Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Rent A Bike In London

Not everyone owns a bike. Fortunately a number of London cycle companies provide bicycle hire for a day. This rental approach makes it accessible to try cycling in London.

See 2008 Update: Rent bikes in London.

I can think of a range of scenarios for bike rental:

  • Tourists in the capital on holiday, for some bike riding recreation.
  • Commuters wanting to trial their route by bike, before committing to buy a bike.
  • Owner rider's normal bike is in for servicing or repairs, and a rental could fill a few days in place of the normal bike.
  • People travelling from far outside London, not wanting to bring their own bike all the way in to the city centre.
  • Curious people who are just interested to experience riding around London on two wheels.

Where To Rent A Bike In London

Here is a selection of bicycle hire companies with their rates, in alphabetical order:

Budgie Bike Hire
Budgie Bike Hire through the YHA
Bike Type: "budgie bike"
Cost: £1.50 per hour to £9.50 per day

Go Pedal - Bike Hire
Bike Type: "classic city cruiser"
Cost: £18 to £24 per day

London Bicycle - Bike Hire
Bike Types: Mountain bikes & Hybrids
Cost: £3.00 per hour,
or £16 per day,
or £48 per week

OY Bike - London Bike Rental
Bike Type: "yellow rental bikes"
Cost: £2 per hour,
with a sliding scale;
£0.30 for 15 mins,
up to £8 per day.

Velorution - Folding Bike Hire
Bike Type: Folding bikes
(Brompton / Dahon, etc)
Cost: £20 for 1 day,
£15 per day after that.

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Proven: 4x4 = Arrogant Tossers

News from: Alliance Against Urban 4x4s cites research published in the British Medical Journal studying 41,781 vehicles in London. Identifying a shocking trend in illegal mobile phone use while driving. Quote:

What is already known on this topic:
Using a hand held mobile telephone while driving is associated with a fourfold increase in the risk of having a road crash.

It is now illegal to use a hand held mobile telephone while driving in the UK

What this study adds:
Drivers of four wheel drive vehicles in London were four times more likely than drivers of other cars to use hand held mobile phones and slightly more likely not to comply with the law on seat belts

Levels of non-compliance with both laws were slightly higher in the second phase of observation, when the law on mobile telephones was fully enforced.

An Under-Rated Problem

What's daunting for me on my bike, is the idea that anyone might not be paying 100% attention, while trying to control a tonnage of rolling metal.

Using a mobile phone while driving - hands free or illegally hand held, does steal the brain's attention. In the same way running many programs on a PC simultaneously, slows the computer's performance for any additional tasks.

Driving is a full-time demanding task, and each phone call received usually has a motive attached. So not only is the driver thinking up answers and formulating sentences, the motive of the phone call also has to be dealt with.

This motive could be a question, important decision to be made, complex advice being requested, recalling details from the person's memory, absolutely anything! All of that takes brain resource, and it steals that resource away from the 100% concentration needed to drive safely.

Jimmy Savile*

I don't care about 4x4 drivers not wearing seatbelts. That's their choice, and I have no issue with them going flying through their windscreen at 70mph.

But I do care about 2.1% of normal car drivers using a handheld mobile phone, and an intolerable 8.1% of 4x4 drivers using a handheld mobile phone.

It has been established that:

Using a hand held mobile telephone while driving is associated with a fourfold increase in the risk of having a road crash.

So not only are 4x4's more polluting, more deadly to pedestrians in a collision, less fuel efficient, over-sized space wasting, and dent-prone in car parks, but they breed driver arrogance resulting in increased use of handheld mobile phones (which is illegal anyway).

Or perhaps the drivers were always arrogant tossers originally, hence the reason they bought a 4x4 in the first place!


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Thursday, September 21, 2006

We're All Pedestrians Here, Right?

Dear Pedestrians...

You can't speed, illegally park, or kill people by crashing in to them, so your scope for disorder is pretty minimal, but you do a hell of a job at messing up!

