Posts Tagged ‘Copenhagenize’

Take the Last Train to Clarkson

It would be fair to say that Copenhagenize and indeed Copenhagen Cycle Chic were strong influences that led me to set up the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. I saw images of people on normal bicycles in normal clothing (‘Citizen Cyclists’ to coin a phrase from the author of both sites, Mikael Colville-Andersen). It was guaranteed to make a profound impact as the images seemed completely at odds with the cycling I was experiencing to carry out exactly the same range of tasks as the normally dressed people smiling back at me through the pixels (or doing their best to look European and sultry). I wondered why the act of riding a bicycle in Britain was regarded as, at worst an extreme sport, at best a specialist activity or hobby requiring financial outlay beyond just the bicycle.

Fast forward just over a year and it would appear to have had the same influence on Jeremy Clarkson.

Last weekend, The Sunday Times ran an article by him that read as follows:

“I suspect even the Danes are baffled about why they keep being picked out as a shining example of humanity at its best. Just last week a newspaper in Copenhagen suggested it must be because, while cycling from place to place, visitors enjoy looking at all the pretty Danish girls’ bottoms.

“In fact, I’ve decided that the world’s five best cities are, in order: San Francisco, London, Damascus, Rome and Copenhagen. It’s fan-bleeding-tastic. And best of all: there are no bloody cars cluttering the place up. Almost everyone goes almost everywhere on a bicycle.

“Now I know that sounds like the ninth circle of hell, but that’s because you live in Britain, where cars and bikes share the road space. This cannot and does not work. It’s like putting a dog and a cat in a cage and expecting them to get along. They won’t, and as a result London is currently hosting an undeclared war. I am constantly irritated by cyclists and I’m sure they’re constantly irritated by me.

“City fathers have to choose. Cars or bicycles. And in Copenhagen they’ve gone for the bike.

“In Britain cycling is a political statement. You have a camera on your helmet so that motorists who carve you up can be pilloried on YouTube. You have shorts. You have a beard and an attitude. You wear a uniform. Cycling has become the outdoorsy wing of the NUM and CND.

“In Copenhagen it’s just a pleasant way of getting about. Nobody wears a helmet. Nobody wears high-visibility clothing. You just wear what you need to be wearing at your destination. For girls that appears to be very short skirts. And nobody rides their bike as if they’re in the Tour de France. This would make them sweaty and unattractive, so they travel just fast enough to maintain their balance.

“The upshot is a city that works. It’s pleasing to look at. It’s astonishingly quiet. It’s safe. And no one wastes half their life looking for a parking space. I’d live there in a heartbeat.”

As to whether Mr Clarkson would join the multitude of people that cycle there is another matter but I’d like to think he would. I’d even pay for him to go on a Hembrow Study Tour to see how another country does it successfully. I personally find it no surprise that he compared cyclists to organisations that railed against the Thatcher era to which his car-centric, and wider views are inextricably linked, NUM and CND. If cyclists have to wear a uniform with a camera, it is surely because they are merely trying to adapt to the utterly hostile cycling landscape they increasingly find themselves in, and feel compelled to capture it for the rest of the World to see. Policies from successive Governments, and Thatcher & Major’s Conservatives in particular (having witnessed firsthand the M3 protests at Twyford Down, nr Winchester) favoured the motor car to the extent that motoring journalists were always going to do slightly well to ride the rising tide of a society basing itself on one mode of transport to the detriment of everything else – even Quentin Willson who still looks like Satan advertising the Brylcreem range. Therefore the irony of a motoring journalist enjoying Copenhagen that made, and is still making a conscious effort to remove motoring from people, is deafening, but also quite heartening. A bit like transporting the Marlboro Man to a modern pub to have a similar epiphany about smoking.

Mr Clarkson’s piece was discussed on the wonderful cycling blogs ’As Easy As Riding A Bike’ and ‘Cyclists in the City’ earlier this week and indeed the cycling websites BikeBiz and Road.cc. The latter contained comments from cyclists who saw it as part of a bigger agenda to get cyclists off the road. I personally believe that what the Sunday Times published was a well-respected albeit controversial journalist reasoning that sometimes the car is not the right tool for getting about and that in densely populated areas in particular, you have to hand that task to more humane and civilised modes of transport. He just wrote it his way, which was always going to get up noses as elegantly as an ounce of snuff in a Victorian Drawing Room.

As I was reading all this, an article sprang to mind from a couple of months back that made me chuckle. As a response to a new law passed recently, allowing Parisian cyclists to go through red lights the wonderful satirical website, ‘The Daily Mash’ wrote the following spoof report:

THE combination of pedal-based transport and motor vehicles on roads is utterly insane, it has been confirmed.

As France changes its laws to give cyclists a small, survival-rate-increasing head start at traffic lights, the Institute for Studies has stated that fast metal boxes and slow, wobbling dangerously-exposed humans can never happily co-exist.

Professor Henry Brubaker said: “One of the key reasons for this whole car/bike thing not working at all is that little eggshell hats offer somewhat different levels of protection to, for example, a big f***-off lorry cab.

“We’d all like this relationship to work, but for the same reason that riding a pogo stick through a herd of panicked bison isn’t a great idea, it doesn’t.

“Cars and bikes playing nicely together is a bit like weekend ‘mini-breaks’ to countries more than three hours away, or the simplistic pacifism of the John Lennon song Imagine – a basically flawed notion that humans can’t resist clinging to.

“Maybe the solution is two separate roads. Or that everyone in the country cycles on a Tuesday.

