Boris wants more Londoners to be like him


Over on I’ve just done this story on the mayor of London’s plans to get “one million more Londoners to use their legs for transport.”

Boris is famous for his (alleged) buffoonery, his shock of yellow hair and his love of cycling. However, as London’s big cheese he can’t be seen to side with us all the time. Before he was elected mayor he was rent-a-quote when it came to cycling. Not any more, he’s forced to be institutionally diplomatic, and can’t take sides.

So, we won’t see the like of these quotes from the new Boris.

On the benefits of bicycling:

“E is for exertion, endorphins and ecstasy: The first produces the next, which produces the next, as you whiz through London’s lovely streets and look at the play of light through the plane trees, and you inhale the open air, and you think of the poor souls stuck in the taxis, the cars, the buses and, God help them, the Tube.”

On what should be done to bike thieves:

“I think these people deserve punishment and I’m calling for Sharia law for bicycle thieves.

“If I had my way I would plant decoys in a whole lot of bicycles across the borough and in the evening I would send Navy Seals in through the thieves’ windows and show them what it’s all about.”

TfL produces more ‘watch out for cyclists’ videos

Earlier this year, Transport for London ripped off a video awareness production of Dr Daniel Simons and had an enormous success with it. The ‘basketball video’ has had 4,980,000+ views on YouTube.

TfL has now produced a new set of videos. They will also go viral and may make motorists think twice about their duty of care on the road. It’s just such a shame the agency which produced the videos for TfL won’t credit the originators of the earlier inattentional blindness videos.

Cyclists are often on the receiving end of such blindness, so much so there’s an acronym for it: SMIDSY (‘Sorry, mate I didn’t see you’).

Do The Test:

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.

Exploding bike lock sprays thief

This product may never get to market – think of the lawsuits – but it’s an interesting take on bike security. It’s a bike lock that, when cut, sprays marker ink on the thief.

“This bike lock deters the opportunist thief by making the abuser’s experience as unpleasant as possible without having a detrimental effect on the user.

SmartLock is a cable lock that has cores of compressed air and liquid running through its body. If cut, the liquids spray out over the perpetrator, his tools, the bike and the scene of the crime. A bike that has been stolen will be covered in coloured dye (the dye renders the bike undesirable and therefore unsellable ) as well as transluscent Smartwater – an invisible forensic property marking liquid.”

Dave Pomphret and Karl McCracken would like to see the lock filled with ebola virus. I’d choose Napalm.

Hat-tip to Urban Velo.

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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.


Do kids not get taught about contours?


I’m a British Cycling ‘Go Ride’ coach and help out at 1.5-hour training and technique sessions at the Newcastle Phoenix cycling club on Saturday mornings. At today’s coaching session I took the older kids over to a steep, tussocky hill near our club building.

We rode up the hill the hard way, and only got half way.

I then tried to get the kids to take an easier line, riding up the side of the hill. Instead, most wanted to attack the hill head on again, with predictable results.

As these were kids aged from 12 to 16 I assumed they’d know about contours and started off in this vein. Blank faces all round. I then changed tack and used the phrase ‘line of least resistance’. Again, blank faces.

Are there any teachers reading this? If so, do kids get taught geographical basics? Are contours on the National Curriculum? This is specifically aimed at UK teachers but perhaps teachers from other countries could also chip in?


Without a basic understanding of contour lines, kids will miss out on the wonderful world of mapping, and may not be able to fully enjoy the great outdoors. They may also suck at bike racing.