Cycling in London – Assorted Links 11/01/2012

Monday 9 January 2012 (and onwards…) – Bikes Alive, the organiser of Monday’s protest at King’s Cross, draws a balance and complains about London Cycling Campaign (LCC) in a second blogpost.

Sustrans leads calls for London mayor to use walking and cycling to fight air pollution – Road.cc

Calling London: LCC wants capital’s cyclists for photoshoot this weekend – London Cycling Campaign via Road.cc

Ain’t Gonna Ride In London No More – Kevin Blowe explains why he does not cylce any more.

Cycling in London – Assorted Links10/01/2012

Road safety protest brings King’s Cross to a standstill – by Fitzrovia News

Is this the start of cyclist pressure on Westminster? – The Guardian Bike Blog

As easy as riding a bike – Dawn Foster explains why he stopped cycling in London

Families unite in appeal for action to cut cycle deaths – The Evening Standard

Protect cyclists from lorries, say medics who hear their dying words – The Evening Standard

Swept under the carpet – TfL promised minimum safety standards for cycling in 2005. So why has it ignored those standards ever since? Is the Mayor negligent? – Cyclists in the City

How Britain has failed cycling – Cycling Weekly

Lorry driver charged over death of Hackney cyclist Dan Cox at Dalston Junction – The Hackney Gazette

CCC – a note on cars, carbon and cycles

How much carbon emissions could be saved if we could convince more people to cycle instead of using their car?

This question  came to my mind after reading a blog post by Felix Salmon. Felix runs a very good financial blog for Reuters and took issue with John Cassidy’s silly rant against bike lanes in New York City (as I did) . However, one point Felix raised in his blog really surprised me. He wrote:

The amount of pollution emitted by today’s cars is actually pretty low, while the amount of congestion they cause is enormous. I’d be happy to introduce Cassidy to Charlie Komanoff one day, the guy who’s actually done all the hard empirical math on this question. The pollution-related negative externalities associated with Cassidy’s drives into Manhattan are tiny, while the congestion-related ones are enormous — well over $100 per trip.

Can this really be true? Is pollution not an issue anymore with regard to cars? Unfortunately I was not able to open Komanoffs’ Excel file Felix is referring to on his blog. This is why I tried to answer this question myself doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations. I only focused on carbon emissions and took London as an example.

Continue reading “CCC – a note on cars, carbon and cycles”

We have nothing to fear but fear itself (and Newcastle City Council)

Road Safety really is an honourable cause. In Western countries many more people die because of traffic accidents than because of terrorism. The majority of the deaths are related to motorized traffic. Unfortunately, however, the perception that cycling is risky turns a lot of people off. “Isn’t it dangerous?” is the most frequent question I’m being asked with regard to cycling in London. Of course, as always, stuff happens. But by and large, the health benefits of cycling are much bigger than the risks, as the Cycling Touring Club argues. Additionally, the more cycles are on the roads, the safer cycling gets. The CTC calls this the “safety in numbers” effect.

Given this background a new campaign called “Ghoststreet” by the Newcastle City Council is really outrageous. The claimed aim of the campaign is to raise awareness about road safety. In fact, however, it is scaremongering at its best. Or, as Matt Jones rightly asserts in an open letter to Newcastle City Council:

this campaign [..]  seems out of place and only serves to discourage people from cycling or walking.

In his first inaugural address in 1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt made the famous point that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself”. This is not only true in economic recessions, it’s also true with regard to cycling as well. “And Newcastle City Council”, one might add.

My Bikes (I) – The Brompton

This is my most recent bike and the one I’m using every single day. It’s a customized 6-speed Brompton. My general views on folders in general and Bromptons in particular are being discussed here. Configuring your Brompton isn’t particularily easy because the manufacturer offers a myriad of different options regarding the gearing, the handlebar and a lot of other things. Below, I would like to discuss the different options and explain my personal choices (M6L-X). I’ve done around 2000 miles on it in the first year, the longest ride was 40 miles.

My Brompton, ready to go

Gearing:

My bike is equipped with the new 6-speed “BWR” gearing. BWR stands for “Brompton Wide Range”. The gearing is a combination of a 3-speed hub gear with rather wide gear ratios and a 2-speed derailleur gear which helps to smooth the gaps between the three gears.

Before buying the bike I was also considering the 2-speed version which does not come with any hub gear but just with the derailleur because I was temped by the weight saves. The 2-speed adds just 188g compared to the naked bike while the 6-speed adds 920g. Weight is an issue with folding bicycles because you will carry the bike quite often. I ruled out the 3-speed gearing rightaway because it almost weights as much as the 6-speed version (3-speed adds 740g).

The folded bike

Which gearing is best for you depends mainly on your personal tastes and where you are going to use the bike. If you’re living in a completely flat region and are sure that don’t want to use the bike in hilly areas at all the 2-speed version (or even no gearing at all) is best.  However, if you live in a hilly area and/or want to have a bike which is really versatile I’d strongly recommend the BWR-6-speed.

