12 September 2012
This is a photo taken in the Coal Exchange building in Cardiff Bay. This is one of the most important buildings in the history of Cardiff and is testament to the City's rise and fall as a pivotal part of the world economy. This particular image taken on an upper floor seems to show a signboard highlighting the offices and organisations that would have had space in this part of the exchange building at the height of its activity.
Over painted, scuffed, altered, recovered and faded. A beautiful and poignant artefact, displaying the layers of history.
2 September 2012
31 August 2012
|Cycle rack in Oxford|
We have been visiting a friend in Oxford, and I have been impressed as usual by the genuine cycling culture that exists there. Bike shops everywhere, bikes everywhere, hire bikes available everywhere. Even out of term and without the critical mass that must be provided by the students, it was still a vibrant and delightful scene.
The sight above, just a typical rack in a back-lot, is nothing unusual for Oxford, even though it would be unheard of in Cardiff if there were no students around. But I was interested in a particularly geeky and anoraky fact after I made a quick study of the form. Not a single bike here had a fully enclosed chain. Not one had a hub brake. Not a single hub dynamo, or any other form of non-battery lighting. Only one of all the bikes here had hub gears.
There is a lot of terraced housing in Oxford. For the first time, I have seen front gardens turned into bike parking areas with cycle racks, which is a welcome change from being turned into a car park as is the norm in other cities. There are lots of student flats and student accommodation. In other words, bikes are stored outside day and night. I would have thought therefore that basic bike practicalities and functionalities such as the enclosed chain and hub brakes I mentioned above would have impacted on what is available for sale in the myriad of bike shops, or perhaps coloured the advice that new students are given when purchasing their new steed. But apparently not yet.
We may be seeing the re-emergence of "utility cycle culture" (that sounds frightening) here again in the UK, but are the manufacturers and retailers keeping pace? They seem to be able to follow the fixie trend well enough for instance, so why can't they make practical features more normal as they are in other countries? Perhaps the mountain bike aesthetic that kept so many small retailers going throughout the wilderness years is too hard to shake off? Perhaps the costs of things like hub brakes mean bikes jump out of an acceptable price range? Perhaps the customers have not yet learned to demand these things? I'm not sure, but it will be interesting to see how the trends develop and how the manufacturers and retailers react, or if they choose to lead instead.
28 August 2012
Some highlights for me have been:
- The CEofGB follow up session in Bristol, which I was unable to attend, but which was excellently blogged. Great to know that the momentum is maintained and that more people are picking up on the ideas that the Embassy was set up to promote.
- A recent discussion on the Radio 4 Today program about public health and transport policy, where the expert being interviewed explicitly mentioned the importance (well, in fact the absolute undeniable logic) of providing good cycling infrastructure as a way of encouraging cycling. I was driving (bah!) to a site and nearly crashed cheering.
- The Tour. Ah, the Tour. Once I discovered that I could follow the tour on the ITV iPlayer and wasn't stuck with watching the 7pm highlights or seeing nothing, the possibility of a three week obsession first emerged and then became a magnificent reality. Although I had followed it before, it was the daily ebb and flow that I was able to get to grips with that made it special. Despite Lesley Garret's dreadful intervention at the awards ceremony, Bradley Wiggins saved the day on being handed the microphone by noting that it was now time to draw the raffle numbers. Genius.
- Having to queue at the traffic lights on the way to work behind OTHER BIKES. This really is quite a welcome inconvenience. Although I can't help feeling annoyed when these newby upstarts go twice as fast as me. It's not a race. I've been ill. My bike is heavier. Ah, the nonsense you tell yourself while at the back of the peloton.
- Following Dave at 42bikes on his LEJOG efforts. Mainly because, halfway through his epic rain sodden journey, I had a flash of inspiration. A blinding light if you will. Having laboured under the assumption that "Le Jog" was some kind of traditional French amateur cycling race, I suddenly realised the true significance of the acronym. Le idiot.
- The Cycle to Work challenge organised by Cardiff Council. Credit where it's due, they did a fantastic job and many commercial and public sector organisations seemed to get behind it. I really hope that the many additional cyclists seen out on the streets of Cardiff keep the momentum going.
- Attending a lecture about the connection between planning and public health. The premise here was that the origins of planning lay in the desire to improve public health - sanitation, slum clearance, model towns, garden villages etc all connected the emerging discipline of town planning with the concerns of public health to improve peoples lives. The speaker described how this connection is in danger of being forgotten and that we are creating environments that do not promote activities such as walking or cycling, which is a real problem when you consider that obesity is like a menacing shadow gradually creeping across our communities. I felt there was some real possibilities for research to be done on the impact of decent walking and cycling infrastructure on levels of activity. The notion that good planning could have public health benefits is perhaps an idea whose time must come again.
- The Olympics. You've heard of that I presume and that there were bikes?
- Bradley and the helmet thing. Awesome fun, as it encouraged my ill-informed workmates to pile into the debate, and thus allowed me to cunningly demolish their pathetic puny arguments. All hail me!
- Finally getting round to complete the cycle route right around Cardiff Bay. Twice in fact in the same week. First time was for curiosity and second time was with the family in tow (literally in the case of No.1 son). I will attempt to do this again and write a photo essay about the route as it pretty much sums up cycling infrastructure in this country; a mix of the sublime and the ridiculous, the beautiful and the depressing, the inspirational and the downright bloody dangerously frustrating. Good afternoon out though.
