Slowly does it

While wandering aimlessly around the web I stumbled across a book from those wonderfully green folks at Alistair Sawday Publishing, a travel book company. Go Slow England uses a bicycle as metaphor for going slowly.

This meshes neatly with yesterday’s Bike to Work Book posting on whether to promote cycling with speed or sedateness.


Buy ‘Go Slow England’ from Amazon.

Mikael Colville Anderson commented on yesterday’s posting, saying Copenhagen’s citizens pedal at a low average speed. In the summer he started a Slow Bicycle movement.

Oh, and Alistair Sawday may now be synonymous with ‘special places to stay’ and green tomes of all shapes and sizes but he can also be credited with helping start a cycling revolution in the UK. He and George Ferguson, Dave Sproxton and John Grimshaw met up in the Nova Scotia pub in Bristol 31 years ago to found Cyclebag, the campaign group which would later become Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity which created the National Cycle Network.

Should cycling be promoted as slow or swift?

T’other week I gave a talk to a bunch of bike-centric town planners, academics and others who could afford the steep conference fee. I used pix from London, Amsterdam and Copenhagen to show how cycling is portrayed in those cities.

In London, cycling is often portrayed by media such as the BBC as a battle between emission-emitting cars and smogmask-wearing cyclists. Stock images of cyclists tend to be of the scary variety: hi-ves vests, helmets, full-on protective gear. Cycling is rarely portrayed as sedate or normal.

Naturally, stock images of cycling are very different in the Netherlands and Denmark.

For my PowerPoint presentation I flicked between these different portrayals of cycling, singling out an image of a smog-mask cyclist in London as not something that does cycling any favours. However, I said I liked the motion blur in the shot and then went on to show other examples of motion blur cycling photography.

In the Q&A after the presentation I was taken to task for using speed to sell cycling. Cycling is slow, I was told, that’s the message that newbies want to hear.

In the Bike to Work Book I want to portray cycling as a fast way of getting through town, but also, when needs be, a slow, civilised, non-sweaty way of getting around. I’ll be using both static and motion blur photography, as you can see on the cover below.

But here’s a wonderful example of how cycling speedily used to be promoted:

Raleigh bicycle poster 1932

I love the way the smiling woman is dressed to the nines for a normal day at work – or going to the pictures or the tea shop – but is clearly belting along at a fair old lick.


Do you think motion blur photographs portray cycling as fast, sweaty, elitist? Or swift but achievable by anybody?

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

Mikael Colville-Anderson’s pix, but moving ones.

Wonderful Copenhagen from Colville Andersen on Vimeo.

Mikael has written a really great article for the Bike to Work Book, as have Amsterdamize and a world-famous basket maker. The PDF book extract – containing two of these articles, as well as a tub-thumper of a Commuting by Bike 101 feature – will be out later this week. Sign up to get notification of its release.


Cycling at a tipping point in London, says Dutch roadster rider

Peter Lensink, Ned Railways

Last week I was at at cycle conference in London which was sponsred by a Dutch railway company. I managed to grab a ten minute interview with Peter Lensink of Ned Railways. He rides his Dutch roadster in London in a suit, and often with his girlfriend on the back rack, and he believes cycling to work is at a tipping point.

Grab the audio interview with Peter as an MP3 here or subscribe to my podcast on iTunes for free.

The audio will also appear on the Bike to Work Book podcast. This publication will be out in a month or so on and the like but you can get a big PDF extract of the book – for free – by signing up at The PDF will be uploaded in a day or two.


The audio for the Peter Lensink interview was done with iProRecorder on my iPhone. Tell me what you think of the audio quality.

Design a bike to win one


Cannondale will gift a Bad Boy commuter bike to the person who submits the best designed commuter bike to a competition which closes December 5th.

The comp is on the Bicycle Design blog run by James Thomas. He said:

“Do you have an idea for a bicycle that might persuade the average person, with no prior interest in cycling, to park the car and pedal to work? That is the main idea behind this competition. The scope is up to you- choose to come up with a whole new form factor for a pedal powered machine, or focus on specific details that you consider key to accomplishing the goal of getting the average non-cyclist to consider riding a bike for transportation. Don’t be constrained by products that are currently on the market, but do make sure that your concepts are based in reality (don’t break the laws of physics, etc) and that they are manufacturable using existing technology.”

