Will We Finally Witness a Cycling Revolution in London?

“Boris Bikes, no sorry Ken Bikes…” Image © Mark Ramsay

Last month, London Mayor Boris Johnson announced what could be very ambitious changes to London’s cycle infrastructure, pledging nearly £1 billion worth of funding to the scheme.

His plans which includes a Crossrail style cycle route that would run at least 15 miles from West London to East London; a ‘tube network’ for the bike in which cycle lanes would run parallel to tube lines, quiet back streets and dangerous junctions would be improved.

Ambitious as they are, the new plans have been criticized on various points. One issue that has been highlighted in the press is the controversy surrounding painting a proposed cycle lane blue on the Victoria Embankment, which some feel will upset the areas ‘heritage’ feel. Another is that, as Transport for London (TFL) only owns 5% of the London roads, the viability of most of the plans will come down to whether the relevant Boroughs approve them or not.

As a cyclist myself, I congratulate Boris on scaling up his transport ambitions and recognising the benefits of making London a cycle friendly city; if just some of his plans go through, they will be a great victory for cycling in London. The plans however face many obstacles…

Poor infrastructure
I feel that the main stumbling block that is holding people back from hopping on their bikes in the same numbers as our European peers, is the issue of safety on our streets. The threat you face when jumping on your bike for a London commute is immense; it is a chaotic city to fare in whether you’re a cyclist or a motorist, with dangerous conditions caused by poorly constructed, out of date infrastructure and numerous dangerous junctions. Both motorists and cyclists take daily risks, frustrated by each others behaviour. ‘Backwards’ town planning bears the main responsibility for this; it will be really positive to see some forward thinking road planning take place.

Pressure on our roads
Another major issue is the lack of respect that all commuters show for the rules of vehicle ‘cohabitation’ on our busy streets. I agree that it is a major problem that cyclists are forever jumping red lights, but cars, vans and busses do the same thing. Badly sequenced traffic lights, a shortage of road space and the sheer pressure of the number of different vehicles on our roads creates a very tense commuting environment. Creating more and wider segregated cycling paths, separated out from the rest of the traffic by paving or other divisions, is key to tackling this issue. I am absolutely convinced that cycling in the capital would noticeably increase in line with more segregated cycling paths; people would feel safer.

Unequal playing field
A third essential consideration, which which Boris Johnson has not even mentioned, is that in the battle of vehicle hierarchy on London’s roads, cyclists are invariably the lowest common denominator; the opposite to the situation in Amsterdam and Copenhagen where cyclists rights are actually considered higher than those of motorists. In London, if a motorist drives in, parks in or in any other way obstructs a cycle lane causing cyclists to have to take evasive action, the car driver would hardly ever be penalised for their behaviour; the majority of London cycle lanes are near on invisible to most other traffic, they might as well not be there. If a car goes anywhere near a bus lane however, heavy fines generally ensue. Surely the same rules should apply everywhere?

Enforcing penalties
Ultimately, if you park in a dangerous place, obstructing the safe passage of other vehicles, you should be penalised; if you jump a red light, you should be penalised regardless of your chosen mode of transport; if you senselessly run onto roads as a pedestrian, you must be penalised. Over time, heavy and consistent fines for rule breaking would without a doubt improve road safety and ease congestion, for everyone.

More accessible high streets
My final plea to the Mayor, is to pedestrianise more high streets in the city and increase 20mph driving zones. Pedestrianised urban shopping areas are common place on the Continent, however have yet to become prevalent in the UK, possibly due to our challenging urban infrastructures. But in this age of debate about the need to re-invent our high streets, perhaps creating a network of car free pedestrianised and cycle zones could be part of the solution to creating more dynamic and accessible shopping areas. There are already several examples of successful semi-pedestrianised areas in the city, one example is Exmouth Market in Farringdon; this vibrant pedestrianised street boasts cafes, restaurants and small independent shops, which during lunch times turns into a mini food market, enjoyed by people of all ages. There is plenty of scope for more such areas in this large city.

My final point is that motorists are not the enemy in this debate, I simply wish to stress the point that could see considerable economic benefits to making our streets more cycle friendly if we do things properly.

How far will Mr Johnson go
Boris Johnson says that we need to reduce congestion in London by getting more people out of their cars and onto their bikes. For this to happen, there needs to be a reason for people to do take that step; a mass investment in the cycling infrastructure would certainly help, but we also need to develop a system whereby it becomes uneconomical, impractical and inefficient to actually use a car. A very radical thought for many. It remains to be seen exactly how far Mr Johnson is willing to take his vision for Londoners.

