TfL’s cycling viral: genius or rip-off?

STORY UPDATED: Watch this video short commissioned by Transport for London, and produced by The Engine Room (warning: spoiler below):

This is a rip off. The original ‘gorilla and basketball passes’ video was produced in 1999 by Professor Daniel J Simons in the US. It’s sold as a DVD instructional video by Viscog Productions.

TfL’s version of the video uses a bear instead of a gorilla but this isn’t perhaps enough to prevent a claim of plagiarism. It’s interesting to note that a YouTube version of the Engine Room’s video was deleted by YouTube following a complaint, although it’s now back on the site.

Now, to the content. Why did the ad crew – who didn’t contact Prof Simons to ask permission to use the idea – switch to a moonwalking bear? All that was needed was a figure to walk between the basketball players. Why wasn’t this figure a cyclist in black kit and wearing a helmet? Not weird enough? That would at least have made the content fit the brief.

This video will go viral – known as Black Swanning in the ad trade – but will it work on drivers? It might raise consciousness for a while but then the bad habits will kick in again. Cyclists are “invisible” to drivers not because drivers have lots of distractions and need to concentrate on just the route ahead, but because cyclists cannot squish drivers. It’s a brute force thing.

When a car smashes into a cyclist in the UK and the US this will be traumatic for the driver – and perhaps fatal for the cyclist – but the long-term ramifications for the driver are few and far between.

Not so in many European countries where the EU Fifth European Motoring Directive holds sway. For insurance purposes, motorists are automatically deemed to be at fault in “traffic accidents” unless they can prove otherwise. This has the very real potential of hurting the driver in the pocketbook, the reason why there was such an outcry when the British media thought the UK could be about to adopt the Fifth European Motoring Directive.

Writing in the Daily Mirror, columnist and author Tony Parsons poured scorn on the Directive and lambasted adults who cycle: “Bicycles are for children…[they are] like masturbation – something you should grow out of. There is something seriously sick and stunted about grown men who want to ride a bike.”


Taiwan gets 1950s-style Cyclists’ Special train

The China Post reports that the Taiwan Railway Administration yesterday began operating its “environmental protection train service,” with a group of 272 cycling enthusiasts taking their bikes on special trains.

The service is on a three-month trial and takes over whole trains. Cyclists register as “passenger groups” to book the exclusive-to-cyclists trains.

The bikes go in their own carriages, reminiscent of UK group rides in the 1950s. The CTC organised ‘Cyclists’ Specials, as seen in this fascinating video:

Cycling UK to Oz: so good we did it twice

Kevin Doye and Lowanna King have produced a spectacularly good video series on their bike tour from Oxford to Australia.

Here’s a YouTube teaser:

The rest of the series can be subscribed to on Undercurrents.

The couple didn’t travel with a film crew. All the two-person shots were done with the help of a tripod, hence a claim that the couple cycled much of the route twice.

The video series is being released in thirteen weekly installments and features footage of the couple cycling from the UK, through Europe and on to Pakistan, India, Iran, Singapore and Australia. The couple got married when they reached Sydney.

Paul O’Connor of Undercurrents said:

“Bike2Oz is a very inspiring series and makes us think if they can pedal to the far side of the world, then we should all be able to get on our bikes and ride to the shops or work.”

The use of a tripod and lots of backtracking to get wide angle scenic shots reminds me of a bike tour I did in Lebanon in 1994. As far as I can tell this was the first bike tour in the country since the ending of the Civil War. I later helped write Lebanon: A Travel Guide, the first English-language guidebook to the country for twenty years.

I filmed the Lebanon bike trip on a Hi-8 video camera loaned to me by Tyne Tees TV. The footage was never used because Tyne Tees didn’t commission a second series of ‘Chain Gang’, a magazine programme on bikes.

The Hi-8 tapes have been festering in a drawer for years but I watched them the other day and I reckon I could condense the footage into a smart little half-hour programme. I’ll load it to YouTube, iTunes and Vimeo. It was a rough trip. There were okayish hotels in Beirut and other cities but in the Beqa’a valley? Nada.

I’ve had fun watching my discomfort as I did a piece to camera from a bombed out villa where I’d spent the night.

Bike companies: want to book an end-of-part-one advert in the middle of the Lebanon programme or any video? Details here.

Why does Murray’s wrist get more coverage than Cooke’s win?

To mark tomorrow’s International Women’s Day, the House of Lords yesterday held a debate about women’s rights, including women’s access to sport.

Lib dem peer Lord Addington said: “I have been provided with figures from the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation. Only 5 per cent of sports coverage is given to women’s sport and there is still no woman professional player in a team sport in this country.

“In some papers, the closest that you come to women in sport during the winter season…is the WAGs syndrome. Whether X’s wife is going to leave him after a drunken night out seems to be about as close as we come to seriously covering women in sport.

“I think that it is sad that…only 20 per cent of women take enough exercise. At the very least, there is a huge on-cost to the Department of Health.

“What pressure are the Government putting on the media, especially the public-access media, to give more attention to women’s sport generally? When will we pay attention to those who succeed in their own fields?

“A classic example was when Nicole Cooke recently won the French cycling tour. On the same day, [tennis player] Andrew Murray received a minor injury to his wrist. She won; he might have won. I suggest that some attention should be given to this problem.”

