Posts Tagged ‘Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest’

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 Cycling Embassy of Great Britain

Remember, this kind of stuff continues to be built whether campaigners object to it or not. To be fair, at least you can collapse on the soft grass laughing.

As my trusty Batavus Old Dutch and I were slowly grinding it out along the seafront against a biting, bitter 15mph easterly (something else we have in common - we both hate headwinds!) I was doing some more thinking.

The Governments approach to transport is like trying to cram lots of round pegs though a square hole. Instead of considering that there may be too many pegs trying to squeeze in together, or that the hole isn’t suitable, they increase the size of the hole so even more pegs can be crammed through whilst everything else has to squeeze in through the pockets of air that are left. If not as many people are killed and injured as the year before, this is regarded as ‘successful’ and ‘sustainable’. Repeat ad infinitum.

I then thought about some hilarious jokes regarding Moultons but I won’t share those with you yet, dear reader.

Anyway, tomorrow is the start up meeting for the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain. I have to confess, I’m very excited.

The meeting is to be held at Look Mum No Hands in Old Street, London at 12 noon.  This is a new national campaign that I hope offers a bit of an antidote to cycling campaigns in the past. PLEASE NOTE that this is the start up meeting and not the official launch, which will have way more glitz as opposed to people agreeing organisational structure, strategy direction, website development, marketing and actions. The reason we will be able to have more glitz at the launch is because we are catering for the 97% that aren’t regular cyclists in this country that won’t want to clad themselves in ‘rubber knickers’ as a Conservative MP or a casual Scuba Diving fetishist might say.

We have already featured in this lovely article on the Baby London website by Claire Rogers (also featuring David Hembrow and Amsterdamize if you needed a greater incentive to read it).

The Embassy has also now been mentioned on this wonderful blog post from Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest. Freewheeler has basically summed up my personal thoughts entirely as we have both made the steady transition, not from integration to segregation but from integration to segregation and cycling streets and decent cycling infrastructure standards and frankly anything else that tames the bull in a supposedly civilised society. If Freewheeler can make it through the urban jungle that is Outer London cycle infrastructure, he’d be warmly welcomed by all. I shall be wearing a suit, maybe with a carnation.

Apparently Karl McCracken is providing bagels (home made and shipped from the North East, no less!) and Mark Ames  (who sounds almost as well spoken as me) is providing us with our first ‘Infrastructure Safari’ where we go for a little jaunt around London seeking the best and worst of  attempts to squeeze cycling  around the more important modes of transport.

I will be doing more mentions in posts subsequent to the meeting as there has been some lovely support from lots of unexpected quarters, plus a technical review of the Old Dutch as by then I would have ridden it consistently 24 miles a day through very grimy coastal conditions and Central London too.

I will finish for now by saying that the Agenda is here, the Mission Statement is here and the draft Manifesto is here (prepared by our Wordsmith Laureate, Sally Hinchcliffe). If you cannot make it, but would like a comment or statement, or even an apology read out at the meeting, please email me direct on thecyclingjim@gmail.com

Oh, and a Happy Birthday to Mikael Colville-Andersen :-)

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!

London Cycle Superhighways

Two of the London Cycle Superhighways opened at the beginning of the week to a guarded response. Obviously a scheme like this (which cost £23million in total) is going to invoke a broad spectrum of emotions.

For the purposes of this blog post, any reference to these new routes will focus on CS7 which runs from Merton to the City. This is because when I lived in London for a while I used to cycle from Morden to Camden Town every day which would have taken in much of this new cycle route. I had no trouble on this route with motorists, partly because most of the time I was passing stationary traffic. It is, as you can imagine, a very busy route and therefore will feel intimidating to the novice cyclist.

Route_7_Superhighway_21.05.10

It is all too easy for the experienced cyclist [in the UK] to feel sceptical about the scheme and even easier to pick apart TfL’s Utopian vision of a carpet of blue filled with relaxed, happy cyclists. We know all too well the diabolical levels of infrastructure that exist already (and for which Local Authorities must hang their heads in shame). However, I would like to tentatively offer the following observations;

Some have criticised the fact that CS7 uses the A24, a main thoroughfare into Central London. I would imagine TfL did this for the following reasons:

  • If one of the aims was to create a modal shift from car to bicycle, putting this revised cycle lane on a major thoroughfare with cyclists perceived to be making better progress would assist in this shift.
  • If the ‘Superhighway’ was projected on a route taking in quieter residential roads, for example to the east of the A24, then all those people living to the west would have to make their way across the A24 to get to it. It is better for residential streets to feed into a cycle route. Also, if it is on a major road, it will pass more shops, schools, transport interchanges etc.

I’m pretty sure the cycle paths are blue to match those used in Copenhagen  (obviously the colour. Not the design and engineering standard). It’s pleasing that TfL have used their branding to keep it recognisable and simple for novice cyclists and although it’s flattering that Barclays saw the colour and thought that big banking could be associated with the humble, egalitarian bicycle, I sincerely hope this is not the beginning of some form of PFI initiative.

Although Transport for London (TfL) would have consulted extensively with the Boroughs, they must have consulted with cyclists at some point regarding the design and layout. I would like to know at what design stage this consultation with the end users took place. From experience, cycling groups generally see the plans when the construction work has already been programmed giving little or no scope for change. Although I’m sure TfL consulted form the start, it would be interesting to read what feedback they received purely for other councils and cycling groups to take note. (If you want to read about a consultation excerise that went well to cheer you up, please read here)

If it gets more people experiencing the pleasure and freedom that cycling brings than that’s wonderful as if they really are just tarted up ‘Crap Cycle Lanes’ then they should get loads more feedback on how to make them work. This would be fantastic as normally it is experienced cyclists that get consulted and even then only rarely. There needs to be a broader range of people giving feedback from all levels of cycling experience, all ages and ethnic origins.

Although there have been attempts at a London Cycle Network before with differing levels of success, I’d like to think of this latest venture as Cycling Infrastructure Version 1.0. Maybe there will be an upgraded version in the future that not only gives a fresh coat of blue paint but also a raised curb separating cyclists from traffic and pedestrians. Maybe the future version will tackle the issue of cars and vans parking in them (often lawfully, it must be said). Crucially, maybe a future version will give greater clarity at junctions with, dare I say it, PRIORITY (although that will probably come with Cycling Infrastructure Version 90.0).

In conclusion, I tentatively applaud Transport for London for at least giving it a shot and trying to be progressive. As long as they actively encourage and are transparent with feedback, learn how to listen and look to examples set in Copenhagen and Amsterdam we may see that cycling utopia yet. London and indeed the rest of the UK, has everything to gain from making this work and making it an exemplar.

For views from the front line, I recommend Real Cycling, London Cyclist, Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest or Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph.