Cycle-less in Seattle

The recent failure of the bicycle hire scheme in Seattle has highlighted the issues of what defines a successful scheme, once seen as the de rigueur approach for mayors in the big cities following New York, London and Paris.

So what exactly do these schemes do? The vision seems to be one of reducing traffic jams, creating a greener city, and helping support a population with better health. However. what seems a simple proposition at the individual level, takes on added complexity and cost when ramped up to a large city scale. Bikes themselves aren’t that low cost, they need maintenance, they need replacing when they get lost, stolen or misused, they need moving around to fit patterns of use, and they need a simple system to use them which can be complex behind the scenes. Plus if it all goes wrong, people are then put off and become reluctant to use the scheme again.

While there has been a “me-too” adoption of such schemes by major cities, some seem to be a success, others like Seattle seem to fail. So is the concept flawed? At first view you might expect that anyone who wants to cycle will already have their own cycle, and that these cyclists might demand things like secure bike parks and safer roads, which are cycle-friendly, rather than cycle hire, especially as these cycles seem to of the “heavier and slower” variety.

Alternatively, “novice” cyclists will be more reliant on dedicated leisure routes, well away from negotiating city-centre traffic, to be safe and enjoy their ride. It’s no use just having stacks of cycle and no safe routes to ride them, so a cycle hire scheme needs to include some degree of supporting infrastructure. And it seems that it is this wide variety: of users, of needs, that make a successful cycle hire scheme so difficult to achieve. 

The other issue on assessing such schemes is that they can be hard to measure, how do you measure the impact of improved health and enjoyment? So are such schemes mere planning indulgences and wasted taxpayers money?

Any cultural social change requires high investment, similar changes in behaviour have required massive investment and financial support, such as renewable energy schemes, and currently investment in electric cars and driverless schemes. To make these step-changes in behaviour requires considerable investment, probably over a longer period of time than many “sponsors” (of cycle hire schemes) realise with their two or three-year funding platforms. So when the funding stops, or is considerably reduced, the scheme collapses. That doesn’t equate to it not being a success though!

No-one wants full cycle racks and few users, maybe for some the numbers just don’t add up and aren’t sustainable, and while low tech does not equal low costs, there are exemplary models of successful schemes. And besides in Europe, we have Centre Parcs, who for many years have provided a cycle hire scheme at their leisure holiday parks, they seem to make it a success. And you don’t need to wear a helmet.

CYCLE_95208444_hi010168924

 

 

Advertisements

Ice, ice…

Just been to the first public icebike event, full of new cycle technology. It was cool to have a look at some of the trends and see some new products. As well as the brand-new products and cycle-related stuff (Go-Pros, Garmins etc) there were a couple of nifty stands like the bike fitting one.

As it had been a trade only event, now open to the public at the weekend, it was a good bit low-key and less frantic that a lot of the public bike fairs. Well, all except the sale area which of course was jam packed full of bargain hunters!

It’s a sign of the times that there were numerous café bars, including a coffee stand manned by Thule – who knew! My favourite was Mule bars which is veggie friendly (some are vegan) and in a range of trendy flavours. Hopefully all good for you, and made in the UK. Of course we drove there – oh no did I just say that!

RIBA Cycling

While I do admire modern buildings, somehow another year of RIBA buildings are here, and yet again expanses of glass, pillars of modern materials be they steel or concrete seem ubiquitous. I grasp the concept that designers have to design for their clients, but surely someone wants a different looking building in the whole of the modern world, and not one that looks as tho you could design it with lego bricks and then do some sort of computer modelling “substitute sheet glass for lego plastic”. DONE.

I mean they’re all quite striking. But just heft and weight. Not something you can really say “wow”. Last week a Vulcan bomber flew overhead, on its last public flight. The Vulcan has been flying for 50 years. You still look at it and go wow, same with a Jaguar E-type, it just exudes sheer design style.

Burntwood School: Nearly £41million. Please can someone pay a bit of attention to the cycle stand outside the school. Presumably quite a lot of kids could arrive on a cycle. What do they get?. A cold windswept corridor of stark metal hoops. Oh and there’s a rubbish bin right beside them, as if to say this is an area for a right mess, the naughty kids and smokers. Oh and you can park your bike here. Not under cover, not protected. No. just against a metal hoop, near a rubbish bin. Great. Actually maybe it is a striking design feature – the blurb says they have “produced grown-up buildings for Burntwood School, which make kids raise their game, instead of pandering to them” so there! Raise your game don’t arrive by bike.

Cav is Back

July. And so it must be the Tour de France (TdF). After falling off last year Cav is back and after a few fast and furious sprints, where he missed out, he is now back to winning in style.

Froome is also back after crashing out last year, and after the team time trial it will be up in the mountains. Time for the grand challengers to show their form and try to beat froome, who looks on form, and Contador, who is rated highly after winning the Giro (the other grand tour in Italy, held back in May). Nibali is there and Quintana, both of whom have lost vital time in mis-judging the breaks on the fast and demanding long flat stages in the fast-paced hectic first week. But the mountains will be where the real action is and huge chunks of time can be lost and gained, by strength, tactics, response to the weather, and sheer luck (or ill-luck). Allez, allez!

