Archive for the 'London' Category

How can charities use social media: an introduction – presentation to Community Action Southwark

Why cyclists should always stop at red lights

The week before last I attended the Living Streets London mayoral hustings (though with only Jenny Jones of the candidates actually attending). The focus was on transport issues with the safety of cyclists discussed at a fair length.

There is a swell of a activism and passion surrounding cycling in London at the moment, with the ‘Go Dutch!‘ campaign and a mass ride planned for 28 April, which I’d urge you to attend. It’s heartening to such a high level of attention paid to such an important issue.

But most Londoners don’t cycle. They might not do so even if the HGVs were banned from Zones 1 and 2, the Boris/Ken (depending on your partisan bent) bike scheme was cheaper and more widespread) or there was more division between cars and bikes. But in order to achieve safer streets, cyclists need to take as many members of the non-riding public with them.

Every time I bring up the issue of cycling provision and the dangers of riding around the capital with (non-cycling) friends, the consistent and immediate response I get is not about the behaviour of motorists but of cyclists. The two issues they bring up are not stopping at red lights and cycling on the pavement.

Whether my (non-cycling) friends are right or wrong, their points are valid and that needs to be acknowledged.

I’m not a saint on two wheels and I have been known to do both. When faced with a crazy one way system or a four lane roundabout, I think cyclists can be forgiven for riding on the pavement, providing it is done so slowly and with consideration.

What I can’t understand is riding out past stationary cars and other cyclists straight through red lights, especially when they then weave through the path of pedestrians crossing the road at the correct time and place.

I get incredibly frustrated with car drivers who edge forward when they think the light might be about to turn green, as if doing so will somehow make an automated system act faster. But they won’t jump the lights (in most cases) in a car. So why do so many cyclists I ride alongside feel they can?

The danger of doing so should be enough for cyclists to wait for the damn things to turn green. Just like the elbow barging on the tube and trains or the rush to the front of the bus queue, it’s not a matter of life or death if you get home five minutes faster. But there is another reason not to. This isn’t a ‘war’ between cyclists and motorists but it is a battle for public opinion and public sympathy.

The more cyclists bend the rules, especially when doing so involves nearly hitting pedestrians, the less likely other Londoners are to respond positively to suggestions for better cycling provision. We need to be seen as a polite bunch, not a menace.

Comments made by Richard Tracey (stand in for Boris at the event and London Assembly member) about the dangers and nuisance of cycling on the pavement may not have gone down well with an event full of dedicated cyclists but they would resonate with many others across the capital. If we want cycling to really resonate with the public then we need to watch our own behaviour.

Phoenix Garden Photos

After a visit to the British Museum yesterday, I went along to the Phoenix Gardens. Hidden away off Charing Cross Road, it’s a small community run garden managed by volunteers.

A couple of photos I took – love the stick man mural.

It being the warmest day of the year so far, I took the opportunity to use some new macro lenses I bought on ebay for some insanely low price. Rest of the day’s photos, mostly from Battersea Park in the smog, on Flickr

H/T to the Secret London App.

Amnesty International Human Rights demonstration – Audio slideshow

My first attempt at an audio slideshow – thought without the narration. Taking photos in various places recently, I’ve been very aware of the atmosphere around me. It’s hard to convey that with images alone so I’ve begun recording short pieces of audio on my phone at the same time.

Having said that, the credit for the audio in this case has to go to Charlotte Rose, MA Broadcast Journalism student at City University.

The photos and audio are from the Amnesty International demonstration for Human Rights last month. More images from the demo on Flickr.

Cycling on the #tourdudanger – the ten most dangerous junctions in London

Yesterday I was one of hundreds of cyclists who took part in a tour of the ten most dangerous junctions in London – for those on two wheels and pedestrians.

Organised by  Cyclists in the City and  iBikeLondon, we started near Oval tube and wound our way around central London.

Simon Hughes MP at tourdudanger protest The support along the way was great, from pedestrians, other cyclists and some car drivers. A couple of irate taxi drivers seemed more than a little pissed off, and a minor argument did take place after we set off from Hyde Park following a break.

Cycling – all be it at a slow pace – with hundreds of others around you, with marshalls blocking off traffic at junctions allowing us to easily continue through – was a remarkable experience, especially in London. I was especially pleased to go through Vauxhall, which I am yet to successfully manage with getting off and walking. There’s something quite special about hundreds of bells ringing and voices shouting under Vauxhall railway bridge – what a noise!

The more serious underlying point is that too many cyclists are being killed or injured in London, with one fatality only 2 days ago at Bow roundabout.

Rather than optimising the capital’s roads for private vehicles, they should be designed with the pedestrian and cyclist at the forefront. If this was done, we’d get more commuters cycling rather than driving, which among other things, would result in less congestion, lower carbon emissions and a healthier population. I also wonder why so many people drive into central London anyway – even if you don’t want to cycle, we have (despite the difficulties) one of the most comprehensive public transport systems in the world.

Everytime I bring up this subject with friends, the reply I get involves numerous anecdotes of cyclists acting irresponsibly – on pavements, ignoring lights, squeezing between cars and so on. It does irritate me to see so many cyclists acting in this way, but it doesn’t excuse the misdirected nature of London’s transport infrastructure.

I have to confess, I don’t cycle to work. My commute (walking and the train) is relatively short – 35 mins – and I’m yet to find a decent way to sort out the logistics of dressing smartly for work and cycling. But I cycle recreationally, and fully sympathise with all those who do commute on bikes – and will consider doing so in the future.

Massive credit to the organisers and the marshalls who cordoned off the junctions. The ride turned a lot of heads – even focusing the attention of the tourists outside Buckingham Palace – and I hope something similar will be organised in the future.

Cyclists in the City has a much more detailed post on the issues facing cyclists in London and more background on the issues.

The ride was featured on BBC London News:

The Evening Standard lists the junctions we went around:

1. St George’s Rd/London Rd/Elephant & Castle
2. Clapham Rd/Kennington Park Rd/
Camberwell Rd
3. Strand/Northumberland Ave/Whitehall
4. Waterloo Road/ Stamford St/York Rd
5. Mansion House St/Princes St/Threadneedle St
6. Elephant & Castle/Newington Butts
7. Hyde Park Corner, Westminster
8. Millbank/Lambeth Bridge
9. Clerkenwell Road/Farringdon Rd
10. Albert Embankment/Kennington Lane/Wandsworth Rd

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I'll be blogging here about the things which interest me: communications, public relations, social and digital media, politics, Higher Education and how academics engage with the public.

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