Archive | commuting

The universal appeal of cycling

I remember vaguely a few months ago, something about a local politician from  Birmingham (1) who said that cycling was the preserve of young adult men and therefore we shouldn’t spend money on cycling infrastructure because it only benefits a small percentage of the population. At the time I was too busy racing, but I made a mental note to write something about this later.

one-man-foot-squeezing-carIt can be hard work cycling on British roads

I’m probably three months late to state the obvious, but if the roads of a city are sparsely populated with cyclists – and predominantly middle age men – then it’s a very good sign that the opposite case needs to be made – It is a very good sign that a complete rethink is needed to encourage the broad section of society back into cycling.

You only get a skewed demographic of cycling – if the roads are perceived as too dangerous – making cycling appeal only to those who have different tolerations or risk, danger and dealing with intimidating situations.

The thing with cycling is that it is universal and democratic form of transport. It is cheap, accessible and at some point in time, most people have experienced some joy from learning to ride a bike. It is a shame, when this ceases to be the case.

In the US, this report states that the typical cyclists is a 39-year-old male professional with a household income in excess of $45,000 per year who rides 10.6 months per year.

  • In Europe, statistics for rates of female cycling as a % of cycling population are 45% Denmark, 55% in Netherlands, and 49% Germany, in the US  it is 25%.

Age differences

Another big difference is the age profile of people cycling:

Age profile cyclingSource: Cycling for Everyone at Rutger.edu

In the US for people over 40, only 0.4% of trips are made by bicycle. In the Netherlands this rises to 23-24%

 

The only question is why do people stop cycling?

Statistically, you can make a good case cycling is still relatively safe. But if you have to fight traffic and heavy goods lorries, no amount of statistics can change the real perception that it’s a tough job cycling on many cities. Too many near misses, too much stress. Perhaps some people don’t want to cycle because of the way they drive.

car-turning-left-near-miss

watch out!

A very simple comparison is to look at countries which have built suitable cycling infrastructure – Germany, Holland, Denmark. In these countries, the demographic of cycling is spread across all ages and gender. Cycling is seen as safe; when there are good cycle paths, cycling is an extension of a pedestrian mode of transport. Pedestrians simply going a little bit faster. Continue Reading →

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In praise of slow cycling

I was looking through my blog for posts of the past two months. It has been all about racing up hills or reviews of light-weight (and expensive) components. A very small niche of a sub branch of racing cycling. (Apologies if you have got bored of blog posts about weighing saddles and racing up steep hills). But, as well as being a racing cyclist, I’m also a commuter and cycle into Oxford every day.

The curious thing is that the more I’ve got into racing, the slower I’ve got on the commute into town. When I didn’t do proper races, I remember racing to and from work. It was all about speed. I think I may even have timed my commute home, and tried to beat my personal bests. – (A timetriallist in the making, if ever there was) But, as I’ve got more into racing, I’ve slowed down when cycling into town. I’ve not sure whether this is me getting older, needing more recovery time or just a different attitude.

cyclist-parked-cars-either-side

I suppose it is a combination of factors, including:

  1. With racing at the weekend, I don’t have any smouldering competitiveness or fresh legs during the week. If you can ride at 30mph on a dual carriageway on a Sunday morning the desire for racing down Cowley road on Monday morning soon dissipates.
  2. Slow recovery rides are good for you. As I mentioned in previous post, I used to do recovery rides at 18mph, now I do them at 14mph. To get a real recovery ride, you need to really go properly slow – either full on hill intervals or proper recovery is the motto today.
  3. Patience is a virtue which is surprisingly enjoyable. In the past, when I got in any mode of transport, it was always a race against time. As a consequence, it was very easy to become frustrated at having to wait, getting held up or crawling along due to congestion. With this mindset of speed, you start to look for short cuts, the quick overtake, the dash through traffic. But, if you change your approach and try to enjoy the journey, it’s less stressful; you don’t feel guilty for standing still waiting for traffic to move. You just wait your turn.

With all the evangelical fervour of a converted sinner. I now get incredibly frustrated when motorists are similar impatient to overtake cyclists in dangerous manoeuvres – you always want to preach to the unconverted to tell them – if they could happily wait for the odd 10 seconds, it really doesn’t have to ruin their day. Take it easy, wait 10 seconds – and everyone’s happy.

Slow Cycling is good for you

3-cyclists-high-st

So slow cycling is good for you. It makes you more considerate road user, but more importantly if you have a little more patience – you will enjoy the experience a lot more – if you give yourself an extra few minutes to get anywhere, you don’t have to squeeze through gaps which are really not advisable.

