned library, rather than one of the key-tapping, chat-filled empty spaces they’ve been replaced with).

    Key to remembering is the role of ‘working memory’. This is our short-term store of recollections of the past few seconds – what we’re conscious of at any particular time. How effectively we can permanently take new things on board depends on our ability to transfer information from working memory into ‘long-term memory’. Unfortunately, this channel is a bottleneck. Unlike long-term memory, which is vast, working memory is meager. The amount of information it contains at any time is called our ‘cognitive load’, and the heavier the load, the harder it is for us to get to grips with a subject; to assimilate new material; in short, to remember. Studies show that the more complex the material, the more an overloaded working memory impedes the process of remembering it.

    The psychologist Sweller cites two main causes of overloading: divided attention and extraneous problem solving. The first is a now-familiar online mischief; the second less so. But problems to solve and decisions to make are plentiful on the internet. How can I make that pop-up go away? Shall I follow the link? Where’s the icon for jumping to the next page? I can’t remember my password, so what’s my mother’s maiden name? As Carr explains: ‘the need to evaluate links and make related choices, while also processing a multiplicity of fleeting sensory stimuli, requires constant mental co-ordination and decision making’.

    Research backs this up, showing that online behavior is accompanied by different patterns of brain functioning to reading book-like text. In both cases, there is activity in regions associated with language, memory and visual processing, but internet usage stimulates the prefrontal regions associated with decision-making and problem solving much more. This extra cognitive load makes it harder to sustain concentration and read deeply when staring at a screen.

    Books and magazines sometimes have footnotes and other references, of course. But as Carr points out, ‘links don’t just point us to supplemental information – they propel us towards it’. There’s something much more intrusive about being given the choice to open up a whole new vista of information through a mere click of a mouse, than the practically unrealistic choice of journeying back to the library to dig out a dusty volume mentioned in an endnote. The second case is far-removed enough not to count as a distraction or decision. (The same can’t be said in the case of Kindles and other e-readers, which, although decent approximations to paper, are still replete with disruptive features).

    Don’t we then miss out on opportunities for enrichment? You might assume so, yet making journals available online and via e-readers seems to have had the opposite effect. Despite the greater ease of cruising amongst volumes, and searching pixilated rather than printed text, the digitization of journals has led to fewer articles being cited by scholars. The problem seems to be that search engines amplify the effects of faddishness; they immediately establish then perpetuate judgments of popularity. Perfect for those who seek the comfort of prevailing opinion.

    Another problem with the online reading is that it affects the process of memory consolidation which occurs subsequent to our initial exposure to written content. It takes about an hour for a memory to be fully laid down, and this process, too, is sensitive to distraction. After we’ve read something on the internet, we might kick back with a browse of the latest BBC news, have a laugh at some camels in a car on youtube, or do a quick check of our emails (for the hundredth time that day). All of which is about as helpful to the process of consolidation as a blow to the head. Much better to put down a book or magazine then enjoy a stroll, jog, or cycle – activities which are especially conducive to the retention of information since they cajole our ancestral brains into readying for a new environment, and therefore new input.

    ‘The net’s cacophony of stimuli short-circuits both conscious and unconscious thought, preventing our minds from thinking either deeply or creatively’, Carr surmises. That means both fewer recollections and fewer Eureka moments. It is said that Einstein came up with his theory of relativity on a bicycle, and that Newton conceived of gravity while reposing under a tree. It’s hard to imagine they’d have done the same while playing minesweeper, or refreshing the football scores.

    The internet turns us into mere ‘decoders of information’, warns linguist Maryanne Wolfe, because it inspires fewer of the rich mental connections that printed words do. Other commentators shrug their shoulders, opining that hyperspace’s sprawling interconnections are more comprehensive than our intellects could ever be, and that personal imagining will even be enhanced – liberated – now we’ve outsourced our knowing and synthesizing to a greater power. People often mention the example of calculators in schools when arguing that the internet is a useful cognitive resource. When schoolchildren first began outsourcing their arithmetic skills to machines there were warnings in some quarters that reduced mathematical competence would follow. The concerns turned out to be misguided: calculators relieved pressure on kids’ working memories, thus creating the cognitive space for a deeper understanding of abstract mathematical principles.

