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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.

 

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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.

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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!

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The best options for carrying stuff on your bike

When it comes to transporting gear on your bike, your first choice is whether to attach the stuff to you, or to your bicycle.

 

 

Attaching stuff to yourself

Backpacks are ideal for carrying the typical commuter load (laptop, tools, waterproof, lunch). If it is for use on a regular commute you should look for good waterproofing and also good ventilation to reduce the sweaty back effect.

Messenger type bags sling over the shoulder and have a second waist strap to stabilise their position – this is important so avoid courier style bags that lack this feature. They tend to have larger capacities and are easier to access quickly. They also position the load lower down, which can be more comfortable and make bike handling easier due to a lower centre of gravity.

Here’s a more detailed head-to-head comparison of the pros and cons of these two options.

Attaching stuff to your bike

A basket can provide a quick and simple solution to carrying small to medium loads, with the advantage that everything stays where you can see it. They don’t offer any protection from the elements (although covers are available to stretch across the top of the basket) and there can be a risk of things bouncing out as you negotiate a speed bump or hit a pothole.

Saddlebags mount behind the saddle, which will need to have appropriate loops to fix the bag to. Sizes vary, but generally they will accommodate a tool kit plus rain mac, but not a laptop or similar. They offer a more traditional and elegant solution, particularly high quality versions from the likes of Brooks.

Panniers offer a great way of carrying larger loads on your bicycle. You’ll need an appropriate rack fitted over the back wheel, to which the panniers attach ordinarily with a quick-release mechanism. Not all bikes will have the fittings to accommodate this, so check first. Waterproofing varies between models but in general they offer a great way to securely transport loads whilst letting your bike take the strain.

Larger loads

For really large loads a specialist cargo bike might be needed. These come in various shapes and configurations, with a good selection now available at specialist stores like London Green Cycles. Some London councils are offering free trials of cargo bikes to local businesses as a way of making their deliveries.

If you have cargo that wriggles around and keeps asking “Are we there yet?” have a look at our guide to cycling with small children.

 

For really large loads, (or a really large family) you might need something like this world record holder.

 

Or perhaps you’re cycling to a picnic and the invitation asks you to bring a bottle? There’s a nifty solution to that to.

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Summer cycling – taking the heat

Blink and you might miss it. The British summer doesn’t exactly overstay it’s welcome most years, so make the most of it while you can and enjoy whatever sun-soaked cycling is to be had.

It’s easy to think that summer should be the simplest time of the year to cycle around the city – just jump on your bike and go. However, it’s definitely worth some preparation to make the most of your warm weather riding.

Keep hydrated

This might seem obvious, but many utility cyclists neglect their bodies’ basic needs. When commuting in hot weather it’s important to keep well hydrated before you set off, and then drink little and often during the journey. Don’t forget to keep drinking after you get off your bike too, as this is often when dehydration catches up with you.

Dress appropriately

One of the great things about the warmer weather is that you can just jump on your bike in shorts and t-shirt. This is fine for nipping to the shops, but longer journeys may need a little more thought.

Layering up in hot weather may seem counterintuitive but a good summer base layer will wick away sweat and allow your skin to breathe, preventing overheating. Another good idea is to have a lightweight waterproof mac stashed away in case of sudden downpours.

Cyclists create their own breeze when moving so it’s often when you step off the bike that the heat most affects you. Consider keeping a change of clothing in the office, or at least a can of deodorant.

Take it easy on yourself

Imagining you are in a great unspoken race with your fellow commuters isn’t perhaps the smartest of ideas at the best of times, and even less so in the heat of summer. When the mercury’s rising ride well within yourself, unless you want to arrive at journey’s end as a big ball of sweat on two wheels.

It might even make sense to look at alternative routes that avoid hills, or offer greater shade.

By making sure that your bike is running as smoothly as possible you can minimise the amount of effort you need to put in, helping you to arrive more fresh faced than beetroot faced. Here are a few simple tips to getting the most out of your bike.

Depending on how much you love your job, or how much you need to impress the boss, you could even think about going into the office early, or leaving late, to benefit from cooler parts of the day.

Lighten the load

Use the summer to audit the amount of stuff that is being carted backwards and forwards with you every day on your commute. Go through your bag and take everything out. Assess, organise, and discard. Not only will this lighten the load but it will make finding your keys easier too. If you have to commute regularly with a bulky item such as a laptop it’s worth looking at a pannier.

Even if you do turn up to work feeling a little hot and sweaty, spare a thought for your poor colleagues, trapped underground on an airless tube, or pressed armpit to armpit with their fellow bus passengers. At least as a cyclist, no matter how hot it gets, it’s only your own perspiration you have to contend with.