I’m one of the seven judges for the competition. The other judges are James Thomas; Torgny Fjeldskaar, Director of Industrial Design & Advanced Products Division at Cannondale Bicycle Corporation; Mark Sanders, principal of MAS Design Products, designer of the Strida and IF Bikes; Steve Zwonitzer, principal of Propane Creative, a strategic brand and product design consultancy; Agnete Enga, Senior Industrial Designer, Smart Design/ Femme Den, NYC; and Michael Illukiewicz, an automotive designer.

As the editor of BikeBiz magazine I’ve been on judging panels for all sorts of bicycle-related products and services. It’s fun to sift through entries, weeding out the ‘you can’t be serious’ from the ‘that’s interesting.’

I wonder how many of the entries will plump for traditional chain driven bicycles and how many for polychain drives , internal hub gears or NuVinci-style variable transmissions?

I don’t yet know the thought processes of the other judges but I’ll be looking for simplicity, ease of mass production and cost-awareness (not everybody could afford the $8500 Moots Comooter). I’ll also be looking to place the winning entries in later editions of the Bike to Work Book, of which here’s the very latest cover:


It’s in your self-interest to cycle to work


I can’t think of many bicycle catalogues which lead with concepts from free-market economists and find it strangely wonderful that a bicycle co-op has done so. The new Winter 2008/09 catalogue from Edinburgh Bicycle Cooperative cites the ideas of Adam Smith to promote cycling to work.

Adam Smith [1723-1790], the author of The Wealth of Nations, is a favourite of right-wing arch-capitalists, a poster child for Reagonomics, even.

Perhaps this is the first time he’s been wheeled out to posthumously support Scotland’s best ever export, cycling?

Edinburgh’s Ged Holmyard writes:

“If you are concerned about the economic downturn, you could do a lot worse than go back to the father of economics,

“This leading light of the Edinburgh Enlightenment espoused the notion that the behaviour of rational people is governed by enlightened self interest. It’s hard to think of a better example of enlightened self-interest than giving up the car and taking to 2 wheels. Do that and you’re pretty much guaranteed to save yourself a 4-figure sum (that’s the self-interest part) whilst dramatically reducing your carbon footprint (that’s the enlightened part).

“And if divorcing the car is a step too far, riding to work even 3 days a week could easily save you hundreds of pounds a year, while contributing to your fitness and well-being.”

Way to go, Ged! I might just use that as a quote in the Bike to Work Book.

Meanwhile, Ged emailed me to point out that Adam Smith isn’t just a brainiac of the Right:

“Although the Right love to appropriate Adam Smith, he has been highly regarded by many Left wing thinkers too, including Karl Marx.”


Helmets in bike photos: my position


The cover of the Bike to Work Book has photos of some cyclists wearing helmets, others not. Now, in Australia and some US states perhaps this laissez-faire attitude to lid-wearing might get the book banned but I feel it’s important to reflect reality.

In the real world, not every cyclist wears a helmet. In the Netherlands, hardly anybody does and there’s no epidemic of cycle-related head injuries in Holland.

This has nothing to do with cyclepaths segregated from motorised traffic. Cycle helmets are designed for slow speed crashes from a height of one metre, they are not designed to save cyclists in impacts from cars.

Helmet wearing ought to be a choice, not a stipulation. The photos on the cover of the Bike to Work Book, and inside too, will be chosen on artistic merit, not polystyrene quotiant.

I raise this issue because others have done so. It’s a subject long debated in cycle circles. Cyclists all choose to disagree! Want to read around on the subject? Over on I’ve published 90+ articles on the ‘helmet compulsion debate’. For the record, I’m a pro-helmet, anti-compulsionist. I wear a helmet when cycling but don’t wish to impose my personal choice on others.

Some argue that if helmet compulsion saved just one life, it would be worth it. This seems such a sensible position, but it’s misguided. If people were genuinely concerned about whole population safety they’d also argue for enforced helmet wearing for motorists. This is a measure that would save thousands of lives per year but nobody seriously argues for it because driving is perceived to be safe (it’s not) and is a ‘normal, everyday activity’ so car helmets would be a disincentive to driving.

Bingo! It’s the same for cycling. Many people don’t take up cycling because they think it’s unsafe (it must be, you need to wear helmets). As we all know, the health benefits of cycling far outweigh the risks. It’s far better to attract people to cycling in the first place, rather than deter them by telling them they can’t start cycling unless they wear headgear. This reduces the number of cyclists, increasing danger for the rest of us.

More cyclists equals more road safety, helmets or no helmets.

