Cycling News

LCC campaigners ride with a 'direct vision' lorry to end lorry danger

On the day of the Safer Lorry scheme launch, LCC campaigners went for a ride with a 'direct vision' lorry to demonstrate the improved visibility of cyclists that these vehicles offer. 

Our day started off at Marble Arch for Transport for London's launch event for the scheme, where our lorries expert Charlie Lloyd gave a number of interviews on the need for direct vision lorries and improved driver vision. We've been calling for much stronger action from the Mayor to put an end to lorry danger. In the first half of 2015, seven out of the eight cyclist fatalities in London involved large lorries. We've stated that the Mayor’s Safer Lorry scheme doesn’t do enough to address the issue, as it will only require lorries to have basic safety equipment, which most lorries on London’s roads already do. 

To help LCC #endlorrydanger, you can make a donation here.

Lorries

Mayor of London Boris Johnson arrived to inspect the vehicles, and to talk about future plans for the scheme. While the current scheme contains no requirements for freight operators to use lorries with improved direct vision - merely safety mirrors which do not solve the problem of the 'lorry blind spot' - the Mayor has today announced plans to retrofit side windows which give drivers a better view of cyclists near their vehicle, and has promised to fit glass doors to all lorries working for the Greater London Authority, Transport for London and Crossrail. We'd like to see a commitment from the Mayor to only use direct vision lorries, but we're really pleased that our message about the poor visibility that most lorries offer is being picked up - huge thanks to the thousands of supporters who've signed our petition to end lorry danger.

Boris and direct vision lorry

After the Mayor's interviews we set off on our bikes, being filmed riding alongside the lorry and taking snaps of our own from the back of a tandem. It's much easier to see the driver of a direct vision lorry compared to a conventional lorry, and for the driver to see us too.

Our route took us through Victoria, where tragically 36-year-old Claire Hitier-Abadie was killed after being hit by a construction lorry which was turning left from Bressenden Place into Victoria Street in February of this year.

Lorry

We met more LCC campaigners - and more media - at Lambeth Bridge North, another location where a life has been lost to a lorry this year. London arts visionary Moira Gemmill was killed by a lorry at this location in April 2015.

LCC believes that as well as safer lorries, our most dangerous junctions - like Lambeth Bridge North - must be urgently redesigned to make them safer for cycling. In addition, safe passage for cyclists and pedestrians during construction or roadworks must be made a priority.

Lambeth Bridge north

Huge thanks to everyone who's supported our campaign to End Lorry Danger - with your support, we can and will get lethal lorries off London's roads.
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Mayor responds to LCC's calls to end lorry danger through Safer Lorry scheme plans

Direct vision lorry

LCC is calling for the adoption of direct vision lorries, like the above, which give drivers a much clearer view of cyclists and pedestrians near their vehicle than conventional cabs. The Safer Lorry scheme contains no requirements for freight operators to use lorries with improved direct vision.

On the day London's Safer Lorry scheme launches, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has announced planned changes to the scheme in response to calls from London Cycling Campaign and its supporters for stronger action to end lorry danger.

LCC has been calling for much stronger action from the Mayor to put an end to lorry danger. In the first half of 2015, seven out of the eight cyclist fatalities in London involved large lorries. LCC has stated that the Mayor’s Safer Lorry scheme doesn’t do enough to address the issue, as it will only require lorries to have basic safety equipment, which most lorries on London’s roads already do.

The Mayor has today announced that the second stage of the scheme will require lorries to be retro-fitted with glass doors. This would help to reduce blind spots and improve driver vision, one of the key calls of LCC's End Lorry Danger campaign. Consultation will begin in January and Mr Johnson has vowed to make a final decision on glass doors before he stands down as mayor in May. 

Mr Johnson said today: "This big step forward is only one element of my work to protect cyclists and pedestrians from lorries. I announce today that I propose to require further safety modifications to all HGVs in London, including the retrofitting of bigger side windows to further reduce the driver blind spots that contribute to so many tragic accidents.

“Bigger side windows, in the lower panel of the cab door, give the driver direct vision of any cyclist who may be alongside them, and can be fitted to most lorries for around £1,000.”

The Greater London Authority say that in the interim, glass doors will be fitted as a priority to all lorries working for the Greater London Authority, Transport for London and Crossrail. Three cyclists, Maria Karsa, Brian Holt and Claire Hitier-Abadie, have died in collisions with Crossrail HGVs.

The third stage of the safer lorry scheme will aim to utilise the Mayor’s planning powers over the capital’s largest developments to dictate HGV delivery routes, which could require drivers to avoid roads heavily used by cyclists, or to take a route that avoids the need for left turns. The GLA say that discussions with London boroughs and the construction industry have begun to ensure this happens “as fast as possible”. Developers breaching planning conditions can have their sites shut down by local authorities. 

In addition, TfL has commissioned trials at the Transport Research Laboratory of sensors that sound an alarm in the driver’s cab when a cyclist or pedestrian is near. These could be introduced if the trials are a success.

London Cycling Campaign is pleased that the Mayor has taken on board calls from thousands of supporters demanding stronger action on lorry danger.

One of the key reasons for the danger presented by lorries is the restricted vision that most current lorry designs, even those with the most modern safety mirrors, offer drivers. This makes safe working very difficult even for careful drivers. In around 80% of cycling fatalities involving lorries, the cyclist was initially hit when in the area to the front left of the vehicle. It is difficult for the driver to see what is in this area from a conventional lorry. From a ‘direct vision’ lorry, this area would be clearly visible. The current Safer Lorry scheme contains no requirements for freight operators to use lorries with improved direct vision - merely safety mirrors which do not solve the problem of the 'lorry blind spot' - but plans to retrofit side windows which give drivers a better view of cyclists near their vehicle would be a welcome improvement to the scheme.

Rosie Downes, Campaigns Manager at London Cycling Campaign, said: “The restricted view from most lorry cabs means drivers are not fully aware of what is in their immediate vicinity, be it a pedestrian or a cyclist. This situation is both unacceptable and unnecessary. The news that the Mayor is to consult on retrofitting glass doors to lorries is welcome, and a step towards the widespread adoption of lorries with direct vision cabs, which have a lower driving position and offer the driver a direct view of pedestrians and cyclists in close proximity to their vehicle. Plans to use planning powers to dictate HGV delivery routes are also welcome, and another of LCC's calls. The Mayor must also prioritise safe conditions for people on foot or bike during roadworks, as well as redesigning our streets to provide safer and inviting space for cycling. Junctions, where over 70% of serious injury or fatal collisions occur, must be redesigned to eradicate the risk of cyclists being hit by turning traffic. Cycling deaths are not inevitable, and London’s leaders must do everything in their power to eliminate them.”

On the day the Safer Lorry scheme launches, LCC campaigners will cycle alongside a Mercedes Econic direct vision 18 ton skip loader lorry as it travels from Hyde Park Corner to Lambeth Bridge North, where London arts visionary Moira Gemmill was killed after being struck by a lorry while cycling to work in April 2015. London Cycling Campaign believes that the current design of this junction is unfit for purpose.

Over 12,000 people have signed LCC’s petition to end lorry danger (1), which calls for a commitment from the Mayor to use direct vision lorries for Transport for London and Greater London Authority funded projects. The petition also calls for a rush hour lorry ban (2) and stronger enforcement against operators who put profits before lives by allowing unlicensed, untrained lorry drivers, or unsafe vehicles, to operate on our roads (2).

