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Fighting for "Mini-Hollands" in outer London; 5 things we can learn from Walthamstow

Recently on ibikelondon we've been focusing on the fight to ensure London's "Crossrail for Bikes" get built.  But these are not the only important plans for London cyclists currently under consideration.  Later in the week we will look at some of the issues surrounding other Cycle Superhighways; today we hear about Walthamstow's "Mini-Holland" proposals, and what the struggle to get them implemented can teach other campaigners.

Walthamstow resident Ruth Standing has been out on the streets trying to drum up support for the proposals to stop rat running through the borough and to create a more inviting environment for pedestrians and cyclists. (For the full bid document, click here)  Here, in a special guest post, Ruth takes us through her experience of 'being the change she wants to see' and helping to set the agenda where she lives:


Taking the online fight to the streets of E17, in 5 simple stages:

Stage 1: Despondency
 

My journey began with a deep sense of despondency. Whatever my mood when I left the house, my daily cycle commute down Lea Bridge Road from Walthamstow to Hackney left me glum. As I dodged opening car doors and speeding drivers with their eyes glued to their mobile phones I wondered how a civilised society could create such an uncivilised transport system. Other cyclists I saw on route looked just as beaten down as me. Worst of all, I saw no political will for change amongst my elected politicians at either a national or local level.
 

Stage 2: A glimmer of hope!

I then heard that Waltham Forest council was bidding for a large chunk of government money to improve cycling infrastructure in Walthamstow. Plans were mooted for a segregated cycle lane down Lea Bridge Road and road closures in Walthamstow Village to prevent rat-running. But I was cynical. 
"I’ll believe it when it happens." And then it did happen! 
The first phase of Walthamstow’s Mini-Holland trial started just over two weeks ago. Orford Road, a narrow traffic choked strip of shops at the heart of the Village was blocked to traffic. And the transformation was incredible. The street filled with bikes, children playing, people hanging out and drinking coffee, actually talking to their neighbours. Seeing a workable alternative before my eyes made me feel well, rather emotional! I felt, for one of the first times in my life, proud of the politicians I had elected to represent me. 

 Day 1 of the trial road closure. Photo via @rosslydall with thanks.

Stage 3: Step away from the computer!

But then came the backlash from residents, annoyed that they could no longer drive exactly where they wanted. Angry petitions began to circulate both the internet and the streets.  This felt like a call to action, but just ranting on twitter to those who already shared my opinions didn’t feel like it would cut it. So I put down my phone and went to hang out on my newly reclaimed local street. Within minutes I met Jakob, a local resident armed with a clip-board and a huge smile, collecting signatures in favour of the scheme. I immediately thought"I want to help you!"
 

Stage 4: Empowerment!

Over the next two weeks I helped Jakob collect over 700 signatures (although he collected many more than me). I talked to more people from my community than I had in the previous 5 years of living in the borough. I felt empowered and buzzing with positivity and my perception of my neighbours began to shift radically. In an atomised car-sick society, you simply don’t meet your neighbours, treating each other with annoyance and suspicion. In my case, my neighbours were those who bullied me on the road whilst I was cycling. But here I was discovering that actually many of them were just like me and shared my despondency about the way our public space was being used.




Orford Rd after the street re-opened after the conclusion of the Mini-Holland trial.  Video via @rosslydall with thanks.

Stage 5: Keeping up the slog!
 

Now the job was to keep going and keep up the fight. We collected more signatures. I contacted our local paper, angry about their negative and biased coverage of the scheme. They agreed to post a short comment piece on their website. It attracted a lot of negative comments from people accusing me of being a na├»ve ‘newcomer.’  But at least that meant that people had read it. And last Thursday, we went to Waltham Forest Town Hall to present our petition to the Mayor.

All in all, I hope that I’ve made some small difference to the future of my borough.  It sure felt good to step away from the keyboard, stop moaning and do a little bit of local campaigning. I’d recommend it to you all.


A huge thanks to Ruth for sharing her thoughts on campaigning for this trial.  Here's a write up of a visitor's perception to the trial, by Cycling Weekly's Laura Laker.  What tips would you share with fellow campaigners?

