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Why Kings Cross plans shows Transport for London MUST try harder

ibikelondon - 24 March, 2014 - 08:30

There isn't a cyclist in London who would describe riding around Kings Cross as a pleasurable experience.  The scene of numerous collisions, it's a mini-gyratory where the heaving traffic of the A501 north circular is squeezed round the smaller roads surrounding Kings Cross station.  Harried passengers dash for space, taxi drivers chase fares blasting their horns, buses splutter and fume as construction traffic roars through, heading for the massive redevelopment area behind the station.  It's long overdue for an overhaul and safety improvements, but plans from Transport for London fall far short of providing safe space for cycling.

A ghost bike at the sport where Min Joo Lee was killed.
It was here in 2011 that 24 year old student Min Joo Lee was struck and killed by a construction lorry whilst riding to college, in front of horrified rush hour onlookers.  Three female cyclists - Madeleine Rosie Wright, 27, Wendy Gray, 42, and Min Joo Lee, 24, were all killed by lorries within a few hundred metres of one another over the space of 5 years on this stretch of the A501.  A 4th cyclists, Emma Foa, was killed by a left turning cement mixer just up the road in 2006.  All of these deaths share similar tragically predictable elements; a lack of safe space for cyclists interacting with very large vehicles, whose drivers are unable to see vulnerable road users all around them.

Last year, at an inquest in to Min Joo Lee's death, the Coroner heard how a report commissioned by TfL in 2007 described future casualties on this site as "inevitable".  In another report, transport engineers Colin Buchanan noted that cyclists made up 20% of casualties on the site but specifically excluded pedal cyclists from their modelling of the junction at the request from Transport for London, in order to assure the smooth flow of traffic.

Speaking in 2011 and referring specifically to the death of Min Joo Lee, TfL's Leon Daniels said "Any fatal road collision is one too many. The Mayor and TfL will work night and day to reduce that number."

 TfL's plans - hardly exemplary
But the latest plans for the Kings Cross area fall far short of being either safe or inviting for cyclists.

Dribbling a chain of minor improvements in to the existing roads, TfL's plans do include some wider and mandatory cycle lanes, and a little protected space.  However, there is much more which is wrong with their ideas.  This is where their proposed "north - south" cycle superhighway will intersect with the North Circular, bringing thousands of additional riders to the area, yet there are no protected cycle lanes or safe passage through the junction in every direction.  There's also considerable risk of left or right "hooks" from turning vehicles - especially lorries - risking repeat deaths like those of the cyclists who have already been killed there.  Their plans also include putting cyclists on pavements (rather than ceding any road space to them) in some of the busiest pedestrian space in central London, yet the entire surface of all the carriageways in the redevelopment area will be resurfaced - all on the back of the cycling budget.  That is to say, you might find yourself on a terrible pavement cycle lane soon, whilst motorists glide smoothly past on beautiful new tarmac paid for with money set aside to supposedly make you safer.  

You couldn't make it up.  As London Cycling Campaign point out "it will not possible to go through the junction in any direction without being exposed to unacceptable levels of danger. Some sections do not even meet the old cycle design standards set out a decade ago."  Indeed, Twitter has been awash with reports of how a 17 year old Sixth Form student from Kent has done a better job than TfL's engineers with his own proposals for Kings Cross (follow @maidstoneonbike, check out his plans, and maybe chuck him a few quid for his RideLondon plans to say "Chapeau!")

The consultation on these "improvements" closes today (Monday 24th March) and the LCC are encouraging everyone to write to TfL to tell them to go back to the drawing board.  I'd urge you to do the same, even if you miss the consultation deadline by a few hours.  Maybe then the people whose job it is to design streets that are supposed to keep us safe will be made aware of just how badly they are failing.

I think the designs at Kings Cross open wider and more worrying questions about the pace of the Mayor's so-called cycling revolution programme.  We've all been enticed by the images of protected cycle lanes and the mock ups of cycle tracks yet to be built, but when it comes to proposing actual work this is what we are met with.  The plans for Kings Cross are so bad at first I assumed the 1st of April had come early, but the safety of riders in this area is no laughing matter.  It's time for Transport for London to start listening to the Cycling Commissioner, and to cyclists themselves, and to start proposing plans that really make a difference.  

Click here to go to the Transport for London King's Cross consultation page.

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Categories: Views

A small example of rural car dependence

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 24 March, 2014 - 00:58

This video was doing the rounds on Twitter last week.

It’s really quite well done, and a bit depressing that it dates from 2011. It convincingly shows how a B-road has effectively become a no-go area for anyone not in a motor vehicle, or confident enough to walk or cycle in the carriageway on a fast and busy road. That means short trips have to be made by car; all because a path suitable for walking and cycling has not been provided.

I was reminded of the video while I was out cycling at the weekend, on one of my usual leisure routes. The worst section of it is a B-road that runs into the village of Coolham. It’s a fast, straight section of road with a 60mph speed limit, where for some reason I always seem to encounter lunatic overtakes. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but this stretch of road always fills me with dread, and I exhale with relief a little as I progress through the village, and onto the quieter roads to the north.

What is most alarming is that, just like the B4044, there isn’t even a footpath on this stretch of road.

Watch out drivers – no footway. Oh, and please drive carefully.

Here we have the curiously British approach to road safety – put up a sign warning drivers that there isn’t a footway, instead of just actually supplying one. And, equally, asking them to drive carefully, rather than forcing them to.

As the houses of the village come into sight, we have a ‘SLOW’ warning. But no reduction in speed limit – still 60mph. With no footway.

‘SLOW’

The houses appear. Still 60mph, and no footway.

Reflective bollards. That’s nice

It is only as the centre of the village appears that the speed limit drops to 30mph, and still there is no footway.

The centre of Coolham

Coolham isn’t a big village, but it does have a primary school, with just over a hundred pupils – William Penn School (named, incidentally, after the founder of Pennsylvania, who lived and worshipped only a mile or so from the village).

Out of interest, I took a quick look at the mode share data from the 2011 School Census, which reveals that 85% of the pupils of William Penn were driven to school. None cycled.

