A Very British Revolution

Of course, we saw this all the time on the Study Tour of The Netherlands...

It is now over a month since I returned from the Cycling Embassy Study Tour to The Netherlands. It has taken this long for it all to really sink in and I advise any of you who have any interest in cycling, transport policy, planning, or you just want to see what a country can do when it actually gives a shit about its people by giving them unfettered freedom and choice on how they get about their communities whilst giving consistent investment in their health and wellbeing. In fact, I advise you to go anyway just for the bike ride. At least over there you aren’t bullied by people in 1 ton metal boxes who think that they are essential to ‘progress’ and that killing at least 1,700 people per year is ‘one of those things’.

It would be fair to say that I came back from The Netherlands a changed man. An angry man at that. It’s all very well to sit in front of a computer, to look up a Dutch street on Google Streetview and draw your own wierd and wacky conclusions based on the British experience. It’s quite another thing to actually go over to see it in context and realise that their roads are not wider, that they didn’t always have masses of cycle infrastructure and that what they have got isn’t always perfect but they are constantly innovating and striving to make it so. When you look at a typical street in Assen, it becomes instantly apparent what local and national Government thinks about the bicycle. You can draw your own conclusions from looking at a typical British street – in fact, it’s probably better to focus on the pavement because that’s either where a bicycle symbol might be painted or where the cyclists are anyway because they view riding on the road as an extreme sport requiring clothing and lights that make you visible from Neptune.

Recent events in the news have thrown light onto another problem that can be encountered when pushing for decent cycling infrastructure based on best practice from mainland Europe.

We hate Europe.

Not all of us of course. I certainly don’t and if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably don’t either. As far as the latest call for a referendum goes, I personally believe that in the midst of a really big crisis, it’s not particuarly advantageous to turn to your neighbours and tell them to go f*** themselves. To a British cyclist [and therefore a small minority view], the Netherlands is a country of wonderful infrastructure where people of all ages are out on their bicycles, of multi storey bicycle parks, of railway stations where only having space for 20,000 bicycles gets the alarm bells ringing with local authorities, of schools where children are trusted and can cycle independently from a young age with their friends with no adult intervention. However, to many British people, The Netherlands is a place of red light districts, hen/stag destinations, clogs, Max Bygraves singing ‘Tulips from Amsterdam’, round cheeses, canals and a language that sounds like a bit of a laugh that got desperately out of hand.

A cycle path in Assen. It even has it's own lighting.

In an earlier post, I stated my opinion that the reason 20’s Plenty campaigns across the country generally work is because they are community led campaigns as opposed to being cycle-specific. This despite Rod King (the jolly nice Founder of 20’s Plenty For Us ) being a pinnacle of the Warrington Cycling Campaign. Even though the benefits of 20mph speed limits in populous areas should be patently obvious, 20’s Plenty allows a wide range of community groups to ‘buy in’ to the concept. It seems strange that in the early years of the 21st Century, curtailing someone’s right to drive like a pillock should be regarded as part of an arsenal in the ‘War on the Motorist’ – stranger still having just returned from a country where 30kph (18mph) is the default on residential streets.

The point of today’s sermon is that promoting decent cycling infrastructure is difficult enough coming from a minority, and quite often not a particuarly liked minority at that. However, when combined with the fact that mainland Europe is being used as an inspiration, it may be too much for many to bear. If I close my eyes, I can see the smoke and sparks billowing as the Daily Mail Europhobicometer slams into overdrive.

We have to be thoughtful and innovative about how we take the message to a group of people that don’t know they want to cycle yet. Also to planners and engineers that may in some instances be reluctant to take different practices on board. Whilst on my travels in The Netherlands I saw examples of great community spirit as people of all ages went about their business by bicycle; I saw groups of children chatting away on their way to school and college. I saw groups of elderly people and couples off for a nice social ride in everyday clothing, sharing the latest news without harassment. I saw hundreds of children being picked up from school by bike, hurredly telling their parents and grandparents what they did that day. In a way, it was looking back to a Britain that I once knew where I cycled to school and on adventures with friends. Where local residents cycled to the local shop to buy a newspaper without fear or being regarded as a f***ing taxdodger. In a sense, it could be argued that countries such as Denmark and The Netherlands are more British than Britain as they have retained decent values that are still about in Britain but have been tempered by consistent anti-social, car-centric policies. I believe the Dutch and Danes are on to something that’s worth fighting for.

