i b i k e l o n d o n

Who is undermining plans to make London's streets safe for cycling, and why? Find out how to get involved...

London's Mayor Boris Johnson recently unveiled his proposals for two new Cycle Superhighways in London; a north / south route via Blackfriars Bridge, and an east / west 'Crossrail for Bikes' along the river Thames via the Embankment.

Plans for the east / west cycle superhighway along the Thames, on Victoria Embankment.

The proposals - though not perfect - are the boldest plans for cycling ever tabled by the Mayor and Transport for London, and will certainly lead to a large increase in the volume of cyclists along these routes, riding in a safe and inviting environment suitable for a wider range of ages and abilities.  Credit where credit is due: Johnson has not always endeared himself with the cycling community, but his plans - delivered by his cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan - are outstanding.

These incredible new bike tracks, substantially segregated from traffic, are the end result of a long and sustained campaign by the cycling community.  In 2012, grass roots protests on Blackfriars Bridge about plans to tear out cycle lanes and increase traffic speeds helped to bolster the ambition and strengthen the voice of the London Cycling Campaign.  Their 2012 Mayoral campaign, "Love London, Go Dutch" saw 40,000 Londoners sign up and over 10,000 cyclists take to the streets urging all the Mayoral candidate to create safe space for cycling on London's busiest roads.  In a huge campaign success, all of the Mayoral candidates signed up, with Boris Johnson represented at the Go Dutch Big Ride by Daniel Moylan - then Deputy Chairman of Transport for London, and still a serving member of the Board.  The proposed new superhighways is that rarest of things; a politician coming right on their election promises.

Conservative politician and TfL board member Dan Moylan pledging to "Go Dutch" on behalf of the Mayor alongside other politicians and young cyclists at the LCC's 2012 Big Ride.

The consultation on the new routes is already open, and as you can imagine they are attracting considerable attention.  With such radical plans for central London, you'd expect some concern from other road users, especially taxi drivers, as par for the course.  But there's something stranger going on here...

The Evening Standard's transport correspondent, Matthew Beard, reported that "business leaders are in revolt" over plans, but failed to name who those business leaders are.  The Standard also spun a line that the new highways would delay car journeys by 16 minutes, despite Tfl's modelling showing this is the worst case scenario for just one type of journey - from Limehouse to Hyde Park - and totally ignored other journeys which would actually be quicker under the proposals.  They also failed to mention the thousands of square metres of new public space the new highway would capture for pedestrians.  As Easy as Riding a Bike blog does a good job of demolishing some of the more outlandish claims made against the proposals.  A bizarre and hole-filled statement claiming the superhighways would damage their business appeared to come from the Canary Wharf Group, whilst another press briefing revealed by Cyclists In The City purposefully distorts the facts to try and discredit the superhighway plans.

Plans to make Parliament Square - what should be the heart of London - accessible to pedestrians for the first time, under cycling plans.

There's something fishy going on here.  This is more than just the mutterings of a few taxi drivers and white van men.  Indeed, journalist Adam Bienkov revealed on Politics.co.uk that those who are briefing against Boris Johnson's cycle superhighways are actually from inside Transport for London itself.  He writes: "Senior figures at Transport for London (TfL) believe Boris Johnson is trying to rush through his plans for segregated cycle lanes in London too quickly, Politics.co.uk can reveal."  That is to say, employees of London's transport body, whose job it is to enact Mayoral transport policy, policy which is enabled by the democratic process of Londoners electing their own Mayor, are directly working against his wishes, and by default the wishes of Londoners.  How's that for democracy in action?  

If we needed any re-assurance that this dissent is coming directly from within Transport for London itself, TfL board member Michael Liebreich tellingly tweeted on September 26th "Make sure the voice of non-limo-driving Londoners is heard on cycle super-highways!"  Clearly, not everyone on Boris' board agree with Boris himself, and are out to undermine our Mayor and his cycling vision

In PR they say a good story will walk around the world before the truth has had a chance to get its shoes on, and those who are briefing against the superhighways are hoping hand-picking figures and using scare tactics will have the proposals thrown out, the Mayor's cycling commissioner discredited and the kaibosh put on future cycling plans.  In other words, your help is needed now more than ever.
One day soon, with your help, children will be able to ride through central London more than just once a year on a SkyRide...