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As another Londoner is killed whilst riding a bike, how DARE the Canary Wharf group talk of "damage to growth"

UPDATE: 20th October 2014 at 13.45 
This article was originally titled "as another Londonder is seriously injured riding a bike", however very sadly it was just confirmed that the female cyclist who was hit by a lorry on Friday has sadly died of her injuries. (Source)  My thoughts go to her loved ones.  My anger only grows.

A steady stream of London businesses have been pledging their support for the Mayor's ambitious new Cycle Superhighway plans - from the smallest of start ups to behemoths of the City - one after another they've come forward with comments like "build it", "great for London" and "keep our employees safe".

Last week the Evening Standard revealed the massive support among London residents for keeping our cyclists safe; 64% of those polled support the Cycle Superhighway plans as they currently stand, the majority back building segregated cycle infrastructure even if it means taking road space from other traffic and - perhaps most tellingly -  a massive 71% of those polled (who came from all economic and political backgrounds) NEVER drive in central London.  

"Brave new world", you might think, but when looking around my own office that's a simple reflection of reality.  Our Head of Investment catches the bus to work when he is staying in his London home. Our company cook rides a bike across Vauxhall Bridge every day, and loves talking about cycling with one of our most senior lawyers who has a fleet of gorgeous bicycles at her disposal.  Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

Peter Anderson is the Finance Director from Canary Wharf Group.  He's also Chair of Transport for London's finance and policy committee and a member of their board.  On one hand he makes critical decisions about what sort of public transportation infrastructure does - and does not - get built. On the other hand he's one of the most senior employees of a company which has received billions of pounds of direct public support in the shape of transport connections; train lines, road tunnels, Underground routes, Crossrail.  I can remember when Canary Wharf was little more than a destitute shell on London's outskirts.  Now it is a financial powerhouse, employing thousands of people, the majority of whom come and go every day on those very trains and tubes and light railways built with public funds. (Fun fact: the majority of Canary Wharf employees live in inner London, of which only 5% drive or are driven to work - almost the same amount as arrive by bicycle according to this GLA Intelligence report)

 TfL and Canary Wharf Group's Peter Anderson

But being in receipt of billions of pounds of public investment is clearly no cause for humility in the Canary Wharf Group.  Far from it.  Their Chief Exec might tell the newspapers “As a company you have to be a good citizen and do what’s right”, but behind the scenes it seems to be another story altogether...  

The Canarf Wharf Group have admitted (to Guardian journalist Peter Walker) that an anonymous briefing paper against the Cycle Superhighway plans had come from them, and that they had been lobbying against the proposals, even sending a lobbyist stuffed with misinformation to party political conferences.  It clearly had an effect; local MP Jim Fitzpatrick has been spouting some dubious and drip-fed figures in Parliament whilst the Guardian's Dave Hill - usually a voice for cycling - has adopted a "calm down dears" attitude


On Thursday the 16th October Canary Wharf Group told the London Evening Standard "[we] believe that certain elements of the proposed east-west cycle superhighway could be improved to ensure not only that better and safer provision is made for cyclists, but that there is no damage to the growth and day-to-day operation of London."

The following day, Friday the 17th October, the same newspaper reported how a female cyclist went in to cardiac arrest on Ludgate Circus after she and her bicycle were crushed beneath the wheels of a left turning tipper lorry.  Her crash took place just a few metres from the spot where earlier this year another cyclist, Victor Rodriguez, was killed when his bicycle disappeared beneath a truck.  At least 7 cyclists have been killed or seriously injured on this one spot alone since 2008.  *see update, above.


The scene of Friday's crash on Ludgate Circus, 
Photo via @craigshepheard on Twitter with thanks.

Fourteen London cyclists were killed in 2013, six in a single two-week period alone last November.  Each one had a valuable role to play in our city: from students to eminent Doctors, from hospital porters to famous architects.  It is not just the friends and family of each of these cyclists who notice their loss, but the wider city too.  And on a purely logistical basis, each time one of these terrible tragedies occur the emergency services are scrambled, road crash investigators are roused, the roads on which they take place are closed for many hours.

