Showing posts with label London cycle chic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label London cycle chic. Show all posts

My bike, London

Just to add a bit of Autumn colour to your day, here is my bike - a very cheap, very crappy 12 speed Emmelle Outlander (never heard of them? No, me neither) playing in the leaves in St James Park.

But you know what?  I love my bike - not because of what it is (though I am rather fond of the purple retroish mudguards - they match my eyes) but because of the freedom it gives me - as a man without a car it's expanded my personal catchment area ten-fold.  Oh, and being a bit hideous as it is I figure it's less likely to get stolen.

All said and done, I was however somewhat upset when, a few days ago, some nit on a super douper expensive bicycle zipped past me and shouted 'Nice wheels mate - HA!' the other day.  I like to think he had to brake suddenly sometime later on the Westminster Bridge and ended up going over the handlebars into the murky wash below...  Come on people, we are all supposed to 'be on the same side'; aren't we?  Or is that too naive an ask?

A London cycle haven - Broadway Market

One of my favourite places in London is not just a fantastic place to pick up fabulous local produce and do a spot of people watching, Broadway Market, (map) is also a real cycle haven in the city. A friend of mine recently told me that he feels like he is in Europe every time he goes there, but to me this is somewhat missing the point - it's right here, in London, and is just as successful and real a cycling hub as anywhere on the continent.

On market day, Saturday, you'll be hard pressed to find a space to lock up your bike and you'll see bikes chained to railings two or three deep, or diagonally in order for as many to be accommodated as possible - busy bike racks are a sure sign of strong cycling culture in my opinion. The Regent's Canal - that green and blue strip of calm that ribbons through north west to north east London, gently burbles right past the market and the tow-path is often a clatter of "ting tings"' as cyclists announce their presence beneath narrow canal bridges. Above the canal bridge the fabulous Lock 7 bicycle cafe offers a unique space where you can sup good quality coffee sitting in the sun while the friendly, if not rather busy, staff fix your bike in their cafe workshop - surely the only cafe of it's kind in London? (Indeed, it even aroused the interest of Copenhagenize blogger Mikael Colville-Anderson on his visit to Hackney and he has some great pictures of the cafe)

On the market itself there is something for everyone - from fresh fruit to homemade cakes, and stalls where you can find a good quality butcher, fishmonger and more. The surrounding stores range from a proper old fashioned East End pie and mash shop (don't ask for a knife to eat with your fork, they'll just look at you funny, but it's yum all the same) to vinyl record stores and book shops - everything you need for lazy weekend shopping and quality retail indulgence (and it beats going to Westfield, that's for sure).

Bikes of all shapes and sizes, people of all shapes and sizes, all just doing their thing. And there is also some seriously quite competitive cycle chic going on here; but it makes a welcome change from the perceived 'lycra lout' image we usually associate with cycling here in London.  Hackney, the local borough for Broadway Market, has an 8% modal share of trips by bicycle (in comparison to Greater London's somewhat lacking 2%) and the highest cycling commuting rates in the country.  I like to think of the corner of Broadway Market and Lock 7 cafe as being a truly exemplary cycle haven here in London and hope that the effect on the cycle culture here will radiate outwards till everywhere in our great capital one day looks like this.

Girls on film, and who hates bike chic?

I'm a big fan of the range of cycle chic blogs out there, the most popular of which must be Copenhagen Cycle Chic - not because they make cycling look 'cool' or 'fashionable' but because they make it normal and mainstream again and not the reserve of the sports cyclists (that is to say, cycling as a viable transport alternative as oppose to being just a sport)

All of the websites (Change Your Life, Ride a Bike is also fabulous) show that anyone can ride a bike in any way they like, women included.

One of the key findings of a recent Local Government Information Unit report found that "Women in particular were highlighted as seeing cycling as something that cannot be done as part of a normal day without time for hair styling and a change of clothing.  [But] cycling does not have to be unconventional."

Matching bag & mud guards, Paris

So I was surprised as the next (wo)man to see a cycling blog recently with the title "Bike chic; I hate it".  The post (written by a female cyclist) essentially says that unless you are cycling dressed head to toe in lycra, wrap-around shades and a helmet not only are you throwing all the efforts of feminism out of the window you are also stupid and dangerous because "it is unsafe to bike in high heels".  Now I can't speak from personal experience here but I think you are just as safe cycling in an urban environment in high heels as you are, say, in a pair of running shoes.  What's more, the idea that you are unsafe for not wearing sporting cycling gear is an absolute nonsense, and these ladies from 1899 prove it (and don't they look fabulous as they weave in and out of the traffic cones in unison?)

Cycling being perceived as a normal, everyday and ordinary way of getting around town for all?  Long may it continue!

It's all about the cycle chic, baby!

The blogosphere is buzzing with blogs about bikes these days - it seems there's a definite move to get the message out there that going by 2 wheels is a good thing. Of course, there's more than a fair share of sports blogs and sales orientated cycling websites trying to make bikes out to be the reserve of semi-gods of athleticism loaded with cash ready to buy the best kit around. But that's not, in my honest opinion, what day to day cycling is all about, and neither is it going to appeal to 'Ordinary Joe' and encourage him or her to get on their bike in the future.

The radient and lovely Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton besides her Pashley Poppy

Two blogs I love to waste my lunch hour perusing are London Cycle Chic and Copenhagen Cycle Chic - loaded with pictures of bright young things getting about on their two wheeled steeds and not an inch of lycra in sight. Exactly how things ought to be. Can't you see yourself looking as cool as some of these kids out on your bike? Incidentally, Copenhagen Cycle Chic is brought to us by the same people behind the always-fabulous and ever-stimulating - anyone with more than a passing interest in the place of the bicycle in the modern world should take a look.