Tuesday, 10 December 2013

What London can learn from America's Cycling cities

The year of P2P is almost out, but there has been a recent flurry of activity.  Apart from me trying to organise all the pictures I've printed there was a reunion at the NLA last week, bringing all the riders (almost) together with sponsors and supporters to catch up, and share the research and stories from the road.

The relevance of the research and the significance of the ride has also prompted a reinvigorated effort form the team, and Peter in particular in how further deaths from dangerous cycling conditions can be avoided.  So today Peter, as part of the Mayor's design council has presented a refreshed report to Boris.

It's available from the P2P website.

What London can Learn from America's Cycling cities
The last couple of pages summarise the key updates beyond a smoother look and feel from the previous version.

As I'm here it's worth mentioning a slightly lighter side of the P2P adventure that Tom, Bob & Grant have all published Blurb books with some outstanding pictures and memories from the road.

And if you're really interested in wider transportation and city connectivity issues I can recommend this UN Habitat report, which has been my recent commute home read.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

My Obituary

Too Soon?  Damn right it is.

Now I have no intention of shuffling off any time soon, but my head is swimming with so many thoughts of danger and death.

Firstly, I don't want to be seen as making light of any of the tragic deaths as of late, it just late night ramblings.

Secondly, I don't want to be "Cyclist, 34, from London" try being a bit more imaginative than just adding me to a list of stats and being a reason to crow about your issues  - not that there'd be any other choice of description in the fast paced world of news coverage

Thirdly, I didn't run a red light or undertake a moving truck, I had lights and more than likely some sort of high vis, I am a confident and very experienced cyclist, but also scared enough not to take on a moving (or stationary vehicle) one on one.

Tomorrow morning I'll be cycling to work, this is my 4th week in a temporary job, one that is (hopefully) the first step on a long and influential career in shaping towns and cityscapes for the better.  The last 3 weeks I've been communing: train, tube, train which takes about and hour and a quarter door to door if all my connections are smooth and not too many people get in my way walking from platform to platform.  I think in my first real experience of London public transport commuting I've gotten pretty good at knowing the right door to get on to deliver me to the appropriate exit point to avoid crowds as much as possible, but there's still always others slowing my stride from one mode to another.

The commuting was fun and exciting for the first week or so, buoyed along by my elation at finally being employed.  But the only reason I was on public transport was because a few weeks ago some numbnuts pulled out in front of me on Brixton Road, I T-boned the car, leapt onto the bonnet and swore along the lines of "Look where the fuck you're going, DICKHEAD"  He just hadn't seen me, on a clear day on a clear road and I was doing no speed at all.  Which in itself probably helped me avoid injury, but I was so pumped with adrenalin my cursory bike check failed to notice the huge crack in the steel frame top tube and I scampered off without exchanging details, who's the dickhead now?

So now I have collected my refurbished bike (at unfortunately high expense to myself) and am looking forward to getting back in the saddle.  My fitness has ebbed significantly I'm felling sluggish, like a wet sponge, and I'm pretty sure public transport is making me sick, or maybe that's the change in weather.

The climate since I was last cycling has changed.  Not just with the changing clocks and northerly winds, but the amount of deaths and danger regarding cyclists in London, and the wider UK is quite frankly overwhelming.  I admit I'm over exposed, though the outputs from the P2P research have slowed significantly with other priorities taking hold in my conciousness, I'm still very tuned into the blog-o-twittersphere.  There are so many opinions and accounts and suggestions, I am still at a loss as to what needs to be done.

Whatever the politics, or infrastructure arguments, or vehicular cycling arguments, or obey the rules arguments or enhanced training arguments, it still stands that after almost 3 decades of regular riding, solo cycling all over the world, riding in groups across America or Tibet, I'm being kept awake by the fear of falling under a truck.  And when I say 'falling under', i mean being crushed needlessly.  I'm an individualist, people need to take more responsibility for themselves, but I'm also of the opinion that the fabric of London, and many other places need to be more human scale...

My instant reaction to the outcries in the last week has been a bit non-plussed, as with all the other major issues that worry me in the world (beyond my own pursuit of a fulfilling career and settled home life) I feel slightly overwhelmed by my ineffectualness in being able to make a change.  Sign petitions, make recommendations, demonstrate, legislate, don't procrastinate!