“I don’t know, it’s a real toughie.”

Cyclist Emma Bradford said: “Cycling to work helps the environment and brings an exciting element of immense peril to my otherwise hum-drum routine.

“Personally I’m pinning my hopes on fossil fuels running out before something really bad happens.”

The fact is that you can lead people to the soundest reports stating that statistically the roads are safe, you can hold all the conferences you like, train all the people you like, young and old but if the roads look dangerous or unpleasant, bikes are going to be returned to sheds to collect dust and all the hard effort and work (often voluntary it must be added) will be for nothing. The articles above from The Sunday Times and The Daily Mash portray, in their own unique ways, what the general public thinks regardless of whatever cycle campaigning organisations may say or do. Indeed, as I was writing this, the Department for Transport has released a report entitled ‘Cycling to School: A Review of School Census and Bikeability Delivery Data’ . The first part of the conclusion reads as follows…

‘Overall this report shows the level of children cycling to school in the last five years has remained stable. There have been small increases in the actual numbers of secondary school age children cycling to school between 2006 and 2011 across the UK. However, this has been almost matched by a very small decline in the proportion of primary school children cycling to school.’

For further reading on this subject, I strongly recommend ‘Cyclists in The City’ and David Hembrow who incredibly have covered this already.

I personally believe two things have to happen that aren’t a million miles away from Jeremy Clarkson’s piece; I think we have to start spending on high grade infrastructure with fully segregated routes (as explained here – it’s probably not what you think) and calming the desire to compress high volumes of motor traffic through our most densely populated areas. Yes, it will cost money, nice things do. But it means that all the hard work put in by cycle trainers will bring change currently beyond their wildest dreams. We also need to return the bicycle to the masses by normalising it (where the promotion comes in). Just normal people of all ages, riding in normal clothing (or lycra if they wish, let’s not be picky), doing normal things without fear, discomfort or prejudice, not even from Mr Clarkson.

On that bombshell, I leave you with this film from Top Gear involving a race across London involving James May in a car, The Stig on public transport, Jeremy Clarkson in a speedboat and Richard Hammond on a bicycle. Mr Hammond of course has to look like Robocop having a crack at speed dating but it’s still good fun with an interesting conclusion.

Misinterpreting Interpretations

No! No! No! Not ‘Go DITCH’…..

Now that the internet has uncovered the realities of cycling in Denmark and The Netherlands and people in Britain have started to discuss what it means to ‘Copenhagenize‘ and ‘Amsterdamize‘ and realised that the cycling infrastructure design and implementation in Britain lags a bit behind the Falkland Islands and London Cycling Campaign members voted to ‘Go Dutch‘ and Norman Baker MP stated that we could learn from our Dutch colleagues and handsome, gifted young men start a Cycling Embassy to eventually start lobbying and exchanging ideas with British, Dutch and Danish friends and more friends beyond, there now follows the desperate period where British people start to speak with sudden authority interpreting what it all actually means such as this latest offering from the Guardian Bike Blog.

To many, ‘Going Dutch’ means having segregation everywhere! There are many British people, who through no fault of their own, are not Dutch or are in any way conversant with the Dutch experience. Thus the very notion of segregation will instantly make people instantly think of their local high street, housing estate or country lane and try to mentally cram in a couple of with-flow cycle paths with separating kerbs. And then dismiss the idea as bunkum.

The fact is that ‘Going Dutch’ does mean having segregation everywhere! But there’s one fundamental caveat; The British assume segregation to mean ‘segregating cyclists from the road to ‘improve traffic flow’ for motorised traffic’ whereas the Dutch mean ‘segregate motorised vehicles from people to improve movement for everyone’.

Through the years, the British have created a lot of bypasses, relief roads, motorways, urban expressways and the like. The Dutch did the same but gradually worked towards making it not impossible, but an utter pain in the buttocks to get across the town being bypassed in a car, in effect forcing motorised traffic to use the new infrastructure built. The British didn’t and are still paying the price with heavily congested town and city centres. In fact we keep using it as some perverse justification to build more bypasses, relief roads, motorways, urban expressways and the like. Here’s a clip from ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy’ made in the very early 1980’s that captures it perfectly.

With traffic where it should be, it then becomes a lot easier to transform areas that were for people into areas for people, and giving planners a chance to make cycling and walking very direct, pleasant and safe options indeed. It also becomes less like political suicide to start suggesting things like ‘Strict Liability’, defined by Wikipedia like so,

‘”Strict liability”, supported in law in the Netherlands,[1] leads to [a] driver’s insurance being deemed to be responsible in a collision between a car and a cyclist. This makes car drivers very wary of bicycles.’

The fact is that no-one is saying that there should be segregated kerb-separated cycle tracks on every single road like a country lane, not even the Dutch or the Danes, but it is all about creating a complete & segregated network with quick and easy continuity. It doesn’t help that cycle infrastructure in this country resembles something designed by someone who really, really, really hates cycling. But to dismiss them arbitrarily because of not understanding their true context in mainland Europe is a cheap shot. Even if they only create the ‘Placebo effect’ to which the Guardian Bike Blog post alludes. I’d prefer that to consistent fines from the EU for failing to meet air pollution targets, or more gastric band surgery or one of the worst road safety records for cyclists and pedestrians in Western Europe (as tragically demonstrated in this moving blog post from Embassy Press Officer, Mark Ames). Unbelievably in this country, having crap infrastructure is often used as an excuse to do even less as opposed to more. Continual improvement, quality control and development seem to exist in every other thing you will come into contact with in your day except British Cycling Infrastructure.  Now that my Study Tour experience has really started to sink in, I shall be revealing more over the next few weeks (and years) mainly through the Embassy website as well as addressing further how all this should be taken to a wider British audience that doesn’t know yet how much they love riding a bicycle like previous generations.