Continue Reading →

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Benefits of cycling to work

I was happy to hear it’s cycle to work day. I saw some signs advertising it near Rawdon, Leeds a few days ago. I didn’t notice any difference on the commuting roads of Oxford today, but hopefully a few people were inspired to dig out in the bicycle from their garage and cycle to work. I’ve been cycling to work for the past 13 years (I used to be a teacher starting at 8 or 9am. But, these day I call work – going to a cafe for 9am to write some economics). Even though I work from home, I still like to create a cycle to work in town.

suit-cap

I’ve only ever been late once (when I fell off a slippery manhole and lay on the ground for 15 minutes. Perhaps I also got a puncture once and had to go in by bus, but that is a very distant memory. The bike is very reliable – ust avoid those cheap tyres you may get on a £100 bike from Cycle King.

In those 13 years, I’ve saved a lot of money. An alternative is the bus. Roughly the bus costs £3 return 13 years * 200 work days a year = 2,600 days. 2,600 * £3 = £7,800.

cycle-lane

Beat the queue – cycle to work

£7,800 – Wow, that is nearly enough to buy a new bike. In those 13 years, I’ve had only two commuting bikes. (one got stolen). My current commuting bike is quite low maintenance. Every year, I spend about £70 for service at Reg Taylor cycles to get a new cassette, chain and brake blocks. Overall, I must be in profit by about £6,000.

By the way, if I’d driven into town, I would have faced a car parking charge of over £10 a day before even petrol and all the costs of a car. I’ve never tried working out how much it would cost to drive into town. I’m a great believer in expensive car parking charges, but that’s another story.

Continue Reading →

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Tour de France legacy

Everyone seems to agree that the Tour de France in Yorkshire  / England was an unprecedented success. But, will it be a one hit wonder or will the legacy of the tour help boost the long term profile of cycling in the UK?

As the tour swept through Britain, you could see potential seeds of a real cycling legacy which could offer many benefits to the nation. And these could be real benefits like improved health, reduced pollution, greater community spirit – benefits which definitely surpass just an understanding of what an echelon is, or what the yellow jumper means.

Some potential benefits of Tour de France legacy include:

Closed roads are liberating

crowds-silsden-small

This is Silsden town centre. I’ve never seen so many people having so much fun in the middle of the road.

Usually we’re in a rush to get somewhere and the car is king. Because we’re in a rush we end up sitting in nice long traffic jams getting frustrated. The Tour de France was an opportunity to reclaim the streets, bringing whole communities together. People were having a great time. I’ve never seen so many happy people, not bad to say the action lasted only 30 seconds. In an age of digital communities and instant messaging, it is a relief to remind ourselves that nothing can beat going out into the world and meeting real people. I even broke a habit of lifetime and started talking to strangers by the roadside. The millions by the roadside show that it wasn’t just the attraction of seeing some lycra fleeting by – we actually love an excuse to be part of something big.

crowds

The Tour was a good example of how there is life after the motorcar and busy streets. It was definitely helped by good weather and having the Tour de France come through, but it shows there’s a lot to be said for creating towns where people can walk, cycle and chat and not just wait for articulated lorries to fly past and the pelican lights to change. Sundays would make a great time to have more road closures. Life doesn’t end if you can’t drive 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Continue Reading →

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Why cycle in the middle of the road?

I recently heard  a cycle campaigner who suggested that one of the best tips for cycling position on the road is to always cycle one metre from the edge. Interestingly, the Dept of Transport have also given out advice to cyclists that it is advisable to cycle 1 metre from the edge (Direct Gov link).

The problems is that although this is good advice, motorists can get very impatient when they see a cyclist in ‘middle of the road’.

1metre

 

One metre from edge is just over 3 feet and much further out in the road than the average cyclist will generally be. In fact I remember when I was very young and starting to cycling someone told my I should cycle in line with the outside of drains (basically 1 feet). When I was looking through photos of people cycling in Oxford, it was much easier to find people cycling by double yellow lines than it was 1 metre from the edge!

Even Transport for London advise taking the lane in certain circumstances.

Stay central on narrow roads. Try to ride away from the gutter. If the road is too narrow for vehicles to pass you safely, it might be safer to ride towards the middle of the lane to prevent dangerous overtaking by other vehicles.

drains

Don’t feel obliged to ride in the gutter.

For many years I thought that is where I should be. But, I don’t advise this position.

Benefits of Cycling 1 Metre from Edge

If you are 1m from edge, you are more visible to cars turning right. This avoids the “Sorry, I didn’t see you mate type accidents”

The car doesn't see the bike hugging the curb. But, he does see Bike 2 out in the middle of the road.

The car doesn’t see the bike hugging the curb. But, he does see Bike 2 out in the middle of the road.