Though my fear now is a late night worst case scenario, the reality is that my route will not be fun, trawling through greater London traffic, battling with busses and potholes.  Sucking up all kinds of fumes, urgh.  We really do need to collectively do something about it, which is another reason for me to go to work, learn the machinations of the planning world and make that difference, my biggest problem with all that, is that ASAP is not AS enough!


Oh and if by some stupidly freeaky and truly tragic turn of events I do cark it, Sorry.  Please can the statue be somewhere nice and prominent and representing me doing a one handed wheelie cowboy style (how sad that I never learnt to wheelie).
If you're doing anything in my name, do it better that I would yeah,
Ladies, I'm so sorry we didn't have more time together ;)
Gents, it's been a pleasure.
And I think this and this should be the start of the playlist,
Goodnight x

Monday, 4 November 2013

Portland to Portland (All my Blogs)

Right, this final all-in-one summary  post is taking far too long.  There are so many interesting, distracting things out there on the internet already what's the need for another story about someone cycling across a continent.  It may get there at some point, and It's nice returning to look at my pictures and stories.  But in the mean time this is here as a kind of index to all my P2P posts, which kind of have enough narrative in themselves.

Main focus is to have a printable book with pictures and stuff for me by Christmas, and hopefully there'll be other adventures along the way, and maybe time to squeeze another anecdote or two out of the portion of 2013 I spent cycling across America with my good P2P buddies.

Arriving in Portland[LHR-PDX].and exploration[Portland ExplorationPortland Day Four], a little leg stretch out to famous Astoria [Portland to Astoria].

First day out of Portland Portland to Hood River and Hood River to Biggs Junction weaving between Washington & Oregon states Biggs Junction to Umatilla.  then onto Idaho Umatilla - Walla Walla - Lewiston, ID.

My Birthday (34) at Ryan's Wilderness Inn in Lowell. and our first rest day.  Up the Losksha River, over the pass Lowell to Missoula and another bonus rest day in Missoula.  The start of Montana.  Helena - Three Forks - Big Timber, Big skies, blazing sun, and roads stretching as far as the eye can see.

WyomingBuffalo to Gillette coal mines and accidents and golf ball sized hail.  Gillette to SundanceSundance to Deadwood, and we're in South Dakota.

Deadwood rest day then Deadwood to Keystone and Mount Rushmore.  Keystone to the Badlands, I wrote a South Dakota Summary when we were barely half way through the state, it certainly left it's mark on the psyche of P2P.   Highmore to HuronHuron to Watertown (where there was apparently a town architect called Maurice Hockman) Watertown to Montevideo where we enjoyed pizza and beer after an incredible ride through the storm, and we're into Minnesota.

Montevideo to Hutchinson with mayors and sushi... how cosmopolitan, Minneapolis (A frikkin CITY, with beer and baseball) Minnesota to Wisconsin crossing more state lines and more hello's and goodbye's Le Crosse to Richland Centre where we got to the first motel/hotel with a bar in, that was a happy sight after unleashing everything I had on the ride in, and then the lovely compliments about my hair at the bar, hahaha.  Research starts ramping up as we head Through Madison, WI and onto Madison, Milwaukee & Racine (apart from the Johnson Wax factory Racine was a hole and one of my true lows of the trip, which of course was also to do with other much more serious thoughts).

Racine to Chicago arrival to Chicago blues festival and Chicago Rest Day like Buller.  More team changes, new members join, old member leave (not meant in an age way!).

Into Indiana, it's getting hotter in the mid-west, and more populous and as we look at maps and recount the journey so far to strangers we're gaining more attention Lafayette to Columbus, IN with architecture and air con.

From Indiana to Ohio, and skipping across the rust belt into Pennsylvania.   Breezewood to Harrisburg, getting closer to home and trying to put it all in perspective Harrisburg to Philly, the land of Rocky & Hoagies, both of which have been nicknames for me one way or another over the years.

New Jersey with the harshest welcome to a state and the massive jumble of emotions as we ride into New York and I complete my coast to coast journey from  Astoria to Coney Island.

I hung out in New York and rejoined the gang on the Severn Bridge outside Bristol then to Oxford and ride the Last day to London.

There that was easy.