    Might the internet similarly create space for richer thought? No, for the simple reason that going online puts more pressure on our working memories, not less – so we remember less as a result. ‘When we start using the web as a substitute for personal memory, bypassing the inner processes of consolidation, we risk emptying our minds of their riches’, warns Carr.

    When you think about it, the idea that you could get cleverer and more imaginative by outsourcing your memory to a machine is silly. What else are you going to think about if not all the wonderful things you’ve personally learned? ‘We don’t constrain our powers when we store new long-term memories, we strengthen them’, observes Carr. ‘With each expansion of our memory comes an enlargement of our intelligence’. ‘Thoughts without content are empty’, the philosopher Kant remarked more than two centuries ago.

    So if the internet isn’t such a boon to us as individual thinkers, what about its potential for bringing people together? Open-source technology has its upsides, for sure – Wikipedia being the foremost example – yet even the net’s much-touted ability to ‘connect people’ has a darker side. When we post facebook or twitter updates, poke our ‘friends’, blog our latest musings, rant on forums, or send instant messages between bursts of more constructive online activity, our social standing plays on our minds. We’re wondering: will we get the replies and positive social feedback we crave? We feel a little more self-conscious than usual, anxious even.

    No doubt, this intensifies our involvement with the medium, but we’re also more distracted, and so we absorb its written messages less effectively: we take out less than we put in. (Skyping can be just as bad. I suggest switching off the screen with your own face on it, otherwise you’ll become preoccupied with gazing at yourself from that interesting slightly-off-centre camera angle, rather than the person you’re supposed to be ‘face to face’ with.)

    Evolutionary psychologists emphasise the importance of socializing for human beings in general. We are highly attuned to information about group relations, because we descend from ancestors who lived in a hostile environment as close-knit bands of hunter-gatherers, dependent on co-operative communication for survival, and on gossip or slander for the more competitive business of reproducing. No wonder then that so many of us today are networking and socializing so avidly online: our evolved brains are telling us to take it all in or get left behind in the quest for mutual understanding.

    If that sounds like an urbane, logical progression, then the science of nutrition offers a cautionary tale. Millions of years ago, sugars and fats were valuable but scarce sources of energy, so our ancestors evolved an instinct for gorging themselves on certain foods whenever the opportunity arose. Today, as their descendents, we feel compelled to feast on sweets and Big Macs; yet with scarcity no longer an issue, we’re getting fatter and fatter. Perhaps our appetite for social communication is similarly being chronically over-stimulated in the modern world – with the internet burdening us with excessive amounts of social information, clogging our minds like cholesterol.

    Most worrying of all, there may be a narcotic character to our online communications, too. When using social networking sites we feel good momentarily, but we fail to derive the real benefits of real interaction – the practical help, moral support, guidance, wisdom, intimacy and shared activities which come from belonging to a real community. (Think Swiss Family Robinson rather than Myspace). Just as a recreational drug gives its users a mirage of happiness that’s unaccompanied by any tangible resources for thriving in the world, social networking gives us a fleeting sense of belonging that’s devoid of the physical experiences of companionship and friendship that usually accompany such an emotion. Phony happiness can be mainlined or online.

    If that sounds melodramatic, consider the facts. In Britain, our levels of civic, religious, political, charitable and informal social participation – what sociologists refer to as ‘social capital’ – have been plummeting since the middle of the twentieth century. These are the kinds of homely, practical and caring interactions that make us happy individually and collectively, and make us feel both more free and secure. And we’re losing interest in them, more so than ever.

    Perhaps the reason for our indifference is that we’re changing as people as a result of our technological reliance and (most recently) internet usage. At the touch of a button, we can now access a torrent of online information; precisely the kind of intensive, interactive, repetitive and addictive undertaking that has been shown to yield strong, rapid alterations in neural circuitry. As a society, we may be in danger of ending up like sad addicts who clamour for the next hit (and do whatever it takes financially to get it) but who’ve forgotten how to be really, truly happy. It isn’t called a ‘Crackberry’ for nothing.