I leave you with this ditty I’ve quickly put together for the Cycling Embassy from footage taken by me on the Study Tour and then from my commute to work (Worthing to Brighton) on the Monday morning after returning home.

Trading Standards

This advert was made in Copenhagen by car manufacturer Citroen and I think it portrays quite a positive message for bicycle riding and motoring. The person wearing the anti-pollution mask at the beginning is showing the problem that the product we are about to see is going to solve – quite poignant in view of our recent heatwave. The basic premise is that instead of bicycle riders being covered in exhaust fumes, the Citroen C4 is a joy to cycle behind due to lack of emissions. It’s showing a car trying to give something back to the people. It’s saying that the car has it’s place, but the people come first. It actually made me want to rush out and buy a ferry ticket to Copenhagen for a spot of bicycle Nirvana as opposed to purchasing a Citroen, but never mind. Jolly good effort.

Then the clumsy bastards decided to air the advert in the UK.

According to Road.cc

‘The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that an advert showing a group of cyclists cheerfully pursuing a Citroën C4 car cannot be broadcast during children’s TV programmes because the bike riders concerned are not wearing cycle helmets.

The advertising watchdog made the ruling after receiving just one complaint from a viewer who “challenged whether the ad was appropriate to be broadcast at times when children were likely to be watching, because it could condone and encourage behaviour prejudicial to their health and safety.”

According to the ASA, the viewer had complained that “none of the cyclists featured in the ad were wearing cycling helmets,” and while that’s true in the 30-second version, the full, 1-minute version of the ad shown below does show two children wearing helmets about 20 seconds in…..

….In its ruling the ASA said that Citroën, which does not intend to air the ad in the UK again, had “pointed out that wearing a cycling helmet was not a legal requirement in the UK, although they accepted that it was good practice to wear a helmet whilst cycling.”

The company said that the ad, which was intended to show how “the C4’s engine stopped when the vehicle came to a halt at traffic lights, which was less polluting and more comfortable for cyclists,” did not show “cyclists were not shown to be riding in a dangerous manner and that there were no other vehicles in the road in the immediate vicinity of the cyclists.”

As a result, and with no children featured in the ad [according to the ruling, which presumably addressed the shorter version], the car manufacturer said it “did not believe the ad condoned or encouraged poor cycling practices on the part of children or anyone else.”

Clearcast, the independent body which pre-approves most TV advertising in the UK, said that while it recommended that children shown cycling in ads should be depicted wearing helmets, it “did not require adults to wear helmets because it was not a legal requirement,” and “did not normally place a scheduling restriction on ads featuring adult cyclists” The body added that it did not believe that the ad needed to be restricted from being shown around children’s programming.

In its ruling, the ASA said that it “considered that adults and older children would understand that the scenario depicted in the ad was fantastical and set apart from reality, because of the sheer number of cyclists involved, the lack of cars in their immediate vicinity and the fact that they were cycling in unison and chasing the C4. We therefore concluded that the ad did not condone behaviour prejudicial to the health and safety of adults and older children and was unlikely to cause harm to them.

“However,” it added, “we considered that younger children might not appreciate the fantastical nature of the ad and might consider that the ad represented a real-life scenario. We were therefore concerned that the ad might encourage younger childrento emulate a behaviour prejudicial to their health and safety, and therefore concluded that the ad should have been given an ‘ex kids’ scheduling restriction to ensure that it was not broadcast at times when younger children were likely to be watching.”’

I wouldn’t be suprised if Citroen are still laughing after the initial shock and bemusement, at how such an idiotic complaint missing the entire point of the advert could be upheld.

You see, in Europe, they treat riding a bicycle as something as simple as riding a bicycle. They don’t need to look like a brightly coloured teletubby dressed for an Afghanistan combat situation. They get on their bikes and go. In normal clothing. Most don’t even regard themselves as ‘cyclists’ as the bicycle is just a mode of transport. To get from A to B. Simply. In some European countries, they’ve created an environment where the wearing of a helmet, or surveillance on the helmet, or high-viz is totally irrelevant. As a result, many of their children don’t just cycle to school, they also cycle home for lunch too!! Those carefree days are gone in the UK. We call it progress.

Once again, as it clearly needs to be repeated over and over again, let’s look at how a civilized country treats its citizens as grown-ups with freedom.

Film above from the always wonderful Mark Wagenbuur channel on YouTube

Once again, please note that both genders and all ages were represented in that film. Proper bicycles with no testosterone fuelled, armour coated, lycra battles there.

All that aside, why aren’t people writing to the ASA to complain about car ads being in breech of the Trades Description Act? All the car adverts I see on TV seem to show their products speeding through empty urban streets with oddly romantic street lighting, rainforests and open tundra. They make no mention of the fact that their products killed over 2,000 UK citizens last year when used incorrectly. They don’t mention the likelihood of being stuck in tailbacks with other frustrated types looking for empty urban streets with oddly romantic street lighting, rainforests and open tundra. In Guildford. They don’t remind the potential purchaser that they have a duty to anyone or anything else when operating their product, preferably not using another product whilst using their product.

