• Bike theft: what YOU can do about it

    Bike theft is undoubtedly a problem in Britain. But there are things you can do to prevent it.

    The best thing of all is to leave your bike inside wherever possible, but if you must leave it outside then always secure it with least two locks – for instance, a D-lock and a strong chain. Also, avoid leaving your bike in dimly-lit places where thieves can snoop. A well-lit thoroughfare is a better bet.

    Another very important step is to register your bike’s details with an organisation such as BikeRegister. This helps the police or retailers identify and verify the legitimate owners of bikes that have been stolen or are being resold. Over 48,000 bikes have been registered with BikeRegister and marked since June 2010.

    I recently encountered a news story that exemplifies the importance of registering your bike. A man approached a plain clothed police officer from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Cycle Task Force and offered to sell him a bike. Officers conducted checks at the scene – including a search of BikeRegister.com, which is the MPS’s preferred cycle registration database. It was discovered that the real owner had reported his bike stolen from Hackney two days earlier. The suspect, a 36 year old man, was arrested.

    Bike theft can be genuinely upsetting. I’ve had a bike nicked in London - you feel like you’ve lost a friend. So it’s heartening to know that there are simple things you can do to make thieves’ lives miserable instead of your own.

  • January our best ever month – more boroughs than ever for issue 9 – contributors wanted

    On the back of the BEST EVER month for cyclelifestyle.co.uk in January, we’re now preparing for the spring/summer issue of Cycle Lifestyle magazine (issue 9) which is publishing in the first week of May 2013.

    Further great news is that we’ll be collaborating with more London boroughs than ever for issue 9. This will mean a bigger print run – full details to follow soon.

    As usual, we’re seeking contributions to the magazine – whether from advertisers who want to reach new cyclists, or from writers, poets and illustrators seeking a new forum for their work.

    To find out more, please get in touch on info@cyclelifestyle.co.uk

    If someone had told you a few years ago that a new free cycling magazine would grow and grow in London despite all the economic gloom, would you have believed this exciting news?

    Well, it’s true! Thanks to the fantastic support we have received so far, Cycle Lifestyle is making a real difference, delivering copies of our unique free cycling magazine to many thousands of locations throughout the capital.

    Please do keep it up... we will too.



  • Team Humanity and the Gliders

    It is hard to be both a misanthropist and a campaigner. When I was at university I had a dim view of mankind (there’s a reason why academics choose to opt out of society), but since I started Cycle Lifestyle I’ve met so many inspiring people seeking to improve the world, I've changed. Knowing that there are others out there doing their charitable and enterprising best is emboldening. It makes me feels like I’m a member of Team Humanity – in both senses of the word ‘humanity’.

    I recently met team member Joe Mulcahy. His story began when his grandson, who suffers from Dyspraxia, was offered some innovative advice by a medical professional – to acquire a balance bike. Balance bikes are basically bikes without pedals; just like on the earliest form of bicycle, the rider is propelled along by pushing off the ground, one foot after the other.

    Being able to touch the ground is really helpful when learning to balance, but with most balance bike manufacturers only catering for toddlers, Joe struggled to find a model suitable for a school-age child. In the end, he found an American company manufacturing ‘Go Glider’ bikes for the 5-10 age group. Riding one of these led to a ‘phenomenal’ difference in his grandson’s life, helping him integrate with his peers and develop confidence.

    Realising that many more children with Dyspraxia would benefit from a balance bike, Joe set about creating GlideBikes, the only company in Europe selling the complete range of Gliders. This range includes a model, for teenagers and adults, that can be converted to a pedal bicycle. The gliders are equipped with footpegs so that riders can rest their feet while balancing; due to clever design, this can be achieved at speeds as low as 1.5 miles per hour.

    Glidebikes are now working with the ‘Heel and Toe’ charity which supports children with Dyspraxia and Cerebral Palsy. Joe wants to see Gliders introduced into all schools, to help children of all ages and abilities learn to balance. An inspirational goal. Good luck Joe.


  • How Cycle Lifestyle would spend the money...

    Transport minister Norman Baker has announced that an extra £62m is to be pumped into cycling in the UK. Cities will be able to bid for a new £30m fund to improve cycle safety.

