Sunday, May 21, 2006

Where Do London's Cyclists Live?

Cyclists are seen on the roads, making good progress with their high average speed in London. But where do they come from?

An interesting insight to such questions, is provided by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) 2001 Census results below:


The results show a ringed zone of boroughs surrounding central London, where a higher percent of employed people choose to commute by bicycle, as their predominant mode of travel.

The largest cluster away from central London, appears across South West London.


From the swarms of cyclists in the city, it is easy to assume all routes are destined for central London. This is a limitation of these ONS results - It conveys only the starting point, i.e. Where the cyclists live. Journeys might actually travel west to south, north to north, west to north, or wherever. Not necessarily in to central London.

As at 2001 the biggest percentage noted (of employed commuters cycling,) was only 9% in this survey. This is roughly 1 in 10 people employed. I think this figure will be dramatically improved in the next Census results.

Can you imagine if this statistic was flipped on its head and 9 in 10 people commuted by cycle, things would be a lot quieter, safer, and healthier than they are now.

Judging by the areas on the diagram, typical distances cycled could be roughly 5 - 10 miles each way, as a guestimate.

Rich, Successful, Bike Commuters

South West London enjoys notably more cycle commuting residents than the other compass points, which raises a few questions: Why are two-wheeled journeys to work more popular from the South West of London? Are there amazingly good cycle facilities in South West London? Or is there a link between wealth or socio-economic groups, and the popularity of cycling...?

A report by the AA called "Cycling Motorists," also referred to here, investigated attitudes on the roads in 1993. One of the findings helps us answer our last question:

"Those in the higher income groups are more likely to cycle."

1993 was a long time ago, so how about some more up to date evidence: The 2001 Census below, charts the "economic activity" of London Borough residents. This is the number of people in work, (or not currently in work, but able to work within 2 weeks) living in each London borough. The results below, match the South West's high economic activity, with corresponding areas of high cycle commuting shown above.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

London Bus Lanes - Bikes, Taxis, & Busses

Making bus lanes available to busses and cyclists is a good choice. For the transport bods in a meeting-room somewhere, it's a cheap decision; because it saves them having to genuinely think about designing a new and functional cycle path nearby. But there are other points to consider...


At their best, bus lanes are superb when they're empty, often providing a safer cycling position to filter past traffic jams, gridlocked outside of the bus-lane.

I have a few thoughts on general bus-lane policy... Why aren't motorbikes allowed in bus lanes? There's enough room for a bicycle and motorbike to ride in a pair up a bus lane. As long as the speed ridden is a low filtering speed, I don't have a problem sharing with motorbikes. It would surely be better for motorbikers, rather than doing the wing-mirror limbo!

Ethical Hierarchy

Because busses carry groups of people, they are high up the ethical hierarchy, in terms of pollution generated per passenger, road space required per passenger, and to some extent - social interaction. (Contrast with isolated, single passenger, high emission cars, taking up roughly 10 square meters each!)

So it is quite deserving that busses get their own lanes to circumvent traffic delays caused by overcrowding of other vehicles. Allowing this mode of public transport to enjoy more regular and efficient journeys.


But why should taxis benefit from bus lanes? Let's investigate:

  • Advantageous emissions per passenger ratio?
    Nope. The TX1 (New black cab) carries a massive 2.7 litre Nissan engine! and often only 1 or 2 passengers.

  • Road space per passenger economies?
    Nope. Just as big as (or bigger than) most cars.

  • Social interaction, potential to chat with other road users?
    Nope. As a car - isolated & fenced-off from society.

  • Cheap travel, accessible to all?
    Definitely not. Averaging £1.50 per mile, plus tips, one-way journeys can easily exceed £20. Wealthy passengers are not only paying for the taxi's running costs, but the driver's wages, and profit as well.

Having established taxis don't contribute any wider benefit, as bicycles and busses do, taxis introduce their own problems as well:

  • Stopping to pick up & drop off, in bus lanes, causing bus passengers behind to stop.
  • The concept of a clear bus lane, to achieve reliable bus journey times, is made redundant if the bus lane is congested with taxis.


So in summary: Busses good, cycles better. Taxis out of the bus lane, and motorbikes in.

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Cycling Travel Sweat: No Sweat

It's not the end of the world if someone arrives at work with a bead of sweat on their forehead.

Sweat occurs on most forms of transport:

1) Walking on the streets, red hot pavement, wearing a black suit, sunshine radiating heat down on you. There's no getting away from it, you're gonna break a sweat, whether you like it or not.

2) Encased in a train carriage, windows that only open about 3mm, sitting next to some fat bloke whose blubber spills over to rest on your thigh. Yuk!

3) Standing, squeezed in to an underground tube train, your face buried in someone's sweaty armpit, conditions far worse than animal transportation rules and regulations. But don't worry, because London Underground tell us repeatedly the status is a "Good Service". Hmmmm.

4) Even private vehicles, for all their expense & pollution, are still just rolling greenhouses. Surrounded by glass, a car's air-conditioning battles against the relentless power of the sun. Ironically attempting to cool the global warming effects, which its pollution contributes to worsen.

So regardless of what transport you choose, if it's hot, everyone is going to sweat anyway.

Cycling Decisions

With regard to cycling, whether you sweat or not is completely within your control:

Exertion - Sure, you can push hard & fast where appropriate, and you'll be more likely to sweat.
If you prefer, it is entirely possible to not even break a sweat on a bike. Select easy gears up hills, cruise at a leisurely pace, and freewheel effortlessly downhill.

By constantly moving through air when cycling, you experience a kind of natural air-conditioning, continually removing any heat from your skin's surface. This helps cool riders down.

Clothing - This is not so much about buying expensive cycling apparel, but simply deciding the appropriateness of what to wear, evaluating each day before you set off.

