Posts Tagged ‘Sky Ride’

Can we sign two petitions? Yes we can

November 9, 2012

“The bucks stop somewhere around here, Hillary!” I imagine this is what Obama might be saying if this was actually Richmond Park.

As a British person, you may have felt left out as you watched our American chums preparing to choose their president. And now they’ve made the right choice, perhaps you’re wondering how, in your own small British way, you too can make a difference. Well, fear not! For I have found a couple of petitions with which you can express your idealism, good nature and sound judgment.

The first petition aims to increase cycling access in Richmond Park by excluding motor vehicles from the seven-mile loop on Sundays. The giddy dream is that the proposal will be debated in parliament if it gets enough signatures.

At first, I thought the concept isn’t a bad idea. Cyclists who don’t yet feel confident riding among cars would get their own mini-Sky Ride every weekend. Then I posted a link to the petition on the London Dynamo forum, and now I think it’s a great idea. Because, perversely, it seems my cycling club – one of the largest in the country – is not keen on this particular plan to promote bike riding. And if there is one defining hallmark of a great idea it is the mood of fearfulness with which it is greeted.

You can’t read the thread I started unless you’re a member, so I will try give a fair précis of the objections and provide my counter-arguments. The main fear is that with lots of beginners and children pootling along at 10mph, more serious cyclists such as myself wouldn’t be able to use the park for training rides on Sundays. Well, I’m fine with that. Dynamo’s group ride in the park is on Saturdays; everyone heads for the hills of Surrey on Sunday. Under this proposal, less experienced riders would get to enjoy the park for one day a week, ’Mos and other club cyclists would get the other six, and maybe at some point a few of those beginners would gain the confidence to ride with us. We all win!

Another objection is that it fixes a non-existent problem: you can still use the park early in the morning when there is almost no traffic. I would suggest the almost total absence of pootlers at that time of the morning shows this is a lousy option that has, in effect, already been rejected. If I had kids, I wouldn’t relish waking the family up at the crack of dawn and getting to the park to ride for a measly hour or less before the cars showed up. The other alternative is sticking to cycling on the straight strip of car-free tarmac bisecting the loop, which is an excellent plan if you want to be bored out of your mind. You’ll never get more people cycling if you make the activity seem unappealing.

Some Dynamo members appear to be thinking of other people’s concerns. What about the residents surrounding the park? Surely they won’t like golfers parking on their doorstep to use the park’s course, and they’ll be miffed at the increase in traffic on the roads in their neighbourhood. Also, if fewer people visit the park, then there will be an economic impact on the cafes within its grounds. But then there is no guarantee any of these eventualities will occur. Sunday golfers may have a round on Saturday instead. Roads surrounding the park do not become insurmountably clogged when it is closed for deer culling. The custom of hungry cyclists in cafes could replace that of motorists.

There was one alternative suggestion to car-free Sundays: a congestion charge, levied in the park throughout the week. I suppose this ambitious plan could reduce the traffic, although it can’t weed out the worst drivers, which is what really puts people off riding. So it’s only a partial solution.

Basically, it comes down to this: I would like less confident riders to experience of the same simple pleasures I have enjoyed in the park over the years – things like the big, long descent or the nonplussed deer watching you on the small climb to Richmond Gate. So if you think this a reasonable and commendable aim, then please add your name to the list.

The second petition I signed aims to reinstate Danny Baker’s weekday afternoon radio show on BBC London 94.9. You’ve probably heard what happened to the Candyman after coverage of his magnificently funny and defiant two-hour swansong last Thursday made just about every news outlet you care to mention, including the front page of The Times.

And yes, regular dwellers of this blog will have already noticed me gabbing on and on about how much pleasure Danny’s show has provided. Nestled amid the phone-in topics and chats with his co-hosts Baylen, Amy and the inimitable David Kuo was a central idea: that the kinks, quirks and fleeting moments of oddness in popular culture and people’s everyday existence are what gives these things life. So if you value originality and good humour – which, of course, you must surely do – then sign now. If you do, I promise to stop gibbering on about how much I love Danny Baker. You can’t say fairer than that.

Women and elephants

March 16, 2012

Here are some intriguing questions which I have been pondering this week: If a Strava user bags enough King Of The Mountain segments that aren’t actually mountains, does he become King Of The Hill? If you expose a fox to huge amounts of radiation, will its russet coat turn into “Vulpine Green” (“Don’t make Mr Fox angry. You wouldn’t want to see Mr Fox when he’s angry…”)? And what, exactly, are the local sights that pop star Alexandra Burke and her friends discovered while riding their bicycles?

