Fun, fantastic and forward-thinking cycling infrastructure

Cycling infrastructure: the first things that will probably come up in your mind are painted cycle lanes and curb segregations. There are always some cycling infrastructure projects in the works but here are some existing cycling infrastructures with the wow-factor that take cyclists over, under and through obstacles.

Hovenring (Eindhoven, Netherlands)

This suspended cycle path roundabout isaerial Hovenring
somewhat like the skeleton of the USS Enterprise from Star Trek. Not content with segregated cycle lanes and traffic lights, the Dutch have taken it to another level with Hovenring. That was not a pun because the road was constructed below surface level so that cyclists don’t have to struggle up steep ramps.

The Cycle Snake (Copenhagen, Denmark)

Copenhagen never fails to impress and gave birth to Cykelslangen, or Cycle Snake. They have raised the bar with this elevated cycle path, pun intended. It’s a two-way cycle path that snakes between buildings and along the harbour. It works with neighbouring bridges to help cyclists use the most convenient route to navigate across the harbour in with a light sea breeze in their hair.

San Sebastian tunnel (San Sebastian, Spain)

We head underground for this next one. I believe this is currently the world’s longest cycling tunnel. It ‘s an old railway converted tunnel at nearly half a mile in length and is brightly lit. Rejoice for the flat cycle ride!

Two Tunnels Greenway (Bath, UK)

This shared path is another old railway converted tunnel. The path takes in two tunnels with the Combe Down tunnel being the longest cycling tunnel in Britain. Bath is very hilly so this is like music to hill-haters’ ears, literally (there is music in the tunnel!) The dimly lit tunnel and spooky music might be more of a challenge for anyone who needs to sleep with a night light.

SolaRoad (Krommenie, Netherlands)

This experimental cycle path is short at the moment but the engineers have set their sights far beyond this SolaRoad in Krommenie. The path is equipped with solar panels and the idea is to generate electricity to be used for street lighting, traffic systems, houses and electric vehicles (maybe this is the first step to Tron-like cities?). The future is bright indeed.

‘Starry Night’ Cycle Path (Eindhoven, Netherlands)

Van Gogh Roosegaarde bike path by Studio Roosegaarde
Photo courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

Inspired by Van Gogh’s Starry Night and beautifully crafted by artist and designer Daan Roosegaarde. This kilometer-long cycle path comes to life in the dark. The swirling pattern of embedded glow in the dark stones is a truly beautiful tribute to Van Gogh. It is a part of the Van Goth cycle route through the province where he was born and raised.

 

ECO Cycle underground bicycle parking (Tokyo, Japan)

The sky is the limit and digging into the ground is not an easy task especially in Japan. The frequent volcanic and tectonic plate activities means that civil engineers in Japan have a lot to contend with. It didn’t stop Giken Ltd. from bringing their anti-seismic underground bicycle parking to Tokyo. You get safe bike parking and automated robotic arm awesomeness.

bicycle_lift_in_trondheim_3

CycloCable (Trondheim, Norway)

Steep hills really get in the way so Jarle Wanvik built a bike escalator, or Trampe lift, back in 1993 when he didn’t want to get into work all sweaty. I don’t blame him, the slope hits 18% gradient. It has been upgraded and rebranded as the CycloCable and continues to deliver stroller, scooters and cyclists 150m up to the top.

 

Did we miss any existing fun, fantastic or forward-thinking cycling infrastructure? Let us know in the comments section.

 

Don’t just ride to work, ride for work

If the two favourite parts of your day are the cycle ride to the office, and the cycle ride home, perhaps it’s time to consider an alternative career. Here are a few different ways to make a living on two wheels.

Professional racer

OK, so this won’t be a viable option for most of us, but for those who are sufficiently young and dedicated British Cycling has information on how to go about becoming a member of team GB, with pathways available through their Go-Ride scheme.

