Beauty is in the eye of the bicycling beholder

Or, how far are commuter cyclists willing to travel out of their way if the route is nicer?

This is a big issue for some cycle advocates. Many diehards fear that city planners want to shunt cyclists on to Sustrans-style cyclepaths (which are few and far between) to make room on the roads for more cars. Roads go almost everywhere and cyclists who want to use the fastest, most direct route want to retain their rights to ride alongside motorised traffic.

“The fast cycle commuter must not be driven off the highway onto a route that is designed for a 12-year-old or a novice on a leisure trip, because if that happens, the whole attempt to enlarge the use of the bicycle will have failed.”
Book review, The National Cycle Network-guidelines and practical details, M.N. Fargher, Proceedings of the Institute of Civil Engineers, Transport, 117, August 1996

Of course, when a cyclepath cuts a swathe through the city and offers a more direct, prettier route – via a scenic riverside route, for instance – it makes perfect sense to use that route rather than the road route. As superior beings, using the most efficient transport mode on the planet, we want our bread buttered on both sides.

Following on from yesterday’s discussion of isocrones I’d like to share some US transport planning research from the 1970s. Boris S Pushkarev with Jeffrey M Zupan measured the distances people travelled, their modes of getting from A to B and how each journey was enjoyed.

Zupan and Pushkarev found that the willingness to walk somewhere falls off drastically at about half a mile. However, they also found that people will travel longer distances and for longer times in order to pass through a more enjoyable environment. Naturally, pedestrians will not follow a path that seems to take them out of their way or makes them walk further. But people are willing walk longer distances, even circuitous routes, if they believe the route is better for their senses and/or more efficient in terms of time taken. Given this, an important factor for pedestrians – and, by extension, cyclists and motorists – is time to destination not distance. Perhaps even more important is the perception of time and the quality of the environment.

When people are told about great new cycle paths or walking routes, they use them. ‘Personal travel planning’ (PTP) – as used successfully in the Cycling Demonstration Towns – can cut car use by 10 per cent, says the Department for Transport:

PTP encourages people to consider alternative transport options to the car. Today’s research shows it can reduce the number of car journeys drivers make by 10%, and the overall distance travelled by car by 11%. It also offers value for money for local authorities, giving an average £30 return on every £1 invested over a 10-year period.

And PTP is now breaking through to the mainstream. The BBC has carried a story on the concept and proof that PTP must work can be deduced by the fact Daily Mail columnist Richard Littlejohn has lampooned it.

Have you considered one of those bicycles that the Goodies used to ride on television?

You can get three up and Halford’s will sell you a trailer to go on the back, made out of recycled toenails from Afghanistan, which comes with the Greenpeace seal of approval, yours for only £999.99 plus VAT.

Don’t worry if you can’t ride a bike, we can offer full training, in 23 different languages, including scribble.


Urban Space for Pedestrians, MIT Press, 1975.

Public Transportation and Land Use Policy, Indiana University Press, 1977.

Both by Boris S Pushkarev with Jeffrey M Zupan

Transport for London’s Journey Planner has a ‘cycle there’ tick box. It gives the average journey time but doesn’t yet allow the user to specify ‘most scenic route’.

25-minute Interbike show now available

Here’s a a three-minute taster of the full 25-minute TV programme, broadcast all over the Interbike show floor by

Host: Carlton Reid.

Guests: David Bernstein of The Fredcast, Uwe Weissflog, Interbike’s European PR officer; John Denson of Serfas and Allen Richburg MD.

Topics: The growing popularity of urban cycling in the US and the UK. The prototype Serfas electronic saddle testing units for bike shops. The winners of the Shimano/You Tube competition.

The full show is only available via the podcast site on iTunes or as a direct .M4V download from

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, 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


Pedal to a low carbon world with isocrones

The UK Government’s Department for Transport has today issued a document on how transport’s carbon emissions can be reduced in the future. Towards a Sustainable Transport System: Supporting Economic Growth in a Low Carbon World is a 90-page tub-thumper and it mentions cycling seventeen times.

CTC campaigns manager Roger Geffen said: “It’s great to see Government recognising that cycling can help tackle the twin crises of obesity and climate change. But what’s needed is action now, not the promise of a White Paper in the future. Last week’s Foresight report made clear that poor transport choices lead straight to obesity. ‘Smarter choices’ – including cycle training – are one of the most cost-effective ways to encourage people out of their cars and onto sustainable transport.”