I leave you with this latest offering from Mark Wagenbuur that I urge you to watch as it is utterly superb. In particular, look at the dire situation The Netherlands found itself as it entered the 1970’s. Then think about a typical school run in Britain today and wonder how it could ever get better with current policy.

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An Embassy in the Netherlands and an Embassy of the Netherlands

A chance for children, and at least two Cycle Embassy members, to play hopscotch in a Woonerf (or 'living area') where traffic is reduced to walking pace and the residents come first. Yes, I know....

Last Friday I returned from the Cycling Embassy Study Tour to Assen and Groningen in the Netherlands, led by David Hembrow. I am quite deliberately leaving it a while before I even attempt to blog more thoroughly about it as I want to allow some time for it all to sink in. It really was a three-day assault on the senses that went way beyond looking at some Dutch cycling infrastructure. To say it left a profound mark would be bordering on reckless understatement. The amusing aspect was the sheer bewilderment from the Dutch themselves that anyone would want to take photos and examine something that is taken so utterly for granted – the freedom of all citizens to travel with subjective safety by bicycle, if they so choose, regardless of age, gender, colour, creed, status or even what type of cyclist you are for sporting pursuits (we were overtaken by many road cyclists with all sorts of colourful team kit on). To them the act of getting around by bicycle is quite boring and not really worthy of conversation at all – just as it should be.

Another amusing aspect, as a quick teaser, is my first foray into movies. It is one of the famous bins (usually found close to Dutch schools) angled and at such a height that litter may be easily chucked whilst passing on a bicycle. Yes, the Dutch have even created the perfect symbiosis between bicycle and litter bin (like the Danes and their foot rests whilst waiting at traffic lights) The schoolkids fared slightly better than our efforts…

Anyway, whilst we were away, the Dutch launched their Cycling Embassy. Like the Danish Cycling Embassy, they will be exporting their knowledge and expertise that has had proven success, as opposed to the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain that I formed earlier this year that would welcome anything other than the current situation where Local Authorities are designing facilities for bicycles with no knowledge of bicycles – a bit like asking Orville the Duck to design the successor to Trident.

Here is the video of their launch. I know it has featured on other blogs but it really does need repeating as it really is superb.

I shall be posting far more frequently as I catch up with everything else and try to put everything I’ve seen in a British context. This should be easier than you think (certainly easier than I once thought) and easier than some may have you believe.

Step Into The Unknown

My Wife and I are still fortunate enough to be invited to parties that don’t involve Jelly, cakes with pictures of Postman Pat and tantrums if the participants get tired (but enough about me! ha, ha, ha, ha, ha etc). Although it’s always nice mixing in adult company, inevitably conversations at such affairs will turn to children – most notably, reasons why couples are putting off having them. I find these conversations fascinating (after I’ve got over the fact that they are better presented than me with a healthy, optimistic glow and enough disposable income to pay for yet another foreign holiday to a land so far away, the locations in my sons story books can barely hint at). What I find particularly fascinating is that the reasons given for not having children aren’t too dissimilar to the reasons given by this country for not adopting standards of best practice in cycling infrastructure based on countries that have had proven success.

We can’t afford it yet

When someone says this, what they generally mean is, ‘we want enough money to enjoy our current lifestyle complete with baby’. They have no idea yet as to how much their lives change fundamentally when a child comes into the equation – they can’t do and we wouldn’t expect them to. We could try explaining to them that they will make savings by not going out as much as you will want to be with your new baby at all times. Plus, you will perpetually feel as though you have just cycled the Tour de France on a Raleigh Grifter. You make ‘sacrifices’ only to realise that they weren’t really sacrifices at all and you could have done without long before.

