What every British politician, traffic engineer & town planner needs to watch

Chris Boardman did a brilliant piece about the Dutch attitude to cycling on this week’s ITV Cycling Show.

It’s only four minutes long, but definitely worth watching:


If only the streets of London could be like the streets of Utrecht, in the Netherlands, instead of the aggressive and often dangerous bunfight that currently exists.

It really is time to put people — cyclists and pedestrians — first, especially when it comes to road junction and street design. Yet our politicians and our traffic engineers and our town planners seem to fail to grasp that concept. Make them all cycle around London for a month and I’m sure things would change… for the better.

UPDATE: And just to highlight what I’m talking about, here’s just one example of the shocking lack of long-term thinking by the City of London Corporation. So much for putting safety first.

Five tips for cycling in the summer rain


I don’t want to speak to soon, but I think I may have my cycling mojo back. This morning, despite a dismal forecast of rain, I got up early and trundled into work.

Typically, it began to drizzle about a mile into my cycle — and it kept on raining throughout the length of my 6.5 mile journey. To be honest, I didn’t care. It was actually quite fun. It wasn’t cold and the rain wasn’t heavy enough to turn me into a drowned rat.

Plus, the road was relatively quiet — I think the weather had put off a lot of fellow cyclists — so my journey time was super-quick (36 minutes) despite having to take it easy in places because of the slippery conditions.

All this got me to thinking about cycling in the rain. Goodness knows I’ve been doing it for years — almost a decade, in fact. So here’s some tips that may help if you’re a relative newbie at urban cycling:

1. Make sure your bike has mudguards! I know it’s summer and maybe you don’t think you need them because it will ruin the “look” of your bike, but honestly, if you don’t have them you’ll get super wet (a lovely line of road dirt splattered up your back, for instance) and anyone unfortunate enough to cycle behind you will get a face full of road dirt and water. This will not win you friends. I was livid this morning when this happened to me, not once, but twice! Personally, I think it’s a simple courtesy to make sure you’re not splattering everyone within a 5 metre radius — and I wish more London cyclists would keep this in mind!

2. Check your brake pads are okay before you head out. You should do this pretty regularly anyway and change them long before they wear out completely. Note that it can take longer in the wet to stop — a good reason to keep your speed in check when it’s raining (see point 4 below) —  and also be aware that pads can become coated in grit and debris thrown up from the water on the road so may not work as smoothly as they do in dry conditions.

3. Wear appropriate clothing. It’s difficult in summer, because the humidity is often high when it rains, so make sure the jacket you don is waterproof and breathable — something with ventilation zips you can undo to let the air circulate is ideal. Alternatively, at this time of year you can brave the rain without a jacket — skin is waterproof after all — because you’re unlikely to get too cold. But make sure you have something warm and dry to change into at the other end.

4. Take it slowly. The rain’s likely to wash extra grit on to the road and you may find the surface is extra slippery, especially if there hasn’t been a downpour in a while: the water will bring all kinds of oils and pollution to the surface (there was a lovely long patch of oil on Upper Ground in Southwark this morning, for instance). Cobblestones can be particularly precarious when it’s wet, and try to stay off the double yellow or double red lines painted on the roads: the paint is slippy at the best of times, but when it’s wet it’s super dangerous. Manhole covers and the like also become slightly harder to see when the road is wet, so watch for them too. And finally, don’t take the corners too hard!

5. Finally, just enjoy it. Why let a little bit of summer rain put you off?

First cycle since May, first cycle of July

IMG_9438There’s nothing like a tube strike to force one to get back on your bike.

Today I extracted mine from storage and cycled the 6.5 miles into work, leaving at 7.30am to avoid the worst of the traffic, and it felt as if I’d never been absent from the road. But the truth of the matter is that since my March wrap-up I have only cycled once. That was on Wednesday 27 May when I trundled into work only to realise my left leg* hadn’t fully healed: it throbbed and ached and I found myself limping again.

The upshot? I cycled home (slowly) and put my bike in our storage room, where it’s stayed ever since.

Despite this I’ve still been able to do lots of walking — I do a minimum of five miles a day and yesterday I wracked up 10 miles — so clearly it’s a cycling-related problem, which is why I was a bit nervous about getting on the bike this morning. But I’m pleased to say I needn’t have worried. While the knee itself felt a bit “tight” (almost as if there’s something not quite right inside it), my shin was fine — it didn’t ache or throb afterwards and there was no need for me to limp.

Who knows, perhaps I’ll get back on the bike again tomorrow and get back into the swing of regular commuter cycling once again. I could do with the exercise.


* Dr Google tells me it’s a haematoma on my shin, just below the knee.