Thursday, 8 August 2013

Proud to be a MAMIL. Part 1

Edit: Having written a large amount here without coming to a natural conclusion, I am making this into a series. You can't just write about MAMIL's without veering off in other directions to help fully justify or or further illustrate the concept.

I wrote some time back about what is a MAMIL (HERE). It was a tongue in cheek look as to what a MAMIL is and what makes him what he is. It blurred the boundaries as to what MAMIL’s are with those of cyclists in general. In all honesty, after reading it back, I feel I have not been fair to MAMIL’s (myself included) and in general it was a wide ranging moan at how cyclists are perceived by non-cyclists (insert your own derogative term here).

This is not fair to MAMIL’s we are a breed apart from other “sub cultures” within cycling. So I intend take a little to time to look at this topic a little more seriously (though tongue in cheek will never be too far from the surface – it’s a drug and I can’t stop myself).

To kick off let’s have a serious think about sub-cultures, I myself have been guilty of the crime of using sub-cultures in terms of cycling, it is very convenient when trying to get a message over in a blog. Truth be told there are no sub-cultures, other than those we have decided upon ourselves. Do we differentiate between different car drivers? In general terms we don’t – they are people (myself and most cyclists included) who drive cars, but somewhere cyclists started being called cyclists and not bike riders, the difference is subtle but important. Instead of focusing on the mode of transport we focus on the people that use that mode of transport – focusing on the individuals inevitably means that the focus will then drill down further into segregating the individual cyclists into groups, the human mind works in this way, it is the basic concept of project management to divide a large and relatively unknown thing into smaller and more manageable sub-sets that our brains can cope with, and in the case of cyclists a lot of people need help in understanding this other worldly group. 

This division ends up with us having hipsters, commuters, racers, tree huggers, MAMIL’s etc. All said and done though it would not be very useful for this post if I was to ignore this grouping and it would make my further following pronouncements and insights irrelevant – so for convenience sake I will just happily agree with the division of cyclists into groups rather than render the rest of this post irrelevant! 

EDIT: I still think Hipsters are a breed apart not only from cyclists but human life forms in general – so they shall always be a sub-culture, I guess they wouldn’t want it any other way anyway. 

Having totally distanced myself from sub-cultures (hipsters excluded) I shall now happily type away detailing the MAMIL sub-culture of cycling, I am too old to care if I am two faced (we shall return to this theme forthwith). Whilst being middle aged does not make you part of a sub-culture, how you choose to express yourself at a given age point does, and how MAMIL's act and behave (and spend) does define them from many other cyclists.

MAMIL’s are an elite (in my opinion at least) group of people, we have seen far too much in life, we have lived through the Chairman slapping us and our peers down, frightened of our youth at the time, and our new fangled ways of integrating the computer into the company (yes even in our day business was aggressive, many a time I have stabbed a work colleague with my quill pen) and we have had to deal with the young upstart in later years, who mostly come up with banal ways of integrating a Twitter and Facebook campaign into the workplace – so revolutionary I know. We have tried to explain to said young up-start about the constraints of using a 3rd party applications to drive business forward but also forget the fact that the young upstart doesn’t even know HTML beyond the ability to use bold and insert a picture into his post on some message board. We have even learned the art of being forgiving of their blinkered ways and instead bemoan the poor educational system and their reliance on being fed ways of being online by all seeing companies that make a fortune from the ignorance of these young’uns (whilst silently cursing for not having thought of it ourselves).

Lycra and fancy dress all in one piece of clothing
MAMIL’s aren't just sad Lycra clad weekend warriors with waist bands that are sometimes stretching the technical capabilities of the aforementioned Lycra. Yes some of us do look bad in Lycra or any tight fitting garment for that matter – but do you know what, we are just too old to care. Let me give you an example to better explain my point. A teenager (and I do know of them as a couple are residing, all be it grudgingly, under my roof as I type this) will move heaven and earth not to embarrass themselves. A MAMIL has embarrassed himself so many times that to be honest one more thing won’t even register on any scale. A teenager will spend hours in front of the mirror trying out the latest dance moves to appear “cool” (OK not a term used any more but I still use it) on the dance floor – a MAMIL will do the opposite – we will practice dancing in the most “un-cool” way possible, in the hope of having the chance to humiliate our teenage child at the most public of public events possible, yes we will look stupid but it is worth it just to see the mortified look on our kids face. You may say this is cruel? I would argue that a) we are supposedly suffering humiliation at the same time and b) it is a life lesson and part of our parental duties to teach our beloved offspring humility. These are my excuses and I am sticking with them. As a note here to fellow MAMIL's reading this - if your teenager is giving excessive amounts of grief, I find shouting out the car window as I drop them off for a rugby match something along the lines of "Bye bye mummies little solider, don't let the big boys hurt you" often let's them learn who the true power lies with. I have even heard of parents who pick up their children from the school gates in fancy dress but I believe this is something that should be held back as the "Atomic" threat.