Emergency Services

Both the Police and Ambulance Service deploy officers on bicycles who will undergo additional specialist cycle training. The opportunity to spend your day cycling will (hopefully) not be the primary reason for choosing either of these careers, but if you have a calling to this sort of work and can combine it with a love of cycling, all the better.

Courier

Bike messengers, or couriers, are perhaps the most visible form of bike based employment, certainly in major cities. A good level of fitness, knowledge of the city, and, most importantly, a willingness to report for work whatever the weather are all needed to make a go of this job. For more insight into the life of a cycle courier, read this extract from Jon Day’s account.

Companies like Uber and Deliveroo are recruiting increasing numbers of cyclists to make food deliveries, although both companies have come under fire for the terms and conditions they offer to workers in the so called gig economy.

Cycle barista

If you love your coffee as much as your bike then you could set up as a roving barista. Velopresso have won multiple awards for their innovative three wheeled, pedal driven espresso machine. Luxury cycling brand Rapha are also recruiting baristas for their Cycling Club, as long as you have “a passion for delivering a world-class customer experience”.

Cycling instructor

For anyone with a passion for getting more people onto bikes, working as a qualified cycling instructor can be incredibly rewarding. The job involves teaching both children and adults how to ride a bicycle for the first time, or training existing riders in the skills they need to ride confidently in all situations. For more information, see our blog post on the topic.

 

Cycle to work day: how to get involved

Every single day of the year is now National or International Day of something or other.  3 March is If Pets Had Thumbs Day. And 30 April is, I swear on my life, not a word of a lie, National Honesty Day. Squeezing into this busy schedule on 14 September 2016 is National Cycle to Work Day. So why should you give this particular one your time of, er, day?

What’s it all about?

Cycle to Work Day encourages everyone to take to two wheels and ride to work for at least one day, although of course the long term aim is to see a sustained growth in numbers of people cycling, both for commuting and for leisure.

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 16.46.48Census data indicates that 741,000 people in the UK cycled to work regularly in 2011, and the stated aim of the organisers is to see this exceed 1 million by the time of the next census in 2021.

Isn’t cycling booming already?

It’s certainly true that some parts of the country have seen encouraging increases in numbers of cyclists, most notably in London. But the Department for Transport’s most recent ‘Local Area Walking and Cycling Statistics’ report revealed “no statistically significant change in reported cycling prevalence in England overall.”

The same report reveals wide disparities between numbers cycling in various parts of the country, from the cycle-stuffed streets of Cambridge and Oxford, where respectively 58 and 43 per cent of people cycle at least once a month, to Burnley, where the figure drops to just 5 per cent.

How will one day change anything?

By generating a higher profile for cycle commuting and focusing attention around a single day it is hoped that Cycle to Work Day will encourage people to try switching from other modes of transport, and that a percentage will make that switch permanent.

A particular focus is on the role of employers in making cycle commuting a more attractive option. Employer advocacy is crucial in creating a culture of cycling in the UK. There are great benefits to businesses of having a higher percentage of cyclists in their ranks, including freeing up parking spaces, better rates of staff retention, reduced absenteeism, and a happier, healthier workforce.

The campaign is also closely tied to the Cycle to Work Scheme, which delivers financial benefits to both employer and employee when purchasing a new bike.

How can I get involved?

Visit the Cycle to Work Day website to pledge your support, which helps the organisers to keep track of the total miles pledged, and the associated money saved, calories burnt, and C02 emissions avoided.

You can also challenge your employer, and access resources to help you to become a cycling champion within your workplace. So even if you are already convinced of the benefits, Cycle to Work Day provides a good excuse to spread the message further.

Back to school: but how?

September sees about 8 million pupils returning to school, or going for the first time. Around 35% will be driven to and from primary school, a journey with an average distance of 3 miles (significantly less in London where catchment areas are much smaller). Just 2% of primary school pupils and 3% of secondary school pupils will cycle to school, even though active travel options offer a range of benefits. So is it time to think about changing the school run, for the school ride?

