Thursday, July 14, 2011

We Get What We Pay For

When it comes to cycling as a lifestyle component, Britain leads the way. We lead the way in the most creative use of band-aids to patch a woefully absent establishment attitude towards cycling infrastructure the developed world has ever seen.

Top marks for ingenious public announcements and public policy recommendations, Simon Cowell would bequeath a Hollywood smile and a thumbs up for Britain's performance in talking the talk.

Even when it comes to spending money, there is often a lot of noise made locally that “so and so council spent x amount on cycling” - which makes a great headline for the local paper. But when your rubber hits the tarmac a couple of years later, all that's noticeable is a handful of signs and some faded paint on the ground. - Most commonly an unhelpful “END” communicating in your cycle lane where the money ran out.

In Scotland for example, cycling campaign Spokes acknowledges the poultry scraps that are thrown towards developing the healthy biking lifestyle; around 1% of the transport budget. Pathetic.


OK so there is the National Cycle Network which links cities around the UK and this received a £42.5 million investment, but from whom? The government? No! They must have been too busy tending their moats and flipping their houses. Indeed the funding came from a National Lottery grant – a charity hand out.

Whilst the National Cycle Network is good for touring and holidays, the population centres of the UK are in urban areas. This is where most journeys are made, and where the least infrastructure is dedicated to traffic-free cycling.

“It's kind of cramped in the city” the Town Planners whinge over the dusty cube-farm partitions. “We can't do anything here” echo the mousey cries of obedience.


Have you BEEN to Europe?

If our representatives can plough billions in to new roads and motorway widening, amongst other major civil engineering projects, then can you IMAGINE the improvements that kind of money would see applied to urban infrastructure benefiting cyclists, pedestrians, home owners and local businesses.

There is a philosophy with road building which acknowledges that increasing infrastructure carrying capacity does not ease congestion, but actually encourages more people to exploit the available infrastructure.

Since the “build it and they will come” phenomenon is a time-proven reality in transport, why not employ this facet of social behaviour to exalt the growth of cycling?


The biggest issue which has retarded the progress of cycling as a desirable lifestyle choice in Broken Britain, is the absence of long term strategic planning which fails to put safe cycleways as a priority of transportation development.

There is a logical explanation for this too; the lobby groups for other modes of transport simply have more money to bribe, I mean donate, to politicians. Modes like road and rail also pull in more tax (extortion through the threat of violence) for the state through the jobs, trade, raw material consumption, industrial logistics, higher purchase costs and higher running costs, all of which generate economic capital for the politicians to control next year.

This is why the simple, honest, healthy mode of bike transportation loses out in funding and investment. But it tells us something profound:

The state doesn't give a toss about you.

They don't want you to be healthy. They don't want you to feel the invigorating cold air exhaled from your active lungs on a crisp autumn morning. They don't want you to have an economical bicycle that runs VAT-free for thousands of miles, requiring elemental maintenance that costs next to nothing.

They want you sat in a traffic jam, sucking in the other bloke's carcinogenic exhaust pipe, chugging down coffee and gobbling doughnuts whilst listening to the mainstream propaganda news broadcast every 15 minutes on the car radio. Sod that.

Hang on! What about those tax-funded adverts about living well, eating less salt and doing 30 minutes of exercise per day? Surely the government DOES care about you? In words, yes, they make a lot of nice sounding noises, and no doubt some Jewish PR company makes a tidy profit off such heath preaching ideals. But these are just words. Where are the actions? Money talks. Meaningful government investment in cycling infrastructure is silent.


So what is the solution? Let's assume the economic pressures continue as they are and nothing much improves for cycling. The government doesn't care about you. They take your taxes and spend it on fuelling morbid bombers for repeated genocidal depleted uranium runs to Iraq / Afghanistan / Libya and back.

However there already exists evidence of a solution that does work. As with the National Cycle Network, charity supersedes government when enough people buy-in to the cause. When we say buy-in, that does mean clear statements of financial action.

Who would chip-in a monthly donation to such a pro-cycling cause?
1) Regular commuters who want to benefit from improvements to their journey.
2) Parents who desire safe, traffic-free cycleways to teach their wobbly sprogs how to ride young.
3) Local businesses who having faced the destruction of out-of-town stores, lost out to pedestrian passing trade, welcome new bikers and their rolling trade.
4) Health organisations who see the rejuvenating aerobic exercise of cycling as a supremely effective and easy to promote solution towards reducing heart attacks, diabetes, cancer and obesity.

Could a national charity like SusTrans carry the torch for such an initiative? No. Not unless they could segregate the donations and spending in to local urban regions. Why? Because if I'm donating to a cause, I want to see the output first hand. If the money goes in to re-painting lines in the Outer Hebrides and I live in London, I'm not going to be too happy.