So where is the above taking us? Well firstly you need to understand that you cannot mock a MAMIL in the hope of shaming them into submission – we shall not be turned! We discovered in middle-age, the elixir of life. This elixir is not some potion – we have read Harry Potter to our kids (but often skipped ahead because they fell asleep far too early in the story) we know that those magical potions don’t really exist. We maintain the use of common sense as to what will work, unless of course we read about some new all-powerful "go-go berry juice" that will make us pedal faster and longer, then we will ignore common sense and pay exorbitant amounts of cash in our endless search for higher average speeds. The spam e-mailers have never really latched on to this, don't they realise that adding the word "Viagra" into our spam email filters is easy, if only they understood what really piques our interest their emails would soon be marked for "follow-up" in many a MAMIL's in-box. 

We have discovered the freedom and quiet that can be achieved on the open road, on-top of a self-powered pedal bike. It is funny that something we turned our back on in our late teens when we got our first car (in those days insurance was still reasonable and you could actually drive a car after you had past your test) is in fact the thing that saved our ever vanishing sanity in our wiser years. 

After a few seasons back on the bike, I look at forums and see the posts of fellow MAMIL’s about their joy in discovering the bike again – we all admit failure in our descriptive abilities but in our hearts we hope that fellow MAMIL’s will telepathically understand the sensations we are trying to convey. The discovery of re-found and hard won freedoms, athletic exertions however limited, the freedom of not having bickering kids further deadening our already failing hearing in the back seat of the car, the joy of fresh air and newly found objectives, goals and achievements. MAMIL is not a tag we are embarrassed by (though as previously mentioned being embarrassed is a long lost feeling anyway) but an acronym we revel in, yes it is misunderstood by many people as to what it truly is and means, this is the point of this and upcoming posts - I will try and explain the mindset of our group, what motivates us and why.  

Is that a nappy? Or are you just pleased to see me?
From birth our goals grow quickly, from being able to make it through the night without a nappy or accidents, to dreams in our 20's of conquering the corporate world and having the latest top model as our partner. By middle age you either have achieved these aims and realised they weren't all they were cracked up to be, or you have given up trying realising they are outside your abilities. When you get back on the bike, you have a whole new tranche of goals that God willing, are still achievable and to be honest a whole lot more rewarding. Maybe it is doing 100 mile in a week or doing a 100 mile sportive, maybe your time and finances are more adaptable and your goal is to do the LEJOG which gets further refined into doing it within a given time-frame. Mind you, in a perfect circle of life way, we find ourselves going backwards into clothing that in some ways resembles nappies again.

Either way, buying a bike gives you a whole new set of goals that you can try to achieve and you are the one that sets them and achieves them – not some mealy mouthed ass kisser who wants you to generate a report that finds some uncorrelated link between how the companies’ profits have increased since the point in time the aforementioned mealy mouthed weasel joined the company. The chairman will totally ignore this as he is probably a fellow MAMIL and he realises that however hard you search it will always be an uncorrelated link and he has his mind on breaking 25 minutes in this weekend’s 10 mile TT anyway.

Being a MAMIL is more than just riding a bike, though this is the sub text for all other things, it is about a view on life, either found or extrapolated through riding a bike, phrases such as “I do as I please”, “if only they knew” and “screw it, just do it” are the underlying currents of future thoughts and actions.

So that’s the tone set for the upcoming “MAMIL the series”, it is far too much for one post, for that read “I need to think this through more” – keep an eye out for the next instalment – same MAMIL channel same MAMIL time.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Prudential ride London 100 - my thoughts

Well this is going to be quick!

I don't have one, because I didn't get a place on it! What a total waste that was - pay all my London taxes and mayoral charge and don't even get a paid place on a sportive for it - moan moan moan.... I still got the spam mail on how to train for a 100 mile sportive from Prudential - thanks it wasn't needed on a number of levels, not least because it was just rubbing salt in the wound.

