• Planning a Route

    lcmc rough on black v cool

    Preparing a good route is essential for cycling, but luckily it’s one of the most fun parts. There are lots of helpful resources, including:

    • Local borough maps. Contact your local council offices to find out more.
    • Google maps. An especially useful resource which uses the Google map interface is www.bikehike.co.uk. You can interactively plot your route onscreen and find out gradient and distance data.
    • Transport for London cycle guides. You can order them online here.
    • LCN+ maps. These can be viewed online here.
    • A good old-fashioned A to Z!

    When you plan your route you should aim for:

    • Quiet roads or roads with cycle paths
    • Low speed limit areas
    • Parks and open spaces which allow cycling

    And you should avoid:

    • Very busy junctions
    • Large and fast roundabouts
    • Dual carriageways
    • Routes heavy with lorries
    • Pavements. It’s illegal to cycle on the pavement, unless it’s signed as a shared-use path for cyclists and pedestrians.

    If any of these are unavoidable, you can always get off and push!

  • What to Wear

    For most urban cycling trips there’s no need to wear special clothing, any more than there is for a walk to the shops. You can even cycle in smart clothes, so long as you’re comfortable. Some general advice:

    • Make sure that your clothing is neither too baggy (catching in the chain) or too tight (restricting your pedalling).
    • In wet conditions it is a good idea to wear a waterproof coat (and overtrousers, if it’s pouring). Another option is to carry spare clothes separately.
    • It’s important to be visible, especially at night or in heavy traffic, so consider wearing light-coloured clothes or a reflective jacket/vest.
    • A hat and gloves will keep your extremities warm in cold weather. Cycling is usually the warmest option for travelling in cold weather, since your body heat rises to a comfortable level within minutes of pedaling.
    • It’s not compulsory to wear a helmet to cycle in London, but many people choose to. If you do, ensure that your helmet is of good quality and properly fitted. For more thoughts about helmet use, click here.
  • Bike Checks

    Before you set off you’ll need to make sure your bike is safe to ride. Start with the following checks:

    • Both brakes work well.
    • Both tyres are pumped up (this will make your bike easier to ride as well as safer).
    • The saddle height is correct (so that when sitting on the saddle your heel rests on the pedal with your knee very slightly bent). Also make sure that when adjusting the saddle height the seat post limit has not been reached (normally this is a marked band about 3 inches from the bottom of the seat post).
    • The handle bars are tightened. Ensure that they cannot be turned with the front wheel between your legs, and that they do not move when pressure is applied from the top.
    • The gears work smoothly.

    If you are unsure then take your bike to the nearest bike shop for a quick service. When you buy your bike from a shop you can expect them to help you with these checks.

  • Choosing a Bike

    There are different kinds of bike for different kinds of journey, so you need to choose the right bike for yours.

    Road bikes (‘racing’ bikes) are designed to be lightweight, aerodynamic and fast, with handlebars that curl downwards and skinny tyres.

    Touring bikes are sturdier versions of road bikes, designed for long distances carrying luggage.

    Mountain bikes are designed for rough terrain, with knobbly tires, strong frames, a wide selection of gears, and often suspension.

    Hybrid bikes offer a compromise between the speed of a road bike and the strength and gearing of a mountain bike. With smooth tyres and an upright riding posture that’s good for visibility, they’re a popular option for commuting.

    Folding bikes can be folded away and carried like a briefcase. Useful for commuting, they can conveniently be taken on the train or bus. They have small wheels and fewer gears, and can be stored easily at home if you don’t have much space.

    Electric bikes are a more expensive option, with an electric motor offering assistance for getting up hills or on longer commutes.

    Second-hand bikes come in all shapes and sizes. Their quality is variable, however, so take a knowledgeable friend with you to make sure that the frame and parts in particular are in good order.

    Shed bikes are bikes that have been gathering cobwebs in your shed for years! Check them over before you get back on.

    There are also adapted cycles, tricycles, tandems, side-by-side cycles and recumbent cycles – making cycling accessible to almost anybody, including people with disabilities.

  • Brent

    London’s Boroughs are at the forefront of promoting and supporting cycling in the capital. We asked Brent Council’s Sustainable Transport Officer, Mike Evans, to tell us why he cycles and what initiatives are out there for helping others to get on their bikes.

    Why do I cycle? For me cycling is a great, cheap, convenient and healthy way to get around London. Many of you might think that there are good reasons why you don’t travel by bike. Maybe you simply don’t have a bike or the confidence to cycle, or you’re worried about accidents, bad weather, arriving at work sweaty or a lack of workplace facilities.

