Monday, 17 November 2014

Film Review BICYCLE and thoughts on money for cycling infrastructure

The Ride

A bunch of us cycled from Corsham to Bradford-on-Avon last Saturday night to see the film Bicycle which was being shown as part of the Bath film festival. The ride was great with no rain and plenty of lights to illuminate our way.  We had an early evening meal in the Lock Inn which was very appropriate before trotting off to the newly refurbished St Margarets Hall to see the film. It was a good thing Edgar was there as none of us knew where the venue was situated.

The Film

On to the film which is a documentary on 3 aspects of cycling, the history including the technical development and social implications, the resurgence of cycling since the 1970s  that includes how the sporting success was achieved in the Olympics and Tour de France and where cycling goes from here in the UK.  The film was really well done being interspersed with short animations, brief portraits of ordinary cyclists, an in depth focus on the development of the Lotus Superbike (Chris Baordman) and the story of Dannielle Khan who won the sprint and 500m TT events at the Juniors world championships in 2013, as well as the silver medal in the Keirin.
The film contains some facts that I was not aware of

  1. It was Ernest Marples, Harold Macmillan’s minister of transport, a businessman who came from the roads construction industry who hired Dr Beeching to 'look at the Rail industry'.  His report closed 2363 stations (including Corsham) and scrapped a third of the track.  It also paved the way for more road, cars and the congestion mess that we are in today.
  2. The people who founded Sustrans UK (Cycle Bag) leased the recently decommissioned track between Bristol and Bath for £1 a year to build the first dedicated cycle track in the country.
  3. £70+ per head of population is spent on the roads each year in this country. Just £2 is spent on cycling.  The Dutch spend £20 a head and the Danes spend £30 a head on cycling provision.

The Question

The real question that the film poses is what happens to cycling here in the UK, does it continue to develop or does it get wiped by the weight of traffic.  The are scenes of cycling in Holland and Denmark which had the same levels of cycling as the UK in the 1970's however they made a conscience choice to invest and to continue to invest in cycling.  The Film asks for £10 per head of population to be spent in the UK year on Year.

After the film there was a question and answer session with reps from Aardman Animations, Sustrans and Moulton Bikes which was chaired by John of John's Bikes in Bath.  There was a point raised from a local councillor who said that Wiltshire council budgets will be reduced by £30M year on year and the cycling budget comes from the 'discretionary fund'  that can be spend on anything so its really important to hassle local councillors to spend the money on cycling infrastructure.

Car Park Tax

This got me thinking about imaginative ways of raising money for cycling infrastructure.  How about a car parking tax that would especially target large car parks which are ugly and only encourage large volumes of cars to clog up the streets?  Then I did some calculations:
  Lets assume that a parking space at for example Sainsburys is used 8 times a day for 300 days a year where each individual using that space spends about £30 which is £72,000 a year for that space.  The profit on that (7%) is about £5,000 a year.  How about imposing a tax of £1000 a year for each parking space above 100 spaces.  So for Sainsburys in Chippenham which has 580 standard parking spaces, 50 disabled and 20 parent and child spaces, lets be really generous and exclude the disabled and parent and child, leaving 480 spaces to be taxed giving £2.4 million a year.  Just think of all those big car parks in Wiltshire, big companies, supermarkets, big chain stores.  A cycling infrastructure in waiting.
The scheme would have other advantages:

  1. Wiltshire currently charge for the use of their car parks that are usually near to high street shops.  The Tax would help put local shops on a level playing field with the big supermarkets.
  2. It would not hit small and medium sized companies.
  3. It could be brought in gradually so that for the first year its applicable to car parks with more than 300 spaces. then reduce over time given companies time to adapt. 
  4. Its really a tax on space so a company like Sainsburys could elect to change the use of their current parking spaces and do something more imaginative with them, perhaps more community based.
  5. They could provide better bus services to bring people in or do more on-line.  One big van/bus driving around is better that 30+ cars.
  6. They could offer a store discount to those who do not come by car.
  7. They could charge for a parking space or put their prices up to compensate.
I would construct the legislation so that it did not matter who owned the car park.  If a reasonable person would judge that the parking space was for the use of adjacent company then the Tax would be payable.

Then I found this news item on Nottingham council that levied a tax on employee parking space.  This shows that it is possible but why not hit the big retail outlets and why put the threshold so low that it hits smaller companies?  Over to you...

