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British cycling lore says that the cycling powers that be decreed many years ago that no cycling club was allowed to call itself 'London', which is presumably explains the name of Herne Hill's residents, Velo Club de Londres, it not actually being called 'London'.

I dislike people appointing themselves the mouthpiece of an entire demographic, and was never really keen on the name of the London Cyclist website, as it seemed a bit of a conceit, especially when the London Cycling Campaign, who could justifiably claim to speak for London's cyclists, what with them being a more or less democratic membership organisation, have a magazine called 'London Cyclist'. Which is not to say that there isn't some great content on London Cyclist (as well as in the magazine – see what I mean? It is confusing.)

Mark Ames' blog, ibikelondon, seems to me altogether far more modest, and more accurate. Mark does bike London, after all.

So I cringed a bit when I saw that there was a tweeter called 'Hackney Cyclist'. And cringed a bit more when I realised there was a blog too. Once again, there is actually a more or less democratic membership group, affiliated to the London Cycling Campaign, called 'Hackney Cyclists'. Their Annual General Meeting is this Wednesday 2nd October, and features a talk from one of the men that the kerb nerds love to pick fight with, Carlton Reid. Carlton will be presenting his book 'Roads Were Not Built For Cars'.

And on the blog is an example of Hackney-bashing, which is currently much in fashion in kerb nerd circles.

Entitled 'Why Are Hackney's Segregated Cycle Lanes Being Removed?', it features a large picture of the old segregated lane which ran down the side of Goldsmith's Row. Anyone who regularly cycles down Goldsmith's Row could have told the author why the lane was taken out. It went past 2 heavily used entrances to Haggerston Park, and the entrance to Hackney City Farm, which is right after a bend. This caused numerous cyclist pedestrian conflicts, and the section by Hackney City Farm was actually, in my opinion, dangerous. It also had a ridiculous S at the top where it exited onto to the road, of the type that would be more appropriate for a motorway intersection, and thus was inconvenient. I always ended up cursing when I used it.

Goldsmith's Row was used as a rat-run by motorists, and in line with Hackney's policy of reducing rat-running, the road was closed at the junction with Hackney Road.

So in sum, the reasons why this cycle lane was removed are:

1. it wasn't a very safe lane in the first place, despite the author describing it as the best cycle lane in the borough.

2. cars don't go up or down the road anymore, so a segregated lane is redundant.

The writer also fails to mention that the section of segregated cycle lane running from the junction of Goldsmith's Row and Hackney Road to the bike lights that allow safe crossing to the top of Columbia Road hasn't been removed.

Hackney does need to do more to encourage cycling, in my opinion, and I think the targets that Hackney has set itself are too low. A cycling modal share of 15% by 2030 is easily achievable. However, if you are going to try and criticise Hackney's cycling policies, I recommend that you don't use Goldsmith's Row as a starting point.

I was also amazed to see the following in the comments (I know you can find pretty crazy stuff in the comments sections of a certain sort of blog but still!):

Frankly, I would like to see the Hackney Branch of the LCC expelled from the LCC.

I don't know who the commenter or the blogger are, but I do hope that the blogger, if not the commenter, come along to the AGM or any of the monthly meetings, and gets involved. I know that Trevor would welcome more input from Hackney's cyclists.

 

When I first started cycling seriously, after I had become a bicycle courier (or bicycle messenger, if you prefer), I really had no idea about how to ride longer distances successfully. One of my earliest excursions was an attempt to ride to York in a day. In January.

I had no idea how far it was, but I guessed that it was a little over 100 miles, maybe 120 or something. My route choice was not at all sophisticated. I had decided to ride up the A10 all the way to Royston, and then head up towards Peterborough, taking in a short section on A1, and then pick up the A14.

I left very early in the morning. As it was January, I rode for a couple of hours in the dark. Miraculously, I managed to negotiate the dual carriage-way section of the A10 in the darkness without incident.

Shortly after dawn, somewhere near Royston, I began to think that I had broken the rear axle, as the rear wheel of the bike was snaking around under me. A couple of more miles, and I suddenly found myself lying on the verge, partially submerged in freezing water. I hadn't realised that there was black ice around, and that the snaking around was the wheels hitting small patches. I had gone down on a larger section.

As I had hit the wet verge, I wasn't hurt. Not even after I fell over again when I tried to stand up on the black ice. (Despite the fall, I didn't notice the black ice until I slipped over on it for the 2nd time).

Muddied, but unbowed, I continued. Never having really ridden a bike outside of London, the experience was entirely novel. Market Deeping, Sleaford and those other small towns were unlike anything I had ever seen, never having visited eastern England before. There wasn't a lot going on, it seemed to me, unless you counted youths milling around the bus shelter.