Two things, firstly I hope they keep a list of who they rejected this time and offer a place to them next year and secondly went on the traffic free spin around central London on the Saturday - all in all this was well organised so well done to them for that, but an 8 mile spin with a large number of erratic riders coupled with a bottle of champagne at the half way point I don't think is going to help improve my fitness much.

Anyway congratulations to those that did the ride and to those that pulled up for things other than accidents - well I best keep my thoughts to myself. The most disappointing element of the weekend for me (other than the abject rejection I was feeling) was the poor camera work on the men's race - who exactly was in the peloton? Makes you realise how well things like the TDF are filmed.

Friday, 26 July 2013

The Nostrodamus of Blogs strikes again

So as ever I write something and then a little later I pat myself on the back for looking into the crystal ball of cycling.

Regular readers will remember I wrote a post back on the 29/1/13 about how I think segregated cycle paths and me might not get on well together - you can read it HERE.

Well I read the first stirrings from Sustrans on the controlled (read eventual speed cameras) coming out way on cycle paths - read it HERE. It is the tip of the iceberg and more will follow (remember you read that here).

Government (read nanny state) are dying to get their hands on cyclists - for far too long we have been "sticking to the man" by being unregulated - read not so easy to fine. I fully expect the call for licensing of bikes that go on roads before too soon, in fact I was channel hoping and saw one of those "police stop camera" or whatever on TV. There the reporter did a bit on bikes and seem 100% confident that bikes would be regulated and licensed soon - of course he never thought about all the practical difficulties of it!

Another reason that Government (local, national and regional) will not cater for the current and confident cyclist is because they already know we are going to ride our bikes. If they are going to spend public funds on something they will have KPI's (key performance indicators) to judge the success of the policy, inevitable and obviously this will be the increase in number of cyclists - they will not go for average miles per cyclists as this a) far less sexy and b) very difficult to get an accurate figure on. How do you increase the number of cyclists on the road? Well obviously you have to make it feel safe for all those people who waiver on whether to do it or not - therefore you need safe and slow bike lanes - we all want safe but we don't necessarily want slow - this will leave current cyclists left out on all sides - drivers will expect and demand we are on the cycle lanes and new cyclists on the cycle lanes will want use to be as slow as them so they feel safe - this also will include pedestrians wandering all over them as they are convenient for them to push their prams on - the Government will do nothing to stop this as they will effectively be getting extras footpaths for their outlay.

As I stated before I am all for the introduction of safe bike lanes but really the way it is going it is not going to work unless you are a beardy, woolly jumper and sandal wearing, liberal on your cargo bike, doing your 4 miles a week on a bike exercise, just so you can look extra trim for you next naked bike ride protest.

I weep for my children and not only because they have me for a dad.

Edit: 30/7/13 - I see another thing about controlling bike lanes (well shared ones) has hit the press. Local authorities are now pushing for speed bumps / chicanes to be put on bike lanes to slow cyclists down. Read it HERE

I am going to offer up some free advice here - want to avoid bikes crashing into pedestrians? How about making them bike lanes for bikes only and have pavements for pedestrians? Surely if they are shared use then they should be called pavements and we all know cyclists aren't allowed on pavements.

There really is a need to understand by local authorities that cyclist don't want shared paths - they need dedicated lanes. Everyone one in all levels of Government seem to think that cyclists are wooly wearing bearded liberals who don't use the bike as a genuine and speedier form of transport (in heavily traffic towns at least). For us the bike is not a fun recreation on a nice sunny day, it is a way of life and we are the people who ride daily and need the help the most.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Lemming Pedestrians

Over the last few weeks - I have been assailed by Lemming Pedestrians from all directions.

Before proceeding, it is probably best that I describe this species of human I am calling the "lemming pedestrian". This less cuddly suicide hunter is a person who walks across the road without looking, or steps into the road right in front of a vehicle. I can only assume that the reason for this is because they want to end their dull miserable lives - it cannot be for reasons such as they are too busy worrying about being late for work, reading a text or that they only think cars are on the road (and we all know cars make a broom broom noise) because that would make them really stupid and it would be wrong for me to assume that a person is that thick, despite their obvious desire to end up literally brain dead.

All I am asking for that these pedestrian lemmings do this by sticking their head in an oven or shooting themselves, any other way in fact, that does not mean they endanger others who are quite happy to be alive and would like to continue doing so.