Monday, 10 November 2014

The cheapest Carbon Fibre bike to date.

Just how cheap can a Carbon fibre bike be sold for new?  The advert below is currently on Argos see (the stack it high shop not the venerable Bristol frame builders).  OK there is a discount but I would imagine that they are still making a profit at £500 sale price.  This post goes back to the previous post of Bike Economics which highlighted the trend for bike manufacturers to make bikes that 'tick boxes' (light frame, STI gears, dual pivot brakes etc) at a specific price.  The quality is secondary as the price is pitched at what is affordable.  It's almost worth buying one to find out just how rubbish it is. The joke is that you could buy this bike for £500 then take it apart and sell the bits as new for accumulatively more on Ebay.  Wheels £70,  frame £150 shifters £70, then there the brakes, cranks, cassette, saddle etc. it all mounts up.  I have included the specification below which is directly from the argos site.  This shows that the bike has 'rigid suspension' which is a baffling term to put in a specification.   To me it has 'no suspension'  and I suppose it also has 'no engine', 'no electric windows and definitely no powered steering!   


This Ventura aims to give its rider a blend of comfort and performance by bringing together the high performance aspects of a lightweight Carbon Race Bike and the design features of an all-day rider.
  • Carbon fibre frame.
  • 18 gears with Shimano shifters.
  • Shimano gears.
  • Shimano Sora rear derailleur.
  • Front calliper and rear calliper brakes.
  • Rigid suspension.
  • Carbon fibre forks.
  • Weight fully assembled 8.82kg.
  • 23 inch frame size.
  • 27 inch wheel size.
  • 24 to 29 inch inside leg measurements.
  • Kenda tyres.
  • Shimano R500 rims.
  • Quick-release front wheel.
  • Minimal assembly.
  • EAN: 3324525.

Spindles in India

Most things in India can be repaired cost effectively. The streets of Poona are lined with traders who will fix a shoe, a ceiling fan, food processor, motor scooter or bicycle. Walking home from lunch one day I happened upon Spindles and Sprockets in a parallel universe. They seemed content with their small roadside
workshop, which like ours, specialised in minor repairs like punctures and dodgy brakes.
Despite the massive growth in car ownership, the disappearance of bullock and cart, the highest number of scooters and motorcycles in any Indian city and a vast number of three-wheeled ‘tuk-tuk’ rickshaws – some people do still cycle in Poona. Cycling is the practical transport for the poorest.
It’s not uncommon to see a bicycle laden with so much cargo that the person peddling cannot be seen from behind. Most of the bicycles in India are the heavy single speed Hero or Hurcules complete with mattress saddle and rod brakes.
There are now importers of Far Eastern brands such as Giant setting up showroom type shops as the interest in ‘sports’ cycling increases. Many people recognise that 21st century bikes could offer part of a much-needed solution to the problems of congestion and air pollution. 
Most young motorcyclists wear a mask over their nose and mouth when crossing the busy parts of town.  In the near future expect to see India’s trend-setting, hipster middle classes on lightweight bikes with slim tyres and many gears; even perhaps in Lycra!

Spindles in India 'Spindia'

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Bike Film: One Mile Above

"One Mile Above" is a Chinese Film with English subtitles about a young Taiwanese man called Shuhao who decides to fulfil his brother's plans to cycle to Lhasa in Tibet after he is killed in an accident.  His journey includes learning to ride a bike, enduring the hardships of cold, altitude, snow, steep terrain, wild animals and through the experience come to terms with loss.
I watched this film yesterday and its was brilliant with the story being unpredictable and thoroughly engaging.  The cinematography is superb providing a sense of movement to the cycling scenes that I've not come across before in other bike related films.  Some of the cutting techniques used are reminiscent of European films such as "The Name of the Rose". There is also real sense of journey coupled with believable characters and convincing acting.  The result is a portrayal of the emotions that an epic journey can bring and the connections that can be made with strangers.
There is fantastic Tibetan scenery and it's sympathetic to Tibetan culture.  The only negatives are the overly dramatic depiction riding up one of the long 5000m passes, done for effect but are definitely preposterous,  and the speed of the subtitles.
A recommend this film and you can watch it here on YouTube in poor quality.  I've ordered the DVD and I'm looking forward to seeing it projected onto a screen. 

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