Monday, 14 July 2008
Monday, 7 July 2008
Friday, 20 June 2008
Tuesday, 17 June 2008
Monday, 16 June 2008
It has been a busy old weekend for bike loving Londoners. Sunday’s London-Brighton ride came hot on the wheels of the London naked one the day before.
Sadly, as my mates were out in force enjoying the feel of sunbeams on their bare skin as they rolled past the Gherkin amidst a flurry of unencumbered members, I was stuck in a bookshop on the border between Camden and Brent, working (if you can call sitting there leafing through old volumes with not a customer in sight “working”). I remembered last year - the thrill of pedalling past the US embassy, no hands, with the breeze caressing my schmekl. Oh how the passers by loved us, and laughed and cheered us on! Occasionally we would see cyclists who did not know about the ride pedalling along on the other side of the road, and when they saw us - one thousand of their comrades butt naked and heading towards them - they spontaneously stripped off and came over to our side of the road!
If you ask me, anyone who claims to love London and doesn't want to be accused of empty rhetoric has got to take part in events like the naked bike ride. If you don’t support stuff like that you are tacitly facilitating the spread of boringness. The only down sides, and I can’t say I minded them so much, were the lopsided male-female ratio and the pervy gay guys who took pictures of us at the start. (A tip: if you don’t want to end up in someone’s wank bank, best to strip off as late as poss. Last year I got naked about an hour before the ride got going and as a result received some unwanted attention).
Regarding London-Brighton, having also done this one (though not as part of the official ride) last year, I can recommend it to anyone who's game for a nice medium distance trip but who does not want to overdo it too much on the old pedalling front. The trip takes a manageable eight hours and is fairly flat all the way. You get to see some lovely countryside and there are some vineyards in Sussex you can stop off at en route.
Sunday, 15 June 2008
Friday, 13 June 2008
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
And just up the road, intriguing text on a house wall. What could it possibly mean?
Monday, 19 May 2008
Thursday, 17 April 2008
The sun is out and cycling is officially the best way to get around; why suffer the injustices of an airless train or bus when you can beat the traffic and feel a warm breeze ruffle your hair...
Surely in preparation for the summer two-wheeled take-up, Time Out a few weeks ago was a cycling special.
And now a whole book devoted to cycling in France has won the Ondaatje Prize (apparently it's better than it's rather dreary looking cover would suggest). Do watch the lovely video on Guardian Books.
Sunday, 6 April 2008
I like to think of cycling as a leisurely pursuit, so I don't therefore attempt to break any land speed records when I'm meandering my round-wheeled way. By the same token, I don't want to have to dress up as an Olympic gymnast and take to the streets looking like a tube sock with a hard hat on, just to combat the inevitable issue of sweat.
I'm sure you're all with me on the subject of a little healthy perspiration, a kind of ruddy-faced 'glow'. Sooner or later you're going to find yourself riding into a stiff breeze, or tackling what looks more like a skateboarder's half-pipe than a mere incline, and a dash of exertion will be required. Now, in the balmier months of the year, a mop of the brow and the heat of the sun will do the job, particularly if there happens to be a cooling breeze tickling your neck at the same time. However, in winter, when more layers are in my experience required, this can lead to some tricky wardrobe issues...
There was a time when I chose to cycle in an old T-shirt, possibly with a sweater on under my coat, which I could then ditch on arrival at work in favour of something more sartorial. However, this arrangement makes demands of its own, in terms of baggage, and having a fairly well-stocked supply of grubby-but-not-too-smelly travel garments. No, too much hassle, I concluded; best just to utilise my scarf as a draught excluder, moderate my ambulation, and turn up at my chosen destination fresh as the proverbial white and yellow flower.
But, you see, as someone who has rarely been importuned by the demands of 'business dress', I speak from a somewhat cosseted position. Would I be so laissez faire if a can of spray could not undo the ills of a creased shirt and rainwater on my brogues? And would I want to come huffing into the office if I had clients to attend to? Perhaps some space-pants and a change of clothing would be just the ticket in such situations.
But anyway, I've digressed too long. At the time of writing, I'm still dodging the puddles and braving the PBOP (potential BO problem) in my regular day gear. I can't be doing with faffing around on arrival - locking the wheels up and finding a way of lunking my helmet about with me are tasks enough. But - whisper it quietly - is there a third way (or even, preposterously, a fourth and fifth)? What do others do, and can I learn? Maybe, like a Victorian gent atop a Penny Farthing, I need thick woolen breeches and a heavy tweed overcoat, sweat be damned; or perhaps there's a technique which obviates the need for concern over the state of one's attire entirely.
