Monday 30 April 2012

A Dutchman's view of Vauxhall

Check out the two short videos on this blogpost:

As the author, Mark Wagenbuur, says,
 "The main real difference in (bicycle) infrastructure the Netherlands and the UK, neighbours separated only by the North Sea, lies in the way the limited space is allocated but not in the space available. It is all about choices that are made."

Saturday 28 April 2012

10,000 people quietly, politely demand change

This was the view in front of me this morning in Park Lane as people on bikes gathered for London Cycling Campaign's 'Big Ride'

and this was the view behind me

10,000 people turned up in the drizzle to put pressure on the Mayoral candidates to make London a safe, sane and pleasant place to cycle for eight to eighty year-olds.

This wasn't a rambunctious, riotous affair. In fact quite the opposite - never has Piccadilly Circus been so quiet with 10,000 vehicles passing through it.

The people on bikes even stopped at the red lights

Why any London politician wouldn't be going all out to get people out of their cars, off the buses and onto their feet and their bikes, through making the city pleasant for walking and cycling is totally beyond me.

The incoming Mayor must ensure a step-change in TfL so that quiet, non-polluting, efficient means of getting around London can prevail, taking on board the successful interventions that have made the cities of the Netherlands such an inspiration to Londoners.

Thursday 26 April 2012

Why London should be the most fantastic cycling city

This afternoon I cycled through central London towards the Euston Road near Warren Street. My destination was suitably hidden in a warren of back streets but visible from quite a distance.

I'd grabbed a rare opportunity, thanks to and in support of the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, to visit the BT Tower, which since 1981 has been

From 1966 until 1980 there was a revolving restaurant at the 34th floor, which is rapidly reached by lift.

The room is still used for corporate events by BT and pleasingly still revolves.

Anyway, the cycling point I wanted to make, to justify bragging blogging about going up the BT Tower, is that most of London is really FLAT and it's stuffed full of AMAZING places to visit.that are easily reached by bike. Places like the British Museum (centre left),  the Shard (as of next February), and the London Eye.

and Regent's Park

and Hyde Park, top left (taken into the sun)

Given the flat terrain it's shocking that London's authorities aren't working flat out to make London as cycle friendly as it can be. So please put the pressure on: Take the time to join London Cycling Campaign's 'Love London, Go Dutch' Big Ride this Saturday, which has great sights to see en-route, and make sure you vote for a Mayoral candidate who will deliver much better conditions for those who would like to let their teenagers ride into central London but currently daren't.

And, finally, if you're at the base of the BT Tower, don't miss the Banksy just by it

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Waterloo Station versus Antwerp Central Station

The London SE1 community website reports the excellent news that 
'A 'cycle hub' offering secure parking along with bicycle sales, hire and repair will open at Waterloo Station before the start of the Olympic Games at the end of July, transport minister Norman Baker confirmed this week.'
Meanwhile Copenhagenize has visited Antwerp and says,
'Not only is Antwerp Central Station the most beautiful train station I've ever seen, they have the most gorgeous and comprehensive bicycle parking facility I've ever seen. Nothing, anywhere, can beat this.'
Check out the Copenhagenzie video and let's see how the cycle hub at the UK's busiest railway station compares when it opens this summer.

Sunday 22 April 2012

My London Marathon - of sewers, signage and other stuff

I set off this morning to meander the 13 or so miles east to Crossness Pumping Station which raised London's sewage, six tons at a time, to a height sufficient for it be put into the Thames at the end of Sir Joseph Bazalgette's Victorian sewer network. Crossness is open for just a handful of days this years and I can't recommend it highly enough. You'll have an advantage going later in the year in that you won't have to undertake a fair old detour to avoid the London Marathon which,  I hadn't realised, was also taking place today.

