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…

Stumble Upon Toolbar

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.

Technorati tags: . . .

Stumble Upon Toolbar

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.

Technorati tags: . .

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, September 19, 2008

Part III - Bicycle Security: Conclusion

Concluding this three part guide on the topic of avoiding bike theft, which started with; Part I - Bike Theft Choices, this article also looks at bike parking locations and decisions.

Statistics show that, depending on who is consulted;

“A bike is stolen every 71 seconds in the UK”

“A bike is stolen every 65 seconds in the UK”

Neither choice makes for happy perusal. The fact remains that stealing bikes remains a low risk and high reward combination for thieves. The Metropolitan Police are not interested in the problem and it is largely treated as a paperwork exercise.

The cycling adage of “strength in numbers” seems not to apply to public bike racks. London's selfish individualism is exposed in this respect, where no-longer can you rely on reserves of have-a-go heros, to tackle the bad guy busting a lock in 17 seconds.

Many “official” cycling tips advise that bikes be left in busy public areas, in clear view of passers by. Personally, I disagree, based on the fact that everybody does exactly that; passes by.

Where to leave your bike?

Professional criminals will ultimately steal something if they really want it, and bike theft centres on desire. If you lock a desirable bike in a public place, the bicycle thieves on patrol will eventually see it. So an underrated logic is; don't show the bike thieves the bike in the first place.

The traditional idea is that if you leave a bicycle in a secluded room, the bike thief has an uninterrupted opportunity to go to work on the locks. True, but as we've seen, a public spot is not much deterrent anyway.

Personally I'd feel happier locking my bike in a store cupboard or locked garage, because no attention is being drawn to the bike while it is hidden away.

Alternatively, I've had office jobs where the (conventional) bike has lived next to my desk at work. Aside from the benefit of having a permanent security guard (me), the bike became a talking point and encouraged others to cycle to work, whilst also reminding the employer that the need for secure bicycle parking is genuine.

Folding bikes then, have a huge advantage in terms of security because they need not be left unattended, and can be stowed pretty-much anywhere convenient; under desks, on shelves, completely off the thief's radar.

London bike theft

Stepping back to ask why bikes are stolen, aside from international criminal gangs who ship stolen bikes abroad, it brings the simple domestic mechanics that we the riding public are willing to buy stolen bikes: Sometimes we are duped, sometimes we are suspicious, and sometimes we irresponsibly turn a blind eye.

It doesn’t matter if the story is; “it’s second hand…” or “clearing out my old gran’s house…” it is inexcusably obvious that a bike worth £500 being sold for £50, is stolen. Short-sighted buyers who help perpetuate the demand, receive a severe dent in karma-phala and a path strooned with guilt-ridden punctures.

Open question: Where do you lock your bike during the day?

Technorati tags: . . .

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Part II – Stolen Bikes: Prevention

Following on from Part I – Bike Theft Choices, part II concentrates on actions to prevent bike theft.

Consider things from a bike thief's point of view; perhaps driving around in the inconspicuous white van, or concealing tools in a jacket pocket, a known hot spot is checked for today's pickings. The criminal will select one or more owners to upset, based on logical considerations such as:

  • Which bike is easiest to sell-on quickly?
  • Which locks are easiest and quickest to break?
  • Which bicycle has the fewest variety of locks defending it?
  • Which one is going to cause the least hassle, in terms of identifiers and uniqueness?

Locking securely

Use a small U-lock and secure it to the bike in a way which minimises the empty space in the centre of the U-lock. If you can fit your fist through the centre of the U-lock, then so can a thief position a hydraulic device which will snap open you lock almost instantly. Give the thief no room, and you bike is suddenly much more secure, compared to the next bike, which has an oversized U-lock swinging leisurely about the bike frame’s top tube.

Quick release wheel skewers and seat post fixings offer easy access for bicycle thieves wishing to asset strip the bike for parts. Even to replace one wheel + tire can cost you over £100. Make more work for the bike burglar by fitting traditional fixings that at least require a tool and more time to undo. Worth considering are also Pitlock skewers or Pinhead components.

