As London Councils are challenged to further increase higher rates of cycling in their boroughs, their efforts are supported by initiatives from London’s central government.
London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan and the GLA, in an effort to reduce pressure on roads and public transport has set a target to reduce car journeys by 3 million per day by 2041.
The Mayor’s plan envisions 80 per cent of journeys will be made by public transport, walking or cycling, with enough cycling infrastructure in place to provide 70 per cent of Londoners with access to a safe cycle route within 400 metres of their home.
Transport for London (TfL) and London Councils are investing heavily into cycling infrastructure programmes to support these targets and generally agree cycling offers significant upside to alleviate road traffic issues by increasing cycle journeys over cars, while also creating ‘greener’ transport options that support clean air initiatives.
Along with more dedicated cycle routes, bicycle hire schemes, cycle parking facilities and education, London Councils have been tasked to deliver sufficient numbers of cycle skills training programmes to their communities to increase overall cycle journeys in their boroughs.
But is it enough? Will investment in these initiatives, along with improvements in cycling infrastructure, result in a modal shift in increased cycling journeys within London’s respective boroughs?
Some Councils, such as Lambeth, Southwark and Hackney are driving higher rates of cycling activity through increased course levels, promotions and events. But Boroughs are also under intense pressure to provide evidence their investment in cycle skills training programs results in greater cycle journeys. There are success stories. Sutton Council’s three year investment in their Smarter Travel program increased cycling by 75%.
A recent survey from Cycle Confident provided statistics supporting this to be the case. The survey was directed at 1539 adults living in one of 12 London boroughs who had taken a Cycle Skills training session from Cycle Confident in the last 7 years.
In answer to the key question of whether cycle skills training increased activity, 69 per cent of respondents stated their personal cycling activity increased after cycle instruction.
A follow on question provided further insights into cycling habits with 69 per cent stating their cycling activity increased between 1x more per month (11.44%), 2-3x per month (17.6%) to as much as 4x more per week (10.75%).
When asked if providing more Cycle Skills training would result in more people cycling in their area, 85.4% agreed with this question.
Respondents also agreed overwhelmingly when asked if they would like their Borough to provide more Cycle Skills training courses, with 88 per cent in the affirmative. This high number may be in response to concerns of budding cyclists who wish to cycle more but are put off by a number of factors, such as fear of busy roads or lack of cycling infrastructure.
The majority of London councils offer two free sessions per adult. However converting a new cyclist with basic skills learned in entry-level cycle training classes, to one who can confidently ride in busy London traffic, is a real challenge.
David Showell, MD of Cycle Confident says “Converting weekend leisure cyclists into weekday riders making local journeys or commuting to work is key to delivering modal shift in London’s Boroughs.”
Showell went on to say, “Cycle instruction is key. It delivers a good foundation to begin a lifelong cycling journey. But adults and children also need to be able to practice their new skills and build confidence before moving onto London’s busy roads.
Helen Hayes, MP of Dulwich and West Norwood, who recently took a cycle skills training course stated “The key to encouraging more Londoners to use cycling for every day travel is in my view both delivering significant investment in infrastructure to make our roads safer, and continuing free access to high quality training to give people the skills and confidence to cycle safely. I would never have felt confident enough to take my bike out on the road without the training I took part in, which made a huge difference.”
This seeming lack of confidence can be seen in the question regarding why more Londoners don’t cycle in their areas and addresses the issue of personal safety. While cyclists are willing to invest in further lessons with a view to increasing their cycling activity, 78 per cent said the reasons they didn’t cycle more was due to three key issues; 1) fear of cycling on busy roads, 56%; 2) lack of cycle lanes and quiet ways, 21%; and 3) not having sufficient cycle skills to ride with confidence on roads, 17%.
In answer to what type of cycling was preferred, 63% of respondents use their bicycle for leisure activities. This would assume many leisure cyclists ride their bikes during weekends, in parks, on bikes paths or quiet roads, rather than in traffic. In order to convert this group to commuter cycling, advanced, on-road training needs to be combined with further investment in cycling infrastructure to make sustainable gains in modal shift.
With TfL’s continued investment in London’s cycling initiatives, even modest increases in cycling activity, for example, from 2% to 5% are doable. This growth target is not just UK centric. Other European countries are also heavily supporting initiatives to increase cycling journeys.