The benefits

According to a 2010 study by Sustrans, nearly half of children wanted to cycle to school, with parents citing safety as the most important reason for not allowing them to do so.

In fact, cycling to school can be a great way to instill road safety skills in young children, and to allow them to develop the ability to manage risk effectively. It also promotes independence, training them to make good decisions for themselves.

According to teachers, children who cycle or walk to school arrive more relaxed and ready to learn than those who are driven. Undertaking a regular journey by foot or by bike will also help children to meet the recommended levels of physical activity.

Encouraging more people to ditch their cars has associated benefits for the entire school community and beyond. Potentially dangerous congestion at the school gates is reduced, as are levels of pollution.

Things to considerschools_level_1

Younger children will be accompanied on their journey until the parents feel confident that they are able to make the trip independently.

Spend time planning a route, choosing quieter roads where possible. Ride the route together during the holidays when you have plenty of time. You don’t want to be doing it for the first time on a school morning when, chances are, everyone’s running late and emotions are running high.

Pay particular attention to busy junctions, pinch points, passing parked cars and other situations where road positioning is extra important.

If possible, find other parents and children to buddy up with so that they can share the journey with friends.

When sharing the roads with others, visibility is key so think about donning bright clothing or a day-glo tabard over the school uniform. Reflectors and lights are a must when the days grow shorter. Being visible to other road users is also about how and where you position your bicycle on the road, and this is where cycle training can come in…

Get training

Cycle training equips both adults and young people with the skills and the confidence they need to ride on the road. Lessons are available to individuals as well as to families. You can even use the session to test ride the school run alongside a qualified instructor who will have local knowledge. They will be able to give expert advice on particular roads and junctions, and also help with route planning.

See what training is available in your area.

Will Olympic success have a trickle down effect?

British cycling enjoyed another golden fortnight as Team GB topped the cycling medal table at the Rio Olympics with 12 medals, six of them gold. The Brits have now exerted a period of sustained dominance, coming out on top in London 2012, and also four years earlier in Beijing. How does this high profile success at the elite level impact on cycling as a whole?

Path to success  

The success of British Cycling over the past decade is the result, first and foremost, of the hard work and dedication of a small number of elite athletes. It has been made possible by considerable investment as UK Sport poured money into those events with good medal prospects. A third key factor has been the ruthless pursuit of the aggregation of marginal gains, a concept popularised by Sir Dave Brailsford, formerly performance director of British Cycling and now general manager of Team Sky.

The idea that making multiple tiny improvements in diverse processes can add up to a large gain is now applied in all sorts of different spheres (including the classroom), and has been re-hashed by shelf-fulls of self-help authors. It’s not all that easy, however, to see its application to the everyday cyclist.

Does Olympic success benefit everyday cycling?

The number of people cycling in the UK has grown rapidly over the period of Olympic success, but proving a link between the two is not straightforward.

British Cycling and its principal supporter, Sky, are keen to demonstrate a link between elite performance and participation. This report, published post London 2012, shows strong evidence for increased participation by existing cyclists, significant uptake by newly inspired cyclists, increased consumer spending, and support for better cycling facilities across the country. This last point is an important one, as public support for better cycling infrastructure will be key to sustained growth.

The ambition to benefit recreational cyclists, as well as those who race competitively, can be seen in British Cycling’s campaigning work. The recently launched #ChooseCycling Charter calls upon local authorities to sign up to a three-point pledge “which will help transform Britain into a true cycling nation”.

There are some who see this widening of their remit by British Cycling as treading on the toes of other organisations who have long been campaigning on similar issues. It is to be hoped that all those who share the goal of increased participation in cycling of all types can work together to good effect.

Feeling inspired?

If you’ve been inspired by Froome, Wiggins, Clancy and Trott then check out some of our other blogs for help and advice on all sorts of topics, including buying a second hand bike, group and social rides, and whether cycle training is for you.