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Five cracking bike-themed reads

The bicycle, and the possibilities it creates, have inspired lots of great writing. We don’t claim these to be the best ever books about cycling (we’ll leave that debate to the comments), but they are a great way to start filling a shelf of your own that’s dedicated to all things two-wheeled.

coverCyclogeography by Jon Day

Ever wondered what goes on in the head of a London cycle courier? Jon Day, now a lecturer in English Literature, spent years as a bike messenger, and this essay published by Notting Hill Editions collects his reflections on the bicycle, on the city, and on the relationship between them. His prose has the precision and relentless forward motion of a fixed gear slicing through traffic, painting a vivid portrait of the city. Also highly recommended is Emily Chappell’s What Goes Around, a female courier’s memoir and another saddle-bound love letter to London and to an industry in terminal decline.

eat sleep cycleEat, Sleep, Cycle: A Bike Ride Around the Coast of Britain by Anna Hughes

Upping the ante significantly on the well established challenge of riding from Lands End to John O’Groats, Anna Hughes rode out of London along the Thames and then followed the coast until it became the bank of the Thames again, some 4,000 miles later. Like all good travel writing, Hughes’ account provides insight into the landscape, the people who populate it, and into how the journey changes the participant. Mike Carter’s One Man and his Bike is an entertaining take on the same route.

Thethe-rider-krabbe_medium Rider by Tim Krabbé

Originally published in 1978, and appearing in translation in 2002, The Rider is generally recognised as the best work of fiction ever written about the sport. The book allows the reader to experience a one day classic, the fictional Tour du Mont Aigoual, from inside the peleton as we ride along with Krabbe, himself a former racer. He lays bare the psychology and tactics of road racing, along with digressions covering its history and folklore. But who is the mysterious rider in the Cycles Goff jersey?

41VtTDvrU+L._SX308_BO1,204,203,200_Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle by Dervla Murphy

Full Tilt is the best known work of Dervla Murphy who has been touring the world by bicycle and writing about it for more than 40 years.  Her writing is warm, witty and beguilingly matter-of-fact. The subject matter itself is quite extraordinary. Having determined on her tenth birthday to ride to India, twenty years later in 1963 she did just that, across Afghanistan, on a three speed bike, loaded down with a large stash of cigarettes and unable even to mend a puncture.

51tOaP4QqUL._SX390_BO1,204,203,200_Bicycle: Love Your Bike: The Complete Guide To Everyday Cycling

The majority of books on the cycling shelves of an average bookstore will tend towards the elite end of the sport. For most cyclists though their bicycle is not a high performance machine, but a trusty friend and chosen mode of day to day transport. Such utility cyclists are well served by Guardian journalist Helen Pidd’s invaluable guide to getting the most from your bike. Written for ordinary, non Lycra-wearing people who happen to cycle or want to start, it contains plenty of no-nonsense advice on topics such as choosing a bike, clothing and other equipment, proper use of locks, and how to stay safe on the road.

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The new battle for funding: How to win your share

George Osborne’s promise at the end of last year to stick with the government’s £300 million commitment to cycling will have been a huge relief to training managers, safety campaigners and environmentalists across the UK. But how should local authority road safety officers and transport managers view the news?

Well, the Chancellor’s Spending Review pledge doesn’t represent a windfall because there’s no new money on top. Neither is it the policy back-pedal that some feared. Instead, it buys ‘breathing space’ for the cycle training sector … time that must be used wisely.

Concerns over cuts to funding should be viewed as a warning shot across the back wheels. Even though funding may be generally secure for now, who knows when cuts may come – or when pressures from other services could eat into cycle training budgets at local authorities? In that scenario, pitching for funding could become intense as competition for cash gets tougher and the qualifications more stringent.

As any ambitious cyclist knows, the key to success (and avoiding pain later) is to get into training. And – with future budgets in mind – that’s also true for anyone at a local authority involved in delivering cycle training.

Level 2 Bikeability Training
School Bikeability training

Now’s the time to sharpen up

The best response from council cycle training teams is to use early 2016 to strengthen their programmes by embedding industry best practice. As part of this, they should sharpen their ability to pitch for funds, whenever any opportunity arises. This is a priority.

So how can council teams build a stronger business case – turning an ‘average’ funding application into a compelling one? Here are a set of actions that can make the difference.

 

Five ways to win more funding

#1 Build your submission with rock-solid data

Qualitative data is helpful but the economics tend to get decided on numbers. It’s important you’ve kept records of previous sessions – and can prove you did exactly what was asked, such as the numbers trained and how you delivered excellent value for money at your local authority. Also show that, going forward, your whole strategy is based on hard data and key performance indicators, such as low drop-out levels, costs staying within budget and successful outcomes.