You only have one main task - cross the road if it's safe. This sounds patronising, because it is SUCH a simple concept and it was taught to you at primary school!!!! The green cross code - remember?

You are the SLOWEST road user of all, bar none. You are the MOST VUNERABLE road user of all, bar none. So how on earth do you conclude that "I might make it across" is a sane decision, when the red man shines down on you, and the cars are straining to leave their grid at the traffic light grand prix!

If I can manage to wait at a red light while cycling, then YOU can manage to wait at a red man!

But Seriously

Pedestrians' lack of attention could perhaps begin to be explained, because a lot of a pedestrians' "road-use" requires NO thought whatsoever. I.e. walk out your house and along the pavement.

Compare this to drivers of vehicles, who have to be concentrating 100% because the situations are constantly changing as they drive along. And arguably a cyclist's alertness is further engaged, due to the energising physical exercise of riding the bike.

Isolated from vehicular traffic most of the time, pedestrians don't NEED to think, and can happily daydream as they wish on the pavements. However, a large problem seems to be pedestrians failing to engage their thinking switch, which IS needed, for example to navigate busy junctions.

There are obligations pedestrians have to be aware of, under the Highway Code. But most probably don't notice this until studying for their driving theory test. Too late in my opinion.

Group Psychology

Often an independently thinking, alert pedestrian (Ped A) will assess a risk, and briskly make it across a road, regardless of red man or green man. Fine, no problem with that, well done, gold star.

But a lot of people are lazy, and assume that "if someone else just did it, it must be ok right?" and will copy first bloke (Ped A) and follow him across the road without evaluating the situation themselves (Ped B).

This is flawed, because the decision Ped A made was only relevant to him (he was not planning for a large group to cross slowly, only himself, and quickly.)

Every second in time, the situation is changing, making Ped A's action irrelevant & potentially unsafe, if carried out by Ped B seconds later with even a slightly different traffic scenario.

This can also spark a chain reaction of similarly mind-less copiers, who result in an unsafe, selfish "conga" of pedestrians, meandering across the road without right-of-way, and staring down the headlights of fast moving entitled vehicles.

Personal Accounts

Where do I start. I'm sure everyone can reel off a never-ending list of pedestrian errors, misjudgements and incidents they've witnessed or perhaps partook in?

Even just today, I saw a girl, nay; grown woman, happily glance across a road, take three steps forward, while looking left, directly in to the path of a bus, travelling from her right. The only reason she didn't spend the next 6 weeks in hospital, was thanks to the bus driver's quick reaction & emergency stop.

On the way home today, a "dumble" of pedestrians (plural word for a group of dozy peds) were wandering across a busy junction under the cautionary glare of the red man, and seemed surprised and shocked when I came steaming through legitimately. A friendly toot sparked to life dusty nerve connections, firing up the ped's under-used recollection of the green cross code. Oh how I love airzound!

Another example are peds who take a couple of steps in to the road as a "warm up", stop, THEN look left & right for cars. Trouble is the ped's little run up, is usually traversing a cycle lane, and they didn't even contemplate a 25mph bicycle being there.

Is this really what goes through a pedestrian's mind when they cross a road?
Option 1 - Don’t look & cross anyway.
Option 2 - Look, but don’t see, and cross anyway.
Option 3 - Look, see, and chance it anyway, assuming that staring down at the road hard enough, will supply immunity from any imminent threats.

Rant Over

It is totally achievable to cross a road safely without instruction from red & green LED's, I'm embarrassed to even type it. But for every 1 person sat at their PC scoffing derisively at the insult to their intelligence, there are another two people this instant, looking left (or not at all!) and stepping in to the path of moving traffic.

Wake up pedestrians!

You are road-users too!

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Train Up London Today

I used to commute by train up to London everyday, god I don't miss it at all!