We need to not only return the humble bicycle from just a sports/recreation activity back a to transport mode that can be used in normal clothing but we need to create infrastructure that caters for the mobility of the entire population, as opposed to prioritising those that can drive at the expense of everyone else. Our children should be able to cycle or walk to school in conditions that won’t punish them severely (even gravely) if they make a slight error. Safety clothing must be rendered an irrelevance as opposed to the norm through best practice from Europe and around the World as opposed to the reckless rubbish we see currently. That is what any civilized county would do and what an advert that would be.

Talk of Stuff and Things

Everything was going quite well until Jim started talking about his Brompton..

Last Tuesday I gave my first public talk on behalf of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain at the Yorkshire Grey pub in London W1. A packed upstairs room looked on in admiration (I think) as I warbled on for an hour about ‘I Want What They’re Having – How the Rest of the World is Achieving a Real Cycling Revolution’. I was rather nervous and mispronounced ‘Utrecht’ a lot. I do hope however, that [with more than a little help from others] I got the message across that; there is an answer, it’s been developed over decades, it has proven success, it lies mainly across the North Sea and its continuing denial in this country is starting to go beyond amusing. If you have a spare hour and you are catastrophically bored, please listen in.

It got a nice mention in Londonist too.

The talk lends itself heavily to the following posts that gave me inspiration over the last few months;

Copenhagenize – Castrating the Sacred Bull in Society’s China Shop

David Hembrow – Stop the Child Murder

David Hembrow – Comparisons of British vs Dutch Streets

Pedal Power – A talk by Mikael Coville-Andersen

Plus the photography of Amsterdamize & Copenhagen Cycle Chic

Also in the talk, I credit Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest as representing the ‘Primal Scream’ of cycle campaigning. Whatever people think of Freewheeler, to me it’s a blog that’s unmissable.

Next month’s talk is being given by Dr Harry Rutter, Director of the National Obesity Observatory on more active travel and apparently July’s talk is being given by Roadpeace so all good stuff to look forward to if you’re in London. Well done to the Movement for Liveable London for organising this.

It’s been a day of mixed feelings at the Embassy, the great news is that we are working on a map of shops and businesses that support cycling as the simple mode of transport that it should be. Thanks to Anthony Cartmell and we of course welcome all your submissions and ideas to add. The tragic news is that the Fererro Rocher heir has died in a cycling accident in South Africa.

..Ferrero, a cycling enthusiast, was riding a bike during a training run in Cape Town while on a business trip to South Africa when he fell off, according to the firm.

The 47-year-old was accompanied on the trip by his father, Michele Ferrero, who transformed the firm from a local to an international sweets producer and invented successes including Nutella and Kinder in the 1960s…’

Very sad news indeed.

Meanwhile on Radio 4 today You and Yours looked at the issue of cyclist safety in the light of recent headline fatalities, particularly with HGVs. What was noticeable in this programme again was the complete absence of tried and tested infrastructure used in Europe. As usual, it descended to the regular arguments about whether cyclists should be taxed and insured and breaking red lights. Whilst the programme makers tried very hard to make it as balanced as possible, it felt like part of the larger campaigning merry-go-round where cycling gets flagged up as an issue in a programme or newspaper and the usual people wheel out the same old debate that gets repeated ad infinitum and round and round we go.

Finally, a campaigning friend of mine in Worthing got his hands on one of those free hanging baskets with free reflective linings that Edmund King of the AA was giving out, I think because the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is nearly upon us. Anyway, he’s put it on ebay with the proceeds going to Roadpeace. The story has even made road.cc. Please bid for a wonderful cause!

The People’s Transport

‘…yes sir, I even have to wear High-Viz to operate this stand in case you walk into me whilst I’m holding a biro’

So Edmund King, President of the Automobile Association and keen cyclist, is heading an initiative to give away 5000 helmets along with Hi-Viz tabards in Central London today. The aim of ‘Cycle Safety Day’  is to hand out this safety gear to people using Boris Bikes (in case you’re wondering why they’re just focussing on London), I assume to protect them from AA members and their van drivers.

Carlton Reid has the full story on Bike Biz and you may also read accounts in Road.cc and Bike Hub.

Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize has also spoken out:

“While it’s great that the AA president is also a cyclist, this is merely another case of placing the responsibility on the vulnerable traffic users instead of tackling the rampant bull in our society – the automobile. It also sends dangerous signals that bicycle helmets are effective in collisions with cars, which they’re not. They’re not even designed for that kind of impact.

“If the AA wants to be taken seriously, it should consider promoting motoring helmets and, for example, fight for strict liability and back initiatives like the Dutch one of making external airbags on cars to protect pedestrians and cyclists a standard accessory.”

Whilst I’m sure that Mr King is acting with the best intentions, and while I have nothing against him personally at all (despite supporting Norwich City), this sends out all the wrong messages for cycling. At best his move makes the simple act of riding a bicycle look far from simple. It tells the public that the only way you can get from A to B safely on a bicycle is when dressed up as a cross between a coal miner and Liberace. At worst it looks like a cynical move by a motoring organisation that wants cyclists to act as mobile reflective road signs  to allow for easier motoring. It looks like a move to enforce the burden of responsibility on to the most vulnerable road users. It looks like a move to justify insurance companies (such as the AA) not having to pay out so much if the cycling victim in a road accident isn’t wearing a helmet. Basically, it’s treating cycling like a stubborn stain that won’t go away.