It may be the usual manner of columns to dispense advice, but, dear reader, this one wishes for instruction...
Saturday, 5 April 2008
I'm on work experience at the moment and so I've got a new cycle route. It's still lacking the wide open green space joy of my old beat past Regent's Park but the highlight comes right at the end: crossing Southwark Bridge.
Miraculously there is a capacious brand spanking new cycle path which makes the usually terrifying London bridge-cross a thing of joy.
Obviously the other great thing is the views, as you exit the narrow crevasses of the city for the sudden clear sweep of the river: the choppy brown Thames, the pebbled beaches of the riverbank, the tower blocks and cranes and the dome of St Paul's.
Friday, 28 March 2008
Slate V (yup that's Slate's Video site) had a good idea: asking readers to send in videos of America's stupidest bike lanes.
Well there are some howlers in London, so maybe we should do something similar here. Answers in a youtube link.
Saturday, 8 March 2008
Thursday, 14 February 2008
They even did a special map! If you want to see it, check out: http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23437054-details/Danger+routes+for+cyclists/article.do
Danger routes for cyclistsBen Bailey, Evening Standard
More than 34,000 people were involved in bicycle accidents reported to the Met between 1996 and 2006, according to data released today by Transport for London.
The A3, which runs from London Bridge along Borough High Street to Wimbledon Common and beyond, is the riskiest road, with 744 recorded accidents, while the A23, including Kennington Road and Streatham High Road, claimed 623 casualties.
Although the number of cyclists injured has fallen, campaigners say the figures prove there is still a need for major investment in road safety, as demanded by the Evening Standard's Safer Cycling campaign. On average, more than one London rider is involved in a serious accident every day.
Charlie Lloyd of the London Cycling Campaign said: "Our priority is to lobby for a 20mph speed limit on all London roads. We want to make London a world class cycling city and we need safer roads to do so."
Boris Johnson, Conservative mayoral candidate, called the findings "astonishing", adding: "We need more people to feel confident enough to leave their cars at home and get on a bike." Sian Berry, the Green Party mayoral candidate, said: "There's obvious things we need more of, like advance stop lines at traffic lights, but they need enforcing by police. Cutting speeds would make the roads a lot safer for everyone." Ken Livingstone was unavailable for comment.
The statistics, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, also show:
• 156 cyclists have been killed in the capital over 10 years. Twelve died in 1997, while 19 were killed in 2006.
• The number involved in serious accidents fell from 566 in 1997 to 373 in 2006.
• The number of "slight" accidents fell from 3,852 in 1996 to 2,566 in 2006.
TfL says the number of cyclists has increased by more than 80 per cent since
2000. At least 480,000 bike journeys are made in the capital every day.
A spokesman said it was working with boroughs and the Department for Transport to make it easier for highway authorities to provide for higher levels of cycling.
Today's data relates to all London's roads, whether they are managed by TfL or councils.
Saturday, 2 February 2008
Anyway, hooray for Hackney Council (and Tower Hamlets) who have organized a fashion show for cyclists on the 14th of Feb, as part of London Fashion Week. Spin down to Columbia Road for 6pm and you'll catch top cyclewear designers Dashing Tweeds (you saw them here first) aswell as Cyclodelic - see their clever cuffs below which are guaranteed to keep your palazzo pants out of your bicycle chain and can be worn as snazzy bracelets once you're off-wheel.
Other designers promised include Boulder Boutique, Smeear, Hoai-oanh Vu, Archie’s Grobags, Swallow, Keith James, Two N Fro, Rose & Buck, and Shop 172.
Hackney councillor Alan Laing says: "We want to encourage more women to get on their bikes to help make Hackney a cleaner and greener place with a healthy and sustainable form of transport."
Why stop with women though? Well apparently there is a good reason for the female-centric nature of this event; according to the Department for Transport, women at all ages are far less likely to hop on a bike than men.
If you've got money to splash but black and muted is not your thing, check out Paul Smith's work for bespoke bike-maker Mercian, including a tour bike and track bike in a dazzling variety of Smith's trademark stripes. From £2,800;
Tuesday, 22 January 2008
Sunday, 23 December 2007
I'm in The Hague right now but this isn't a photo of one of the myriad cycle paths that link up every city in the Netherlands. It's an artists impression of how the Sustrans Connect 2 scheme will look when it links the towns of Ingleby Barwick, Yarm, Eaglescliffe and Thornaby in Teeside, UK.