I had a course today in North London, so experienced the extensive London underground and overland train "experience" as a rare one-off, because most other days I'm cycling in to work elsewhere.

Being overused and under-cleaned, I recall that train smells were dominated by mild aromas of piss and stale body odour. Confirmed today!

At London Bridge station I was held in a temporary sheep-pen when station staff closed barriers to let over-crowding on the platform subside. Fair enough, but doesn't make for a smooth reliable journey.

Bundled on to tube train compressed in with about 5 or 6 people per square meter of floor space. I.e. Unpleasant. My primary hope was that the travellers surrounding my north, east, south & west, were not pickpockets.

Had my foot stepped on twice.

On the way back, had to wait 20 mins for next overland train. Which was delayed by 8 mins on top of that. Oh joy.

Luckily GOT a seat! but that turned out to be disadvantageous, because a HUUUGE fat man chose to squish besides me, his sweaty armpit resting on my shoulder. *Shudders*

With a warm sun penetrating the train's window directly to me, I felt AS perspired, as having cycled to work, but without any of the endorphin feel-good rewards.

Oh, it cost me the best part of ten quid as well! Pah!

Sod doing that everyday! I can't wait to get back on my bike tomorrow, and enjoy the unconstrained personal freedom of cycling.

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Monday, September 18, 2006


A quick plug for a fellow cycling blog, also in the UK's Capital.

Click here, after you've read everything on this site!

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Saturday, September 16, 2006

Busses & Bus Drivers...

Bus Drivers

In my experience I’ve found most bus drivers to be considerate, patient, and sensible on the roads. Which is to be expected, considering they are piloting a 10 or 20 tonne death-wagon if it were involved in even the smallest of accidents with a cyclist.

What I admire about bus drivers, is even though every day they face the constant flow of ignorant, thoughtless, and un-co-operative traffic. PLUS equally unpredictable customers inside the bus, (kids not paying their fare, unruly passengers, window scratchers & graffiti-chavs, etc). Bus drivers still drive professionally throughout their long shift.

How many times do you see busses indicating to pull out from bus-stops, while a belligerent stream of vehicles indifferently continue to overtake the bus?

All that hassle & skill for around £18,000 a year. Underpaid in my opinion. It's such a crucial public service. Considering tube drivers get £30,000+ for "driving" a highly automated tube train, on rails (reading the paper at the same time!), it is outrageous that bus driving which requires so much more skill and attention, does not currently receive the rewards this responsibility deserves.


Of course there are rare but memorable cases of bad driving. I recall an irate bus driver thrusting 20 tonnes of double-decker towards my rear wheel, attempting to intimidate me to go faster. What he forgot is that I don't have a 7.3 Litre turbocharged power-plant like him!

Bad bus drivers don't last too long in the job either, because the driver's employer has a brand image to maintain, and is in competition with other bus companies for future route franchises.

So any bad press, complaints, or reportable incidents should be taken very seriously by the bus company's HR department. And with many people owning camera-phones, a quick snap of the registration-plate / running number, and a letter to the bus company, will go against the bad driver under scrutiny.

Although there are a handful of bad bus drivers, over the thousands of urban miles I've ridden, 99.9% of all interactions I've had around buses have been fine, and despite their looming size, and sinister hiss of the air-brakes when they pull up behind me at the lights, I never feel intimidated by busses.

Bus & Bicycle, Vs Car

The routes I ride have many bus lanes, and since bikes are allowed in bus lanes, they provide a shared benefit. Making either the bus or bicycle more attractive than driving a car in these locations.

The other important benefit of course is environmental. This site cites greenhouse gases emissions per passenger km travelled: 25g for busses, 100g for an urban car.

So despite the larger, increased weight, and bigger engine of a bus which appears less-green than a car, the greater passenger occupancy means each bus user individually generates only 25% emissions of what a car-user will generate. Cycling of course ranks number 1 above all, producing zero emissions!