As stated before on this blog, if we have arrived at a situation where grown men and women feel the need not just to armour themselves to ride a bicycle, but to put surveillance measures on that armour, then something is severely wrong with riding a bicycle in this country. What hope is there for our nations children that wish to cycle to school?

What’s really bizarre is that for all this debate and argument on what’s best for British road safety, no-one seems to be even daring to look North or East across the North Sea where real proven, tried and tested solutions may be found. The Netherlands and Denmark have had 2 to 3 decades of developing infrastructure for riding bicycles. They have made mistakes, have learnt from those mistakes and are still learning.

So, back to basics. Here is a film from Mark Wagenbuur regarding a country that  acknowledges that far more people young and old, rich or poor will have access to a bicycle than a car and therefore makes that a priority, as any civilized nation should. Please note that helmets and hi-viz are regarded as irrelevant, as is the need for lycra. Also note the children cycling, not just to and from school, but also popping home for lunch completely independently. Please note that this country currently has the best road safety record in the World.

For those of you that instantly think ‘it can’t be done’, the Highways Agency recently revealed a [potential] £1 billion overspend on the M25 widening project. That’s £1 billion on just one road scheme, which is almost double the £560 million of ‘local transport’ funding that’s been cast out to the provinces. The real money is there alright. Also the infrastructure solutions available to us have been tried and tested, and then some. The picture below is from the always wonderful blog of David Hembrow.

They’re just taking the piss now.

It shows a bin placed near a school in Assen so kids don’t even need to slow down to dispose of the rubbish or litter the local area. That’s right, the Dutch have even created the perfect synergy between bicycle rider and rubbish bin. No helmets in that picture either.

We need to make cycling normal again. We have to return it as a mode of transport. In normal clothing.

Mikael Colville-Andersen sometimes refers to ‘Citizen Cyclists’. This is the masses using the bicycle as a simple tool to get from A to B without the need to resemble a carnival float. This is for people who don’t regard themselves as ‘cyclists’ per se but just use the bicycle by default shorter journeys because it is easy. They are not regarded as engaging in a specialist activity or being part of a sub culture. They are just people getting to the pub or the shops but on a bicycle. In the UK we have gone out of our way to make the most difficult mode of transport easy and the easiest mode of transport complicated and it is to this country’s detriment in every way.

I don’t believe the phrase ‘Citizen Cyclist’ would work in the UK however as it has communist, revolutionary connotations that the British might find a little unpalatable (when I started a campaign group in Worthing called ‘Worthing Revolution’, I was asked the change the ‘Revolution’ to ‘Revolutions’ as ‘Revolution’ sounded a bit too….well…..Revolutionary for a seaside town).

Instead, I would therefore like to propose ‘THE PEOPLES TRANSPORT’ as a way of pitching the bicycle to the 97% of people who don’t know that they’re regular bicycle riders yet. Seeing as more people in the UK can walk or use a bicycle than drive a car, then surely improved access for those two modes should be prioritised. Especially as motorists don’t pay for the roads. At the moment, the People have their place but the car comes first as opposed to how it should be – that the car has its place but the people come first. We can’t keep sticking little hats and bright clothing on people in the hope that this will make things better. It’s just not cricket (cricket actually requires armour, take it from someone who knows).

If the Government can commit to the idea of a bicycle being a mode of transport, if the AA can stop putting the burden of responsibility on the vulnerable as opposed to its members,  if we can implement a range of infrastructure measures that are decent, fast, direct, that opens up communities and is fit for our children and other more vulnerable members of society then we can hold our heads high once more, without a helmet. To me, being able to buy a bigger car (with AA membership) doesn’t make us a decent, civilized nation. Leaving it in the driveway and exercising the freedom to walk or cycle to the local shops does.

A bit rambling I know but that’s the beauty of Dutch Bike riding. Lots of thinking time. Probably too much really.

London Calling

'....yes, we ride fixies. It's pimp'

Today’s post has a bit of London-centric feel to it (if you hadn’t already guessed by the title and picture with rib-tickling caption). This feels a bit strange as I’m typing this in my home in Worthing to the melodic sound of nesting seagulls and an 8 month old boy who has reached the stage of Picking up Bright Object and Banging It Against Another Bright Object.

Firstly, the start up meeting of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain is nearly upon us which will be held here. It turns out that Saturday 29th January is also the birthday of Mikael Colville-Andersen, creator of all things Copenhagenize and Cycle Chic. If he would like to attend, I may stretch to buying him a couple of drinks. Oh, alright, a couple of drinks AND a cupcake with a candle in it.

The Agenda is available here and our draft Manifesto and Mission Statement are also available for download from the Cycling Embassy website, so you may peruse and comment. The meeting will be followed by an informal chat and then an ‘Infrastructure Safari’ where we shall be taking in the delights of cycle facilities Transport for London style. The route is going to be the creation of Mark from ibikelondon (many thanks). On a related note, I am going to organise an Embassy field trip to the Netherlands later this year where we can go to Groningen and bemuse the locals as they watch a group of British tourists openly weeping.

Also, I would also like to remind Lo Fidelity Readers that have any connection with the City of London to write to the City before February 21 and object to the City’s local implementation (transport strategy) plan. According to Danny, scribe of the Cyclists in the City blog,

The reason is that the last LIP in 2005 resulted in only three submissions from cyclists with the result that, well, not much happened. So far, we’ve generated over 50 this year and want to encourage several hundred responses.