The towns are currently separated by deep valleys and designers hope the paths will make walking and cycling the most efficient mode for most journeys, including the "1000 or more students who shuttle back and forth each day on buses." How fun would it have been to cycle to school!
The great news is that this cycle path project and loads more have got the greenlight after Sustrans (a UK charity trying to get us all into sustainable transport) won £50 million from the National Lottery.
For more details see http://www.sustransconnect2.org.uk/
And even my old home town is going to benefit, with a direct traffic-free route from the suburbs of Durham City into the centre of town, including a sky-high new path way across the currently disused Belmont Viaduct. Which sounds like a very nice way to get to work. Fingers crossed London gets some cash too...
Tuesday, 11 December 2007
As any Londoner worth their salt knows, the way to see our city is not by “horse and cart,” i.e. Oyster Card, which holds you hostage to the public transportation system and the “hay” (i.e. wedge) in your wallet, but by our trusty steeds - our eco-friendly, tree-hugging bicycles! And as any recyclist (i.e. cycolumnist) worth their salt knows, the best thing about cycling is bombing it down hills.
My favourite rides involve the steepest, most exhilarating hills in North Wheezy. For maximum pleasure, rides should be done in the nude. The only thing better than bombing it down hills is doing so in the buff (as the above image demonstrates).
A typical tour begins at one of London’s classic interchanges: Finsbury Park, say. Ride through the park until you reach the start of Haringey’s Parkland Walk - a disused rail line complete with extinct stations which now serves as London’s narrowest green space. It was along this route that steamers hauled weekenders to the “People’s Palace” (Alexandra Palace, or “Ally Pally”). When I did this ride with a friend at night we zipped like phantoms past ghost stations and the backs of terraced houses, breathing in the smell of coal, which still hangs faintly in the air in winter.
After tearing up Highgate Woods, gaze in wonder at the Palace in the Clouds. Peer down and see London splayed beneath you like the legs of some old whore. Then, remounting your chariot, prepare for a leg breaker. If you survive the ascent to Muswell Hill you’ve straightforward turf ahead till Highgate, where you’ll receive compensation for your efforts.
Science tells us that what goes up must come down, but as you whiz down Highgate West spare a thought for the packhorses that used to schlep carriages up this monster. The Victorians used to beat them round their eyes to make them run after they’d left their stables in Camden Town and struck off northward - but they slowed down climbing this baby.
Let go of your breaks. Exult in the adrenalin rush. You are now on the cusp of Hampstead Heath, with its muntjac deer, parakeets, and sheer weight of biomass. Ah, those fields, lakes, and brooks, they make me proud to be from North Wheezy. Indeed, who need venture south of the river? Everything you need is here.
Sunday, 25 November 2007
It started with a note taped to a wall in the School of Oriental and African Studies. “OPURTUNITI TO RAKE IN BUKS. MUST LIKE SIKLING...”
At the time I was short enough of “buks” for this ad to draw me into Python’s lair - the third floor of a Soho car park - but after shelling out rent for a rickshaw and entering a big lift to get to the ground floor of the car park, I started to doubt the wisdom of my actions. In my confused state of mind I turned for consolation to the only other person in the lift – an Argentinean chap - and asked, “How’s business?” to which he replied by contorting his face in a strange fashion. “I mean,” I said, “are you raking in the bucks?” He laughed awkwardly. At this point I realised that most rickshaw drivers don’t speak English.
Unperturbed, I hit the West End and cruised slowly through Soho. No one flagged me down until - after about half an hour - an inebriated weirdo threw himself into my path, gesticulating wildly. “Warren Street!” he slurred, and I obeyed. But as I pedalled he leant over the side of my cab as if to puke, but instead swore loudly at a passer-by. Then he grabbed my shirt and whispered into my ear: “These people all are filth. I can have them all killed because I am a member of the Albanian mafia.”
I steered through crowds of braindead slappers, drug dealers, and drug-abusing city boys (gangsters with offices) beneath lights that glowed so brightly they could be seen through the closed eyes of millions of Londoners. When we came to a halt near Warren Street he shoved a fat wad of twenties into my hand and barked: “Wait here for five minutes… If you run, I’ll kill you! You think I’m joking, but I know everyone in Soho and if you run I’ll find you again and I’ll kill you!”
