Street Talks 7; Gehl Architects on putting people first in public places

Street Talks, the monthly liveable city "drink tank" at the Clerkenwell pub the Yorkshire Grey continue apace and just keep getting better.  Previous talks have covered air quality, cycling infrastructure and traffic justice in London amongst other subjects, all focussing on how a fairer, cleaner, healthier and more pleasant future for London can be achieved by changing the way we move around our city.  (Indeed, if you've missed any of the previous talks the slides and the audio are available to listen again here)

Next Tuesday, the 4th October, will perhaps be the most exciting Street Talk yet.  Oliver Schulze, studio director from Gehl Architects in Copenhagen, will be talking on how to re-introduce public life in to city spaces which have come to be dominated by the motor car.  Movement for Liveable London (the people behind Street Talks) describe Tuesday night's talk; "Join us for a journey from Copenhagen to the bike lanes of LA – via taco trucks, snowball fights in Times Square, surface parking lots, Starbucks and Disneyland – as we consider how to put the public back into the public realm. What needs to be done to ensure walking down the street or pausing to chat in a local square is a pleasure rather than a chore? What lessons can London learn from recent efforts to prioritise pedestrians in cities across the world, including New York and even car centric Los Angeles?"

 Road space reclaimed for people in New York City.  London needs more places to just sit! (via Making Cities for People)

I was lucky enough to meet Jan Gehl himself earlier this year (see my write up of my run in with Communities Secretary Eric "Rubber Nickers" Pickles under the watchful gaze of Professor Gehl here!) and there's nothing that his firm doesn't know about creating vibrant, liveable, safe and people-orientated city streets.  I only wish we could get Boris Johnson and half of Transport for London along next Tuesday night!

Street Talks is free and held upstairs at the Yorkshire Grey at 7PM on Tuesday 4th October.  The upstairs is open for food (excellent fish and chips), drinks and networking from 6PM.  From professionals to enthusiasts, everyone is welcome and encouraged to share ideas and expertise.  Come early; seats and space are on a first come first served basis and this talk is likely to be standing room only. 

You can contribute to the discussion via Twitter by following @liveablelondon and using the hashtag #StreetTalks  Gehl Architects blog about their work at Making Cities for People

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City of London Cycle Style photography exhibition opens to the public

Last night I attended the Lord Mayor of London's launch of the City Cycle Style photography exhibition at the Royal Exchange.  This was not your usual cycling event; there were bankers and brokers, lawyers and designers and all sorts of City types furiously exchanging business cards, catching up on their Blackberries and bidding vast sums of money in the auction.  But they did so for a good cause (all in aid of the Lord Mayor's charity, Bear Necessities) (His name is Michael Bear, geddit?) and did so whilst surrounded by gorgeous pictures by photographer Horst A. Friedrichs of cyclists in the city. 

From snaps of Paul Smith, local celebrities and even the Mayor himself, to photos of local couriers and everyday riders - all were given the glamorous treatment and committed to celluloid.  And it seemed to work; around me people were over heard talking about cycling "Why don't you ride a bike?", "Why is it so hard to ride in London?", "Wouldn't it be great if it was like Amsterdam..?"  These are the seeds with which people begin to think about cycling, and perhaps start to tune in to the sort of questions raised over at the Cyclists in the City blog.  Fun though last year's event format was, sometimes it's good to break out of the crowd of usual suspects who normally make up these events and bring cycling's positive message to a new audience. 

And whilst some of these photos might force the chic urban cycling concept a little, anything that offers an alternative to the more prevalent Lance Armstrong look that surrounds bicycle promotion in the UK gets a tick in my books.

Donna Ida Thornton of denim boutique Donna Ida rides a 2010 Specialized Globe Carmel 3

Drag artist extraordinaire and local personality Johnny Woo rides a 3 speed Dutchie in some serious heels!

Chocolatier and local businessman Paul A Young rides a Gazelle Tour Populaire

If you weren't there last night, you haven't missed your chance to catch the fabulous photography of Mr Friedrichs.  His prints will be on display in the open air to the general public 24 hours a day in the streets around the Royal Exchange until October 29th.  Be sure to check it out!

This is the second cycle fashion photography exhibition I've attended so far this year, the other being mounted by the Royal Borough of Kensignton and Chelsea and which included fantastic photographs of local residents who cycle.  Be sure to check out my write up of the "Like Riding a Bike" exhibition here.