The City has the money to make a massive difference to cycling in London. But it’s transport plan is full of worrying compromise. For example, it undertakes

1) To ensure no increase in average journey times for car drivers (i.e. cars and taxis will continue to dominate the City’s streets)

and

2) That cycle infrastructure will be built with the needs of all road users in mind (i.e. forget improvements for bikes)

To my mind, this is a manifesto for car drivers, not for sustainable travel or safer roads.

Contrast the City LIP with Southwark, which explicitly states that car speeds will be subject to improvements for cyclists and pedestrians.

I’ve drafted a template which people can edit down and send to the contact names on this page here http://cyclelondoncity.blogspot.com/2011/01/go-for-it-register-your-concerns-now.html

A summary of the City’s transport spending plans here http://cyclelondoncity.blogspot.com/2011/01/spending-breakdown-of-city-of-london.html

And a comparison of the City vs Southwark here http://cyclelondoncity.blogspot.com/2011/01/southwark-vs-city-of-london-transport.html

Whatever your connection with the Square Mile, please send an email from your work (or play) address before 12 February and cc to cyclistsinthecity@gmail.com. Your input will be greatly appreciated.

For further writing on the subject, here is an article from the always sparkling ibikelondon

Get writing, and I look forward to meeting like minded souls from wherever you are on the 29th.

Thoughts From The Third World of Cycling

'It's Christmas time.......'

According to Wikipedia, ‘the term “Third World” arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned or not moving at all with either capitalism and NATO (which along with its allies represented the First World) or communism and the Soviet Union (which along with its allies represented the Second World). This definition provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on social, political, and economic divisions. The term continues to be used colloquially to describe the poorest countries in the world’.

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club would like to take this and place it purely in a cycling context;

‘the term “Third World of Cycling” arose during the rise of the motor car to define countries that remained non-aligned or not moving at all with either walking, cycling and infrastructure (which along with its allies represented the First World) or ‘just getting on with it’ and the Soviet Union (which along with its allies represented the Second World). This definition provided a way of broadly categorizing the nations of the Earth into three groups based on social, political, and economic divisions. The term continues to be used colloquially to describe the poorest countries in the world for cycling’.

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club is going to assume that the Netherlands and Denmark represent the First World; they have seen the benefits to society as a whole when they are given the freedom to move without let or hindrance on a bicycle for transport in an increasingly motorised age – the car has its place, but the people come first. Large tracts of the World represent the Second World; whereby they just get on with it and would look at someone on a bicycle in the same way they would look at a horse-drawn cart or a car or a vase or an episode of ‘Friends’.

This leaves us with the Third World of Cycling. These are countries that have followed a particular aggressive agenda with all the necessary investment and infrastructure required that limits movement of other forms of transport, alienates communities and damages health – the people have their place, but the car comes first. I would put Great Britain firmly at the top of this list. There are countries making movements; China is trying to move from the Second World to the Third World and maybe back to the Second World again of Cycling, whereas pockets of the USA are trying to move from the Third World to the First World, no less.

In the Third World of Cycling, British cycling infrastructure is the shantytown of transport options – the aim was to clear it’s users out of the way of the ruling elite and not to benefit mass transport or freedom in any way. Those that choose to share the roads with the ruling elite are usually, to quote Mikael Colville-Andersen on Copenhagenize ‘male-dominated, testosterone-driven and that lacks basic understanding of human nature. They expect that everyone should be just like them – classic sub-cultural point of view – and that everyone should embrace cycling in traffic and pretending they are cars. They are apparently uninterested in seeing grandmothers, mothers or fathers with children or anyone who doesn’t resemble then contributing to re-creating the foundations of liveable cities by re-establishing the bicycle as transport’. Like the real Third World we see oppression of the more vulnerable in society while the few treat something as simple as getting from A to B as a form of gladiatorial combat with all the body armour to match. And the ruling elite carry on regardless, withstanding the slings and arrows of blatant fact and outrageous spin.

Sometimes monetary aid does try to trickle through, but like real Third World aid, it sometimes gets channelled off – in this instance, ‘Consultancy Fees’ from experts that don’t cycle or to just plug other holes in council budget such as pothole repair benefitting the ruling elite and those willing to do battle with them. The oppressed get a bicycle symbol painted on a pavement or a strip of red, green or blue paint that stops where the danger starts.

I think it’s time we called for foreign aid. I’ve set up (with the aid of fellow campaigner Anthony Cartmell) a website for a Cycling Embassy of Great Britain that will hopefully grow and grow with help and goodwill. The aim is simple; to act as a conduit for best practice around the World and get more people on bikes as transport. Unlike alot of Cycling Forums and groups, we even have female representation (and a big hat-tip to Sally Hinchcliffe for her input to date). If we don’t do something we will continue to languish in the Third World – the real one can be ignored by changing TV channels and the cycling one can be ignored by keeping the car windows closed and turning up the radio. For the price of a High Speed Rail Link, we can get the nation properly moving again in every way.

That was a bit heavy wasn’t it?! I’m sorry, but cycling on the Old Dutch has suddenly presented me with a lot more time with my thoughts. I leave you with yet another view of Dutch rush hour traffic to lighten the mood. People of all ages, creeds and colours just going about their day.

However you celebrate this festive season in whatever World you’re in, Happy Cycling!

The Last Bike I Shall Ever Own. Probably.

Here is a sign. A beautiful sign. But I wonder what treats lie inside?

Yes, it’s Amsterdammers located under Brighton railway station! The magnetic pull of their range of second hand and new Dutch bikes proved irresistable. The shop is run by the very knowledgeable (and tall) Stefan Petursson who shares my bemusement at the very British obsession of playing ‘Let’s See How Many Cars We Can Cram Into A Town Centre Thereby Ruining It For Everyone Including The Motorists’.

