#60. BACKED BY ROBERT PENN. Anyone who has read Robert Penn's magnificent book It's All About the Bike will tell that you he's an author who really knows what cycling means. If you thought your bike was just some welded, wheeled metal you picked up from Halfords then think again - Penn's book will reveal to you each and every marvel of imagination and engineering that enabled the modern bicycle to triumph.
That's why we're so proud at Cycle Lifestyle that Robert Penn has backed the London Cycle Map Campaign: he knows, more than most, what what great design is and how it can change the world. Here's his testimony in full:
I lived in London for nearly a decade – the 90s – and rode a bicycle almost every day. I invested a lot of time and ardour in finding the best routes across the city – the safest thoroughfares, the shortcuts and back alleys, the one-ways and parks that turned a simple bike ride into a gift. I remember how hard that knowledge was won. There weren’t many regular cyclists to compare trip notes with then. I kept studying the A-Z; I kept taking wrong turnings on purpose; I kept on nosing down the dead ends.
The knowledge did come, though. And through it, through seeing every common and cemetery, every allotment and every sweeping cityscape, I came to love a place I’d always expected to hate. I’m a country boy, really. And now I’m back in the country. I moved to the Black Mountains, in south-east Wales, eight years ago.
Now, I return to London regularly, on the train, with my bicycle in the guard’s van on the Great Western service from Swansea. Each time, I set off blindly from Paddington to Kentish Town or Dalston, Southwark or Soho. And each time, I seem to come unstuck. I arrive at a junction I know well… only to realise I’m lost. The knowledge is fading. Holes are appearing in my subconscious street map of the city – partly because I’m getting old, and partly because I don’t ink over the routes often enough anymore.
This is why I believe the London Cycle Map is such a good idea. Clear, well-signed routes would be easy to follow. It would be a huge boon not just for me, but for anyone bringing a bike to London. Who knows, it might even encourage a few more people onto two wheels as well.