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Meet the Cycling Author

Posted by chdot on October 4, 2009

Chris Hoy book

Edinburgh sports journalist and bike book writer Richard Moore will be live at the Portobello Book Festival on Saturday.

The fact that he raced himself (including being in Scotland’s 1998 Commonwealth Games team) has greatly helped him with insights into the top riders he has written about.

His first book was about the great, enigmatic, Scottish, Tour de France stage winner Robert Millar. In Search of Robert Millar was far from authorised, Robert could reasonably be described as a recluse – though he did answer some of Richard’s e-mailed questions. The result won Best Biography in the 2008 British Sports Book Awards.

His second book was about another top level Scottish racer, with a much higher public profile. Heroes, Villains and Velodromes: Chris Hoy and Britain’s Track Cycling Revolution chronicled the story of a BMX boy’s development into a medal winning trackman. It was published in 2008, and was very much a ‘story in progress’ and included the eye witnessed report of Chris’ trip to Bolivia in pursuit of the 1Km record.

Entertaining new video (made from stills) has recently appeared on the web.

Clearly Chris liked the book enough to tell his tales to Richard for a brand new book. (Words by Chris, tidying up by Richard.)

Officially published on the 15th Chris Hoy: the Autobiography is expected to be available at Richard’s free talk in Portobello Library (3.00 – 4.30 Sat. 10th Oct). Tickets available in advance from the Library (max. 2 per person).

Posted in Chris Hoy, City of Edinburgh Council, citycycling, cycle racing, Cycling News, Cycling Scotland, cycling world, Edinburgh, Meadowbank Velodrome, Physical Activity and Health, ride | 1 Comment »

Government Relies on Spokes Statistics

Posted by chdot on August 5, 2009

SPICe

UPDATE: A civil servant has suggested that the headline should say “Holyrood Relies on Spokes Statistics”. “Cycling in Scotland” is produced by the Scottish Parliament not the Scottish Government. It’s assumed that the report’s author looked for statistics from the SG first. It’s also assumed that the SG relies on the best available statistics. If there are better statistics than those compiled by Spokes, Spokes would be keen to have them.

SPICe, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre, has published a concise briefing document titled “Cycling in Scotland”. Many of the statistics quoted have come from Spokes (The Lothian  Cycle Campaign).

Not only does it indicate that Spokes’ surveys of spending on cycling in Scotland are regarded as comprehensive/accurate, it also suggests that no-one in Government is keeping their own tally!

The figures have been compiled for many years by Dave du Feu who has doggedly dealt with Local Authorities – collecting survey answers and compiling the results (and interpreting where necessary). Most Scottish LAs supply information. Getting details from the Government is more difficult.

As “Cycling in Scotland” indicates

Transport Scotland told SPOKES that it was impossible to disentangle the cycle element of trunk road expenditure, but later told Mike Pringle MSP that it amounted to £2m for financial year 2007-2008, so it is assumed that this amount is spent each year on cycle related projects”

This is a footnote from the detailed table produced by Spokes, but its inclusion in this briefing document is significant. As Spokes reports on its own web site “The Spice Research Briefings are intended as impartial documents to inform MSPs and others involved in the work of the Scottish Parliament. They are independent research publications for the entire Parliament, not decided by or controlled by the party which is in government.”

Overall “Cycling in Scotland” is useful background information for MSPs, campaigners and anyone interested in encouraging more people to cycle. Usefully it distinguishes between the two key areas of cycling as they relate to Government policies –

Cycling takes two main forms:

• a form of transport

• a sport, including track and road cycling, mountain biking, BMX, cycle speedway and cyclo-cross

and explains:

This short briefing focuses on cycling as a form of transport. It outlines the legislative and policy framework governing cycling, identifies key organisations and provides cycling related statistics. It goes on to look at sources of funding for cycling projects and the national cycle network.”

This is a useful division and highlights the convention that cycling is either ‘transport’ or ‘sport’. However it is likely that in future a third division will be necessary/desirable.