    If magazines could bid, here's what Cycle Lifestyle would promise:

    1. Trails of coloured dots and route codes painted on the network of streets corresponding to Simon Parker's London Cycle Map (with a few temporary diversions around the most dangerous junctions and roads, until such time as they have been overhauled).

    2. Signs at each junction on the network, showing people how to change from one route to another. There would be no more than three such changes on a typical journey using the London Cycle Map – just as easy as catching the Tube.

    3. A ‘totem’ at each junction. Each totem would be topped by an illuminated sphere which would be as salient as a ‘roundel’ sign on a Tube Station. This would make it easy for cyclists to orient themselves on the network, easy for people to meet at junctions (“meet me at G1R2”), and easy for local pedestrians to direct cyclists to the network (“there’s one of those glowing spheres at the end of this road!”).

    4. A London Cycle Map at each junction, showing the entire network.

    5. A local cycle map at each junction, showing local routes at an individual-street level of detail, and showing how the routes of the London Cycle Map connect with these local routes.

    There you have it. No verbiage. No sweeping ideological statements. No vague aspirations. This is how Cycle Lifestyle would spend £30m to improve cyclists' safety in London. If we couldn't have all the money, we'd generate the rest through sponsorship (and we've already had plenty of expressions of interest).

    Our spending proposal would enable Londoners to cycle from anywhere to anywhere on a network of 2000+ kilometers of cycle routes, the vast majority of which have already been provisioned with cycle lanes and infrastructure improvements.

    This, we argue, would improve safety, because it would keep cyclists away from some of the busiest main roads in London, boost safety in numbers (by inspiring more people to cycle), send a message to drivers on the network to look out for cyclists, and stop cyclists from being distracted by satnavs or lists of directions.

    Anyone got any better ideas?


  • Colour-coded cycle routes in Bracknell

    Simon Parker's London Cycle Map is calling for trails of coloured signs and road markings to be added to the streets of the London Cycle Network. The result would be a vast network of easy-to-follow Tube-style routes criss-crossing the capital in all directions, enabling Londoners to cycle from anywhere to anywhere by following just a few coloured routes. 

    This may sound like a pipe dream, but the precedent has been set elsewhere.

    Bracknell Forest Council has equipped some sections of the local cycle network with colour-coded signage to make the routes easier to follow. So far, there is a Red Route which connects the Look Out Discovery Centre and Coral Reef Waterworld to Bracknell town centre, the Blue Route which is a circular route running from Coral Reef to Lily Hill Park, and the Yellow Route which runs from the town centre via Wildridings to South Hill Park – where it links up with the Red Route.

    What a visionary policy!

  • Cambridge Cycling Campaign talk

    On Tuesday, 5 February 2013 at the Friends Meeting House, Jesus Lane, Cambridge, I will be giving a talk entitled ‘Cycling for Happiness: Einstein and the Art of Mindful Cycling’.

    The event is free and open to the public. Beforehand, from 7.30pm, there will be tea and coffee served and a chance to chat. The presentation will start at 8.00pm.

    Best wishes - Ben

  • Electric Dreams: Why e-bikes are the future of transport in London

    Wow. I've just had the most fun I've had since the eighties. And, in the process, I’ve had a revelation about the future of urban transport.

    With three meetings to attend, in and near central London, and a journey starting in Woodford Green in Essex, I had a long round trip to make. I was damned if I was going to sit on a Tube for up to two hours, or a bus for up to five. And as for driving, I knew I could probably pogo-stick quicker.

    Cycling was the obvious option, to get me out in the fresh air, seeing the wonderful sights of London whizz by. But these were especially important meetings, without much time in between, and I didn’t want to be at all tired and flustered. So I decided to get a helping hand.

    Having test-ridden a few electric bikes round small circuits at various cycle shows, I knew these were canny machines. But I’d never properly put one through its paces. I got in touch with my friends at the Electric Transport Shop, and they generously lent me an electric Brompton. To say I felt unworthy of such a magnificent machine is putting it mildly.