Here are all the places I stayed:
  • Portland, OR
  • Hood River, OR
  • Biggs Junction, OR
  • Umatilla, OR
  • Walla Walla, WA
  • Lewiston, ID
  • Orofino, ID
  • Lowell, ID (R)
  • Lolo Hot Springs, MT
  • Missoula, (R)
  • Ovando
  • Helena
  • Three Forks (R)
  • Big Timber
  • Laurel
  • Greybull, WY
  • Ten Sleep
  • Buffalo
  • Gillette
  • Sundance
  • Deadwood, SD (R)
  • Keystone
  • Interior
  • Murdo
  • Pierre
  • Highmore
  • Huron
  • Watertown
  • Montevideo, MN
  • Hutchinson
  • Minneapolis (R)
  • Red Wing
  • Wabasha
  • La Crosse, WI
  • Richland Centre
  • Madison
  • Milwaukee
  • Racine
  • Chicago, IL (RR)
  • Merriville, IN
  • Lafayette
  • Indianapolis
  • Columbus
  • Cincinnati
  • Xenia
  • Columbus
  • Zanesville
  • Stubenville
  • Pittsburgh, PA (R)
  • Confluence
  • Breezewood
  • Harrisburg
  • Ephrata
  • Philadelphia (R)
  • Princeton, NJ
  • New York, NY (RRRRR)
  • Bristol
  • Oxford
  • Windsor
  • London

I kinda miss motels after hating them so much towards the end of the trip.  Not as much as I miss my bike since some dickhead pulled out in front of me cracking the frame!  On Brixton road!  I cycle 4,000 miles across America and my sturdy steel framed Surly gives way less than 3 miles from my front door!

I've also been compiling an endless thank you list to my co-riders, sponsors, family, friends, home support team and the many generous hosts all along the route.  I'm so very grateful, and thankful to have such good memories all along the way.

After returning we released our first research output. and there was a bit more reflection, but that's pretty much it for now, well at least as a little bookmarker for all the stories in one handy compendium.
If you are reading this for any reason whatsoever, and decide to delve deeper and read the story in depth would love to hear any feedback (and I will try and adjust some of the grammar if and when I re-visit the actual stories in time, but it was all very on the hoof, so my apologies).

OK, I can't leave without a few pictures, here's 5 of my personal favourites.

Yellow Lines
Some friends call me Rocky
Scenic Highway 16
Ducky Passes By

Friday, 25 October 2013

Revolution or Planning

Yesterday morning the article and video of Russell Brand on Newsnight was being punted about.

It's still doing the rounds and there is plenty of buzz and chatter and blogging and various articles and what not about the relevant merits or not of his attitude.  Essentially, yes he may be right about there needing to be change, but there aren't any answers there.

The idea of revolution is fun: anarchy, equality and all that, but reading Animal Farm in GCSE English has left too much of an impression on me about who benefits from revolution.

Anyway, at around the same time the TCPA had published a report "Planning out poverty: the reinvention of social town planning"

Having been to a number of events recently, and following news and reports endlessly about planning, housing and so on I found the coincidence of these two 'activities' revealing themselves to me so close on the old twitter timeline interesting.

It was my intention to write a full-on critique of the two.  But I'm not an academic, and my bike broke in the afternoon so I got sidelined and in a foul mood not able to cohesively bring together all the themes on my mind.

But essentially Brand's idea of revolution is all well and good, but for my money the TCPA publication at least offers real tangible solutions to inequality.  If these ideas could get a higher profile, if everyone that 'liked' or shared the Brand video wrote to their MP and local councillor to push for adoption of these policies, or at least more serious consideration of the issues under discussion maybe there's a chance that more could be done, and there is an alternative to just not voting or being revolutionary.

But then, the biggest problem is apathy,

In which case, maybe I should do just that right now.

Sure, Brand is more entertaining than policy.  But we do live in a world where there is top down control, and in order to change this, for the better, engagement is required at some level.

Having first skimmed through the report it offers a very good introduction to what planning is, and the relationship with poverty and social equity.  Kind of outlines what it is that I mean when talking about studying planning.

And even though in my last job interview I signed off with my recommendation that maybe the planning framework should be given time to bed down after so much change in the last few years, can't help thinking that some sort of way of engaging the powers that be with some idea of proper long term planning may be a good thing.  We'll see how I feel once I've actually been working for a few years aye!