Now of course some of these pupils may have come a distance to the school, from outside Coolham – this is a low-density rural area. But none more than a few miles; the surrounding villages all have their own primary schools. And surely the majority of the pupils will have come from within the village itself, perhaps even from those houses in the pictures above.

If they did, then their parents will, undoubtedly, have driven them to the school, which is less than half a mile away – about 700 metres, door to door, from the house at the very edge of the village. I certainly don’t blame them. They have no choice, forced into car dependency because of a total lack of safe and attractive alternatives.

What was once a quiet country lane has become a fast and busy road, and seemingly at no point during that evolution did anyone stop to think about the consequences for the people who don’t, or can’t, drive.


Categories: Views

A small example of rural car dependence

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 24 March, 2014 - 00:58

This video was doing the rounds on Twitter last week.

It’s really quite well done, and a bit depressing that it dates from 2011. It convincingly shows how a B-road has effectively become a no-go area for anyone not in a motor vehicle, or confident enough to walk or cycle in the carriageway on a fast and busy road. That means short trips have to be made by car; all because a path suitable for walking and cycling has not been provided.

I was reminded of the video while I was out cycling at the weekend, on one of my usual leisure routes. The worst section of it is a B-road that runs into the village of Coolham. It’s a fast, straight section of road with a 60mph speed limit, where for some reason I always seem to encounter lunatic overtakes. Maybe it’s just coincidence, but this stretch of road always fills me with dread, and I exhale with relief a little as I progress through the village, and onto the quieter roads to the north.

What is most alarming is that, just like the B4044, there isn’t even a footpath on this stretch of road.

Watch out drivers – no footway. Oh, and please drive carefully.

Here we have the curiously British approach to road safety – put up a sign warning drivers that there isn’t a footway, instead of just actually supplying one. And, equally, asking them to drive carefully, rather than forcing them to.

As the houses of the village come into sight, we have a ‘SLOW’ warning. But no reduction in speed limit – still 60mph. With no footway.

‘SLOW’

The houses appear. Still 60mph, and no footway.

Reflective bollards. That’s nice

It is only as the centre of the village appears that the speed limit drops to 30mph, and still there is no footway.

The centre of Coolham

Coolham isn’t a big village, but it does have a primary school, with just over a hundred pupils – William Penn School (named, incidentally, after the founder of Pennsylvania, who lived and worshipped only a mile or so from the village).

Out of interest, I took a quick look at the mode share data from the 2011 School Census, which reveals that 85% of the pupils of William Penn were driven to school. None cycled.

Now of course some of these pupils may have come a distance to the school, from outside Coolham – this is a low-density rural area. But none more than a few miles; the surrounding villages all have their own primary schools. And surely the majority of the pupils will have come from within the village itself, perhaps even from those houses in the pictures above.

If they did, then their parents will, undoubtedly, have driven them to the school, which is less than half a mile away – about 700 metres, door to door, from the house at the very edge of the village. I certainly don’t blame them. They have no choice, forced into car dependency because of a total lack of safe and attractive alternatives.

What was once a quiet country lane has become a fast and busy road, and seemingly at no point during that evolution did anyone stop to think about the consequences for the people who don’t, or can’t, drive.


Categories: Views

“Politicians can’t break free from our car culture”

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 22 March, 2014 - 14:52

 

The following letter on the conflict over increasing road building – between academics and transport professionals on the one hand, and the Government on the other – was published in Local Transport Today:

Politicians can’t break free from our car culture

Your editorial “Road critics go unheard” (LTT 07 March) asks why, when so many professional bodies and academics question renewed interest in increasing inter-urban road capacity, “…if their arguments are so sound, why do ministers not seem to be listening?”.

During my career as a transport professional (and I guess of just about everybody reading LTT) there have been many well-argued reasons put forward for reducing dependence on car use and associated modes such as road freight.

The shorter list of motor traffic exacerbated problems includes congestion, emissions (whether noxious, noise, or greenhouse gas varieties), destruction of rural and urban environments through road building, dependence on the vagaries of oil production, danger to other road users, loss of local community, reduction of children’s independent mobility, health disbenefits for those not engaged in ‘active travel’, the massive costs of road building and subsidy to the motor manufacturing industry etc, etc. There is a long list of criticisms of contemporary car culture and the institutions that back it up.

Yet successive governments have resolutely persisted with ‘predict-and-provide’ and business as usual whatever the warnings of all manner of concerned professionals and academics.

To give just one example of the fanatic commitment towards increased motorisation: the last decade or so has seen median earners priced out of property ownership in the South East, and massive increase in costs for those renting. There are also all sorts of other well publicised costs of living have risen. Yet, despite there being little chance of these costs significantly declining, and the cost of motoring lower than it was a when New Labour last came to power, the last Opposition transport spokesperson voiced a commitment towards even cheaper motoring!

We are in the grip of a car culture which not only assumes increased car dependency as given, but excludes any significant attempts to have a real alternative. This not just due to the power of the motor manufacturers, or even the oil companies (are they likely to support a world with less fuel burned?) but a deeper cultural issue. Essentially, unless the sense of entitlement assumed by motorists is properly questioned, no real progress on road building or anything else can be expected.

Transport professionals are kidding themselves if they base their arguments on belief systems like cost-benefit analysis which underpin the system we now have. And they are kidding themselves if indeed they think that any form of argument will work which sidesteps fundamental features of car culture. Until they become car culture sceptics, it will be business as usual.

Robert Davis

Chair

Road Danger Reduction Forum

LONDON NW10

 


Categories: Views

The silence over Osborne’s hand-out to motoring

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 22 March, 2014 - 14:31

Something didn’t happen in the wake of the Budget. There was practically no media response to the Chancellor’s continued refusal, yet again, to increase fuel tax duty. Below we put this in the context of continued discrimination against sustainable transport modes and support for a more car-based transport system, as well as showing how the costs of motoring stand in stark contrast to other expenditure.

How much has he given to drivers…?

Cancelling the fuel tax accelerator means not taking some 3p per litre. A very rough calculation means that this represents a loss to the Exchequer of some half a billion pounds annually from car drivers, on top of the amount given in the previous budgets by the Coalition.  Adding on the amount from freight this comes to more like a billion pounds per annum.