It is increasingly being recognised that exercise is necessary for good health – physical and mental. There’s a lot of discussion about diet and obesity. Chris Hoy is “Scotland’s first ambassador for mental health“. But money for ‘cycling’ largely comes from ‘transport’ or ‘sport’.

It is quite reasonable to encourage people to cycle to school, shops, work etc. and (as much as possible) record statistics for this, but it probably largely misses the people who cycle for a bit of exercise or to take their kids along a cycle path to the swing park – or just for the fun of cycling!

More importantly the emphasis on ‘transport’ and ‘sport’ perhaps makes it harder to get to people (statistically the majority) who hardly ever cycle – and get the funding to try to encourage them to cycle.

Cycling in Scotland highlights the CAPS (Cycle Action Plan Scotland) process. This is a comprehensive look at ways to increase cycling in Scotland. (YOU can contribute until the 20th of August.) This paragraph outlines some of the intentions

3. For people to have the confidence and the right information to make cycling a realistic choice for some journeys: Provide access to adult and child cycle training and cycle maintenance courses with well trained instructors. Promote the bike-to-work scheme and encourage employers and education providers to become cycle friendly. Produce cycle network maps and an online cycle journey planner.

“Cycling in Scotland” also manages to highlight Spokes’ concerns about funding and future commitment to funding.

Unusually, the CAPS consultation draft was launched without a Scottish Government press release or ministerial statement. Perhaps as a consequence of this, there has been almost no media interest or public comment by stakeholders. However, from what comment there has been it seems that the policy intentions of the consultation draft of CAPS have been welcomed, although concerns have been raised about whether they are backed by sufficient funding. For example Dave du Feu, lead organiser for SPOKES, has stated that “There’s good stuff in the action plan but if they’re not going to spend anything until 2011 – and even then there’s no guarantee that they will – I can’t see it making any difference” (The Herald 2009)

Perhaps the time has come to look beyond ‘transport’ or ‘sport’ for funding. Aren’t ‘health’ and ‘wellbeing’ the main responsibilities of the NHS?

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Edinburgh Council Signs Cycle Treaty!

Posted by chdot on May 26, 2009


brussels treaty

City of Edinburgh Council is often criticised for the gap between its (sometimes lukewarm) pro-cycling rhetoric and the realities in the streets. Manifesto pledges for a ‘model cycling city’ are, so far, little more than words.

Things may be about to change. Fairly new Head of Transport Marshall Poulton travelled to Brussels (probably not by bike) to sign the new Charter of Brussels. Surprisingly Edinburgh is the UK’s first city to adopt its principles. (Even accident avoiding London Mayor Boris Johnson missed out on this photo opportunity.)

Marshall and CEC Cycling Officer Chris Brace were in Belgium for Velo-city 2009 – the latest version of the assembly of cycle planners and campaigners that was hosted by Edinburgh and Glasgow in 2001.

The key passage that Edinburgh has agreed to says: “To set a target of at least 15% for the share of cycling in the modal split of trips for the year 2020 and of further growth if this target already is achieved.”

The truth is this is hugely ambitious – but not impossible. The current share is closer to 5%. The target doesn’t necessarily mean a tripling of cycling (though that would be nice). Less car use will need to be a significant factor. More passenger journeys on public transport will be beneficial to all road users, but will do little to shift the balance between 5% and 15%.

Politicians (local and national) have to grasp the reality that having accepted that it is a ‘good thing’ to encourage cycling it will require a significant change in attitudes – AND money. More people need to feel that cycling on normal roads is ‘safe’. There is little scope in Edinburgh for many segregated cycle lanes on existing roads. Maintaining the current on-road cycle lanes properly would be a good start.

Cycle Training for all pupils (in school time) should be implemented as part of the new Curriculum for Excellence. Widespread availability of practical training/encouragement for adults (especially parents of school age children) would be a good idea.