It’s common sense, but bikes get nicked while left unlocked outside the local corner shop, even for just a minute. This is very appealing to an opportunist thief because not only do they get your property, it doubles as a quick getaway vehicle too.

Don't just lock it; lock it TO a fixed anchor such as railings, a Sheffield stand, lamppost cycle hoop, M stand, or security ground anchor.

Avoiding bike theft

If the lock passes through the frame and a wheel, but nothing else, it may deter opportunists but will not stop the bike being thrown in the back of a van for subsequent lock breaking, at the thief’s leisure.

If possible, point the keyhole of your lock towards the ground, this will deter bike thieves from pouring glue in to the keyhole to make it redundant, forcing the bike to be left at that location, upon which the criminals can choose when to return.

Do remove valuable accessories like lights, detachable speedometers and bike bags. Most products are designed with quick-release fittings for this purpose.

If you are using a motorbike-style chain, lock it so that any excess chain is wrapped up tightly, and not flailing around. If left loose, the perpetrator can position the chain in the position he wants it, for the easiest break. It's all about making their life difficult.

Now read Part III - Bicycle Security: Conclusion, which includes where to lock your bike.

Technorati tags: . . .

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Part I - Bike Theft Choices

Knowledge and informed decisions are the two things that will reduce the risk of getting your bike stolen in London. Here is a three-part guide to beat the bike thieves.

Part I considers the strategical choices made which lower the risks of becoming an inconvenienced statistic.

Security Choices

Do not believe the hype. - Lock manufacturers proudly ascribe gleaming approved and tested ratings, from the likes of Sold Secure and Thatcham, but these are not accurate, as a number of YouTube examples will demonstrate.

The point here, is that no bike is 100% immune from being stolen, no matter how many reassuring “approved” stickers garnish the lock's packaging.

So rather than buying a highly desirable steed then fighting to keep it out of the criminals' stained hands, there are some aspects to consider when buying a bike for use in London:

  • Mountain bikes are a very popular product for dodgy criminal transactions.
  • Popular brand-named models are easy for criminals to sell-on.
  • Traditional mudguards are “functional and practical”. Thieves want “desirable and nickable”.
  • Drop handlebars also appear to be less attractive to thieves.
  • Folding bikes have the advantage that you can carry them with you, thus not leaving them exposed to the preying eyes of passing opportunists.

Buying a Bike Lock

In theory, the more you spend, the better the lock. As demonstrated above though, do dispose of the security promises (e.g. safe for five minutes sustained attack), along with the packaging. That said, a good expensive lock is more of a deterrent than a limp inexpensive lock. There are some types of locks to be avoided in any case:
  • Combination locks – Cons: As useful as a chocolate kettle. Pros: MAY stop the bike from being blown-over in the wind.
  • Cheap wire locks – Cons: Easily cut, and sometimes easily picked too. Pros: Slightly more useful than securing your bike with string.

Tracking-Device Deterrents

Immobilise is an excellent free service in which true owners register their property online, and if it is stolen, can sometimes be recovered by the Police. Specifically for cyclists, there is also: ImmobiTag.

“ImmobiTag is a radio frequency identification device designed specifically to be embedded into a bike's frame. Each tag contains a unique serial number that can be read by all UK Police forces, allowing the bike’s details to be matched with the registered owner through the Police national property database.”

However, the biggest asset from your £14 tag, will actually be the warning sticker placed on your frame, presenting your beloved bicycle as; “more hassle than the other bikes” from the thief’s perspective, and lowering the chance of it being selected for thieving in the first place.

Now discover real actions that can be taken when locking your bike, in: Part II - Stolen Bikes: Prevention.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

London Cycle Chic?

Where will all these fashionable young things be when summer is over?