 

Changing lives with bicycles

We love cycling as it adds to our sense of freedom, independent mobility and sustainability. For people living in precarious circumstances, these same qualities can make bicycles a life-changing asset, by improving access to basic essentials.

Critical Mass to Calais

Last year Critical Mass organised an event which saw eighty cyclists ride seventy miles through London and Kent and on to Calais. On arrival at the “Jungle” camps they left their bicycles and tents for the use of the migrants who live there. Julian Sayarer, one time record holder for fastest circumnavigation by bicycle, was one of the participants. In his account of the ride, he explains, “Bicycles, judging by the constant stream being pedalled from the Jungle to Calais, are an invaluable aid in lives that have already been made unbearably difficult”.

The camp sits just beyond a motorway bridge a five-mile round trip from the distribution centres. Bicycles make daily movements manageable to access aid, services and asylum offices turning an exhausting and dehumanising five-mile walk into a swift ride.

The Bike Project

London based The Bike Project receive donations of second-hand bikes, fix them up in their workshop, and then donate them to asylum seeking refugees in the capital. Beneficiaries are encouraged to attend the workshop to get actively involved in the process and learn basic bike maintenance to improve self sufficiency. The Project also provides cycle training to women refugees in an all female environment to open up the benefits of cycling to as many refugees as possible.

London is a city that is rich in opportunities. A bike can help people reach the many resources that London has to offer: charities that can feed them, lawyers that can aid their application process, home office appointments, healthcare, education and much more. If they are lucky enough to receive status, a bike can help them find employment.

Anyone wishing to help can find out more here. You can donate a bicycle, money, or your time.

Elephant Bike

Another UK based charity transforming lives with bicycles is the Krizevac Project, through its Elephant Bike initiative.

The charity employs youth offenders to strip down and refurbish unused Royal Mail delivery bikes, building skills and gaining qualifications in the process. The bikes are then put up for sale at www.elephantbike.co.uk. Each bike purchase funds the shipment of a second bike to Malawi, where they provide sustainable transport and create employment opportunities.

Qhubeka

These type of initiatives may seem far removed from elite-level cycling, but the two worlds come together in the form of Team Dimension Data, who ride in support of the Qhubeka project, funding bicycles to change lives in Africa. Qhubeka is an Nguni word that means “to move forward”. The charity believes that mobilising people with bicycles can create access to education, healthcare and economic opportunity. Find out more here.

 

A guide to buying a second hand bike

This post will look at how to buy a second hand general utility bicycle, as opposed to a high performance road machine, or vintage collector’s item, which is another kettle of (more expensive) fish.

London bikesBuying second hand can offer the chance to get the best possible bike for your budget, and for London commuters who may have to leave their bike locked up in public there’s also a school of thought that pre-loved bikes are less attractive to thieves.

Talking of which, it’s important to take all reasonable steps to avoid buying a stolen bike. BikeRegister, the national cycle database, has some excellent advice to prevent you from unwittingly supporting bike crime.

So what else should you look out for?

Where to buy

Gone are the days of scouring the classifieds in the local paper. Online equivalents such as Gumtree and Craigslist can harbour the odd bargain still, as can E-Bay, but shopping for a bike without being able to test it out in person is obviously fraught with risk.

Look for listings with plenty of detail and good quality photos. It’s always preferable to have the option to collect in person, rather than having the goods posted out to you.

A better bet might be the classified forums of popular bike-related websites, such as BikeRadar, Singletrack, or (for fixed gear and single speed) LFGSS. The forum communities are self-policing and will weed out anything that doesn’t look right.

Better still would be to buy a second hand bike from a local bike shop, as any reputable shop will have given their bikes a full service before sale, and will be more likely to be able to deal with you sympathetically should any issues arise.