Handlebars

I decided for the classical “M”-type handlebar. The “P”-type is heavier, and the “S”-type does only work with a very limited range of bags. (The luggage system of the brompton is ingenious, I’ll come back to that later.)

Lightweight version

I opted for the lightweight version of the bike. Titanium is used instead of steel for several parts. The bike weights one kilogram less. That’s a lot given you have to carry it frequently.

Lighting

The SON hub dynamo and the Cyo LED headlight

I took the Schmidt SON hub dynamo. The best and most beautiful lighting option, unfortunately the most expensive as well. The Shimano hub dynamo wasn’t introduced when I bought the bike but it is heavier than the Schmidt and has a lower efficiency. The big advantage of a hub dynamo over battery lights is that you don’t have to thing about your lighting. You don’t have any hassle with batteries which are running out and you have a very good front light which is highly visible (much better than those flashing LED lights). The SON is so efficient that you do not notice any difference when the lights are on. This is why I’m always riding with the lights on. It’s an additional layer of safety.

Rack

I  decided against a rack. This is the only thing I would reconsider if I had to buy a new Brompton. Without a rack the bike is more beautiful and weights less. On the other hand, the handling of the folded bike is easier when you have a rack (and those so called “Easy Wheels”). Then, the folded bike almost becomes a skateboard when it is folded. The second advantage of the rack is that you can easily carry a sixpack of Evian on it.

Update: After 1.5 years, I gave in and mounted a rack to the bike.

Modifications

Well, compared to what I’ve changed at my other bikes there are not much modifications on my Brompton. When I bought the bike it came with a rather crappy halogen headlight. I replaced it with a 60 lux LED headlight by Busch and Müller (“Lumotec Cyo 60”) which is incredibly bright and super reliable: I’ll never have any trouble with blown bulbs anymore.  Nowadays if you order a SON hub dynamo the bike comes with a similar headlamp straight from the factory. I also replaced the rear light with a better one by Busch and Müller.

I removed the Brompton stickers on the main frame because due to tear and wear the became shabby very soon. Additionally I mounted a GPS holder and a bike computer, that’s it.

Update: Here’s another rider describing his personal Brompton. An here’s another one.

The pros and cons of a folder – a personal account

Buying a folding bicycle was one of the first things I did when I moved from Germany to London in 2009. I went for a Brompton which I use on a daily basis ever since. I’ve done 2000 miles on it in the first year and I absolutely love the bike. I think Bromptons are the ultimate machine for getting around in London (and any other town, in fact).

In this post I would like to discuss my personal views on the pros of cons of folding bicycle in general and the Brompton in particular.

Why a folder?

  • Storage
    The most obvious reason for a folding bicycle in a city like London is that space comes at a premium. In Germany storing a bike securely at home usually is not an issue at all. You either put it in the cellar, in the backyard or just chain it to a lamppost. In London, however, there usually are no such options.
    When we were looking for a flat we had more than 40 viewings. Only two or three properties offered decent bike parking options. Since bike theft is a huge issue here this basically means that you have to store the bike in your flat. And this is much more convenient with a folding bicycle. 

    Brompton parking at home
  • Theft
    The second big advantage of a folder is related to the first one. Bike theft is not an issue I have to worry about anymore. I just take the bike with me wherever I go. I almost never carry a lock when I’m riding the Brompton. In the office it sits below my desk, in the supermarket I put it into the shopping cart, in the theatre I leave it at the cloakroom.
    My Brompton has been at the Bank of England, the London School of Economics, the British Library, Tate Modern, the Barbican, the headquarters of Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC, top-notch restaurants and hotels like Locanda Locatelli, the Halkin Hotel and the Waldorf Hilton as well as an uncounted number of pubs. In the first twelve month I’m living with Brompton I encounterd one single occasion where I was unable to take the bike with me – in the National Portrait Gallery. There, the cloakroom does not accept folding bicycles because they claim that they are too big (That’s rubbish, of course!). I only carry a light cable and a small padlock when I’m taking the bike on trains.
  • Mobility
    Brompton Ltd. advertisements claim that you’re not just getting a bike but a different form of personal transport. To be honest when I was ordering the bike I thought that this was just the usual marketing banter. Since I’m using it I’ve found out that they are just dead right. The bike virtually vanishes when you fold i. This is why you can take it with you almost everywhere you go. Combining cycling with train rides or car journeys becomes much easier. That’s why folders are so popular with commuters. Fortunately I don’t have such a long commute to work but when I have appointments in different cities I usually take the bike with me. My Brompton accompanied me on trains to Manchester and Bruxelles, for example. There, I did not have to take a cab but just cycled from the station to my meetings.

Continue reading “The pros and cons of a folder – a personal account”