I was confused. He made as if to kiss me before vanishing into a building to finalise a crack deal, and I waited, amazed that after only an hour of working in Soho I was already complicit in organised crime.
After fifteen minutes I was tired of waiting and noticed a gaggle of squiffy Manchunian lasses sashaying down the pavement.
“Take us to Piccadilly Circus,” one of them beseeched me. “Go on, love, it’ll be a laff!”
“I can’t,” I replied. “An Albanian gangster told me he’d kill me if I ran.”
“Come off it!” they giggled in unison, “Take us to Piccadilly Circus!”
My front light was wired up to a dynamo and flickered slowly into life as we set off. They were corpulent girls and I wheezed and sweated as we travelled down Tottenham Court Road.
After we got to Piccadilly Circus one of them asked me if I’d like to join them in their hotel room on Shaftsbury Avenue, but I decided against it, sounding my bell as I made off in search of more fares, aware of the pressing financial difficulties living in London entails.
Wednesday, 14 November 2007
Anyway. Arcade Fire, the streetlights and my general exhaustion all conspired to make my journey gradually seem more filmic than real. Have you ever had that? When the music you're listening to becomes a soundtrack to whatever you're doing and you suddenly realize you're not a real person at all, you're actually some random character in a random film whose plot is only of interest to you (and maybe your mum)... and everything you see and feel becomes imbued with a sense of deep meaning, tragic or comic depending on what genre of film you've wandered into.
It's kind of terrifying - because the hills are steep, with hairpin bends, and you can't work out if a massive lorry is about to come the other way and slam into pyjama boy - BUT it's also epiphanous: Donnie is utterly baffled, sometimes afraid, sometimes thrilled, but above all he is alone in a landscape that is at once familiar and frighteningly unknowable. Clearly a metaphor for our journey through life?
So it got me thinking about other classic moments of cycling in films, the most obvious of which is the kids in ET, pedalling away as fast as their little legs can carry them, Eliot on his BMX with the little swaddled alien in the basket...
I think Roberto Benigni also spends a fair amount of time on a bike in Italy in "Life Is Beautiful". And in "Empire of the Sun" a very young Christian Bale survives life in a prisoner-of-war camp cycling round on a bicycle. There's also that horrifically tragic ending to "City of Angels" (a lesser remake of Wim Wenders' mindbending "Wings of Desire") where Meg Ryan's "I've just had sex with an angel" happiness is ruined by an unexpected collision with a lorry. I cried buckets.
A little googling has informed me there's actually a whole festival devoted to bicycles in film. Unfortunately it took place in London just last month. Who knew?! Well at least we will for next year.
Friday, 12 October 2007
Emily Thornberry (left) is Islington South's MP and also chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group. This is a rather worrying - though worthwhile - story from the Islington Tribune, as reported by Peter Gruner on October 5th.
MP warns cyclists will die under Olympics lorries
THE rise in numbers of heavy lorries on London’s roads in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics will cause more cycling deaths, Islington MP Emily Thornberry has warned.
The Labour MP, a champion of cycling in the capital, said that more cyclists will die unless a change in legislation required all lorries to be fitted with wide-angle mirrors.
The Islington South and Finsbury MP paid tribute to Amelia Zollner and Madeleine Wright – two Islington women killed by lorries in March – during the BBC television documentary Inside Out on Wednesday evening.
Holding up a copy of the Tribune carrying coverage of the tragedies, Mrs Thornberry said: “Earlier this year two young cyclists were killed in my constituency within 24 hours of each other.
“I can’t believe that vehicles can be allowed on the road that can’t see cyclists when in London we have so many cyclists.”
More than half of all cyclist fatalities in London involve drivers of heavy lorries. Mrs Thornberry has demanded a change in the regulations that currently stipulate only new lorries need to be fitted with wide-angle mirrors.
She said: “What is so shocking is that something can be done about this but the lorry companies won’t do anything. In London 90 per cent of lorries don’t have these mirrors and there is nothing to make them get them.”
She added: “I’m determined to get all vehicles working on the Olympic site fitted with these mirrors.”
Wednesday, 19 September 2007
Mr. Peter Baynton, an animator currently residing in North London, is pictured about to leave his house on his bike, a second-hand model in maroon which he has on long-term loan from his mother.