My calculation – again very rough – is that this is the equivalent expenditure for the average car driver of some 40 miles of driving. It is the amount that could be easily saved by slightly more fuel efficient driving or cutting out about half a percent of the mileage driven. In other words, were the accelerator to have been kept in place there would be minimal effect on the average motorist, but we still have an additional handout of some £1.5 billion to car drivers since this Government came in.

…as compared to other modes…?

By contrast there is plenty to complain about with regard to public transport. And then we have the spectre of increased spending on road building. And of course, we have the refusal of the Conservatives to specify a budget for cycling, with the Labour party unwilling to give a figure.of how much it might spend to support the recommendations of the Get Britain Cycling enquiry. I think it interesting that the cycling lobby fails to make a connection between the amount recommended (initially about £10 per head of the population rising to £20, to come close to Dutch levels of expenditure) which is some £600 million p.a. – or about the amount the Chancellor has just given to car drivers again.

 

…and how much should drivers pay?

While the Campaign for Better Transport correctly lambast the petrolheads and lorry operators who want even cheaper petrol, they don’t make a case for more expensive petrol. I believe these arguments should be made. Here are some:

 

1.    A. Motoring has got cheaper while other costs have increased.

While fuel prices may have gone up, as the costs of cars has gone down, the cost of motoring as a whole over the last couple of decades has either declined or stayed the same (depending on when the precise benchmark is made). By contrast, real earnings have declined and disposable income has declined:

Average real earnings growth 1979-2013

In contrast, more important areas of expenditure such as housing have significantly increased. So, even if it is judged that the economic priority is to give members of the public a financial boost to increase their spending ability, there are far more worthy areas for state allocation of funds.

 

B.  Conventional economics states that motoring costs far more than the revenue gained from motoring taxation.  Note that this view – that the “external costs” of motoring are far higher than taxation gained from motoring – is based on a conventional view about monetizing the adverse effects of motorisation. There are arguments to suggest that taxation – or rather motorists paying an amount to reflect the damage they cause – could be a lot higher. C. The price of petrol should rise with the use of more fuel-efficient cars. It is common to see modern cars advertised with increasingly high mileage per gallon. Naturally, although reducing car use and replacing it with the more sustainable and healthy modes is desirable and necessary for sustainable transport policy, but since cars will still be used a priority will be for them to be far more fuel-efficient. Raising the costs of petrol will be necessary to encourage this. In addition, if there is to be a take up of more fuel efficient motoring, unless the costs of petrol rise, there will be a decline in revenue raised for the Exchequer.  D. An equitable transport policy requires a rise in petrol prices. Cyclists are used to hearing the myth that motorists have “paid for the road” by paying a “road tax”. Perhaps a necessary way of confronting this myth is to point out that – compared to cyclists – motorists have not paid their way. Compared to cycling and walking, and some forms of public transport, motoring is unfairly cheap.  Yet none of these arguments have made it into discussion in the media. My suggestion is that this means that the prospects of a less car-dependent future are diminished.
Categories: Views

Discover what works to encourage mass cycling - building on genuine success is the path to progress

A View from the Cycle Path - 22 March, 2014 - 10:12
howfarahead_g("right"); Study Tour reminder The April open study tour begins in exactly one month. There are still free places and it's not too late to book, but you will have to be quick. If April doesn't suit you private tours can be organised on almost any date for individuals or groups. We've run cycling infrastructure study tours in the Netherlands since 2006. The tours do not remain the David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/03/discover-what-works-to-encourage-mass.html
Categories: Views

Copenhagen Free Bike Rental

Copenhagenize - 22 March, 2014 - 05:00

I'm Kieran, one of the 4 co-founders of Copenhagen Free Bike Rental. I've also been interning here at Copenhagenize for the past few months. At Copenhagen Free Bike Rental, our goal is to ‘salvage abandoned and broken bicycles and offer them to visitors so they can explore Copenhagen the way it should be done: on two wheels.’ It is partly an attempt to fill the gap left by the closure of the Copenhagen City Bike system, and its unsatisfactory 'GoBike' replacement  and partly a response to the fact that in Copenhagen there are more bikes than people – and thus many unused bikes.
There were 4 of us involved involved in founding the project, and we are all students on the very exciting 4 Cities course. This means we've been travelling around Europe experiencing how cities work (or don't). And we've got a very good flavour of cycling conditions: not because we're particularly mad about cycling itself, but because we like to explore these new cities we keep landing in and a bike is the best way to do it. 
Brussels, the first stop on our course, is really not so good, but Vienna is (slowly, and not without mistakes) getting there. So we were very excited about coming to Copenhagen. We felt like it was the next step of what seemed to be a progression towards some sort of cycling utopia. Which was justified in many ways, because Copenhagen is of course a fantastic city to cycle round. The one problem was that in Vienna, when we had visitors, they could register for a citybike for €1 and pay nothing else, and have a whole network of bikes across the city. But in Copenhagen, there's nothing like that any more.So we found that at the beginning of our academic year, every time someone had a visitor the same question would be asked - 'does anyone have a spare bike?' and the same people, usually Copenhageners, would have a spare one. But often it would come with a caveat that it was broken. Amongst our little group we would have sessions to fix the bikes so they could be borrowed. We saw Copenhagen Free Bike Rental as a way to formalise this network a little, and open it up to more people.The way it works is very simple: you fill in the form on our website, and we'll get back to you if we've got a bike available (sadly we always end up with more requests than we have bikes.) You come to where our bikes are parked, near the City Hall, every day at 6pm, and we give you a bike. You can have it for between 1 and 3 days, and then you bring it back at the same time, same place. Simple. There is absolutely no obligation to donate, but often people do, and this money helps us pay for new parts (the ones we can't find in the street) and locks.
We were delighted that our little scheme has been extremely successful. People love us. They are a bit surprised often as to why we're doing it, and sometimes a little sceptical about whether it is actually free, but once they find out a little more they are very happy. We're providing a little public service. Access to the city is a right, we believe, not a bonus. Copenhagen isn't the cheapest city, but it's got a lot to offer, both in terms of amusement, and also as a shining example of how all cities could be if they focussed more on people than on cars. And obviously, by bike, you can see more of it. We think that's important.We ourselves are all students, and we started off telling  students about this, via a few posts on some student Facebook groups. That's literally all the promotion we've done. So at first, we mainly got students who wanted bikes for visitors, like us. But now, through the myriad miracles of modern communication, word has spread and we get a bit more of a range of people, often tourists visiting and wanting to get around for a few days.
One of the best aspects of Copenhagen Free Bike Rental is how it works on trust. Trusting strangers is very important in society, especially in a cities, where we pass hundreds if not thousands each day. People who are more trusting are happier. We've rented out bikes over 200 times since October, and every single time they have been returned to us. Aside from everything else, we feel this in itself is some sort of small but not insignificant human triumph
One of the questions we always get asked is where we get the bikes: the answer is a combination of donations and of assembling scraps. To start with the latter: one of the first things you notice about Copenhagen is the discarded half-carcasses of long-forgotten bikes. Usually it's just a frame here or a lonesome wheel there, which on their own aren't going to do much except get eventually rusty then swept away. This is the case in cities all over the world but in Copenhagen, where there are more bikes than people, the number of abandoned bikes is extremely high, and the city collects and destroys as many as 15,000 per year. So we collect these scraps, take them to our workshop and put them together into actually functioning bikes (We never take bikes unless they are clearly long-abandoned, unlocked and thoroughly incomplete). We fix them up ourselves, and we also run a number of workshops where people can come and learn a bit about basic bike maintenance, so they don't end up throwing their bike away if it gets a minor fault!