Busses also do wonders for congestion, because 50 people on a bus, can be 50 cars off the road, no longer wasting 10m2 of road space per car.

Put another way, the passengers on one bus would represent a traffic jam of cars, the length of an athletics track; just vanishing! Because the (ex-) car users are now all on a bus. They're probably whizzing down a priority bus lane too...

Source: www.buses.co.uk

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Fitness Costs: Gym Vs Cycle Commuting

Gyms and Cycle Commuting. Both contribute to a fit & healthy lifestyle, but how much do each cost?

There are 1,420,000 gym goers (source) which is great, because the gym is engendering fit, energised, motivated, people.

But strip away all the whizz-bang gadgets, TV's, high-tech equipment, and brand image, exposing the raw purpose of visiting a gym is just: to exercise.

Considering some gyms are charging £30, £60, even £70 per month (!!!!) just to exercise, are gym goers getting value for money? Can't that same energetic lifestyle, be attained by incorporating exercise in to the daily requirement to commute somewhere?

  • Monthly gym fee: say £45 per month (£10.47 per week)
  • Driving to gym & back say 2 x 4 miles @ £0.42 per mile*, £3.36 each day. Times 5 = £16.80 per week
  • Parking near gym say £2 each day, Times 5 days = £10.00 per week.

    Gym weekly sub-total: £37.27

    Times 52 weeks = £1,938.04 per year.


Shared equipment - can't always get on the best machines.

Sweaty, smelly, other people!

Maybe catch other people's cold & flu viruses.

Even if members stop using the gym, get an injury or get lazy, the monthly fee keeps on leaking out of their bank accounts.

* ' * ' * ' * ' * ' * ' * ' * ' *


  • Annual professional maintenance: £130
  • Parking: FREE!
  • Vehicle Excise Duty: FREE!
  • New set of road tyres per year: £40
  • Brake pads per year: £15
  • Chain lubricant per year: £6

    Cycling yearly sub-total: £191 per year.

    Divided by 52 weeks = £3.67 per week!


Exercise is done automatically while commuting to work. Sounds obvious , but there are some benefits to this:

No chance to wimp out / eat cream cakes / stay in & watch TV, which happens when contemplating "have I got enough motivation to go to the gym tonight?":

By cycle commuting the exercise is automatic, a daily necessity, because you HAVE to get to work.

Commuter cycling, is a two-for-one special: commute home and exercise simultaneously, which gifts riders valuable extended free-time. Whereas the gym wastes more time in comparison: e.g. commute home, drive to gym, exercise at gym, and then commute home again.

Tired of exercising with the same view? Cycle a choice of different routes home.

Miss the anaerobic resistance weight training at the gym? Buy your own free weights, £30 from Argos. The cycling acts as a perfect aerobic warm-up to then lift weights at home.

* = From a recent RAC survey (source), the average yearly cost of motoring: £5,000 divided by average yearly mileage: 12,000 miles = £0.42 per mile.

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Sunday, September 10, 2006


Underneath the baby-on-board window sticker pleasantries, lurks an unintentional menace feared by cyclists everywhere!

Frequently encountered on the school run, often in a menstrual panic on a chaotic mission to drop their sproglings off at school. Meet the chav-mum.


Pony tail hairstyle, smokes fags, often blonde of hair, "blonde" of nature.
Car plate ~ 1985 to 1995, typically well dented (evidence of previous driving errors?), internals neglected (blue smoke, no oil, no maintenance, etc), and I would take bets against the status of MOT & insurance paperwork validity...

Chav-mum commonly stands out when she's driving treacherous manoeuvres around cyclists such as:
  • Overtake, and immediate left turn in front of rider :-(
  • Force-squeezing past cyclists going through unsafe gaps, with only luck & hope informing this bad driving decision :-(
  • Irresponsibly opening car doors without looking for cyclists / motorcyclists / even other cars / in fact ANYONE else! :-(


Perhaps the lack of attention the chav-mum gives to her car (dented, unclean, un-maintained) reflects a lazy outlook towards the role of "the car" generally, perhaps explaining why she doesn't take safe driving skills seriously?