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Why Leicester could be the next Copenhagen... if it wants to be

Before the summer break I was invited to the city of Leicester to take part in their Ride Leicester bicycle festival.   There were film screenings, workshops, presentations and a Sky Ride.  We took to the streets for a fun, friendly film-themed Critical Mass which will from now on forever be remembered as the wettest bike ride in the Western World...

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No such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes, right? (Me, right)  Spiders don't seem to mind the rain... (photos via Photofinale)

Cycle chic, soggy style.

I was highly impressed with the city.  The people were welcoming and friendly, the city is diverse and vibrant, and it felt like a place on the cusp of big things.  There's bags of potential, some great architecture and the city council have done a great job of pedestrianising almost all of the town centre.  There are benches for people to wile away the time, beautiful paving, artists and street musicians and even fully segregated contra-flow cycle lanes.  Jan Gehl would approve.  London could do well to sit up and take notice.

People on foot and people on bikes allowed!

Living streets

Out in the countryside Leicester Forest Cycle Club ploughed me with home made cake and invited me to photograph their Time Trial.  I received a really warm welcome and there was none of the tribal divisiveness we sometimes encounter here in the Big Smoke between different types of cyclists.  As Gary Fisher once said, "Any one who rides a bicycle is a friend of mine".


As part of the festival I gave a key address on the theme of inviting cycling titled "Leicester isn't London, and London isn't Copenhagen", outlining what the three cities can learn from each other and showing that Leicester - and indeed any UK city - has the potential to be just like Copenhagen, if only the will to change is there.  Trying to record in a rush a presentation given in an arts centre bar isn't the easiest of jobs so you might want to stand by your volume button, especially when the coffee machine kicks in!

As well as writing the ibikelondon blog, I speak to local councils, companies and organisations on cycling, cycling infrastructure, marketing cycling and showing how anyone can build a bike in to their daily life - if you're interested in hosting a similar event please do get in touch with me via my About Me page.

Thanks to Eric, Andy and the Ride Leicester team for inviting me to your city; I hope to make a return trip and see how you are progressing with growing your cycling culture!

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Back from a break in bike blogging

My apologies, dear readers, for not letting you know I was taking most of September off from bike blogging.  Even your most enthusiastic author needs a respite every now and then...

I've just returned from summer holidays on the Greek holiday island of Rhodes.  And of course even when on holiday thoughts of bikes and cities are never far from one's mind.

We saw streets laid out on a human scale...


..the most amazing pavements built by hand from black and white pebbles (wouldn't one of these look nice in the middle of Regent Street?)..


...urban planning and density patterns ancient Greek style..


...and of course, even on Rhodes where the sun beats down 300 days of the year people were choosing to go by bike because it is, here and as everywhere, simply the best way to get about.



So now I'm home again; I've had to dig the bike lights out of the cupboard as Autumn approaches, but normal service will now be resumed on ibikelondon.  I hope you all enjoyed a fantastic summer!

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The launch of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain

They say the sun shines on the righteous, and boy did the sun shine today!  A diverse group of supporters of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain gathered in Lambeth this morning in view of the Houses of Parliament to mark the official launch of the Embassy and to make their message clear; Britain must build Dutch-style cycling infrastructure if it ever wants to achieve mass cycling rates.

Pic via thirtyfivenotfive on Flickr


From the very young to the young at heart; women, families and children gathered on bikes of all shapes and sizes (including a cargo bike or two!) for an official welcome to the representative of the Dutch Embassy in London who graced us with his presence, a speech by CEoGB Chair Jim Davis, and a short ride across Lambeth Bridge (where, guess what, the brand spanking new cycle lane they've just painted in is still utter utter crap)

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Cycling Embassy of Great Britain founder and Chair, Jim Davis, said:

“We’ve all seen some of the terrible cycle lanes around the UK; they cost us all money but few people are prepared to use them because they’re often dangerous and poorly conceived. No one in their right mind would let their children cycle to school on the worse of them! The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain looks to countries that are successfully building a cycling culture, and wants to use their knowledge here in the UK to ensure only high quality and safe spaces for people on bicycles are built from now on. British people are sick of paying through the nose for public transport, or fuming in traffic congestion. They’d love an alternative means of transport but aren’t prepared to consider riding a bike because they are afraid; not of the act of actually riding but of riding on the conditions the UK’s roads currently present. We need only look across the North Sea for great examples of how to design streets for people with safe – and if necessary separate – cycling infrastructure which will lead to a much higher cycling rate than we currently have.”  (See here for the full press release)



I'll let the pictures do the talking but thank you all for turning out and sharing such a marvellous day.




The Cycling Embassy of Great Britain; officially launched.  Now, on with the hard work....

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