France currently has a modal breakdown where on average, 2% of journeys take place by bike, but the head of their National Bicycle Council believes that 14-17% of all journeys is a realistic target.
Some UK and European cities have far higher rates of journeys by bike regardless of rain, cold or hilly terrain. For instance, the UK has its share of rain but Cambridge (100,000 inhabitants) enjoys 27% of journeys made by bike, with Oxford at 17%. In London during rush hour, it’s estimated 32% of all road users are cyclists.
Parma, Italy (176,000 inhabitants) at 19%, is as high as Amsterdam for cycling journeys. Västerås, Sweden (115,000 inhabitants) which is very cold in winter has 33% while Basel, Switzerland, (230,000 inhabitants), 23%.
The safety of a cyclist depends on a number of factors: their visibility to larger road users such as automobiles, motorist behaviour, unbroken road surface, clear signage, and separation from vehicles.
While cyclists are more vulnerable than heavier road users, physical and mental aptitude plays a part in their cycling experience. Good judgement, ability to anticipate problems before they occur, road sense and mastery of the bicycle such as balance and agility, play a great part in the cyclist having a safe journey. The delivery of National Standard Cycle Training as a foundation course is a key component to their continued safety.
Cycle Confident has played an integral part in London’s transformation into a burgeoning cycling city. As the leader in London’s Cycle Skills training sector for 10 years, Cycle Confident has trained over 75,000 children, 46,000 adults, and 15,000 HGV drivers as part of its remit to London’s Boroughs.
It continues to invest in its tech platform to deliver robust reporting back to its clients’ and uses data analysis to react quickly to Council client’s changing needs while delivering quality customer service to its retail customers.
In the near future Cycle Confident will be announcing new initiatives in Balance Bike Teacher Training (BBTT) and continues to develop new training programs to add to London’s growing reputation as a cycling-friendly city.
Cycling is by far the most efficient way to get around for the majority of city dwellers in terms of time and cost. Every time you choose your bike over public transport or your car, you are saving money. For ease of comparison, we’ve done some educated estimates to compare the cost of using the tube and cycling to travel to work in London.
An annual travelcard for zones 1 to 2 is currently going for £1,320. Swapping for a bike equates to about 15 km round trip each day for most people (estimation aided by TfL’s geographically accurate map of of the London Tube and rail lines).
Assuming you are cycling into work 15 km each day, 5 days a week, all year round, you are looking at around £100 bike maintenance cost at most. For that amount of cycling, you will probably get yourself a quality bike along with accessories all for under £400. So for your first year of cycling into work in zones 1 to 2, it’s fair to say you can be looking at a saving of £820! And of course it only gets better from hereon in as you don’t have to buy a brand new bike every year.
If you are travelling between zones 3 and 4 or 2 and 3 instead, your annual travelcard for the tube is cheaper at £988. The practical distance you cover in these zones is around 10 km round trip each day. The bike maintenance cost for the year will be proportionally lower at around £66. Let’s make the (possibly sweeping) assumption that you are less keen on spending as much money on bikes and accessories as well, so might spend £300 altogether. In this scenario, you are still saving a whooping £622 in the first year!
Beat the traffic jam with cycling. Depending on where you live (and this is mostly true in cities), cycling can often get you to places much faster than motorised vehicles can. You don’t even need Bradley Wiggins’ legs or lungs! You can often access shortcuts not open to motorised traffic for an even more tranquil journey.
How about all that time you spend waiting for a train or bus? Without a doubt, using that time getting physical exercise on your bike is of much more benefit. The added bonus is that you are more in control of your journey; you can start your journey whenever you feel like it, know how long it’s going to take and no one will go on strike on you.
All the evidence shows that consistent, weekly exercise benefits the health of both body and mind. It’s a great option to combine your commute with exercise, thereby killing two birds with one stone, or you might just want to soak up the endless scenery as you zip along a country road.
Cycling is also a particular favourite for those looking for low impact exercise to limit aggravating overuse injuries from running and squash, for example.
You can spend as little or as much money as you want on your bike and cycling specific clothes and accessories. However, going out for a cycle ride costs you nothing other than your own energy! There’s no monthly membership, entry fee or any obligation to use any consumables.
