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:

http://www.itv.com/tourdefrance/video-chris-boardman-on-the-dutch-love-affair-with-cycling

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.

How the Dutch got their cycle paths

A brilliant and inspiring look at how The Netherlands put the bicycle at the heart of transport planning.

"The Netherlands' problems were, and are, not unique. Their solutions shouldn't be that either."

(Hat tip @armenotti)

London to Moscow: a year’s worth of cycle trips

Back in June I waxed lyrical about notching up 687 miles (just over 1,000km) in five months, meaning I was on target to cycle at least 1,500 miles in a year.

Well, I’ve just added up my mileage between January 1 and December 31 and I’m pleased to say I cycled the grand total of 1,593.1 miles (2,563.3km) in 2011.

That’s roughly the equivalent of cycling the distance between London and Moscow.

London-to-Moscow

According to my records, the number of miles I cycled every month was far from consistent. In April, when I spent a lot of time abroad (Ireland and then the UAE), I notched up a miserable 54 miles. By contrast, in September, when I was commuting regularly to a freelance job in South London I cycled a grand total of 233.8 miles.

I’m sure if I was more dedicated, I could have easily added an ADDITIONAL 1,000 miles to my existing total — but I’m blaming my lazy gene (and my age) for not having done so!

Here’s a neat little graphic showing the fluctuations in my mileage month by month.

Cycling-figures-2011

For the record, my monthly totals were as follows:

January 162.8 miles | February 134.4 | March 124.4 | April 54 | May 142.3 | June 114.3 | July 155.2 | August 112 | September 233.8 | October 150.7 | November 89.5 | December 119.7

Let’s see if I can achieve the same — or greater — in 2012!

A Sunday trundle — with snaps

SundayCycle20110918 What is fast becoming a weekend habit, the Other Half and I went on a Sunday morning trundle.

We left the house at around 10.30am and cycled a big loop, beginning and ending in Hammersmith, via Barnes, Richmond Park, Ham and Richmond.

To begin with, the weather was cool but dry. The overcast skies would occasionally break into moments of bright sunshine. But on the whole the conditions were pleasant for cycling — not too cold, not too warm, no wind and no rain.

The only tricky conditions were the mud and puddles along the tow path near Ham — thanks to what looks like a high tide that had washed up lots of flotsam and jetsam.

But we rewarded ourselves with a cuppa and a small snack at Tide Tables Cafe, by the river at Richmond, so all was well with the world.

Rather than bore you with the detail, here's some random snaps that I took on my camera phone along the way:

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Inquisitive ducks — they were rooting around the leaf cover for creepy crawlies to eat

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The pond near Ham Gate in Richmond Park

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Ham House, a National Trust property built in 1610

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Sail boats on the river

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Herbal tea and a strong coffee to revive us

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Bust of Bernardo O'Higgins, Chilean independence leader

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A riot of autumnal colour

Total distance: 19.35miles (31.13km) | Ride time: 1hr, 54min and 55sec | Average speed: 10.1mph | Top speed: 21.7mph

Farewell to my Specialized Sports Sirrus

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Yesterday I sold my first hybrid bike — a Specialized Sports Sirrus — which I purchased in February 2007.

I rode her fairly solidly throughout 2007 but only intermittently in 2008, mainly because of ongoing shoulder and flank pain. But in December of that year I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in my hands and for the next two years I barely rode the bike.

When I took workplace redundancy last year, one of my goals — aside from taking some time out and doing some travelling — was to get my health back and regain my fitness. In Australia last December I bought an entry-level Trek hybrid to see me through a couple of months of leisure cycling — and a new love affair was born.

Riding that new bike put things into perspective for me: the Specialized, back in London, was too small and the ride position too uncomfortable.

That was confirmed when I returned to the UK in February. I was 9kg lighter and the fittest I'd been in years. Despite the winter weather I was keen to get out and about on the bike. But no sooner had I got back on the Specialized than my shoulder stiffness returned and I could feel the pain in my left flank that had plagued me throughout 2008.

I promptly went out and bought another bike — the exact same one I'd bought in Australia (and left behind for my mother) — and there's been no looking back.

But my poor Specialized, which I so loved when I first bought her, was taking up space in our storage room and I knew I'd have to sell her on at some point. I ummed and ahhed about it, though. It would be like saying goodbye to an old friend — even if the friendship had soured a little towards the end.

I placed an advert on the intranet at the publishing company where I'm currently freelancing last week half hoping no one would see it. But within a day of it going up I had a potential buyer.

I cleaned her up over the weekend and took her for a quick spin to make sure all was in order. Then I cycled her in yesterday, parked her up and at lunch-time made the sale.

It felt weird saying goodbye to her, but when it comes down to it, we just weren't made for each other. Sometimes you've got to be honest with yourself and get rid of the things that cause you pain…

The 1,000km milestone

Since the start of the year I have cycled 678 miles, which is roughly 1,090km.

That equates to cycling between Sydney and Brisbane!

Or, for you Europhiles out there, the distance between Paris and Edinburgh!

This mileage has been accumulated purely through leisure cycling — no commuting or racing — on an entry-level hybrid. I haven't cycled every day (as this blog will attest) but I have tried to do two longish cycles per week since February. But even then, with trips away (10 days in Ireland, another 10 days in Ireland, then 2 weeks in Abu Dhabi), it hasn't always been possible. Imagine how far I could travel if I got more serious about it… Moscow, here I come!

Cycling for energy

One of the best things about cycle-commuting is the way it energizes you at the start of the day, and gives you "breathing space" between work and home at the end of the day.

When I cycle to work in the morning I arrive at the office feeling like I can take on the world. It seems silly to think that expending all that energy getting to work under my own steam actually makes me feel more energetic, but it's true.

When I commute to work I feel brighter, less sluggish and more motivated to tackle the day's challenges.

And when it comes to cycling home, that time spent on the back of the bike means I'm no longer thinking about work. Instead, all my energy, all my mind-power is focused on the task ahead: which is to get home safely as quickly as I can.

I find that when I park the bike at the end of the day, I literally bounce in my front door and feel incredibly chirpy and upbeat. This is, I hasten to add, not my normal state of being, which tends towards the grumpy and introverted. Perhaps it's the adrenalin high kicking in. Whatever the case, cycling makes me a nicer person to be around. I feel happier and less inclined to shut myself off from the world.

I sleep better too. And, for someone who is definitely NOT a morning person, I tend to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to do it all over again.

For those reasons I am so glad to be back cycling on a more regular basis. Today marks my sixth work day commuting in a row — my best effort since last October. Long may it continue.