Riding through a wind-swept autumn in Primark’s finest, doesn’t cut it. For comfort, it is hard to beat clothing designed specifically for the task of cycling; the coats with extra tuck-under and ventilation zones with aerodynamic considerations. The cycling socks which keep you bone dry. The high-visibility colours which fight for driver’s visual attention, and reduce the SMIDSY potential.

The fashionistas may scoff at the predictability of purposeful bright road presence. If the flock is to be followed; “that’s SO last year, BLACK is the new yellow, keep up...” “ You look FAB at night… lights? oh no, they spoil the lines, darling…”

I agree that specialist clothing can be seen as a barrier to access. If people are hopping down the shops, normal clothes are great for that. There’s no logic in expecting people to wear special clothes and accessories, if it’s going to make cycling less attractive to the curious and the waiting converts.

On the other hand, if the ride is longer, or the comfort stakes higher, maybe it’s better to wear padded cycling shorts, of the Lycra or baggy variety. Plus whatever other equipment adds some tangible or useful benefits to the bike journey.

Of course, it’s great that cycling is getting positive exposure, as a desirable trend. But trends come, and trends go.

Technorati tags: . . .

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, August 22, 2008

RSS Feeds = Blog Theft

Having been around for two and a half years, this site; Cycling London, Urban Commuting by Bike, has gained some unwanted attention.

A few sites have taken to automated stealing of the original content, word for word. I spend the time creating, writing and editing the content, then they steal it instantly and publish it as their own.

It's quite disheartening, and Google don't have a grip on it yet. Which means that the bad sites often outrank the original source site, through underhand manipulation of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

If you have a blog or website, do visit this site:, enter your url, and the useful resource will instantly sniff around for any dodgy sites which may have nicked your content and published it as their own.

I'm not going to link to the offending sites, as this would only help their SEO status.

So the point is; I've turned off the RSS feed for Cycling London. If this was useful to you previously, please contact me. In the mean time, email updates are available from FeedBurner here, and on the right side-bar.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

London Cycling Competition

Cycling in London offers an eclectic array of sites, visions and landscapes which are probably taken for granted if ridden past every day.

For anyone not living in London, there may exist a curiosity about what the tarmac pounding and green living actually looks like, in and around Old Father Thames.

A nice idea is to document what we see from the handlebars of London, and share it.

TfL are also running a little photo competition, incentivised with £600 squid.

So you really could be better off by bike. Ha!


“Photographs will be judged according to their originality, appropriateness and relevance to the promotion of 'cycling' and quality of photography.”

Entries will be categorised by London boroughs as follows:

  • Barnet
  • Camden
  • Enfield
  • Haringey
North East
  • Hackney
  • Islington
  • Waltham Forest
South West
  • Hounslow
  • Kingston
  • Richmond
  • Merton
  • Wandsworth
  • Lambeth
  • Sutton
  • City of London
West Central
  • Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Kensington and Chelsea
  • Westminster
South East
  • Bexley
  • Bromley
  • Lewisham
  • Southwark
  • Croydon
  • Greenwich
  • Brent
  • Harrow
  • Ealing
  • Hillingdon
  • Barking and Dagenham
  • Newham
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Havering
  • Redbridge
Final advice; state where your cycling photo was taken, and get consent if it features somebody.

See here.

Technorati tags: , ,

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Monday, August 18, 2008

Rent Bikes in London

Thinking of renting a bike? A number of London cycle companies supply bicycle hire by the hour, or by the day. This method offers a very accessible way to try cycling in London.

Motivations to rent a bike:

Sightseeing tourists seeking a healthier, more engaging way to tour London; by bike.

  • Drivers and train commuters investigating the feasibility of cycling, prior to joining a cycle to work scheme.
  • Cyclists in quest of something exciting and unusual, e.g. tandems, recumbent bikes, Nihola Child carrying bikes.
  • Short-term London residents, to whom it’s more economical to rent a bike.
  • Cycle commuters needing a replacement bicycle while their bike is serviced.
  • Parents organising a family day out, renting kids bikes, in ultra-safe, traffic-free, green spaces.
  • Businesses hiring bicycles during bike week to encourage staff to cycle.
  • Infrequent cyclists, who have no storage space.
  • Clever Londoners circumventing the hassle of train or tube strikes.