Notes:

1. LCC’s petition and further information about the campaign can be found at www.lcc.org.uk/hgvs.

2. 40% of cycling fatalities involving lorries occur in the morning rush hour. A ban on all lorries over 7.5 tonnes between 8am and 9.30am would prevent the majority of people who cycle to work from having to share space with lorries. Construction traffic creates the biggest risk to cyclists. Some cities such as Paris and Dublin have restrictions on large lorries at particular times, though these bans do not cover the size of lorry typically involved in cyclist injuries. Any rush hour ban in London, where 28% of the UK's development is currently taking place, must not exempt construction traffic. 

3. In its first month of enforcement the City of London Police Commercial Vehicle Unit found that, 95 of the suspect 136 lorries they stopped had to be taken off the road for non-compliance or safety reasons, including lack of insurance, driving without the appropriate licence, with an unsafe load, or not accurately recording driver hours.

4. The Mercedes Econic lorry that will be driven from Marble Arch to Lambeth Bridge North has been kindly provided by S&B Commercial, part of the Imperial Group, the largest Commercial Vehicle Dealer Group in the UK. S&B Commercial are taking the lead in providing the new Econic Truck in built up urban areas to improve safety.

 

 


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TfL launches new 'hold the left' junction on Cycle Superhighway 2

Transport for London today unveiled its new 'Hold the left' junction on Cycle Superhighway 2, where the cycle route along Whitechapel Rd meets Cambridge Heath Rd.

We've welcomed the ambition to upgrade Cycle Superhighway 2. It's a notoriously dangerous route, on which six cyclists have died since it became a cycle superhighway in 2011 - and one which the Mayor promised Londoners he would improve as a result of LCC's Love London, Go Dutch campaign.

We're really pleased to see that at Cambridge Heath, the risk of cyclists being hit by left turning traffic has been designed out. Along Whitechapel Rd, motor traffic going left and going straight ahead is filtered into two separate lanes. When cyclists in the cycle track are going straight ahead on the green light, left turning motor traffic is held at a red light. The light then goes red for cyclists and left turning traffic gets a green.

This photo heading east along Whitechapel Rd shows the green lights for cyclists, ahead and right turning motor traffic while left turning cars are held on a red light:

Cambridge Heath junction

 

Here's a video going in the other direction from Youtube user and cyclist sw19cam:

 

The two stage right turn for cyclists is also a new feature. Transport for London has issued videos demonstrating how the 'hold the left' junction works. Here we see (at 0.35) how the cyclists light goes red to allow motor traffic to turn left:

 

This video shows the 2-stage right turn, compulsory for riders starting in the separate cycle track.

While we're pleased to see progress to make junctions safer for cycling in London, the problem with the design of the junction at Cambridge Heath Rd is that it adds significant delay to for cyclists compared to other traffic - while cyclists are held when motor traffic is turning left, straight ahead motor traffic can still go ahead, meaning that cyclists get about half the 'green time' given to drivers.

There are significant delays for cyclists turning right, almost an extra minute for cyclists doing the two stage right onto Whitechapel Road.

Additional delay is a proven safety risk as cyclists are encouraged to join the main traffic flow in order to maintain a fair share of the signal timing. The junction would be much safer and more efficient if it was designed to give cyclists the same amount of green time as motorists - as per our own Cycle Segregated Junction designs.

We're also concerned by the lack of protection along the route to the east and west of the Cambridge Heath junction. While much of the upgraded CS2 route includes segregated cycle tracks, there is no segregation to the west of the junction by Whitechapel Market. Transport for London's original plans showed segregated cycle track along this section, but after opposition from Whitechapel Market, those plans were axed. Instead, cyclists will be expected to leave the protected cycle track and mix with buses and vans while passing the market - a daunting prospect for many people who cycle, or who would like to start cycling.

To the east of the junction there is no protected space for cycling opposite the council-owned Ocean Estate. Transport for London have told us that they are exploring ways to address this gap in the segregation with Tower Hamlets Council. 

Other issues with the superhighway which TfL tell us they are looking into are a 'bumpiness' of the surface, and pooling of water along the track during wet weather.

We hope TfL are able to resolve these issues swiftly, and take the extra steps needed to make this a truly safe and convenient route for cyclists of all ages and abilities.


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We're royally chuffed! Cycle superhighway to continue safely past Buckingham Palace

Spur Rd gyratory

We're delighted that an agreement has finally been reached that - subject to consultation - the East-West cycle superhighway will continue safely past Buckingham Palace when it's completed next spring. New plans have been unveiled which show segregated cycle tracks either side of the Spur Rd section.

The announcement follows months of campaigning by London Cycling Campaign and others. We were shocked by the previous proposals for the location, which despite being an incredibly busy and intimidating junction - one of the 33 most dangerous identified for improvement as part of TfL's Better Junctions scheme - offered no safe space for cycling. The old plans showed the cycle superhighway vanishing by the Queen Victoria Memorial next to Buckingham Palace. Cyclists would have been expected to either use the existing shared-use area – mixing with thousands of pedestrians at one of London's most popular tourist destinations - or mix with six lanes of motor traffic.

Earlier this year thousands of LCC supporters wrote to the Royal Parks to urge them to allow the cycle superhighway to continue safely past this iconic location, so we're royally chuffed to hear that our calls haven't been ignored. Thanks to everyone who took action.

Transport for London will consult on these new and improved plans until 4 October. You can respond to the proposals through the TfL website.


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Plans unveiled for space for cycling across Camden Town

Camden Council has unveiled plans for an important new two-way east-west cycle route across Camden Town. It will run from St Pancras Way along Pratt Street, across Royal College Street to Camden High Street, where a two-way cycle crossing will be provided. It will then run two-way along Delancey Street as far as Mornington Terrace, linking to the cycle lane in Royal College Street, and a new route in Pancras Road. A later consultation on the continuation of this route to Regents Park is promised. The work is part of the Mayor’s Central London Grid.

Delancy Street between Mornington Terrace and Camden High Street

Delancey St

Plans for Delancey Street include 2m wide stepped cycle tracks on both sides of the road and only a single lane for motor traffic. There will be a cycle crossing over Camden High Street, which Transport for London will consult on separately. The design will ban the right turn out of Pratt Street so as to allow two-way cycling across Camden High Street in the same signal stage as the westbound motors. 

Pratt Street between Camden High Street and Bayham Street

Pratt St

Pratt Street between Camden High Street and Bayham Street will feature 1.7 m wide protected cycle tracks on both sides of the road and a single lane for motors, plus a tiger crossing over Bayham Street (side by side zebra and cycle crossing). Pratt Street between Royal College Street and St Pancras Way, where the street is one-way eastbound, will feature a 2m wide stepped contraflow cycle track.

Phil Jones, Camden’s cabinet member for transport, said: “These new plans are for some of best cycling facilities that London has seen and will open up a network of safe and attractive routes for the growing number of cyclists who want to cycle through Camden.

“Camden already has some safe and attractive cycle routes and by the end of 2015, we are on track to have doubled the amount of segregated cycle lanes in the past two years.

“By the end of 2016 we plan to have over 10km of new and improved segregated cycle lanes in the borough linking many of our town centres to each other and to the West End and City.”

Camden Cycling Campaign have set up a Cyclescape thread to discuss the plans before the consultation deadline on 30 September. Find out more on Camden Council's website.


