4cms tall? You’re needed for a micro Critical Mass

There are roads, petrol pumps, train stations, airports, harbours and town houses. But no bike paths. Exactly what kind of retrograde conurbation is Lego City? It’s no Plastic Portland.

Lego, the Danish plastic extrusion company founded in 1934, produces a large themed play range called ‘City’. In this City, the company has found space for a recycle truck, a street cleaner and a corner cafe, but there’s no bike shop.

In a City playset titled ‘Community workers’ there are three cyclists out of 31 minifigures. But where’s the cycle infrastructure for these cyclists?

The roads feature single carriageways with pedestrian crossings but there are no dedicated cycle lanes, not even a splash of white paint.

The service station has petrol pumps and a car wash. But in the whole of Lego City there’s not a Sheffield stand for love nor money. Covered cycle parking? Forget it.

If ever a community needed an active bicycle advocacy group, this is it. Lego City is crying out for a micro Critical Mass.

The Lego Group produces over 306 million miniature tyres each year, more than any other tyre manufacturer in the world but not enough of them are bicycle tyres.

Lego is clearly missing a trick here. Denmark is extremely pro-bicycle, so why is the country’s most famous export so poor at providing decent cycling infrastructure for its City minifigures?

Visit Denmark says: “A bicycle is perhaps the ideal way of getting around Denmark….Denmark’s provision for cyclists ranks among the best in Europe. The Danes are a nation of cyclists and pride themselves in an outstanding network of cycle lanes and paths.”

Perhaps the way to go will be for anarcho-bicyclists to create their own infrastructure, their own Plastic Portland? Amazingly, it’s possible. Lego Factory is an online bricks ordering tool with a downloadable program to create bespoke lego creations and then offer them for sale to all via the Lego shop. Members have created barber shops, internet cafes and Dutch-style townhouses…but’s there no bike shop yet. It’s criminal! (As luck would have it, Lego Factory members have created jails…).

Grand Theft Auto: Lego City

Mr Toad, alive and well, driving in India

There’s a long history of motorists wanting to rid the roads of cyclists. From a 1920s Road Congress in the Netherlands comes this juicy quote:

“After all, the construction of bicycle paths along the larger roads relieves traffic along these roads of an extremely bothersome element: the cyclist.”

Hitler may have been a calisthenics-obsessed vegetarian but despite the obvious health benefits of cycling, he wasn’t too keen on cyclists. In 1934 his Nazi government passed a law regarding “the problem of disciplining cyclists” who did not use cycle tracks. Bicycle associations were also outlawed.

Not wishing to invoke Godwin’s law here but there’s a parallel between the Nazi desire to carve routes for the ‘people’s car’ and Kenneth Grahame’s 1908 parody of a road-hog amphibian, Mr Toad of Toad Hall.

There are quotes from the book below. They frighten me because so many motorists now drive like Mr Toad, especially as their vehicles are now so safe. For them. But not, of course, for those on the receiving end of crumple-zones.

I’m reminded of all this by a woundrous [sic] article on an Indian news website. Vaatupura A. Jayaprakash is the Indian sub-continent’s version of Mr. Toad. In a piece titled ‘Bicycles: Silent killers on the road’, Jayaprakash writes that cyclists have become a “danger to motorists.”

Cyclists used to be chastened by having their tyres deflated by “angry police officers” but not any more. Instead “this once-ineffectual mode of transport is increasingly becoming a threat to many motorists.”

Mr Toad of India: “…Careless and casual cyclists, who go hither and thither on their way to their destinations, cause 20 per cent of…accidents. They simply take twists and turns…so unexpectedly that the unsuspecting motorist…out of his instinct, not to hurt anyone, is forced to negotiate his vehicle out of panic, ending up in accidents, killing and injuring many, including himself.”

Yep, cyclists in India may indeed weave hither and thither but is it not incumbent on motorists to keep their speed low so they don’t hit these “silent killers”?