It’s the same with decent cycling infrastructure. We fail to realise that, if implemented correctly with consistent political will and a budget more in line with a serious transport project as opposed to a weekly food shop at Asda, the country’s transport habits could change fundamentally. Massive savings could be made to health, road maintenance, environment and also wellbeing (a safer community is one that has people walking and cycling around it). Decent infrastructure, like all nice things will cost money. But it will be better than carrying along as we are and trying to fit the bicycle around it – seeing the crappy conditions that cyclists are provided with at the moment,  designed with no real knowledge of what a bicycle is actually capable of – which is tantamount to neglect.

We haven’t got the space

My Wife and I made some ‘sacrifices’ to move into a two bedroom house in anticipation of having a child (although we were never extravagant in the first place). We logically took the view in our lazier, more carefree days that one child would need one bedroom. We didn’t anticipate the clothing that lasts two seconds before the next growth spurt or The Battle Of The Grandparents To Save The Local High Street By Buying Everything In It For Your Child. These are nice problems to have and unwittingly puts us in the ‘sexual fantasy’ category for IKEA Marketing Managers looking to sell more storage solutions. Obviously everything can fit. We just needed to think more carefully about how we used our space.

One problem I’ve found recently is that when people think of Dutch Cycle Infrastructure, the word ‘Segregation’ may instantly spring to mind. ‘Segregation’ is a bit of a dirty word in British Cycle Campaigning as it is taken to mean ‘losing one’s right to the road’. This is to miss the point of segregation completely. Quite often Dutch segregation is achieved by getting the cars off the roads rather than building bike paths next to roads. This is something that people very often miss – including the Dutch. They have looked at their public spaces and thoroughfares and found useful and pragmatic ways to put the public first by correctly identifying and reducing the danger or completely removing the danger from the equation.

Quite often British campaigners will try to imagine what a Dutch street looks like and then try to mentally Photoshop it onto a street in their locality, instantly drawing their own weird and wonderful conclusions. This does not take into account vehicle speeds, volume, local networks etc. The Dutch have standards dependant on all these variables and prescribe solutions based on what they find. There’s space alright in the UK – we’re just too used to the car to think any other way and are too used to being beaten into accepting dreadful compromise. One thing is for sure – we have to address the current solutions offered to us.

We’re not ready!

There’s never a ‘right time’ to have a baby. Even with all the books and manuals in the World, it can seem like taking a leap into territory completely unknown to anyone else. If unsure, it helps if you can draw on experience, such as visiting a friend or relative that has a baby so you can get a feel for what’s involved and they can answer any questions you might have.

To get a feel for what is involved in decent cycling infrastructure, I’m leading a party of nine from the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain to the Netherlands to go on a Study Tour, organised by David Hembrow. We will ask questions, run a tape measure around the country, take too many photos and videos, and try to gain as much knowledge as we can so we can share it with you (just like when a baby arrives, I guess).

It may certainly be the case that some solutions over there won’t work over here.  But our solutions at the moment are appalling and I personally feel that we have a lot to gain. A lot of overseas solutions are not only alarmingly similar to what many in Britain believe is the right way such as reduced speeds, home zones and the like, but some have been campaigning for years to get it. If we can help to widen and clarify the knowledge base, then it won’t be such a step into the unknown.

Go for Launch

An inviting seaside path. Inviting to what, I'm not quite sure.

Well! Apologies to Lo Fidelity Readers for the gaps between postings but in the end family matters and Chairing the Embassy took precedence. I realised that I wouldn’t be able to keep the usual stunningly high standards that you’ve come to know and love on this blog.

On Saturday September 3rd the Official Launch of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain will take place. We shall be launching our key policies and there will be a photo call, but it’s more of a chance for like-minded people to get together for a picnic and chat about how Great Britain could have a stab at decency if it really tried. We already have a combined Mission Statement and Manifesto plus a wonderful ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document for your perusal and we shall be handing out print versions at the event.

It’s been wonderful seeing things develop; the entries to the Summer Poster Competition have been superb (there’s still time to enter!) and due to popular demand our webmaster has  lovingly set up a shop for you to buy stuff incorporating the logo lovingly created by our Manchester Consulate. I’ve been informed that we’ll have a Zazzle shop available too for those requiring cheaper stickers. Advert over.