  • You are more visible to cars turning right.
  • You are more visible to cars coming from behind
  • It is harder for cars to turn left just in front of where you are cycling. This is a big problem where cars overtake cyclists and then soon turn left, leaving you squeezed on the inside.
  • It gives you more flexibility to avoid potholes. If you are in the gutter and swerve out a foot to miss a pothole cars will sometimes beep because they are overtaking you too closely. But, with a metre you have room to move in
  • It is where motorbikes tend to position themselves.
  • It could make cars more careful in overtaking because they can’t squeeze through when traffic is passing in opposite direction. They have to wait for a genuine gap.
  • You avoid nasty accidents from cars opening their doors into your path and other obstacles in the road
  • Sometimes cars will be in a long line. The car immediately behind you might see you, but if they overtake close to you, the 2nd car in line might not

Continue Reading →

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Exceeding the speed limit

Recently, I was researching an article – Cycling Facts – one interesting thing I came across is how in the 1920s American pedestrians were successfully demonised for crossing the road. A strong road lobby decided it would be good to shame pedestrians who wanted nothing more than to cross the road (and therefore inconvenience motorists). A law was passed making jaywalking illegal (In the US pedestrians can only cross a road at a marked crossing – if you cross the road where you feel like it, you could end up with a fine of $200). But, this law was also  accompanied with a sophisticated campaign to make pedestrians seem outdated and ‘dangerous’. – Successfully taking blame away from the real cause of the surge in road accidents – speeding motorists.

According to the BBC

Clowns were commonly used in parades or pageants to portray jaywalkers as a throwback to rural, ignorant, pre-motor age ways.

Another ruse was to provide local newspapers with a free service. Reporters would submit a few facts about local traffic accidents to Detroit, and the auto industry’s safety committee would send back a full report on the situation in their city.

“The newspaper coverage quite suddenly changes, so that in 1923 they’re all blaming the drivers, and by late 1924 they’re all blaming jaywalking,” Norton says.

Breakdown of all trips made in the US

  • Driving: 83%
  • Walking: 10.4%
  • Other (includes cycling): 4.2%
  • Public transport: 1.9%

Source: National Household Travel Survey, 2009

Speeding drivers

drivers

Source: Gov.uk

Speeding drivers kill every year. In the UK, there are 2,500 deaths on the road. These are not caused by cyclists or pedestrians, but almost entirely by cars, lorries and buses.

Yet, speeding has no real social stigma. There is no outrage from British newspapers at the preventable accidents caused by speeding drivers. In fact, the only outrage you are likely to get is the fact that speeding cameras ‘caught you’ i.e. breaking the law.

Continue Reading →

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The real cost of cheap motoring

REAL-COSTS-OF-MOTORING

Other the past two decades, the real cost of motoring has fallen. Despite increases in petrol tax, motoring is getting cheaper – whilst other forms of transport, bus and train have been increasing faster than inflation. With the political popularity of freezing petrol tax, we are likely to see motoring continue to be relatively cheaper. But, although cheaper motoring seems attractive, the drawback is that it will contribute to a marked rise in congestion and very different costs to motorists and society.

Even a study by the RAC also shows that the real cost of motoring has fallen. – Even though you frequently hear about hard pressed motorists.

Cost of travel since 1988.

Screen Shot 2014-05-31 at 09.00.56

Spot the hard pressed motorist.

cv_real_cost_of_motoring-500x354

The RAC state:

  • 28% cheaper to buy and run a car, excluding fuel costs, in 2008 than 1988. (RAC)
  • However, motorists do pay £45bn in fuel duty, VAT, new car tax and the road fund licence.

Continue Reading →

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Refresher for drivers

This letter to the Manchester Evening News, puts it quite well.

letter

Not too much to add. But, always good to see a bit of un-emotional common sense.

Deserves to be shared because it can make a big difference in reducing unnecessary stress, anger and accidents on the road.

Would be nice to see something like this as part of Driving test / learning to drive

Related

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10 reasons to love cyclists

I don’t know why but apparently, there are some people who hate cyclists . I can’t understand. As a motorist I find many excellent reasons to love cyclists. Here are a few, I’m sure you can add a few more.

1. Target Practise – A cyclist helps develops our advanced motoring skills. For example, how close can you get to a cyclist without knocking them off? This is quite an art – best practised in a white van whilst travelling 15mph above the speed limit and with mobile phone in your right hand. You have to be careful though because occasionally, cyclists may make ‘dangerous manoeuvres’ like move 10 cm to the right to avoid a pothole in the road. If they have the audacity to move more than 1 foot from the edge of the road see no.2.

scarf

2. Practise Your Musical Rhythms
. If you see a cyclist in the road, this is an excellent reason to practise sounding your horn. You can practise the art of playing your horn very loudly or you could just practise a simple rhythm like repeatedly holding the horn down. Unfortunately, this can often lead to disappointment as for some reason, beeping a horn is insufficient to make a cyclist disappear from OUR roads.

