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London cyclists warned to be careful... because of all the car fumes; Barrister asked if he was wearing a helmet - after being hit by a motorist; Viaduct reopens for cyclists and walkers; Is cycling linked to your education? + more on the live blog

Thank Coppi it’s Friday! Ryan Mallon is here to ease you into the weekend with the last live blog of the week
14 January 2022, 17:50
Heading into the weekend like…

That’s it for the week folks! Thanks for keeping me company on the blog.

I don’t know about you, but I’m away for a lie-down. I was on the receiving end of a heavy tackle at five-a-sides last night, and my ribs have been sore ever since.

If only I’d been wearing my helmet…

14 January 2022, 17:06
Nextbike Cardiff (screenshot via BBC News report)
Ovo Bikes return to Cardiff after two month break due to thefts and vandalism

The Ovo bike hire scheme was reintroduced to Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan yesterday, two months after the scheme was suspended due to a high number of thefts and vandalism.

Before the suspension of the scheme in November, 300 Ovo bikes had been stolen and 260 vandalised. It was the first time operator Nextbike had been forced to withdraw its services in the UK.

Nextbike’s Krysia Solheim told Wales Online: “It’s a relief to be back on the streets of Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. We know our customers have missed having access to the Ovo Bikes schemes.

"Bike share is a fantastic, affordable, and healthy way to move around our towns and cities – not to mention the fact that it’s one of the best ways of reducing harmful transport emissions.”

Let’s just hope it goes better this time…

14 January 2022, 16:55
CPA threatens to sue The Cyclists’ Alliance over ‘fake news’ prize money concerns

The pro season hasn’t even started in earnest yet and there’s already been some serious inter-organisational conflict (remember the ASO-UCI wars of the mid-noughties and mid-2010s? Surely another one of those is scheduled soon…).

This time, the Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA to you and me) has threatened to sue The Cyclists’ Alliance (TCA) for what it described as defamation and false information after the TCA published concerns surrounding the administration of prize money on the women’s side of the sport.

Often criticised for its cosy relationship with the UCI, the CPA is the officially recognised riders’ representative organisation. Headed on the men’s side by Gianni Bugno, a women’s branch was finally set up in 2017.

While the CPA Women is made up of national riders’ associations, the TCA on the other hand operates a ‘one rider, one vote’ system. Also established in 2017 by ex-pro Iris Slappendel, the TCA has been praised for its close work with riders concerning contracts, retirement, career advice and education, and is viewed by many as the ‘true union’ for women’s cycling.

Surely, I hear you cry, the two organisations would work together to secure the continuing development of the women’s sport? Ah, but not so fast. It’s Friday afternoon so I’ll spare you the details, but this month the UCI’s Centralised Prize Money Management system (operating on the men’s side since 2017) was introduced for women. In this system, deductions are taken from prize money at races to pay for costs including doping controls, retirement funds and the development of national riders’ associations.

This week the TCA released a statement, claiming that the riders – who the TCA says the prize money “belongs to” – were not consulted about the scheme. The statement asked a series of pertinent questions about the new system and called for an independent third party to be involved, preventing a monopoly over the administration of cycling’s prize money.

The CPA has since responded in a confrontational press release, accusing the TCA “of defaming the CPA and manipulating the riders.”

“The TCA not only appears to be ill-informed but manifests superficiality in its communications,” the statement read. “The riders are enthusiastic about how CPM works. With this transparent system no prize money is lost and riders are paid faster. Alessandra Cappellotto and CPA Women are doing important work in partnership with the UCI and other stakeholders to ensure that the gap between women and men is gradually reduced.”

The accusatory and hostile tone of the CPA’s response has been widely criticised throughout the sport. TCA representative and world time trial champion Ellen van Dijk tweeted the following:

It is clear that both organisations are committed to growing women’s cycling, probably the most important issue in the sport right now. Disputes like this only do the opposite.