My route into work takes me up Tooley Street outside London Bridge station, here the Lemmings seem to mass regularly (though not exclusively) in great numbers. I can only guess that the large amount of aggression and tutting they endure from fellow train travellers when they try to throw themselves in front of trains (leading to major rail delays) has meant they have resorted to throwing themselves in front of cyclists (or maybe just me). I would like to point out that my 6.9kg push bike is nowhere near as effective as a 50 ton train (O.K. the train weight thing is a guess). Additionally  I am assuming that the train driver is going to get a lot less hurt that I am when you are hit.

So having identified Tooley Street as London’s prime location for mass suicide attempts, I decided to be extra vigilant, keeping a wary eye out for these suicide loving critters. This initially led to me not using the bike lane and overtaking vehicles on the right. This cunning plan came to an end on day one; very quickly I learnt that cunning critters are not so easily fooled and in one traverse of Tooley Street I ended up doing 3 emergency stops to avoid hitting them as they jumped out in front of me from behind buses and lorries (or any other vehicle that they figured I would have no chance of seeing them behind).

Not to be outdone, I started using the bike lane on the left of the road (in itself no mean feat with all the taxis pulling over to the left with no warning or indication). Day one was fine – I had out foxed them – but by day two they had figured out my cunning ruse and two of them managed the most audacious jump in front of me, that were timed to perfection. As I sit here typing this I am still amazed at how I managed to stop in time and not kick their teeth out as I flew over the handlebars in a forward roll (no time to get my weight back on the saddle).

To further detail my study of the lesser spotted coffin chasers, I can confirm that they are an all female species and they make an "Oh eek" sound just before they think they are going to die. I am assuming the sound cannot be one of surprise for surely if you run out from in front of a bus into a cycle lane you cannot be over surprised if you meet an oncoming bike - now if I was a giraffe then I might expect an "Oh eek" sound, implying surprise at seeing me on a London street, but a bike in a bike lane is not a surprise.

Given their failure to kill themselves up until this point I am expecting more guile from these fluffy death lovers over the next few weeks - from now onwards I will keep a vary eye out for them jumping from the top of a bus or up out of a man hole cover - I really have no idea what pre-planed ruse they will try next in their determined push to reach Nirvana.

Writing all this, reminds me of the famous Petronella Wyatt in the Daily Fail and her mother who apparently gets hit by cyclists on a regular basis (or not as the case turns out to be) whilst we are on the subject of that lying (or more politely "extremely lazy") journalist, a new link has just occurred to me. In her column she stated (assuming she wrote it) that she had a thing against cyclists as she remembers her mum having an affair with one, she used to see his bike parked outside her mums house. I am assuming that it is the same mother who was also hit by the cyclist in the street (maybe the same one she was having an affair with in her younger days - that clue I give to the police for free). But isn't this the same Petronella Wyatt who had an affair with Boris Johnson, another person famous for being a cyclist? I can't be bothered to check out the facts - I am training to be a daily fail journalist, but if it is true, then what they say about the apple not falling far from the tree - seems to be a very real thing!

Anyway - back to the death loving pedestrians (whom I now am thinking are all controlled telepathically by Petronella Wyatt's mother). It must be the case that these people are either on drugs or being controlled telepathically by a sinister super brain - I swear to god people cannot be so thick as to cross a road without looking, so there must be another element to this? If we exclude Petronella Wyatt's mother and drugs (after all I see the programmes on telly where customs are catching all the drugs being brought into the country) then there must be something else - but what? ................ (this is me racking my brain for a reason)............ I give in - it is just going to have to be them being dumb twunks. Given this revelation - I shall now start to call them as such when they next throw themselves in front of me - it's not my anger but reasoned logic.

Me on my bike - can you take you cloak back please Harry?
I forgot to submit this post for a few days - but no fear it has allowed me another paragraph - yesterday evening whilst winding my way down Tooley street I was able to have a multi-muppet incident. As ever I stop at the red light at the pedestrian crossing, the lights went green, I started to set off only for 4 lemmings all at once to jump in front of me. I slammed on the brakes only for the idiot on a bike behind me to crash into my back (I don't think he has heard about covering his brakes when in traffic) after dislodging his handle bars from under me seat (no mean feet as I think he was still trying to pedal forwards and therefore took about 15 seconds) I set off again only for more lemmings to jump in front of me again - seriously this is a death wish of the highest order! Later on the same ride I rode through Lewisham on a busy dual carriage road (well one lane and a bus lane) so as I went down this wide fast road at about 25 mph a pedestrian walked right out in front of me, the whole road was clear except for me - seriously have I got an  invisibility cloak on?