25 May 2012
29 April 2012
19 April 2012
15 March 2012
We went up-town to London last weekend for a bit of culture. Sadly, despite massive success on the cultural front, I failed once again to have a go with the Boris Bikes. We were wandering around Paddington Basin after breakfast, and came upon a bike hire station near the back of St Mary's Hospital. We were in the process of considering our way to Trafalgar Square, via the Bakerloo Line and Piccadilly Circus, and idly wondered for a moment if it might be worth a go on a bike. By actually looking at the docking station closely for the first time, I realised that you probably don't even need to have a membership card, which I had incorrectly presumed to be the case before now. There were even a couple a brand new bikes, which looked to be in great mechanical condition.
However, the familiar dread just kept coming up about having to ride in traffic. Being tourists in London Village, we are just not that familiar with London driving and the road system. It is why tourists take the tube and locals take the bus - the underground network is a navigation method that is diagrammatically simple and directionally certain, whereas the bus takes a route you are unsure of and you don't know when you have arrived at your destination (you mostly have to ask for the bus to stop somewhere which you aren't familiar with - it always stresses me out anyway).
A similar worry exists with the bike system - you don't know how to get where you are going, and don't understand the nature of the network you are forced to use (the roads). It is even less easy to use the back streets, unless you stop every 20m to try and figure out where you are, which means manoeuvring into the correct position is tricky, plus we don't have an A-Z permanently on hand. Maybe we just need to get a bit more techno-savvy and get on board with the bike hub app and equip ourselves with the appropriate hardware...
However, I recall that this wayfinding was not such an issue when we cycled in Copenhagen, because although the network you are using is adjacent to the road system, it is separate from it and so the problems of manoeuvering or getting in position, or even stopping to look at a map are easier to manage. By removing the issue of negotiating with traffic from the wayfinding equation, all other worries became more manageable and less concerning. If I could cycle down Edgware Road happily in my own space, I'd know where I was, I'd have a rough idea where I was going and I wouldn't be cacking myself. Perhaps then I'd have the guts to keep my Oyster Card in my wallet and try above-ground two wheeled travel for a change. After all, when we walk around London, we always chuckle knowingly about how everything is much closer than you might think from looking at the tube map.
I wanted to write something about a bike hire scheme, but had to go to London to do it. The Cardiff scheme, for which Cardiff was in the vanguard for once, has quietly closed and the unusual rod-driven bikes have been given away. Evidently, the unusual idea of "trialling" the scheme with a handful of docking stations and less than 100 bikes turned out to be less successful than the experiences of some other major European Cities who have tried something similar. Like Barcelona, for instance, where they dumped 1000's of bikes and 100's of docking stations on the city virtually overnight. Can you spot the difference?
14 March 2012
8 March 2012
|Photo: HS2 Ltd|
6 March 2012
5 March 2012
23 February 2012
1 February 2012
- Repeat what someone told you without any conceptual questioning of the principles;
- Secretly recognise that you will polarise views completely amongst your audience;
- Stand back and admire your blooming comment/page view statistics as irate readers vent their spleens.
29 January 2012
I was fortunate to be able to spend the weekend in London, attending the first Cycling Embassy of Great Britain policy bash (#CEoGBBash on Twitter) where we discussed many and varied topics and covered a wide range of issues relating to our desire to see gold standard cycling infrastructure which will enable all sorts of people to take advantage of the simple wonder of riding a bike from here to there.
As well as the fascinating debates and conversations, it was also rewarding to be able to put faces to names, and associate those faces with twitter handles and blogs. It certainly is a powerful tool this interweb thingy, but never more so than when it is enabling people to get together in a room and make plans.
We began with a quick reminder of the Embassy tour of the Netherlands last year, when some lucky souls got the chance to sample this advanced cycling culture at first hand - surely something we wish many more policy makers and engineers from this country were able to do. Then, we began to set out the themes and key issues that would occupy us for the weekend. It was determined that we should break into two main groups, one looking at infrastructure issues and the other looking at policy matters. Each group was tasked with exploring the themes identified earlier and cross reporting after the regular discussion sessions. It is the aim that the written-up results of these discussions will find their way onto the Embassy Wiki shortly, for wider debate and consultation.
Highlights of the weekend for me were, in no particular order of importance, the inspitational summary of Embassy aims and ambitions for getting our message out there, delivered in style by Mark Ames of ibikelondon, and the eye-opening infrastructure design session that resulted in a phased proposal for creating separated cycling infrastructure around a typical UK roundabout. And of course the plenary session in the pub on Saturday night, where the real work was done.
However one idea really stood out for me, biased of course as I am, which is that design is the solution to so many questions - be it setting out a cycling network to inform decisions about what and where infrastructure is required or in understanding how spaces can be used or occupied. Making good design decisions and following a recognised process of carrying out your analysis, formulating a strategy, creating a concept and setting that within a framework which you rigourously test is such a strong approach and I am grateful for my architectural training which has equipped me to think in such a way.
I return to Cardiff tired but energised, thoughtful and re-enthused. I look forward to seeing some of the great ideas we had come to fruition and forsee a strengthening of networks and the relationships made.
23 January 2012
The Brompton got a polish this weekend, and some overdue oiling and easing. This is because it is going up to Town with me this weekend for a bit of a bash;
and for some old fashioned reason I felt it ought to look nice. Don't want to let the Embassy down.
The only downside here is that I bought some 3-in-1 oil , mostly for nostalgic reasons, only to be sorely let down when I realised it now comes in a plastic container, not a tin can as I remembered from my youth. So no nice "plink" noise when applying. Bah.
11 January 2012
|Harris Hackers Cutting a Dash at the National Museum|
8 January 2012
|Bike advertising in Cardiff|