Not according to our Indian Mr Toad: “When it comes to accident, it is always the driver of the bigger vehicle who bears the brunt. The cyclist and even motorcyclists, for that matter, go scot-free.”

Hmm, except the dead ones.

Mr Toad would like to see more action from the police:
“A few incidents of flattened tires and public warnings would make a big difference in the road safety awareness of our people.”



Glancing back, they saw a small cloud of dust, with a dark centre of energy, advancing on them at incredible speed, while from out the dust a faint ‘Poop-poop!’ wailed like an uneasy animal in pain…they had a moment’s glimpse of…the magnificent motor-car, immense, breath-snatching, passionate, with its pilot tense and hugging his wheel, possessed all earth and air for the fraction of a second, flung an enveloping cloud of dust that blinded and enwrapped them utterly, and then dwindled to a speck in the far distance, changed back into a droning bee once more.

‘Glorious, stirring sight!’ murmured Toad, never offering to move. ‘The poetry of motion! The real way to travel! The only way to travel! Here to-day— in next week to-morrow! Villages skipped, towns and cities jumped— always somebody else’s horizon! O bliss! O poop-poop! O my! O my!’

‘O what a flowery track lies spread before me, henceforth! What dust-clouds shall spring up behind me as I speed on my reckless way! What carts I shall fling carelessly into the ditch in the wake of my magnificent onset!”


[Mr Toad] increased his pace, and as the car devoured the street and leapt forth on the high road through the open country, he was…Toad the terror, the traffic-queller, the Lord of the lone trail, before whom all must give way or be smitten into nothingness and everlasting night.

Mr Toad later got 20 years in the clink. Not for his reckless driving, but for stealing a car.

Mr Toad’s Wild Ride, a Disney-themed DH route above Lake Tahoe in California, the fun name for Saxon’s Creek trail.

World peace thanks to bicycle kit

Oddly comforting, isn’t it? World peace was guaranteed by a hex wrench and a bike lock key. Until recently, these were the tools needed by the custodians of the British nuclear bomb deterrent, reports BBC’s Newsnight.

Until the early days of the Blair government the RAF’s nuclear bombs were armed by turning a bicycle lock key.

There was no other security on the Bomb itself.

While American and Russian weapons were protected by tamper-proof combination locks which could only be released if the correct code was transmitted, Britain relied on a simpler technology.

To arm the weapons you just open a panel held by two captive screws – like a battery cover on a radio – using a thumbnail or a coin.

Inside are the arming switch and a series of dials which you can turn with an Allen key to select high yield or low yield, air burst or groundburst and other parameters.

The Bomb is actually armed by inserting a bicycle lock key into the arming switch and turning it through 90 degrees. There is no code which needs to be entered or dual key system to prevent a rogue individual from arming the Bomb.

Want to play guitar music while the key turns? Learn chords and stuff here. Need to learn how to bivvy? Great book here.

Man fights off tiger with his bicycle

Think you have a tough commute? Spare a thought for 35-year old Balaji Vithoba Kohde of Mangrud, India. On Monday evening, on his pedal home from work, he was attacked by a tigress.

The Times of India called Kohde a “21st century Tarzan.”

Rahul Sorte, a forest ranger, said: “Kohde was caught unawares when the tigress suddenly appeared on the scene. He managed to protect himself with his bicycle.”

Using a heavy steel Indian bicycle as a defence against a fast predator is a good plan. Outrunning a ravenous beast is not the best of ideas, although Raleigh’s African marketing division had different ideas in the 1930s…

Life imitates art?

Back in June I reported on the case of a man loving his bike just a little too much.

Now hostel dweller Robert Stewart has admitted to a sexual breach of the peace and has been placed on the sex offenders register. But why? What was his ‘crime’? He was alone in his room when two cleaners entered – oo, er – catching him using an unnamed part of his bicycle as a sex toy. In reality, he was doing what some men do to plastic sex dolls. He just happened to be using a bike.