    The three-gear bike came equipped with a 36-volt battery, tucked away inside a pannier on the handlebars, which was connected to a throttle that powers the machine up to 15 miles per hour, or much faster when pedalling simultaneously. The bike’s range – how much distance it can cover when throttling – was around 20-30 miles. The idea is to try to conserve power by throttling only when pedalling uphill, off bends, or when accelerating.

    Feeling like a kid in a sweetshop, I throttled like there was no tomorrow. The sensation was quite astonishing. It was like riding a moped, only, despite the slower speeds, it seemed faster, perhaps because the bike was comparatively so small, light and manoeuvrable.

    I found myself grinning incessantly – especially when I saw the looks on the faces of bystanders and other cyclists as I rocketed away from traffic lights much faster than they expected. I declined to wear a cycle helmet, although perhaps I should have worn one. The extra speed made the experience a little more seat-of-the-pants than riding my usual clunker. That said, I actually felt safer on the e-bike. Being able to spirit myself along so swiftly meant I cold slot in better with the flow of traffic, or nip away from congestion double-quick.

    I arrived at my meetings totally relaxed, without breaking sweat, and not in the slightest bit tired, despite having burnt a few calories. In terms of the charge cost, my round trip worked out at about 10p. Yes, you read that right: 10p. To charge the bike, you just detach the battery (very easy to do – takes half a second) and plug it into a small power pack that connects to a mains socket. You don’t have to drag the bike indoors or anything like that. The battery charges fully in four hours or so.

    The only downside of my trip was that I ran out of power in Tottenham, about five miles from home, and had to pedal normally from there. For such a long round trip (over 30 miles) I should have charged the battery halfway through, which would have been easy to do at any of the venues where my meetings were. Yet, in a way, running out of power made the last five miles even more enlightening. Experiencing the difference between an e-bike and a regular bike showed me how revolutionary e-bikes really are.

    Electric bikes are to regular bikes as regular bikes are to no bikes at all. Just as the invention of the bicycle multiplied the energy efficiency of individual human beings to a level way beyond anything known in nature, the electric bike multiplies the energy efficiency of regular bicycles to an incredible new level. Truly anyone, no matter how unfit, could cover thirty miles on an e-bike. And whereas a fairly fit person could ride a regular bike, say, for a twenty mile round trip five times a week, realistically the experience would become draining after three or four working days. An electric bike would make life much easier for regular cyclists.

    All of which makes it strange that so few Londoners can be seen sporting these amazing machines.

    At this point most bloggers would start castigating car drivers. But they’re far too easy – or should I say difficult – targets. Anyone who pays astronomical prices, both environmentally and financially, to sit in a hulking great metal contraption while clogging up their arteries and going nowhere is clearly way beyond reason.

    I’m more interested in how electric bikes compare to a mode of transport in London which often escapes censure: the Tube. The government is spending billions of pounds on infrastructure improvements to the London Underground. When it comes to such news, people typically nod righteously, perhaps mentioning the importance of ‘public transport’.

    But electric bikes can transport the public just as well – in fact better! These remarkably energy-efficient machines don’t require large investments from the taxpayer or individual users (a monthly travel card costs hundreds of pounds). And they don’t require millions of people descending into damp, dark, dirty tunnels every day – a humanitarian issue, in my opinion.

    Electric bikes offer the prospect of shifting transportation and people above ground, where there’s much less hassle involved. Indeed, if everyone in London owned and travelled on an electric bike, we could shift the principle of a Tube-style network above ground, too. A colour-coded cycle map with corresponding road markings on the streets would enable people to cycle from anywhere to anywhere in the capital by following just a few coloured cycle routes. Such a network would have an even bigger carrying capacity than the Tube, and would be far less expensive to maintain (including initial build costs). Moreover, it would help alleviate some of the congestion in central London by enabling direct journeys to be made around the perimeter of the capital.

    I learned loads on my e-bike trip around London. Not just about these remarkable machines, thanks to the friendly advice of the staff at the Electric Transport Shop, but about the future of cycling, and indeed the future of transport, in London. How wonderful it would be if Londoners could routinely ride electric bikes around a network of coloured cycle routes, using a London Cycle Map. The capital would become a more affordable, happy, community-spirited, clean, fun and exciting place.