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Chaos on Cycle Superhighway CS3


For years the CS3 Cable Street route has been notorious for random closures for all sorts of street works. Sections of it seem to be dug up every other month. Sometimes lorries park all over it to deliver motor cars or pick up rubbish.

Now Transport for London and Tower Hamlets council are responsible for the worst closure ever. Ignoring all the safety guidance on managing cycling around street works they have totally closed CS3 for the next three months. They are working on improvements to make a good pedestrian crossing of the road and route. 

Young rider forced to dismount to get around carelessly placed sign

As the pictures show the cycle route is completely blocked. The main carriageway is one-way westbound only, eastbound cyclists have nowhere to go and no signs to help them. The remaining pavement is too narrow to share with pedestrians and even that is blocked by huge signs in the wrong place.

There is a great opportunity to trial the effects of filtering out through traffic on this route during construction. Motor traffic can be diverted via Pinchin St. Filtering out motor traffic to provide adequate space for cycling has been proposed by LCC and is being considered by Tower Hamlets council.

Last year Transport for London published draft guidance for managing cyclists at roadworks as part of the London Cycling Design Standards. The guidance says  :

  • there should be adequate warning notices for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians
  • priority should be given to maintaining access during the works
  • when cyclists and motor vehicles share use of narrow roads there need to be 20mph limits and signs saying 'Narrow Lanes - Do not overtake cyclists'
  • a diversion for motorists should be considered before sending cyclists on a long poor quality diversion
  • providing a diversion for cyclists is the last option - it must be clearly signposted and the signs maintained throughout the work period
  • simply placing  'Cyclist Dismount' signs at the end of the works is not acceptable.

They are also starting work on the very worst junctions which have been causing problems for cyclists at Cannon Street Road, Hardinge Street and Horseferry Road E14.

These are all welcome improvements but fall far short of the Mayor's commitment to the LCC Love London Go Dutch campaign to ensure that the Cycle Superhighways are completed to the best practice design standard.

Tower Hamlets council supported by the local LCC group Tower Hamlets Wheelers are proposing a major re-design of this route: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/cable-street/user_uploads/cable-street-consultation-report.pdf

"Future Proposals:  The London Borough of Tower Hamlets is currently investigating proposals to increase the capacity for cyclists along Cable Street and enhance the experience of local residents and pedestrians.

"Options being considered involve filtered permeability and allocating more carriageway space to cyclists. TfL will be working proactively with the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to ensure any future proposals take into account road safety improvements and cyclist priority."

Plans for the current works can be seen here:
https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/cable-street
https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/horseferry-road

Be a member of London Cycling Campaign

LCC supports the concept of the Cycle Superhighways but we've often been concerned about the quality of the routes. Our campaigning on CS2 is resulting in upgrades along the route and the East-West and North-South Superhighways are a direct result of our Love London, Go Dutch campaign. We continue to campaign to ensure that the remaining superhighways are delivered to the highest possible standards.

As a membership charity we rely on funds raised through subscriptions from individuals who share our vision of making London the best cycling city in the world. If you share our vision and want to help create Space for Cycling please join LCC today.



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Roberts Cycles

 

This article is reproduced, (with minor changes), from The Boneshaker magazine (August 2015 issue) - the journal of the Veteran Cycling Club. Archive copies of this, and other articles on cycling history are available to VCC members at the Club library website.   

Note: Owners of early Roberts frames are invited to help compile an index by sending: year of manufacture, frame number, and place purchased to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with Roberts in the subject line. 

 

 Roberts Cycles

In post-war years London was awash with bicycles. More than 600,000 people traveled daily to work by bike in the 1950s. Not surprisingly, there was a buoyant cycle building business in the capital with several bike makers and bike shops per borough. As motoring picked up, however, it drove cyclists off streets that were redesigned for high speed car travel. The city’s many bike makers left town, sold out, went bust or moved on to other things. One lone frame-building outpost of the post-war days survived1 and remained almost unchanged until 2015. Roberts Cycles is not only remarkable for producing cycles that have won both races and awards but for sustaining a family bicycle and frame making business that  had its beginnings in the thirties and flourished in the same part of town where it was born until its owner decided on a well-earned sabbatical2.

 

Early History

 

The founder of the Roberts Cycles business was Charlie Roberts. Like many of his contemporaries in the cycle trade (including Freddie Grubb and Charlie Davey) he was also a competitive racing cyclist.  His speciality was time trials and, according to the records of Addiscombe Cycling Club3, founded by Charlie Davey in 1906, he held the Southern Road Racing Association 12 hour record from 1940 until 1959 as well as setting the South Eastern 12 hour record in 1946. While formally registered with the club, from 1940 -1947, he notched up nine first places, six second places and five third places in time trials.

Born in 1920, Charlie entered the cycle trade, at the then not unusual age of 14, working for Charlie Davey in Croydon. Davey, a successful cyclist in the 1920s4 , owned a shop in Addiscombe Road (Davey Cycles) and also, being a cycling club mate of Freddie Grubb5, helped finance the Allin and Grubb business (both well-known South London bike brands) in 1919. By the time Charlie Roberts would have worked for Davey, in the 1930’s, Freddie Grubb had set up a separate business and moved away from Croydon, but, pre WWII,  Allin’s was selling cycles under the Davey brand name (Classic Lightweights shows an example of  ‘The Davey’ head badge with Allin’s address at 132 Whitehorse Road, Croydon).  Cycling historian, Mick Butler, records that in 1922 Allin’s, were advertising a Davey Cycles quick release whose design Archibald Allin apparently attributed to Davey himself, despite a rival claim from Freddie Grubb. Norman Cox, the brother in law of Charlie Roberts, and fellow Addiscombe rider, recalls that there was a workshop behind the Davey bike shop where a builder called Ray Cook, another Addiscombe rider, may have schooled Charlie Roberts in frame construction (a Ray Cook is recorded by Norman Kilgariff, Holdsworth historian, as building the first aluminium Holdsworth in 1947[1]).

According to his older son Chas, other builders that Charlie worked for included Claud Butler (originally based in Wandsworth (Herndon Street, SW18)  and later in Clapham (Clapham Manor St, SW4)),  Holdsworth (Lower Richmond Road , Putney and other locations)6 and Freddie Grubb. Photographs show Charlie Roberts racing on a Claud Butler in the 1940s. On the Holdsworth history website Norman Kilgariff records that Charlie Roberts returned to Holdsworthy (the Richmond shop, (W.F.) Holdsworth, and the wholesale business, Holdsworthy, had become separate )  in 1946 after the war, which indicates that he was working for them at some point before the war started. Chas remembers that his father worked on tandems (his father describing the challenge of bending seat tubes to create a shorter wheelbase) for the British Olympic team while working for Claud Butler. 

The Butler company advertised the fact that it made cycles and tandems for Olympic use in 1932, which would have been too early for Charlie to be involved, though Claud Butler may also have built frames for the 1936 or later Games. Among other builders who worked for CB and may have encountered a young Charlie Roberts were Les Ephgrave, Fred Dean, Bill Hurlow, George Stratton, Pat Skeates and Bill Philbrook – most of whom subsequently set up workshops of their own. Chas recalls that his father was friendly with Bill Philbrook and there are evident similarities in the clean, pure lines and meticulous filing of some of their frames.