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Help - middle age has hit!

At least he is not wearing sandals.
OMFG – well that’s a statement that I haven’t used before – but considering it is a young person’s term, I figure I had better use it now before it is too late, but sadly I fear it is too late. 

An old school friend – a peer – has decided to buy a Brompton! Therefore the only logical conclusion I can draw from this is that as my peer has become middle aged I therefore must be also.

So why is a Brompton a sign of middle age? Well let’s just look at the facts; it is practical, it looks dull and functional. To choose a bike for these reasons means that aesthetics have taken a back seat to practicality. Surely there is no greater sign of mid–life, than making a purchase based on these sensible reasons. For me a bike purchase has to be about gadgetry level and looks with practicality taking a back seat.

If I were being sensible I would buy a Brompton because then I could cycle and use trains when required and not be forced to travel at certain times. But then I would have to sit on a T-bar bike with small wheels that if I am honest looks like a giraffe with hamster’s balls hanging underneath it. Given the alternative of a super sexy carbon frame with fairly pointless ridges to reduce wind resistance (but the curves are sexy which is all I care about) a wardrobe stuffed with overpriced lycra based products and the computing ability to put an army on the moon used to navigate me the 55 miles to Brighton, I know what I will be wasting vast amounts of money on!

Of course, I do have to caveat the above to take into account regarding Bromptons being for the middle-aged; the occasional super fit hipster zooming along believing he is being all ironic, riding he Brompton in his skinny jeans and suitably fashionable top (what constitutes a suitably fashionable top I cannot accurately say as I am not a hipster – come to think of it, what constitutes ironic is lost on me also).

The Brompton also offers up additional problems that my post illness fitness levels, cannot cope with. I will detail this theory of mine for your benefit (and sit back and wait for the haranguing I will get from our foldable bicycle fans).  Bromptons have small wheels and owners I believe suffer from wheel size envy (think penis envy, as it is much the same). Every time they see a road bike with those big sexy wheels on them the riders feels they must at all costs overtake that bike and show that although he has small, indeed despite the fact he has small wheels, he is just as much a man, if not more, and will prove it by overtaking that big wheeled bike. This would lead to extreme levels of tiredness – such levels as my poor broken down body cannot currently cope with.

Life is simple with a Brompton, whilst I may sit there spending hours reading about various grades of carbon and how they are layered up to ensure maximum lateral stiffness, before making a frame purchase, a Brompton owner will just give an extra hard turn on that little bolt thing in the middle of the frame – problem solved, lateral stiffness is max'd up.

In a desperate attempt to put him off the idea of buying a Brompton I have suggested that using the same logic he should sell his Porsche and buy a Skoda – after all they are practical, safe, well built. Additionally they are excellent value for money (unlike a Brompton). After all if he is giving up on life as a trendy go getter by buying a Brompton, why waste money on a flash car as well? 

My final chance is in the pub tomorrow – I shall suggest to him that instead of train / Brompton that he goes for the far more healthy and sensible option of cycling the 11 miles into work all the way on a sensible road bike – this will have the benefit of also reducing his waist size as well as stopping him look like a fool / tool on a Brompton. After all I am beholden to him as his friend to stop him from becoming prematurely old and unfashionable (it is my cross to bear I know). Either that, or I can hope he has a mid-life crisis and decides to buy an overpriced bit of carbon bling for a bike - and I know just the bike for him.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Summary of Mayor's "Cycling in London Vision"

Overview - May 2013

There is no doubt that the profile of cycling, particularly in London, has increased significantly. Both positive headlines about Team GB’s cycling successes in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and negative headlines about cyclist fatalities and injuries have contributed to this. There have also been high-profile campaigns such as the London Cycling Campaign’s “Go Dutch” initiative.

In March 2013 the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) announced that TfL will invest an additional £640 million directly into cycling over the next 10 years, on top of the £273 million previously identified in TfL’s 10-year base plan. Shortly afterwards, the Mayor published “The Mayor’s Vision for Cycling in London: An Olympic Legacy for all Londoners”. This post sets out the main points in the vision document.