And just to sign off a favourite quote from my dissertation, just to add a counterpoint to my whole argument:

Planning Fails Everywhere It has been Tried
Wildavsky 1973

 [edit; now that I've re-read the New Statesman article and TCPA report more thoroughly I'm not sure of the comparison.  Both trying to make a change, one is slightly more emotive, but when I've seen Hugh Ellis of the TCPA talk he an be very emotive indeed about the need for strategic planning to solve some of the societal problems in this country specifically.  I probably wanted to make the comparison for a bit of sensationalism and marketability, and being made aware of both streams of thought at the same time yesterday morning made a point of interest.  Maybe it should have been a tweet instead after all.  Or just a bit of chat down the pub.  And I will write to my MP, as should you, about whatever it is that bothers you.  Or just protest, I don't care, which is kind of the problem isn't it.  I'll leave this here for now quietly and see if I come back to a better critique or solution in future.  And my bike's still fucking broken!]

Friday, 18 October 2013


In the protracted process of compiling a comprehensive account of my cross-continental cycle trip; a photo journal to share with friends and co-riders; a more comprehensive, engaging presentation on findings from the research of P2P; an account of how I saw the trip personally; and just trying to collate the adventure into one take away artefact, I've been re-visiting my pictures and commentary a lot this last couple of weeks.  Having seen a few co-riders this week was compelled to spend a friday night making some progress on these 'artefacts'.  But instead I navel gazed and ended up compiling a hasty slideshow of pics.  But now I've done it why not share it quietly over here:

I'm still surprised that when I meet friends I've not seen in a while, or am introduced as 'Ben that cycled across America' at the credence it allows.  Chatting with a few of the other P2Pers this week reminds me what a strange adventure it was.  I may think it's old news, but there is still interest, and I still have a couple of months before it's last years story and I need to move on, so here is another reminder of the fact that I, along with a motley crew rode across America and returned to tell the tale.  And tell the tale I will... eventually

Sunday, 6 October 2013

32 London Boroughs in a day

It started with this

Which led to this:

Which took me here and someone had luckily done the leg work, so to speak, on a general route.


View Larger Map

So I'd kept the Saturday free, part of my whole JFDI attitude, which is really quite good actually.  On Friday I toyed around with a rough route on Google maps.

View Larger Map

My massively high tech way of navigating was to print the google directions and follow the sheet of paper, mostly, follow my nose a little and on a few occasions rely on gaining bearings through the trusty smartphone.  Being that I live in Lambeth and Southwark is the other side of the road, I had a quick win at the start.  So with the adjusted route my ride list was as follows:

Kingston upon Thames
Richmond Upon Thames
Waltham Forest
Barking & Dagenham
Tower Hamlets
Kensington & Chelsea
Hammersmith & Fulham
32 Boroughs mosaic
So my ride was recorded like this:


  • The view of London from Redbridge Cycling Centre.  An unexpected surprise at the perfect time of day.
  • The sense of achievement passing over into Wandsworth to complete the list
  • The kindness of strangers offering help in random places when the bike was upturned



  • The fact that I've probably undone any benefit from giving up smoking 10 months ago, I was filthy when I got home, and the inside of my lungs feel even dirtier, the air quality on London's roads ain't good.
  • Getting a puncture just after the only shower of the day.
  • Getting a second puncture on the canal.
  • The North Circular... a couple of pretty hairy miles near Walthamstow.

In summary, would I do it again? What'd be the point in that.  Could clearly do it in a quicker time and quicker route.  But this ride really was proof that cycling in London is not a pleasure, only on a couple of times when I took off down a canal, or found some of the off road routes was it comfortable.  I clearly fall into the "Strong & Fearless" group of cyclists.  Not that there weren't moments of fear.  And with my cycling fitness still being pretty good this was achievable with little preparation, or sustenance in fact (just a sausage roll, Double decker, 2 pints of Guinness and 2 packs of peanuts).  But the road quality is generally terrible, random bike lanes ending abruptly, if they're there at all.  Lots of crud in the hard shoulder.  And exhaust fumes.. urgh, my throat really feels very harsh a day later like after a big night out smoking a pack or two of camels.