Lord Addington is right, the British media largely ignores women cyclists. But not The Observer. Last Sunday’s edition is already a collector’s issue for male and lesbian cycle sport fans: the Sport Monthly mag, in a homage to a famous Lance Armstrong cover pic, featured Victoria Pendleton in the buff on her bike.

Despite picking up the 2007 Sunday Times Sportswoman of the Year award in November, Ms Pendleton did not make the shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

She told The Times: “‘You have to be realistic. I’d love to be more famous, have lots of people supporting me, people knowing my name, but I need a tennis racket, or a golf club, or to play football. Being a female I don’t stand a chance.”

Want more pix of Victoria ‘pin-up’ Pendleton? There’s a photo set here. Click ‘multimedia’ for 12 shots of Ms Pendleton in designer glamourwear. The pix also feature British Cycling’s £12,000 track bike.

‘Steal cable’: security product or invitation?

The Daily Reveille, a student newspaper produced for Louisiana State University, reports on a spate of bike thefts on campus, confirming that bike crime in uni towns is endemic.

“A thick, metal chain looped around Jarrad Rolon’s bicycle three times. The lock wrapped around the bike’s frame and wheels, tightly securing his bike to the stairwell near his third-floor residence in East Campus Apartments.

But the key lock was not enough to stop thieves from swiping the mechanical engineering sophomore’s bike.”

However, article author Nicholas Persac has made a juicy spelling mistake:

“Dakre Simmons, manager of The Bicycle Shop on Highland Road near campus, said there are two main types of bicycles locks – steal cables and u-locks.”

He ought to steel himself for a riposte from his editor. Boom-boom.

Cyclehoop designer could scoop £20,000

Anthony Lau, a design student at the University of Westminster, created his Cyclehoop street furniture fitting in 2006. It appeared in the Reinventing the Bike Shed exhibition in 2006, will soon go on trial in London and could bag Lau the top prize in the new, Government-backed HSBC Unipreneurs Awards.

http://www.cyclehoop.comHis Cyclehoops have the potential to sell like hotcakes. They bolt on to existing street posts, require no concreting-in and they force the cyclist to lock his or her bike down by the bottom bracket rather than the top-tube. This is right place to lock a bike, as evidenced in this bike security article.

Lau told “I’m drawing up a list of tips on locking techniques. These will be displayed graphically on the Cyclehoop as a sticker.”

The HSBC Unipreneurs Awards are presented in association with the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship.

The overall winner will be decided at a gala evening at BAFTA on 23rd April, when five finalists will be quizzed live on-stage by a panel of experts about their business and why they deserve to be crowned HSBC Unipreneur 2008. Afterwards, a specially invited audience of 200 guests, drawn from the worlds of business, government and the media, will vote for the candidate who has impressed the most and decide who will walk away with the top title.

Whether Lau wins the award or not, his Cyclehoop design is simple and cheap to install. Local authorities with budgets for installing secure cycle racking will be impressed by Cyclehoops. Designer Wayne Hemingway certainly was.

Hemingway was one of the judges at Reinventing the Bike Shed. I was at his home yesterday, interviewing him for Cycling Plus magazine. When I asked him about cycle security, he launched into a paean of praise for the Cyclehoop.

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Watch out on Weds for another London cycling announcement

On Wednesday, the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, will welcome Christian Prudhomme, Director of the Tour de France, to City Hall.

The two will meet, along with London’s Transport Commissioner, Peter Hendy, to discuss the future of the Tour de France in London. The Mayor will make a further announcement about cycling in the capital.

Prudhomme may be in charge of an organisation that, if it doesn’t back down in its fight with the UCI, could damage pro-cycling, but he’s a really nice bloke. Here are two of my kids meeting him at last year’s Tour de France in Londres:

“How long have you been playing bike, Frank?”

The motoring media has been lovingly reporting on the Car Music Project, a band that plays music on instruments made from car parts. Composer Bill Milbrodt’s musical instruments can now be seen on TV ads for Ford. Milbrodt has been likened to the late great Frank Zappa.

But where Milbrodt plays car, Zappa played bike.

Zappa was way ahead of his time. His first TV appearance – sans his famous facial hair – was in 1963 on the iconic US chatshow The Steve Allen Show. Zappa was given 20 minutes of primetime to play two bicycles, much to the amusement of Allen and the studio audience.

ZAPPA: I believe that a lot of people have actually played bicycles from time to time. When they’re young they take a piece of cardboard and a clothes pin, attach it to the rear wheel and when it goes around it makes that noise and you’re playing a bicycle.

ALLEN: How long have you been playing bike, Frank?

ZAPPA: About two weeks.

ZAPPA: It’s similar to the effect of the uh, cardboard and the clothespin.

ALLEN: Like the uh, steel drums of Jamaica and uh, Trinidad . . .

ZAPPA: And you can also bang on the frame, and if you’re lucky enough to have a bicycle that has a squeaking seat, you can squeak the seat.

Dear Google…

Facebooker Peter Smith has started to petition to get Google to add a ‘bicycle there’ option to the Google Maps service. 3500+ have signed the petition to date.

The feature would take into account actual bicycle lanes from the locality being mapped, and it would automatically plan a route for a bicyclist, possibly even providing the cyclist options for either the most direct route, or the most bicycle-friendly route.”

This would…
* Make bicycling safer for millions of bicyclists around the world.
* Empower world citizens to better adapt their lifestyles to face the challenges of global climate change.
* Help Google realize its core mission of ‘organizing the world’s information and making it universally accessible and useful.’

More info here.