I’ll personally be happy when the policies are launched as it finally gives us the clarity we require. Let me try to very briefly explain my personal viewpoint…

Basically, despite fairly good documents like this, Councils and Highways Authorities across the land have been building stuff like this, this and this which is basically this. Usually, the only time local campaign groups get to see designs for stuff like this, this and this is when the design has already been signed off and programmed for construction but now the Councils and Highways Authorities can tick the box that they have consulted with cyclists. The designs are often slightly less dangerous than this, look like they were designed with this whilst on this and often put these in direct conflict with these. Local people then think local cyclists asked for this, this and this and councils then produce documents basically portraying themselves as this, even though they are simply paving the way for more of this.

Experienced cyclists through the years have tried to ignore stuff like this, this and this, rightfully claiming that they have the right to the road even though they sometimes get this for not using this if it’s nearby despite this.

I set up this because, like others, I started to look at stuff like this, this and from this chap and wondered what sort of forcefield must be in existence in the North Sea to stop us adopting ideas and methodologies that led to a culture of this, this or this. Their methods are not always perfect, and it would be wrong to suggest that it could be picked up and transplanted wholesale. However, the approach (along with other countries) that has proven success in delivering this, this and this has to be a bit better than this, this and this. I believe that Councils have to be stopped producing this as a matter of urgency (don’t forget, in times like these, they have a greater excuse to plead poverty despite saying the same to cyclists when times were good). It is not about putting cycle infrastructure everywhere. There is a raft of measures to be considered in terms of traffic reduction, speed restriction etc. But if we don’t do something to a decent standard, and think in terms of coherent network instead of piecemeal ‘solutions’ that act like a Band-Aid on a laceration, then cyclists using the open road in the meantime will get continuing and unwarranted abuse as more junk gets built and the bicycle will continue to not be taken seriously as a mode of transport. I cannot think of a single facility in the UK that could be used safely and comfortably by experienced cyclist and 10 year old alike guaranteeing continuity unless it occurs by accident in the form of converted railway lines. If we’re going to do it, let’s do it right with no more potential for conflict with more vulnerable groups.

Phew! I’m paraphrasing a bit but that’s a personal basic outline.

Anyway, I hope you can make it.

Footnote 24/08/11

As I was gracefully peddling in this morning through the glorious British summer murk, it occured to me that this post carries a lot of rib-tickling crap infrastructure images from Warrington Cycle Campaign’s ‘Facility of the Month’ page on their website. It is therefore only fair and proper that I not only recommend you go back every month to find out ‘how not to do it’ , but also buy their book (it is also available from decent local high street booksellers so you can buy a copy and then wander over to your County Council Highways Department infoming them that they are a published joke available internationally). Royalties go to the worthwhile CTC’s Cyclists Defence Fund

Advertising and Marketing

Goedendag! Sorry, just trying to get in a few Dutch phrases before heading off on the Embassy study tour with David Hembrow to see how the Netherlands designs cycle infrastructure for people who wish to ride bicycles from A to B. In the UK of course, we design cycle infrastructure for people who don’t wish to ride bicycles from A to B unless it’s via Q. In fact, our cycle infrastructure  isn’t really of benefit to bicycle riders at all, but at least it could be appreciated by people who like Abstract Art or Improvisational Jazz or Crack Cocaine.

The always lovely Lazy Bicycle Blog  has beaten me to it but it’s always good to spread the word. The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain has launched a poster competition to coincide with its official launch in September. Obviously, having started up just 6 months ago, we are very much in our infancy so we ask those dedicated to the cause to create a poster from a photo or piece of artwork that they think best represents the aims and aspirations of the Embassy. Unbelievably, we’ve already started to receive entries which made me choke appreciatively on my afternoon tea and Fererro Rocher. I can’t enter being Chair of the Board so here are a couple of ideas I made up earlier…

I acknowledge that I’m not the most experienced or talented digital artworker and the second one in particular comes from what will become known in future years as my ‘Sarcastic Period’. However, I hope it inspires people who are also inept at slick imagery to just come up with something that conveys a simple message on what improved infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians with all its subsequent benefits would mean for you or your school or your community.