Towards a Sustainable Transport System is the Department for Transport’s response to both the Eddington Transport Study and the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change.

According to the DfT it “argues that forcing the pace of technological improvements and removing the obstacles to behavioural change will be key to ensuring transport makes a substantial contribution to the goal of at least a 60% reduction of CO2 by 2050…The document demonstrates how this new approach to planning will be underpinned by long term funding. The recent Comprehensive Spending Review means that the Department for Transport now has a long term funding guideline to 2019 and that spending on transport will be double what it was twenty years previously.”

Bizarrely, cycling didn’t feature in the Comprehensive Spending Review, despite Cycling England putting in a robust bid for £75m. It was up to the DfT to give the nod for this relatively small amount of cash so the fact it didn’t do so speaks volumes.

Yet Towards a Sustainable Transport System holds out a hope that maybe this funding forgetfulness was a lapse, soon to be rectified. The seventeen mentions of cycling include the blindingly obvious (“The health benefits of cycling and walking are clear-cut…”) through to oft quoted stats that bear constant repeating:

The impact of local travel on climate change is very significant. In 2006, 57 per cent of all trips (excluding cycling and walking) were of less than five miles, including 56 per cent of car journeys. Furthermore, as well as people making many more short trips than long ones, those trips tend also to be less energy efficient as cars do fewer miles-per-gallon in urban conditions than they do on motorways and their fuel efficiency is lowest when engines ‘run cold’. Balancing this, there is much more scope in urban areas to reduce the need to travel by locating services closer to users (which also has important social inclusion benefits) and to promote cycling and walking as alternatives to the car (which also has health benefits).


In the US, 40 per cent of all urban trips are two miles or less. To highlight this fact, Clif Bar rolled out its 2Mile Challenge at Interbike. This is a roadshow using a biodiesel bus equipped with a bunch of city bikes. The campaign is US-based but there’s a website into which you can slot a zipcode or UK postcode and up pops a Google map with a two-mile diameter semi-isocrone.

Iso what? In 2006, developers from (from the same stable that brought us the MP tracking were given DfT cash to create maps which feature lines and blobs which show the time to reach areas from a given point by different modes of transport. The examples on MySociety are cars v trains on the East Coast mainline, and cars v buses in London and Cambridge. It would be great to see such isocrone maps for bikes v buses v cars. No prizes for guessing which mode of transport is (always) quickest through town.

The 2Mile Challenge maps are a pedal revolution in the right direction. Click on the links below for big fat pix of 2Mile Challenge maps centred on certain influential locations…

London (centred on the Houses of Parliament)

Cardiff (centred on the Welsh Assembly. See how close Tredz the bike shop is to the centre of inaction…)

Edinburgh (centred on the Scottish Parliament)

Washington (centred on the White House)

Tour de France route vid on YouTube

The parcours for the 2008 Tour de France was unveiled in Paris last week. As per last year, ASO has produced a snazzy route video and loaded it to YouTube.

There are no snarky mirror shatterings, Floyd Landis will be happy to hear, and no mentions of any of Le Tour’s problems in 2007. Christian Prudhomme is stamping his authority on the race, and is clearly hoping for a new start for the iconic race.

Wash and lube vid oozes on to Oz mag DVD

The wash’n’lube video produced for Weldtite has been placed on Bicycling Australia’s first cover-mounted DVD.

This video appeared first on YouTube and has had 27,000+ views to date. YouTube is lo-res but the DVD version is saved in a much higher resolution.

The video was placed on the Bicycling Australia DVD by Jet Black Products of Oz, Weldtite’s antipodean distributor.

The mechanic is Paul Chapman, a Geordie who just so happens to be moving to…Australia. He leaves for his new life in December. If any Oz bike businesses would like to employ one of the North of England’s most popular bike figures, drop me an email at

Paul started out as manager at Steel’s of Gosforth and later set up his own shop, Cyclelogical of Jesmond.

All of the Weldtite-sponsored maintenance videos can be accessed here.

Niki Gudex and other riders star on Cyclepassion calendar

Some people are now collecting the German Cyclepassion calendars. I get sent press copies each year – the 2008 calendar is the third – but they’re quickly confiscated by my wife. Dunno why, it’s just the high-end bikes I’m ogling.