Politicians have to stop believing that voters=motorists. Even where that is true they are also pedestrians, cyclists, shoppers, parents of children too young to drive, children of people too old to drive, etc.

The Charter ends:

“Furthermore, the signers of this charter call upon all authorities worldwide, at all levels to strongly promote cycling and to incorporate cycling into all areas of policy (health, spatial planning, city management, economy, mobility and traffic, leisure, sports, tourism).”

Earlier this year Copenhagen brought an exhibition (Dreams on Wheels) about its cycling vision to the Botanics. Perhaps in a few years Edinburgh will be able to justifiably boast about its own achievements.

Posted in Active Travel, Bicycle Film Festival, bike security theft, bike shops, Bike Week, Bikes on trains, ChangingPace, Chris Hoy, City of Edinburgh Council, citycycling, Climate Change, commuting, Core Path Network, critical mass, cycle parking, cycle racing, cycle training, Cycling News, Cycling Scotland, cycling world, cyclingedinburgh, Demonstration Towns, Edinburgh, EducatedTravel, European Moblity Week, Exhibition, Forth Bridge Route Campaign, Glasgow, HEALTH, holidays, Lothian Buses, Maps, Meadowbank Velodrome, paths, Peak Oil, Physical Activity and Health, ride, Safe Routes to School, Safety, Spokes, Spokes maps, Sustrans, technology, Trams, TryCycling, walking | 2 Comments »

Single Speed Sports

Posted by chdot on April 22, 2009

Photo sindändùne

Yesterday a man on a bicycle with one gear (in Edinburgh) was an Internet sensation – he even featured on BBC Scotland radio and tv news programmes.

It was just the latest example of a world wide return to a certain simplicity – bikes with one gear.

In the 20th century such machines were often referred to as having “no gears”. This was to contrast them with bikes with (usually) a 3 speed hub – most made in Nottingham by Sturmey Archer.

After the Second World War derailleur gears gradually took over as the normal method of efficiently transferring leg power to road speed.

In the 1970s and 80s 10 gears was the norm, usually in the form of a ‘ten speed racer’. Since then the ‘mountain bike’ has become the mass consumed machine.

The most significant innovation of the MTB boom is probably the widespread use of the triple chainset (the three chainrings by the right foot pedal).

The crucial component is the smallest ring which gives the lowest gears – making climbing hills easier whether that’s the Pentlands or The Mound.

15 gears soon became 18 with 21, 24 and 27 speeds becoming more ‘desirable’. Largely a triumph of marketing. More gears doesn’t necessarily mean better.

Having a bike with only one gear was once the only option, (think penny farthing), then normal for economy reasons – gears were expensive. Now singlespeeds have become something of a street fashion.

This has generally been a spin off from the cycle courier scene.  (This development is not always welcomed by ‘real’ bicycle messengers and the term fakenger has been coined!) If you earn a precarious living speeding packages across congested city centres, breakdowns can be costly.

Hence a move to minimalism – one gear, fewer moving/breakable parts. In the UK it is a legal requirement for a bicycle to have a brake on each wheel. On the rear wheel this can be a fixed wheel (the rider’s legs, exerting backward pressure, providing the braking), so a brake mechanism, lever and cables can be removed, adding simplicity and reducing weight.

Another advantage of bikes with a single chainring and sprocket is that (providing the wheel is pulled back to tension the chain properly) the chain doesn’t come off.

Single/fixed riding is particularly common in flatish cities like New York, Boston and London but it’s a growing niche in Edinburgh – there’s even a web site edinburghfixedgear.co.uk and the Edinburgh Bike Co-op web site has a page of info on hows and whys – plus details of readymade bikes and fancy components for those toying with the idea of a new craze or lifestyle change.

But its not just YouTube star Danny MacAskill who is skilled at riding a bike with one gear. (Sir) Chris Hoy has won many races with just one (fixed) gear on velodromes around the world. Like many children he started riding a bike with only one gear. His (very) early racing career was as a BMX racer. 