The Bike to Work Book will feature advice on buying and correct fitting of helmets. It will also list those countries and US states where helmet use is compulsory. There will be articles from both sides of the helmet argument. But there will be no policy that every cyclist must be shown wearing a helmet.

Vote for your fave cover


I’ve produced another cover for the Bike to Work Book and, as I’m a glutton for punishment, I’m again seeking feedback. I’ve done this before: here, here and here. I got lots of excellent comments, but no cover consensus.

There are large images of all the test covers here on Flickr.

Above is my current fave (here it is larger). I designed it after I did the voting panels below. I made the changes thanks to suggestions that the two covers below are too dark and remind folks of night-time riding, not commuting. I also took on board comments about the ‘to’ not being big enough, made the ‘work’ into a tint of black, and replaced some of the darker images with brighter ones:


The abstract image is by Mikael Colville-Anderson of He’s also one of the contributors in the book, alongside other experts such as Marc van Woudenberg of and basket-making bike blogger David Hembrow. Mikael also took three of the pix on the updated cover.

I’d appreciate any feedback on these latest test covers. I’m also inviting a public vote so even those who don’t want to comment can, sort of, have their say. A poll with all the covers visible – er, except the one above – can be found here.

The same poll can be found below in Widget form, although you have to click in to see the covers (if you like the image above best, click ‘none of the above’ and state you like Version 7):

Poll Answers

Here’s another, tweaked version of the cover:


London cycle chic: with added lorries

Lorry doesn't faze her

I was in London yesterday, visiting the Cycle show at Earl’s Court. I had a bike to deliver, a Cannondale Bad Boy single speed, the one with the new Lefty fork. It was a great day to cycle in London, the sun was out and so were the cyclists.

I had an hour to kill before being allowed in the show so I took my time getting from Kings Cross to the other side of Kensington High Street. In the best furtive style of Mikael Colville-Anderson over at the utterly brilliant, I slung a camera around my neck and captured as many non-Lycra cyclists as I could.

Leather jacket Ridgeback rider

It was easy pickings. The place was awash with what Colville-Anderson flags as “Normal people in normal clothes on normal bikes.”

This made a visit to the Cycle show a bit like flipping over into a different universe. There was a token town bike on many stands – and stand-out urban brands such as Brompton, Pashley and Velorbis were there – but, as to be expected really, much of the rest of the show was dripping with high-end road and mountain bikes. Personally, I drool over these kind of machines but I do wonder what a ‘credit crunch commuter’ would make of all the carbon on offer.

Don’t get me wrong, aspirational bikes are good and a show stuffed with stealth black hybrids and Dutch roadsters would turn off the techies, but if Joe Breeze is right, ‘transportation bikes’ will become a bigger category than the mountain bike was in the ’80s and ’90s. If so, the bike trade is in the pre-MTB phase of largely ignoring what’s staring them in the face.

In another post I’ll talk about the show, and what was on offer for the urban commuter. I was especially taken by the Bspoke clothing range, which has been designed by rag trade specialists but has the added benefit of subtle, you-don’t-know-they’re-there cycle-specific design features. Simon Mottram of Rapha told me there’s huge scope for cycling-to-work togs to become a major category. It’s in its infancy at the moment.

Right-o, back to the pix, more of which can be seen on this Flickr set. I didn’t deliberately take pix of folks without helmets, most people just weren’t wearing them. And this is why I’m a strident opponent of cycle helmet compulsion: it would force many of these kind of cyclists to ditch their bikes.

Driving while distracted with cellphone

Bastard motorist. Has he even seen the cyclist?

Suit, nearly riding with heel

Top marks for cycling in a suit, sir, but you might want to modify that pedal position. Cannondale has sponsored a bunch of Bike to Work Book video quickies which will identify and fix these little cycling errors.

London Cycle Chic 2

Ancient bike, short shorts

INTERBIKE TV: Meet Ellen and Josh

Check out this video of an urban cycling chat show recorded in Interbike’s Media Center, powered by the broadcast boffins of

The 30-minute video features Ellen Hall of and Josh Hon of Dahon. Ellen talked about Cateye’s social media networking site, Josh talked about how Dahon has been in the business of urban commuting for 25 years. He said the market is still in its infancy and there’s a lot of growth ahead.

I hosted the show so it’s a, and Bike to Work Book co-production. An audio-only podcast of the show is on iTunes or here’s an MP3 page.

With thanks to Rich Kelly, marketing manager of Interbike and editor of Interbike Times.