Not all of Copenhagen's unused bikes are on the streets of course, and we actually get a very large number of our bikes from very kind people who have donated them: a lot of students leave Copenhagen without selling their bike and so instead have very kindly have given them to us. We're very DIY and small-scale (we often don't have enough bikes for the demand, sadly), and of course in no way a replacement for a city-wide bikeshare system, but in both providing bikes for free, and getting people to think more about their relationship with bicycles, the city and waste, we think we're doing a little bit of good for Copenhagen. 
We've had interest in our scheme and questions from people from all around the world, and we'd encourage people in other cities to try something similar. Even in cities with fewer abandoned bikes, there will always be people with spares - so give it a go. Feel free to give us an email if you have any questions, and likewise if there is anyone in Copenhagen with an old bike that they don’t need any more, whatever the condition, you are also very welcome to donate it to us. 

Copenhagenize is grateful to Kieran for all his strong contribution during his internship and we are really proud of the amazing project of free bike rental which he set up during his stay in Copenhagen. Quite often, students don't stay really long in the city but they contribute to develop fresh ideas.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Bicycle Design Archeology - Top Ten Details We Want Back

Copenhagenize - 21 March, 2014 - 17:29
Copenhagenize's Top Ten Bicycle Design Details That We Want Back

There is an ocean of fantastic and practical design details from over a century of mainstream bicycle culture. However, many things that used to be completely normal and often standard on bicycles have disappeared off the radar. The reason for it is well-known. As the bicycle as transport was gradually and effectively pushed out of cities as planners continued to make space for cars, the people left riding bicycles were focused on sport and recreation. The "weight wienies" discarded frivilous details faster than a rapidly descending hot-air balloonist. Faster, dude! Lighter, man!

Alas. I decided to go on an archeological dig and dust off the ten design details that I love - and that I wish were standard once again now that the 99% are returning to bicycles in our cities.

There are basic accessories that remain standard in mainstream bicycle cultures like fenders, chainguards, skirtguards and kickstands. They're not included here in the general sense because they never really went away - except in regions where cycling was relegated to only being sport or recreation, of course.

Here's the Top 10. Any additions I haven't thought of?

Up top is the Back Rack Hook is one of the simplest design details imaginable. For decades, back racks in many countries had a simple bit of metal welded on which allowed bicycle users to carry briefcases. I haven't seen many of these in other countries, except in vintage photos and catalogues. They live on in Denmark, however, where many brands still include them as standard on the back racks. With the Rise of the Laptop, you'd think this would be the first detail to be brought back.


Sure, almost every bicycle in Denmark and the Netherlands and all mainstream bicycle cities have chainguards. Duh. It's the most obvious addition to a bicycle along with fenders. Riding without one is like skating without blades. The style of chainguards, however, has taken a nose-dive. Back in the day, every bicycle brand with respect for itself put some serious love into designing their chainguards.

At top right is my 1950s Swedish Crescent, with the brand carved into the chainguard and at bottom right, another Swedish brand, Hermes, did the same. Used to be a normal thing. Raleigh in Denmark have revived the art form at top left on their newer bikes. And for total chainguard bling, check out these French beauties over at the Velo Orange blog.

My Crescent bicycle has a handle on the tube which is wonderfully balanced and makes lifting up the bike easy as pie. Especially vintage Swedish bikes of various brands have this handle, but this was a design detail that was mainstream for a long time. If you didn't have one welded to the frame (you poor thing), you could buy an attachable one like at top right, spotted on a 1920s bicycle in Ferrara, Italy.

I don't use mine that often, but I do on occasion and love it every time I do. Brilliant thinking.

Ah, the dynamo. Clunky, awkward but nonetheless charming. Most of the ones you see are vintage these days but they are still being made - like on the new bike at top right. I lament the fading dynamo from a purely aesthetic point of view. A tiny motor that leaned against your wheel and made a reassuring whizzing sound while you pedalled. Not to mention the fact that you could see your effort paying off in the form of a flickering beam of light.

The dynamo, I'm afraid, will be consigned to the bicycle museum. Especially now that most bikes, in Denmark at least, come with the magnetic Reelights as standard. So many people have these that autumn "remember your lights" campaigns have been dropped in Denmark.

Skirtguards live on and show no sign of going anywhere. Another simple but practical accessory that is a must for city living. The word "skirtguard" is an English-language invention. In Danish they're called "Coat Protectors" because everyone wears coats and most were long, fine coats back in the day.

Like with chainguards, many skirtguard designs leave nothing to be desired. Crocheted skirtguards were all the rage in many countries a century ago. I've seen them in bicycle museums in many countries. Rubber or elastic skirtguards like at bottom left are still cheap and accessible in Italy and Brazil, among other countries. Newer versions like at top left are widely available on the market. But there used to be so much more style out there. Bring it back.