    I would say give cycling a try before you make up your mind. Buy or borrow a bike, or bring your bike out from the shed, get it looked over to check it is roadworthy, and then bike it. If you don’t already have much time for exercise in your daily routine, cycling to work is a great way to improve your health. After a few weeks of active commuting you will immediately notice the benefits.

    Over the last few years there has been a wealth of research into the health and lifestyle benefits of active travel – cycling in particular. Those who cycle to work report improvements in alertness, productivity, well-being and fitness. Then there is the lower mortality rate associated with cyclists, as well as a reduced propensity to a host of ailments including obesity, cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and respiratory disorders. In financial terms the cost of health interventions to address inactivity in the population is much more than the cost associated with road traffic collisions.

    Cycling, in short, is good for everyone including the public purse. That’s why the Chief Medical Officer has stated that physical activity is the best buy in public health, and the Government's ‘Active Travel Strategy’, published by the Department for Health and the Department for Transport, emphasises that cycling can improve health, increase productivity, and promote social interaction and well-being.Moreover, by reducing unnecessary car journeys, promoting cycling also helps to create a healthier and greener environment for everyone.

    Currently about 2% of all journeys in London are made by bike. That’s double the figure it was in 2000, but government targets are to increase the share to 5% by 2015. Of course, we’d like to see it rise even beyond this. The Chief Medical Officer has stated that cycling rates should increase eight-fold.

    Brent Council is working alongside Brent PCT, the North West London Hospitals NHS Trust and Transport for London in promoting cycling. Initiatives include:

    • Free cycle training available for groups and organisations.
    • Cycle stands available to organisations free of charge.
    • Regular events held throughout the year, where trained bike mechanics will give your bike a free service.
    • Cycling Sessions organised by Brent Council’s Sports Service during the school holidays – for more information see www.brent.gov.uk/sports.
    • More cycle parking provided at key town centres and stations.
    • Brent Council signing up with Transport for London to become a ‘Biking Borough’, and reviewing its strategy for supporting those who want to cycle through infrastructure improvements, training programmes and cycle projects.

    Organisations can promote cycling by adopting a green travel plan – a programme of support and funding for encouraging employees and visitors to cycle more. Keep an eye out for Workplace Cycle Challenge and Bike Week events in your area during June.

    If you would like to know more about the support on offer, please email transportation@brent.gov.uk or ring 020 8937 5179.

  • Barking and Dagenham

    The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Council has announced a dramatic increase in the number of cyclists in the borough. This comes as a direct result of the local Council’s and Transport for London’s funding and investment in cycling in the borough.

    Local people have been taking advantage of improvements and upgrades to the borough-wide cycle network and initiatives aimed at encouraging more residents to cycle. This includes an in-depth cycle training programme, which is free to anyone who lives, works or goes to school within the boundaries of Barking and Dagenham.

    The Council’s commitment to making the borough a haven for cycling has been recognised by Transport for London which has designated Barking and Dagenham as a ‘Biking borough’ and chosen it as a location for one of the pilot routes on the brand new TfL-funded Cycle Superhighway scheme. The Cycle Superhighway connects neighbouring local boroughs with each other, and most importantly gives cyclists a safe commuter route into the city.

    Councillor Vincent, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “I am delighted that our efforts to make the borough friendlier to cyclists are encouraging more residents to cycle. Cycling is a cheap, healthy and environmentally-friendly
    form of travel. We will continue to work with Transport for London to fund improvements to cycling facilities and initiatives in the borough."

    The next step in the Council’s cycling agenda is to engage local businesses and work with them to help create work travel plans. These plans will be used by employers to promote smarter and healthier travel to and from work amongst staff, and in turn reduce congestion on the borough’s roads.


  • The Happiness Machine

    Philosophers are fond of speculating about an imaginary contraption that would enable people to experience only positive feelings. You’d hook your head up to this ‘happiness machine’ and then super-neuroscientists would stimulate your brain so you’d only experience pleasure and well-being. Would you do it? It’s debatable (of course it is, it’s philosophy). Most people worry that the machine would make them miss out on real life – including their real responsibilities and achievements. If you turned on and tuned in you’d drop out forever.

    It’s not often that reality is better than fiction, but people are increasingly turning to a real happiness machine that doesn’t require round-the-clock commitment. Just spending twenty minutes on it can give its users a buzz, a glow, that lasts all day. Even in our hyper-technological age, it’s an amazing invention – more amazing still because it was invented long before iPods, virtual reality, Blackberries and TV. So what is this real-life happiness machine? Imagination’s upgrade is... a bicycle.