The London cycling community has been incredible in their vociferous dedication to calling for better cycling facilities in the past.  You've signed petitions, attended protest rides, badgered newspapers and pestered politicians.  And you are winning, as these latest plans attest.  But we need your help again.  It is time, once again, to get involved to help create the city you'd like to ride in in the future and to drown out the spinning voices of dissent who don't want to see safe space for cycling on our roads:
  • Sign the London Cycling Campaign petition saying you back the superhighway proposals.
  • Respond directly to the consultations positively - it only take 2 minutes of your time - to drown out those who respond negatively.  Here for the north / south route and here for the east / west route.
  • Business voices count in London. Do you run a company, or work for one?  Make sure they pledge their support with Cycling Works London and join firms like The Crown Estate, Barts NHS Trust and Knight Frank in showing their support. Follow @CyclingWorksLDN on Twitter and add to their voice.
  • Stay tuned!  The consultation period has already been extended due to negative responses, so there will be lots more action to come.  Keep up to date and make sure you're involved!

PS. Sorry for the long delay since my last post.  I go on holiday for a few weeks and come back and all of London is up in arms about cycling. Honestly, I can't turn my back on you lot for more than a minute!

Going to the Cycle Show and the Bike Biz awards? We've got the low down on what to do in Birmingham...

The national Cycle Show takes place in Birmingham next month, and promises to be bigger than ever.  Whether you ride a road bike or prefer a stately upright town bike, there's something for everyone, whatever your cycling fancy.  Getting to Birmingham, and making sure you see all the best bits, can be a bit of a logistical nightmare so our ibikelondon guide to the Bike Show is here to help you on your way....

What is it?

It's Britain's national Bike Show, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham from the 25th to the 28th September 2014.  The 25th is press and trade day, with the rest of the dates open to the general public.  It's a huge exhibition that shows off the latest offers from bike brands, and the newest bikes, as well as more cycling apparel and accessory providers you can shake a muddy wheel at.

How do I get to Birmingham?  Is that in Zone 5?!

Sadly, Birmingham is well out of the reach of your Oyster card and you'll be better off if you buy your train ticket in advance.  Look for tickets to Birmingham International Station, which serves the NEC.  If you're interested in taking your bike there's plenty of secure bicycle parking available for the week of the exhibition.  Andreas at London Cyclist blog has these top tips on cycling from London to Birmingham if you're really keen!

Where do I stay?

If you do ride you're going to need somewhere to stay overnight, and even if you go by train it is an approximately four hour round trip so you might want to consider making a night of it in Birmingham.  The NEC is a little out of town so you'll want to stay somewhere nearby and choose carefully.  The Crowne Plaza Birmingham NEC is just a few moments away and is also playing host to the BikeBiz Awards this year, so looks like the place to stay if you want to be in the thick of the cycling action.
 Sam Pilgrim in action - see him and friends in action at the NEC.

What should I expect to see?

There's a test track to take the latest new bikes on offer for a test ride, a specially built indoor Mountain Biking range, and even a space where you can try out the latest city bikes and e-bikes.  A big screen will be showing the best of the Tour of Britain and the World Championships.  Dirt jumping supremo Sam Pilgrim has set up the biggest competition in the UK since 2007, and you can expect the best dirt jump riders from around the world to be competing over the 5 days of the exhibition, clearing some serious air on the range of ramps constructed just for the competition.  There's even a chance to meet 6 x Olympic and 11 x World Track Champion Sir Chris Hoy on the Friday of the expo.  In short, it's an end of summer cycling extravaganza!

Need some extra information?  The  lowdown is on the Bike Show website, including appearance schedules and exhibitor lists.  Tickets are £13 for adults, £11 for concessions and children up 14 accompanied by an adult are only £1.


Friday Throwback: how would you get around your city with no gasoline?

It's Friday, which can only mean one thing: time for our next Friday Throwback - the ongoing series exploring the best of the images from internet archives celebrating the bicycle.

This photo was taken in Oregon, USA, in 1974 when the energy crisis meant that petrol stations were only allocated so much fuel to sell each day. This station has shut up for the day having sold its reserve, and in the background a local is finding an alternative way of getting around.

The fuel crisis led to a renaissance for the bicycle, as we explored previously in this post about children "forced" to cycle to school.  There had been hopes the renaissance would be long-lived, but when the oil started flowing again and the streets filled with cars the bicycle boom was quickly over.

Today's image comes from the US National Archives' contribution to The Commons on Flickr.

