Thursday, 30 May 2013

A free country

1000 miles. No money, no bikes, no clothes and no clue. 

One of the founding principles of Bike Aid is that it will rely on the generosity of people to be hosts to provide assistance to any cyclist if they need it and that guests will repay their hosts with whatever their conscience thinks is just or whatever their means will allow. We think, on balance, this will more profitable for those concerned and society as a whole.

While many scoff at relying on such altruism, we find it already works well. For example, 'honesty boxes' are still thriving and a delightful feature of the Suffolk countryside.

So we're very pleased to hear, though long after it happened, that after thorough testing, this altruism is alive and well all over the UK.  

In September 2006 photographer George Mahood and composer Ben Cocks left Land’s End wearing nothing but Union Jack boxer shorts heading, where else, to John O' Groats and aiming to get there solely on the kindness of strangers to provide their clothes, transport, food and accommodation.

Eighteen and a half days later and without spending a dime they arrived well fed, well rested, fully clothed and on bicycles. Along the way they met many very nice people and drank deep from the well of human kindness and raised £1000 for charity.

And, had it not been for a prototype Bike Aid host, it would have taken them longer because sure enough, on the tenth day of the trip George reports:

...Soon after Ellesmere we unknowingly crossed the Welsh border. George heard a sinister hissing of air, and then saw a huge thorn poking out of The Falcon’s front tyre. We had no puncture repair kit, or pump. We walked to a nearby house, but they couldn't help and asked us to try next door. Peter, the man who answered the door, kept laughing at us for some reason, but lent us a pump and repair kit, and within minutes The Falcon was fixed. It turned out to be the only puncture that either of us received on the entire trip, and it is quite fitting that Wales made its mark on our journey. If it hadn't been for the thorn, we would've passed through Wales un-noticed, and would not have experienced the Welsh generosity shown by Peter.
They were accompanied by a film crew and so hope to produce a documentary. Meantime there's a jolly amusing book to enjoy.

Visit George’s website for the rest of the story and George's slide show of the many other OFFICIALLY very nice people like Peter who helped them.

An original 'Bike Aid' host
Peter, if you are still a Bike Aid host, please get in touch and we'll put you on the map and the blog.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Cycle Safety in the UK

I was sent this by Georgia Penny from who is working on behalf of Osbornes Solicitors LLP who produced this infographic highlighting the benefits and risks of cycling in the UK. It illustrates the need for legislation to protect cyclists.

There is also a video version of the infographic here.

The popularity of cycling has increased hugely in recent years. The number of people who own a bicycle has doubled over the last 10 years and there are continuous campaigns which are run to improve cycle safety. However, there is still a lot which needs be done before we can say that cyclists and motorist are travelling together in a harmonious way and before those travelling on two wheels are completely safe.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Host Profile: The Pink Pitstop, Bankside
Through Cyclehoop Bike Aid heard that Better Bankside have introduced London’s first free cycle repair workstation. We have written to them asking for some background info to complete this profile.

"The Pink Pit Stop" is a bike stand that fits any bike with a track pump, tools including tyre levers and an adjustable wrench.

The tools are tethered by aircraft cables. We don't know where you can obtain a puncture repair kit nearby, we hope a local shop stocks them but what if the stranded cyclist didn't have any money with them? This difficulty is what the Bike Aid concept overcomes.

While providing two out of three essentials (spanner, patch and pump) ain't bad, without access to a small patch and some glue, that cost pennies, a puncture becomes a major hassle.

Our critique of these stands is also they may become a 'tickbox' of cycle infrastructure provision without a thought to the social aspects of cycling and its potential to build communities. If the stand is not located in an amenable place, it won't be used by people for routine maintenance, especially if the tools are worn. Emergency use is statistically small so difficult to justify on cost, hence why we advocate the no-cost Bike Aid model. We wonder would cyclists put a burred wrench onto their exquisite soft chrome nuts? However, a cluster of these stands in a park near a cafe could perhaps become a social space; a meet-up place for social cycling. But rather than be provided blind, we think they should be provided in response to demand, say if a local people lobby for one to be placed in their community so giving the providers some confidence it will be used and that those users will take 'ownership' of it. 

The Pink Pitstop is located at the Better Bankside Community Space, 18 Great Guildford Street, SE1

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Millennium Green Cycle Path Ride

At yesterday's (18/5/13) opening of the Millennium Green Cycle Path the sky was very overcast but today there was bright spring sunshine, so it was a perfect opportunity to to show how the new path makes it more pleasant and safer to reach Halesworth from Bramfield, Walpole or Wenhaston via the Mells Crossing, which is now part of National Cycle Route 1.