 

Follow me on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Alorenzen

Get On Track Girls!

Last September I threw myself on a track bike and round (and round) one of the steepest indoor tracks in the Netherlands for the first time. And I loved it! There was no going back. The idea of riding a bike that has no brakes at speed still unsettles me a little today (mainly at a fear of not unclipping as I come to a halt and making a fool of myself!), but the more I do it, the more addicted I get. When I left Amsterdam earlier this year, I was quite gutted to leave behind a fantastic indoor velodrome and a brilliant team of coaches who not only took an interest in me on the track, but on the road and my cycling club too. I had to right a wrong and immediately got in touch with Reading Velodrome. 

Hayley's Dolan Track Bike with SRAM, Dura Ace, Mavic

Don’t be surprised to find me tucked up in bed with this beauty!

Now, Reading is certainly not indoors and it certainly isn’t steep. In fact… it’s concrete, outdoors and really long in comparison! Which of course, if you’re fairly new to cycling or a little nervous about giving it a go – it’s perfect. Unlike an indoor track; outdoor, flatter courses give you the opportunity to really get to know your fixed-speed bike and learn some handling skills, something I’m still not quite as aquatinted with as I would like, especially as I only built my first track bike last week, but it sure is a beauty – do you have bike envy yet?.

Put it this way – there’s a lot less to think about. Getting used to a constant cadence, no brakes,  a very steep wooden track, 10 other cyclists around you in the same learning experience and the need to be travelling at 35kmph+ to get round in one piece, all in your first session isn’t the easiest. I’m not saying that indoor track training isn’t a fantastic experience because I loved every moment of it, but it’s definitely more daunting in comparison. And if you’ve ever been to an indoor track event, I’m sure you can understand where I’m coming from.

On arrival to my first session on Thursday, I had already introduced myself to the trainers over email to make sure I’d be welcomed to the sessions (due to an influx of interest post Olympics, their website states they can no longer accept new interest) and that my capabilities were ok. I needn’t have feared. As soon as they knew I’d ridden boards before, they wanted me in with the pro-group. NO WAY! This girl needs to get used to being on the bike again before sitting up on the fence with 15 boys. And I’m not exaggerating. The trainers made it pretty clear from the start that they need more girls (hence there was no problem with me joining an over-subscribed session!).

Of course, training with the boys isn’t an issue, I’ve always been a fan of this in any sport I’ve done; however when it comes to competition…well, basically there isn’t any. Most track races typically have heats… not in the girls track league as there aren’t enough girls. Straight into the finals. And so, besides training with the boys, it turns out that I’ll actually be racing them come the start of the league season in three weeks. The only difference being that I’ll have a ‘pink number’ (yes, my heart sank a little at the sound of those words). So girls, although a little reluctant to do this for obvious reasons (I want to win!) I’m making this a call to give it a go.. at least consider it.

Most UK tracks have hire bikes (but make sure you contact them in advance to reserve one), or if you’re really keen, Dolan frame sets start from £199. And, all tracks run beginner British Cycling accreditation sessions. So why not check out your local track and give it a go? 

Reading: Track training sessions run on a Thursday evening, league nights on a Monday.

Hearne Hill: The girls from Mule Bar Girl run a girls’ only session a Sunday afternoon.

Calshot & Newport & Manchester: Indoor tracks – contact them for info on beginner sessions

 

Forstemann v Mitchell - Good Friday Meet @ Hearne Hill Velodrome

Forstemann v Skinner – Good Friday Meet @ Hearne Hill Velodrome

 

And if you’re still a little unsure, get yourself down to a local track meet. The Good Friday Meet at Hearne Hill on Friday was absolutely fantastic. Rubbing shoulders (or thighs) with some of the world’s greatest track cyclists including Cycling Short’s contributor Jody Cundy and thigh-tastic Robert Forstemann was a brilliant experience and has certainly got my motivational juices flowing.

See you on the start line!

 

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Night Rider

Part way into my 2nd ‘off-season’ as a cyclist and I really don’t want anything to do with the ‘off‘ part of that phrase. Cold-turkey symptoms clearly kicking in with pangs of anxiety attacking on dark Friday evenings at the realisation that the weather is going to be too cold/wet/windy to enjoy a weekend on the bike and that, shock-horror, I actually have to find something else to do for the weekend. Pure panic sets in and in no time I’m worrying that in the space of a month or two I’ll have lost my form that I spent hard work building up throughout the spring and summer months. My muscles are already aching through lack of use. I can’t have that!