    Collectively and individually, the internet takes its toll. It ‘turns us into lab rats constantly pressing levers to get tiny pellets of social or intellectual nourishment’, laments Carr. He continues:

    "The great danger we face as we become more intimately involved with our computers – as we come to experience more of our lives through the disembodied symbols flickering across our screens – is that we’ll begin to lose our humanness, to sacrifice the very qualities that separate us from machines. The only way to avoid that fate is to have the self-awareness and the courage to refuse to delegate to computers the most human of our mental activities and intellectual pursuits."

    Think about it: are you really happy for your personality and friendships to be wired by the same geeks that wire your computer? Because that’s the risk, suggests Carr:

    "When we go online, we’re following scripts… algorithmic instructions that few of us would be able to understand even if the hidden codes were revealed to us. When we search for information through Google or other search engines, we’re following a script. When we look at a product recommended to us by Amazon, we’re following a script. When we choose from a list of categories to describe ourselves or our relationship on facebook, we’re following a script… I continue to hold out hope that we won’t go gently into the future our computer engineers and software programmers are scripting for us."

    As the editor of Cycle Lifestyle I too believe that standing up to the scripters is the right thing to do. I believe there are not just business reasons, but ethical reasons for printing our magazine (just as there are ethical as well as business reasons for promoting cycling in the first place). One of my heroes, Steven Pinker, is more nonchalant, advising that if people don’t want to be distracted by technology they should simply switch it off. But the (ethical) point is precisely that not everybody has the self-awareness of a professor of psychology; so lots of people don’t realize the harm their internet usage may be doing them. I’m criticizing the internet for the same reason I criticize alcohol or tobacco companies who make their products seem attractive to teenagers. (And, having worked in a secondary school, I’ve seen firsthand the scrambling, antagonizing effects of computers on young minds.)

    But doesn’t that make me a hypocrite? I run a website – and make money from it – and I’m publishing these very words online! Shouldn’t I practice what I preach and print them instead? In the eighties there was a TV programme called Why Don’t You? which advised viewers to ‘switch off the television and do something more interesting instead’. As a kid I found this idea intriguing, and today I can’t imagine producers getting away with a reflexive critique like this – biting the hand that feeds them. But I’ve never thought the programme was hypocritical. If people are shouting too loud, you’ve got to hush them more loudly to silence them; and if people are standing up in a football crowd, you’ve got to stand over them to usher them back into their seats. Sometimes you have to join them in order to beat them, and so using a medium to criticize that medium is a perfectly legitimate approach. Sometimes the hand that feeds you is also holding you captive.

  • GLA calls for better cycling promotion for 2012

    Most of us aren’t surprised to find that the Olympic Development Agency (ODA) has identified transport as one of London’s major areas of concern during the 2012 Games, and that serious work is being undertaken to improve and increase transport provision in London. This week the Greater London Authority has urged the ODA to increase targets for cycling and walking and offer supporting initiatives and increased publicity, to encourage these forms of transport.

    Current projections say only five per cent of spectators at the Olympic Park will walk and cycle – an astonishingly low number when you consider that there are four million people living within a 40-minute cycle ride of an Olympic venue.

    Sustrans have already been advising the ODA how best to go about encouraging more walking and cycling, and now the GLA’s report suggests providing incentives, such as offering priority entry or free refreshments to those who do so (a concept we endorse wholeheartedly!).

    You can read the GDA’s full report, ‘Clearing the hurdles’, here. It’s surprisingly engaging for an official document, because it really brings home the sheer volume of people that will need to be able to get around the capital next summer. The ‘Olympic Route Network’ – a road-based system of designated ‘games’ lanes linking some of the major venues – is one proposed ‘solution’, but it seems to encourage car use over other modes of transport, despite concerns that Britain stands to be fined millions by the European authorities for the resulting hit on air quality.

    The GLA report calls for more ‘aggressive’ promotion of cycling leading up to 2012, as well as the introduction of more cycle parking and wayfinding signage for people walking and cycling to venues. Which invites the question: if the authorities are willing to paint lines on the road to guide motor traffic across the city, then why not do the same for the network of cycle routes comprising the London Cycle Map?


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