14 January 2022, 15:41
Sherlock Holmes and the case of the not-so-genius bike thief

Well that’s one way to get caught stealing a bike…

14 January 2022, 15:24
Cycling UK shares new Cyclists’ Defence Fund video as it aims to reinstate popular bike lane

This morning the bike charity Cycling UK shared a new fundraising video for their Cyclists’ Defence Fund (CDF). The CDF helps fight legal cases involving individual cyclists and cycling in general, especially those which could set important safety-related precedents.

The film includes examples of some of the cases fought using the CDF in the past, as well as Cycling UK’s current legal challenge against West Sussex County Council’s decision to remove a popular cycle lane on the Old Shoreham Road, used by children to get to school.

Cycling UK’s Sam Jones told that through this challenge, which was made possible by donations to the CDF, they hope to “set a precedent and make other councils take note before doing similar.”

Today’s fundraising call, Jones says, is “about helping us to prepare for tomorrow’s battles.” You can donate to the Cyclists’ Defence Fund on Cycling UK’s website

14 January 2022, 14:31
National Champs kits done right

There’s been a lot of talk over the silly season about poorly designed national champions’ jerseys (looking at you, UAE). So it’s refreshing when you come across one that ticks all the boxes, courtesy of Finnish champion Joonas Henttala and Team Novo Nordisk.

14 January 2022, 13:27
Tussling with the Tinker Man

Following Cycling Mikey’s alleged altercation with a texting motorist, covered yesterday on the blog, more London cyclists have come forward with reports of their own run-ins with phone-wielding drivers:

Nathan’s story led another Twitter user to recall one particularly harrowing experience on the same road with a certain maverick Italian football manager:

Going by the location, I assume this incident took place when Ranieri was in charge of Chelsea. Maybe the Tinker Man was too busy contemplating whether he should drop Damien Duff or not… Or perhaps he was texting his No. 8 to get him a coffee?

14 January 2022, 12:58
BoC Cards
“Roses are red, violets are blue, forget Valentines, I want Di2…”

Great news - we’re exactly one month away from the stupidest day of the year!

But have no fear, as you can make the guilt-infested capitalist showpiece that is Valentine’s Day slightly more palatable with these rather brilliant ‘honest’ cycling-themed cards from Band of Climbers. 

Although if you were really being honest with yourself, you would just go on your planned spin anyway and leave all of the unnecessary obligation to Hallmark. Have I made it clear how much I dislike Valentine’s Day?

14 January 2022, 12:25
Canyon Cycle to work scheme 2
Are university graduates more likely to cycle to work?

A newly published study in the Journal of Transport Geography has claimed that people with a university degree are far more likely to cycle for transportation than other city dwellers. 

The research, undertaken by Dr Ansgar Hudde at the University of Cologne, examined the socio-economic status of people who cycle to work, analysing over 800,000 journeys by 55,000 people between 1996 and 2018.

He found that, irrespective of age, gender and even location, individuals with college degrees were 50% more likely to ride bikes.

Dr Hudde’s study builds on earlier research which has shown that people choose their transport method based on travel time, cost, and its symbolic value – in essence, how others will perceive it.

Traditionally, this has been linked to motorists who buy large, expensive cars to signal their socio-economic standing - I'm sure we've all heard the old 'cyclist saving up to buy a car' joke - while also (perhaps unconsciously) pointing out that they don’t care that much about the environment.

“With the bicycle, it’s exactly the opposite,” Hudde claims.

“People with higher educational qualifications usually do not run the risk of being perceived as poor or professionally unsuccessful, even if they are on the road with an inexpensive bike. Rather, they can gain status by cycling.”

Riding a bike, according to the study, can also mark out an individual as “modern, health-conscious, and environmentally aware. In contrast, people with a lower level of education might be more likely to use an expensive car as a status symbol to show that they have ‘made it.’”

The growth in bike usage, Hudde argues, is therefore linked to rising education levels.

However, he believes that more should be done to encourage a wider demographic to cycle, and that the increase in cycling infrastructure in cities could actually exacerbate social inequality.

“We need targeted policies that reach those who stand aside from the current bike boom: people outside the bigger cities and with less education.”

So what do you think? Is bike riding as a mode of transport a status symbol intrinsically linked to your education? 