Where To Rent A Bike In

Bicycle hire companies and rates:

Go Pedal - Bike Hire

Bike Type: "Classic city cruiser".
Cost: from £19 per day.
Chrome mudguards.
Baggage rack.
Helmet and 'D' lock included.

Family Bike Hire
£7 per hour for kids bikes.
£7 per hour for full-size conventional bikes.
£12 per hour to hire tandems.
£15 per hour for recumbent bikes.

OY Bike - London Bike Rental
Bike Type: "yellow rental bikes".
Cost: £2 per hour,
with a sliding scale;
up to £8 per day.
Mainly available in West London.

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

Technorati tags: , , .

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, August 15, 2008

Part II - Baggy Cycling Shorts

Continuing from Part I - Lycra cycling shorts; what if the aerodynamic efficiency of revealing Lycra attire does not appeal? Do you feel too much like Borat in a mankini?

Baggy Cycling Shorts

On paper, baggy cycling shorts shouldn’t sell: They are loose clothing which flaps in the wind, causing some unnecessary drag. However, it’s not all bad, on hotter days, such air intakes are a welcome breeze.

To go baggy becomes a compromise in favour of increased practicality, and possibly fashion criteria too.

Certain models are so well designed with subtle styling, that the shorts can easily be worn away from the bike, and blend-in with day-to-day functions very inconspicuously. Something which cannot be said, for joining the supermarket checkout queue in a curve-hugging Lycra bib.

For brands, try:

Downhill Cycling Shorts

These are designed for a very specific purpose; fast downhill mountain biking, where the emphasis is on rider protection. Strengthened areas include additional padding for the faller, and tougher materials for the endurance of the shorts. These additions are reflected in the substantially higher price.

Downhill cycling attire tends to be oversized, to enable compatibility with the significant body armour and pads worn underneath. This makes them heavy and solid. Great for their designed purpose, but not the ideal choice for daily bike commuting. Unless you live at the top of a mountain.


  • 661
  • Adidas
  • Endura
  • Fox
  • Race Face
  • Sombrio
  • Spyder

Best cycling shorts?

Considering the all above, what are the best cycling shorts? The answer becomes a personal choice comprising each individual’s priorities of; wind resistance (drag), fashion, practicality (e.g. pockets), comfort (e.g. cooling, padding), ride types (long-distance, or to the shops), and cost.

Looking around the cycle routes of London, it’s clear that there are many different personal interpretations of what order those priorities should reside in.

Technorati tags: , , .

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Part I - Lycra Cycling Shorts

Aside from the saddle, and frame ergonomics, cycling shorts are the most important clothing surface influencing bike riding comfort.

What are the best types of cycling shorts?

Starting at the lower end of the market, the term misleadingly describes plain close-fitting stretchy shorts, traditionally worn by colour-blind members of the 1980’s. £5 on such an item, will gain you an audition for bananarama, but not cycling comfort.


All true cycling shorts have strategically located padded areas for dramatically increased comfort. Pads made of chamois provide spongy compression, and moisture absorption. Often, a bacteria-retardant synthetic chamois is supplied.

Lycra Cycling Shorts

These are the classic look, which comes to mind when you say; “cycling shorts”.
Their figure-hugging design, benefits aerodynamic considerations greatly: Having loose material flapping about like a sail, is an expedient way to waste your energy.

Lycra is to spandex, what Hoover is, to vacuum cleaners. The popular Lycra branded material can offer strong compression which may reduce muscle fatigue on longer rides.

To emulate the stars of the tour de France, cycling apparel in team colours will shoot the clothing expense skywards. Paying a premium to promote somebody else’s sponsors on your legs, doesn’t make you ride any faster! In fact, by wearing race colours, it only adds to your embarrassment when a determined granny zips her shopper past your glucose-expended limbs.