During the war Charlie joined the Air Force as a mechanic (photo left) . Initially he serviced Lancaster bombers but high casualty levels among flight staff saw the unit disbanded and he was then assigned to Burma, where he again worked on servicing aircraft. Post war he returned to frame building, primarily for Holdsworthy, where he became foreman and later works manager. Norman Kilgariff records that there was repeated to-ing and fro-ing at what was now Holdsworthy. Thus in the late forties/early fifties Charlie left Holdsworthy to briefly join Freddie Grubb’s together with ex-Holdsworth director Ivor Cox and fellow employee Bill Rann. He returned to Holdsworthy where he held the status of foreman in 1956, according to another employee, Reg Collard7. Collard says Charlie Roberts left again in 1957, along with Collard himself, and other staff members. Charlie clearly returned again because he was employed as works manager at Holdsworthy in the early 1960s.

 

Roberts Cycles, 21 Trewsbury Road, Sydenham

It was then,  in the early sixties, that 14 year old Chas Roberts entered the bike trade helping his father braze bike racks at home in the cellar to supplement the family income. He also took steps in the direction of track racing and received lessons from respected rider Keith Butler (son of Stan Butler who bought Allin’s Cycles) but did not pursue the sport.

Trewsbury Road, Sydenham 

               Charlie, according to Chas, got tired of office politics at Holdsworthy and left abruptly in 1963 or 1964 to set up his own business. Initially all the work took place in the cellar of the home the family rented in 21 Trewsbury Road, Sydenham and this home address featured on the head crest of early Roberts frames. The CR monogram in the crest, which remains the firm’s trademark, was inspired by a CP logo once used by local football club Crystal Palace and has since appeared in similar formats in the logo of the Classic Rendezvous bike website and, more recently, Charles Kennedy cycles. As Chas notes – there aren’t many ways of linking a C with an R.  The Roberts decal on the down tube used the Clarendon font, which remained the firm’s standard choice until the 1990s

 

Charlie’s friendship with John Pratt, then owner of Geoffrey Butler Cycles of South End, Croydon, led to him getting access to a workshop in the ‘garden shed’ of the Geoffrey Butler shop. Roberts-built custom frames were then sold through GB Cycles. Roberts also built trade frames for W.F. Holdsworth (then owned by yet another ex-Holdsworthy staffer, Roy Thame), and Condor (Gray’s Inn Road, London). However, he continued to sell frames privately from his home and those bore the original crest encircled by the same Trewsbury Road home address.

Most of the frames built in the 1960s were road racing, track and touring frames. Distinctive marks of the Charlie Roberts-built frame of the era were: several holes drilled in the spear point lugs, and often bottom brackets with cut outs to save weight. Chas recalls that lugs in the 1950s and 1960s were of a poor quality and invariably had to be extensively filed and cleaned before they would be used on a Roberts frame. Prugnat and Nervex lugs were an improvement on earlier designs when they became available, but they too required filing. Chas, and his younger brother Geoff (eight years younger than Chas and a keen racing cyclist) who had also been brought into the business at an early age, both worked on building carrier racks and lug filing for three to five years before they were allowed to graduate to frame building.

 

East Dulwich and Forest Hill

Outgrowing the ‘garden shed’ at Geoffrey Butler’s the Roberts workshop moved to East Dulwich but continued to use the Trewsbury Road address on head badges. Business was evidently good because Charlie and his two sons were joined in the workshop by Derek Bailey, an experienced builder from Holdsworth. After several years at the Roberts workshop, Bailey subsequently moved to Vancouver where he initially worked for Roland Hill and then joined the newly formed Rocky Mountain Bikes, as remembered by a young Paul Brodie of Brodie bikes8. (When  encountered  at Rocky Mountain in the 1980s Bailey  said he had fond memories of working at Roberts – and insisted a photo be taken of his battered bike to show to Chas as an indication of Bailey’s, jokingly, hard circumstances).   Meanwhile Charlie Roberts’ former colleague John Pratt had sold Geoffrey Butler’s and decided to open a new bike shop in Forest Hill, South London. It was called, appropriately, Phoenix Cycles. The plan was to share the rent on what had been a funeral director’s premises and Charlie agreed to move his workshop again and to sell Roberts frames via the Phoenix shop. Frames built at Phoenix had either Phoenix or Roberts transfers – John Pratt recognised that Roberts was strong brand and sold bikes under both names. 

This was a period when the Roberts workshop pioneered innovative frame designs. A notable change from traditional frames with ‘pencil’ seat stays was the use of chunkier section seat stays, a style later followed by many builders in the 70s. This came about when Ron Webb, a six day track rider, introduced Charlie to Australia’s top riders who wanted stiffer frames for better power transmission. Charlie utilised parallel rather than tapered stays for the Australian team’s six-day frames and the ‘beefy’ stay became common on Roberts frames, notably track and touring cycles. Another unusual Roberts design was the curved split seat tube designed to accommodate a very short wheelbase for time trial bikes. The time trial cycle illustrated on the Classic Rendezvous website was exhibited at the New York International Bike Show in 19769. The link with the US was a consequence of a connection with a US importer based in Maine called, fittingly, Cycle Imports of Cornish, Maine run by Bob and Judy Richmond. Chas Roberts travelled to New York for one of the exhibitions. VCC member George Bolton describes one of the most unusual designs of the period: a children’s Penny Farthing, built with a 27” front wheel and a rear wheel from a pram – at least two Roberts built Penny Farthings have survived.

The Roberts business prospered at Phoenix, moving to a larger workshop at the same premises, but in 1976 John Pratt sold the business and Charlie Roberts, his sons and Derek Bailey moved from Forest Hill to new premises in nearby Penge.

87 Penge Road, Anerley 

Work continued at Penge where Roberts had their own shop front as well as a workshop at the back. The new address, 87 Penge Road, Anerley, was put around the head crest. Sadly, Charlie Roberts died suddenly in 1979. His son Chas, then in his thirties, took over the business with Derek Bailey and Geoff Roberts working as frame builders. They were joined by Phil Maynard, formerly of Holdsworth, and later by Neil Brice, another Holdsworth graduate. Bailey, as described above, eventually departed for Canada. Production in Penge ran at around four to five frames per week. Charlie Robert’s straightforward consecutive numbering system, starting at 100, was dropped in favour of a five or six figure number starting with the year, then the month and finally the consecutive number of the frame built that month.

The business grew and Chas was able to buy the neighbouring shop. As demand from club cyclists increased, the quantity of frames built for the trade declined. The 1979 Roberts catalogue lists eight models including several touring bikes, a track iron, a time trial frame, several road bikes and a mixte frame10. It also records Charlie Roberts’ racing record, noting that he was runner up in the BBAR, rode London to Paris in the late 40s and had victories in the Bath Road ‘50’ and ‘100’.

One of the customers at the Penge shop was Maurice Burton, Britain’s first black professional cyclist, who won the UK junior sprint title in 1973 and represented England at the Commonwealth Games in 197411. For a period in the 1980s Roberts sponsored Burton supplying him with both road and track frames. Burton went on to run De Ver cycles in Streatham and is father of Germain Burton who rides for the De Ver team and has recently raced for the UK pursuit team. Another well-known client was time trialist Eddie Adkins whose regular builder, and sponsor, was unwell at the time when he needed a new frame.

