How to Dress Well on London's Cycle Hire Bikes

Or on any bike rides, really. This new video from Transport for London is three minutes of cycle style advice, featuring the Barclays Cycle Hire bikes.

The video also includes fixie fashion and there’s some how-to-buy-a-stylish-helmet advice from the co-owner of Bobbin Cycles, one of London’s chic cycling shops.

Encouraging cycling is a good thing, argue docs

But exactly what works best and whether the efforts are worth it is harder to measure, says a new study in the British Medical Journal

Medical statisticians at Cambridge’s Clinical Research Collaboration Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) have number-crunched 25 cycling and active travel schemes from seven countries. Disparity in measurement criteria and other downers led the paper authors to conclude that, while cycling has clear health benefits, it’s far less clear how to get people on bikes in the first place.

The CEDAR study, led by Dr David Ogilvie, was set up to find out “what interventions are effective in promoting cycling, the size of the effects of interventions, and evidence of any associated benefits on overall physical activity.”

After analysing the 25 studies, Dr Ogilvie and his team found that promotional activities and improving infrastructure for cycling have the potential to increase cycling by only “modest amounts.”

The CEDAR team want to see more “robust study designs” so that cycling’s health benefits can be rolled out to more people.

And, CEDAR concludes: “Cycling offers a highly efficient substitute for short car trips of up to several miles. As such, promoting cycling could also help to reduce traffic congestion, air pollution, and carbon emissions.”

Studies evaluated included the BikeTexas Safe Routes to School intervention; cycle path connectivity in the Dutch city of Delft; the Danish National Cycle City project which included promotional campaigns and infrastructural measures; and Cycling England’s Cycle Demonstration Towns, created in 2005.

“Most studies…did not report the statistical significance of any net increases in cycling,” found CEDAR.

“Furthermore, in most studies it is unclear whether such increases reflect new trips by infrequent or novice cyclists (which could represent early evidence of potential public health benefits) or additional trips by existing cyclists (which are less likely to contribute significant public health benefits).”

Dr Ogilvie concluded that “significant reservations remain about…sources of bias or confounding in most studies, and, therefore, in the interpretation of their results. These reservations include the reliance of many studies on self reported measures of cycling that are widely accepted but are of unknown validity and reliability.

“Although the evidence does suggest that a variety of approaches have clear potential to promote cycling, from a population perspective, the effect sizes attributable to the interventions studied to date appear relatively modest.”

But this shouldn’t mean such interventions shouldn’t take place:

“There is nevertheless a strong case for promoting cycling on health grounds. At the individual level, cycling to work or school has been shown to be associated with greater cardiorespiratory fitness in adults and children, respectively, and in the Copenhagen City Heart Study cycling to work was associated with a significant reduction in mortality even after adjustment for leisure time physical activity…Two recent studies modelling the health effects of a population shift towards active travel have independently concluded that the health benefits attributable to greater use of physically active modes of transport substantially outweigh any adverse effects related to risk of injury or exposure to inhaled pollutants.

“Promoting cycling is, therefore, a viable approach to improving health.”

Cambridge King's College

The CEDAR team, while based in cycle-friendly Cambridge, with its myriad of bike paths, say studies can’t confirm that the segregation of cyclists from motorised traffic has as big a benefit as many like to claim:

“Evidence from observational studies suggests that changing the built environment has the potential to influence cycling behaviour, but few data from controlled intervention studies are currently available to confirm this. Our review shows that it is unclear whether increases in cycling could be achieved at lower cost by addressing attitudes and perceptions about cycling.”

According to research by Cycling England, the UK’s six Cycle Demonstration Towns saw a 25 prevent increase in the number of trips taken by bike between 2005 and 2009.

In 2005, six places were chosen to be Cycling Demonstration Towns – Aylesbury, Brighton and Hove, Darlington, Derby, Exeter and Lancaster with Morecambe. Bristol was later added as a Cycling Demonstration City.

The Department for Transport provided each town with £5 per head to spend per year, match-funded by local authorities. The average amount spent by other local authorities on cycling has usually been £1 per head.

Aylesbury used the funding to publicise its existing cycle routes with colour coding and signs. Darlington doubled the length of its cycle path network. Brighton and Hove targeted neighbourhoods with personalised travel plans. Lancaster with Morecambe upgraded canal path routes.

Using automatic counters on selected routes, Cycling England said the first three years of the Cycling Demonstration Towns saw the number of trips taken by cyclists in the towns rising by an average of 27 percent.