So to keep my inner chimp that much happier, I suggest to my club members that given the reasonably warm-ish evenings (once you’ve 5 layers on and spinning a happy 100rpm), the increasing number of high-vis and high-tech lights that are available on the market, and of course not forgetting our well lit cycle paths here in the Netherlands, that we head out for a night-ride.

Now, getting on the bike, in the dark, and completing 50km is not something I would have considered this time last year. And it’s not because I think it’s unsafe (more to come on that), but more because I wasn’t so bike crazy!

To me, the idea of getting out in the dark, only the immediate road ahead visible, seemed like a great exciting adventure. After all, there’s only so much flat land you can look at here before you get bored. At least riding in the dark would require a little more concentration!

It’s probably no surprise however, that the majority of club members responded as if I’d asked them to jump in front of a train. It ‘sounds scary‘, ‘ooh it’s too un-safe‘ or, it would seem, some of them actually know how to participate in an ‘off season’. Luckily however, another fellow English person, maybe as crazy as me, volunteered to pick the route and accompany me. And that there, is key. Identifying our route in advance, we were able to flag any obstacles or parts of the route that may cause an issue.

Getting on the bike last Monday evening, I didn’t really know what to expect. But being well prepared, I enjoyed it much more than I thought. It was a little odd at times cycling through pitch-dark country lanes, not able to even identify the animals in the adjacent field and unsure if the dog barking ferociously at us is locked up, but the whole experience was much easier than I’d thought it to be. The roads were pretty empty, and the cars that did pass us (thanks to a lot of lights between the two of us), did so with great care; some in fact refused to even pass us – imagine that!

I not only enjoyed my night ride, but I managed to get 50km of cycling in during the week, that I didn’t think would be possible without sitting in a gym or bare room staring at a wall or DVD. So, why not mix it up and get out there and try it too?
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Want to plan a night ride? Here’s my tips on keeping it safe and enjoying it.
1) Plan the route – know your intended distance and pick a route you’re familiar with or know well. Identify in advance any obstacles i.e. blind junctions, corners, road furniture and make sure everyone is aware of the intended route. Maybe plan a couple of ‘get out’ short cuts or train stations that you can easily get to if you need to cut it short. And of course, be extra vigilant in making calls – forget pointing – you need to be vocal about any little thing that could easily cause trouble.

2) Don’t go alone – as tempting as it may be, going out alone isn’t the best idea. The more people, the more visible you are to others and the road to you. Plus, if you happen to get in trouble (try fixing a puncture in the dark!) 2 is better than 1. However, don’t forget that too many bodies can also be a hazard.

3) Be prepared – I’ve already mentioned the dreaded puncture, so bike maintenance is key. But, should things not go your way, make sure you carry a phone with plenty of battery to last the ride, and enough money for that emergency lift home should you need it.

4) Be bright – this goes without saying really, and I hope I don’t have to go into detail. Lights, lights, more lights and reflective clothing. It can be surprisingly dark on the rural roads than you might expect, so a good headlight or even a helmet light is best (those shadows can give you the eebie-jeebies if you’re not careful!)

________

 

What kit did I use?

Lezyne Macro Drive Front Light – this is a very powerful headlight but also has 5 settings you can flick between – so dimmer on the lit roads to full beam on the dark country roads. It lasts between 2.5 – 3 hours, so I supported this with a couple of small LED lights, turning off the headlight when it wasn’t needed. What’s great about this light, is the built in USB for charging.
Lezyne Femto Rear Light – nice and small, I was able to hook this light onto my saddle bag with ease. As it is small, it’s easy to slip it off and into
your pocket when you leave your bike/ no longer need it.
According to my friend – it’s nice and bright!

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Impatience Kills

Dear Cyclists of Amsterdam,

Impatience will kill you.

Yet again on my way to work this morning, I witnessed an impatient cyclist try and skirt around the side of a lorry/HGV (Heavy Goods Vehicle) at a T-junction. And yes, as a result of their impatience (and stupidity) they were floored as the lorry tried to pull out of the junction.

Now, I appreciate you were brought up on roads made for cyclists, where vehicles respect you and you’re given the freedom to cycle. But sometimes, the roads are also shared by larger vehicles, and quite rightly so. Vehicles that are a lot bigger than you, a lot heavier and need a lot more respect.