Another established (and just hanging on) track sport is Cycle Speedway. Edinburgh has one remaining track at Redbraes (video) where the Edinburgh Falcons train and race (new members welcome – bicycles provided).

Bike Polo has been around for over 100 years though it’s not known if it has ever reached Edinburgh in an organised way.

Bicycle Soccer is even less established as a world class sport. There are practitioners in America but it seems to be better established in Japan (video – note the specially positioned saddles).

In addition some people race mountain bikes with only one gear! The Singlespeed World Championships were held in Scotland two years ago.

Bikes can be fun with any number of gears. Some skills, and successes, take practice. Rumour has it that a skatepark is finally going to be built in Edinburgh (Saughton Park). In the meantime practice on street corners, MeadowbankRedbraes or indoors at transgression park.

Posted in Bicycle Film Festival, Chris Hoy, citycycling, cycle racing, cycle training, Cycling News, cycling world, cyclingedinburgh, Edinburgh, HEALTH, Meadowbank Velodrome, ride, Safety, technology | 1 Comment »

Hoy Stands Up for Mental Health

Posted by chdot on February 12, 2009


Superhero Chris Hoy is on a roll – the medals, the knighthood, the cheesy cameos in TV adverts for breakfast cereal!

He is in demand – personal appearances, game show panellist, big figure sponsorship opportunities etc. The pressure must be immense – and that’s not counting the training schedule required for future successes.

So it may come as a surprise that he is willing to attach his name (and time) to a charity that does not deal with a ‘popular’ subject. No cuddly animals, no high profile children’s charity – or even a sport or environmental one.

No he’s chosen SAMH – the Scottish Association For Mental Health. But that makes sense. Most people know that cycling is good for general health. Cycling is also great for mental health. The exercise gives a sense of wellbeing. In addition a bicycle is a simple tool for getting away to somewhere nice. In Edinburgh that’s as simple as heading for the North Edinburgh Path Network or the Union Canal or anywhere along the Water of Leith.

One great place to visit is Redhall Walled Garden which is in Craiglockhart Dell close to the WoL Walkway and the canal. Coincidentally it’s a project run by SAMH.

Anyone who saw how Chris handled the ‘fans’ after the bus top parade in Edinburgh last year will know how well he deals with people. They were excited to meet him, have their photographs take with him – or even by him – feel the medals etc. It wasn’t just about seeing someone ‘famous’ it was also the uplifting effects of being involved with a great sporting success.

Chris Hoy is a worthy holder of the new title “Scotland’s first ambassador for mental health“.

Posted in Active Travel, Bicycle Film Festival, bikeweek, ChangingPace, Chris Hoy, Climate Change, commuting, Core Path Network, cycle racing, cycle training, Cycling News, cycling world, cyclingedinburgh, Edinburgh, EducatedTravel, HEALTH, Meadowbank Velodrome, TryCycling | 1 Comment »

Chris Wins Again

Posted by chdot on December 14, 2008

chris-hoy-wins
Another
prize
for the rider who started track racing in Edinburgh.

Will it persuade those responsible for the Meadowbank Velodrome that a replacement should be a priority?

There will now be even more Edinburgh youngsters who want to have a go and maybe join Edinburgh Racers – but they’ll have to wait ’til April as the club doesn’t operate over the winter because the Velodrome has no lights or roof.

Unlike the Manchester one where Chris Hoy is now based.

Anyone who thinks that Meadowbank is just about producing ‘elite’ athletes should watch the video produced earlier this year.

Posted in Active Travel, Chris Hoy, City of Edinburgh Council, citycycling, Climate Change, cycle racing, cycle training, Cycling News, Cycling on TV, Cycling Scotland, cycling world, cyclingedinburgh, Edinburgh, HEALTH, Meadowbank Velodrome, Peak Oil, Physical Activity and Health, ride, Safe Routes to School | Leave a Comment »

CyclingEdinburgh in The Scotsman

Posted by chdot on August 26, 2008

CyclingEdinburgh was asked to comment on cycling provision in relation to the recent success of Chris Hoy.