Red cardigan is Topman; yellow t-shirt is from Thailand (a present from a friend, Ed Gilbert); grey cords - origin unknown; trainers are Nike.
Baynton's favourite "cycling magical moment" is down Highgate Hill, towards Archway. "Where the dangerous and the domestic collide", he says.
Friday, 14 September 2007
I lived for a year in Dalston, just north of Shoreditch on Kingsland Rd and after many ill-fated runs along Essex Road to reach Angel and the City, I realised I had to find another way into town. That’s when I discovered that 2 minutes from my doorstep lay the holy grail of all cyclists: a car-less, traffic light-less and almost pedestrian-less route… Yes it does exist and it’s called… a canal. Regent’s Canal to be more specific, which goes from Angel to Limehouse with an uninterrupted tow path by its side.
As I mentioned, the canal is far too long to cover in one post so I’ll stick to the bit I know and like best: between Angel and Mile End. There are different access points throughout the towpath and once you are on it, they have upgraded the signalisation a bit so it’s easy to keep track of your whereabouts in ‘real life’.
You can access the canal path about 2 min away from Angel tube station, via Duncan street (the first right when you go up upper street from the tube), although the easiest option is probably to cycle down city road and then take the third left, Colebrook row.
There’s an access to the canal path there on Colebrook row, but it is a very steep one and a chicane has just been installed, making it a little harder for cyclists to wizz down it. It is a lovely part of the canal, lined on one side by house boats and on the other by private gardens, but on a busy day/time, it will make your life easier to just cycle one bridge down Vincent terrace to the next roundabout where there is another access to the towpath.
From there you will go past the Angel lock, overlooking the City Road basin and you might even see a canoeing class if you’re lucky. The path is fairly straight and wide at that point so even the pub patrons enjoying a beer by the water won’t really disturb the cyclists…
After 10-15 minutes of pleasant cycling, you’ll reach Kingsland rd, where you can leave the canal path to reach Shoreditch in a few minutes by crossing the canal and turning right down Kingsland Road.
If you want to carry on, however, then you will reach Broadway market after another 10-15min. The little street has lovely shops and deli's on week days and an even better market on Saturdays so it makes for a nice pit-stop on a big day… To the right along Goldsmith’s row (over the bridge), you will reach Hackney Road and Columbia Rd, via Hackney City Farm.
If you carry on down the canal after Broadway Market, you will first go past a couple of gas tanks before reaching Victoria Park, which can be the aim of a trip for a picnic or a lazy lay about in the sun… There is another stretch with picturesque houseboats moored to the side of the path along the park which makes the promenade even better. You can also take a left along the Hertford Union Canal (just after Old Ford Road), which apparently takes you East along the park, although I’ve never been down it.
Finally, the area a little further down is being regenerated at the moment so there are a few more green open spaces before you reach Mile End park and Mile End itself after passing the final lock. If you’re lucky, boats might going through the locks while you cycle past, you can often help them too !!
A little reminder for towpath etiquette: pedestrians have priority at all times on the path, although you will find that most people are nice and respectful if you ring your bell quietly to signal your presence. When you reach a bridge or a blind, ring your bell loudly before engaging, whoever was first has priority and even if you don’t see or hear anyone, go slowly just in case; any collision, even at low speed, will have consequences much more dire when there’s a canal full of muddy water to fall into!
The whole ride from Angel to Mile End would probably take about 30 minutes if you’re trying to get there rather than just enjoy the ride, although cycling along water and looking at the ducks can make even the driest commute relaxing and enjoyable!!
(Photo courtesy Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, Flickr).
Thursday, 13 September 2007
Many thanks to Guy Hills for these lovely pics. A photographer by trade, Guy has teamed up with weaver Kirsty McDougall to create Dashing Tweeds (www.dashingtweeds.co.uk), a contemporary take on the iconic fabric that is traditionally used by pheasant shooters but is here shown making a long overdue return to urban fashion. According to their website, Dashing Tweeds have added a special component to their tweeds: "lumatwill", "a unique weave of wool worsted and reflective yarn, LumatwillsTM appear by day only in their smart combination of colours. By night, under illumination, hidden reflective lines shine out, offering at last, an inventive and stylish solution to attire for the pedestrian, cyclist or scooter rider."
Bespoke tailoring may not be to everyone's taste (or budget) but well done to Dashing Tweeds for trailblazing the path towards stylish and practical cyclewear.
