Monday, 29 March 2010

Journey to the West End

With the prospect of a national rail strike next week and the need to just get pedalling in the fresh air I plotted a route from Greenwich into Central London on Saturday. I used the Trek and it took nearly three hours. I used the Transport for London Journey Planner for Cyclists to plan the route on line and used the free TFL map I have, that are available in bike shops in London. I took so long because it was the Trek and I kept stopping to look around. I also lost the bike route briefly around the Blackwall tunnel.

The route was not too bad but this was a Saturday lunch time and therefore very little traffic. It was interesting to see the maintenance of cycle paths. Four stars to the London Borough of Tower Hamlets which had the best maintained cycle path along Cable Street which is a one way road. This cycle path keeps cyclist off the main busy and fast road ‘The High Way’ and the bumper to bumper traffic and parked car route, ‘Commercial Street’. The cycle path on Cable Street which runs in between and adjacent to both roads is a raised two way path clearly painted and paved in green. The height of the path stops other traffic from wandering into the cycle lane.

Worse cycle path,is any section in Silver Town in the London Borough of Newham. The council seems to think paths running outside near deserted industrial sites are a good idea. They are poorly lit at night and the roads are mainly gravel and full of pot holes. Minus one star to Newham.

It rained as I got to Algate and I took shelter until it stopped. I did have my big yellow cape but just didn’t fancy cycling in heavy rain as the path was now paved brick work. I used to think cobbled roads were quaint until I started cycling. They are lethal in the rain and I now just get off if I am not feeling confident. I can do large roundabouts but I am scaredy cat if I have to cycle over bricks.

I plan to do the same route with the Brompton over the Easter. I should be faster.

Nearly forgot. I wore my Clark heeled boots all the way. Very comfortable and dry. I didn’t get hot and sticky because I didn’t have any hills and I wasn’t doing any speed.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Cycling is good medicine

Life has been ‘topsy turvy’ for the past couple weeks but I have still been on the Brompton and the Trek. In fact cycling has been one of the nicest things to do and I feel better after a trip on the bike.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Why British Girls Don't Cycle - Another view

I got this email just over a week ago and because I was caught up in a family bereavement I lost track of my emails and didn't post this sooner.  Check out the fashion cycle ride this weekend!

Fortunately for me, I live near Cambridge and for more than 15 years I have cycled at least 10 miles a day but do not consider cycling to be my sport - it's just my way of getting around in a way that I find convenient, enjoyable and environmentally-friendly (and very, very economical).  I refuse to wear any of the silly and dehumanizing 'cycling' clothes or a helmet.  I just wear my normal clothes, according to the weather (so bright clothes on dull days).  And yes, I do take great care with my appearance.  However, people who do the same in other cities in UK frequently  describe the contempt shown to anyone who just wants to do the same.  Cambridge is commonly cited as 'the cycling capital of the UK'  and our cycling facilities are the envy of other cities.  More people commute on their daily journeys here than anywhere else in the UK - Bravo!  Yet that's still only 25% of the population.  Room for improvement - wouldn't you say?

Actually, the reason why British Girls don’t cycle is that the mainly male-planned infrastructure of  towns and cities deters them as the 'Bike & the Beauty' documentary illustrates perferctly.  Sustrans discovered this with a survey they carried out last autumn.  79% of women in the UK never cycle.  67% of that number said they would cycle  if safer and separate cycle paths existed.  Sustrans then motioned a petition calling for safer cycling paths which was signed by 9000 women and was presented to the Minister for Transport in January of this year (also the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly).  The startling statistics that Sustrans uncovered beg the question - 'given the role that the bicycle played in the emancipation of women, how did Sustrans' petition even come to be necessary in the first decade of the 21st century?' 

The film made by Darlington Cycling Campaign 'Beauty & the Bike - Why British Girls Don’t Cycle’ shows how cycling actually gives girls self-reliance, self-confidence, independence and liberty so it really doesn't matter if  'looking good' is the entrance to that happy state.  We wouldn’t say  ‘Eating greens is good for you therefore they don’t need to taste nice’.  In case further persuasion is needed, consider this:- health experts have found that it is essential for people to choose forms of exercise they enjoy in order to maintain their exercise.  So let’s be realistic about the psychology that lies behind changing human behaviour. It is trite and uninsightful to dismiss the role that looking stylish plays in encouraging non-sporty girls (and women) to cycle.  It is encouraging them to cycle in their daily lives where nothing else is so don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Looking good gets them cycling.  Mission accomplished. 

