• Increase in London Underground delays

    New TfL figures show a rise of 19% in delays of 15 minutes or more on the London Underground, the Guardian reports. No prizes for guessing our recommended remedy at Cycle Lifestyle:

    CYCLE!

    In the time it takes you to walk to the Tube station, make your way down an escalator and round a few piss-smelling bends to get to the platform, wait for the train, get on the train and rest your weary head in someone's armpit and hope that you make it to your destination without stopping in a tunnel, then force your way off the train, travel up an escalator and round a few more bends before the final trudge from the station to your destination, interrupted only by someone thrusting in your face a dismal free paper with a picture of Imogen Thomas on the cover.... you could have cycled your journey. You could have been out in the fresh air, experiencing all the wonderful sights, sounds and smells of London, with optimism coursing through your veins, a sense of adventure, and a fellow cyclist smiling and saying 'hello'. And not a delay in sight.

  • New LCC website

    Congratulations to the London Cycling Campaign (LCC), who have launched a very nice looking new website.

  • Petition website

    Many of you may have attempted to sign the petition for the London Cycle Map Campaign in the last few days and discovered that it has been replaced with a new one ("We believe there should be a single" being the rather enigmatic description now), and all of the previous signatures (and fantastic comments and ideas) deleted.

    Naturally we are concerned about this. I've tried unsuccesfully to contact the site owner and am now co-ordinating with another prominent campaigner who uses the service (and whose petition data has likewise been changed without permission), to try to resolve the situation. In the meantime, if you would like to sign the petition, feel free to email me instead with any comments you may have (info@cyclelifestyle.co.uk).

    Please do also email the site owner, using the contact form, to request that he restores the old petition and its list of signatories.

    Will keep you posted on how the situation develops.

  • Bristol & London UK’s most cycle friendly cities - suggests Bike Dock Solutions research

    A survey of provision for cyclists in UK cities has revealed large variations in what’s on offer, with Oxford and Bristol leading the way for cycle parking facilities, and Leeds and London topping the table for the extent of dedicated cycle pathways.

    Bike Dock Solutions, the specialist provider of secure cycle parking equipment and accessories, contacted cities around the UK to assess the level of facilities available for cyclists. It allocated ranking points to each city based on the number of kilometres of public cycle pathway and the number of publicly available cycle parking spaces. Ranking was based on provision expressed as a proportion of the city’s estimated cycling population.

    Although Bristol and London top the table overall, neither came top in either the pathway or the cycle parking tables, but were closely challenged by Cardiff, Oxford and Liverpool. Hull, Edinburgh, Leeds and Sheffield also scored well. The overall table is propped up by Portsmouth, Swansea and Brighton. Some cities including Birmingham, Cambridge and Nottingham were unable to provide information on the level of cycle parking or pathways available.

    Cities leading the way for cycle pathways were Leeds, London and Liverpool with 627km (10.7% of the city’s estimated cycle population), 5635km (9.6%) and 152km (4.2%) respectively. At the lower end of the table Brighton reported just 22km of cycle pathway (0.11%), Southampton 47km (0.26%) and Leicester 76km (0.3%), although Leicester did report that further cycle pathways are planned.

    In terms of publicly available cycle parking, Oxford – perhaps in part because of its high student population - topped the table with 3000 places (24.8%), followed by Bristol, 6400 places (20.8%) and Hull with 1600 (8.2%). London reported 46,000 cycle parking spaces (7.88% of its estimated cycling population), although it also reported that it expected to increase this number to 66,000. (If you would like to see detailed breakdowns of all of the above data, please contact us at info@cyclelifestyle.co.uk).

    “The most interesting aspect of this research is the sheer level of variation in provision,” explains James Nash, director of Bike Dock Solutions. “The government has set great store by its Cycle to Work scheme, both as a way of improving the sustainability of our transport habits and also to improve levels of health and fitness. What this demonstrates is that with local authority budgets under severe pressure that aspiration is running some way ahead of the level of facilities needed to make it happen.”