How DARE the Canary Wharf Group talk about damage to the growth of London, when it is London's own who are being killed in such great numbers on our roads.  How DARE they go about briefing against these plans, seemingly more concerned about the speed of a handful of car trips vs the safety of people on bikes, when the very people who drive our city forwards are being killed on its streets. The suggestion that cyclists are somehow detrimental as oppose to central to London's economic success is a fallacy.

Olympic champion Chris Boardman described those who are briefing against these plans as "old men in limos".  But I know that the sort of people who are driven around London are fond of hard figures, not existential ideas about road justice. 
So here's some hard figures...
The two new Cycle Superhighways will carry 6,000 people on bikes every hour: that's the same as 20 Underground trains or 84 new London buses.  They will cost about the same as 0.0002% of the colossal budget allocated to build Crossrail.  They have the support of the majority of Londoners according to the latest polls, and the support of hundreds of businesses - including Deloitte, Unilever and Argent - companies hardly in the habit of being breathless about aspirational cycling projects.  600,000 journeys take place in London every day by bicycle, or 22% of the amount of journeys conducted by Tube.  This is against a backdrop of decreasing car use in central London.  In Westminster, where Mr Anderson lives, traffic volumes have fallen by approximately 25% since 2000 according to the Department for Transport.  

Assuming that something odd happens and traffic volumes don't continue to fall, and taking in to account the impact of all other proposed road schemes, and assuming that the new cycle routes will not lead to people changing their travel habits and traffic evaporation occurring, once built the average journey time in a car from the City to Whitehall will increase by a negligible 19 seconds. 

In short, bicycle transport in our city is now a big deal, a good thing, and it is not going to go away.  It's time we started to keep all of those cyclists - all of those Londoners - safe, rather than pushing for faster journey times for company directors in chauffeur driven cars.


Decline in motor traffic on major roads in Westminster '00 - '13

And here's another fact that is worth pointing out: the north / south Cycle Superhighway currently being proposed crosses the exact spot on Ludgate Hill where the cyclist was crushed on Friday and where another cyclist was killed in April.  If these plans which the Canary Wharf Group are briefing against do go ahead, cyclists will be separated in space and time at this junction from other traffic.  That is to say, there is a possibility to make safe a known problem junction where people on bikes being killed or seriously injured has become an alarming statistical probability.  Why would anyone want to brief against that?

I agree with Danny Williams at Cyclists in the City blog.  It is imperative that Peter Anderson from Canary Wharf Group has nothing to do with the funding decision for the Cycle Superhighway plans at the finance committee in November.  Furthermore, if he is to retain his positions at Transport for London he must declare his interests and disclose exactly the extent of the Canary Wharf Group's lobbying to their tenants, to journalists, to business groups and to politicians at party conferences against the Cycle Superhighway plans.

The sort of people who rise to become Financial Directors at companies like the Canary Wharf Group have an intrinsic understanding of how gambling works.  In this instance, they've played their hand, but I think they've lost.  It's time they threw in their cards.
  • For more facts on the Cycle Superhighways and their likely impact, The Guardian have churned the data to bring us this Reality Check: will Crossrail for bikes bring gridlock to central London?  
  • To find out more about the businesses pledging their support for the Cycle Superhighway plans visit CyclingWorks.London
  • To make your own contribution to the Transport for London consultation (every voice counts!) visit the proposal's designated page here.

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My Top 5 Tips for Cycle Campaigning with Social Media (You won't believe number 4!)

The London Cycling Campaign is supported by an army of volunteers who work tirelessly away behind the scenes to improve conditions for cyclists.  A number of them were honoured on Saturday with Campaigner Awards recognising their outstanding contribution, and I was pleased to be asked to present them.

Before the awards I gave a fast and furious presentation on the increasing importance of social media, and some advice on how to use social media to increase the strength of campaigns.  Of course, it would be contradictory of me if I encouraged campaigners to embrace sharing everything online if I didn't then do the same myself.  So, here's my Top 5 Tips for Cycle Campaigning with Social Media...



Special congratulations should go to Jean Dollimore from Camden, who received the Outstanding Contribution to Cycle Campaigning Award to recognise her years of tireless and successful work. Congratulations Jean!

Do you have some tips for effective campaigning? Don't forget to share them below!