The Mayor’s cycling vision document sets out his aspirations for cycling and the support required to deliver the Mayor’s aim of doubling cycling over the next 10 years – and ultimately achieving a 400 per cent increase in cycling by 2026 – based on 2001 levels – so that cycling makes up 5 per cent of the transport modal share. The Mayor continues to believe that a modal share target for cycling of 10 per cent by 2026, as recommended by the London Assembly, is not achievable. The outcomes of the vision set out in the document are:
• a “Tube” network for the bike – a network of direct, high-capacity, joined-up radial and orbital cycle routes, many running in parallel with key Underground, rail and bus routes
• safer streets for the bike
• more people travelling by bike
• better places for everyone.

The Mayor of London has published his vision for cycling in London. This post outlines the main points – the vision offers to maximise cycling and make areas better places to live.
The main elements outlined to deliver the outcomes of the vision include:

• a “Crossrail for the bike” route that will run for more than 15 miles, very substantially segregated, from the western suburbs, through the heart of London, to Canary Wharf and Barking. It will use new, segregated cycle tracks and the Mayor believes that this will be the longest cycle route of its kind in any European city
• a new central London grid of bike routes in the City and West End, using segregation, quieter streets, and two-way cycling on one-way traffic streets
• a new network of “Quietways” – direct, continuous, fully-signposted routes on peaceful side streets, running far into the suburbs, and aimed at people put off by cycling in traffic
• substantial improvements to both existing and proposed “Superhighways”, including some re-routings
• major improvements to the worst junctions, making them safer and less threatening for cyclists. Spending on the existing better junction review will be significantly increased, and it will be fundamentally recast to prioritise major improvements to the worst junctions
• work to make heavy lorries (HGVs) safer.

The Mayor says that he will more than double London’s cycling budget – to a total of almost £400 million over the next three years. He goes on to say that over the next 10 years cycle spending will total £913 million, more than treble previously planned levels, including around £300 million available to boroughs. This will include dramatic spending increases for outer London. However, the funding earmarked for spending beyond 2016, when the next Mayoral elections are due to take place, may be subject to amendment by subsequent administrations.
The Mayor also says that he is looking to the boroughs to deliver extra funding and resources in parallel. So what are the four outcomes of the vision in a bit more depth. 

A cycling “Tube” network
The vision is of a London cycle network that is easily understood, heavily used and appeals to all types of cyclists. It will include two types of branded route:
1. Superhighways – high-capacity routes largely on main roads for fast commuters
2. Quietways – slightly slower but direct routes on low-traffic side streets for those wanting a more relaxed journey

Where there is a conflict between modes, the approach will be to make a clear choice rather than an unsatisfactory compromise – routes will be segregated where possible and pavements shared by both pedestrians and cyclists will be avoided. The vision document says that to support this, the London Cycle Design Standards are being revised, although it does not say if and how stakeholders are being involved in this process. It does say that specific standards of service and maintenance for each of the new routes will be developed in discussion with the boroughs.
The Mayor commits to creating a central London bike grid of high-quality, high-volume cycle routes, in partnership with the central boroughs, of which the east-west “Crossrail” Superhighway will be part. With boroughs’ agreement, the Mayor wants to open up a number of central one-way streets for two-way cycling. The aim is to deliver the majority of this grid by 2016, subject to borough agreement. The vision document says that route planning has already started, so central boroughs should already have heard from TfL and be involved in discussions.

The vision includes better Cycle Superhighways – both delivering future Superhighways to higher standards, albeit with the somewhat unvisionary caveat of “closer to international best practice”, and substantial improvements to existing Superhighways. No specific mention is made of liaison with boroughs on the Superhighways. However, the document does say that
some parking along Superhighways may need to be removed in partnership with boroughs.

The vision also includes a cross-London network of Quietways on low-traffic back streets and other routes, which will have good surfacing, be clearly signed and will be particularly suited to new cyclists. The Mayor is looking to local budgets to add to TfL funding to help make the Quietways, particularly the off-road routes through parks and along waterways, safe to use at night. The aim is to open the first Quietways in 2014. As with the central London bike grid, the document highlights that the routes will be agreed with the relevant boroughs.

Another key element of the “Tube” network is the plan to increase cycle spending specifically dedicated to outer London from £3 million to more than £100 million, linked to TfL’s analysis that shows that more than half of the potentially cyclable trips in London are in outer London. 