    Bike Dock Solutions designs and installs the kind of practical and secure bicycle parking that helps to meet this need. The company also has a strong focus on the impact that its business has on the environment, so it manufactures its products locally to keep emissions to a minimum. It is also the first bicycle parking provider in the UK to manufacture many of its products from recycled steel.

    www.bikedocksolutions.com

  • E-bikes Events

    I've got a real thing for e-bikes. They're like having your own personal Tube train, but one that takes you anywhere, anytime, and without a sweaty drunk sleeping on one shoulder and a besuited zombie attending a rave in their earphones on the other.

    A couple of upcoming events will be of interest to anyone who shares my appreciation of electric pedalling.

    This week, NipNip Electric Bikes are offering 'Smart Cycling' courses, giving you safety tips and enabling you to test-drive the latest electric bikes. The courses are two hours long and will run between 23 – 27 May 2011 at City Limits Golf Range & Academy, Worship Street, London EC2A 2BA from 08:00 – 18:00. Call on 020 7117 6393 to find out more. 

    Looking further ahead, on 18June from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. e-bikesdirect.co.uk are hosting an electric bikes open day – an industry and public get together where e-bikes can be discussed, demonstrated, trialled and viewed. The event will take place at 14 Ingate Place, Battersea, SW8 3NS. Call 020 7720 7973 to find out more.

    At the risk of sounding like Kevin Keegan, I'd love it, just love it, if Londoners took electric bikes to their hearts... and the streets.

  • LCMC Guide

    We've created this handy guide explaining what the London Cycle Map Campaign is all about. The guide summarises much of the information available on cyclelifestyle.co.uk.

  • Cycle to Spurs

    Every week, hundreds of thousands of Londoners travel to watch their favourite football team play in one of the capital’s numerous stadiums. It’s one of the biggest mass movements of Londoners outside of commuting. But although there has been a lot of campaigning to encourage people to cycle to work, many football fans in the capital remain unaware of the benefits of cycling to the game and soaking up the atmosphere on two wheels. At Cycle Lifestyle we wanted to try it out, and, as life-long supporters of Spurs, there was only one club we wanted to ride to...

    Ok – I’m going to White Hart Lane today to watch live premiership football. I’ll just do a last minute check. Wallet, check. Keys, check. Phone, check. Tickets, check. Bike, check. Hang on a minute… Yep, that’s right, I said ‘bike’. It’s a concept that is perhaps new to many football supporters across the country – me included.

    From the first time you go to a game as a kid you learn that watching the match and supporting your team isn’t just about seeing 90 minutes of football. It’s about much, much more. The excitement of a game starts way before kick-off. It starts in ordering your ticket, getting it through the post, and organising who’s going. It starts in studying the two teams’ form and the availability of the players, then talking about the probable starting XI and formations, and what good business the club could do this summer.

    But, above all, travelling to the game is part of the excitement. It’s important to meet up beforehand with your mates, to talk about the game, settle your nerves, soak up the atmosphere and have a bit of banter with the away fans.

    I usually go to Spurs in one of three ways – two buses then a walk, a cab then a walk, or a drive then a walk. It’s notoriously hard to get anywhere near the Lane by most means of transport, especially on busy match days, so there’s always a walk involved at the end.

    It’s the walking section that enables me to really feel the excitement of the build-up. The stadium looms closer and the fans number more and more. The aroma of hot dogs and fried onions swirls around and pockets of fans sing songs. It’s all part of the fun – working towards the crescendo, stringing out the enjoyment of the day.

    Being on the bike gave me that feeling throughout the whole journey, not just the usual walking part. We were in the elements with the tension of the game bubbling and simmering as we drew closer. Our route took us through quiet back streets as we pedalled and talked about the game. We went through a park where there were kids playing football next to a half pipe. There were BMX’s flying up and down it, but just this once I decided I wouldn’t get involved – I hadn’t brought my safety knee and elbow pads, or my sense of balance.