The best known rider, however, to be measured up by Chas at the time was Tony Doyle, whose Ammaco sponsored and liveried track bikes were built in the Roberts workshop. Doyle was World Pursuit Champion in 1980 and 1986 and is still involved in cycling, encouraging young people to take up the pursuit. The championship win was subtly reflected in a new Roberts crest: buyers were given the choice of CR with world champion stripes flowing from it instead of the traditional head badge with the address around it.

With the expansion of the premises there was an opportunity to install a paint shop and Eric Cam joined the team enabling Roberts to control all aspects of construction and finish in-house. The quality of frames improved with the increased availability of new tubing from Columbus (imported by Saba to the UK) and the introduction of new ranges from Reynolds: 537, 531SL, 531C and others. This enabled Roberts to design frames with combinations of tubes from different makers, to suit varying purposes and riders; a mix and match approach that continued until 2015. The ‘beefier’ stays, characteristic of frames of the period, now had the Clarendon R engraved on the top seat stay eye as did many of the straight (as opposed to sloping) fork crowns. Frames were either lugless (fillet brazed) or had spear point Prugnat lugs. A decorative feature on some lugwork were small round cut outs. When Cinelli cast lugs became available these ousted the earlier pressed lugs on road and track frames, though Nervex lugs were retained on some touring frames. 

The use of lugless construction, an increasingly common Roberts trademark, was required for time trial frames with sloping top tubes, for curved seat tubes, and for frames with aero-tubing. The beefy stays of the 70s gave way to sleeker ‘fast-back’ stays. As the word about Roberts expertise in time trial and low profile frames spread, the number of customers for such frames grew and, for club riders in South London, Roberts became synonymous with cutting edge custom frame design.

The successful era in Penge was brought to a halt not by a lack of business but because the council decided they wanted the area to be more residential – a sharp contrast to 21st century London, when councils are trying to restrict the removal of shops and workshops as the boom in residential development creates neighbourhoods without either. The outcome in 1983, however, was yet another change of address. Chas and his team, which now included Winston Vaz as a junior member, transferred the works to 89 Gloucester Road, Croydon – a location off the beaten track, and initially without a shop front. Brother Geoff left to set up his own frame building business near Brands Hatch before switching to the music industry for a period and, more recently, returning to frame building and running frame building courses.

 

Croydon, 89 Gloucester Road and Cycle Art Bromley

The move in 1983 to Gloucester Road, Croydon (two streets away from where Charlie Roberts embarked on his career) has proved to be the most stable in the Roberts history, location-wise and, to a large extent, staff-wise. From the Penge team Derek Bailey left for Canada, and Neil Brice moved elsewhere, but Winstone Vaz was now a frame builder, and Phil Maynard stayed in Chas’ team, the latter establishing a reputation for constructing beautiful fillet brazed tandems. Eric Cam remained as the paint sprayer and ushered in the fashion for complex fade paintjobs that persisted through the 80s and into the 90s.  Perhaps the best known Roberts colour schemes of the early Croydon period were the blue/metallic pink fades used on time trial machines and road bikes, and the black, red, yellow, white fade that graced many of the newly popular mountain bikes. Because the workshop at Gloucester Road originally had no showroom, Chas decided to take a short lease in 1985 on a shop in Bromley which he renamed Cycle Art the shop was successful enough for Roberts to stay there beyond the lease but the construction of a showroom at Gloucester Road resolved the issue of having a place to receive customers. Regrettably a break-in at the Bromley shop resulted in the loss of records, kept in a Campagnolo brake box, so the exact details of production up to that period will never be known. 

Staff changes at Gloucester Road were not great. Phil Maynard eventually left and was replaced by Adrian Parry who, within the trade, developed a reputation as a builder of considerable talent with the ability to build anything from trikes and tandems to low profiles and unusual mountain bikes. Chris Shaw joined the team during the mountain bike boom but was sadly killed in a collision. Adam Horton worked as a mechanic and at the front of shop before being replaced by Andrew Colvin in the showroom and Brian Phillips,  an experienced mechanic who had previously worked at Cycle Systems, a Harrow cycle shop that offered customised Roberts frames, and Beta Bikes in West Hampstead.

The 21st century, notably in London, was marked not only by a cycling boom but a retro fashion that saw hand-built steel frames prized above all else. Roberts, who had never really built anything else but custom made steel frames, were in the spotlight again and, along with Witcomb, one of the two remaining custom builders in London. Roberts also had an enviable track record of building specialised fixed wheel bikes, a particular favourite in the retro cycle revival. This boosted orders for track frames in particular, but road and touring frames also benefitted. The versatility of the Roberts team was evident at the Bespoked custom bike shows in Bristol and London, where they exhibited an unusually wide range of frames for customers, not to mention other builders, to admire. Among them were frames made using the new and significantly lighter stainless steel tubing, like Columbus XCr and Reynolds 953, and atypical designs like the Fleur-de-Lys lugged step-through frame based on 1950s French styling.

Some modern day peer recognition of Roberts is evident in Made in England, co-written by Matthew Souter and Ricky Feather, two of the most lauded of the new generation of frame builders12. This book features interviews with UK builders, with several of the younger generation citing Roberts, as well as the late Ron Cooper, as an influence. Chas Roberts himself cites Bill Philbrook and Ron Cooper as builders he respects but he also admires the contemporary younger builders like Mark Reilly of Nerve.

 

Mountain bikes

Roberts were probably the first British frame builder to construct a US-style mountain bike in the early eighties13. Like many boys brought up in 1960s South London, Chas Roberts rode a UK style track/trail bike off-road as a young teenager so he would have had an inbuilt understanding of the sport before it arrived from the US. Indeed Chas’ off-road track bike was the first cycle he ever assembled (at the precocious age of 13). It was based on a Phillips frame re-sprayed light blue and fitted with knobbly tyres, cow horn bars and a sloping top tube – the only missing MTB ingredient was the gear mech. as used by US pioneers Charlie Kelly and Gary Fisher (UK off-road ‘track’ bikes were single speed). At Roberts the 1980s MTB initiative came from Jake Heilbron14, the manager of West Point Cycles in Vancouver and  co- founder of Canada’s Rocky Mountain Bikes (where Derek Bailey of Roberts Cycles turned up), and Kona cycles. Heilbron was familiar with the heavyweight mountain bikes being used in California but wanted something lighter and sprightlier so he shipped a Californian style frame to Roberts, whom he knew through Cycle Imports of Maine, and asked them to make something similar. Chas recalls the challenge of setting up for wheels of a different dimension:– 26 US cruiser wheels and tyres,  as used on the converted Schwinns that served as the pre-mountainbike ‘clunkers’ in the mid-1970s. To deliver a lighter frame than then in use in California, Roberts opted for tandem tubing to ensure durability in off-road use. The frames were well received across the pond and Roberts made several for the US and Canadian markets.