On the subject of advertising and marketing, I would like to look at a couple of other campaigns, one from the UK and one from the Netherlands to see the difference in aims and aspirations. Firstly a Cinema advert by CTC called ‘CycleHero’ in 2007 as part of a wider campaign highlighting the link between cycling and combating climate change.

From the CTC website,

‘The cornerstone of our project will be a Cinema commercial to create awareness and make people really stop and think about Climate change issues. We plan to have our advert in cinemas in the early summer period to maximise the opportunity to encourage more and more people to take their bike from the garage and go for a ride. The film will be supported by a Public Relations campaign to spread the message further and we plan to work with local CTC groups to develop a series of national and local rides, events, meetings, workshops etc, to help involve cyclists and the wider local community in publicising the issues.                                          

‘The CTC film and its accompanying materials will use cycling as a positive image to raise awareness of and attitudes towards climate change. The project involves all those who already cycle regularly as well as those occasional and lapsed cyclists whose bike is waiting in the back of their shed. Cycling is a smart choice. Cyclists are aware of the challenges of climate change and realise, that by cycling, they are not only having fun, staying healthy and enjoying a social / sporting friendship, but also at the same time improving global sustainability. Now is a great time to spread the word.’

Indeed. I think it’s a very well made commercial, particularly for something so pro-cycling in the UK. Alas, I have a couple of issues with it. Firstly, you can hear a marketing check list being ticked off as it moves to its sun drenched climax; sexy woman – check, climate change bad – check, motoring bad – check, children – check, cool person to engage youth – check, elderly person – check, majority in helmets to pass the Advertising Standards Authority check, representatives from different races and creeds – check and so on. Secondly, the ‘hero’ dresses up to look like someone who Robocop might consider if trying out Internet dating.

There is an instant disconnect with the audience as they are being preached at about climate change (never preach to a British audience) and that there is a difference between cycling to a beautiful traffic free cliff top and the dangerous traffic choked hell holes that the audience sees day in day out. I don’t blame CTC for any of this as they must have had to make an advert with a climate change theme as part of the funding conditions. I actually think they did incredibly well because as people who only eat, drink, sleep and breathe cycling, it’s incredibly difficult to see the World any other way, and I’m sure they had great fun making it. In a way, we will encounter the same issues at the Embassy. We feel that we have the best answer to take to the general public. The trick is in how you actually convey that message.

The second ad comes from the Dutch Cycling Union (Fietsersbond) as featured on Lazy Bicycle Blog and Munchenierung

I love this advert, I really do. Marc at Amsterdamize has just informed me that the pay off at the end  (for those that can’t speak Dutch. I can now count to 10 and order a round of drinks sounding like a Dutch Sean Connery) is “Cyclists encounter a lot of obstacles. The Cyclists Union clears the way. Become a member!” Sadly, such a positive outlook would be torn to shreds in Britain. Everyone is wearing normal clothing without helmets for a start which would mean an instant fail with the ASA. The protagonist is also stunt riding with a Devil-may-care attitude that the Daily Mail would state is the dangerous, irresponsible way that all cyclists in the UK behave already (although ‘dangerous’ and ‘irresponsible’ are words that would also describe their take on journalism).

If you reckon you can do better, get your poster to the Embassy. You don’t have to use models or climate change messages or stunt riding. Simplicity is the key, just as getting to the shops or work should be.

Cycling Embassy of Great Britain: A Personal 6 Month Audit

It is six months to the day since the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain started on a cold, cloudy day in Central London. Personally I believe that, at the very least, it has provoked debate about the future of cycling and cycle campaigning in the UK which can only be a good thing. For that alone I’m very happy with the way things have progressed.

Mark Ames speaking at the inaugural meeting. Lovely speaking voice.

Since then, things have developed at a steady canter (as befits a purely voluntary organisation with a wide selection of day jobs). However, it would be fair to say that I’ve easily spent over half of my time trying to placate other cycling organisations and representatives. In the end I published a blog post for Cycling Mobility outlining our position and my only regret is that I didn’t write it sooner.  When a new organisation starts out, there will always be a lot of bluster, rampant enthusiasm and even anger at what has gone before. By questioning the very nature and direction of cycle campaigning in the UK, we were always going to make waves.

erm...look what my 14 month old son spelt out for me in the bath....I had nothing to do with this, I just found it. Honest.