The Mayor plans to select “willing outer London boroughs to make into “mini-Hollands”, with very high spending concentrated on these relatively small areas for the greatest possible impact”. The Mayor says that “in many ways this will be the most transformative of all our policies”. All outer London boroughs are invited to apply for this scheme. Letters inviting expressions of interest have been sent to the leaders and chief executives of each of the 20 outer London boroughs and that interested boroughs should submit outline proposals and ideas by June 2013. The successful Boroughs will be selected in autumn 2013. 

Safer streets for cyclists 

Although the vision document states that cycling in London is much safer than it was in terms of the rate of cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSI), 2011 casualty figures show there was an increase of 22 per cent in cycle KSI casualties compared with 2010 when there were 467 KSIs. The document cites fear of injury as the main reason more Londoners do not cycle and recognises that more needs to be done to improve the safety figures and perceptions of safety. It also notes that serious accidents and deaths involving those on bikes happen disproportionately in two ways: while cyclists travel through the busiest junctions and in contact with HGVs.

The document recognises that TfL’s existing better junctions review has lacked adequate resources and a focus on the worst junctions. To address this the Mayor is increasing the budget from £19 million to £100 million – with the vast majority being spent in this mayoral term – and prioritising early and major improvements with the worst junctions. TfL is also reviewing its traffic modelling systems to “take better account of cyclists”. The document states that full timetables for the junction changes will be announced as soon as possible, but makes no mention of whether and how stakeholders will be involved in the recast and enhanced better junction review.

The vision for HGV safety is that no lorry should be driven in London unless it is fitted with safety equipment to protect cyclists, and driven by someone fully trained in cycle awareness.

Steps to achieve this include:

• the Greater London Authority (GLA), TfL and Crossrail ensuring that all their vehicles and those of their subcontractors conform to the highest practical level of safety equipment and all drivers are fully trained in urban driving techniques – i.e. gold level accreditation of the Freight Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS)
• building on the experience of the Olympics identifying how to get HGVs out of traffic at the busiest times of day
• funding eight full-time Met Police officers to investigate HGV collisions with cyclists
• continuing to support boroughs through Local Implementation Plan (LIP) funding to address HGV and cyclist safety issues with the caveat that “all future TfL cycling funding for boroughs will be conditional on ensuring their own fleets and contracted services adhere to best practice”, although it does not give any further details of this requirement.

The vision document notes that the multiple functions of the road network mean that the safety and liveability of town centres need to be considered alongside other functions including moving people and goods. However, there is no mention of the work of the Mayor’s Roads Task Force, which is currently conducting work in this area. The vision says that a caseby-case approach will be taken on the use of 20mph limits on TfL roads, but the speed limit will be reduced to 20mph at several locations on the TfL network where cycle improvements are planned.

Additional measures to increase safety include:
• expanding the number of Met Police officers, from 39 to 50, to improve enforcement against antisocial road use behaviour, including by motorists and cyclists
• funding children’s cycle training at all schools in London and more funding for adult cycle training (delivered through the boroughs), although no further details are given.

More people cycling and better places

Measures and approaches put forward in the vision document to encourage more people to cycle include:
• delivering 80,000 additional cycle parking spaces in residential locations, stations, workplaces and other places by 2016, including a “cycle superhub” in at least one central London mainline rail station, with storage for thousands of bikes, good security, London’s largest Cycle Hire docking station and good cycle routes radiating from the hub
• encouraging communities to design their own safe cycling routes to school by providing funding, for which schools and boroughs can bid, to pilot “Cycle to School Partnerships” to initiate such approaches
• expanding the Cycle Hire scheme, including working with boroughs who wish to pay to expand the size of docking stations
• exploring the potential of electric bikes
• encouraging cycling through the boroughs and other partners, recognising that “boroughs will play a key role in our plans by helping to develop, fund and deliver better and safer routes for cycling”.

Better places for everyone

The section on “Better places for everyone” is the least specific on measures and reiterates some of the specific elements previously cited in the document, but linking them to wider benefits – including better neighbourhoods, more prosperous places, better transport and a healthier city.

The Mayor’s vision for cycling articulates a step-change in the Mayor’s ambitions for cycling in London in a way that no other document from the Mayor has done to date. It includes a number of innovative and new policies, and new funding as well as reiterating some previously announced approaches. However, it does not give clear direction to TfL to prioritise walking and cycling as the general rule on London’s streets and, while a large slice (£400 million) of the proposed total funding is to be spent in the remainder of this Mayoral term, it appears that significantly less is planned to be spent per year for the remainder of the 10-year period that the vision document covers.