Phillip Darnton, chairman of Cycling England, has ling maintained that: “The high levels of cycling in many European cities are the result of consistent policy and sustained investment over two decades. If the level of growth seen across the six towns is sustained for 20 years, cycling trips will rise fivefold. This will have a transformational effect on health and make a major contribution to cutting carbon emissions and congestion.”

Funding for the Cycling Demonstration Towns runs out in 2011. Last week, the Coalition Government abolished Cycling England.

Bonfire of the quangos set for Thursday

This coming Thursday, it will be announced in Parliament that Cycling England – and up to 176 other quangos; some vital, others less so – will be abolished.

No amount of lobbying could have saved Cycling England, despite the fact it was one of the vital quangos, employed just four people and cost peanuts to run.

However, as revealed on, Bikeability training – a core function of Cycling England – will be saved, although a vehicle for its administration has yet to be revealed. To keep ‘Cycling proficiency for the 21st Century’ ticking over will cost £10m a year. There are 2000+ Bikeability instructors in the UK, some of whom now rely on the scheme for their living.

The fate of Cycling Demonstration towns – and the city, Bristol – is unknown but continued funding could come from the recently announced Local Sustainable Transport Fund.

Thursday’s announcement in Parliament will confirm the worst fears of cycling advocates but Cycling England will not disappear overnight. Cycling England staff are on contract until the middle of next year and there will need to be an orderly winding down of the (compact and bijou) organisation’s duties.

Watch out for transport spending levels in next week’s Comprehensive Spending Review. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond is expected to be one of the ministers with the biggest axe – chopping nearly 40 percent from the DfT budget – but if he announces any road building funding whatsoever, critics will call foul. He has been pressed and pressed that cycling offers a good return on investment. Good for local economies; good for health; good for people; good for carbon reduction; good for de-gridlocking. Good riddance? What a waste!

To quash Cycling England but to build more roads to be filled up with yet more motorised vehicles will be called out as the height of car-fixated stupidity.

One million reasons why London is now a nicer place to live and visit

Later today, somebody will make the millionth journey on a Boris Bike.

London’s cycle hire scheme mooted by Ken Livingstone but now popularly linked to Boris Johnson will reach a milestone today: the millionth journey.

That’s one million bicycle journeys and as the safety in numbers theory can attest, the more cyclists there are, the safer it becomes for all cyclists. And more pleasant all round: bicycles civilise cities.

London has streets choked with motorised traffic but this is slowly changing, despite the fact London has little cycle infrastructure. In morning and evening peak periods, many major London road junctions swell with 30+ cyclists making it impossible for cars and vans to speed past (straight away). These phalanxes of commuter cyclists – some hardcore, some cycle chic – are now being joined by Boris Bike riders.

Mums can been seen joining their kids on journeys to school on Boris Bikes. Groups of suited business types can be seen jumping on the corporate branded hire bikes instead of waving down cabs. London, slowly, is becoming a better place to live, work and visit.

Ten weeks after it was launched – to members only so far – the millionth journey is a major milestone.

There are 90,000 members, making around 20,000 journeys on the iconic blue bicycles every week day. When the scheme is opened up to credit card walk-up customers, the journey numbers will sky rocket.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “A million thank yous go to Londoners for the warmth in which they have embraced our beautiful blue bikes. The zest in which people have taken to two wheels and joined the cycling revolution we are engendering in the Capital has gladdened my heart.

“The doom mongers and naysayers who darkened my days with pre launch predictions of cycle hire woe have been vanquished.”

The cycle hire sponsor, Barclays, is offering the person who makes the millionth journey, plus three of their friends, free annual membership of the scheme for five years. The four riders will also be offered the chance of an urban cycling makeover at the Bobbin Bicycles boutique in Islington.

Deanna Oppenheimer, CEO UK Retail Bank and Vice Chair Global Retail Bank, said: “The popularity of Barclays Cycle Hire has been tremendous. Londoners are leading more active lives and we’re promoting the benefits of cycling as a sustainable, environmentally friendly mode of transport, while taking our brand around London.”

Hiring a bike is free for up to half an hour.

David Brown, Managing Director of Surface Transport at TfL, said:

“The vast majority of journeys being made are under the 30 minute mark. This illustrates that as well as offering those who live or work in London an alternative way to make short trips around the city, they’re also getting great value for money too.”