14 January 2022, 11:22
Bennerley Viaduct (image credit - World Monuments Fund)
“Iron Giant” reopens for cyclists and walkers

A Victorian viaduct, derelict for over half a century, has been reopened for cyclists and walkers.

Bennerley Viaduct originally opened in 1877 and runs between Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. It was closed due to railway cuts in 1968.

Despite several attempts by British Rail to demolish the “Iron Giant” – the only UK structure on the 2020 World Monuments Watch list – repairs to the viaduct have been under way since 1986. 

While there were initial concerns over what the bridge would be used for, it was finally decided that a cycling and walking route would be installed.

The newly revamped Bennerley Viaduct was officially reopened yesterday, with Andy Savage from the Railway Heritage Trust the first person to cycle across it.

14 January 2022, 10:35
“Were you wearing a helmet?”

Yesterday on the live blog we featured another example of the kind of standard-fare, pointless cycling safety question posited by backbench MPs with the sole aim of shifting the onus of road safety on to the most vulnerable users. 

Now, as the last week, or month, or years have shown, politicians may not feel that their opinions, attitudes, or indeed their actions have any real-life consequences. But judging by the experiences of barrister Martin Porter this week, after he was knocked off his bike by a motorist, some perceptions of cycling safety appear to align with those of the Honourable Member for Bosworth.

On Sunday Porter, who used to blog under the moniker ‘The Cycling Lawyer’, was hit by a motorist who was turning right and claimed the sun was in his eyes. Porter suffered two broken ribs and damage to his teeth.

What followed was a series of incidents which seem to underline the place of cycling and cyclists when it comes to road safety.

According to Porter, the police told his wife it was “an unfortunate accident”, and every clinician and dentist treating him inquired whether he was wearing a helmet.

Most tellingly, when Porter informed the hospital physiotherapist that he had broken his ribs before while out cycling, she apparently replied “and the moral is?” Blimey.

Of course, this is an isolated incident and certainly cannot be said to reflect general public opinion. But it does once again highlight the level of miscalculation in Transport for London’s controversial ‘See Their Side’ advert. Empathy, eh?

14 January 2022, 09:48
London traffic jam (licensed CC BY 2.0 by Garry Knight on Flickr)
Cyclists told to avoid London today… because of all the vehicle pollution

Londoners have been advised to avoid strenuous physical activity in the city today due to extremely high levels of pollution.

According to the government’s forecast pollution levels will reach band 10 on the Air Quality Index, the highest level on the scale.

A combination of light winds and an intense area of high pressure currently covering western Europe has resulted in a lack of air movement across the city, which means emissions from motor vehicles and other pollutants will linger in the air for longer and won’t be as easily blown away.

Older people and those with heart or lung problems have been warned not to undertake strenuous physical activity, while even healthy people should “reduce physical exertion, particularly outdoors, especially if you experience symptoms such as a cough or sore throat”.

So who will suffer the most from these extremely high levels of pollution caused by massive car congestion? That’s right, cyclists.

Cycling commentator and writer Ned Boulting summed up the paradox at the heart of the government’s advice:

In effect, the government’s advice seems to boil down to: “Maybe best not to cycle into work today because of all the car fumes. Could you drive instead?”

The Guardian’s Peter Walker had another solution:

This week London’s mayor Sadiq Khan said car use in the city had almost returned to pre-pandemic levels and that “if we do not double down on our efforts to deliver a greener, more sustainable future, we will replace one public health crisis with another – caused by filthy air and gridlocked roads.”

Simon Birkett, Founder and Director of Clean Air in London, was even more blunt: "Londoners are literally stewing in their own juice with our own fumes trapped in still air for days. It is a stark reminder of how much we need to reduce building emissions as well as traffic emissions. Please do not burn wood on Friday!"

Ryan joined as a news writer in December 2021. He has written about cycling and some ball-centric sports for various websites, newspapers, magazines and radio. Before returning to writing about cycling full-time, he completed a PhD in History and published a book and numerous academic articles on religion and politics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (though he remained committed to boring his university colleagues and students with endless cycling trivia). He can be found riding his bike very slowly through the Dromara Hills of Co. Down.

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