Thursday, 6 September 2007
Turns out the nice people at the Royal Parks want to improve cycling access. More info is available on their website, www.royalparks.org.uk, where I found the following:
* * * * * * * * * *
A cycling feasibility study for improving cycle provision in the Park has been undertaken. A three-month trial cycle route, shared with pedestrians, along the Broad Walk will take place this summer (Jul-Sept 2007). The route will run from the Outer Circle, near the entrance to London Zoo, to Chester Road to the south.
If the scheme is successful, it will be made permanent.
The Hub sports centre in The Regent's Park now has cycle racks outside.
Locations for additional cycle racks have been identified and will be installed when funding is available.
* * * * * * * * * *
Needless to say, all very exciting.
Sunday, 2 September 2007
Ok so it's not exactly related to cycling but assuming that lots of cyclists care about the environment, I'd recommend watching this video, based on a brilliant project that explains why carbon offsetting doesn't really work. www.cheatneutral.com
Also the video is very amusing.
Wednesday, 29 August 2007
The company's tagline - "Making the pleasure of sport accessible to as many people as possible" - despite being rather un-catchy, is nontheless a very sweet ideology and one that warms the cockles of my heart, especially as the starting prices of Decathlon products so manifestly seem to enact the company's democratic principles .e.g. my bike cost £99. After trailing around numerous bicycle shops across London and being told my cheapest option for a city cycle would be around £250, I was fairly elated when a Decathlon member of staff told me there were at least four choices of bike he could recommend to me, all under £100. Would I be interested in a mountain bike, a foldup bike, a city bike or a hybrid bike?
I've had a cursory look on the website (which could do with being a bit more user-friendly and perhaps less turquoise) www.decathlon.co.uk - and these options still exist, with even more models available under the £100 mark. I do understand that a lot of people will probably be able to afford - and will want to pay - a lot more than this (I even met someone last week who spent £1000 on his bike, imagine! I think it must have lots of very efficient gears as it looked pretty much like lots of other bikes to my - admittedly inexpert - eye) but if you're like me, just starting out in cycling and not wanting to invest too much just yet, or a penny-pinching student/underpaid arts employee etc, then Decathlon could be just the place. Trust me, the trek to Canada Water is worth it. The amazing thing is that even though my bike was so much cheaper than any I saw elsewhere, I don't think that's reflected in the quality at all. On the contrary, every time I've had to pop into a Cycle Surgery or other bicycle boutique to replace a light or buy some luminous glamourwear, I've had endless compliments from staff on how great the design of the bike is, how sturdy, how stylish... Most importantly of course, it rides beautifully. If only there was a Decathlon in central London.
Thursday, 16 August 2007
As most of you probably know already, Transport for London provide free foldout maps of cycle routes in London. In timely fashion to coincide with the first month of the London Cyclolumnist ;) TFL have updated their maps. All you have to do is call 0845 305 1234 or fill in an online form, and they'll pop some shiny new maps in the post to you straight away. They're pretty detailed and come in different area versions, most of which overlap in ven-diagram fashion; e.g. map 7 covers Kensington, Battersea, Brixton, Willesden, Camden Town, Islington, Stepney, West Ham, Poplar, Greenwich, Woolwich... while map 4 covers Mill Hill, Hendon, Hampstead, Finchley, Wood Green, Tottenham, Chingford, Woodford, Walthamstow, Hackney, and... Islington.
So the best thing is probably to get all the ones that mention your area and also the Central London one which, predictably, is the one I find I use most of all.
Thursday, 9 August 2007
* Fietspad means cycle path. (photo by Ard Hesselink on flickr)
I've just been at home for a few days in Den Haag, the Netherlands. I'm leaving today but here's some photos from creative commons that show a little bit of how great the country is for cycling.
* Cyclists get their own traffic lights and crossings. (photo by Christopher Cotrell on flickr)
* Bikes parked in the Hague (photo by Robert Aleck on flickr)
Green for go... (photo courtesy Andrew Hecht on flickr)
Bike lane (photo by Christopher Porter on flickr)
A beautiful portrait of a bike in Amsterdam. (Photo by Juan Salmoral on flickr)
Sunday, 5 August 2007
When my friend M-A arrived in London, bought a bike, and started cycling everywhere, I thought she was crazy. After a year of meeting her in various locations across town, me, post-claustros, stressed and penniless from another sardined tube journey, her, cycle helmet in hand, unruffled, fresh-faced, energized and with spare change jangling in her pockets (ok that last bit isn't quite true, she generally pays by card but you get the idea) I gradually started to wonder if she'd been right after all. Cyling clearly wasn't as dangerous as I'd thought (a whole year and she hadn't died once) and the benefits were obvious. Loads more dosh (£89.10 monthly that would have gone on a zone 1 and 2 travelcard), daily exercise that was fun, easy and didn't even feel like exercise (so much better than pounding away on a sweaty running machine in the windowless warehouse of a gym that I was paying £60 a month for) and the secret bonus was that you got to know London as a real, live PLACE, not just the coloured lines of the tube map and the echoing grey chambers of underground tunnels.