Generally there weren't too many incidents, two ridiculously close overtakes and cut ups both in Barking & Dagenham, but I'll not draw any conclusions from that.  Also someone laughing pointedly at me fixing a puncture, or maybe I was assuming it was at me rather than the radio or another phone conversation. I was doing the smug overtaking of long lines of cars, but what was the point of being smug when I was essentially going in a big bloody circle to end up in the same place I started?

Yup, certainly not a fun jaunt out for the day, and I can't really see any parts of the route I took being a draw for cycling tourism or as best practice for attracting cyclists, or getting people on their bikes.  London's an amazing city, with all kinds of life there, but the roads are not all welcoming, and there's a lot of grime and dirt out there, but from a planning/urbanist point of view it's an interesting way to explore the city beyond heading to a destination and getting a tour.

The adventure side of it was fun, if there's a challenge out there, a bit of an idea of something to do, then why not just go the fuck out there and do it?  I've done it now and it gives me a point of interest for the rest of the week while I think of something else to do.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Every County in the British Isles

Last Monday (The 16th September 2013) I went to the Night of Adventure at the Vue Cinema in Leicester Square.  An entertaining and inspiring evening, watching a selection of interesting, vibrant and well travelled people giving presentations on a range of adventures or initiatives.  I won't try to explain in too much detail, have a look here: https://www.facebook.com/NightOfAdventure or here http://www.hopeandhomes.org/get-involved/fundraising-and-events and try and go along to one if you can.

Anyway in the interval, as I was too reticent to spark up conversation with too many other punters (and by the way I was quite surprised by the youth and good looks of the crowd, and the relatively equal gender split, for some reason I was expecting a range of guys my age and older in karrimore jackets geeking out on adventure kit) so I idly tweeted an idea that came to me on the idea of adventures in one of the earlier presentations.

Having recently returned from a cross continental bike trip, albeit a relatively comfortable one, I am determined to actually start this career in planning, or place-making, or urbanism, or whatever I can work my way into along the lines of the reason I returned from NZ and went to get that degree.  So I figured a way to have adventures, and get to see more of my home nation was that as outlined above.

After a simple google search I found this website: 


There are a few lists on there, I decided to pick the first one, as it didn't seem so comprehensive.  So I'll leave this hanging here now, and come back and update when I have some sort of evidence of having visited that county.  Lets see if by this time next year I've Done 'em all?

Angus (Forfarshire)
Argyll (Argyllshire)
Brecknockshire (Breconshire)
Buckinghamshire  -  Done 21/09/2013 - passed through on way to Oxford, but will be back there a bit I'm sure.

Caernarfonshire (Carnarvonshire)
East Lothian
Hampshire - 30/11/2013 - Back to the county of my birth and formative years.
Fields of Hampshire
Kent - 12/10/2013 
Lancashire - 27/10/2013
Welcome to Manchester
Oxfordshire  -  done 21st September 2013 - Working at Virgin Do

Surrey  29/09/2013 

Sussex -  26/09/2013 Brighton.  Easy
West Lothian (Linlithgowshire)
Yorkshire 26/10/2013

Oh yeah, and the British Isles includes Ireland:


There aren't any rules, just try and visit, or pass through.  And try and fit it in with everything else.  And no castigation if I don't complete it, just a bit of an achievement if I do.  It looks like a big list from here, but if I keep it in mind there's at least a chance I'll see a few places I've not seen before.

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Open House London 2013

Having worked a long day on Saturday I made it out a little later than planned.  I had intended to go and see Battersea Power Station having seen a presentation about the redevelopment of the Battersea Nine Elms/ Nine Elms and Vauxhall Development /Nine Elms on the South Bank, or whichever name it decides to go by on Thursday.  I was also keen to see the photography display there.  But I heard that it was closed to new visitors by midday due to mile long queues, and having already been inside for a lavish launch party last year hastily assembled a list of other places to see through a quick look at Londonist and twitter.