    Consider a familiar scene. You wake up on Monday morning feeling like you’ve got cold soup in your veins, and you groan at the thought of wrestling your way through the throngs of commuters then grinding out the nine-to-five before slogging back home to the divot you left in your unmade bed. And you’ve got to do it again, and again, and again, and again. It’s worse, of course, to have nothing to get out of bed for, but it still doesn’t have to be a chore each day. They say “start as you mean to go on”, and that’s where the happiness machine comes in. The morning cycle ride wakes you up and lifts your spirits, the breeze on your face seeming to brush your worries away like cobwebs. Then when you arrive at work on a bike you feel alert yet calm, focused yet poised, motivated yet contented; in a word, you feel happier – and it’s a mood which stays with you, like momentum, throughout the day. Finally, when the time to leave approaches, you smile as you think of your bike waiting out the back, ready to speed you home through the twinkling lights of London.

    There are many explanations for why cycling makes people feel so happy. The most general is that exercise helps to reduce negative emotions. Studies show that physical activity can alleviate the symptoms of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. In a stressful urban environment these problems are all-too-common, but thankfully there’s a ready-made remedy: there’s an opportunity to exercise twice a day, getting to and from work. It’s ironic that commuting is typically such a source of discontent in cities, when it could be the opposite.

    Another link between cycling and happiness derives from the health benefits of exercise: “healthy body, healthy mind”, as they say. Studies show that cycling protects against heart disease, stroke, obesity, dementia, diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers, as well as supporting healthy bones, muscles, joints and even sleep patterns. The bicycle is an especially good choice for regular exercise since its impact on the body (in terms of causing or aggravating injuries) is low. No doubt you’ll often hear people (e.g. my mum) exaggerating the risks of cycling, yet experts suggest that it’s no more dangerous than being a pedestrian, and it’s even been estimated by the British Medical Association that when you factor in the dangers associated with physical inactivity, the health benefits of cycling outweigh any risks by 20 to1. The most compelling fact of all is that cyclists, on average, live longer than non-cyclists. In this light, it’s peculiar that non-cyclists seem to be more bothered by all the scaremongering about cycling than cyclists are. But this, too, may boil down to a difference in mood. Psychologists have found that happy people are less affected by negativity than unhappy people. So it may be that cyclists’ happiness insulates them against the alarmism of their less happy colleagues.

    You might say that cyclists just tend to be free-spirited – and you’d be right – but this is itself no coincidence. Cycling enlivens the mind, lending its practitioners a vitality that’s a key feature of happiness. The daily cycle ride provides an exhilarating opportunity for reflection and creative thinking. When you’re using public transport or driving in London you tend to shut down your mind so as to defend it against the noise and havoc of its surroundings, but a cyclist in flow has a mind that flows freely too. Countless business gurus have noticed this, recommending a burst of exercise to loosen and sharpen the mind, thus increasing productivity. And it makes biological sense for our brains to become mentally brighter when we exercise – because when human beings evolved, exercise meant being transported to a different environment, which heightened our ancestors’ need to be sensitive to new information and ideas.

    Cycling also, of course, makes people physically freer. London’s creaky transport infrastructure is there to facilitate movement but often restricts its users – through congestion, route closures, traffic jams, trains that stop in tunnels and buses that take forever. The great thing about the bicycle is that it lets you choose when, where and which way to go. With an A to Z and a set of wheels you can explore London’s glorious back streets, parks and canals, finding a direct route to your destination, unencumbered by timetables and gridlock. Offering such autonomy and expansiveness, no wonder cycling boosts happiness.

    Then there’s the flipside of the cyclist’s autonomy: a sense of security. By this I mean the routine, regularity, reliability and predictability of cycling, compared to the haphazardness of other means of transport in the capital. A bicycle won’t cancel on you, trap you in traffic, make you wait around in the midnight gloom, or have you anxiously biting your nails because the government has told you to amplify your alertness levels to 11. Cycling offers familiarity and certainty: crucial components of a happy mind.

    Perhaps the most obvious, but most underappreciated, benefit of cycling is its economy. Unlike the economy, cycling is economical in the sense of being affordable, sustainable and value-for-money. Once you’ve purchased a bike and factored in the costs of maintenance (approximately £80 a year at my local bike shop, or considerably less if you learn to do it yourself), there are huge savings to be made: hundreds of pounds a month in travelcards, newspapers and takeaway coffees for public transport, and even more if you include the costs of driving, such as petrol, maintenance, parking fees and congestion charges. More than ever in a recession, cycling can boost happiness by relieving financial stress: the best things in life are indeed free.