    We rolled past rivers and streams and underneath the coughing A406. We had a laugh with fans walking to the game and ghosted past the endless queues of traffic as we got closer to the ground. We passed a handwritten sign saying “Matchday, Parking £8” and decided that we’d spend our £8 on lunch instead.

    It was pretty satisfying to turn up at the Paxton End without breaking a sweat, or spending any money. Easy peasey.

    It wasn’t quite as easy to find out where the bike racks were located. We’d been told by the club that they had recently been installed, but most policemen and stewards hadn’t heard of them. One steward’s response of “Nah, we haven’t got any” made us register just how little bikes are used to get to games.

    We eventually found out the racks were somewhere in the main club car park in Bill Nicholson Way. Exciting for us… but this is the main entrance for the players, Tottenham Hotspur Execs, club employees, Executive Box owners and the generally rich and famous. This wasn’t the shiny new facility encouraging hundreds of fans to cycle to games that I had been expecting. It clearly wasn’t there for your average supporter.

    Or any supporter in fact. It turned out that we weren’t able to use the bike racks as they weren’t accessible. Why? They were completely hemmed in by Bentleys, 4x4s, BMWs and sports cars which were parked in front of them! We simply couldn’t get to them. I spoke to the steward (who was a lovely bloke and really apologetic). “I guess there’s more money in those guys (car drivers) than there is in you two” he said, smiling, and I guess he’s not wrong. We parked our bikes against some railings instead.

    To be fair to Spurs, they’ve been proactive recently in pursuing an environmental agenda, helping to launch the new 10:10 project last year where organisations commit to cutting carbon emissions by 10% in 2010. The club has invested in lower-wattage floodlights and installed recycling points for fans to use on match days, and their matchday programmes now offer tips on being green.

    And it turns out that the bike racks had been installed as a resource for staff members rather than fans, due to space restrictions in and around the current stadium. In fact, they were such a recent addition it’s understandable that it wasn’t yet common knowledge among club employees where they were (or indeed who they were for). The club’s current environmental measures are about implementing a green culture within the existing framework, but the future promises a fantastic new stadium, currently in the advanced stages of planning. Not only will this project rejuvenate the local area, it promises to include environmental sustainability as a major component.

    I urge the club to make sure the new stadium incorporates ample cycling facilities for Spurs supporters as well as employees. Until then, if you are going to cycle to Spurs (an experience we wholly recommend), you’ll have to find a suitable place to park and lock-up in the surrounding public areas.

    Our disappointment about the racks was tempered when we discovered that the tickets the club had provided were actually in an Executive box. Blimey, thanks! Never watched football in a box before, especially not at Spurs!

    But now it was our turn to feel sheepish. Before we left for the football I was doing a bit of gardening at my cricket club’s grounds in preparation for the forthcoming season (I’m not monogamous with my sports; in fact, in the winter I even cheat on football with rugby). Ben had offered to help out for a couple of hours too.

    It was, however, very muddy. So much so that an intelligent person would have brought spare clothes. A less intelligent person might have worn jeans, white socks and smart shoes then gone to a football game completely covered in mud. As it turned out, we walked through the Executive lounge surrounded by sharp-suited ex players and businessmen while Ben’s muddy footprints sketched his route over the expensive Spurs-crested carpet. Five minutes previously I had successfully persuaded him to un-tuck his jeans out of his muddy white socks and reassured him that buying some trousers from a second-hand shop wouldn’t necessarily be a better option.

    With him being the editor I wonder if he’ll keep this bit in!? We’ll see.

    So we had our own box and a TV which had the commentary on and we sat above the regular public in our glass room on comfy chairs. Have it.

