Bike spotting on Cat and Mutton bridge

I've been writing an article recently about some of my bike blogging experiences.  In four years I've written several hundred individual blog posts about the London cycling scene (at least 50% of which seem to involve Boris Johnson!) and have taken thousands of photographs of my fellow cyclists as they make their way around town.

In the article I talk about my favourite "bike spotting" point which is Cat and Mutton Bridge, over the Regent's Canal near Broadway Market.  It's the perfect confluence of a number of cycle paths, and the canal crossing creates an 'hour glass effect' whereby lots of cyclists from the surrounding area are forced to cross at this pinch point.


The quality of light here is often excellent, with the crest of the road over the bridge hump creating a great back drop.  The coffee is pretty damned good at Lock 7 Bicycle Cafe too, which always helps if you're standing around in the cold for hours taking photographs.


Some of my other favourite spots for seeing cyclists doing their thing is the home time rush past the windows of Look Mum No Hands! on Old Street, and the flocks of Boris Bikes circling Hyde Park at the weekend - they make a certain poetic anarchy that's joyous to watch.

What's your favourite cycling corner in London, or where do you go to watch the world go by, and why?

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Anonymous said...

By the 'tent' in Spitalfields, having a sandwich. Two bike shops, Boris bikes, commuters going into the city, fixies heading to Brick Lane and kids trying new tricks.

ibikelondon said...

I know exactly where you mean by "the tent"! It's a great spot to people watch, especially when the sun is out. This pic was taken just there the other month:

bikemapper said...

No lycra in sight! These photographs show the sorts of people who have probably never even heard of the Cycling Embassy, say, or the Love London, Go Dutch campaign, and almost certainly would not spend their spare time reading blogs like this one. Perhaps not surprisingly, their needs are routinely glossed over by many cycling advocates.

In Copenhagen, for example, a city which is only about 10 or 12km across, the average cycle journey is 5.5 km. Yet I have recently heard from an LCC supporter that "most existing cyclists [in London] know where they're going already." This is astonishing, when you think about it. Within 5.5km of the Cat and Mutton bridge are places such as Canning Town, Walthamstow, Tottenham Hale, Kentish Town, Piccadilly Circus, Lambeth Palace and Millwall Football Club.

Maybe the people in these photos do not use their bikes spontaneously. Maybe even many cycle campaigners are happy for this situation to persist, though for the life of me, I could not begin to say why this should be so.

Rather than trying to serve the needs of people like the ones shown in these photos, as a stepping stone towards an even more cyclised city, some campaigners want to create Dutch-style conditions, throughout the entire metropolitan area, almost overnight (certainly within the next four years, say). What concerns me is that, in pursuing this approach, we're just going to end up with snippets.

ibikelondon said...

@BikeMapper Perhaps you're right but we'll never know unless we ask. The key to achieving things politically is of course ensuring that there are enough people supporting a cause for it to become important to politicians. You mention that many of these people *may* pictured not be campaigners but we don't actually know, and we can't argue that "Go Dutch" was not incredibly successful in the way it attracted everyday and ordinary cyclists. 40,000 people signed the petition, 10,000 turned out in the pouring rain for the bike ride. Cycling campaigning in the UK has never seen anything like that before - ever - and should not be dismissed lightly. No one made these people engage or get involved - people chose to do so themselves. Perhaps all of us who are involved in campaigns should look long and hard at ourselves and ask why "Go Dutch" had so much public buy-in and was therefore so politically successful compared to other campaigns before we dismiss it out of hand?

bikemapper said...

Thank you for your reply, Mark. I am a big fan of the Go Dutch campaign, and am very impressed by what has been achieved to date. But just to be clear, I believe the development of an amenable cycling environment requires several steps, of which the introduction of a cycle network is just one. I regard a separation of functions on certain roads as a complement to an holistic approach, and certainly do not see this as an either/or.

I do not want to be misunderstood on this point, Mark. I am simply concerned that cycle advocates do not lose sight of the bigger picture, that's all.

Jonathan said...

I agree that the Go Dutch campaign has been an incredible success, but we might also wish to ask ourselves why certain cycle campaigners are so resistant to the development of a cycle network.

Mike Cavenett has written: "[LCC] continue to reject Simon Parker’s coloured map system as any kind of realistic solution to the dangers facing London’s cyclists today." I don't even know what this means.

Floora said...

Hi, just out of interest, is there any reason why, as a first step, the authorities should not set out to develop a network for the people shown in the above photos? Only asking.

ibikelondon said...

Thanks, Bikemapper and friends, for your comments regarding the network at this point.

My article here is about the best place that I like to go to take photographs of cyclists, not to discuss the merits or otherwise of various proposed bike networks.

As it happens, this location *is* part of a much larger informal cycling network linking canals, parks and a big chunk of the LCN+. As I highlight in my presentation here, this is one of the very reasons this area is so busy with cyclists: (From 30 minutes in)

Of course networks are crucial, and especially crucial for creating conditions for inviting cycling. Is the London Cycle Map THAT network? Perhaps, perhaps not. But this isn't the place to grind an axe with regards to whether LCC (to whom I'm not affiliated) or any other campaigns should adopt the bike map or not. Sorry team, that's an argument you'll have to have amongst yourselves.

Floora said...

Oh Mark, I am sorry if it feels as if your lovely blog has been hijacked, but as is pointed out in your marvelous presentation (thanks for pointing me to that by the way; your enthusiasm is really infectious), the ibikelondon blog aims and succeeds in sparking discussion about cycling in the capital. So I know you wanted to talk about great places to take photos, but as is often the way with these things, one thing leads to another.

talking about CS3 - When it was first built it was part of the disconnected network that nobody knew was there.

talking about the hire bikes: They are acting as a supercharger for making cycling normal in London, making it something that is easy for everyone to do.

talking about why cycling is relatively so popular in Hackney: The local cycle campaign group would have you believe it's because all of the terraced streets have been made permeable.

talking about the on-road cycle routes: You don't have to have cycle provision on every single street, but the point is, by adding and adding and adding, you start to build a network.

Now, the remarks you made about CS3 and the hire bikes speak for themselves. But let me tell you, not all terraced streets are permeable in Hackney - not by a long chalk - nor even are all the on-road routes that you identified during your presentation (at 32:48). And what happens once you get east of Mare Street (on your yellow route) is a little bit of a poetic flourish, I feel.

But it's the final point that has got me thinking. You have probably heard that in the City, they are converting about 30 one-way streets to allow two-way cycle traffic all in one go. And so, as long as you're realistic about who the cycle network would be for (in the early days, I mean), there is no reason why other boroughs could not follow the City's lead and introduce the network all at once, and then build upwards from there; rather than adding and adding and adding and developing the network one piece at a time.

And so, can I just ask again, is there is any reason why, as a first step, the authorities should not set out to develop a network which could be used by the people in these photographs?

P.S. Your recommendations for the City of Leicester (at 50 mins) seem to me to be very useful.

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