Bib Cycling Shorts

Here the shorts are integrated with a vest to make a one-piece outfit. The benefits are in a secure fit: Less movement means less friction, which is a good thing for those parts doing the moving.

A seamless design will ensure smooth contact with the skin, and reduce any irritation. A higher number of panels will lead to a better fit.

As well as the positive aerodynamic properties, the bib cycling shorts do not rely on an elasticated waist to stay in place. This should result in increased comfort, and totally eradicates the issue of shorts slipping downward.


Lycra is great, but where are you going to put your keys? See: Part II - Baggy cycling shorts.

Technorati tags: , , .

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Car, Tube, & Bike London

Riding a bike in London could be considered a daunting prospect, by those who haven’t tried it. In reality, it’s very accessible to anyone seeking a more enjoyable and less stressed method of urban travel.Take three typical London journeys, by bike, by car and by tube. What’s a day in the life, like?

Tube Traveller

One trillion people use the London Underground every day, and most of them will be in your carriage. Upon raising your eyebrows at yet another inflation-exceeding price rise for your travelcard, you descend in to the tunnels of doom, to join the five person deep throng which awaits the already-full incoming tube train.

You let a few tube trains go, because a) nobody could fit on, and b) one bloke looked a bit like achmed the terrorist.

Once on the tube train, amidst the crush, you’re thankful it’s the morning cattle train, where the occupants’ strong eau de toilette is still potent, causing enough light-headedness to help blank-out the distressing journey. The hot afternoon return leg is a different story…

Car driver

You step in to your big investment, and admire the gadgets; sat nav, traction control, sports mode. You take a last look, because you won’t be needing any of them. The dashboard display reads mpg, average speed (eek!), fuel remaining, but wisely does not inform the cost per minute. Running this resource-hungry investment in London, needs its own accountant.

It is possible to fit 10 bicycles in to the road space a car takes up. London is not a new-town design. London was designed and built for horse and cart movements, we’ve been only tinkering with the roads ever since. You know that, and prepare for another crawl of frustrating traffic jams, clogged junctions, and parking nightmares.

Bike Rider

You set off and take an option on your route; perhaps a little detour by a canal, or through a tranquil park before returning to the roads. You take it easy and the wind keeps you cool, you’ve realised that wherever there are traffic lights, it doesn’t matter how fast or slow you pedal, the journey time remains reliably static.

You filter gracefully past long lines of traffic, and arrive at your very own green box at each set of lights. You never see the same red signal more than once. You look left and notice that vehicles are spending more time stationary, than moving. You look right and watch the crowds pour from the confined underground.

White-van-man supplies a compliment about your legs, an understandable release of frustration since he has been stuck in traffic for the last two hours, and on paper, should be going faster than you.

Technorati tags:
, ,

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, July 25, 2008

Yellow Triangle

A heart-warming tale from the CTC’s updates, which reports a mother’s story about her son’s management of Asperger’s Syndrome.

“My son Will has Asperger’s Syndrome which for him manifests itself with deep depression and anxiety. Earlier this year at an appointment with his psychotherapist, he asked Will to express himself by colouring-in paper to convey his feelings. He coloured the whole page black and used sharp, thick, heavy lines to represent his anxieties but in the bottom corner of the page was a small yellow triangle. The psychotherapist asked "what does this represent?" and he replied "riding my bike".

Will explained that when he is out riding his bike, everything seems ok and manageable. As a result, we decided that we should ride bikes as a family and we now have at least one long bike ride a week.”

I think that Will is certainly on to something good there. Not only a productive way to help manage Asperger’s Syndrome, I think the yellow triangle feeling can be enjoyed by all bike riders, in the right time and place.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Better Off By Bike

Transport for London recently released the statistic that one in three adult Londoners has access to a bicycle, but only half of those used it at-all last year!

