Mark Ames is behind the fantastic blog http://ibikelondon.blogspot.com/, offering insightful posts about the state of cycling in London and what can be done to improve things for cyclists. He supports the kind of cycling we love; cycling as another way of getting from here to there and always enjoying the ride. Here he tells us what we can do to make cycling better in Kensington and Chelsea…
Why did you start your blog?
When I moved back to London I found that there wasn’t really an online outlet for the kind of cycling I do – namely, everyday and ordinary riding for the sake of having fun, for the sake of enjoying the city and most importantly for the sake of getting from A to B in the most sensible way. I soon found that there was a real appetite for what I write about and the blog has sort of snowballed from there.
What is the key thing Kensington and Chelsea could do to support cycling?
I think cycling has a real PR problem. For most people they still think of riding a bike as being the sort of thing you can only do if you are young, fit, fast and dressed like Lance Armstrong. Sports cycling is great, but there is so much more opportunity for the bike to become a useful everyday tool for so many people. So in terms of image, it’s great that K&C continues to promote cycling as an accessible and easy form of transport that anyone can use. At a more detailed level it is imperative that the Borough’s planners ensure that there is real equality and safety on our roads and that they design in the conditions which make cycling feel subjectively as well as statistically safe and inviting for all; whether that’s ensuring there is somewhere safe for everyone to lock up their rides or building really high quality cycle tracks.
What advice would you give to a new cyclist?
Don’t be afraid to give it a try – if you haven’t ridden a bike for a long time, why not give the Boris Bikes a try in Kensington Gardens first so you don’t have to worry about traffic? If you’re nervous about how to ride on London’s busy roads then why not see if cycle training is available in your area? It’s often subsidised and well worth doing. There’s probably a cyclist or two at your work who you could ask for advice, and of course the internet is a treasure trove of information too. Lastly, get a bicycle that suits your needs and is comfortable for you: don’t be fooled in to thinking you need to buy a top end racer just to pootle to the shops!
Any tips about looking stylish whilst cycling?
As Mikael Colville-Anderson of Copenhagen Cycle Chic fame would say; “dress for the destination, not the journey”. In recent years there’s been a groundswell of people who’ve realised you don’t nescesarily have to get all dressed up in cycling kit if you take it easy, have a short journey or a practical bike. Mud guards, chain guards and coat guards are your friends. My general rule is if I can walk in it, I can ride in it, and if I feel as though I’m getting a bit hot I just sit back and ride slower. Just be yourself.
What kind of bike/bikes do you ride?
I ride a RIH Delta. RIH are a small family-run bike manufacturer who hand build all their frames in a workshop in the Joordan in Amsterdam. It has all of the guards, a nice upright riding position, hub gears and integrated hub lights and a wheel lock. I got so sick, on my old bike, of taking 20 minutes to clip on my lights and my mudgaurds every time I wanted to go for a ride – and getting to my destination with a crook in my back – that I’ve never looked back since getting my upright. My bike is my freedom!
Do you have a favourite place to ride in London?
I like riding all over London, and love how the different terrains offer different styles of riding; fast and aggressive on some of the heavier roads, chilled and relaxed on the canals and in the parks. My ideal Saturday is a short pootle from my home to Broadway Market in Hackney for a spot of shopping, followed by a slow chilled ride along the canals to the Olympic Park. The ViewTube Cafe overlooking the park does fantastic coffee, has great bike parking and you can sit and watch them building the 2012 facilities.
What is your favourite thing about riding a bike?
The freedom it gives me from timetables, traffic jams and expensive train fares (and I’m always guaranteed a seat) and I love the feeling of riding in a group of commuters at peak times, like a little mini peloton.
What’s the most interesting thing that’s happened to you whilst riding your bike?
I was once waiting at the traffic lights (as all good cyclists do) and there were two cyclists behind me. One turned to the other and said “That’s that bike blogger guy!” which was very funny; I never expected to get recognised in the street just because I started writing about my experiences online. I always try to smile, waive or talk to other cyclists, I think the feeling of being part of something bigger amongst other cyclists is the best.