#2 Demonstrate that demand for cycle training is growing

If the public demands more training, then decision-makers will often be swayed. Public surveys are influential – like this one from Manchester which reports on most people’s wish that cycling spending would quadruple. At a simpler level, can you show how quickly your training places are filled in your borough? Do you have any feedback results showing customer satisfaction and how many trainees are willing to recommend your sessions to their friends? Are there ways you can prove demand for what you want to offer?

#3 Show your training is ‘inclusive’, reaching every demographic

Again, data helps here – if you can show that your local authority training attracts people from every gender, age range and background. You can also demonstrate your plans for widening the appeal of training, perhaps showing flexibility and innovation in terms of times, locations and themed activities.

#4 Have your submissions on stand-by

Don’t simply work towards the big opportunities. Have projects and submissions lined up already in case internal funds become available suddenly – for example, at the end of the financial year where under-spends can be addressed.

#5 Think long term

Having a long-term strategy is vital to avoid a ‘boom and bust’ approach to cycle training. Relationships with funding organisations and a clear understanding of how you’re meeting underlying changes in demand will give you a greater sense of purpose and authority. You want your expertise, confidence and sense of mission to shine through in your submissions.

Funding is never guaranteed but these five tactics will help, especially if your council  has a knowledgeable cycle training partner at your side. The best partners will already have the processes in place to capture and use data effectively – and even help you to craft your funding submissions, based on their industry-wide experience of ‘what works’.

Get further help – and download the free eBook today

If you work for a local authority, then it’s worth downloading your free copy of the e-book Cycle training: Switching into top gear. Funding is one of many areas touched upon in the guide, which includes a checklist as to whether you’re following best practice in every area of cycle training. It’s ideal if you want to use today’s ‘breathing space’ to improve everything you do, so you’re ready for anything.

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Could 2016 be the ‘Year of the bike’?

What do we want out of 2016? How about getting fitter, saving money, spending less time stuck in traffic jams and reducing our carbon footprint? With cycling, it’s all possible … you could call it the grand slam of New Year’s resolutions! 
But what’s stopping thousands of people from leaving their homes on a shiny new bike … perhaps for the first time in years?

London bikesIf you’re a local authority road safety officer or transport manager, then you may be concerned about why cycling hasn’t already taken off the way it might have done. After all, you’ve got the wind behind you, in terms of economic, health and environmental plus points.

So what’s going on – and how can your efforts coax more cyclists to pedal confidently onto their local streets?

A while back, the government’s British Social Attitudes survey discovered that 67% of non-cyclists thought that cycling was too dangerous. Even 18-24 year olds – the adults with the most energy allegedly – were highly cautious, with almost half expressing major concern.

Fewer injuries than gardening

Those emotions can be pretty entrenched, even when the facts say something different. 
CTC, the national cycling charity, believes that traffic volumes, speeds and other factors can make cycling feel and look more dangerous than it actually is. In fact, CTC reports that people are more likely to be injured playing tennis, using a rowing machine … or gardening.

So how can individuals get past their fears – and what can council teams do to help them on their way?

London has been leading by example. More people are now riding bikes than at any point since records began – with numbers growing at 5% in a year. Over 600,000 cycle journeys are made every day. Behind these impressive figures is an exciting story that’s continuing in many London boroughs.

Confidence-building is key

Many of these London councils are focusing on training for everyday bike owners of all ages – to build each person’s confidence, ability and road sense, so they overcome their fears and have a great cycling experience.
 And when you look closely, you can see a correlation between the heartening upsurge in cycling in the capital and the behind-the-scenes training that’s been gathering pace. In 2010/11, fewer than 500 adults and children received training across half a dozen or so London boroughs. Roll on to 2015/16 and that number is on course to hit 18,000 people being trained per year.

Every tiny details matters

But these forward-looking boroughs don’t simply stick up the posters and then put out the cones. Successful cycle training doesn’t work like that. It’s about all the tiny details that make every training session exceptional. This takes energy, planning, saddlebags of imagination – and usually some outside expertise and resources from a thoughtful cycle training partner.

The London experience shows that attention to detail really matters, from how to target specific groups and come up with fresh ideas, to making it easy for people to find out about sessions – and place a booking. If people enjoy the end-to-end experience, they won’t just be cycling regularly – they’ll encourage their friends and family. Used wisely, social media can play a part in that too.

Contact us for your free eBook today

Practical policies, ongoing funding, quality of service, innovative ideas and giving great value can all be achieved when local authorities apply best practice consistently. But what does best practice look like?
 Road Safety Officers can get the answers by contacting us for a free copy of Cycle Training: Switching into Top Gear, the best practice guide. As well as touching on the highly positive UK cycling scene, the eBook charts the phenomenal success of London and provides a checklist so UK local authorities can rate themselves and work towards best practice.

The start of a new year is a great time to review the cycle training provision in your area. The eBook helps you to identify the gaps in the cycle training provision in your local authority area – and suggests how you can have your best year yet.