E.g. Underestimating the temperature and overdressing will cause you to sweat unnecessarily. So a little check of the weather forecast, and perhaps a cross-check with your own thermometer before setting off, will guarantee you embrace whatever temperature, suitably dressed.

Distance - I often find that my body doesn't warm up or generate much heat for the first 10 or 15 minutes while cycling. By this time I may have already covered 3 or 4 miles. So the shorter your journey, the less of an issue body heat is, and vice versa.

Erroneous Assumptions

Why does sweat get such bad press? I think it's because people associate it incorrectly with smelly B.O.

Now herein lies the difference: Yes, an unhealthy, overweight person excreting a diet of chips, booze, & fast food through their pours, probably does emit an unpleasant stink.

BUT a regular cyclist, typically; healthy, fit, with a reasonable diet, is more likely to be giving off those sexually potent pheromone signals, rather than anything comparable to Mr fatty!

Showers provided by responsible employers clearly eradicate the sweat topic completely. But the point of this article on sweat is that everyone does it, and it's not a problem. Plus the fitter you are, the less you sweat anyway!

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Summer vibe

Commuting today was fine. A refreshing 11 Celsius for the morning leg, and a warm 19 Celsius for the return ride home. Dry, not too much wind, nice temperatures: I can't ask for better conditions!

Bye bye coat & leggings, hello shorts & t-shirt

Nice to see loads of people making good use of local parks as well; chilling, reading, playing, cycling. All good stuff. The summer vibe is deffinitely here!

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Bicycle: Guinness World Records

A selection of bicycle related Guinness World Records. For a change of topic, and a bit of fun. Some are unbelievable!

Fastest Speed: 167mph!

At Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, USA, on the 3rd of October, 1995.
Guinness world records - Fastest Speed

Worlds Longest Wheelie!
2,840 Miles from Hollywood, California, to Orlando, Florida, USA, between the 13th of April and 25th of June, 1999.
Guinness world records - Longest Wheelie

World's Smallest Bicycle!
From Poland, see the video to believe it.
Guinness world records - World's Smallest Bicycle

Fastest Tour de France Stage:
120 miles at an average speed of 31.29mph!
Guinness world records - Fastest Tour de France Stage

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Sunday, May 07, 2006

Why Cycle Commute In London?

Bullet point list of why tempted newbies should consider commuting by bicycle in London.

  • Feel-good exercise.

  • Long-term health benefits.

  • Cheap to buy & maintain.

  • Predictable journey times.

  • Very accessible to get started.

  • Traffic jams cause minimal delay to cyclists.

  • Increase awareness & road skills.

  • No fuel costs.

  • No parking fines or parking meters.

  • Bicycles emit zero emissions: No Sulphur Dioxide, Nitrogen Oxide, Carbon Monoxide, Carbon Dioxide, etc. So Contribute to a better quality of life for everyone.

  • Current transport habits are "part of the problem". Cycling is "part of the solution".

Other opinions on why to cycle:

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Independent Motoring: Cycling Is Best

(This is a guest post I wrote for

The Independent newspaper ran an interesting article listing greener motoring choices. But unsurprisingly, glossed over one of the most accessible and eco-friendly solutions.

Cycling received a tiny and almost hidden mention:

"Cycling is best of all, of course."

And it is understandable that any commercial organisation with vested interests in the motor industry, will never turn around and say:

"Well actually... Leave your car at home today, to be honest you'll be fitter, happier, & richer if you cycled instead."

Such an imaginary press release would clearly be commercial suicide, because there is just too much profit in motoring: - car sales, fuel tax revenue, insurance profits, car finance & loans profits, parking fine revenues, new roads schemes & construction profits, speed camera revenues, and so on.

Eco friendly the car is not. Yet populist trends of SUV's (4x4's), and luxury cars bought in the face of global warming is just unexplainable!

So it is up to the pioneering individuals, to thumb their nose at insane mass-market trends, of bigger heavier cars, with larger engines, emitting increased CO2 emissions.

And say; "sod that! I'm taking the bike today!!"

Original Independent Article.

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Few Degrees Of Madness

Is it me, or does anyone else notice that a small rise in temperature seems to send some people wild!?!

Maybe I am completely wrong here. Maybe it's just an unfortunate co-incidence, but I feel I experience more unsafe incidents while cycling in traffic on hot summer days, than I do on cold days.

Not to say that incidents & temperature are directly linked, because if that was the case, on a mid-30's summers day, everyone would be going bonkers in A&E, rather than the more popular choice of relaxing in a park!

I have a few left-field ideas why.

Expectations raised with sunshine?
What attributes are associated with rain? Dull, miserable, grey, cold, and wet.
Perhaps people attach opposite attributes to a sunny day: Sunny, bright, bubbly, happy, cheerful, warm. If expectations are raised higher than reality can deliver, disappointment and frustration may be the reaction.

Discomfort in mobile greenhouses?
Surrounded by all that glass, cars are basically mobile greenhouses. Without air-conditioning it's the driver who will be the blistering red tomato.
Again highlighting human weaknesses, people get irritated, irrational, and frustrated. Humans are rubbish!

Clear view arrogance?
In the winter, cycling with hi-vis reflective vest and attention grabbing selection of flashing lights, vehicles mainly overtake me with adequate room. Which makes sense, because in the darkness, the exact width of bike & rider is unclear.
However in the bright sunshine, everything is visible. This information is often exploited, and drivers overtake unnecessarily close to me cycling.

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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Charity Challenge on the classic Land's End to John O'Groats challenge, a whole bunch of people from Kingston, South West London are sharing the 1,000 mile journey for charity.

With ages ranging from 15 all the way up to 81, it looks like a diverse team will tackle the ride over two weeks.


Local Press

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