    If you haven’t tried out an electric bike yet, do it now. You’ll never look back. And one day London won’t either.

  • The map is not the territory, but...

    .. as the polish philosopher Alfred Korzybski pointed out.

    But a good map definitely does help you get around the territory, as anyone who has ever been on the London Underground will confirm.

    150 years ago today, the first Tube journey was made. But the real breakthough for the Tube came in 1931 when Harry Beck designed the now famous London Underground map, which enables travellers to get around the Tube's tunnels and escalators by following coloured signs.

    Cycle Lifestyle's London Cycle Map Campaign is calling for a similar breakthrough for the capital's cycle network.

    We want the authorities to install coloured markings and signs on the streets corresponding to the coloured routes depicted on Simon Parker's London Cycle Map.These markings and signs will enable Londoners to cycle from anywhere to anywhere by following a few coloured routes, just like on the Tube.

    To see what we mean, take a look at an early Tube map and compare it to Beck's design (as it now stands). Then take a look at a current map of London's cycle network and compare it to Parker's design. In both cases, squiggly complexity gives way to technicolour simplicity.

    The map is not the territory... but sometimes a map makes the territory better. By making it easy for people to get around London by bike, the London Cycle Map promises to make the capital a healthier and happier place.

    Sign the London Cycle Map Campaign petition at www.petition.co.uk/london-cycle-map-campaign.

    Early Tube map


    Beck-style London Underground Map


    London Cycle Network map


    Parker's London Cycle Map

  • London to Paris Bike Ride 2013

    Cycling is the world’s most fun form of transport, and Paris is one of the world’s most beautiful cities, so why not cycle there?

    From 5 to9 June 2013 if you want to get away from it all, burn off a few calories, and have a real adventure, then sign up for the London to Paris Bike Ride in association with charity Doctors of the World.

    The ride takes just 4 days(plus 1 day travelling back from France), and runs from Wednesday to Sunday. Each day brings its own pleasures and sights. 

    The registration fee for the ride is just £99.

    By signing up to this event, you commit yourself to raising the requested fundraising target of £1,450. By cycling with Doctors of the World, you will contribute to an important cause: providing vital healthcare before, during and after a humanitarian crisis.£100 could pay for an emergency health kit and provide healthcare for over 100 people caught up in an emergency, for 3 months.

    Doctors of the World works in over 70 countries, supporting the most vulnerable persons, from young mothers and their babies in Democratic Republic of Congo, to children on the streets of Nepal, or victims of natural disasters like the earthquake in Haiti and the floods in Pakistan.

    As well as helping those further afield, the charity provides support to destitute people here in the UK. Through a London-based clinic, Doctors of the World have provided thousands of consultations to vulnerable people.

    In 2011 cyclists raised over £80,000 for Doctors of the World. The London to Paris ride gave entrants a chance to meet new people, work together towards a common goal, and raise money for an important cause, all the while cycling through beautiful countryside in the UK and France.

    For more details or to sign up, send an email to events@doctorsoftheworld.org.uk or call 02075157534 to speak to Smaranda.


  • New Year, New You!

    If you've been inspired by the Olympic cycling heroes of 2012, now is the perfect time to take the challenge and register online for the Thames Bridges Bike Ride taking place on Sunday 12 May 2013. You can choose a route of 8, 33 or 50 miles. 

    3 routes, 2 wheels, 1 great cause

    The Thames Bridges Bike Ride is a fantastic cycling event starting in central London and travelling across some of the city's most beautiful bridges to the finish in Hurst Park near Hampton Court. The ride helps raise vital funds for those affected by stroke.

    The routes take you over some of London's most iconic and well known bridges, including Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Southwark Bridge, Waterloo Bridge and Hampton Court Bridge. And there is a party at the finish!

    How to register

    Register now to guarantee your place – don’t miss out on this fantastic event. To register simply visit www.stroke.org.uk/tbbr or contact us via email at events@stroke.org.uk

    The Thames Bridges Bike Ride takes place on Sunday 12 May 2013. Registration fees are £16.00 - £30.00 for adults and £8.00 - £12.00 for the under 16s. For more information on how to enter, click on the link below.



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