    And of course there are huge environmental savings to be made from cycling. A fifth of the carbon we produce in Britain through work comes from commuting, so London would be a far greener place if more people did so by bike (not to mention the other kinds of journey that can be cycled in the capital, like shopping trips, visiting friends and going out). Above all, a cycling city is a cleaner and safer one, with lower levels of noise and air pollution and vastly lower incidences of injury to pedestrians, including children playing in car-filled streets. By being greener, cycling in London offers a higher quality of life for all its citizens.

    This last point hints at one of the nicest things about cycling. It’s hard to sum up what brings the most pleasure to cyclists, but perhaps it can be expressed simply as a heightened sense of belonging. Cyclists feel happier because they feel more connected to their surroundings and their fellow Londoners. It’s not just the abstract ethical issue of “doing your bit” for the planet or the greater good; it’s more physical than that. It’s about being out in the open – truly experiencing the city and its eclectic sounds, sights and smells, first-hand – without a windscreen or a grimy window pane between you and the outside world. It’s about chatting to a fellow cyclist at the traffic lights, taking the family on a bike-ride rather than sitting in front of the television, asking a pedestrian for directions, or tinkling a bell instead of blasting a horn. And, before you mention it, cycling’s got nothing to do with any particular political ideology. The connections between cycling, belonging and happiness unify people across the political spectrum. It’s a matter of common sense.

    Richard Layard, author of Happiness: Lessons from a New Science and one of Britain’s leading economists, identifies the seven fundamental ingredients of human happiness: health, financial orderliness, job satisfaction, personal autonomy, family relationships, friendlier communities and moral values. Sound familiar? Cycling contributes to the fulfilment of all of these, so it’s no surprise that it brings happiness. Above all, cycling is valuable because it brings a lasting kind of happiness – a mood of contentment that doesn’t fade with time or repetition. This kind of satisfaction is an unusual gift in a modern world that offers mostly fleeting pleasures; styles that go out of fashion, trophy possessions that lose their sheen, communication devices that soon encourage self-absorption. Layard tells us that the ‘secret of happiness’ is to ration such fuels for addiction and seek out more of those ‘good things that never pall’. Any cyclist will tell you that cycling is one of them.

    Given the happiness-enhancing qualities of cycling, you can hardly blame cyclists for their keenness to let others in on the deal. Unfortunately, though, enthusiasm and empathising can be all-too-easily mistaken for evangelism and patronising, such is the disillusionment of many a weary traveller in London. Sadder still, the wider effect of such cynicism is a culture in which cyclists often become figures of abuse in the eyes of other road users – this despite the fact that cyclists hardly ever cause harm to pedestrians, never blacken the city’s air or fill a bystander’s face with fumes, and never rattle windows while speeding noisily through sleepy streets. It’s important to recognise the abuse for what it is: intolerance of a minority group. It wouldn’t be acceptable in any other context, and it isn’t when targeted at cyclists.

    Sixty years ago cycling made up a third of all the miles travelled by vehicles in Britain, and the country was happier and friendlier. Today, while the capital’s iron lung splutters its miserable, last-gasp disapproval, progressive Londoners are once again getting connected – with real happiness machines.

    If you want to find out more about creating a happier society, and get involved, visit www.actionforhappiness.org  

  • Putting cycling on the map in the capital

    Tuesday 7 September 2010 was a great day for cycling in the capital. Like most great days it was partly planned and partly spontaneous. The foundations had been laid by the Mayor’s fantastic Cycle Hire scheme, which has seen around 5,000 bicycles available for use from hundreds of docking stations throughout central London.

    But it also took a touch of serendipity to make Tuesday really special. The tube strike meant that millions of Londoners were struggling to make their daily commute to and from work. So, many of them did the sensible thing... they hired a bicycle! A potentially frustrating day turned out to be an enlightening one, particularly for all those people who took to two wheels for the first time, as London whirred to the sound of thousands more bicycles weaving through its streets in the lovely Autumn weather.

    Tuesday was, however, revealing in more ways than one. London’s new cyclists discovered a perplexing fact: there is no single London Cycle Map showing how the capital’s cycle routes connect together; there is nothing equivalent to the London Underground Map for the capital’s cycle network. Instead, cycling in London in 2010 is like catching the tube was before 1931, before Harry Beck designed his world-famous, iconic tube-map: everyone getting lost for the want of a decent map and system of signage to unify the available routes and make it easier to navigate. A glance at the official map for the Cycle Hire scheme shows that route information is conspicuous by its absence.