Put your fave cycling caffs on the map

The Bike Hub ‘satnav for cyclists’ iPhone app can already locate nearest bike shops. The next geo-located goodness from the app will be cyclist-friendly cafes. 20 of the best caffs are listed below.

Miles from anywhere? Trashed your cassette? Don’t know the area? Where’s the nearest bike shop? There’s now an app for that. The Bike Hub iPhone app can locate the closest bike shops in a six mile radius of an iPhone. A future update will include the option to find the best cycling cafes.

The ‘cafe stop’ is a tradition in cycling. Club cyclists will often congregate at famous eateries such as Wilf’s in Cumbria or Café St Germain in Crystal Palace, London. But cyclists new to an area, or not part of a club, and in need of immediate caffeine-and-cake infusions will appreciate being able to locate cyclist-friendly cafes by firing up an iPhone app.

A bike caff locator app will be good for cyclists, and good for the cafes, too, especially the more rural ones. Check out the queue of hungry cyclists in this pic…


…that’s an awful lot of revenue, because cyclists eat lots (they need the fuel for riding back home).

Gosforth RC post hill climb lunch

The Bike Hub app uses OpenCycleMap mapping which is derived from the OpenStreetMap project, the ‘wikipedia of maps’. OpenStreetMap is a community of 300,000 map enthusiasts worldwide who collaborate to produce the most up-to-date maps available. Changes made by members of the OSM community can be available online within hours.

OpenStreetMap already has a ‘cafe’ layer and this functionality will soon be added to OpenCycleMap.

Cyclists who wish to check whether their favourite cafes are already on OpenStreetMap can use a postcode search on If cafes are missing, they can be added in situ via a free OSM editing app such as Mapzen POI Collector which lets you add businesses, local amenities and other places of interest to OpenStreetMap, direct from your iPhone.

Or consider becoming part of the OSM community by either learning about Potlatch or – and this is easier for newbies – adding data via your desktop with websites such as on


The following cafes are among the best in the UK at catering to cyclists. However, as some are in rural locations, not all are open year round and it’s best to phone ahead before relying for refuelling.

Hope, Derbyshire S33 6RD

Kendal, Cumbria LA8 9LR

Bolton Abbey, Nr Skipton, North Yorkshire BD23 6AN

Bradford upon Avon, BA15 1LE

Richmond, North Yorkshire DL11 6AW

Elsdon, Northumberland NE19 1AA

Blaydon NE21 4JH

Regent’s Canal, Hackney, London E2 9AP

Old Street, London EC1V 9HX

Crystal Palace, London SE19 1UA

National Trust
Surrey KT20 7LB

Chester, CH1 6EZ

Llanberis, Gwynedd LL55 4EU

Donaghadee, Northern Ireland BT21 0BL

Brecon, Powys LD3 8AH

Llantwit Major, CF61 1YP

Glentress, Scotland

Bruichladdich, Isle of Islay, PA49 7UN

Stirling, FK9 5LH

Glen Lyon

More Scottish cycling cafes can be found on the Skinny Tyres blog.

The Bike Hub app is a free iPhone satnav app which, depending on the options chosen, can direct cyclists on cyclepaths (Google Maps can’t do that) or can work out quicker commutes, often using short-cuts and routing stratagems that even die-hard cycle commuters don’t know about.

The Bike Hub app was launched on 18th September and trended quickly: at the weekend the Bike Hub app was never out of the top three free navigation apps on iTunes.

The app uses a satnav-style routing engine developed specifically for cyclists. Unlike standard satnavs, or Google Maps, thanks to the Cyclestreets routing engine the Bike Hub iPhone app can route cyclists along cycle paths, such as routes on the Sustrans’ National Cycle Network.

CycleStreets is a community-based group working on a not-for-profit basis. Cyclestreets uses mathematical graph theory algorithms to quickly work out bicycle-friendly routes.

The Bike Hub app was produced for trade associations the Bicycle Association of Great Britain and the Association of Cycle Traders. Bike Hub is the UK cycle industry’s levy scheme. Cash from the voluntary levy has allowed the iPhone app to be free on iTunes.

On iTunes, the Bike Hub app stresses that cyclists should not navigate with one hand and steer with another. Instead the app recommends the use of one of a growing number of iPhone handlebar mounts.

The Bike Hub Cycle Journey planner requires the iOS 3.1.3 Software Update or later.

[Note: Yes, the Bike Hub app will also soon be available as an Android app].