These simple rubber attachments to your handlebar served a simple purpose. They protected your handlebar and the wall when you leaned your bicycle up against it when parking. I've only ever seen them in Italy, but I'd be interested to hear if people in other countries see them/have seen them.

Maybe this design detail is less relevant now that most bicycles have kickstands but hey... at some point in history someone designed this little thing and had it produced. Practical, simple, elegant.

The safety nannies who whine about cyclists listening to music or checking their smartphones (but who seem less concerned about motorists doing it) will absolutely HATE these. Newspaper holders were popular for many decades in many countries. At bottom left the design is perfect for carrying your daily paper on your bicycle. The design at top left, however, takes it to the next level. I bought this one in Italy. You can carry your paper but you can also fold it to the article you want and read it whilst cycling. That's what it's designed for. I actually saw a gentleman doing this in Ferrara but unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me.

A perfectly normal activity back in the day. At top right is a six day race rider going through the motions at night, reading the paper as he goes. I found that photo in the archives here in Copenhagen. If you're going to check the sports results or read the news while cycling along, keep an eye out for the sign I spotted in the Netherlands, at bottom right.

Once standard all over the place, I've only seen the humble hub brush live on here in Copenhagen - where you can still buy them easily - and sometimes in the Netherlands. It just sits there silently, spinning around your hubs as you ride. Keeping them free of grease and grime.

Ah, the simplicity. The practicality. Perfect.

The only real competition for the beauty of early bicycle posters is the art form known as head badges. My goodness, there are thousands of them out there from the past 125 years and most of them are absolutely lovely. Every bike brand worth their salt would put effort into their logo and transfer that to the head badge.

From the simple "H" at top right on a 1930s Hamlet bike in my back courtyard to the engraved details of head badges like the ones from Husqvarna and Wirma at top left. Be still my design heart.

The collection at bottom left are all from Latvia alone.

We're seeing some design love being put back into head badges these days, fortunately. At bottom right, Danish von Backhaus have upped the ante by sticking one between the frame tubing. At bottom right is an attachable, funky headbadge from a Danish designer. I recall writing about ANT Bikes in the States a few years ago and their head badge still sticks out in my mind.

Bells are still around and not going anywhere. Again, again, again, I lament the vintage design details of old bells. Craftsmanship and pride and design process were put into them. Now they rock out of China in containers, by and large. With THAT said, there are at least many designs on the market nowadays. Something to fit every taste and inclination. But not that many made from solid metal with a commanding dring dring, ding dong or ding anymore.

Give me a Peerless, at bottom, for christmas any year.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Friday throwback: cycling through snow, retro Norwegian style

ibikelondon - 21 March, 2014 - 08:30



It's time for another Friday Throwback - our ongoing series of posts looking at images of cyclists from The Commons on Flickr.  This week we're looking at the work of adventurous photographer Anders Beer Wilse, from Norway.  As seen in the photograph above, Wilse used his bicycle to traverse the Norwegian landscape, loaded up with 10kg plate cameras and other equipment, dressed in boots and a tweed suit.  It was in this way that Wilse traveled to his photographic assignments, even taking his bicycle as far north as Svalbard, inside the arctic circle.

Wilse was a handsome, daring, somewhat buccaneer turn of the century type; he decided to become a sailor, emigrated to the United States, and picked himself up a wife there before returning with her to Norway.  He photographed every aspect of Norse life and society (including Ibsen and Greig on their deathbeds) and his archives now reside with the National Library of Norway.

In the hand-coloured images below, the women of the mountainous region of Setesdal are seen cycling to church in their Sunday best, whilst in the photo below a cyclist gets stuck behind a car on an alpine pass that has been cleared of snow.





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Categories: Views

New cycling stories

Thinking about Cycling - 20 March, 2014 - 13:11

The world is missing our wisdom.

In your work for cycling, do you sometimes attend meetings? If so, have you ever sat through a meeting with the growing, gnawing feeling you’re talking at cross purposes with the other people present? Have you ever left a meeting utterly dejected, feeling you might as well give up because ‘people just don’t get it’?

Meetings about cycling inevitably involve different agendas and compromise. But is our struggle to make cycling mainstream so difficult because we – it’s strongest advocates – still haven’t learned how to speak about it? Are we yet to find our voice? If so, other people, understandably, would struggle to hear it. So perhaps ‘people don’t get it’ because we’ve yet to tell them?

Partly, we’ve inherited a problem. Cycling advocacy for the past half-century has been on the back foot, so busy complaining, criticising and protesting it never paused to build – let alone proselytize – progressive visions of an alternative society with the bicycle at its heart. Yet isn’t that what we must do if we’re to convince others that cycling matters?

Why don’t we have compelling visions with which to convince ourselves and others of cycling’s value? Partly, as I’ve said, because our tendency has been reactive, not pro-active. But partly also, cycling advocacy has become pragmatic, maybe too pragmatic. We have learned how to fit cycling into other agendas rather than develop agendas of our own. We try particularly to sell cycling in ways most likely to resonate with institutional agendas – ‘cycling cuts congestion, pollution and carbon emissions’; ‘cycling increases health and fitness, and reduces obesity’. We try to make cycling make sense to others, but at what cost?

We advocate for cycling despite never having stopped to build compelling cycling visions. Then when we argue for cycling we get this unsettling feeling that ‘other people don’t get it’. That’s because their ambitions for cycling don’t match the visions we have, but which we have repressed and can’t express.

We have jumbles of ideas, impulses and convictions around cycling’s worth. But we lack the confidence to develop these jumbles into coherent visions, because they’re about bicycles, and bicycles don’t count. Personal and collective development of mass cycling visions is immature because we have internalised the cycling shame of the last half-century. This shame got forked on bicycles as the car became everyman’s vehicle (and gradually every woman’s too). So now we are embarrassed to say we believe in bikes, believe in society re-organised away from cars and towards bikes. As many people today are embarrassed to think of themselves as people who might cycle, we are embarrassed to advocate boldly for their cycling.