Anyway, here it is, the Batavus Old Dutch. It’s an older model, just like its new owner, and it is probably the smallest frame size because the new owner is of,  what you might call, ‘lilliputian stature’.

This new acquisition has an incredibly reasonable price tag, 3 hub gears, hub brakes, built in robust lock, mudguards, comfy saddle, chainguard, reflectors in the right places to meet legal requirements and is bombproof. It can carry stupid weights at the rear and has an upright position to stop me crippling my back as the years progress. It also encourages me to slow down and enjoy my cycling again instead of turning up at work looking like I’ve just taken a short cut through a car wash. Oh, and I was able to test ride it in walking boots with not a quibble. When the Netherlands were considering a Space Programme to the moon, they were going to use a Dutch Bike instead of a lunar rover. OK, I made that last one up, but that’s what I would have taken.

I will be posting a full review after Christmas when the commuting regime starts in earnest but the best part is that it won’t be just about the commuting. It will be about the shopping and pubbing and librarying and carting The Boy..er..ing. All the things I should do by bicycle but don’t as the bikes that I own (with the exception of the Brompton) compel me to ‘dress like a cyclist’ and ‘be a cyclist’ as opposed to a ‘person on a bike’. It’s not that I’m against other types of bike, I adore and respect all types of bike (and cyclist for that matter). I just need one that for the rest of my life facilitiates practical cycling – ‘Citizen Cycling’ to coin a Copenhagenize phrase. Each to their own.

I am selling my KHS Alite 3000 mountain bike to cover the cost (2010 barely used model if you’re interested. It got rave reviews in What Mountain Bike but with a 7 month old son, I probably bought it 13 years too early). I was expecting to commute along the South Downs Way from time to time with wild abandon but the sleepless mights and ever changing and demanding schedules that enthuiastic fatherhood brings knocks that into a cocked hat.

It’s time to slow down and go Old Dutch.

Why People In The UK Don’t Cycle No 2 – Culture of Fear

Now, what would Phil Liggett do?

It would be fair to say that I had a very fortunate childhood. I was raised in a Surrey village with great community spirit. Everyone more or less knew each other and looked out for each other. If a crime was committed, the village bobby knew which door to knock on to conclude his enquires. My friends and I were able to get on our bicycles and go on adventures without fear or hindrance, be it heading out across the local commons or cycling to favourite spots by the river. As I write this on my 38th birthday, those days of children being able to take risks, learn from their own mistakes and run free seem more than an age away.

A major problem with having such an individualised car-centric culture is that areas become neighbourhoods without neighbours. As a result people feel less inclined to walk and cycle around their communities as they’re moving amongst strangers and a climate of fear is allowed to manifest itself. What’s very sad is that there are many people out there who know more about the lives of the celebrities in EastEnders than the people living in their own street. Once again the media, while certainly not the cause, is happy to keep it that way. As my favourite comedian, the late, great Bill Hicks once said, ‘You watch the news these days? It’s unbelievable. You think you just walk out your door, you’re immediately gonna be raped by some crack-addicted, AIDS-infected pitbull..’ Once upon a time, fear of the unknown would have been a catalyst to go out into the big wide World to gain new experiences and realise that most fears were unfounded. Now it keeps people firmly inside.

After reading yet another excellent post on Copenhagenize last year, I bought Climate of Fear by Frank Furedi. Although highly recommended, I found that I could only progress three or four paragraphs at a go before having to put the book down, pouring a glass of wine or going for a leisurely stroll to think about what I’d just read. It is very absorbing.

In one particular section he notes how a community in the past would have had certain unwritten rules that bound them together such as respecting one’s elders, assisting your neighbour if in trouble and so on. It allowed a certain level of order, civility and wellbeing. However, as the years have progressed, society has increasingly shut itself away in their houses to then pour themselves into metal cages to commute ridiculous distances to work in another building. Absolutely no interaction with ones neighbours or any effort on ones part to integrate with the local community necessary. As a result, there has been a complete breakdown in those unwritten rules. An elderly person stepping out into the street to walk to the shops may feel incredibly afraid of a group of young lads on the street corner. The lads are probably very nice if you talk to them but no-one knows each other any more and to engage them in conversation carries the risk of being branded a ‘paedophile’ or something equally horrific. This is a shame as the youths are equally afraid because no-one has taught them the rules or where they fit in society anymore. The Culture of Fear prevails.

Cycling around a neighbourhood is a great way of engaging it. You get to see people. You can even smile at them (not too much) and say hello if you like. After all, in the past, that would have been the default. You get to see things that you would have missed if you had shut yourself away in a cage from the nice things like an interesting café or shop to the more unpleasant things such as fly-tipping or the cycle infrastructure your local council has put in just to show you what engineering could look like on Crystal Meth. Essentially by getting out on a bike or on foot, you become the eyes and ears of your community again, just how it used to be. I find it quite telling that while speed cameras were the first to be switched off in their droves, CCTV cameras remain resolutely on. There’ll always be a budget for fear.

The car represents only limited freedom. It’s effectively a cage on wheels that’s probably crippled you financially before you turn the key. It has been reported how animals can lose their minds and develop disturbing habits if confined in a cage. Take a look at the humans you pass on your way to work as the poor things are trapped with only Chris Moyles for company. Yes, frightening isn’t it?