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Your ride to work in the morning just inspired a whole album of music: introducing Me For Queen

The Beach Boys sang about cars. Kylie wiggled through the Locomotion. And Kraftwerk were more than a little obsessed about the Tour de France.  Music and transport have always gone hand in hand, but now riding a bicycle in London has inspired an entire new album of music by upcoming band Me For Queen.



I love how as cycling increases in popularity it inspires new cultural output; from the beautiful posters for the Grand Depart to high-end clothes dreamt up just for London riders, riding a bike has never had so much cultural cache. 

Four-piece band Me For Queen crowd sourced the production of their album, Iron Horse, and built up a name for themselves via social media before launching a few weeks ago at London's 2012 Olympic Velodrome in Stratford. (Check out the video if you missed the night, here)

Singing about everything from riding with deer in Richmond Park, to crushing on your fellow riders at the traffic lights (just another reason to stop at red), their lead single White Bike reflects on the haunting experience of witnessing a cycling crash:



Lead singer Mary Erskine's stunning vocal ability is put to work beautifully in this song, seamlessly blending with the keyboards and guitars to create a wall of sound that belies their tiny line up.  And it's genuinely affecting and poignant too, with Mary and her band mates clearly passionate about their chosen subject matter.  There's a blend of influences here too, from electro (Mary's other love) to classical (one of the band has a Classical Grammy. No really), with drums, bass and trumpets thrown in for good measure.  Think Beth Orton or Martha Wainwright with a London bent and a handful of Tijuana brass and you're on the right (cycle) track.

If like me you think the fact that something as simple as your daily commute can be magical enough to inspire people to write music is amazing, then you should check out Me For Queen online or take a look at their Facebook page and join their growing base of fans. 

The album, Iron Horse, is available for download via iTunes now and you can catch them live in Camden this Friday.  Just don't blame me if you're stuck with some beautifully crafted ear worms next time you go for a ride...

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Friday Throwback: what links Mark Cavendish, illusive medals and a Nazi-fighting Columbian drug lord?!

It's the last day of a busy week, so what better time to have another Friday Throwback, our occasional series celebrating the best cycling images from online archives?

When London hosted the Olympic Games in 2012, the first event was the men's road race, specifically chosen to deliver a golden start to Team GB.  The dream team of Sir Bradley Wiggins, David Millar, Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Ian Stannard were primed to win the first medal of the games, but poor pack form and a hurtling 70kg man from Kazakhstan put paid to such dreams.  It was down to Lizzie Armitstead to bring in the first cycling medal for Britain during the Women's Road Race the next day. 

The Olympic Cycling Road Race at Windsor, London, 1948.

But 2012 wasn't the first time Britain had hosted the Olympics, nor even the second time; London is the only city to have ever played host to the Games three times.  In the summer of 1948 the country was still under rations, and great swathes of London remained obliterated following the war.  The Games went ahead all the same, with the American and French teams shipping their own food in, and athletes staying on church hall floors, with host families and in a camp site in Shepherd's Bush.

Track events were held at the Herne Hill Velodrome, the only surviving 1948 finals venue you can still use today, whilst the road race took place in Windsor Great Park, over 17 loops of an 11.45km course.

The race started in a torrential downpour, meaning spectator stands were almost deserted.  The course - chosen at the last minute after the realisation that Richmond Park's 20mph speed limit would seriously curtail racing - proved to be entirely unsuitable for a bunch race.  Made up of loose gravel, and compounded by the standing water on the road due to the terrible weather, there were over 100 punctures in the course of the event, with the majority of the peloton retiring before the finish line.



Gold was taken by French war time resistance fighter Jose Beyaert who would go on to have an illustrious career of ill gotten means with associates of dubious origin in Columbia.  Alongside being accused of murder, he also commentated on cycling on television in Bogota...

Just like with 2012's race one of the joys of the event is that after the Games have finished anyone can ride the route of the race (See MapMyRide for the course).  But if you're heading for Windsor Great Park, you might want to take your puncture repair kit...

This week's photos are from the National Media Museum archives on Flickr, whilst accounts of the road race and the career of Jose Beyaert can be found here and here.

Whatever your cycling plans this weekend, be sure never to miss another post from ibikelondon again! You can join the conversation on Twitter or follow our Facebook page.  Happy cycling!

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