Observe the interested parties above, they all act in self-interest. Selflessness is an illusion, it doesn't exist. That is fine, perhaps rather than charity we should call it open-source funding.

What do you think?

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Friday, October 03, 2008

Your Bike Security in London

Out and about in London, let’s take a look at how you actually lock your bikes, highlighting the good and bad examples of how to lock your bike.

This conspicuous rider has decorated their bicycle in yellow and black hazard warning tape. A very novel idea, and no, it is not a nomination for this year’s Turner Prize.

A hideous work of aesthetic-butchery it may be, and for this reason it scores maximum points for being highly unattractive as far as a bike thief is concerned.

As mentioned in the recent three-part bike security article, thieves prefer homogenous branded bicycles that are recognisable, and easy to sell-on (e.g. A Trek mountain bike, a GT Mountain bike, etc). Being individualistic with the style and appearance of a bike is a good thing for bike security.

Even the functional and boring mudguards do not escape the decorative treatment! Bonus points!

However, this particular example is let down by the incompetent steel chain wrapped in a thin plastic covering. The erroneous locking techniques accumulate: The chain is loose, not tightly wrapped. The chain only lightly secures the frame, leaving both wheels free for disassembly.

Despite all this, this unique bike remains happily on the bike stand. Which is more that can be said for the next example…

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Yellow Vest With Speed Display

The Speed Vest is a high visibility yellow cycling vest, with reflectors and a large inbuilt speedometer display, which broadcasts the cyclist’s speed to following traffic.

The inventors Brady & Mykle pitch this vest worn over your cycling jersey as a road safety tool, supposedly impressing drivers by demonstrating that any cyclist can ride at 10mph to 15mph.

No. Drivers stuck behind cyclists are not going to enjoy the reminder of how slow they are travelling. Road safety? Not really: Vehicles approaching from behind the cyclist, have plenty of time to judge the difference in speed, and the biggest factor is visibility, for example; lots of red flashing lights on the bike.

The Speed Vest, would serve the biggest road safety offering, if the speed readout was on the front of the vest, and drivers waiting to pull out of a junction, could use the speed information e.g. "10mph" or "25mph" to help decide whether to pull out in-front of the oncoming cyclist or not. This would be very useful because some drivers regularly misjudge the oncoming speed of other road users.

Popular Cycling Vest

This product could be hugely popular, but who is going to buy it?

  • Men.
More specifically; men competing in the Great Unspoken London Commuter Race.
What more tantalising a motivation, than a Speed Vest 100m ahead, reading 15mph while your own speedometer reads 18mph. Think; red flag to a bull, and hare to a greyhound.

In London’s apparently competitive and aggressive society, it has to be one of the most harmless and fun games going. Like most games, it is ultimately pointless (professional footballers take note!). Can you imagine the scene as one hurry-on Harry pursues the next speed target ahead, in a silly but effective stress-burning ride home.

If the inventors manage to start producing this for the mass market, I guarantee it will absolutely fly off the shelves! These boys are due a trip to Dragon’s Den!

Various designers have been muting the concept of wearable technology for a while now, but that seemed mostly ridiculous; like parading down the catwalk with a radio on your head. However, here is a genuinely usable idea, which if released, will create a market for something we did not know we needed.

View the official Speed Vest site.

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Roads Closed For London Freewheel

Cyclists of all ages made their presence known this Sunday, as an environmentally friendly yellow snake made its way leisurely passed some of London’s major attractions.

Around 50,000 cyclists enjoyed an ideal cycling environment; 100% free from motorised transport, experiencing only the sound of celebratory horns and excitement, and only the taste of cleaner air.

Perhaps if oil prices continue their natural escalation as fossil fuels diminish, the sight of a car-less London is a very real possibility in the not-too-distant future.

London Freewheel

The first London Freewheel was developed by the former Mayor of London; Ken Livingstone and Transport for London (TfL), to promote the transport mode of cycling in the capital. Since the first London Freewheel in 2007 was a roaring success, it was no surprise that Sunday's cycling event was hugely popular once again.

This year previous sponsor Hovis was replaced by Sky Sports for the 2008 London Freewheel.

Hub locations fed the main route with a keen supply of bright cyclists from the Emirates Stadium, Victoria Park, Clapham Common and Ravenscourt Park.

The main route at 12km (7.45 miles) long, offered London’s bike riders enviable views of the capital highlights such as;

  • Houses of Parliament
  • Buckingham Palace
  • Tower of London

Olympic Cycling Presence

Boosted by Britain's Olympic successes on the world stage, ambassadors for UK sport supported the event, including Beijing heroes; Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Ed Clancy, Jamie Staff and Shanaze Reade.

Bike rental firms helped quench the massive demand for everything two-wheeled, and if the Freewheel event is an inspiration for non-cyclists to try eco-power in the capital, the option to rent a bike in London, is always available.

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