Here are some photos I took today of some of the things that entertained me on my marathon journey there and back, starting with this teasing sign near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich .
 A great stencil
 in a perfect location in Thamesmead near Crossness

The exterior of Crossness Pumping Station

and the exquisite cast iron detail within

The detailed explanation

  Information to divulge next time you're dining on moules et frites

 In the grounds, supermarket home delivery is nothing new
 Returning via the Thames Cycle Path, Peter Burke's sculpture Assembly, 
which invites puerile word play games as it's located at Royal Arsenal. 
 The Royal Artillery Museum at the Royal Arsenal
Crossing the Thames on the free Woolwich Ferry
 A confusing sign
 Thames Barrier Park
 The Thames Barrier
 I passed under the Emirates Air Line, aka the Cable Car between the Dome and Excel. It's got towers, cables and even gondolas now. The nearer white tower is hidden in part by the Docklands Light Railway, and a second tower can be seen behind.
 Taking Cycling Superhighway 3 home I discovered the north London section of the London Marathon. What a good day of the year it would be to make London car-free in the  Bogota 'Ciclovia' way.
I was diverted to the A13 which has this sign, dispiriting firstly because drivers should always be expecting children to cross the road and even more so because nearly all of the following 500 yards has barriers to stop the pedestrians crossing.
The next Crossness open day is on Sunday June 24th and I'd suggest you put it in your diary now and have yourself a fantastic ride there and back.


Saturday 21 April 2012

Today's obstacles on Cycling Superhighway 7

Aside from all the cars parked in the cycling superhighway, because it's a weekend, we had the following this morning:

Firstly, the sensor (above lamp post in the photo below) to register the existence of cyclists waiting to cross St George's Road at the end of Elliot's Row wasn't working so the red light can't change to green. Dismount and walk across at the pedestrian crossing.

 A hundred or so yards on at the junction of Princess Street and London Road, drying (or dry) blue paint blocks the cycling superhighway - dismount and walk around.

Coming back from the city, scaffolding works and a broken down street cleaner obstructs the way and....
you can't reach the button you need to press in order to get a green light to cross Upper Thames Street to Southwark Bridge (though the bloke in Hi-Vis was happy to press it for us when we asked him to).

Not an obstacle, but not safe either, was the Addison Lee driver who cut around us as we stopped at the end of Southwark Bridge and turned left through the red light we had stopped for.

The person I was giving a cycle lesson to was surprised to hear that the Chairman of Addison Lee is very keen on cyclists being trained, and wondered if he wouldn't be better advised to concentrate on training his drivers.

Wednesday 18 April 2012

Do we want Formula One outside Kennington Park?

TfL are undertaking a safety review of junctions on their roads. I'm still not clear whether their definition of safety is 'if you dare to use it you might get away with it', as shown at the Oval above (video regrettably now taken down by the film maker, but it showed the conflict that results from fast moving vehicles, with drivers encouraged to zoom by the motorway style layout, and poor cycle facilities), or 'we want it to be so safe that parents will let their teenage daughters cycle there, and their teenage daughters will want to'.

The latter is achievable, as the Dutch have shown, but it will take quite a lot of work given the poor subjective safety of most of TfL's junctions and I seriously doubt that our current Mayor and TfL are up to the job.

The Oval area is one of those under review. A revised layout should include getting rid of the go-faster railings in the middle of Kennington Park Road; making it easy to cross from the parade of shops to the park, and

 slower traffic speeds, with, crucially, less of a race-track/motorway sliproad layout - achieved either by reducing the number of lanes or by giving wide, desirable and dedicated lanes to buses and cyclists.

I fear TfL's commitment will be on encouraging general motor traffic flow at the expense of creating a better place well suited to people travelling about in a healthy and sustainable manner.

Please take a moment to sign LCC's 'Love London, Go Dutch' petition if you haven't already and turn up to the Big Ride on April 28th. And finally, vote for the Mayoral candidate who will deliver most for cyclists in the coming term.

Thursday 5 April 2012

The Value of Cycle Training (prospective Mayors are you listening?)

