Links

Audax Australia
This is the umbrella organisation running long distance cycling events in Australia Their website includes a calendar of events.

Bikejournal
A place where cyclist can keep track of their mileage and any number of other statistics, as well as an attached forum.

Bikeforums
A set of discussion forums covering almost every conceivable cycling related topic.

Cycling Adventurer
The Cycling Adventurer has tossed in the structured life of an urbanite to explore the world by bicycle. A well-written site detailing how he came to cycling, and what he learned along the way.

Crazy Guy on a Bike

Bicycle touring journals from all over the world, including a couple of my own.

Johns Cycles

This is my LBS on the Gold Coast. While they cater more to the racing market, their service, advice and workmanship is the best on the coast.

St Kilda Cycles

Importers of all manner of things hard to find in Australia, including the legendary Schmidt hub dynamo & E6 lights.

Blogs

Bicycle-eye
Wonderings and wanderings out and about in Portland, Oregon, US

The Journey
The journey begins in Perth, Western Australia.

Lance Notstrong
The "other" Lance!

Ms Mittens
The Wired Cat on-line

Iron Gambit
.

Aussie Writer and Cycletourist
A blog chronicling the writing and cycling of a seaside baby boomer.

Up in Alaska
Jill's subarctic journal about ice, bears and distant dreams of the midnight sun.

The Kin Chronicles
Taking mediocrity to a new level of ordinary.

Allez
Riding and running with a vengeance.

London Cycling Diary
Pedalling across the capital since August 2005.

CouchPilot-2-BikePilot (Zin's cycling blog)
Living an adventurous life with Type-2-Diabetes.

The adventures of Crazy Biker Chick
... Including cycling, adventuring, cooking, knitting and ranting.

Redneck Espanol
The two wheeled Spanish redneck.

Treadly and me
"Work is something I do between riding my bicycle".

Crowlie
Womanist philosophy and theology. Cycling, climbing, art, single-motherhood and fire-twirling.

Adrian Fitch's random rambling.
A bit about cycling, a bit about genealogy, a bit about radio but mostly a lot about nothing at all.

Geo's big adventure
The life and times of Geo.

It's about the bike
Musings on the cycling life.

Spinopsys
Various cycling tidbits.

Industry Outsider
A blog about bikes and stuff.

Tweed Coast Treadly
An old man's bicycle riding diary.

A cyclist's life in Tenerife
(Canary Islands).

Bike to work to live to bike
It's never too late to get back on the bike

Stupid Hurts
Just the random scribblings of a guy with a bicycle

I'm not drunk enough for this
Really, I'm not.

BikeHacks
What can I say? Just read it.

Mozam's cycling adventures
A random collection of the things I like to do most, and mostly that is to ride my bikes, bicycles that is... My musings from competitive riding, long distance endurance to puttering around the neighborhood..

More cycling blogs

Blog Directory - Blogged

Powered by Blogger

This site is certified 76% GOOD by the Gematriculator This site is certified 24% EVIL by the Gematriculator

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The London experience

It's always interesting to ride in different places. Before my recent bike tour, there were some in this part of the world who raised eyebrows about the fact that I was going to be doing some riding in central London. I suppose it was the old "so much traffic" argument that caused their angst, but basically the attitude was that in a city of that size, it had to be "scary" or "dangerous". On the other hand, others who had actually been there suggested that London was far more accommodating to cyclists than where I ride now. Consequently, I was interested to see just how the experience was.

As usual in these situations, it was the people who had actually been there who were right. I found central London to be a far more pleasant experience than the traffic I deal with here on the Gold Coast everyday. That in itself probably isn't saying much, but the sheer number of cyclists I saw in London -- even during the Friday "rush hour", probably means something. Something else that was noticeable was the total lack of abuse that I normally have to deal with. So what is it that London, a city of 12 million, manages to do for cyclists that my home city of 500,000 cannot?