    Thankfully, help is at hand. Cycle Lifestyle’s new campaign and petition promises to help deliver a single London Cycle Map supported by coloured signs on the roads which guide cyclists all the way to the right location just like on the tube. Rather than remembering hundreds of ‘turn rights’ and ‘turn lefts’ you could just remember a few routes, plus where to change from one to the other, then away you go. Since Tuesday’s spur-of-the-moment cycling surge, there’s understandably been a surge of interest in the London Cycle Map Campaign and Simon Parker’s fantastic London Cycle Map design. It’s an idea whose time has arrived.

    If you want to help London make an international statement in support of cycling in advance of the Olympics in 2012 then please sign the petition at www.petition.co.uk/london-cycle-map-campaign, join the facebook  fanpage, and tell all your friends! And tell us what you think below…

  • Spin Doctor: Why do cyclists often get given a bad ride in London?

    Something’s on the rise in London. I’m not talking about new buildings over the capital’s skyline, eighties quiffs over foreheads in Shoreditch, or the price of a travelcard (again). And I’m not just talking about the number of cyclists on the city’s roads. For sure, there are more and more of them: you’ll often see them streaming along cyclepaths in Bloomsbury, tinkling their way past canal boats near Angel Islington, and crisscrossing down backstreets like shiny coins dropping through a fairground machine.

    No, all of this cycling indicates a rise in something much more special. I’d call it a rising sense of freedom. It’s the kind of freedom that makes you feel like a swashbuckling hero or a trailblazing heroine. Simply by the power of your own wheels and wits you can traverse the wildness of London, slipping down fascinating byways or coasting through open spaces while the rest of the city sweats it out in cars and on public transport. You can go wherever you like, whenever you like, whatever way you like. Cycling is the A to Z, not the A to B; the road movie, not the roadblock; the freewheeler, not the free Metro. Once you’ve tasted this kind of freedom it’s hard to go back to the so-called ‘convenience’ of London’s overloaded transport system.

    Yet there’s commonly so much negativity about cyclists. Don’t cyclists worsen congestion? Aren't they a hazard to pedestrians and themselves? Don’t they ignore the Highway Code? And aren’t they a little bit self-righteous? The lesser known truth is that these are all myths. Cyclists alleviate congestion, far from causing it. Cyclists are far, far less likely to endanger a pedestrian than cars or buses are (and, indeed, it’s no more dangerous to be a cyclist than a pedestrian). Cyclists are nearly always considerate, law-abiding road users who care about their city just as much as their freedom to explore it. And – before you say it – cyclists are certainly no more self-righteous than a horn-blasting driver or an elbowing commuter.

    So what’s the real cause of cycling’s image problem? I can’t help wondering whether it’s the very same thing that makes cycling so enjoyable. Maybe it’s the cyclist’s freedom that gets up people’s noses: an exhilarated grin that appears more like a smirk to people who are ‘stuck’ in a trundling metal box. These are the frustrated people I had in mind when I decided to create Cycle Lifestyle magazine. I’d like to show more Londoners a way out of the box. To show that cycling is a great option for more people than realise it. That miles are just minutes when you’re on a bike. That cycling is fun, easy, free, quick and healthy. That the weather’s no worse when you’re on a bike than it is when you’re on your feet. That cycling is for anyone who wants to experience more of their city.

    What do you think is the cause of cycling's image problem?

  • Buff Competition

    Buff Competition

    It’s important to stay visible while riding through traffic, especially in poor light conditions. This is why Buff, the original multi-functional headwear brand, has developed the innovative Reflective Buff.

    Based on the design of Original Buff and enjoying all its versatility, Reflective Buff benefits from the addition of two retro-reflective stripes made from 3M Scotchlite - this appears brilliant white when illuminated by vehicle headlights thus making the wearer clearly visible.

    When worn around the neck, or even under a helmet, Reflective Buff will help you stay seen and safe. Plus, being seam-free, highly breathable and wind resistant, Reflective Buff will keep you warm and protected. RRP £14.00. Find our more at www.buffwear.co.uk.

    Cycle Lifestyle is giving away five Reflective Buffs. To enter the competition, email buffcompetition@cyclelifestyle.co.uk with the correct answer to the question below. The five winners will be drawn out of a hat.

    Q:  Which of these is not a way to wear a Buff?

    a) foulard

    b) wristband

    c) pirate

    d) tourniquet

    e) Sahariane

    (Competition closes November 19th 2010. Prizes will be despatched by November 31st 2010. There is no cash prize alternative.)


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