    It certainly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an amazing day. We won 2-0 and as the game went on and the muffled crowd noises ebbed and flowed, it suddenly dawned on me that I was missing being pitch-side. The game was framed by glass, so I couldn’t hear the normal cheering, chanting and inane swearing. It was a little bit stuffy, to the extent that I might as well have been watching it on TV at home.

    That’s when it occurred to me that this was why I enjoyed the ride here much more. Cycling to the ground was like watching the build up to the game “live, pitch side”. Being in a car or bus is just like being in a box: not quite as cool as it looks, and probably not quite worth the money. Glancing left towards next box along, where the Donkey Lifestyle delegation were sitting glumly in their sombreros, I got the feeling we weren’t the only ones.

    As we were leaving, and I was grappling with my bike lock and the fence, the club’s big iron gates were opened and I had to get out of the way of a big 4x4 carrying Jude Law and his driver… straight into a massive traffic jam. I bet he wishes he had a bicycle like mine.

    Written by Gareth Jenkins.

  • About Simon Parker

    An extract from an interview with the London Cycle Map inventor, published inissue 2 of Cycle Lifestyle magazine.

    The London Cycle Map is the brainchild of Simon Parker. He’s something of cult figure in cycling in the capital, his dogged efforts to implement his plan eliciting both admiration and exasperation. I first met him one morning in Hammersmith, early in 2010. Forty-three years old, polite and unassumingly dressed, he earns a living working on farms and market stalls on the sleepy south coast. But he has a twinkle in his eye and an animated, incisive expressiveness that reveals a determined, almost obsessive, character. He’s been campaigning for his idea for over a decade, lobbying politicians and civil servants – ‘battering away’, as he puts it – and all the while honing his cycle network plans. It strikes me that I’m in the company of a visionary.

    I ask Parker where it all began. In 1999 he was living in south London and working as an attendant on a bicycle-hire scheme in Richmond Park. Impressed by the smiles on the faces of his customers as they returned from completing the park’s eight-mile circuit, Parker decided to try to set up a similar scheme in Hyde Park. But he soon found that this park was too small to encompass a decently long route, so he began exploring the surrounding areas – down Constitution Hill and along the Mall, where he saw a scenic side of London that’s usually hidden away behind closed Tube doors or gridlocked highstreets. Parker then turned his attentions to Victoria Park and its environs – along the canal to the Isle of Dogs and under the Greenwich footbridge. He was finding out much more than he’d bargained for.

    One thing Parker discovered was that following existing cycle routes in London can be frustrating. They’re often inadequately signed, so getting lost is always a possibility – even if you’re carrying a road map. It wasn’t long before the penny dropped for him. Back in 1931, Harry Beck’s celebrated Tube map had succeeded in taming the capital’s London Underground system, so why not create something similar for cycling? To the dismay of his parents (who wanted him ‘to get a proper career’, as Parker tells me) he began avidly researching the idea. He took a job as a taxi driver so he could earn money while exploring the streets of London, chatting to his passengers about the hidden local byways which would form the ins and outs of his plan. London’s worsening traffic congestion only emboldened him, and over the years he sketched a network that evolved in tandem with his knowledge of the capital. Then, five years ago, Parker decided to substantiate his ideas further with the advice of a professional cartographer. Their ongoing collaboration has produced a polished, stylised draft of his London Cycle Map. It fits handily in a pocket, capturing the behemoth of London in an eight-inch visual network.

    Parker’s is a spectacularly economical system, and it’s not hard to appreciate what a powerful aid and inspiration it would be for cycling in the capital. Indeed, many local authorities have been quick to recognise the potential of his plan and have offered their support – not least because each of them would only need to spend approximately £50,000 to implement it. To put this in perspective, it’s equivalent to the cost of employing two traffic wardens for a year.