The little Flip camera used was a bit shaky as it was only mounted on a Gorilla Grip on the handlebars but you get the idea. Plenty of cyclists and dog walkers were out making the most of it,  showing how the  path now extends the use of the Town Park into the Millennium Green. At the end of the route Edwards Restaurant in the Thoroughfare is usually open on Sunday mornings and it welcomes the hungry cyclist. Still a bit left to do on landscaping, installing the 'kissing' gates and rationalizing the signage. The cattle grids proved passable on 20 inch wheels.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Millennium Green Cycle Path Opens

For everyone, forever.

Suffolk Bike Aid rarely goes on the road to events but as hundreds of cyclists were expected to come to the opening of the Millennium Green Cycle Path in our home town of Halesworth on Saturday 18th May 2013, we thought we should be there to welcome them.

View the Millennium Green Cycle Path in a larger map

Eventually several of the 250 or more cyclists attending did need to avail themselves of the donated  tools and pump we had brought along so it was a successful day on that front but also we spoke to many people who said they would like to host the kits in their own communities.

The night before we knocked up these information panels and were able to make an exhibition stand from bean poles to hang them from. We carried everything; table, chair, tools and pump to the event on a bicycle. We hope that inspires others to emulate taking bike aid to events.

But enough about us. The main event had splendid turnout with two Suffolk MPs and several County, District, Town and Parish councillors showing their green credentials by coming on bicycles. A large contingent of friends of the late Brian 'Boysie' Tate came en-route to St. Mortiz on a fundraising ride in his memory along with several Sustrans officers and volunteers and Suffolk County Council's Cycle Challenge who were conducting video interviews. A large marquee was kindly provided by the Lions Club of Halesworth and all the bunting made by the community for the Jubilee got yet another use. A pay-what-you-can stall serving home made food and drink encouraged people to be very generous and the takings reportedly exceeded expectations, proving Bike Aid's ethos that trust has greater efficiency than control.

The event organizers and project r√©alisateurs Halesworth Millennium Green Trust asked local schoolchildren to submit designs for bicycles of the future and a held a fancy dress competition for decorated bicycles. Several prizes were given to worthy winners and speeches of thanks made before the ribbon cutting by a pupil of Edgar Sewter Primary School.

The Millennium Green is owned by the people of Halesworth and will be so forever. With a grant from the Department of Transport, the charity Sustrans acquired and donated the land for the path adjacent to the green but a small plot prevented joining this to the Town Park until a Green Party district councillor urged Waveney District Council to acquire the land from a bankrupt developer, so unifying a patchwork of gifts by local philanthropists and the town council's efforts of more than forty years ago. In the last seven years HMGT volunteers have spend countless hours on negotiations, fundraising (still more to do), debating the virtues of hoggin versus tarmac and a great deal of hard physical labour to remove dangerous structures, buried railway lines and undergrowth before the contractors could begin the work. They and the contractors then battled the worst winter weather anyone can remember against a closer and closer deadline right up to the day. Without a doubt it has all been utterly worth it. The town park has been vastly extended into the Millennium Green, children now have a safe environment to learn to cycle on, people on an industrial estate have a safer way to cycle to the town's shops at lunchtime and people (of all ages) in buggies can go deep into a nature reserve on its hard surface.

The HinT pay-what-you-can coffee stall did very well. Many people were over-generous 

Design competition with work by local schoolchildren 

Cutting the ribbon on years of hard work 

Bike Aid supporters from Halesworth in Transition, Town Council and Sustrans 

Uncredited photos courtesy of Halesworth Millennium Green Trust. Others require permission.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Bicycles made out of cars

This is a neat idea by Lola Madrid; it's a handmade bike created specially by bicycle shop owners out of real car parts designed to recycle as much automotive waste as it can.

Not to be outdone, Lola's neighbors in Lisbon have also come up with the aptly named Carma Project where the bikes will ride-back the mileage of the cars they were created from.

Leo Burnett Lisbon, CARMA bicycle, bike out of car parts, Recycled Materials, green bicycle design, B-Bicycle Culture Magazine, urban cycling, shared bicycles lisbon, recycled car parts, green design, recycling, green transportation, bicycle design, bicycle sharing

Friday, 10 May 2013

What Mary Portas forgot to mention

Mark Treasure @AsEasyAsRiding writes a blog about what should be the simple act of riding a bike in London and about how fantastic it is in the Netherlands. 

A posting of May 10, 2013 recounts his presentation at a Town Centre Opportunities event in London; the theme of the conference was on revitalizing urban space and keeping ‘The High Street’ thriving. In this he rightly points out a flaw in the recommendations of the Mary Portas Review into improving the environment of town centres.