Hang on, people buy bikes starting from the £70 to £99 price range. That means practically everyone can afford a bike. So revise TfL's statistic to read "three in three" people have access to a bike. Pretty much 99% of London can cycle.

Buying a cheap bike is about the same as an evening’s restaurant bill for a few friends eating out in London or the money you could lose on the Tour de France should you choose to bet online. Price is definitely not an excuse; in fact the costs of buying and maintaining a bike are among its strengths.

Photo: Dan Chung

Credit to Boris for making real-life journeys by bike, when the temptation to be ushered in to a taxpayer’s city-hall car is always an option. However, one thing I don’t like is TfL’s obsession with cycle lanes.

It’s because cycle lanes are measurable, and boy do they love measuring things at TfL! It gives them something to talk about when about FIFTY people descend on meetings to hear themselves chatter about PC-BS and PR.

The fact is, you don’t need a cycle lane to cycle anywhere. If there’s a road, cycles are entitled to use it. So what that bikes sometimes have a slower top speed than other vehicles? – So does a tractor. Deal with it.

Any budget for cycling is good, but in a rush to coat London in yet more signage, giving more things to measure, it results in some cycle lanes not fit for purpose. For example, this one which encourages cyclists to ride in the door zone (the most hazardous part of the road where vehicle doors are opened in to the path of the cycling public). An experienced rider will ignore the lane and ride safely, but would a recent convert?

Technorati tags:
, , .

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, July 19, 2008

London Bike Ride and Bike Routes

Quick jump:
Commuting bike rides

What’s the best bike ride in London? Most of us perceive the limitation of bike routes as being restricted by how far we can cycle from our home base in London.

Actually, I am always impressed by hearing other cyclist’s distances. When people tell me they commute a 60 mile bike ride to London, I am amazed; it sounds such a big number, twice a day!

But that’s at one end of the fitness scale. For us more average Joes, there’s an instant decision which can massively expand the choice of bike rides available in London: Take your bike on the train.

Commuting by bike in London during peak-times, really requires a folding-bike when using trains for an integrated journey. Most train operators have restrictions on the number of conventional (non-folding frame) bikes allowed on their trains at certain times. Check here for the relevant train operator’s cycle policy.

Commuting bike rides in London

What is more important to you? Your average cycle speed? High or low interaction with traffic? Scenic cycle routes? The greatest or least distance to cover? All these questions need to be considered to find the best bike ride to work, by those criteria.

Bike routes are a very personal thing: Even if Granny Gloria and Courier Kate are next-door neighbours, their respective bike rides to the same destination are going to be very different if Kate wants to carve through the traffic jams, and Gloria wants to stop and feed the ducks!

It’s worth reviewing the layout of the relevant cycle route network nearby. Because it's amazing what short cuts can be found from bike routes hidden from main roads, presented on bike route maps.

What are the best bike routes from x to y?

These resources will help find the best bike route you're looking for.

London cycle route maps – hard copy

Bike budi, people share their best commuting bike routes.

London cycle routes from

Sustrans - Shows maps overlaid with national cycle network paths and routes for your bike ride.

TfL Cycle route guide
- hard copy.

Camden - Great online map showing National cycle network and London cycle network bike routes. It also has pre-planned bike trips, e.g.:
Waterloo to Clapham Common,
Edgware to Streatham,
Camden to Bloomsbury,
Wood Green to Southwark,
Highgate to Parliament Square,
Farringdon Road to Leyton,
Walthamstow to London Bridge,
Tottenham to The City,
Tower Bridge to Poplar,
Camden to Victoria Park.

And many other routes (to which you can add), involving;
Bow, Peckham Rye, Aldgate, Crouch Hill, Tufnell Park, Brockley, Crystal Palace, Hyde Park, Whitechapel, Mill Hill East, St James Park.