We work towards visions we can’t articulate, and we are shy in sharing our ambitions for cycling. Our private thoughts don’t find public expression; they don’t cohere into comprehensible speech. We are silenced. And so the world misses our wisdom. How powerful is the dominant ideology that it stops us articulating even to ourselves, let alone asking for, what it is we really want! This our silence contributes to cycling’s continued repression.

So? So we need to develop our visions and move beyond the shame of speaking them. Find our voice. Of course we must compromise – to make cycling big requires working with others, and that inevitably entails compromise. But unless they know what we really stand for, those others can’t know by how much we’re compromising.

We believe bikes should replace cars. We think half of all journeys could easily be made by bike. We see a bicycle-based society as better than a car-based one. We look forward to the time when bicycles proliferate as cars disappear and die. People won’t know these things unless we tell them, so we should tell them. We need to make our stories, to help make sense of the changes we’re calling for.

Just one example – the conversion of two lanes of a dual-carriageway’s four into top-notch space for cycling. Howls of protest, obviously. But the prospects of such change have to be higher the more people see them as forming part of an ongoing societal project to re-design our cities away from cars towards bicycles. The more people can see and understand the bigger picture, the more supportive they will be. That’s why we need vision, narrative and discourse elucidating change, helping people make sense of, rather than react against, it.

Airing these things will facilitate not sabotage progress. It’ll transform cycling from ‘a special interest’ into a public good. It’ll break us free from being seen as ‘a self-interested culture of cranks and hobbyists’. And others will finally see what it is we’re going on about – ‘they’ll get it’. And at the very least, if still too little changes, politicians and policy-makers will be able to see that – from our perspectives –not nearly enough is being done, and that’s why we’re angry and keep demanding and expecting more.

Others lack visions for cycling because we’ve not even tried to sell them ours. Until we do, cycling will keep getting incorporated – where it gets incorporated at all – in trivial, tokenistic ways – in ways that make sense to those without visions of mass cycling. They’ll keep giving cycling at most a little because they have learnt and assume that a little is enough. And we as advocates will continue to feel that cycling’s being sold seriously short.

If you want a society based on cycling, start talking about a society based on cycling. Like everything else, the way to develop, refine and sell our cycling visions is to practise – and as we get better at telling the new cycling stories, others are more likely to hear, believe and start telling them too.


Categories: Views

Almere, nominee for best cycling city

BicycleDutch - 19 March, 2014 - 23:01
Almere is one of the five nominees to become best Cycling City of the Netherlands in 2014. Chosen from a long-list of 19 municipalities, these five municipalities compete to take … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Almere, nominee for best cycling city

BicycleDutch - 19 March, 2014 - 23:01
Almere is one of the five nominees to become best Cycling City of the Netherlands in 2014. Chosen from a long-list of 19 municipalities, these five municipalities compete to take … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

To Live and Play in L.A.

Copenhagenize - 19 March, 2014 - 10:16
Somebody call the L.A.P.D.!  (photo by ubrayj02)Whenever I come across another indication of how addicted to the automobile that the city I find myself in (Los Angeles) is due to actual written law or policy, I shake my head. 
Once again I have to acknowledge with disgust just how socially (and traffic-) engineered this place has been so as to prioritize the private automobile in as many aspects of culture and life as possible.  
And it has happened again.  
The blog Flying Pigeon by bicycle merchant and bike-culture advocate (neither an easy task in these parts) Josef Bray-Ali points out that playing in the street is strictly prohibited in the City of Los Angeles.
He writes:
I recently attended a talk by Dr. Richard Jackson, one of America’s leading experts in how the ‘built environment’, including architecture and urban planning, affect health. In his presentation, Dr. Jackson showed slides of the growing obesity rates in Los Angeles County and described what has happened to our kids health in the past 20 years as “child abuse”. Along with the problems a kid faces these days when she wants to walk or bike around the neighborhood, that same kid faces a wall of cultural and (in Los Angeles) legal limits that prevent the most mundane activities of childhood.Case in point is the law above, Los Angeles Municipal Code 56.16, which makes playing catch on the sidewalk or street an unlawful act. We can have 100 CicLAvias a year but if kicking a soccer ball to your buddy on the sidewalk in front of your apartment building, or throwing a football in the street, is a crime you can expect nothing fundamental to change.The law is clearly aimed at keeping the entire roadway of each and every street, regardless of hierarchy, open so that it may be used for moving or storing cars, plus whatever other vehicles may wish to pass; as long as the motor vehicle ultimately has priority. We call it Ignoring the Bull in Society's China Shop.

It states that in the City of Los Angeles: 
“No person shall play ball or any game of sport with a ball or football or throw, cast, shoot or discharge any stone, pellet, bullet, arrow or any other missile, in, over, across, along or upon any street or sidewalk or in any public park, except on those portions of said park set apart for such purposes.”Classic Motordom.


Before the car this scene was common in America
Photo from Library of the United States CongressWith the bonus that even most parks are off-limits to, for example, a pick-up game of what the locals call "Soccer"


Just as Mikael wrote about here when discussing Peter Norton's book "Fighting Traffic - The Dawn of the Motor Age in the American City".  

Except Josef and Richard Jackson are right.  This is child abuse. And in a city already suppressing the health of her children through air pollution.

Fortunately, the local media has caught wind of the story.  To be continued?Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Yellow peril – our over-painted streets

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 18 March, 2014 - 11:00

By way of a follow-up to last week’s post about Zebra crossings, and how we manage to mess them up, I thought I’d address a similar common design feature of our streets that is hopelessly confusing – double (and single) yellow lines. And single and double red lines.  And double and single yellow kerb markings.

Yes, when it comes to road markings, we’ve managed to create a welter of different ways of permitting waiting, loading and stopping (each subtly different), at different times.

The humble single yellow line prohibits waiting, at certain times of the day.

The double yellow prohibits waiting at all times, when that period is at least four consecutive months.

These double yellow markings no longer need to accompanied by the yellow sign if there is no period of restriction. So feel free to modify the signs, when you see them.

Drivers are permitted to stop to pick up, or set down, passengers on these lines, or to load and unload (where it is not prohibited) – but they are not allowed to ‘wait’.

Simple enough so far, but then it gets more complicated. Holders of disabled blue badges can park (‘wait’) for up to three hours on double yellows, providing they are not causing an obstruction.