This doesn’t sound terribly comfortable and most certainly gives new life to all sorts of bike riding metaphors but it’s hardly worth protecting ‘us’ from.

In his defence did the poor guy not challenge why the cleaners felt they should report his private act? And, of course, there’s a bit of previous here. A bike-bonking scenario was used in a viral promo for loveyourbike.org, a Manchester Friends of the Earth campaign. A man was discovered lubing his bike in a way not generally recommended. Click play on this very rude video, if you dare:

Hmm, and here’s an oddly appropriate quote from Flann O’Brien’s famous weird novel, The Third Policeman:

I knew that I liked this bicycle more than I had ever liked any other bicycle, better even than I had liked some people with two legs. I liked her unassuming competence, her docility, the simple dignity of her quiet way. she now seemed to rest beneath my friendly eyes like a tame fowl which will crouch submissively, awaiting with outhunched wings the caressing hand. Her saddle seemed to spread invitingly into the most enchanting of all seats while her two handlebars, floating finely with the wild grace of alighting wings, beckoned to me to lend my mystery for free and joyful journeyings, the lightest of light running in the company of the swift groundwinds to safe havens far away, the whir of the true front wheel in my ear as it spun perfectly beneath my clear eye and the strong fine back wheel with unadmired industry raising gentle dust on the dry roads. How desirable her seat was, how charming the invitation of her slim encircling handle-arms, how unaccountably competent and reassuring her pump resting warmly against her rear thigh


Hotel hopes to land PR plug with BonkBike

According to a press release from Travelodge, the budget hotel chain has “launched the world’s first Kipshaw service, which enables guests to have a snooze whilst travelling from the hotel to their destination within central London.”

Snooze? Missed a trick surely? It’s not a Kipshaw, it’s a BonkBike!

The service has been designed to celebrate the budget chain’s flagship hotel opening, at City Road, London.

The kipshaw is a standard Cycles Maximus trike with a duvet draped over some cushions. However, chances are it will be picked up by the mainstream media and described as an innovation rather than a PR stunt. UPDATE: The Sun has today run with yesterday’s release, calling the kipshaw an “invention.”

Here’s more from the original release:

The bespoke Kipshaw is a bicycle rickshaw that comes complete with a single bed, mattress, duvet and pillow. The service is free for guests staying at London City Road Travelodge. There are two Kipshaw’s and bookings are taken on a first come basics at reception.

London City Road Travelodge is a Grade II listed building, famously known as the former headquarters for Singer, the sewing machine manufacturer. Over the last 18 months, it has been converted into Travelodge’s largest hotel with 392 rooms, Bar Café and six meeting rooms at a cost of £60 million.

To mark the hotel’s opening 27,000 rooms are being offered at £15, £26 and £49 per night from now till end of December 2007. To book just visit www.travelodge.co.uk

Quickrelease.tv kids on tour in the Netherlands

1 ferry. 3 Islabikes. 6 kiddie pannier bags. 1 tent. 2 adults. 10 days. 0 punctures.
On the path to Spakenburg
Josh Reid is nine. His sisters Hanna and Ellie are seven. All three are now accomplished cycle camping tourists. Last year they cycled, bag-less, 40+ miles a day through the wilds of Northumberland, close to the QR.tv HQ in Newcastle-on-Tyne.

Bicycle NirvannaThis year, as discussed at length on The Spokesmen podcast, the Reidlets were equipped with touring-specced Islabikes and cycled from home to the DFDS ferry at North Shields and disembarked on to the pristine cycle paths of the Netherlands. The kids decided to carry their own gear this year and did so with Ortlieb’s brightly-coloured waterproof front pannier bags.

Mum had two ancient rear pannier bags. Dad had even more ancient front and rear Karrimor panniers and also lugged a Burley trailer stuffed with camping gear.