Leisure bike rides

Where are good places to cycle in London? Making full use of free-time, evenings and weekends to get out and brush-off the stresses of life, I guess we’re looking for a bike ride far removed from the hustle of the London roads. Something of an antidote, a little bit of healthy escapism.

The nicest bike rides seem to head for water, whether it is the connectedness of the river Thames towpath, the tranquillity of city lakes (e.g. Hyde park, Richmond park), or the calmness of still water (Royal docks, canals), it appears to be an attractive destination for London bike rides. - London’s canal bike rides. Grand union canal (Watford, Slough, Brentford), and Regents Canal. Easy flat bike rides.

Cycle trip to the O2 (the dome) - a quality stretch of National Cycle Route Number 1, the best bike route ever? After Greenwich, it continues all the way to Dover. See: Sustrans.

Regents Park (NW1) Inner and Outer Circles – are great for near-traffic free cycle training.

Royal Docks – Near city airport, good road surfaces and not to traffic heavy.

North downs, Surrey - Great escape from the city, big hills and stunning views.

Favourite places to cycle in London

TfL canvassed some opinions about people's favourite bike ride. Here are the results:
1 Rivers - Thames Cycle Path /Canals (Regents canal)
2 Richmond Park
3 Hyde Park
4 Epping
5 Regents Park/London Zoo/Primrose Hill
6 Embankment
7 Hampstead Heath/Parliament Hill
8 Lea Valley
9 Greenwich/Blackheath
10 Hampton Court
10 Oxford Street area
10 The City
10 Waterloo
10 Hackney/Dalston/Leytonstone/Old Street
10 Greenwich Park
11 Home
12 Westminster/Victoria
13 Kensington/Chelsea
14 Richmond
15 Trent Park
16 Playstation ramps
17 Work
18 Windsor
19 Battersea Bridge/Park
20 Highgate
21 Alexandra Palace
22 Tate Modern
23 Croydon
24 Eastway (Hackney)
25 Bromley
26 Dulwich Park
27 Victoria Park
28 Walthamstow area
29 Priory Park
30 Southmere Park
31 Compton Fields
32 Gladstone Park
33 Middlesex University
34 Putney Heath
35 Kew Gardens
36 Wimbledon Common
37 Virginia Water
38 Gower Street/Euston
39 Dollis Valley Barnet
40 Trafalgar Square
41 Within CCZ
42 Tower Bridge
43 Herne Hill
44 Isle of Dogs
45 Sydenham Wells Park (Lewisham)
46 Harrow Lodge Park
Source: TfL - Bike Cycling Show Feedback

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bike to Work - Companies

Continuing from the main Bike to Work article, if you have decided you want to take up this tax incentive and save potentially 50% tax-free, then you'll want to know where to look next.

If you work for a large company, the chances are that a bike to work scheme will already be set up, because it has been running (although not very well publicised) since about 2005.

The bike to work scheme can be outsourced, so that the whole thing (the finances, the buying of bikes, etc) is handled by a dedicated company which specialises in running the cycle to work tax incentive scheme.

These companies include; Evans Cycles, Halfords, Club Cycles, Booost, and Cycle scheme.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Bike to Work Scheme

“Cycle to Work” is a UK government tax incentive encouraging employees to bike to work, reduce their engine pollution and dramatically improve their health and wellbeing.

Britain loses about £12 billion due to sickness and absenteeism at work as recorded by the Health and Safety Executive.

Driving in London is an absolute joke. By the time we’ve paid for the congestion charge, the exorbitant parking (fees and fines), then paid our ransom to the mighty OPEC on the forecourt, we are left stuck in traffic jams, frustrated, often late and always heavily out of pocket. 40% of all car journeys (nationwide) are less than five miles.

The above facts are why so many people are starting to ride bikes to work.

Bike to work - Benefits

Employees who engage in the bike to work scheme, not only save money and get a brand new bike, but also gain advantages in the workplace, which are of interest to the employers.