That last question originally popped into my head when the Bad Boys chanteuse was promoting the Sky Rides initiative last summer. Then, like an X Factor winner, the thought vanished for months, forgotten and unmissed, only to reappear a few days ago after I heard her new single Elephant. The title of the song comes from the common phrase identifying an obvious yet previously unexpressed concern, “there’s an elephant in the room” – and in the case of a clip featuring the Hallelujah hitmaker talking about her love of cycling, the proverbial pachyderm in the immediate vicinity is that she may not actually ride a bike.

You can take a look at the clip above and decide for yourselves. What raised my eyebrow is the absence of any footage featuring Alexandra on a bike. Then my other eyebrow also went northwards when I heard her say, with all the sincerity of a practiced autocue reader: “When I can, I love to get out on my bike with my friends. It’s amazing how far we can go and see all the local sights that we never knew [weird pause] existed!” Like myself, Alexandra hails from London, the home of St Paul’s, Buckingham Palace and Tower Bridge. It is unclear which, if any, of these world-famous landmarks she never knew existed, or why she apparently had to ride a bike to discover them.

But let’s be fair. The recent boom in cycling has attracted disproportionately fewer young women compared to middle-aged men, so it made sense to employ a youthful, recognisable female celebrity to encourage more of them to cycle. Good on you, Sky! You tried, at least, to do a good thing. Now if you could just deliver a gentle nudge to the organisers of the London Nocturne – the event your team won last year – and ask them to make sure they run a women’s race again, you’d be doing a good deed for many young women who already ride bikes. Cheers!

The DYNAMITE! Five: The week in cycling, remixed. Issue #6

May 13, 2011

5 UP Alessandro Petacchi
Sound the conspiracy theory klaxon! The Giro d’Italia’s commissaires ruled in favour of their countryman Alessandro Petacchi on Sunday, even though the ageing fastman clearly weaved around like an inebriated pensioner for the final 200 metres of the second stage to edge out an irate Mark Cavendish. It’s their national race, so it stands to reason that them Italians would show no sympathy towards a foreigner, yeah? Well, not quite: leafing through The DYNAMITE! Files’ bumper book of bike facts, it seems Paolo Bettini was disqualified in similar circumstances at the 2005 Giro, although on that occasion the English-speaking sprint rival – Baden Cooke – actually ended up going ‘a’ over ‘t’. Well, Cav, if that’s what it takes for the race officials to make the right decision…

4 DOWN The Associated Press
Sound the conspiracy theory klaxon again! But a bit louder this time! The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that the federal investigation into alleged doping carried out by Lance Armstrong’s US Postal team has uncovered “corruption to the core”. But don’t get too excited just yet: AP’s source is “a person familiar with the investigation”, which sounds like it could be any of us, depending on how you define “familiar”. Still, at least the news agency has uncovered a mystery that has long perplexed some of its more unintelligent American readers: apparently it was “in France where Armstrong became famous by winning the Tour de France seven straight times”. So that’s how the race got its name!

3 UP Caravans
And speaking of mysteries, The DYNAMITE! Files was left to ponder the possible purpose of a scruffy caravan which we spotted parked next to the VIP entrance of the Manchester Velodrome on Saturday evening. It must be there for a reason, because British track cycling is all about the aggregation of marginal gains, isn’t it? Our theory: when the pressure of all that aggregating gets too much, this is where Dave Brailsford goes for a bit of “me” time. With his spreadsheets and cocoa. And a clipboard.

2 DOWN Boris Johnson
Securing his record third appearance in our weekly rundown, Boris Johnson turned up half an hour late at a Hillingdon school for the launch of the latest Sky Ride cycling event because he, er, choose to take the tube instead of using his bike. Maybe the Mayor of London was afraid of getting a flat. The Uxbridge Gazette revealed: “A few of the children showed the mayor how to find and fix a puncture in an inner tube. Charlotte Masters, aged nine, said: ‘I think he understood it.'” Let’s hope so, eh?

1 UP Doutzen Kroes
After this week’s tragic events, the Giro needed some sort of light-hearted moment to soften the mood – and Cycling Weekly duly obliged yesterday with the romantic tale of the underwear model and the professional cyclist. If CW is to be believed, blonde hottie Doutzen Kroes and race leader Pieter Weening could soon be an item, chiefly because the two of them hail from the same Dutch city and she tweeted the word “lokwinske” – which apparently means “congratulations” in their native tongue. Now, the DYNAMITE! Files is a big fan of the whole romantical-getting-together thing, but is one word tweeted to a third party ample grounds to conclude that she’s likely to call him? Remember, CW: if poor Pieter’s heart gets broken, you will be the ones to blame.

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