Dad = mule
Carlton Reid’s bar-bag also contained on-the-fly video equipment and the ’07 tour will soon be available on YouTube and embedded on this site. Why? To demonstrate that kids can do serious distances on bikes, and still not be puffed by the end of the day.

Josh also carried food shopping
Kids get a thrill from the sense of achievement, get to see wildlife up close whenever they feel like stopping, and had masses of fun cycling and when camping. Got active kids? Start cycle touring.

More tour pix here. Click on ‘slideshow’.

Pix include this one of an electric leg, as seen on a campsite near Amsterdam.
Electric leg, as seen on campsite nr Amsterdam

Huq in jam over ‘political campaigning’ bike cameo

In June, Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq was hugged by London mayor Ken Livingstone at a Transport for London promo event for the London Freewheel ride. However, The Times – and much of the British media – is reporting that a Conservative politico whined to the BBC about Huq being wheeled on at the pro-cycling event.

Quickrelease.tv reported on the event at the time, not realising a big red storm was brewing. There was, however, a giant red fixie at the event. Bigger pic of it, and Huq’n’Ken, here.

The Hovis London Freewheel is taking place on Sunday September 23rd. Ms Huq was the first person to sign up for the ride.

“I bike into the TV centre from Ealing which I’m proud of,” she said at the launch.

But now The Times is reporting that her presence with ‘Red Ken’ was “sharing a platform with him” and that the BBC had warned Huq to steer clear. She had therefore “threatened the impartiality of the BBC,” said The Times.

Mark Byford, the BBC Deputy Director-General, has apologised to the Tory complainant, Brian Coleman, the deputy chairman of the London Assembly.

Livingstone is accused of using the Freewheel launch to poke holes in London Conservative’s “pro-car” policies.

Mr Coleman said: “The launch became a political rant. It is unforgivable for the BBC to allow the Blue Peter name to be lent to a political event.”

In a letter to Mr Coleman, Mr Byford agreed: “It was felt that the BBC and the programme should not be linked with anything that might be construed as campaigning, and that this campaign potentially fell into that bracket.”
Huq’s agent , Jonathan Shalit, said: “This was an entirely non-political event about helping to get Londoners cycling, and that is why I recommended that Konnie take part.”

It’s believed Ms Huq has now had to withdraw her support from the nine-mile family bike ride.

Moggies to be in vanguard in war against dopers

A French news agency reports that a team of scientists from MADA is to attempt to retrain a famous American cat to spot cyclists who dope. If successful, the new technique could be rolled out on other cats, starting with kittens.

Currently, Oscar curls up next to care-home residents about to expire, but Dr. Steffen F. Line of MADA believes the cat’s ability to sense when a person is close to death could be used in sport.

“Cats often can sense when their owners are sick or when another animal is sick,” said Dr Line.

“They can sense when the weather will change, they’re famous for being sensitive to premonitions of earthquakes.

“Oscar is not psychic, we believe he is picking up on biochemical impulses. We hope his talents extend to the ability of telling when a banned substance is being used in sports such as cycling.”

Cycling is currently reeling over a number of cases of sporting fraud, including in the ongoing Tour de France.

Patrice Leberk, CEO of the company which owns Le Tour, is a cat lover and would like to see the use of felines in anti-dopage.

“We’ve tried sniffer dogs. We’ve tried being nice to the riders. We’ve tried being horrible to the riders. Nothing seems to work. Oscar may be our last hope. My own moggie can hum La Marseillaise and if he can do that who knows what specially trained cats will be capable of?

“We need to catch them young, of course. I plan to donate some of my own kittens to further Dr Line’s research.”

Cofidis rider Bradley Wiggins said: “See, I told you Floyd Landis was guilty.”

‘Cycling has blood on its hands’

A fair enough Vino-related headline, you might think. But, er, it’s from Al Jazeera.

UPDATE: Al Jazeera has now changed its headline, it’s now ‘Cycling in disarray’. Not quite as catchy.