Not only do they require more space on the road to maneuver than say, your average car; but visibility to the driver is also limited. They can’t be expected and definitely don’t have a 360 degree view of what’s around them; particularly of traffic coming from behind or down the side.

So, do me, yourself, other road users and the driver of the lorry a favour. Next time you see such a vehicle at a junction (or on the road full stop); please give it the respect it needs, and respect your life. Try and save that extra 30 seconds on your journey and you could be lucky to get back on a bike again at all.

Happy cycling.
Hayley

 

 

 

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

“Like a virgin, track for the very first time”

Must learn to smile next time (and breathe!) ©Korneel Wever

Track cycling has always been a favourite of mine. To watch that is. The anticipation of the cyclists lining up on the track, skin-tight lycra and a face full of determination and concentration, the whirring sound of the wheels spinning at 60kmph+ on a banked wooden track; the creaking boards going un-noticed under the sound of excitement.  There has however, always been that little ‘voice’ inside, whispering at me with excitement at watching the pros do what they do best ‘you should do this Hayley, you’d love it!’. As a spectator though, the thought of taking the leap from a comfortable seat in the grandstand to the saddle of a track bike is daunting. But, I remind myself that I am Hayley *fearless* Davies, and I can do this!

Technically I had 9 months to prepare myself for my first experience, having had to cancel my initial session last January due to injury. Taking a leap of faith however, means committing, and so I booked myself on to the first ‘basic training’ session of the 2012/13 season at Amsterdam Velodrome.

Besides excited anticipation starting to form, small niggles of doubt were also playing on my mind in the weeks running up to the session; ‘what happens if I don’t enjoy it’ – counting on this experience to transform me from an average roady to a hooked-tracky; ‘do I have the power and speed it takes… let alone the lung capacity to get me through it?’  But, having built a network of track cycling friends around me, they yet again assured me in knowing my passion for speed; I am not only capable, but I will love it too. If they have faith in me, then I can have faith in me too!

Feeling confident! © Korneel Wever

With 3 indoor tracks throughout the Netherlands; the same number you’ll find in the whole of England and Wales, you could say we’re pretty lucky. When I moved to Holland 2 years ago, I jumped at the opportunity to watch the World Championships in Apledoorn, my first experience at seeing the events live. However, nothing can prepare you for the moment you are stood on the edge of the 200m track, overshadowed by the 47 degree banking; steeper than an average track of 250m – ‘oh my god! I can’t ride on that!’. Shutting the thoughts out, I get down to finding a bike (small enough) and circling the centre court ‘don’t forget you can’t free wheel. And you may find it easier to grab the side to clip in/out’ shouts the instructor. ‘Oh god. The banking is nothing. I have to clip in and out when stopped?!’ But, much to my delight, as seen on my face here, this bike is pretty comfy, and after completing a couple of event-free laps, I feel in control. I am ready!

The instructors gather us on the track and talk us through (in both Dutch and English, happily accommodating our expat needs!) a series of skill exercises from cruising the concrete, getting comfortable in the Cote d’Azur (the blue strip), and slowly coaxing us up onto the boards and around a set of cones set out and slowly moved up until we’re right up at the barriers on the top straight banking; all while looking around and becoming aware of the other rides on the track.  Wow, that’s a lot of things to think about! Of course, I have a minor panic attack when a rider in front slows suddenly as I climb the boards, letting out a little squeak (much to the delight of my friends who happened to be sat on the barriers at that exact point); but, I control it and carry on… this isn’t so bad!

Happy with our track-maneuvering skills, we move on to the fast-flying laps. The part, to be honest, I was most nervous about. Split into two groups of 8; the first group is lead out by an instructor and told to build their speed to a minimum of 35kmph, the speed at which you have enough momentum to hug the boards through the banked corners. ‘What you won’t know’ the instructor starts, pointing out the lack of speedo, ‘is if you are actually at your optimum speed. You just have to go for it’. Thankfully, I was in the second group which gave me the opportunity to watch what the other riders were doing; and what they shouldn’t be doing!