    What makes the implementation so affordable is that it’s based on the concept of ‘Minimum Functioning’, as defined in the influential industry paper ‘Cycling: the way ahead for towns and cities’. The idea is that in the first instance planners do only the minimum necessary to make a route functional: ‘you get it up and running’, as Parker puts it. In practical terms this means signing the network of routes as a first priority. Then, once people start using the routes, further amendments can be made, such as dedicated cycle lanes and other special features. It’s a logical progression, since the public would only be willing to meet the costs – in terms of resources and inconvenience – for elaborate provisions once they were enjoying the benefits of the routes and thus in a position to appreciate the potential for improvements.

    So is the network being developed right now? Sadly not. A large-scale project like this needs the backing of Transport for London, and this is where Parker’s plans have been thwarted repeatedly. One senior developer there called the plans ‘complex and confusing’; but I wonder if that’s a better verdict on the bureaucratic process that delivered it than the exquisitely simple diagrams I’m looking at. Parker himself remains resolutely conciliatory – even if I sense emotion in his voice when he invokes Thoreau’s famous lament: “Trade and commerce, if they were not made of India rubber, would never manage to bounce over the obstacles which legislators are continually putting in their way; and, if one were to judge these men wholly by the effects of their actions, and not partly by their intentions, they would deserve to be classed and punished with those mischievous persons who put obstructions on the railroads”.

    I’m intrigued by the citation, and I suppose Parker himself must be made of rubber. I begin to wonder where he gets his inspiration from in persevering with such an arduous task. I ask him about his influences, and one of his answers surprises me: “Richard Dawkins”. The evolutionist, science-writer and public intellectual? At first I can’t see the connection, but Parker elaborates. As a scientist, Dawkins espouses an evidence-based, systematic, scientific, dispassionate and simple approach; the very same outlook that’s needed to appreciate the virtues of a London Cycle Map – whatever the political or cultural obstacles. I see the link, and I also sense in Parker echoes of Dawkins’ own down-to-earth, practical kind of idealism. Later I was struck by another parallel, between the Darwinian explanation for the evolution of the eye and Parker’s commitment to Minimum Functioning for the system of routes he has proposed: both are organs that must start out rudimentary before evolving into something more refined and wonderful.

    The question is: is London ready to see the potential of a London Cycle Map? Parker has come to suspect that a people-based approach may be needed if his vision is to become a reality. There’s an online petition you can sign (www.petition.co.uk/london-cycle-map-campaign) if you support his vision of a capital city where you can easily get from anywhere to anywhere by bicycle. But, more than this, Parker wants feedback. He explains to me that his map has been evolving for years, with clunkier routes giving way to more streamlined descendents. He wants people to offer their suggestions, to help shape his plan further, to yield the diamond that London’s cyclists deserve.

    I’ve enjoyed our meeting tremendously, but Parker has made one suggestion that’s inspired me above all. He insists that each generation should strive to provide a legacy to the next, citing Ruskin’s exhortation that ‘when we build, let us think we build forever’. With the 2012 Olympics just a year away I can hardly think of a better gift to future generations of Londoners than the fully accessible cycle network detailed in Parker’s amazing blueprints.

  • GeoVation 2011 Award

    In May this year, the London Cycle Map Campaign was announced as one of six winners of the GeoVation Challenge 2011, run by Ordnance Survey. The theme of this year’s competition was ‘How can we improve transport in Britain?’, with over 150 individuals or teams entering. Following a 'semi-final' in March, the showcase final was held on May 4th at the headquarters of Ordnance Survey in Southampton, where the remaining nine candidates presented their ideas to members of the public and a judging panel of industry experts.

    In view of our GeoVation success, Simon Parker and I are particularly pleased that his proposal has been spotlighted and supported by such a respected mapping organisation as Ordnance Survey. They’ve been around since the 1700s and are one of the world’s largest producers of maps, as well as being the national mapping organisation for Britain; so it is a huge honour that they have named Simon’s London Cycle Map, with its groundbreaking ‘compass colour system’, as an innovation that would ‘improve transport in Britain’ in the 21st century.