Perhaps chav-mum views the car as an entitlement. A facilitating go-between, a right to drive for life, no matter how poor her driving skills.
Perhaps chav-mum has become ignorant to the reality that the car is a fast moving tonnage of potential foot crushing, bone-snapping, unforgiving metal. Some of her driving I've seen, evidences she has.

Dealing With:

Quite obviously chav-mum has not enrolled herself on an imminent Advanced Driver course. So aside from handing out free highway code booklets, followed by "how to read" videos, the main way to help change this unwittingly-dangerous driver stereotype, I guess is by "street education." In the form of beeps, toots, and other expressions of incredulity, from the innocent party.

Unless chav-mum is informed she's done something wrong or unsafe, she will probably be absolutely oblivious to it, and do it again automatically. You have been warned!

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Thursday, September 07, 2006

You Don't See That Everyday!

Probably the most odd cycle commute in to work I've had so far...

It was only yesterday that I was talking about;

Upgrading my patience, in preparation for the random oddities which these crowded circumstances can throw up.

How's this: Perfect weather, 18 Degrees C, dry, sunny, begun cycling, everything as normal, except for some unusual incidents.

Charity Ride

1st I got held at a main junction by police outriders, as traffic was stopped to allow 200 riders stream through, on their way from London to Paris , a charity ride for the Royal British Legion.
It looked like a well organised event with support vehicles, and gains extra-cool kudos for having police block junctions for them. Lucky bastads!

Desperate Lorry

2nd event de jour was an articulated lorry which had got itself stuck around an impossibly tight corner, which would never in a million years have worked in the first place!
I guess anger, frustration & embarrassment combined to produce "extremely desperate" driving, as the artic driver reversed directly back in to a large traffic queue waiting patiently behind, sending cyclists & motorbikes at the front scattering to safety elsewhere.

Irresponsible Car

3rd incident was overtaking a long line of stationary cars stuck in traffic. Filtering on the right, plenty of room, when this guy just wildly threw his drivers door open!! WTF?!
No mirrors, no thought, no nothing. So he got a well deserved and huge "WTF!" blast of my Airzound bicycle horn. And the same response again from motorcyclists witnessing it following behind me.

The driver's expression as I unleashed the wrath of mighty airzound was kinda amusing. A transparent hotline to his thought process revealed:

  • "Sh*t, that's loud!" Followed by;
  • "I must have done something wrong, but I don't know what it is yet." Followed by;
  • "(raised eyebrows) I think I'd better wake up now."

And Exhale...

But the bottom line is, despite the randomness of today's unique and exceptional circumstances, all was well, calmness prevailed, and I got to work as normal. Thankfully, you don't see that everyday!

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Enjoying The School Run: Cycling In

Little Johnny's back! In the flipside to my post Enjoying The Non-School-Run, this week kids go back to school. So what changes?

We return to the status quo of me cycling past stationary traffic all the way to work! Well, almost all ;-)


Is it noticeable that schools are back? Definitely! Particularly for the drivers delayed in traffic, rammed bumper to bumper, trading rear exhaust fumes with forward air intakes. For me cycling, it's noticeable because last week roads were flowing ok, and this week I have to adapt my riding style for dealing with more vehicles in the same limited road space.

The most noticeable effect is reduced visibility - sometimes only a few meters where traffic jams may be hiding all manner of hazards: e.g. pedestrians sleepwalking, right turners across your path, passenger doors opening, etc. What have I changed? Well mostly slowing down, chilling out, and upgrading my patience, in preparation for the random oddities which these crowded circumstances can throw up. As they say; expect the unexp...BOO!

Which lane would you prefer?

Jaw-Dropping Disbelief

For any new risks dense traffic might bring this week, it's got to be said, there is an undeniable satisfaction in coasting effortlessly past line upon line of stationary traffic queues.