Whatever your cycling plans this weekend, be sure never to miss another post from ibikelondon again! You can join the conversation on Twitter or follow our Facebook page.  Happy cycling!


This is what 100 years of building bicycle tracks gets you... London has a long way to go.

When even sperm samples are being delivered by bicycle - on a specially adapted "sperm bike" no less - you know you've got a successful cycling city on your hands.  The Danes have been building bicycle tracks in their capital, Copenhagen, since 1912 - and now more than 100 years later they can truly call themselves a "bicycle friendly city".  

This video, the first in a series on bicycle friendly cities produced by Skoda, looks at what it is like to ride a bicycle in Copenhagen:

In the video Mikael Colville-Andersen of Copenhagenize fame explains that bicycles are like vacuum cleaners in Denmark.  Everybody has one, nobody thinks that is unusual, and certainly nobody gets dressed up in funny clothes to do the Hoovering...

Before I visited the city for myself I thought that perhaps the people who chronicle the riders in Copenhagen were choosing their pictures subjectively, and casting the riders in a light they wanted to portray.  But I was wrong; the reality is just like the pictures.  

There are bikes of every shape and size, riders of every shape and size and people who are both very young and very old get around on two wheels.  Why?  It is the most simple and efficient way to get around, and it is subjectively safe enough for a majority of people to ride.

The really wide lane these people are cycling in is a bicycle lane.  There's another - equally wide - lane going in the opposite direction on the other side of the bridge.  In the rush hour it suffers from bicycle "traffic jams".

This concept of subjective safety - how it actually feels to ride a bike - is the basic foundation of creating a successful cycling city that Mikael talks about as being something that you can "cut and paste" in to cities all around the world.  And he's right.  The infrastructure might be slightly different from one country to the next, or certain cities might have their own little innovative quirks, but whether Berlin or Budapest, Lisbon or London, the activity of riding a bicycle for everyday transport has to feel sufficiently safe and inviting for enough people to actually do it in order for mass cycling to occur. 

I love riding in London, but watching this video and reflecting on these images, sometimes I feel we have a long way to go...

PS I thought it was odd that Skoda would choose to make a video about bicycle friendly cities, but they are at pains to point out on their Youtube channel that they were making bicycles long before the automobile came along and they still do today.


Friday Throwback: the 1954 Tour of Britain looks HARD!

It's nearly the weekend and time for our Friday Throwback, our occasional series looking at the most interesting images of cycling from the archives of the internet.

This week's image is not a photograph, but the cover from the 1954 Tour of Britain race programme, when the Tour consisted of a 13 stage continuous relay around the country.  Starting out in Great Yarmouth, riders worked their way north via Manchester and Harrogate to Glasgow, before making their way down the west coast and across Wales via Prestatyn, Llandudno, Weston-super-Mare and Torquay, then pushing on for the last stage from Bournemouth to London, finishing at Alexandra Palace.  Here's a vintage map of the course.  Riding 1461 miles over 13 days on a steel bike, no wonder the cover model with his square jaw and Biggles goggles looks hard as nails.

The Tour of Britain has a strange origin. It came about following an argument between rival cycling organisations during the Second World War about the validity of racing on Britain's roads, with the National Cyclists Union (a precursor of today's British Cycling) worried that racing would lead to all cyclists being banned from the roads.

Of course, none of the teams competing in the 2014 modern Tour of Britain will be worried about being banned, at least not from the roads.  The teams who will compete were announced this week; this year's race has been elevated to 2.HC level by the UCI and forms part of the European Pro Tour.  Sir Bradley Wiggins will defend Team Sky's title against Belkin Pro Cycling, Tinkoff Saxo, and Giant Shimano among others.   After a disastrous summer, other pro teams can smell blood and will be keen to spoil Team Sky's party on their home turf.  Belkin Pro Cycling's Lars Boom won the Tour in 2011, and also had a famous victory on the cobble stage of the Tour de France this year.  If the weather stays wet and stormy, perhaps he will ride in Britain and succeed again?

This year's Tour of Britain kicks off on the 7th September in Liverpool, and - like the 1954 race - concludes in London 8 stages later with a high velocity circuit race along the Embankment and the Mall on Sunday 14th September.

Never miss another post from ibikelondon blog again; join in the conversation on our Twitter feed or catch up with us on our Facebook page. Enjoy the weekend!
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