Then I went to see my parents in the Netherlands and realized that, while cycling back home from the supermarket with the shopping neatly packed into panniers and the wind in my hair, I actually really LOVED cycling in a way that I haven't really enjoyed any kind of exercise-related activity since rowing in the first year of university (and that was only when the sun was shining and all 8 of us managed to take strokes in sync) and tennis when I was in secondary school and me and Selina Sinclair beat the girls from the local private school on our comprehensive concrete courts and sucked orange segments afterwards.
So then I asked my parents for a bike for my 25th birthday, and like a magic wand with two wheels and handlebars, my shiny velopede made me suddenly start to feel at home in London.
Because the thing is, I used to think living in this city could only be fun if you were rich enough to afford to live in the nicest, most central bits; something that I clearly would never be able to do. But, on a bicycle, I started to feel like I had part-ownership of the land I was crossing; I had as much right to cycle through Hyde Park, past Buckingham Palace or through Hampstead Heath as the people who actually got to live there. And, surprise surprise, there are actually some really beautiful parts of the city that I never knew existed because I spent all my time travelling underneath them in stuffy, overpriced trains, avoiding other people's eyes, pretending I wasn't there but somewhere else, and all the time feeling increasingly resentful of the anonymity of it all, the groundlessness.
It might sound sentimental but cycling for me is the opposite of that: it's grounding yourself in the place you have chosen to inhabit, confronting the reality of the place and understanding its geography; making it yours and also giving a little part of you to the place, trusting in it, investing in it.
All of this is just preamble to what I really wanted to say, which is, that when I first started cycling I looked at TFL's website and there was a page on cycling safety. The link is here:
I can't say the first time I bicycled in London I wasn't scared because I was, and in fact during many cycle rides there's at least one moment where I feel a small flicker of panic as I wonder if there's enough room between me and the car doing a U-turn in the middle of the road, or whether I'll swerve round the unforeseen pothole in time. But there are lots of ways you can make journeys safer, by being constantly aware and concentrating hard on the road, the vehicles, pedestrians and other cycles around you and by wearing high visibility clothing etc. Anyway, the TFL tip I found most useful:
"Making eye contact with drivers as they try to shimmy in front of you at a junction should enable you to establish whether or not they have seen you. Often just looking into their eyes is enough to make a pedestrian or driver hesitate in making the particular manoeuvre that was about to cause you concern."
Let me know if you've got any other good safe cycling tips.
Thursday, 2 August 2007
for some cycle-style inspiration, courtesy of Patrick at www.henwaller.com
An inspirational gallery of photos snapping chic two-wheeled tailoring and smart weather-proof outfits.
Ever imagined what it would be like cycling down a carless road through the centre of the city? Red Ken and a well-known bread making dynasty (?) have made the rather extraordinary decision to declare Sunday the 23rd of September HOVIS LONDON FREEWHEEL day, i.e. if you fancy it you could actually find yourself cycling past Big Ben, the Thames, the London Eye etc with no cars or traffic, just lots of other cycles. There's a general 'freewheel festival' in St. James' Park too.
More info here:
and the route map is here:
Personally I'm most excited by the prospect of a free BIB which is reason alone to register.
Wednesday, 1 August 2007
Now here's a clever website. Narrowly avoided an evil pothole? Here's what www.fillthathole.org.uk will do:
Potholes and road defects are more than just a nuisance, they’re a danger to cyclists. They’re responsible for 12% of compensation claims by CTC members, and local Councils have a duty to fix them.
What can I do?
Councils can’t be everywhere, and if they don’t know about a pothole, they can’t fill it in. So if you want to get it repaired, you have to report it.
Fillthathole.org.uk contacts the right people for you, to get the roads repaired quickly and easily.
So you can spend your time riding, not dodging obstacles.