I headed over the hill to the William Booth College opposite the Denmark Hill station, but discovered that that was only open on Saturday.  So I rode up towards the south bank (stopping off at the cop shop to have my bike registered) and aimed to go and see Neo Bankside.  Again however, they were only open on Saturday.  Having now looked at the website and discovering that the last few apartments are still available from £1.25m, maybe it's just as well I didn't get to see them seeing that my bugbear this week, and recently is the state of housing availability and affordability.

neo Bankside
View from Millennium Bridge

So I went round and over the millennium bridge, and found myself at Guildhall to get some info.  Had a quick coffee and unavoidable conversation about cycling in London vs cycling in Wellington.  While perusing the Open House information I found out that there was an Alleyways of the City tour departing almost immediately.  

Founders Court

I don't recall the exact route now, but was a fascinating tour of the city.  Covering a lot of the importance of the Guilds and various industries over the years.  Recurring theme of destruction and rebuilding, often largely due to the Great Fire or Blitz.  The displacement of peoples or industries, largely due to greed and power, and essentially the control of capital and influence.  So nothing really changes.  Though lots of this is re-covering things I may have learnt, or at least heard of before, hearing the story of the streets and the city while walking through the City of London really made a big impression on me.  

I have little business in the city, so tend to be bombing through on my bike, getting disorientated around one lane or another, until I see a signpost, landmark or road that I recognise, and continue my journey through, and generally onwards.  but this walk purposefully took us through the still existing medieval alleys and passages.  Probably the biggest impression for me of this was taking me back to the 'Designing Places' module in the first year of my planning degree.  Partly an 'Urban Design 101' I recall a series of slides showing how great places reveal themselves from different angles.  Through the City of London you will walk through a cramped alleyway, and as you emerge form a Tudor or Elizabethan scene, be presented with the stark skyscrapers of the new City, emerging daily now with the collection of variously monikered buildings which grab glimpses along the way.  This is an effect that I've never experienced in any other city, certainly not with the degree of contrast and depth of history available in my home city, which I've explored so much less than the many cities and towns I've blasted through in comparatively short time spans.

Bank of England Queue

So I've resolved myself to spending a little more time exploring the city by foot soon, before my days become too busy and the nights become too dark.

So the tour ended at Liverpool Street Station at around 3.20, I consulted the guide book to see where to go next.  I'd made a note earlier to try for 8 Stoneleigh Terrace which was brought to my attention on Londonist: "Those interested in the architecture of housing need to visit Stoneleigh Terrace in Archway".  The booklet which I had now got my hands on said that there was a final tour at 4pm.  With my handy new smart phone I worked out it was about 5 miles and made my way up.  With a home match at Highbury making the journey a little more colourful I made it to the location bang on time.  There was a fair crowd waiting outside and I loitered assessing the situation.  As people were being let into the flat I went and locked my bike up and just squeezed into the back of the room as Fabien(?) very generously accommodated what must have been around 50 or so people in his front room.  The dimensions of which can be figured out from this picture:
Full House for Open House London
Open House London, Stoneleigh Terrace

There's no urgent need for me to disseminate the whole project as details are better elsewhere, but as I understand it was a social housing project in the 60's with a certain amount of idealism and holistic thought that many developments lack, especially social housing.  The design and construction was compromised in a number of ways over the whole planned estate (economics, politics, the usual), but the result with the Highgate New Town stage one is delightful.  So many details of what is studied as 'good urban form' and good design and space in the dwellings.  Was excellent to have a walk around, see inside the flat and have the story told by someone who lives and understands the place, without going into the architectural theory and abstracts.  It was also nice to just walk around, the different angles and shapes, and the sound of children playing in the streets.

Whittington Estate, London N19
Open House London, Stoneleigh Terrace
Whittington Estate, London N19
Highgate New Town
Stoneleigh Terrace, London N19

Riding back it was a shame not to have got into a few more buildings, seen one of the 'big ticket' items and a selection of smaller off the path ones, but with other commitments (such as work and sleep) it was a great impromptu day to give more inspiration about cities and places and housing, at the end of a week when I've been learning a lot.

Southwark Bridge

Next year I may try and plan in advance a little more and really take advantage of the day.  Or maybe I wont, we'll see.  But for now, Cheers to Open House London 2013 and particularly the excellent guides I encountered.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Report to MP's

When not whistling through the countryside or cities of a strange land the adventures seem less immediate, and less worthy of commentary.

But a couple of weeks ago we released the first research output of the ride.  It was circulated to MP's for the opening of parliament and the debate to 'Get Britain Cycling'.