Here are some personal thoughts and news on how the Embassy is developing;

  • The board is now in place with myself as Chair (unanimously voted in by strategically waiting until everyone had drank a fair amount of alcohol before instigating the vote), Sally Hinchcliffe as Secretary, Anthony Cartmell as Webmaster, Geoff Rone as Treasurer, Mark Ames as Press Officer with Chris Page completing the team alongside massive help from Joe Dunckley and David Arditti .
  • WE ARE LAUNCHING OFFICIALLY IN SEPTEMBER. THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN.
  • The Combined Manifesto and Mission Statement has recently been bolstered by our Frequently Asked Questions document. Thanks to Sally for that. She has written a thriller so this kind of thing was always going to be right up her street.
  • Our Manchester Consulate were very quick on the ball in creating what to me is still the piece de resistance – our shiny logo. This will be the centrepiece of some lovely merchandise available soon. I’m still pondering about requests for Embassy flags for people to put on bikes to look like Ambassadorial vehicles. I’m open to further suggestions.
    Lovely, isn't it? It's the only bicycle symbol in British history to incorporate mudguards.
  • The wiki is continuing to develop with some extremely good contributions from helmets to Dutch Cycle Infrastructure to Subjective safety. Some Embassy members are off to the Netherlands on a study tour organised by David Hembrow to collate further information and social history to better grasp how the Dutch got to where they are now with cycle infrastructure fit for all ages, styles and speeds. Being a wiki, it is of course open to contributions from all. If you’d like to help join the research, please let us know.
  • We now have a bank account and PayPal is fully operational. I can put in that £80.56 now.  I’d like to thank all those that have contributed thus far, it really is going to be a massive help in the future. Don’t stop now though!
  • Some may have noticed I’ve added Crap Cycling and Waltham Forest to our front page blog roll. Whatever people say about him/them/her, we have made the same transition in cycling belief. To me, it is a blog that represents the primal scream of cycle blogging and I would be lying if I said it wasn’t an influence.
  • David Hembrow has kicked off the first of what I hope will be many more brilliant guest blog posts. If you would like to contribute with anything from cycling to school with your children to cycle infrastructure and the built environment, please let me know.
  • In April, I was kindly  invited by Movement for Liveable London to give a talk. The suggestion was for something based on ‘I Want What They’re Having – How the Rest of the World is Achieving a Cycle Revolution’. The end result is here.
  • In June I was also invited to the Annual Parliamentary Bike Ride and appeared in a film about Blackfriars Bridge by Carlton Reid. I’m no stranger to this event, having attended as a CTC member of staff a few years ago, but it seemed to me then, as now, that it was simply a symbolic event with lots of nice, well-meaning people who were allowed into a room in the House of Lords to be told how wonderful cycling is………and that’s it, see you next year for Bike Week 2012 (which will probably be even more divorced from basic utility cycling due to Team GB and the Olympics). Such events are pleasant, good-natured affairs. I even had an amiable chat for a lengthy part of the ride with the very nice Julian Huppert MP. But that’s it. It was very well organised and nice to be there though!

The reason I saved Blackfriars Bridge until last is because something very big is happening in Central London at 6pm this evening. This is the Embassy Press Release which, I’ve just been informed, features in today’s Evening Standard. Please, please give it your support. Massive credit is due to Mark Ames. and indeed the London Cycling Campaign. Further detail may be found here, here, here and here.

Why is the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain concentrating on such a London-centric issue? Well, it’s because, to me, TfL are the carbon copy of any highways authority across the land designing dangerous drivel, more often than not with minimal consultation with the end users. Quite often there are designers, engineers and technicians within these organisations who would quite happily design something wonderful that benefitted all, but sadly can’t due to political masters committed to ‘smoothing traffic flow’ and quite often shovelling pedestrians and cyclists together safely out-of-the-way in the name of progress, or on ‘Superhighways’ that rewrite the dictionary definition of the word ‘super’. How many more people would TfL like to die before they finally get the fact that a change of approach in a city made up of people might be required?