If you added up the combined value of vehicles sat in a traffic jam, you could easily be looking at say £3 million? £5 million? worth of metal. Just sat there, spunking fuel, wasting money.

And there goes me, pedalling away, staying fit, riding past jams, wondering with jaw-dropping disbelief why these drivers suck this every day, and when they will have their eureka moment and try cycling in?

Journey Time

Cycle commuting to work for the last 2 years I can honestly say, even with the most humongous traffic jam tail-backs, blocked roads, roadworks, and the like, my actual cycling time to work remains amazingly consistent! I generally only incur a tolerance +/- 2 minutes, cycling is THAT reliable! For my car, that same tolerance is +/- 30 minutes late.

How come? Well on the bike my average speed is pretty steady, even if I push hard and go around quickly, traffic lights tend to even things out. Bikes are great for carefully filtering past stationary traffic queues. Because of that, invariably cyclists get through the 1st phase of green traffic lights they approach. The combination of these factors makes commuting times by bicycle, very predictable.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006

TfL Share The Roads - Will It Work?

"Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians in London are all being encouraged to Share
the Road - the title of a new and ongoing Transport for London (TfL) campaign"
Source: TfL
"London's roads are crowded - we can behave like caged rats and fight with each other for space, or we can behave like human beings and cooperate with each other."

Source: Institute of Advanced Motorists

Will it work?

Asking people to change ingrained habitual behaviour, doesn't work:

  • UN: "Excuse me Iran, would you mind not making nuclear bombs please?" - pff!!!
  • Roads: "Drivers, please do not exceed the speed limit." - pff!!!
  • Health: "Chavs, kindly avoid binge drinking your own body weight in alcohol and beating each-other up every weekend" - pff!!!

Generally, the only way people change is if they have to.

The ambition to achieve a more considerate and co-operative road using population is very worthwhile pursuing. And I commend TfL for even attempting this almighty task.

To make a cultural shift in attitude does not happen by throwing up a few posters, sitting back and maintaining the status quo. There needs to be a "pull" factor - justification and selling the attractiveness of the idea, to motivate people towards the idea. AND there needs to be a "push" factor - enforcing and coercing those who are too lazy to change, are in a long-term rut of bad habit, or negatively want to see the idea fail.


To achieve change, there has to be friction, in this "Share The Roads" campaign, this necessary friction will have to come from enforcement and consequence. Fines, punishment, and educational sentencing (e.g. safety courses), will need to be the tools of this change, aimed at all offenders, regardless of their mode of transport.

Getting a message through to people these days is no easy mission, TfL's campaign will have to compete with the advertising giants, and all manner of media trying to tempt and woo consumers in to some product or other. Of which, us consumers have become increasingly resistant to, often filtering out the "white noise" of advertising because we've become sceptical of the whizz-bang claims and over-rated, misleading messages.

However TfL conduct this "pull" aspect of motivating road users to "buy-in-to" the share-the-roads idea, one question will have to be addressed in road-users minds: "Why should I?"

Digging Deeper

Camden Cyclists site hosts info of the same campaign name, and rooting around, mentions a quite substantial sum of £500,000 earmarked for this campaign. Now this is old data, and I don't know the accuracy of it, but I'd expect to see something special for that kind of dough!

Camden cyclists - share the road


Other ways to blow half a million £:

> Buy 3,000 new bikes and hand them out for free.
> Employ 240 coppers 24/7 for a month, to rugby-tackle red-light-jumping cyclists.
> Employ 1 million hippies to descend on London for a day and give everybody traffic-jam hugs.
> Give the money to me.
> Send it to Nigeria 'cos this email I got right, says I will get £4 billion back in to my bank account!
> Employ those Hare krishna geezers FOREVER! To spread good vibes by singing their mantra at all main road junctions in London.


Other linkies on this topic:
BBC News

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