Monday 30 January 2012

My Cycling Moment of the Week - 2

It is great to hear that the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) and the National Trust have decided to increase spectator capacity on Box Hill. Where originally access was limited to just 3,500 spectators for the Cycle Race, this figure has now been increased to 15,000. After missing out on tickets for the track cycling, myself and many other cycling fans I know had been relying on going to Box Hill for a piece of cycle racing action. It was quite disappointing therefore, to discover that there would only be comparatively few people having access to Box Hill.

For most club cyclists in London and the South East, Box Hill is a cycling mecca. Its zig zags to the summit make Box Hill the nearest you get to an Alpine climb. To be honest, it's not that tough as climbs go. It's probably one of the easiest of the Surrey Hills to cycle up. But there is something quite iconic about riding up the zig zags, and then when you reach the top the views over Surrey are too impressive to be missed. Oh, and there's a National Trust tea shop that serves the best cakes. Many club cyclists like to ride up Box Hill as fast possible, using it as a de facto hill climb competition, then collapse in a heap at the summit, thus justifying the need for cake.
Go to Box Hill on any weekend and you will find cyclists in their droves riding up the hill, and even more queuing up for their just friandise!

So really, the inclusion of Box Hill as part of the London 2012 Road Race route has been a good call in terms of showcasing cycling in London.

The trouble is, every single cyclist and their friends and family including Old Uncle Tom Cobley will want to be there - especially given the popularity of road racing nowadays. That will make slightly more than 15,000 people applying for tickets, I think! Although I am happy to know that my chance of getting access to Box Hill has suddenly benefited from a 4-fold increase, I don't think there is any cause for celebration. The section around Box Hill will now also be a ticketed event, with tickets on sale in April. The capacity at the Olympic Stadium is 80,000 but yet lots of people lost out in the ballot for tickets for the athletics events. So, if past record is anything to go by, I will only get onto Box Hill if there is a small section reserved for Greco-Roman wrestling where the cyclists wouldn't even bother to ride by! Or, I'll just resign myself to not getting a ticket and start making alternative plans. Leatherhead, here I come!

Victoria's New Bikes

Following on from the successful Cycletta events which aim encourage more women into cycling, Victoria Pendleton has taken things one step further by launching a range of women's bicycles for new lady cyclists.
In the genteel neighbourhood of Knightsbridge, a very graceful Ms Pendleton showed off one of her two-wheelers - the stylish blue and cream Somerby.

Victoria got the idea of launching this new range while at the Cycletta ride last year. She noted the great number of women doing their first ever cycling event were using bicycles borrowed from their son, their brother or another male relative.
The ladies expressed a wish to ride a women-specific bicycle that they can use for keeping fit, and something that they can look good on when riding.
With that in mind, the Olympic Individual Sprint Cycling Champion set to work designing bicycles that would suit new women cyclists and women looking for a traditional bike that can be ridden in neat non-cycling clothing.
So, from 22nd March (online)and 29th March in stores we ladies will have the choice of a step through Somerby with optional basket on the front, a Brooke hybrid, or a Dalby hybrid with more gears and mud guards - all at reasonable prices from Halfords.

"I have cycled since I was 6, so I know a bit about bikes," said the eight-time World Track Cycling champion. "These bikes are designed to be lightweight, functional and useable, though not competing with performance bikes. I just want women to enjoy riding their bike while looking good. I'm really excited to have had the opportunity to design these bikes."
My personal favourite is the Somerby as I fancy something that I can wear with a skirt. I may have a little penchant for the rough and tumble of a bike race, but it's still nice to feel like a lady when I ride my bike at other times. Good call, Victoria!

Friday 20 January 2012

My Cycling Moment of the Week - 1

Happy New Year All!

Inspired by Andrew Neil's This Week programme I have decided to post my moment of the week on the blog. It won't be about politics (or at least only where it relates to cycling), I won't have the charm of Michael Portillo, the smoothness of Diane Abbott or the looks of Jacqui Smith! But it will be weekly and it will be on here rather than in a late-night studio with soft lights and a cosy settee. You won't even need BBC i-player to look at the post if you miss the first airing of the piece! It'll just be sitting here for you, dear Reader - for your enjoyment as you sip a glass of Blue Nun!

So, here is the first instalment.

Dear Miss David,

I am writing to both cyclists and drivers to remind them to take care on London’s roads.

Cyclists are reminded to:
• Be aware of blind spots all around large vehicles. It’s often safer to hang back
• Make eye contact with drivers to make sure they have seen you
• Not ride through red traffic lights. It’s dangerous and you can be fined £30
• Allow space between you and parked vehicles. Doors may be opened suddenly
Cycle training courses are available in most London boroughs.
For more information, please visit

Yours sincerely,

Ben Plowden
Director, Surface Planning

The good people at Transport for London (TfL) sent this rather helpful email (above) to cyclists earlier this week providing tips and guidelines.

I must admit that when I received it I could see the good intentions behind the note and how it could be useful to new cyclists. However, it made me chuckle a little and a sentence along the lines of granny and suck eggs crossed my mind.

Some of my fellow cyclists were particularly inflamed by the email and poured scorn on the memo, dismissing TfL as patronising and completely missing the point in terms of ensuring cyclists’ safety on London’s roads.

Although I did not react in the same way, I think that the people who got annoyed do have a point.

We have just rounded off a bad year for cyclists in London, with sixteen riders killed on the capital’s roads in 2011 (compared with ten in 2010). There were even two fatal accidents in as many weeks on the Bow roundabout, on one of the Mayor of London’s signature Cycle Superhighways.

Clearly, a review and re-design of busy junctions needs to take place. If people received details of the new measures being implemented, that would give a better signal to cyclists that TfL are addressing our needs.

A note like the one above may be useful to a newby commuter cyclist, but really TfL would be given more credit if they demonstrated what they will be doing to improve traffic flows for cyclists. Strangely enough I don't see any briefing to motorists reminding them not to drive so close to cyclists, cut us up at junctions or jump red lights....

TfL announced last week that it will be re-designing the cycle route on the Bow roundabout. I look forward to them sending me an email setting out the new cycle facilities.

That's your lot for this week!