The Portas Review recommends a number of measures to redress the balance, including a presumption in favour of town centre, rather than out of town, development. But on the subject of access to towns, the Portas strategy is rather unimaginative – namely, to attempt to make high streets as cheap and easy to access by car as out of town centres. In essence, the Review calls for:

  • free car parking;
  • cheaper car parking generally;
  • car parking in more convenient locations (presumably closer to shops);
  • and a parking ‘league table’, showing which authorities are charging the most (doubtless in an attempt to encourage them to charge less).
There’s even an attractive illustration of someone happily shopping, thanks to free parking.
But there is a problem with this Portas vision. Make parking free, or cheap, and allow it close to where people actually want to go, and the end result is cluttered, congested and unpleasant streets. And, of course, more car parking in towns means more driving, which means streets are noisier, less pleasant, and less safe.

Accessibility versus amenity – how the bicycle can solve the dilemma

Bike Aid wholly concurs and hopes that one day all those cycling shoppers will be served by traders and town councils keen to make cycling as simple and natural and convenient as possible for them.

At least in Halesworth, Suffolk, the town's Portas Town Team identified that cycling should be at the core of its strategy though it remains to be seen if there is the political vision in local government to see it through against short-term thinking of the local traders. The scene above is easily found in many Suffolk towns where pedestrian areas are clogged with single occupant cars, many belonging to people living within a few miles.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Host Profile: Whole Foods, Giffnock

The US retailer Whole Foods Market has been quietly storming across the Atlantic with its fresh, honest, quality-without-compromise food offer (and innovative employment policies) and it is expanding steadily in Britain. Meantime the UK retail giant Tesco has faltered with its 'Fresh & Easy' concept over in the USA. What can we learn from that?

Perhaps the cycling consumer is a devoted consumer because eagle-eyed Bike Aid fans have spotted it has brought another innovation from across the pond; at Whole Foods Giffnock in Scotland there is a Bike Fixtation public bicycle repair stand outside the store. 

It's not know if the store keeps puncture repair kits but this is a huge leap forward in the UK. Whole Foods is ranked fourth on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's list of Top 25 'Green Power' Partners

Whole Foods
124-134 Fenwick Road
Glasgow  G46 6XN
Store hours: 8am to 9pm every day
Phone 0141 621 2700

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Halesworth Transition & Cycling Exchange

Save this date:
logos / trademarks used for illustration only

The Halesworth Bicycle Team (HBT) is a community group made up of local cycling interests (including Suffolk Bike Aid) that has been enabled by Halesworth Town Council and Halesworth's Portas Project to develop cycling around the Suffolk town which is situated on the National Cycle Route 1.

The HBT is now inviting potential exhibitors to take part in a market place and meeting of cycling and Transition information and services. In the tradition of Hollywood financing, a dummy poster of the event is being shown to attract exhibitors' interest. If it needs to be any clearer: this event isn't confirmed just yet, but exhibitors interest so far has been very high. The more support shown, the more people will participate. When enough people say "yes" to make it viable, it will happen, so please get in touch as soon as possible.

Halesworth in Transition held a very successful 'Watts from Where?' event in 2011 which proved public interest in Transition and sustainable energy. HinT's members have been very busy lately with realising Halesworth's new Millennium Green Cycle Path (opening 18 May 2013) and the second edition of their local food directory will be published later this year along with holding a local 30:30 food challenge. HinT will have a stall at the market in the Old Print Works on the 14th September and will be 'barkers' to direct visitors to the Rifle Hall and vice-versa.

Home-grown vegetables
The 'exchange' will take place in some form or another on Saturday September 14th 2013, the same day as a annual charity cycle ride with 1000’s of cyclists of all ages passing the door and a popular monthly home & local produce market in the Thoroughfare (which is on NCR1) to bring in footfall. 

However, the purpose of this posting is to find if there is lots of interest or if people are already committed elsewhere. The HBT need to know so they can prioritize resources. Expressions of interest, non-binding naturally, from potential exhibitors greatly enables obtaining funding for street advertising and spurs the enthusiasm of volunteers.

The HBT hopes to attract cycling clubs, cycling organisations, sustainable energy groups, new and second-hand bike sellers, repair technicians, training classes, cycle tourism information, energy saving technology, Transition groups, food growing and plant clubs. If your organisation, product or service enables the use of sustainable energy, it should be here.

HBT want to offer stalls free to community groups. A small charge would be made to funded bodies and traders to cover the costs of hall hire and advertising etc. There is a refreshment serving area. Bikes can be brought inside, the ceilings are high, the hall has disabled access and there is public transport to the door.

Halesworth Bicycle Team

Have they missed anything? If you're interested in taking part in some way, please get in touch. 

Please contact Nat Bocking at Community Action Suffolk who is conducting this market research for HBT.

Mobile 07787 258137

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