    We are enormously grateful to the judges for their support and feedback: Roland Harwood (Co-founder of 100%Open, and formerly Director of Open Innovation at NESTA); Richard Kemp-Harper (a member of the Technology Strategy Board); Andrew Goodwin (a senior policy analyst in the Strategy Unit at the Department for Transport); Glenn Lyons (Associate Dean and Professor of Transport and Society at the Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England, and leader of the Ideas in Transit project); James Cutler (CEO and founder (with Justin Saunders) of emapsite); and Peter ter Haar (Ordnance Survey’s Director of Products).

    We’d also like to thank the people who organised the event – especially Viv Alexander and GeoVation founder Chris Parker. And it was a pleasure meeting the other teams and various ‘helpers’ who attended – all of whom made for a fantastic experience from which we learned loads. Closer to home, we couldn't have succeeded without the efforts of Martin Lubikowski and Jon Haste, who have individually been responsible for drawing some of the maps that have been displayed throughout the campaign and competition. We're also grateful to Stuart France, who designed up a campaign guide for us in double quick-time, and Barclays Print who printed it even more sharply. Finally, a huge thank you to Cycle Lifestyle's copy-editor Rebecca Watts, whose brilliant advice, editing and logistical help was crucial throughout the bid.

     

    The GeoVation Challenge is funded by:


    The GeoVation Challenge is supported by:

  • Get off and push!

    ... was how most posters greeted Erin Gill's confession in the Guardian that she recently received a £30 fine for cycling on the pavement. She had opted to cycle the 100-yard stretch to avoid an 'almost one-mile diversion' through a one-way system. Pretty dopey of her (even more so to moan about it afterwards - unless of course attracting comments was the real reason for her story, in which case well done because the story received about a billion).

    But there's a genuine issue here: the question of dual-use. I've always been a fan of pavements where the space is cut in half; with one side for pedestrians, the other for cyclists. This policy only works, of course, when there aren't too many pedestrians. A good example is on the Lea Bridge Road, where you can cycle most of its southern half on a track that runs along the actual pavement. Because very few people want to walk the length of Lea Bridge Road (apparently it's quicker to undertake the 5-hour bus journey), there's plenty of scope for carving up the useful space beside the road for both pedestrians and cyclists.

    I once raised the question of creating more dual-use pavements in a planning meeting. The gathered officers would probably have been more receptive if I'd suggested letting pogo sticks use cycle lanes. I got the feeling that it was considered somehow a capitulation to 'force' cyclists onto pavements, and away from the road where they have 'every right to be'. They do indeed have the right (most of the time, anyway). But that doesn't mean dual-use pavements aren't still really useful.

    This is a classic example of partisanship (which is necessary if you want to promote cycling in London) sliding into entrenchment and hostility (which just makes things worse for everyone including cyclists). What we really need from cycling campaigners is more bi-partisanship: so that cyclists work with the authorities and other road users to maximise the shared resource we all have (i.e. public spaces in London) to the best of our abilities. Alas, articles like the one in the Guardian risk creating more polarisation, especially since people often lose their social graces on the internet and just pipe up with whatever comes into their heads (all the more reason not to conduct public debates on forums, but that's another story).

    Even the tone of condemnation for Erin Gill had a kind of tribal righteousness to it: "they've got their designated areas, we've got ours, and ne'er the twain shall meet" seems to be the attitude of most cyclists to pedestrian spaces. Which of course is true legally (and much of the time morally, too). But the great thing about living in a democracy is that better outcomes - and better laws - can be achieved when people talk to each other and find common ground. That means common ground in the sense of engaging constructively, not just having the same enemies. It's no good if cyclists and pedestrians are united in a shared opposition to unnecessary car-usage but unable to countenance positive ways of getting more people cycling and walking. One such positive way, I'd suggest, is for more pavements to be legally designated as dual-use. Common ground, indeed.

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