As I progressed into Lincolnshire, I began to tire. Like the novice I was, I had started too fast, far too fast. And the wind picked up as I rode into the wide open spaces of Lincolnshire.

I had never before been exposed to what I know now is called a block headwind. It's not that you don't get wind in London, it's more that there aren't any really straight roads, and you are constantly turning into and away from the wind. The buildings also serve as wind-breaks, so one is generally not exposed to full force of the wind, apart from when one is passing a really tall building, which create a vortex around them.

The wind that I encountered riding up the A14 from Sleaford towards Lincoln was strong, and was blowing from the north east. The road goes almost exactly straight north mostly, with the odd tack to the right, or almost directly in the direction that the wind was coming from. It was strong enough to almost completely bring me and my bike to a complete stop.

I rode into this wind for some miles, getting more and more demoralised, riding slower and slower until finally I stopped by the side of the road and sat under a tree, feeling defeated and eating biscuits. I may have thrown my bike into a ditch, but I can't remember if I actually did or not.

Biscuits eaten, I decided that I would go no further than Lincoln. At Lincoln station, waiting for the train, I felt ashamed. I thought I was a weakling, beaten far too easily by a straight road and a bit of wind.

I looked up the mileage of that ride the other day. 130-odd miles more or less, from north London to Lincoln. That's a proper ride, not into the head-banging, arse-ripping category of long-distance, but well over 200 km, and therefore into Audax territory.

York? York is miles and miles further. At least 80 miles further. Google maps gives various alternatives and also offer the option to: 'take Public Transport'.

 

I think this title is silly.  Also, shouldn’t it be Best 100 Bikes? Or is it a play on the idea that every ‘real’ cyclist has a ‘best’ bike which only comes out for warm, dry Sundays? Either way, this book is more a catalogue of new bikes than a collection of the best 100 bikes ever.

It even has a pricing guide, expressed in relative terms of $ to $$$$$, where $ is less than $1000, and $$$$$ is more than $10 000.  There’s a Colnago CX in the book, and it scores $$$, so you can see that, for the likes of you & me, some of the content of this book is very much in the fantasy bikes area.

The choice of bikes is eclectic, with something for everyone to dislike (and like): folding tandem, electric assist cargo, Velorbis Arrow Gent’s bike, Surly Long Haul Trucker, the afore-mentioned Colnago CX, PK Ripper  … On the face of it, fairly comprehensive of the cycling spectrum, from the entirely functional Brompton to the as-yet unbuilt Intelligent Urban.  Ironically, these bikes appear in the same section, Folding / Innovative.

I am also slightly perplexed to find the Fuji Feather, a brakeless track bike, in the City / Utility section. Ok, it’s fitted with 36 hole hubs, 25c tyres and a 46-16 ratio (which, by the way, isn’t all that small a gear, and is probably a little too big for comfort), but does that really make it an ideal city bike?

After flicking through it a few times, I’m still not really sure what the point of this book is, though.  Is it designed to be an overview of the best bikes to be found anywhere right now, as the publisher’s blurb claims?  In which case, why are Bullitt not present in the Utility section?  For my money (or even if I’m spending someone else’s), Bullitt has to be best urban utility bike currently available, in terms of cost versus utility. If it’s stand-out, innovative design, then the Mike Burrows designed 8 Freight cargo bike should definitely be included, as there is no other mono-blade frame design even remotely like it, and Mike Burrows himself has come up with some of the most innovative bike design of the last 20 years, notably the Giant Compact Road series.

On the other hand, if it’s just straight-up bike pron, why isn’t, for example, Bilenky Cycleworks included?  Bilenky have been around for years, fillet braze as well as anyone, have come up with unusual designs, and have won multiple awards at the North American Handbuilt Bike Show.

Perhaps my sensibility is somewhat different to that of the author.  According to the publisher’s blurb, Zahid Sardar is a writer on architecture and design. It may be that I am not the target audience for this book.

Gripes aside, this book does have lots of glossy pictures of glossy new bikes, and the price is reasonable for 220 glossy pictures of glossy new bikes.  I would not describe it as a coffee-table book (do you know anyone with a coffee table? I can only think of one person, and she is over 60, and doesn’t keep coffee-table books on it) because it’s not hard-back and isn’t really big to be used as a murder weapon.

It does have a couple of pages of quotes from bike designers at the front which are worth a read.  A couple picked at random:

I love to see bikes becoming more popular as forms of transport rather than seeing them used only in races – Chris Boardman.

Cities are becoming myopic in their interest in cars. It is better to have vehicles that are more efficient – Bjarke Engels.

‘100 Best Bikes’, Zahid Sardar, Laurence King Publishing, ISBN 978 1 78067 008 9, £14.95