In truth I think it has more to do with the things London hasn't done than what it has. For one thing, I didn't see a heap of pointless off-road bikepaths that go nowhere. They have avoided the Dutch (and increasingly Australian) ideal of simply getting cyclists off the road. The general approach in London seems to be accommodating cyclists on the road as actual road users. This has the benefit of allowing cyclists to actually go somewhere when they get on their bike.

Contrast that with the approach a lot of "advocates" in this country take in suggesting that they can only ride where separate bike paths have been provided. I know which of the two is going to be easier for the utility cyclist to deal with. And while people might go on about "there are so many cyclists in Amsterdam", it's worth noting that cycling numbers there are actually declining, and that few of the much talked about "bicycle trips" there are actually for anything other than recreation (which, incidentally does nothing at all to alleviate pollution or traffic congestion).

The other major thing that became apparent in London was the lack of politicisation of the simple act of riding a bicycle. This should seem obvious, until one goes and reads through a few "advocacy"-themed Internet discussion fora, or reads any of the brochures put out by the likes of Bicycle Queensland. Most people in "advocacy" in this country would shudder to read this, but I even heard a radio debate about the upcoming mayoral elections in which the person supporting the conservative candidate was a regular utility cyclist. This isn't really a bad thing, because many of the things that would most benefit cyclists come from the political right, such as hiring a police force that will actually enforce the law on the roads.

It's all well and good to be concerned about issues such as the environment, evil oil companies, terrorism and so on, but the simple fact is that they aren't cycling issues. When people who call themselves cycling advocates try to claim the moral high-ground here, all they really do is alienate people who disagree with them on these issues. When people try to turn them into cycling issues (i.e. "we should all ride bikes to save the world"), they discourage a lot of people who might have been thinking of cycling to work for other reasons (i.e. convenience, money, health etc). It probably doesn't do anything to improve the treatment that cyclists receive on the road either, which I would have thought should have been the primary goal of "advocacy". Is it really so bad to just leave the politics out of it?

In short, riding a bicycle in London doesn't seem to be such a big deal. Certainly not in the way it's perceived here in Australia. In my view, cycling advocates in this country do a particularly poor job of promoting cycling. They expend inordinate amounts of effort making political statements that are, at best, only tangentially related to cycling. They expend inordinate amounts of effort in circulating stories of death and destruction (i.e. x number of cyclists killed last year -- even if the number x is minute compared to other ways of being nastily killed). They ask the government to expend enormous amounts of money on "facilities" that generally don't serve the needs of the cyclists they claim to be representing, and expend huge amounts of effort in trying to shout down anyone who disagrees.

What was most noticeable in London is that those attitudes simply didn't appear to be there. Either the advocates there are smarter than those here, or someone in London has found an effective means of silencing them. Consequently, when riding through the Friday peak hour in central London, I felt that I was working with the traffic rather than fighting with it. I felt a far greater sense of cooperation on the roads than what I normally experience. There are quite a few things there that people here could learn, but I won't be holding my breath for that to happen.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome Home,
I'm a little upset that you didn't send any of that Scottish rain here. We could of used it...

dave (tweed coast)

8:42 pm  
Blogger Adrian Fitch said...

Great post. We've had a huge surge in cycling over the past few years and it seems that more people are encouraged to cycle when they see more people cycling.

It is also getting safer to cycle, probably because other road users are more used to sharing the road with cyclists.

I'm not a big fan of many of our cycle paths but the London Cycle Network can be very handy as it uses a network of cycle friendly roads to link up the city.

Sometimes they're not the most convenient routes but ideal for the inexperienced as it tends to keep them away from trouble.

2:42 am  
Blogger Chris L said...

Dave -- I tried, but it seemed a little reluctant to leave. Last I checked, London was copping it.

Adrian -- define "trouble". Getting lost was the biggest problem I had in London! I honestly think that bike paths/lanes have little to do with increasing cyclist numbers. The thing that impressed me most about London was the sense of cooperation between drivers and cyclists in many situations. That's what makes roads cycle-friendly.

6:29 am  
Blogger Crowlie said...

London sounds great. Also good to hear that you had such a good time away. But we did miss you. ;-)

11:53 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home