Another important aspect is that many of today's girls are likely to become the drivers and mothers of tomorrow.  They will be better, more cycle-aware drivers if they are cyclists themselves.  If they become cyclists first, they will be likely to choose their bikes over their cars where possible and they will be more likely to teach their children to choose cycling over driving.  Look at Denmark and Holland.  I myself am a car owner and a driver but I have cut my car use to less than 20% of my journeys.  Imagine the wonderful consequences of large numbers of women doing that in the UK.  Imagine the benefits to the NHS, to the environment and to employment creation (bike servicing, bike-related designs & accessories etc) as well as ensuring our girls are self-reliant , independent, confident, healthy and mobile. 

No, looking good is not ALL girls care about but for many young girls it is an important and sensitive phase in their quest for self-discovery and self-knowledge.  This is common to the daughters of top academics and professionals as much as it is to lower socio-economic groups and it would be foolish to dismiss it so lightly, especially in a world where so much marketing and branding targets them mercilessly at their most vulnerable age.  The smartest and most responsible thing to do is to offer them the guidance and opportunities which allow them to turn it to their advantage instead of being the victims of  the multi-billion pound industry.  A limited number of women and girls will take up cycling as a sport but, potentially,  the number who hopefully take up cycling as a normal method of transport in their daily lives will be infinitely greater.  In creating such a number, we will be creating an even bigger demand for better, cycling-friendly infrastructures in our towns and cities.

You might like to check out www.camcycle.org/events/rideforjoy/  (copy & paste this link into your browser).  Join the Fashion Cycle Ride on Sat 20th March 2010  - a discreet call to arms for those who currently do cycle in a non-sporty way in their daily lives.  The ride is intended to illustrate that it's perfectly possible to cycle in your normal clothes as you get from A to B aka Copenhagen Cycling Chic and in doing so encourage more women and girls to do the same. 

Looking forward to seeing you there. (You can hire decent bikes at Cambridge Station - http://www.stationcycles.co.uk/Services/Hire.html)

Sally Guyer
Cambridge Cycling Campaign

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Green Brompton Black Brompton

I came across another pair of Bromptons today, this time locked up in Battersea Park outside the Affordable Art Fair. Although the organisers had made space for parking they had not put up any proper bike storage so cyclists had to use the temporary railings that were around. I took my Trek as I wasn’t sure how safe the bike parking would be and I knew that I couldn’t take the bike through the Art Fair.

These Bromptons are recent models, as the colours are matt and they have narrow saddles.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Regret & gratitude

I had two people comment on my Brompton while I was out today. The first was by a man who was travelling with his wife at London Bridge Station. I thought he was going to ask for directions, something that regularly happens to me when I have the bike. I guess people assume that cyclists know their way around. (I don’t as that is what Google Maps are for.) He said that one of his biggest regret was selling his Brompton bike. I expressed sympathy for his loss.

The second comment came from a staff member at Waterstones Books in Piccadilly. I was returning a book brought in haste. Th staffer looked over my shoulder to the bike on the floor and said, ‘my friend said that getting his Brompton was one of the best things he did’. I said (with a smile) that I have had mine for two years.

I still can’t believe I have been cycling for two years. I am almost a veteran and no longer a wimp. I have no regrets and I am very grateful that I cycle.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Lost shoe

 

I saw this lost shoe in the middle of the road as I was cycling to the supermarket yesterday. Had I been in my car I would have missed it entirely, or even run over it. It looks so cute and was by Clarks. I took pictures and put it on the wall by the road and it was gone when I made my return journey.

I am sure my love of Mary Janes is the need to make up for the lack of shoe choice I had when I was little.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Locking my Brompton



While I love the fact I can take my Brompton everywhere at times it is just not convenient and so I also carry a lock. The downside is the stronger the lock the heavier it is. But only a problem if you use a messenger bag rather than a Brompton bag as you are carrying that extra weight on your back.

I use an Abus Varedo D lock that is 300mm in length. It does come smaller but I got this size to ensure that it will get around the bike wheel and a post. The lock slips into the Timbuk 2 messenger bag and off I go. I choose this lock because it has a security rating and while no lock is unbreakable my insurance company would not be happy if I didn’t attempt to have adequate protection for the Brompton. There are locks with a higher rating but these are too heavy to carry around.

I always lock my bike to a metal post. I avoid those tiny D shaped wheel park posts that are still around some public buildings. They only allow you to lock the wheel to the post. They also don’t support the bike which can be knocked over. I will look for a bike stand and although there has been an increase in Central London there are not enough. In the absence of a bike stand or metal railing I will lock the bike to a tall road sign. I am not overjoyed about this as someone who is very agile and strong could slide the bike up and off the sign.

I have never left the bike locked up outside late at night.