Cycling to work has proven that employees who bike to work:

  • Work effectively for long periods. The frequency of cycling even short trips, builds stamina that can be useful in the working day.
  • Adopt a more positive attitude to their work. The energy used in cycling to work raises mood levels during the day.
  • Take sick days half as often as employees who don’t bike to work. Because the regular cycling maintains the body’s immune system, healthily.
  • Are less stressed compared to their colleagues who do not bike to work. The physical effort can be as big or small as you want, but the act of cycling during the week, releases stress. It is a very harmonious sensation to travel under one’s own power.
  • Are more productive. If employees are feeling more energised, less stressed, and healthier; it’s most likely they’re going to have a good day.

Lilleshall Sports Injury and Human Performance Centre Report.

Everyone is eligible “on the condition that bikes are used primarily for commuting or work related travel.”

In reality, you could buy a mountain bike, occasionally ride your bike to work and also use it for a nice off-road bike ride if you want. Or perhaps buy a half-price sleek, light, racing bicycle via the bike to work scheme, use it sometimes to ride your bike to work and at weekends enter road races, or cycle long scenic touring bike rides. The point is, you don’t HAVE to bike to work everyday, as long as you do sometimes, you can also use the bike for whatever you want in your free time.

The bike to work scheme can double your budget. So when glancing over the high-tech, super light, bicycles which are “out of your price range”, suddenly, by buying it through the bike to work scheme, such bikes now become a realistic possibility, within your new price range.

Bike to work scheme finances

How it all works:

1) The employee checks that their VAT registered employer runs a bike to work scheme. (If the employer does not; the employee makes considerable noise, directed at HR using the phrases “carbon footprint”, “global warming”, “reduced absenteeism” and “corporate responsibility”).

2) The employee then chooses personally whichever bike they want, plus accessories (lights, shorts, hi-vi, etc), from an approved supplier (typically large stores with lots of choice, like Evans Cycles, Halfords BikeHut, etc).

3) The total cost of bikes and bits will not exceed £1,000 inc. VAT. (Above £1,000, the employer would need to hold a consumer credit licence).

4) The VAT registered employer claims back all VAT on the bike and bits.

5) It is possible that the employer provides the employee’s bike for free.
However, after buying the bike & bits for the employee, the bespectacled bean-counters in the accounts department will most likely recover some of the value from the employee’s monthly pay slip.

6) You approve a regular sum to be taken out of your salary each month. This will be small since it is spread over time. E.g. For a £450 bike, it ends up that you only pay £21.28 per month, which is no dent in anybody’s pay packet. This is the employee leasing (or paying back the loan) from the employer.

There is no interest rate, it is not expensive, the employee simply pays off the VAT-free sum.

Salary sacrifice is available to everyone, but is not allowed if it takes the employee’s gross pay below the legal minimum wage.

Because the value of the employee’s monthly salary sacrifice is not subject to income tax or national insurance, the employee is on a winner here. For example, the combined retail value of a great bike with accessories in the shop sells for £999. The employer makes it VAT-free, (about £825) so this sum does not get taxed in the employee’s pay slip. If that employee is a 40% taxpayer, they’ve saved a further £330! Brilliant! It makes the actual cost of the bike and bits only £496.

7) At the end: To avoid the tangle of being classed as Hire Purchase, the official line is that the employer “leases” the bike to the employee for a set period (e.g. 12 months, 18 months). At the end of that period, the employer may (but is not committed to) offer the employee to buy a used bike from the bike to work scheme.

In reality, of course the employer is going to sell the bike to you, and this will be for a nominal price such as £10 / £20 (since you have already paid off the VAT-free loan), because they don’t want a garage full of ex-lease, bike-to-work bicycles laying around in a warehouse somewhere! In addition, the bike and cycling equipment is very personal; because you chose it, it was bought to suit your tastes (design, bike colour), usage (on / off road), and height (frame size). It makes a lot of sense that you keep the bike.

For information on companies who operate bike to work schemes, visit the bike to work companies page.

Other bike to work resources:

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Google Search