Words and Pictures

The police escort arrives to give me my Guard of Honour to the Houses of Parliament. Oh, and escort some MP's and Lords and yadda yadda yadda.

Last Wednesday, I caught the train up to London for the Annual Parliamentary Bike Ride which is the promotional prelude to Bike Week. As I was taking my Dutch Bike along, I had to catch the first train out of Worthing to beat Southern Rail’s [non-folding] bike ban which operates between 7-10am. I then cycled along Victoria Street, round Parliament Square (fine for me on an upright Dutch bike but I wouldn’t expect my mother to cycle this comfortably – unless she was actually a reasonably fit man aged between 18-45), over Westminster Bridge taking the vaguest of vague left turns into Belvedere Road toward the start point at the London Eye.

Carlton Reid interviewing Ed Clancy. He'd just interviewed me which was all the work he had to do really.

This is an event organised by CycleNation and ex-colleague Adam Coffman of CTC in particular. The great and the good of cycle campaigning were there including London Cycling Campaign’s new Chief Executive Dr Ashok Sinha. The ride was to take us over Blackfriars Bridge where Carlton Reid made this film.

We cycled along the Embankment, past Buckingham Palace and on to the Houses of Parliament where Norman Baker (MP for Lewes, East Sussex and Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department for Transport) took questions before dashing off to catch a train.

Cycling over Blackfriars Bridge. It's quite pleasant and relaxing with a police escort. Some decent infrastructure and a maintained 20mph limit will do.

 It was all very nice but that’s all it was. I’m all for devolving power but it needs the Department for Transport to treat the bicycle seriously as a mode of transport and keep a grip on Local & Highways Authorities whose main mission seems to be making cycling look as inviting as a timeshare in Tripoli. Councils across the land are continuing to build pitiful infrastructure whether cycle campaigners want it or not and the Local Transport Fund is not going to help that – if anything it will only encourage them to paint more bicycle symbols on pavements. The Monday before the Bike Ride, I wrote a blog post for the new Cycling Mobility magazine outlining my views on this and more here.

What I really cannot understand is why this country continues to ignore the Netherlands and Denmark – countries that have had proven success in creating bicycle cultures, that have made lots of mistakes since the 1970’s when developing its infrastructure and learnt from them now using a mixture of solutions to achieve modal shares we can only dream of over here if we continue the way we are. Maybe I should have asked Norman Baker on the study tour I’m going on in September.

The day after I was commuting to work and the puncture fairy visited me..

Bicycle repair in Shoreham by Sea

 In a former life I would have thrown my arms in the air, sworn a lot, replaced the inner tube as to engage in repair would lose valuable time in my cycling rat race (time was always against me when I cycled quicker for some reason), sworn again as I get grease from the chain and derailleur onto my work clothes in my super dooper courier bag etc etc. This time I just set about the gentle art of bicycle repair, reminded by the advice given to me by Stefan Petursson when I purchased the bike from Amsterdammers in Brighton. The conversation went like this;

Stefan: (put on your best Icelandic/Dutch accent here) ‘you know the best way to repair punctures on a Dutch Bike?’

Me: (put on your sexiest British accent here) ‘No’

I was at this point expecting to hear some incredible tip known only by the Dutch Peoples – maybe something treasured & carried over from generation to generation by word of mouth

Stefan: We pump the inner tube up like so…….and we listen.

I closed my eyes in a half wince/half flinch way. This advice was of course nothing new to me. But in that instant it made me realise that I had been taking the commute far too seriously with all the kit and speed and competitiveness and the subscription to Cycling Plus. By buying an upright utilitarian bike, I had yet to realise that things were about to get a lot slower and far more interesting. Again, this is not to discredit other forms of cycling as we are all part of one big family. But since riding the Dutch Bike my life has become simpler and cheaper and more spontaneous with more freedom and time for thought as a result. Exactly as cycling should be.

Lancing Beach just off NCN2 looking back toward Worthing. I can think of worse commutes.

Obviously they are not everyone’s cup of tea but quite why we ignore Dutch & Danish bikes (and indeed classic British roadsters too) as well as their infrastructure standards is quite beyond me. In the UK, mudguards are still regarded as an accessory! In Wimbledon Fortnight!! Madness, I tell you.