Photo right : Early Roberts mountain bike at the 1984 Wendover Bash (Graham Wallace)

Initially mountain bikes were treated with curiosity or contempt by UK road cyclists but off-road cycling gradually took off, in part because, both in the US and UK, on-road cycling had been made less attractive by ever higher car use and the re-design of many roads purely for fast motoring. Roberts were well placed to satisfy the new market at a time when high quality mountain bikes were limited in supply. At the upper end of the nascent market only graphic artist Geoff Apps was offering Cleland cross-country bikes in very small numbers, and both Covent Garden Bikes and Greg Oxenham at Bike UK were importing a few of the original Ritchey Mountain Bikes. The initial problem for Roberts was that while they could build mountain bike frames using existing tubing types, there was a shortage of componentry. They resorted to buying low cost mountain bikes, such as Muddy Foxes, to strip for parts. Sources of components, notably those from Suntour and Shimano, gradually came on stream and Roberts established a name for high-end mountain bike design. Their familiarity with lugless frame building made it relatively easy for Roberts to accommodate the new dimensions of tubing from Reynolds and Columbus as well as build frames with sloping top tubes – an innovation that was not available on any of the US nor Far Eastern bikes for sale in the UK at the time.  One of the first sloping top tube frames from Roberts, purchased in the mid-80s, also included the recently introduced brass head badge (since succeeded by the stainless version). Another Roberts innovation for off-road machines was the decoratively filleted seat tube sleeve – critical on early machines when suspension was not available and seat post adjustments were frequent. The sleeve, usually with a spear point finish, often distinguishes a Roberts-built frame, even when they were built for the trade. In the 1980s Roberts built mountain bikes for Evans Cycles and others. Recently sold in East London was a Roberts-built Evans with not only a sleeved seattube but also the characteristic beefy seat stays with an engraved R – the colour, bright metallic pink, was also a characteristic choice at Roberts in the 80s and 90s.

As with road bikes, word spread of the Roberts mountain bike expertise and UK and world champions came knocking at the door to be measured up for frames. Both Dave Baker and Tim Gould rode Roberts-built frames to victory though they were badged as Peugeots (their sponsor). The frames can be identified as coming from the Roberts workshop by the unusual circular cut out on the seat tube reinforcing sleeve – the cut out first featured on the rare Cobra model and was a reference to 60s and 70s Roberts frames with drilled lugs.

The development of mountain biking meant that the original Roberts ‘mountain bike’ blossomed  into a whole range of off-road bikes to suit different uses and meet different price points. Their first mountain bike catalogue featured the top of the range White Spider (named after the north face of the Eiger), the mid-range Black Leopard, the off-road tourer, the Rough Stuff (a nod towards the UK precursor of mountain biking, the Rough Stuff Fellowship); and the Trans-continental, a long range tourer (whose name might have been the Inter-continental but for the clash with hotel and missile names). Short-lived off-road models included the Cobra, which included unique wide cow-horn bars (based on tandem bars but reversed and sawn-off) and was made with the UK’s first set of Tange Prestige tubing (imported by Muddy Fox); the Stratos(11 built) which had chain stays meeting the centre of the seat tube and an additional tube routed from the downtube to the bottom bracket15, the Phantom, built with the first UK set of Columbus Nivacrom OR; and the all-white ‘gentleman’s bicycle’, as it was dubbed in an MBUK review, which combined light road tubing with 26 wheels and 7-speed gearing to create a sub-20lb hybrid machine. One example of the White Spider was built as a companion bike for purchasers of Aston Martin cars – sprayed in a colour to match the owner’s car. The one illustrated on http://www.pistonheads.com/gassing/topic.asp?t=1163713 appears to have a DOGSBOLX mono-stay (see below) and may be a later version.

The pinnacle of Roberts mountain bike design was the D.O.G.S.B.O.L.X.  (a bike name based on an acronym Dirt Oriented Geometry System Blend Orthogonal Lateral Extra concocted by mechanic Adam Horton who was a self-acknowledged weight weenie and Viz magazine fan, in which the word featured prominently16). Adam pushed the team to innovate and cut out excess weight. This led to the distinctive mono-stay on the DOGSBOLX which all but eliminated seat-stay flex due to braking pressure. Adam also persuaded the frame builders to trim every tube end internally to save the last possible gram. Such was the publicity and acclaim for the DOGSBOLX that other builders paid indirect tribute by introducing the Cat’s Meow and the Donkey’s Knob. Most DOGSBOLX frames were fitted with front suspension forks as soon as those became available. A variant on the DB was the Psyclo which used cow horn bars, Shimano road racing brake/gear levers and a lightweight suspension fork.

While Roberts mountain bikes were originally built with Reynolds 531 tandem tubing this changed to Reynolds 531 off-road tubing when this became available, as well as its contemporary: Columbus OR. As with Roberts road bikes, Chas would frequently combine Reynolds and Columbus tubes. On the DOGBSBOLX and Psyclo frames a Reynolds 853 main frame was combined with wide section Columbus Nivacrom chain stays to provide resistance to flex.

The advent of aluminium mountain bikes with front and back suspension slowed the sales of DOGSBOLX frames but did not eliminate them. In recent years the design was revived as an off-road single speed in striking black and white livery with the model name on the down tube instead of Roberts.

 

Road, touring and track

While Roberts set the pace in mountain bikes from Croydon, low profiles, road bikes and touring frames continued to be built from the 1980s and into the new century. International tourist Josie Dew chose to ride a Roberts, giving the brand an unexpected boost.


 It became customary for Roberts owners, including Josie, to send Chas a photograph of themselves and their bicycles in faraway lands – more than a hundred photos were on display by the time the showroom closed. One includedunique, low profile Aston Martin bicycle built in collaboration with Mike Burrows (who built the Lotus frames for world champion Chris Boardman) with streamlined tubing and a streamlined seat tube. In an interview with the authors of Made in England17Chas acknowledges that Roberts bikes were built for Royalty but does not specify the nationality of his aristocratic customers.

Design in Croydon moved with the times. Fastback stays and shot-in seat stays started to overtake the engraved chunky version stays with a single R. Top
 eyes, bottom brackets and fork crowns were now all available with ‘Roberts’ engraved in full. Aero-tubing was used on low profiles which became ever more unusual in appearance. The production of s/s couplings, which enable a steel frame to be taken apart while retaining its ride properties, became popular with customers at Roberts despite the additional cost . Weight weenies pushed Roberts to offer steel main tubes with carbon forks and stays – in some cases matched with couplings so that a 12lb bikes could be carried in a small suitcase. 

Both road bikes and mountain bikes were now offered with brass head badges. These were subsequently changed in the 1990s to stainless steel ones along with a smaller version that was fitted to the side of the seat tube on Trans-continental touring frames and some top-of-the-range mountain bikes. For a short period in the 1990s the familiar Clarendon font was changed to a ‘reduced’ Clarendon stating Chas Roberts rather than just Roberts – this was more commonly used on touring bikes and then dropped. Two decals that were introduced in Penge, and retained at Croydon, were the Chas Roberts signature in small script and the CR head badge with world champion stripes. Some of the signatures had US and UK flags on the sides in recognition of the transatlantic nature of the business.

In the 1990’s a more modern italic font (similar to Jasmine), replaced Clarendon on most frames and, in the 2010s a rounded, sans serif, Deco style, variant was also commonly used.

 

Frame numbering

Charlie Roberts numbered frames on the fork steerer tube and bottom bracket (across the bracket) or rear drop-out with the whole series starting at 100. These frames would have been fitted with decals giving the Trewsbury Road home address. On the Classic Rendezvous website frames with the Trewsbury Road address are stated as having the numbers 547 and 1372, which suggests that at least 1372 frames were built using the first numbering system. Given that some frames were built for the trade and may have had different numbers it is hard to estimate total production. Chas Roberts recalls that the consecutive numbering system was continued for a short period after his father passed away and then the year/month/frame numbering system was adopted. This makes it  easier to date frames in this period, however, as so often with frame builders, there were some  exceptions to the system Classic Rendezvous shows a frame from the Penge period (Cinelli top eyes and Nervex lugs) with the number 572, and a 753 frame with similar transfers (world champion stripes on head badge) numbered 88222.  While the latter appears to be consistent with the Roberts numbering pattern, the former is either a deviation from the system or a repair of an older Roberts frame. The more modern, post 1979, system appears to have switched from a five and six figure system to a more consistent six figure one, by adding zeros, with the first frame built in 2001, for example, having the number 010101. Chas notes that the numbering system sometimes varied when frames were earmarked for the trade or for spraying outside the Roberts premises18.