Take a look at it here:

P2P report to MP's : Learning from America.
There is, as always, plenty of other stuff to talk about in relation to this.  Other endless commentary and analysis of policy, action, inaction.  Infrastructure, money promises.  There are also more comprehensive reports to compile in the coming weeks, but my focus has to change into more long term adventures for now.

But whilst doing that there will be plenty of time to re-visit the P2P stuff here, the research, friendships, pictures, movies and memories.  And there is plenty more to do to get Britain cycling.  But right now I'm at a desk ploughing a furrow in my brow.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Ride London 2013

Or Prudential Ride London 2013.  And More specifically the Prudential Ride London Freecycle 2013.  Not too much to say about it myself.  I saw a notification for it whilst in the states, then some paraphernalia came through the post and I went along.  Started early to try and take part in the world record attempt which went awry it seems, though there wasn't a clear understanding of where the record was actually being measured, and there were some very young kids along not as able to keep the distances between bikes constant.

Anyway, I went and got some breakfast and returned to get a load of pictures of London streets full of cyclists.

Ride London 2013

Ride London 2013
Ride London 2013Ride London 2013

I wanted to try and get some with parliament in the background.  And handily there was a 'smile for the camera' sign just by where I intended to go, so got a few nice pictures of quite a cross section of people having fun on their bikes.

Ride London 2013
Ride London 2013
Ride London 2013
Ride London 2013
Ride London 2013
Ride London 2013
Ride London 2013

I didn't end up venturing into any of the festival zones.  But had nice memories cycling down the Mall of the last time 3 weeks ago when P2P made our triumphant return.

Ride London 2013
Ride London 2013

There was a load of racing stuff, and if I'd known the full itinerary I may well have entered the 100 mile ride, taking advantage of my current fitness levels.  But that was it for me.  There are of course other insights into the significance of the freeride.  I saw it just as a novelty day out, and something to make a focus for some pictures.  I still have bike fever and don't seem to be able to escape the whole subject.  But really I'm just someone who rides around a lot, closed roads or not.  I very much come into the 'strong and fearless' category of cyclist.  Sometimes I wonder about my being too much into it to really be able to assess what the priorities should be to get more people cycling, I mean this weekend I must have covered around 100 miles pootling around town just going about my days.

My commemorative picture from the day, how nice

Apparently one of the stated aims is to increase day to day cycling.  Well it may have sparked more desire in some interested but concerned people.  But it's still not likely to change the mind of many of the people leaving comments along the lines of 'bloody arrogant cyclists fucking up my day by having the roads - WHICH ARE MEANT FOR CARS INNIT - closed' blah blah blah.  So I'll take the fact  that it was a nice day with the opportunity to ride round these iconic landmarks in a great atmosphere with very little fear.

Friday, 2 August 2013

London Cycling Summit

Wednesday had been in my diary for some time.  An event put together by Peter and the NLA was timely in a number of ways, a year after the Olympics and all the cycling hoo-haa around that.  And it precedes the events of the Prudential Ride London this coming weekend.

Obviously my premier interest was the presentation of our preliminary findings from the P2P ride.  At an earlier stage it had been hoped to have a first publication available by now.  But with over 10,000 words of commentary from the internal Survey Monkey, many pages of notes form the various meetings, hours of footage of interviews and goodness knows how many gigabytes of pictures, disseminating it all has become more than a two week turnaround job.

But enough of my woes, it's all coming together, and events like yesterday help remind me that it's going to be a nice piece of work to have been involved in.  The summit was sold out and seemed to be quite a variety of delegates, being hosted by the NLA it had some lots of property people, there were a few enthusiastic cycling advocates, and quite a lot of representation from the local and London government representatives.

Andrew Gilligan was the keynote speaker, he essentially talked through the mayors vision for cycling.  Headline stuff I picked out of it was stuff like of the £913m budget every penny is protected.  Hoping not to create expectations beyond what is in the vision, everything will not be perfect, as there are well know constraints of space etc.  Things need to be done adequately or not at all.  And the job of persuading councils of the need for work to be done on their roads as 95% of London's roads are owned by the boroughs rather than TfL.  All in all he came across as very focussed and keen, but also pragmatic, so that's a good thing, huh?