Real Cycling

Recently completed our local Evans Cycling Sportive, 35 miles out on the road with hundreds of other cycling enthusiasts, or at least people on bikes. A lot of us were using Strava or other similar devices to measure and track our performance.

A bit different to those who enter virtual races where the registration takes place online and you do the performance in your own time. The good news is that these things encourage certain runners and cyclists, as well as rewarding them with badges and T shirts – although its not really “been there and done it” is it!! – and many are for charity.

On the down side they’re just plain stupid, you’re not really doing the same distance in the same place, in the same conditions, at the same time, so really its just meaningless.

Almost the opposite was one of our cyclists who decided they couldn’t be bothered to register – fair enough there was a queue- and just went on the ride and finished the ride without getting an official time. Well it takes all sorts! At least they get to enjoy the main features of a sportive, cycling with loads of similar people and eating cake!. Wherever you are, whatever you do, happy pedalling.

Get on your bike

Cycling records, a bit like buses, you wait for one and then suddenly you get three in a row…or at least the cycling equivalent. The current one hour record is being challenged, as is the kids-own story of how far can you cycle in a year!

So how far do you reckon you can get in one hour. On a bike. A push bike, not a motorbike. The one hour record has just been broken, at 32mph (or 52kmh). If you fancy your chances do it now as Bradley Wiggins is due to give it a go later this year, so it could change soon!

Meanwhile how far do you reckon you go in one year. Yes really. The mileage record so far is 75,000 miles. Which when you think about it, and yes it is mind boggling if you do start thinking about it is, is over 200 miles day.

Well this year that record is being challenged. Underway right now, Steven Abraham, who started the challenge in the calendar year, just like Godwin, is near 10K miles by this last week of February, with a possible target of 80K miles.

To make it a possible movie deal this attempt itself is being challenged, by an American. To make it more of a pantomime our guy is heroic and doing it on marmite sandwiches (or similar) and probably stopping for a beer or two. The upstart will be all high technology and isotonic drinks. Also quite rightly the yank is derided by plucky brits as he’s riding a recumbent (well sometimes), and cos he’s riding in fair weather on flat roads, but mostly just ‘cos he not a plucky brit. He might have the psychological advantage of following the record-attempt but maybe that will turn into his disadvantage.

In terms of accomplishing this feat it takes logistical planning skills, supreme athleticism but also sheer bloody-headed determination. So we know we’re going to win cos we’re good at that. Besides which, whatever they both do, only one man has ridden it with a veggie diet during a war, Tommy Godwin!

Spring Cycling

So as winter eases off and the better weather starts to arrive it was time to get out on my bike and start getting some miles in before the Skyride season begins. This spring I attended a British Cycling one-day route planning course, swiftly followed by instructions to get out and re-write a couple of routes. So that was my weekends sorted for a while. It coincided with OK weather, either warm and dry or at least dry, so managed to cycle the routes and check them out from a risk assessment perspective. You know the kind of thing, when falling off ensure you roll to your right as there is a 300 foot chasm on your left dropping to an icy-cold lake. Well something like that!

It was good to be out riding, which along with an early spring Skyride road ride, made sure I’m ready for the summer Skyrides. This commitment means I need to re-balance some time, so I have concluded my volunteer role with Sustrans, letting another member of the group come in to take on the role as group co-ordinator. It’s been good fun and interesting, but I don’t really have enough time to do it all and still have time for my other interests so it was time to refocus and make some choices.

While it felt good to help the cycle charity Sustrans, a lot of it became paper based, organising and scheduling stuff rather than being an active ranger or riding, so it wasn’t such a tough choice once I started thinking about it. One issues I had when I started was that we had an all-male group of mostly retired people. We have tried to redress that but I see why the role attracts the recently retired person, they are the ones who have the time to do it. I’ve been happy to be a volunteer but recognised if I didn’t decide to make a decisive break I would just carry on doing the same old stuff in the same old way. Maybe sometime I will return to it, maybe when I do retire! Best of all it gives me more time to be out actually cycling so that is all good.

Is it on Strava?

Strava. Like marmite you either love it or hate it.

Strava is an addictive app that enables you to track journeys, shows your route, provides time/distance data and compare with others. You can view other rides, runs and other stuff. I have even used it for canoeing trips, which I had to log as workouts as there isn’t actually a canoe option. I have taken to logging runs on it as it provides so much more data than the usual stopwatch, and there is something childishly pleasing about seeing your run appear on screen with a map and times.

I’m sure it can be used by real athletes to get credible coaching data but for now it’s a case of going for a run or cycle and setting the GPS to ready, to make sure that when the questions is “is it on strava” the answer is yes. It is. Been there, done that, and recorded it all on strava!