Then there are specific loading restrictions that rule out loading on single and double yellow lines. These are marked on the kerb. The single yellow line prohibits loading (either on a single or double yellow line) at the times on accompanying sign.

The double yellow kerb marking prohibits loading on a double yellow at any time.

Street art

Already we have a large number of permutations, but if you weren’t confused already, we then have no stopping (as opposed to no waiting) markings, in the form of single red lines, which are time-dependent -

And double red lines, prohibiting stopping at any time.

 Phew! And all this without even touching on the fact that cycle lanes will require forms these additional markings within them, to prevent them being obstructed.

But do things really have to be this complicated? (Things might even get more complicated if Eric Pickles has his way and allows anyone to park on double yellow lines for 15 minutes.)

Somehow European countries manage to get away without marking their streets with all this clutter, even in the centres of their cities. Paris -

Strasbourg -

Berlin -

Köln -

And of course any Dutch city.

So there must be a simpler way!

The principle in these European cities seems be that, rather than using an excess of signs and paint markings to show what you can’t do, it is easier just to mark out only the places where you can park, and leave the rest of the street unmarked.

Can we do this already in the UK?

Perhaps a traffic engineer could supply a definitive answer, but there does seem to be a precedent. ‘Shared space’ streets (to use the catch-all term) are increasingly common, and usually free of unsightly double yellows.

These streets come with signs, on entry, prohibiting waiting, except in marked bays.

Here’s a similar sign, on entry to New Road in Brighton, which again doesn’t have any painted markings. You can’t park anywhere here, except in the marked bays.

And of course Exhibition Road – which I have criticised for other reasons – also sets a useful precedent, in this regard. No need for double yellows, when you have this sign on entry. No waiting – except in signed bays.

Could this principle be extended to our town or city centres as a whole? That is – simply using ‘restricted zone’ signs on all entry routes, prohibiting any waiting, except in marked bays? That would allow us to remove all the unsightly yellow markings and clutter from our streets. It would also simplify the way we mark up roads for cycling.

I don’t see why not, given that this method is already being employed. Just like the humble zebra crossing, we seem to have over-legislated our way into an awful way of doing things – could we find a sensible way out?


Categories: Views

Yellow peril – our over-painted streets

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 18 March, 2014 - 11:00

By way of a follow-up to last week’s post about Zebra crossings, and how we manage to mess them up, I thought I’d address a similar common design feature of our streets that is hopelessly confusing – double (and single) yellow lines. And single and double red lines.  And double and single yellow kerb markings.

Yes, when it comes to road markings, we’ve managed to create a welter of different ways of permitting waiting, loading and stopping (each subtly different), at different times.

The humble single yellow line prohibits waiting, at certain times of the day.

The double yellow prohibits waiting at all times, when that period is at least four consecutive months.

These double yellow markings no longer need to accompanied by the yellow sign if there is no period of restriction. So feel free to modify the signs, when you see them.

Drivers are permitted to stop to pick up, or set down, passengers on these lines, or to load and unload (where it is not prohibited) – but they are not allowed to ‘wait’.

Simple enough so far, but then it gets more complicated. Holders of disabled blue badges can park (‘wait’) for up to three hours on double yellows, providing they are not causing an obstruction.

Then there are specific loading restrictions that rule out loading on single and double yellow lines. These are marked on the kerb. The single yellow line prohibits loading (either on a single or double yellow line) at the times on accompanying sign.

The double yellow kerb marking prohibits loading on a double yellow at any time.

Street art

Already we have a large number of permutations, but if you weren’t confused already, we then have no stopping (as opposed to no waiting) markings, in the form of single red lines, which are time-dependent -

And double red lines, prohibiting stopping at any time.

 Phew! And all this without even touching on the fact that cycle lanes will require forms these additional markings within them, to prevent them being obstructed.

But do things really have to be this complicated? (Things might even get more complicated if Eric Pickles has his way and allows anyone to park on double yellow lines for 15 minutes.)

Somehow European countries manage to get away without marking their streets with all this clutter, even in the centres of their cities. Paris -

Strasbourg -

Berlin -

Köln -

And of course any Dutch city.

So there must be a simpler way!

The principle in these European cities seems be that, rather than using an excess of signs and paint markings to show what you can’t do, it is easier just to mark out only the places where you can park, and leave the rest of the street unmarked.

Can we do this already in the UK?

Perhaps a traffic engineer could supply a definitive answer, but there does seem to be a precedent. ‘Shared space’ streets (to use the catch-all term) are increasingly common, and usually free of unsightly double yellows.

These streets come with signs, on entry, prohibiting waiting, except in marked bays.

Here’s a similar sign, on entry to New Road in Brighton, which again doesn’t have any painted markings. You can’t park anywhere here, except in the marked bays.

And of course Exhibition Road – which I have criticised for other reasons – also sets a useful precedent, in this regard. No need for double yellows, when you have this sign on entry. No waiting – except in signed bays.

Could this principle be extended to our town or city centres as a whole? That is – simply using ‘restricted zone’ signs on all entry routes, prohibiting any waiting, except in marked bays? That would allow us to remove all the unsightly yellow markings and clutter from our streets. It would also simplify the way we mark up roads for cycling.

I don’t see why not, given that this method is already being employed. Just like the humble zebra crossing, we seem to have over-legislated our way into an awful way of doing things – could we find a sensible way out?


Categories: Views

Fantastic racing as athletes open London's brand new velopark - now it's your turn!

ibikelondon - 17 March, 2014 - 08:30

London's newest Olympic velodrome (we've had two before of course, White City in 1908 and Herne Hill in 1948) opened to the public with a bang this weekend, with the return of competitive track cycling for the first time since the 2012 summer games left town.




The Velodrome is surrounded by a closed road cycling circuit within the Queen Elizabeth Olympic park in east London.
Revolution Series 5 concluded in London with German team Rudy Project RT (coolest cycling caps ever) winning the series overall, whilst keirin, sprint and 1km time trial world champion Francois Pervis from France dominated the men's events.  Great Britain's Laura Trott had spectators on their feet time and again racing for Team Wiggle Honda, completing the perfect omnium and winning each of her six events; an incredible return to the arena where she won her Olympic gold medals.  Favourites including Danni King, Ed Clancy and Jason Kenny were popular with the capacity crowd too, with a "best of 3" Kenny vs Pervis sprint final keeping everyone on the edge of their seats.