London Cycling Summit

Also the cycling commissioner spoke about the "All consuming Emphasis on safety" which I think is a very interesting point.  It's hard to brush off deaths on bikes, but then... people die all the time, keeping running any agenda with the "if it bleeds it leads" mantra isn't really terribly helpful, it means people react in a very basic way, creates more fear than understanding and therefore can end up being counter productive for the whole cycling advocacy movement, or indeed any movement.

Andrew Gilligan was followed by Ben Plowden of TfL.  He spoke about the delivery of the vision and again was quite pragmatic but positive.  Sarah did a grand job introducing the Portland to Portland ride and the challenges of the day to day stuff and mixingthat with the business of research too which Peter expanded upon.

London Cycling Summit

Peter's talk I was reasonably well versed with, what with having been on the ride and all, but always good to have these little reminders, and being so deep in my own point of view of the stuff we saw one of the big advantages of our ride was all the different points of view from other professionals with such depth of knowledge in place making.  There is also an interview with Peter on the London Cycling Campaign website that covers a lot of the themes of our findings.

London Cycling Summit

There was a Q&A session on borough strategies represented by Hackney, Camden and Ealing.  They all sounded very positive about cycling issues where a large part of the issue the TfL have is persuading the boroughs to buy into the cycling vision,and hopefully exceed it, but it sounded like they were all trying to sell something (isn't everyone) or competing with each other, but good to see that there is representation.

London Cycling Summit

Place making is a theme that came up in relation to cycling all through the summit, and indeed through our ride.  Nick Searl of Argent explained the role it takes in King's Cross, and the fact that a single development can't change the city, but there is much more demand from tenants now for the standard of facilities for cycling to be way in excess of what would have been required in the last 5 or 10 years, so the market is leading the need to make cycling more accessible.  Also of course the role that incorporating cycling and placemaking, or looking more holistically at how a place is designed as well as how people get around and interact with the different areas.  But then what do we know about placemaking or anything else?

Joylon Brewis of P2P friends Grimshaw Architects Talk started with stating all the benefits of cycling, I was about to make a note about don't we all know this already, is there any need to state these in our report as they are so widely available and largely uncontested now (you know, health, fitness, liveability etc etc) but then he pointed out that you do need to point out the benefits to all because it costs to pay for the improvements, the pay back may not always be tangible, but there is money to be made somewhere, and that is how things get done.

The ideas that stuck in my head the most about this talk was the idea of making sure cycling was seen, and branded as another part of the transportation network.  So using roundels, making sure there is consistency in signage across the network, but then the idea of having a cycling network is what needs to be ingrained into the system.  A lot of it can be done relatively cheaply, and some of it can be made to pay for itself.  Though of course there is always the question of getting cyclists to pay for anything (like parking) as the mindset is that it's all free when you ride, so need to see where the value is.

I had been interested in the views of the advocacy groups, represented by German Dector-Vega of Sustrans whose presentation was entertaining, but I felt really preaching to the converted.  Then Tom Bogdanowicz who was presenting on the role of advocacy grups I felt came across as what one of the differences with advocacy in London being more adversarial than that which we found in the states.  People like Jonathan Maus of bikeportland, and the guys from the ATA or Bike Pittsburgh seemed to have moved into a kind of more collaborative or ingrained way of working with the cities.  Maybe this was just my point of view at the time, or the way that they presented themselves, and I suppose it goes with the fact that cycling in London is more combative, so maybe the sides line up more aggressively off court.  In the 3 weeks or so that I've been back in London and riding round the city, as well as out to Brighton or Hampshire I've been in more close shaves, aggressive driving or negligent driving incidnts than in the whole 2 and a half months in the states, in fact I probably had as many incidents yesterday alone on a ride out to visit friends in Basingstoke, 3 cars overtake to immediatly turn left across me, and about 3 instances of passing way too close, way too fast.

One question that i recall now from the Q&A was why can't we do what NY did and literally turn stuff around overnight, kind of gurilla bike lanes just by adding planters and paint.  Which would be interesting, but it is harder here, what with the limitations on space and the know on effects for the rest of the road network, but also the amount of different stakeholders in who owns the road space.

An interesting day, a few more notes to feed into the output from the research, and was good to have a little P2P reunion after, though felt at a bit of a loss at the end of dinner, thoughtlessly saying 'see you in the morning' recalling our days on the road.