What to look for

To avoid a bargain buy turning into a two-wheeled money pit, it’s important to check for common problems before parting with your cash. If you don’t feel confident in your ability to make a full assessment then take someone along with you who does.

  • First of all make sure you get the right size. A bargain priced bike that doesn’t fit is a false economy.
  • Wheels should be true – meaning the rim doesn’t appear to wobble as it rotates – within a mm or two. Badly dished wheels are expensive to fix, or may be beyond repair, and make it impossible to set the brakes up effectively.
  • The frame should be straight and free from dents. Any signs of cracks or bends are a deal breaker.
  • Check that the seat post is not seized in the frame, as you’ll need to adjust this to your height.
  • Make sure that the forks turn smoothly in the frame when you move the handlebars.
  • Look for any play (looseness) in the bottom bracket and cranks, and in the headset.
  • Check that the brakes are working, and that the cables run smoothly and aren’t frayed.
  • Check that the gears operate correctly, and again, that the cables run smoothly.
  • If possible, having conducted some basic safety checks, take the bike for a test ride.

Learning a little about bike maintenance, and showing your bike some regular care and attention, will save you even more money in the long run.

Happy shopping!

A nifty new app for puncture roadside rescue

Imagine you are a cyclist with a puncture. You don’t have a spare inner tube or you can’t fix the puncture yourself. You don’t know where you can find a bike shop – maybe they are all closed at the time –  and you are going to be late for an appointment…

Wouldn’t it be great if you could hail someone just around the corner to come to your rescue? Well, now you can with the Kerbi app for iPhone.

With Kerbi, if you’re a stranded cyclist, simply ‘hail’ a repair provider via the app, allowing mobile bike mechanics, bike messengers or other expert cyclists in the area to respond directly to your request. You can then choose a repair provider from the quotes you receive, with secure cashless payment upon completion.

Check out the video and homage to The Bourne Identity!

For bike mechanics, Kerbi provides a new route to market for their skills. The “receiver” for Kerbi is another app called Street Stream. Street Stream was originally set up as an app for couriers (including bike messengers). Customers put same-day delivery requests on the Street Stream website and couriers can quote. Now bike mechanics (and bike messengers) can get alerted to stranded cyclists with a puncture and submit their price for getting a puncture sorted. Street Stream takes a small fee per job (£2) – the rest is the mechanic’s to keep and they can charge whatever the market will bear.

In future it will be possible to do more than just punctures, including a whole host of bicycle repairs.

If you would like to check out Kerbi, it’s available on the app store here.

If you would like to be a Kerbi agent, providing repairs, you can download Street Stream here and follow the registration instructions.

7 cycling myths debunked

Roads were built for carsCyclist Light

This one’s reasonably easy to dispose of when you consider that many of our roads were first built in Roman times. A comprehensive rebuttal exists in the form of Roads Were Not Built For Cars, an exhaustively researched book which uncovers the extent to which cyclists were, in fact, instrumental in pushing for the construction of good quality roads.

Cyclists don’t pay road tax

True. But then no-one’s paid road tax since it was abolished in 1937. Roads are paid for through general local and national taxation. The additional tax burden on motorists is in the form of petrol duty and vehicle excise duty. Lots of cyclists do pay these taxes by the simple fact that being a cyclist and owning a car are not mutually exclusive.

Cyclists should always ride as far to the left as possible

This erroneous and unhelpful belief is perhaps partly a product of the previous two myths, encouraging a view that cyclists are somehow a second class of vehicle on the roads, and should concede space wherever possible. Riding close to the gutter decreases a cyclist’s visibility to other road users, and can encourage drivers to pass in an unsafe way. And when riding past parked cars, it’s always good practice to keep a distance of just over the width of a car door so that, in the event of one opening suddenly, you don’t need to swerve out or, worse still, collide with it. Cycle training can help you to gain a proper understanding of where to position your bike on the road.