There's lots more UCI-level competition to come at our brand new track, with the Revolution Series returning in autumn (tickets open for registration now) and the 2016 Track Cycling World Cup also coming to London.  Until then, us mere mortals now have the fastest velodrome in the world to play with for ourselves; and that's just the start of it.

The Velodrome sits in the centre of the larger "Lee Valley VeloPark"; made up of a closed road cycling circuit, a competition level mountain bike trail and the Olympic BMX course, remodelled to make it slightly less back breaking and suitable for all levels.  





It's the first time all four disciplines have been brought together in one place for the public to try, all under the watchful eye of Head Coach Rob Mortlock.  Lee Valley Regional Park Authority estimate up to half a million people will either spectate or participate in events here each year, paying between £4 and £30 for sessions in different disciplines.  Pre-booking is already open online, with the whole park open and operational from March 31st.

Back at the Revolution Series, inside track centre rollers whirred as athletes warmed up for their races.  Of course there are competitive glances across the pens, but smiles and warm handshakes too. 




Laura Trott warms down after winning each of her 6 events in the omnium, whilst world champion Francois Pervis relaxes between races.  Tomas Babek from the Czech national racing team is happy to be racing in the new London velodrome for the first time.
Meanwhile, up in the stands expectant faces look down to the boards, waiting for their heroes to ride.  With booming music, beating high definition lights and and the swoosh, swoosh, swoosh of rider after rider passing by, for a moment it was like the Olympics had never left town.



I won't come close to the times of any of the athletes who we've seen perform this weekend, but I still can't wait to try. See you there!

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Categories: Views

Continual improvement

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 13 March, 2014 - 21:58

We often hear that we are ‘forty years behind’ the Netherlands – for instance, Andrew Gilligan stated last year that

It took 40 years to turn even Amsterdam into Amsterdam, with the kind of cycle facilities it has now

This statistic tends to gloss over just how quickly the Netherlands changed the roads and streets that matter. It certainly didn’t take ’40 years’, and the danger is that such a long timescale provides a justification for inaction.

More importantly, rather than closing that gap, we are falling further behind, as David Hembrow has set out – not just because there has been little or no substantive action in London and elsewhere, but also because the Netherlands is pulling further and further ahead, with constant upgrades and improvements to its network. I came across just one of these examples this week.

I’m planning a bicycle tour of some Dutch cities I haven’t visited before, using the Fietserbond (the Dutch Cycling Union)  planner to work out my routes. This is part of the route it suggests, between Delft and Gouda – the straight blue line on the map.

Examining what it looks like on Streetview, I found that this section… apparently runs across a field.

The wood on the right here is the dark green rectangle in the middle of the map above. The blue line of the route cuts straight where the sheep are. This was slightly concerning – I didn’t want to find myself taking a lengthy detour, or struggling across a field.

I don’t doubt the Fietsersbond planner, so did a bit of looking around. It seems that a huge new bicycle route has been built since the Streetview vehicle passed through. Here’s the junction in 2009 – the bicycle path just ends as it meets the road.

A year later, and construction has started on an underpass. For bikes.

You can just about see the bicycle path extending off across the field in the distance (if you want to take a look for yourself, the location is here).

This doesn’t even appear to be a particularly major road, which could have been crossed at surface level – but an underpass is less dangerous, and involves less delay. Just better, even if it costs a huge amount more. The cycle route now forms a nice straight uninterrupted line between the cities of Delft and Zoetermeer.

Here’s a local news item from October 2011, announcing the opening of this new ‘fast cycle route’, with tunnels under this road (the Noordweg) and a railway line. There’s also a pdf showing the new and improved routes.

I will enjoy riding along it!


Categories: Views

Continual improvement

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 13 March, 2014 - 21:58

We often hear that we are ‘forty years behind’ the Netherlands – for instance, Andrew Gilligan stated last year that

It took 40 years to turn even Amsterdam into Amsterdam, with the kind of cycle facilities it has now

This statistic tends to gloss over just how quickly the Netherlands changed the roads and streets that matter. It certainly didn’t take ’40 years’, and the danger is that such a long timescale provides a justification for inaction.

More importantly, rather than closing that gap, we are falling further behind, as David Hembrow has set out – not just because there has been little or no substantive action in London and elsewhere, but also because the Netherlands is pulling further and further ahead, with constant upgrades and improvements to its network. I came across just one of these examples this week.

I’m planning a bicycle tour of some Dutch cities I haven’t visited before, using the Fietserbond (the Dutch Cycling Union)  planner to work out my routes. This is part of the route it suggests, between Delft and Gouda – the straight blue line on the map.

Examining what it looks like on Streetview, I found that this section… apparently runs across a field.

The wood on the right here is the dark green rectangle in the middle of the map above. The blue line of the route cuts straight where the sheep are. This was slightly concerning – I didn’t want to find myself taking a lengthy detour, or struggling across a field.

I don’t doubt the Fietsersbond planner, so did a bit of looking around. It seems that a huge new bicycle route has been built since the Streetview vehicle passed through. Here’s the junction in 2009 – the bicycle path just ends as it meets the road.

A year later, and construction has started on an underpass. For bikes.

You can just about see the bicycle path extending off across the field in the distance (if you want to take a look for yourself, the location is here).

This doesn’t even appear to be a particularly major road, which could have been crossed at surface level – but an underpass is less dangerous, and involves less delay. Just better, even if it costs a huge amount more. The cycle route now forms a nice straight uninterrupted line between the cities of Delft and Zoetermeer.

I will enjoy riding along it!


Categories: Views

100 years of recreational cycle path building

BicycleDutch - 12 March, 2014 - 23:01
On the 4th of March it was exactly 100 years ago that the society for the construction of cycle paths in the Gooi and Eemland region was founded. It is … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

100 years of recreational cycle path building

BicycleDutch - 12 March, 2014 - 23:01
On the 4th of March it was exactly 100 years ago that the society for the construction of cycle paths in the Gooi and Eemland region was founded. It is … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

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