Friday, 16 December 2011

Cambridge - a cycling city

Don't worry cycle friends! It may seem like I've cycled off the edge of London in the last few weeks, but fear not, I have been pedalling around as usual but now with icy fingers, toes and nose in this cold chilly weather!
Cycle parking outside the train station

And what a better way to spend a chilly December day than visiting our neighbouring cycling city, Cambridge. As you may know, Cambridge is recognised as a 'cycling demonstration town', along with other cities such as Brighton and Darlington.  I worked one summer with Brighton and Hove council on their 'journey on' project which aimed to promote the use of cycling and other forms of sustainable transport use in the city. However Cambridge by far exceeds the amount of cyclists than Brighton and they do so in style. It is a true cycling city. 

Wandering around the cobbled streets, I was pleased to observe a wonderful mass of wrapped up cyclists braving the bitter cold weather to the beautiful backdrop of the city of Cambridge. And here are some of the observations I made, they are not fact but just some of the interesting things I noticed:
  • Cyclists freely made use of the pavements in the city centre. I counted 12 cyclists within an hour during non-rush hour using the pavements. Whether this is a good thing or not, it seemed that the pedestrians turned a blind eye in the occasions I witnessed. It reminded me of when I visited Berlin a couple of years ago where cycling on or off the pavement is permitted, a feature of cycling which denotes pure freedom and is ideal to entice more vulnerable people to cycling. Controversial to some but I think it works!

  • Cambridge cyclists are stylish! Men and women alike wore everyday clothes and didn't dress head to toe in lycra. Maybe it was because they were cycling a short distance?? Whatever the reason, they know how to do it well!
  • There is not enough bike parking. Coming out of the station I was witness to what looked like a metal graveyard of rubber and rusting frames. I noticed that many bikes were not even locked to a fixed object. 
  • Cambridge is relatively flat. A cyclists dream. No north London hills to stagger up, however this means no north London hills to cruise down...
  • There are lots and lots of female cyclists. I cycle everyday in London and there is a growing number of female cyclists on our roads, however in the short time I was in Cambridge I spotted more women cyclists than men. Hurrah! We are winning the battle of sexes!

So I can only say that visiting a stunning british city which has embraced cycling only leads to one conclusion, I'm going to move there when I'm grown up. And when I do, I will buy one of these beauties from the lovely Cambridge based company Beg Bicycles:

And I will take to the streets and cycle with all the other stylish cyclists...

Source: Youtube by George69w

Wrap up warm folks, it's going to get colder!


emilyobyrne said...

Ah.. you've brought back happy memories! A few observations from an ex-Cambridge cyclist:
Everyone cycles because it's the only sane way to get about the city centre. No one seems to give a toss about 'smoothing traffic flow', there's even less parking for cars, and students aren't generally allowed to bring one anyway. I tried walking for one term and it was too far and too tiring and I was always late for lectures. Gave in and got a bike. I do recall a fair bit of drink-cycling though. Not so good.
Nobody wears lycra because you are on and off your bike constantly and you'd have to live in the stuff. General stylishness is helped a lot by those cheery woven wool scarves - which are incidentally the most effective way to keep the wind off your face I have ever found. Now I've got back on the bike, I've dug out my scarf too.
And, contrary to popular belief, there is a hill. If you are at Fitz, Girton or New Hall you cycle it daily. It's also very windy, can be freezing cold, and I seem to recall a tendency to cobbles. Not always a cyclist's dream city!

commuterjohn said...

Love the video, cycling for the masses.

Jemma said...

@emilyobyrne Thanks for your words from experience! It would be great if every University town took a leaf out of Cambridge's book. And as for the hill, no city is without one! Cobbles are always frustrating to cycle on, I go down a cobbled road everyday and it is always uncomfortable. Top tip with the scarf! I wore mine the other day and it makes such a big difference in the cold wind :-)

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