Wednesday, 21 September 2016

In which I do my bike finances

It has been 2 years since I bought my second-hand Gazelle, and I recently took it for a service at the excellent Flying Dutchman shop in Camden. They were friendly, very competent, and surprisingly cheap.

So, how much does it cost to own and run a bike?

Thursday, 21 July 2016

In which it's cool to cycle

This is the hottest week of the year so far, and if you only cycle commute once or twice a month, it seems like a good week to leave the bike at home.

But oddly, that's not what I've found.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

In which chatting is a good measure of cycling

There are various ways of measuring how suitable a road is for cycling. For example, Transport for London has the Cycling Levels of Service (CLoS) score, and Wales has the Cycling Route Audit Tool. These are useful tools for engineers and planners to check that the specific details of new schemes are beneficial to cyclists, and won't lead to injuries or deaths.

But useful though it would be to apply them to every road in the city, the process would take a while. And whilst it is very good to have an objective measure of safety, these complex descriptions don't make it easy to convince residents that a road is genuinely not suitable for everyone to cycle.

Enter: the chatting index. This is my simple 3-step scale for ranking roads for cycling.

Can you chat whilst travelling?

Level 3: Cycling side-by-side, chatting away.
Level 2: Mostly chatting, but with interruptions.
Level 1: No chatting possible, interruptions too frequent.
(Level 0: Not sure the other person is even still alive, but can't spare the attention to check.)

This is a remarkably easy scale to judge roads on. Simply get 2 people to cycle together, and ask them where they could and couldn't talk. If you can't do that, it's fairly easy to just imagine!

Everywhere that there are high volumes of motor vehicles or pedestrians sharing the same space, they will have to keep separating to get through or let others pass.
Everywhere that the path is muddy or potholed or overgrown, they need to concentrate on weaving a safe path.
Everywhere that it is too narrow, or there are barriers to negotiate, they will have to go single file and shout back over their shoulders to talk.
Everywhere that they have to dismount, they will have to concentrate on not whacking their shins or anyone else.
Every time a route is not obvious, they must switch to discussing where to turn next.
Everywhere that they feel nervous, late at night in an unlit alleyway, they won't feel comfortable slowly chatting along.
Everywhere cobbled, they will be jolted too much to talk.
Everywhere that it's too steep, they'll need to save their breath!

So, how sociable is cycling near you?

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

In which I redesign the Old Kent Road

Segregated cycle lanes are popping up all over London at the moment, with what seems like a dozen more in the works once the current crop are complete.

So I wanted to consider the Old Kent Road in Southwark, and wonder: could we fit a cycle lane down here?

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

In which Westminster is fantastic for chocolate shops, and terrible for cycling

The City of Westminster has several Themed Cycle Rides. You can join an organised tour, or follow the route on your own. We did the tour of chocolate shops on our own, in an outing that was both delicious and sadly illuminating.

Firstly, the chocolate shops themselves: whoever thought this tour up was a genius. The staff were friendly and helpful, very knowledgeable and with personal recommendations for what to try. Not one of them was grumpy and uninterested in us, though we turned up only intending to sample a single item. In every new shop, I decided that this was where I was buying presents for everyone I know for the foreseeable future.
Even if you don't eat chocolate, the décor alone was worth a look in Prestat, Choccywoccydoodah, and Pierre Hermé - and the others weren't bad either!

But the cycling - wow, Westminster. Ouch. Has anyone from the council ever ridden a bicycle?

There are 3 types of streets in Westminster: broad main roads, which are terrifying to cycle on; back streets full of queueing cars, too narrow for overtaking, even on a bike; and quiet, empty little streets, which are a joy to cycle on - until either a black cab comes whizzing up from behind and honks at you for having the temerity to be on their shortcut, or the street comes to an abrupt end at a busy main road.

The shops are far too small to bring a bicycle inside. A fellow Londoner sums it up:
And if you are unlucky enough to be doing this with friends, good luck finding enough free lamposts for all of you.

If you are going to take this Cycle Ride, book into the official one and take safety in numbers. Or even easier, ditch the bike, and use your feet. A train to Knightsbridge for the finale is cheaper than hiring a city bike anyway - because obviously TfL want to incentivise more people to travel on the Piccadilly line. But that's a rant for another time.