Who would have thought you can get tax free transport every day? Your employer just needs to have signed up with the Cycle to Work Scheme. You will then have a budget to purchase your bike and necessary accessories such as lights, locks, helmet, etc which will all be tax free! For exact details and eligibility, visit their website.
What you do with the money you’ve saved is up to you, obviously. You could buy more bike stuff or you could sponsor a bike with the charity we are supporting: The Bike Project. They fix up second-hand bikes and donate them to refugees and asylum seekers. Some of the bikes that they receive go on to be sold through The Bike Shop to ensure long-term sustainability. A bike is also donated to a refugee or asylum seeker for each bike sold. Pass on the cycling love, people!
You should have a set of lights charged up; white for the front and red for the rear. If you are in an urban area with lit streets then use flashing modes to help you stand out a bit more.
Be considerate to other road users with your lights though. As a rule of thumb, if your front light is putting out 100 lumens or above, you should check the angle of your mount as you may be dazzling oncoming road users.
See and be seen. Apart from having lights, you can also improve your visibility to other road users with reflectives. You will find reflectives on cycling specific clothing and bags. You can also find reflective ankle or arm bands.
Light doesn’t bend around objects or corners* so having lights and reflectives are only part of the solution. Your positioning is more important for seeing and being seen by other road users. All cyclists should consider getting cycle training with a qualified National Standard cycling instructor who can teach you about road positioning and more. We make no apology for the plug; the benefits of cycle training for cyclists of any ability are well documented. For London boroughs where we work, you can book your training session with us for free here!
*Light does bend on the astronomical scale by gravitational lensing as predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity but that probably has no place here.
Layering up is the obvious preparation in winter. If you have a long ride, you should pay some attention to your layering set-up so that removing a layer mid-ride is an easy affair. Take a waterproof to work even if it’s dry in the morning; the Met Office can’t be 100% accurate day in, day out.
When it inevitably gets bitterly cold, you will want to cover up as much as possible. There are cycling hats that can fit under the helmet and extend down to cover your ears too. A neck warmer is another good purchase as you can pull it up to cover most of your face. A pair of clear glasses is a bit of a luxury but works a treat in the hail or on eye watering descents.
We’re big advocates of full length mudguards. Even if it’s not raining, surface water will linger on the roads for a long time and, without mudguards, you’ll be wearing it all up your back. There’s an added benefit to the cyclist behind you too, in the form of avoiding an unwanted baptism by dirty water.
You need to be aware of the possibility of encountering black ice in winter. If you’re “lucky” enough to go over black ice head on, the best countermeasures are: resist the instinct to brake, relax and keep steering straight. If you hit black ice on a corner… you’re in the lap of the gods, sorry.
Obviously, if you are not cycling on the road then you mitigate the risk completely. Assess the roads you ride on; are you in a rural area with sparse traffic or are you in a densely populated urban area? Unsalted rural roads will be peppered with black ice given the right (or wrong) conditions. The timing of your ride is also important; riding urban roads in the morning after peak traffic will slightly lower the chance encountering black ice.
Here we are, well into winter. We’re still commuting by bike so we’ll see you out there!
Taking City & Guilds standards and our teaching experience, we’ve developed this 2 day course to take students from minimal prior knowledge to being able to build a wheel from scratch. The aim is to give you
the knowledge, resources and confidence to tackle selecting your own components, calculating spoke lengths and building your own wheel to the standard that is expected in the industry.
Working in our accredited, fully equipped training workshop in Oval, you’ll learn first about the materials and components. After this, you’ll go on to rim, hub and frame compatibility, comparing lacing patterns before learning how to calculate spoke lengths for different hubs and rims for any wheel set. We end day 1 with lacing your spokes to hub and rim.
Having dreamt about spokes all night you’ll come in fresh to learn about truing and tensioning. You’ll learn and then practice how to properly tension and pre stress a wheel to prevent damage and reduce problems down the line and you’ll practice tensioning and making the wheel true to the tolerances expected across the bike industry.
Finally, you’ll stand back, marvel at your brilliance and return home basking in the glow of skills learnt having conquered the dark art of wheel building.
Cost is £200 for a 2-day course. Here’s the link to book:
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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 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.
Census 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.