 

Acknowledgements: Many thanks for information and photographs to Chas and Geoff Roberts, John and Chris Watts, Keith Butler, Bryan Clarke, Neil Carlson, Brian Phillips, Adrian Parry, Graham Wallace  and Norman Cox. Thanks to VCC members George Bolton, John Foster, Chris Hutchinson  for corrections and additions to the web version of the article.

 

End Notes

1  Witcomb Cycles (the family was in the trade from the 1920s) closed in 2009. Condor cycles still has a flourishing London shop but its frames have been built outside of London for many years.

2  Chas Roberts announced in April 2015 that the business would close following a sale of display stock. The official press release stated that Chas would be taking a sabbatical of unspecified duration. Sale of frame building equipment commenced in May 2015. 

3  John and Chris Watts – personal communication 2015.

4  Wikipedia, Charles Davey http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlie_Davey_%28cyclist%29.

5  Wikipedia, Freddie Grubb http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddie_Grubb.

6  N Kilgariff, Holdsworth website http://www.nkilgariff.com.

7  Ibid.

8  http://www.cycleexif.com/brodie-bikes-the-true-stor.

9  http://www.classicrendezvous.com/British_isles/Roberts_Chas/chas_roberts_TT.htm.

10  https://www.flickr.com/photos/oroboyz/5342069698/in/album-72157625663812287/ .

11  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurice_Burton_%28cyclist%29.

12  www.saffronframeworks.com and www.feathercycles.com.

13  The first UK-style mountain bike is generally acknowledged to be the Geoff Cleland Apps cross-country bike of 1979 built by Dees of Amersham according to Graham Wallace. It differed from the US version in its use of 650 size wheels and Finnish Hakka tyres. https://clelandcycles.wordpress.com/history/

14  http://www.nycvelo.com/5ive-points-with-jake-heilbron-dan-gerhard-owners-founders-of-kona-bikes/

15  http://www.robertscycles.com/roberts-stratos-.html.

16  The Elite Bicycle, Gerard Brown and Graeme Fife p.61

17  Made in England, Matthew Souter, Ricky Feather and Kayti Peschke, p130.

18   After spray painter Eric Cam retired Roberts eventually sold its spray shop equipment to Colortech and then outsourced their spray painting to them. Colortech remain in business.

 

 

 

 



[1] http://www.nkilgariff.com/


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CAMPAIGN SUCCESS! Cycle Superhighway begins to take shape on the Embankment

We're delighted to see the new East-West Cycle superhighway beginning to take shape along the Embankment, where cyclists are already making good use of the near-finished stretch leading up to Westminster Bridge. The route will provide a fully segregated cycle lane which people of all ages and abilities can enjoy.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a huge campaign success for London Cycling Campaign, who in in 2012, along with 10,000 supporters who joined us on our 'Big Ride', called for streets that are as safe and inviting as they are in Holland. In response, the Mayor promised that he would deliver all new cycle superhighways to best continental standards. The construction of this route, along with the North-South superhighway also under construction are a direct result of our 'Love London, Go Dutch' campaign, along with tireless efforts from our local groups and activists.

London's Cycle superhighways have, in the past, left a lot to be desired. But the new East-West and North-South superhighways will introduce protected space for cyclists in central London. The new superhighways - a new North-South route running from Elephant and Castle to King's Cross, an East-West route running from Tower Hill to Paddington - are due for completion in March 2016. 

We congratulate the Mayor on finally taking such a big step towards delivering on this promise and are excited to see, and ride, the finished routes!

Much more needs to be done for real Space for Cycling in London. Even on this route LCC needs help to convince TfL to provide safe access from Tower Bridge, to avoid risky junctions on Parliament Square and build a protected route around Buckingham Palace.

Join our movement and help us campaign for more Space for Cycling like this.

Make a donation

As a charity we rely on the funds raised from member subscriptions and donations from individuals like you who share our vision of making London the best cycling city in the world. If you share our desire to see more protected space for cyclists introduced in central London, please help by making a donation.

Single Donation:

Monthly Donation:


Join London Cycling Campaign

As a membership charity we rely on funds raised through subscriptions from individuals who share our vision of making London the best cycling city in the world. If you share our vision and want to help create Space for Cycling please join LCC today.



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Stray golf balls and unexploded bombs....counter arguments to a proposed cycle lane

 

Plans for a new traffic-free cycle route from New Malden to Raynes Park are under fire from local residents who are using some interested counter-arguments to fight against the scheme: ‘illegal habitation’, ‘unexploded WW2 bombs’, terrorist attacks and ‘aberrant golf balls’, amongst others. Read on to find out more.

SIGN THE PETITION IN SUPPORT OF THE CYCLE ROUTE

 

Kingston Council is planning to use some of its £30 millionmini-Holland’ funding, awarded in 2014, to create a new cycling and pedestrian link between New Malden and Raynes Park, using a strip of land (owned by Thames Water) that runs parallel to the railway line. The path will reconnect both neighbourhoods and will open up valuable green space for all ages to enjoy. You can see the route (the purple line) on this map.

The route would create safe space for cycling and walking, making local trips between New Malden and Raynes Park more accessible. It will improve the appearance of the area and create new publicly accessible space, as well as bring new visitors to the local high streets. The path will also link up with the Cycle Superhighway which starts at Colliers to improve long distance cycle journeys.

Local Opposition

However, despite the obvious benefits that the cycle link could provide, some local residents, in a lengthy document outlining their concerns to the council - some legitimate, and some quite absurd - criticise the scheme and are using a local petition to  call for the plans to be abandoned.  

What’s the problem?

Concerns around the potential impact of the link on local wildlife and ecology and about privacy and the security of adjacent properties are being carefully considered by the council; with plans in place to address the issues. For example, it has been agreed that wherever possible the path will be located away from the boundary of neighbouring properties’ back gardens, leaving plenty of space for enhancing the landscape with defensive planting; one that creates a protective barrier between garden boundaries and the path. The project team is also working with environmental specialists in order to ensure the project enhances and protects local biodiversity. 

But resident’s opposition has gone one step further, making some interesting arguments to use as a rationale for abandoning the project......