3. Feeling of Superiority. Now, some cyclists can having that annoying air of self-righteous superiority. They think they are saving the planet by eating home grown leeks and cycling to work. But, whilst we can tolerate their imaginary fantasies, we actually know it is us motorists who are saving the environment because of our decision to use unleaded petrol and occasionally buying 40% recycled plastic in our car air fresheners.

4. Funny To Splash People. This is related to no.1 but actually more fun. With driving over a puddle we get to see more physical evidence of our driving skills. When the road is waterlogged if you drive really fast over a puddle, a big stream of water gets sprayed over other road users and pedestrians. Just watch the face of a cyclist after he gets soaked with your puddle – priceless!

5. Odds Are in Our Favour. Crashes are inevitable on our roads, well at least they are inevitable if we don’t pay attention whilst driving and try to send a text or fall asleep at the wheel. In fact vehicles on British roads kill over 3,000 people a year, but, when you do crash into a cyclist, the odds are heavily in your favour. Their lycra shorts may make a dint in our paintwork, but, this can usually be fixed. Just image if cyclists drove Sherman tanks – when we knocked them down we would have more than a bit of dinted paintwork to deal with! Now that wouldn’t at all be fair – so we should be grateful to cyclists for not threatening our reinforced steel SUVs with nothing more than a thin layer of slightly ridiculous lycra.

6. Humour. Driving is a pretty boring affair. I mean we get stuck in endless traffic jams and it can take one hour to travel just a few miles in Central London. Now it’s pretty annoying that cyclists don’t get so caught up in the traffic congestion – often sneaking up on the inside in these ridiculous cycle lanes. But, next time your stuck in a traffic jam feeling miserable that other people won’t leave their car at home, why not pass the time laughing at other road users. Cyclists are bound to be wearing some ridiculous clothing, or maybe they’re just getting wet. Look on the funny side of these absurd cyclists and suddenly those interminable traffic jams will fly by!

7. Cyclists don’t Wear Down the Road.

No one like potholes, (unless you have one of those 4*4s and like to show off your off-road skills). But, cyclists don’t wear down the road because their bikes weigh very little. Nevertheless, even though cyclists don’t create negative externalities, we can still complain cyclists don’t pay road tax (the fact it was abolished in 1937 doesn’t really matter, having a go at cyclists is usually a pretty easy way to get a contract with a major newspaper, even if you are just a half baked TV chef…)

8. Cyclists don’t Pollute the Environment.

No one likes the exhaust fumes created by cars. It is unpleasant and can cause health problems like asthma, not to mention the problems of global warming. But cyclists don’t create any pollution, at least if you don’t count the by product of all those organic baked beans, these hippie, sandal-wearing cyclists often eat.

9. Cyclists don’t take up Valuable Parking Space
space
(space taken by cars and bikes)

Try parking in Central London, – a nightmare. You can spend hours driving around looking for a spot. Just imagine if every bike took the space of a car. We would never be able to park!

10. Cyclists don’t Cause Congestion.

Congestion would be even worse if cyclists started driving. Every cyclist means quicker journey times for us.

Next week – 10 Reasons to Love Motorists

 

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The cost of congestion in the UK

 busy-cyclists-high-street

Congestion in Oxford encourages people to take an alternative. Cycling into the centre is significantly quicker at rush hour. Will the forecast increase in congestion lead to a rise in cycling rates in the UK?

crowded-roads

No one likes sitting in a traffic jam, cycle lanes help avoid the worst of the congestion.

lone-survivor-bus-undertaking

Traffic congestion costs include:

  • time lost
  • increased vehicle operating costs (brakes, fuel costs)
  • Stress of sitting in traffic jams
  • There are both internal costs (to driver) plus external costs to other road users and society.

The CBI estimate that traffic congestion costs the UK economy £20 billion a year. (link) Other estimates of the costs of congestion widely significantly, but you don’t need to be an economist to realise traffic jams going nowhere are an inefficient use of resources.

The big concern is that congestion is expected to increase over the next 20 years, due to rising population and increased use of cars.

Road use and time lost due to congestion

costs-congestion-cbi

CBI – UK Road congestion

In 2010, an estimated 19 seconds per mile were lost due to congestion.

By 2035, this is estimated to rise to 32 seconds per mile. This is a 68% increase in congestion from today’s levels.

Solutions to congestion

1. Build more roads. This has been the primary objective of government transport policy from the 1960s to 2000s. The number of roads has increased. But, the limitations of this approach include: Continue Reading →

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