Observations and Unscientific Conclusions

The Finale

I noticed that my last blog regarding cycling left my devout followers hanging by a thread. A thread so entirely meaningless that you forgot that it even existed. I write to not only remind you of this thread but to sew it back into the wardrobe of useless and easily forgettable knowledge. My tangible conclusion wasn’t neglected on purpose. I presented my information to my professors and peers, a total of six people.

Random Picture

Not these six people, but you get the idea.

I forgot that there might have been people interested outside of that specific and relatively exclusive realm.

Let’s get started (Disregard the next paragraph if you’ve been keeping up with my cycling inquiries).

Please take the time to read my previous blog posts regarding my research including: my project plan, my pre-London research, and my early analysis of Britain’s cycling culture. It might answer some questions that you may have about my interest in the topic, things I have discovered thus far, and why I went to London in the first place. Without further ado, let’s get started.

I started my research talking to cycling shop managers and British natives. The cycling shop managers were all from different countries in Europe, providing me with multinational opinions and perspectives. As to not bore you to death, I will give a quick introduction of each interviewee and then summarize what their input.

Piotr, an employee of The London Bicycle Workshop, a cycle repair shop and store, originally grew up in the depths of Poland. He mentioned how much he loved cycling as a young man through the Polish forests and, when I asked if he had time to talk said, “I always have time to talk about cycling.”

This gem was found outside The London Bicycle Workshop.

Anwar, the owner of The Bicycle Man, a bicycle shop that specializes in Dutch bicycles, was born and raised in Holland. He seemed enthralled that an American wanted to know so much about cycling in an unfamiliar environment and he was even happier to talk about his country of origin.

Being a bicycle man is one thing. Being The Bicycle Man is on a whole different level.

Matthew, a manager of Look Mum No Hands!, a combination of a bar, cafe and cycle repair shop, was a London native. He jokingly suggested that Look Mum No Hands was the reason cycling is a burgeoning activity in Britain.

Offering alcohol, caffeine and bike repairs, I might have to agree.

Last but not least is Lindsey Coombs, a native Englishman who took my class on a tour of Oxford. He told me stories of how often he used to ride his bike before moving to the US. Every day, no matter what the weather forecast had in store, Lindsey was on a bike.

Oxford. Land of the largest bike parking lots before I saw Amsterdam.

Their Input Summary:

  • The shopkeepers agreed that their businesses wouldn’t be successful without the emerging bicycle culture (To put it in perspective, The Bicycle Man, Look Mum No Hands! and London Bicycle Workshop were all within 1 mile of each other)
  • Getting the working professionals on the road is a must.
  • Employers offering showers for their employees is an important step to get working professionals on the road.
  • The burgeoning of cyclists started about 5 years ago.
  • Cycling has a snowball effect. A cycling advocate will always be sure to share his experiences and prod his or her friends to cycle too.
  • Mass rides and charity rides do a fantastic job at making cycling more mainstream.
  • Early cycling education is extremely important.
  • Many people cycle because it’s quick, cheap, and fun.
  • If people weren’t certain about whether or not cycling on the road is good idea, they might choose to cycle because the government advertises it.

Along with advertising, the British government has also reshaped its policies and made specific accommodations to promote cycling.

Transport for London‘s most recent campaign encourages London’s citizens to think about walking, cycling, or taking a bus to reach their destination, especially due to the fact that London is expecting a lot of visitors for the 2012 Olympic Games.

TfL also has installed Barclays Cycle Hire stations throughout London. Barclay’s Cycle Hire has encouraged people to use cycles from one point to another. The docking stations are only from Zone’s 1 to 3 but, according to Piotr, has given people the ability to feel more comfortable riding around and more inclined to purchase a bike of their own.

Claire Beaumont, Brand Manager of Condor, responded to me via e-mail about Barclays Cycle Hire stating,

“The Barclays Cycle Hire scheme has made a big difference, some retailers feared it would see their profits dips as people use the bikes but the bikes are only available from Zone 1 to Zone 3, ideal for 15 minute journey but they’ve got cars used to seeing bikes. The non-cyclist who would never have thought to have cycled before can try cycle without buying a bike and they really enjoy it. They then come to Condor to buy a bike or accessories.”

Another important step is tax-free bike providers such as Cyclescheme, a result of the British Government’s Cycle to Work scheme. This allows British citizens to buy tax-free bikes which leads to a price decrease of up to 32% on a new bike. A number of large blue chip companies are based in central London and a lot of their employees have taken up the scheme.

Speaking of government, I had a chance to talk to Jenette Coduto, the head of the Environmental Department for the City of London Corporation. She discussed some of the campaigns that she has had a hand in, projects she’s currently working on and many different ways that the City of London Corporation is making London more accommodating to cycling.

One specific campaign, Use Your Energy Wisely, got people to rethink energy and water consumption. It also encouraged alternative or public transportation to increase London’s air quality.

The City Cycle Style exhibition was a way to connect with the movers and shakers of London. It helped encourage businessmen to cycle by showing that bikes aren’t just for getting from point A to point B, but a tasteful expression of one’s self. This idea was reinforced with sponsors like Tiffany & Co., Pitmans, Tateossian and many various celebrities.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey as much as I did actually living through it. This last post was a bit long-winded, but it was hard to even limit myself to a post this short with so much information.

Though this is the end of my research for this topic, I am going to continue to blog throughout the summer. I hope you choose to keep reading, because I have already chosen to continue writing.

Oh, yes, one more thing. Seeing how I haven’t directly said it in any of my older posts — TRY CYCLING INSTEAD OF DRIVING FOR SHORT-DISTANCE TRIPS. I PROMISE YOU WILL NOT REGRET IT.

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