A majority of cyclists ignore red lights

The focus of much ire directed at cyclists is generated by red light jumping, or other behaviour that contravenes traffic laws.  TFL conducted a fairly comprehensive study into cycling in London in order to test the anecdotal claim that a majority of cyclists ignore red lights, and found that the actual figure was around 16%.

According to the Department for Transport, disobeying traffic signals was a contributory factor in 1% of cycle accidents and 1% of car accidents in 2013. That’s 187 and 1,664 accidents respectively, so while the proportions may be equal, there are many more drivers than cyclists causing accidents by running red lights.

Cycling is dangerous

There are risks associated with all activities, but broadly speaking cycling is not particularly risky. When comparing modes of transport, the relative risks of cycling, walking and driving are fairly similar per hour spent traveling (as opposed to per mile covered). Cycling as a sport carries less risk of injury than alternatives such as football, athletics or even swimming.

Once you balance the risks against the benefits of cycling there is a clear positive net effect on health at both an individual and population-wide level.

You need to be fit

Like any physical activity, cycling can be adjusted to suit all fitness levels and abilities. It can provide really daunting challenges for those looking to push their limits, but it can also be a great starting point for anyone looking to increase levels of activity. Even electric bikes can provide benefits to those otherwise unwilling to get onto two wheels, as we’ve looked at previously on the blog.

Cycling is expensive

It can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Granted, the Tour de France winning Pinarello Dogma F8 won’t leave much change from £10,000, but then you wouldn’t want to leave it locked up outside the pub anyway. A perfectly decent bike can be had for around £300 (or half of that if buying second hand) and although there is a bewildering array of clothing and accessories available, none of it is really essential, except perhaps a good quality lock.

So what’s stopping you?

5 great bicycle-themed films

Cycling doesn’t perhaps lend itself to the silver screen in quite the same way as other sports. It doesn’t yet have it’s ‘Raging Bull’, or even it’s ‘Escape to Victory’. Nevertheless there are several great movies which feature the bicycle at their heart. Add your own favourites below.

The Bicycle Thieves

Vittorio De Sica’s masterpiece of Italian neorealism follows the misfortunes of down-on-his-luck Antonio and his young son Bruno. Over the course of the day they embark on a fruitless hunt for the father’s stolen bike, which he desperately needs in order to work and support his family.

Jour de Fête

In this classic French comedy, Jacques Tati plays mailman François who regularly chats to the customers while making his rounds. After having occasion to watch a film depicting the United States postal service (who of course decades later sponsored Lance Armstrong) as an organization of great speed and efficiency, François determines to try to emulate them. He decides to use a bicycle to improve the speed of his service, but, as they say, things don’t exactly go to plan.

Belleville Rendezvous

Sylvain Chomet’s ‘Les Triplettes de Belleville’, to give its original title, tells the story of Champion, a Tour de France cyclist, who is kidnapped by French gangsters. His grandmother sets off to rescue him, accompanied by his enormous dog Bruno, and for reasons too obscure to go into, the titular triplets, music hall singers from the jazz era. The film is particularly notable for it’s unique style of animation and it’s depiction of the physical torture of training for, and riding Le Tour, including an ascent of Mont Ventoux.

BMX Bandits

The IMDB synopsis for this film reads as follows: “Two BMX expert bikers and a friend of theirs (Nicole Kidman) become entangled with a group of bank robbers after discovering a carton of walkie-talkies.” The plot may be fairly thin stuff, but it serves as a good excuse for a series of set pieces showing BMXs being ridden around some of Sydney’s most famous locations.

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure

Tim Burton’s directorial debut follows the eponymous eccentric man-child as he travels across the United States in search of his beloved bicycle. Anyone who’s had a bike stolen will find themselves rooting for Pee-wee, and it’s probably not giving too much away to reveal that he is eventually reunited with his bike, but not before making a host of new friends along the way.

Note: We’ve deliberately excluded documentaries from this list. There are enough great docs about cycling that they deserve a separate list of their own. Watch this space.