Then comes our turn. With a deep breath, I push off from the side, behind 4 other cyclists and the instructor on my wheel. We build the speed to what must have been a comfortable 35kmph, until we’re riding in the ‘sprinters line’ – between the black and the red. Within the first fast lap I find myself gaining on the cyclist in front of me– ‘Over take Hayley!’ I hear from behind. Over take?! Is he mad?! That requires going higher… ‘OVER TAKE HAYLEY! DO IT NOW, BUILD YOUR SPEED’. OMG ‘I can’t do it’ I shout back ‘YES YOU CAN! DO IT NOW!”. That’s it, I’m going. I push through the pedals building my speed with power I didn’t know I have, take a quick glance behind and the next thing I know I’m up beyond the blue line, passing the 4 other cyclists that were in front of me, with the cool wind brushing against my skin. OH MY GOD!!! I’M FLYING! THIS IS AMAZING.

I don’t know whether I am holding my breath or if I am over come with adrenaline, but the room is spinning. I slow my speed and head back down to the Cote d’Azur, but after only one recovery lap, I’m back up and flying around again before the whistle is blown for us to gather back at the centre. The instructor gives us a couple of words of advice; to me ‘don’t build or break your speed so fast, other cyclists around you may not be able to respond’. Got it. We’re soon back on the track, riding in two groups, wheel to wheel until the final whistle is blown. Two and a half hours, over so soon? I was only just getting started!

Many say track cycling, regardless of whether it’s your first go, or your 10th go, is addictive. They’re not wrong! Speaking with the instructors after the session, I’m approved to move up into the ‘introduction level’. Not five minutes at home and I’m logged on to the website booking myself in for next Sunday’s session. My track cycling experience; to be continued….!
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Basic introduction clinics are held at Amsterdam Velodrome on Sundays throughout September – March and include a 2.5 hour skill session with qualified trainers. Bike, shoes and helmet hire are also available starting from 11 Euros for the session.

Hayley Davies

Hayley Davies

Writer

Riding since Feb 2011 Hayley is a 30 year old female who loves adventures. If she’s not on one of her many bikes or in the water on a bodyboard/surfboard, then Hayley is probably out looking for something new to keep the adrenaline pumping!
Website: www.hjdonline.co.uk

Cyclodam

We’d like to introduce you to the Cyclodam Cycling Club, based in the beautiful city of Amsterdam and run by the lovely Hayley Davies and Monica Haydock.

Cyclodam provide all you need from a cycling club; catering for beginners to the uber experienced rider, all ages, men, women, boys and girls. They will show you how to use a bike for exercise, for sport and for getting you home safely from work. It’s a great social way to make new like-minded friends from all walks of life.

They break their club into three logical areas that make it extremely friendly and accessible, no need to feel out of your depth.

They also run a number of social events including weekly weekend rides, and workshops on all things cycle related like nutrition and bike maintenance and fun trips to visit some of the worlds top cycling races, this year they are going to the final stage of the Tour de France, so if you’re in Paris for the finish keep an eye out for the Cyclodam guys and girls!

The three levels are:
Love Cycling: Beginner or out-of-practice cyclist, you either don’t know how to ride a bike, or believe you’ve forgotten how (you’ve heard the cliché!). Join them to re-explore the art of riding a bike from the Dutch Highway Code, basic maintenance and how to balance your shopping while cycling!

Intro to Cycling as Exercise: Whether you’ve grown up watching the Tour de France and see yourself as the next pro or just realize the benefits of cycling, Cyclodam will help you get to grips with using 2 wheels as more than a form of transportation.

Cycling & Triathlon Club (CTC): For the enthusiastic cyclist, Cyclodam’s road and triathlon group, ride, train and compete together regularly. Why not join them out on the road? All levels of expertise welcome. It’s a mix of girls, boys, nationalities, ages and experiences. Training as often as work and personal commitments allow they meet regularly to better their swim, run and cycling skills. You can also find many of them at national and international competitions. New to road cycling or triathlons? Don’t worry – they welcome and encourage all new members, beginner or expert!

 
What Cyclodam say:
What can you expect from Cyclodam CTC?
As a member of Cyclodam CTC, expect to push your personal goals and achievements further. We work hard to make sure all individual training goals are met as a club. At the beginning of the swim, run or cycle session, we identify what each athlete aims to achieve and work together as a team to meet these.

Aside from training, you can also expect a range of benefits as a member from our main sponsor Giant, and the opportunity to wear team kit (we’ll be taking orders twice yearly). And of course, having fun at our superb socials!

How can you become a member?
Becoming a member is easy. We charge 25 Euros per year for each member. This is to cover our costs and to make sure we can keep the club running and provide you with the best offers from local companies. If you wish to join, please send an email to [email protected]

For more information please visit the website: www.Cyclodam.com
or Facebook page: www.facebook.com/cyclodam

 


 
 

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