The year the calendar features photographs of fast women such as Irina Kalentieva, the 2007 Russian MTB champion, and MTBer and model Niki Gudex. The chain wig, above, was modelled by Sweden’s Emilia Fahlin of the T-Mobile team.

There are blokes on display, too, albeit mostly clothed. Except, that is, for MTBer Ralph Näf of Switzerland. He’s photographed in the bath with a model. Richie Schley of Canada was shot in the Continental factory in Korbach, Germany. He’s pictured wearing jeans and a jacket: the models are wearing Conti-designed rubber swimwear.

The calendar is spiral-bound, big at 40cm x 68cm, and and printed on 250g silk paper. It’s produced by Anke Wilken of Mannheim, a self-confessed “bike widow”.

Cyclists: vote for Sustrans from November 26th

You may not live in Britain, but you could help us win $100m to transform 79 communities across the UK. The BIG Lottery Fund has unveiled the final shortlist for the People’s £50 Million Lottery Giveaway. The contest will be a public vote which will see one project of national importance win a grant of £50m. The Sustrans Connect2 project is the only national project out of four finalists.

Sustrans stands a stunningly good chance against what are worthy but highly localised projects. Sign up on the Connect2 website to be reminded to vote online from November 26th onwards.

Here are some plus and minus points on all the projects:



Cornwall’s biggest tourist attraction wants to become even more of a draw – for car tourists and coach trips – with a new climate change exposition. Is there not a big disconnect there somewhere?

PROS: The Eden Project has some nice flowers and a few bike stands.
CONS: Not national. Plus, cop a load of this: “One of [Edge’s] chambers will be built out of loud speakers. Audio recordings in every one of the earth’s languages on the subject of love will be played simultaneously. The point…is to create a human song.”


Nottinghamshire’s finest famous forest wasn’t good enough for the latest BBC TV Robin Hood (that’s shot in Hungary) and visitor numbers are falling. So, to preserve the forest, The Living Legend wants to attract more car tourists and coach trips. There are 400,000 visitors right now, the Living Legend wants to double that.

PROS: The scheme proposes 95km of new cycling and walking routes.
CONS: Not national. Most of the visitors will arrive in cars and while some of these may disgorge bikes, it’s still a lot of extra car trips.


Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall and Sandwell are deprived areas of the Black Country and could be helped by economic regeneration. Economic regeneration equals lots of extra car trips.

PROS: Waterways and green spaces will be spruced up
CONS: Not national. What’s the betting there are some supermarkets slavvering to be part of the ‘economic regeneration’ plans?


By building footpaths, cycle paths and bridges, Sustrans wants to get people out of their cars and on their feet or on to bikes. Disconnected communities across the UK will be reconnected, leading to more bike trips and fitter local people.

PROS: What’s not to like? Plus, the project is national, you know, like National Lottery. It’s not Cornwall Lottery or Nottinghamshire Lottery.
CONS: Lorraine Kelly will be the TV champion for the scheme.

Court gives red light to dangerous drivers

According to, boxer Amir Khan has been cleared of dangerous driving after he drove at 47mph in the wrong lane and through a red light, injuring a pedestrian.

The 55 year old pedestrian suffered a broken leg during the crash, which was captured on CCTV cameras.

However, the jury at Bolton Crown Court agreed with Khan’s argument that his driving was “careless” but not “dangerous.”

I expect a frothing rant in tomorrow’s Daily Mail, urging courts to nail “accelerator pedal pests” instead of letting them off with nary a slap on the wrist. Oh, but hang on, this is the real world, the Daily Mail – and papers like it – will continue to turn a blind eye to driver’s transgressions but get all high and mighty when cyclists pootle through red lights.

Spotter: Chris Hill

PR company slams into ‘pedal pests’

Luckily, the PR company’s UK press release gets only two mainstream media plugs. And the ‘survey’ used as the basis of the scare-mongering press release has thrown up some odd factoids. For instance, the survey said “1% of road users take offence at cyclists who wear Lycra.”

Great, that must mean 99 percent think we look great in our clingy cycling kit!

But there’s no definition of ‘road users’ so, like the rest of the press release, it’s bilge.

The press release – which doesn’t state how many drivers routinely break the law – is copied below. Continue reading “PR company slams into ‘pedal pests’”