It’s in today’s paper – on-line (if you have a Premium account).  

and here –

Every summer, for a couple of weeks, streets and courts are awash with ‘Wimbledon effect’ racketeers. There are plenty of tennis courts in private clubs and public parks. Swimmers wanting to emulate Rebecca Adlington are reasonably well catered for. But what about the provision for cyclists?

Chris Hoy’s fine Olympic performances are due to an alignment of talent, dedication, supportive (but not pushy) parents and a variety of back-up people and facilities.

Previous Olympic medal winner Chris Boardman’s “Secret Squirrel Club” has been developing the winning bicycle technologies. Not a cheap process.

The other key factor in Team GB’s cycling success has been the Velodrome – in Manchester. It was opened in 1994 and resurfaced in 2007 – seven years sooner than expected, due to intensive use. 

It isn’t just for elite riders; as the venue’s web site says: “we provide 1 hour track sessions for beginners with all equipment included at reduced rates for school, college and university student groups”. It’s not just cycling – “facilities include fully sprung sports courts For basketball, netball and badminton”.

By contrast Edinburgh’s velodrome at Meadowbank was built for the 1970 Commonwealth Games and resurfaced in time for the 1986 Games. Some 22 years later the track is suffering not so much from use as neglect – and the inevitable results of being permanently open to the elements.

The Edinburgh track is well used – as can be seen in the YouTube video produced by Edinburgh Racers (the Saturday morning club for 8 to 16 year olds) as part of the campaign to save the velodrome. 

Hoy recorded an endorsement before flying off to Beijing. The Racers run from April to September. That could double with a fully-enclosed track (like the Manchester one), with no cancellations when it rains. 

It’s well-documented that City of Edinburgh Council’s plans for a new velodrome evaporated when Glasgow was awarded the 2014 Commonwealth Games. In short, the money went west. It can’t be confirmed if any tears were shed around the City Chambers. 

Even now, after a few medals for riders who began track riding at Meadowbank and positive noises from First Minister Alex Salmond, there are no certainties other than an open topped parade in Hoy’s honour organised by the city council. He is too polite to make a point by boycotting it.

The Council is still talking of a new “cycling facility”. No details, no certain site, no dates – not even promises of continuity. There is a real possibility that Meadowbank will be demolished before the Chris Hoy stadium is completed in Glasgow with no (smaller) Edinburgh replacement built.

Cycling isn’t just a sport – elite or otherwise. Nor is it merely a leisure active, though Mountain Biking is serious business in Scotland. Forestry Commission Scotland has made Glentress (and the other MTB trails that make up the 7Stanes) the envy of the world.

Cycling is primarily transport. It’s an activity open to all ages – without needing a licence or much in the way of specialist equipment. Bikes are cheap (unless you are an Olympic wannabe when £10k might be the price tag!)

The UK and Scottish Governments want more people to cycle – for a range of reasons: “carbon reduction”, congestion reduction, health and even tourism. In spending terms it’s generally transport budgets (national and local) that are expected to deliver.

Governments need to get to grips with the fact that if they really want more people to cycle, not only do they have to shift the balance in transport budgets they also have to use health and education money.

It would help if cycle training was on the curriculum. Sciennes Primary, Edinburgh’s longstanding example of “best practice” manages to train almost all its P6 pupils each year. That’s ninety children – in school time. 

Hoy has raised the profile of cycling. It’s important that it’s not seen as a two week wonder or an elite activity.

Posted in Chris Hoy, City of Edinburgh Council, citycycling, cycle racing, cycle training, Cycling News, cycling world, cyclingedinburgh, Edinburgh, Glasgow, HEALTH, Meadowbank Velodrome, What the papers say | 3 Comments »