There are times when people make disparaging remarks about funding for cycle training, believing it wouldn't be needed if money was instead spent on decent cycling paths and other such infrastructure.

I gave two one-to-one lessons today; one to a boy who wants to cycle to his secondary school and the other to a lady who had, she confided, somehow forgotten how to cycle.

Both of them received useful advice about on-road cycling, but in both cases they also benefited from considerable time spent making the bikes safe to ride.

The first bike needed both brakes adjusting so that they could fulfil their purpose. Part of the lesson was then spent acquiring the skill of stopping using brakes rather than shoe leather.

The second bike, which had been assembled from its box by the partner of the would-be rider, needed the forks to be positioned facing the correct way. The would-be rider was then delighted to discover that she hadn't in fact forgotten how to ride. Her day was fully made after I'd spent thirty seconds altering the position of her brake levers so she could rest her fingers on them while riding without having her wrist at a painful angle. As a non-driver she also appreciated having clarification on the priorities at junctions.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not for an instant saying that I don't want infrastructure in this country to the standards that exist in the Netherlands. As a nation we should be investing heavily in infrastructure and training.

The consequence will be fitter people who are able to travel independently over a considerable area to work, shop, play or study. Air and noise pollution and CO2 emissions will be reduced. Congestion will diminish and streets will become more sociable places. Less call will be made on the NHS to cure problems that exercise helps prevent.

The economic and societal benefits far outweigh the costs of providing both the infrastructure and the training.

I find it extraordinary that swimming lessons are a mandatory part of the school curriculum yet cycle lessons aren't. Isn't it blindingly obvious that both should be mandatory - not least because swimming and cycling are those rare things: activities that are good for us as well as ones that every child who has been well taught absolutely adores doing!

Society has so much to gain from giving every child the tools to make their way around autonomously, healthily and without polluting.

With the Mayoral elections nearing, let's find out whether the candidates  will take serious aim (with serious funds) at having 100% of primary school children doing cycle training before the end of their term of office.

Post Script: There's an interesting BBC news article about swimming in America, where lessons aren't part of the curriculum. This quote particularly resonates with me, "Parents who don't know how to swim are very likely to pass on not knowing how to swim to their children". It applies equally to cycling.

Tuesday 3 April 2012

Contractor's or Council's cock-up in Heygate Street?

In December I wrote positively about Southwark's revised plans for Heygate Street. The cycle lane going away from the Walworth Road was not only to be retained, but was to be widened to 1.5m. This could be achieved by narrowing the bus lane on the other side of the road to the minimum allowed.

In fact the proposals could have been based on proposals I made in my previous blogpost on the subject, where I pointed out that the narrow cycle lane in the bus lane going towards the Walworth Road was not only too narrow to be usable but also essentially redundant given the bus lane.

I checked with Southwark's Public Realm engineer, Clement Agyei-Frempong, who wrote to me confirming, "We intend to remove the cycle lane in the bus lane."

The work appears now to be complete. There is now a ground level pavement in preparation for the demolition of the at-height walk-ways. There is a cycle lane running away from the Walworth Road and it's pretty wide (though I haven't checked it's fully 1.5m).

The bus lane running the other way has been narrowed with the white edge line now inside the coloured tarmac, but look what's back in exactly the same place as before: a too narrow cycle lane!

The reality is that a double-decker just fits between the edge of the narrow cycle lane and the edge of the newly narrowed bus lane. Trust me, you wouldn't want it to pass that close to you while you're riding your bike on the yellow lines.
I really hope that this is a contractor's cock-up rather than a Southwark Council approved cycle lane, If it's the latter then there can be no doubt that the people involved in that decision making really don't understand what planning for cyclists is about.

I was delighted to receive a reply to my query from Mr Agyei-Frempong yesterday (10 April) saying
"I will urgently instruct the contractor to burn of the cycle lane within the bus lane. This was an omission by the contractor."
and even more delighted to hear that the paint is being burnt off today.