The bicycle empowers the people. In the same way that it transcends class it gives any citizen instant freedom and mobility. With a bicycle you can go where you want in your locality when you want under your own steam. Or, if the mood takes you, you can travel the World on it with just a passport, a saddlebag and a smile. You get to meet real people, living real storylines. You also get to burn a few calories and get all the endorphins you need in case the constant bombardment of ‘beauty’ in the media is also scaring you.

So there you go. In an age where a new Government seems Hell bent in perpetrating the Culture of Fear (the recent elevation in Britain’s terror alert status thereby increasing society’s sense of powerlessness was a particular humdinger), the humble bicycle cuts through all that by giving people back their confidence, happiness, a little bit of fitness (don’t use me as a guideline) and can unite communities. Basically doing that ‘Localism’ thing these Harbingers of Doom keep banging on about and more. Then again, if you pop round my house to joyously tell me of your new discoveries, I’ll probably just pull the blind down you bloody hippy cyclist.

Whoever resurrected this nugget from a time where people were genuinely afraid should be kneecapped

Why People In The UK Don't Cycle No 2 – Culture of Fear

Now, what would Phil Liggett do?

It would be fair to say that I had a very fortunate childhood. I was raised in a Surrey village with great community spirit. Everyone more or less knew each other and looked out for each other. If a crime was committed, the village bobby knew which door to knock on to conclude his enquires. My friends and I were able to get on our bicycles and go on adventures without fear or hindrance, be it heading out across the local commons or cycling to favourite spots by the river. As I write this on my 38th birthday, those days of children being able to take risks, learn from their own mistakes and run free seem more than an age away.

A major problem with having such an individualised car-centric culture is that areas become neighbourhoods without neighbours. As a result people feel less inclined to walk and cycle around their communities as they’re moving amongst strangers and a climate of fear is allowed to manifest itself. What’s very sad is that there are many people out there who know more about the lives of the celebrities in EastEnders than the people living in their own street. Once again the media, while certainly not the cause, is happy to keep it that way. As my favourite comedian, the late, great Bill Hicks once said, ‘You watch the news these days? It’s unbelievable. You think you just walk out your door, you’re immediately gonna be raped by some crack-addicted, AIDS-infected pitbull..’ Once upon a time, fear of the unknown would have been a catalyst to go out into the big wide World to gain new experiences and realise that most fears were unfounded. Now it keeps people firmly inside.

After reading yet another excellent post on Copenhagenize last year, I bought Climate of Fear by Frank Furedi. Although highly recommended, I found that I could only progress three or four paragraphs at a go before having to put the book down, pouring a glass of wine or going for a leisurely stroll to think about what I’d just read. It is very absorbing.

In one particular section he notes how a community in the past would have had certain unwritten rules that bound them together such as respecting one’s elders, assisting your neighbour if in trouble and so on. It allowed a certain level of order, civility and wellbeing. However, as the years have progressed, society has increasingly shut itself away in their houses to then pour themselves into metal cages to commute ridiculous distances to work in another building. Absolutely no interaction with ones neighbours or any effort on ones part to integrate with the local community necessary. As a result, there has been a complete breakdown in those unwritten rules. An elderly person stepping out into the street to walk to the shops may feel incredibly afraid of a group of young lads on the street corner. The lads are probably very nice if you talk to them but no-one knows each other any more and to engage them in conversation carries the risk of being branded a ‘paedophile’ or something equally horrific. This is a shame as the youths are equally afraid because no-one has taught them the rules or where they fit in society anymore. The Culture of Fear prevails.

Cycling around a neighbourhood is a great way of engaging it. You get to see people. You can even smile at them (not too much) and say hello if you like. After all, in the past, that would have been the default. You get to see things that you would have missed if you had shut yourself away in a cage from the nice things like an interesting café or shop to the more unpleasant things such as fly-tipping or the cycle infrastructure your local council has put in just to show you what engineering could look like on Crystal Meth. Essentially by getting out on a bike or on foot, you become the eyes and ears of your community again, just how it used to be. I find it quite telling that while speed cameras were the first to be switched off in their droves, CCTV cameras remain resolutely on. There’ll always be a budget for fear.

The car represents only limited freedom. It’s effectively a cage on wheels that’s probably crippled you financially before you turn the key. It has been reported how animals can lose their minds and develop disturbing habits if confined in a cage. Take a look at the humans you pass on your way to work as the poor things are trapped with only Chris Moyles for company. Yes, frightening isn’t it?

The bicycle empowers the people. In the same way that it transcends class it gives any citizen instant freedom and mobility. With a bicycle you can go where you want in your locality when you want under your own steam. Or, if the mood takes you, you can travel the World on it with just a passport, a saddlebag and a smile. You get to meet real people, living real storylines. You also get to burn a few calories and get all the endorphins you need in case the constant bombardment of ‘beauty’ in the media is also scaring you.

So there you go. In an age where a new Government seems Hell bent in perpetrating the Culture of Fear (the recent elevation in Britain’s terror alert status thereby increasing society’s sense of powerlessness was a particular humdinger), the humble bicycle cuts through all that by giving people back their confidence, happiness, a little bit of fitness (don’t use me as a guideline) and can unite communities. Basically doing that ‘Localism’ thing these Harbingers of Doom keep banging on about and more. Then again, if you pop round my house to joyously tell me of your new discoveries, I’ll probably just pull the blind down you bloody hippy cyclist.

Whoever resurrected this nugget from a time where people were genuinely afraid should be kneecapped

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