  • They suggest that the path would be a haven for ‘anti-social behaviour’ and threaten people’s safety.  It’s claimed that ‘youths would roam the site with guns and shoot the birds’ which would be ‘undesirable for the birds’ and state that ‘public access to [the area] would greatly increase the risk of fire’. They also highlight the risk of cyclists and walkers ‘being struck by aberrant golf balls’ from the nearby golf course.
  • The path would also be an ‘easy target for fly-tipping and litter’ it’s claimed, specifically ‘noxious chemicals, asbestos, needles, syringes and other hazardous clinical waste’.
  • They worry about the nearby railway line which they fear would ‘raise serious security issues for Network Rail and users of the facility’. They worry about trespassers, thieves and ‘terrorists targeting the line or signal boxes’.
  • Other ‘terrorist attacks from disaffected groups or individuals’ are also a concern, given the Thames Water pipes that are in the area.
  • More security concerns are outlined, specifically that the cycle path would be used as an ‘escape corridor for criminals, which would result in an increased risk of burglary, assault and anti-social behaviour in the entire surrounding neighbourhoods of New Malden and Raynes Park’. A link between the added criminal activity that would result and local property insurance premiums has also been made.
  • Another wild, and arguably racist, suggestion refers to ‘illegal habitation’, claiming that the cycle path would ‘increase the risk of illegal habitation by individuals sleeping rough, or by more organised groups’. There is also apparently a ‘new additional risk of settlement by illegal refugee groups [sic]’ too.
  • The most tenuous by far, is the claim that the creation of the cycle path would unearth ‘unexploded WW2 ordnance’ given the strategic importance of the railway line during the war. It is argued that its ‘probable’ that unexploded bombs are laying nearby.

This local resident group have written to the council and have set up an online petition which is gathering some support. 

We believe that these fears are unfounded and the benefits to be gained from the construction of the route would far outweigh any of the suggested possible risks that are being put forward here. The cycle path will be a valuable asset to the local area and would reconnect both neighbourhoods, opening up valuable green space for all ages to enjoy. 

The route would create safe space for cycling and walking, for people of all ages and abilities, making local trips between New Malden and Raynes Park far more accessible. It will improve the appearance of the area and create new publicly accessible space, as well as bring new visitors to the local high streets. What’s not to like?

Many other residents from wider surrounding areas are generally very supportive and enthusiastic about the scheme.

It would be a shame for a vocal minority to disrupt these exciting plans that would benefit so many people.

Artist impression of what New Malden station area could look like

Support the plans

Members of our Local Groups in Kingston and Merton have set up a counter-petition in support of the plans for the cycle route which we are urging people to sign. We must show the Royal Borough of Kingston that the majority of local people would like to see this safe route made a reality.

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION

Want to do more?

Consider getting involved with our local groups in the area to help support the campaign, contact  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Kingston Council are also inviting people to pledge their support and become a 'Go-Cycle' advocate; find our more here.

 

 


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Have your say on Camberwell Green Plans!

Southwark Council propose expensive and disruptive alterations to the Camberwell Green junction and area. The plans do not provide safe space for cycling. Our local group, Southwark Cyclists have thoroughly examined their proposal with expert advice and they have decided to formally reject these plans. Read their blog for full details.

Please respond to the consultation today (Thursday 13th August), before the consultation closes, rejecting the proposal

The consultation has two sections and we’ve provided suggested answers to the relevant sections below.

SUGGESTED ANSWERS - SECTION A: Town centre improvements

2. Please provide your comments and feedback on the General arrangements plan

  • Reject this proposal
  •  The proposal does little for pedestrians: 

crossing times are hardly reduced, crossings are not convenient,

informal crossing will still occur (a symptom of tension between place and transport functions of this high street.)

  • The proposal actively worsens conditions for cyclists:

Bus lanes removed on Denmark Hill and additional turns allowed to Coldharbour Lane

Left hook dangers including the Orpheus St junction (already fatal this year) not addressed

No safe access to ASLs which are in any case a part time solution

No space for cycling

No attempt to address forecast and measured increases in cycle numbers through the junction, even though these are encouraged by the Southwark Cycling Strategy 

  • The proposal appears to prioritise motor traffic capacity. This is odd since TfL and Southwark figures (and national travel stats) show motor mode falling.
  •  The proposal does nothing to address the environment at Camberwell Green. What should be a pleasant town centre and retail hub is dominated by motor traffic (speeds/accelerations across the very large junction are aggressive) and will remain so under this proposal
  •  Given the disruption the proposed work would cause anyway the Council must take this opportunity to reimagine the network more widely. Several alternatives have been considered which separately or in combination could drastically improve the environment without significant impact on traffic capacity in the long term:

a segregated junction,

 an all-arms-green junction

 a cycle bypass around the north and east of the Green itself, accessible from all directions

 a bus hub in Orpheus St, freeing up bus stop space on Denmark Hill for walking and cycling

closing Daneville Rd to motor traffic at Coldharbour Lane (moving the car park entrance to Wren Rd), allowing a simplified/segregated T-junction at Coldharbour Lane and creating a wider pedestrian / retail space.

  • There appears to have been no Cycling Level of Service (CLoS) analysis performed on this proposal. A first analysis by an expert group Southwark Cyclists convened indicate the current proposal would score extremely poorly.

3. Please provide your comments and feedback on the Camberwell New Road Plan

  • Reject.
  • This is a heavily used commuter route for cycles and other modes.
  • No space for cycling whatsoever - a bus lane in one direction and nothing in the other.
  •  Either provide segregated space for cycling in both directions, or create a viable bidirectional cycle bypass in Medlar St.

4. Please provide your comments and feedback on the Camberwell Green Junction plan

  • Reject.
  • This is a shocking design that could have come from the 1980s.
  • Lack of space’ does not apply: There is a vast amount of physical space available at this junction and the council can and must do much better.
  • Pedestrian crossings are still very long and crossing will be inconvenient and slow (at the crossings) or unsafe (at informal crossing points)
  • The junction is huge, with broad radii that will encourage very fast speeds and aggressive acceleration across the junction (as now)
  • Provision for cycles is essentially non-existent. This mode is not catered for at all by this design:

 No safe access to ASLs

ASLs are part-time anyway

Narrowing of junction at Denmark Hill by buildouts, in conjunction with removal of bus lane, will create severe pinch points that pose an unacceptable risk to all cyclists, especially anyone other than confident young men.

Lethal left-hook hazards exist on every single arm of the junction. For a new proposal in 2015 this is completely unacceptable.

  • Given the accumulated evidence that this type of junction design is inherently unsafe in 2015, Southwark Council should consider that they may be open to legal proceedings for negligence when serious accidents / fatalities occur here if they fail to implement a safer design.

5. Please provide your comments and feedback on the Camberwell Church Road plan

  • Reject
  • This is a non-design. It provides tinkering only
  •  Used by large and growing numbers of cycle commuters, this key route makes absolutely no concession to their safety
  • Also used by large volumes of heavy motor vehicles this road must have safe space for cycling or a safe, direct, and convenient alternative parallel route.
  • Applying junction treatments and kerb build-outs when there is no cycle lane to take cycles safely past the constrictions is inherently unsafe - policy from the 1990s. It is also counter-intuitive as other parts of the proposal (raised tables, contraflow on Grove Lane) recognise cycle traffic needs to be catered for.

 6. 6. Please provide your comments and feedback on the Camberwell Road plan

 

  • Reject
  • This is a heavily-used road so people need safe space for cycling. None is provided
  • The N and E sides of the Green could provide an appropriate bypass route for cycles/pedestrians only, if cycles are able to access this bypass safely and efficiently.
  • Cycles will be unable to make use of the bus lanes safely at all as large numbers of busses entering / leaving them will block them, cut them up, or force them into the general traffic lane or pavement

7. Please provide your comments and feedback on the Denmark Hill and Coldharbour Lane plan

  • Reject
  • The left-hook into Orpheus St has already caused a fatality this year. The council proposal does absolutely nothing to address this.
  • Removal of the southbound bus lane and opening a right turn into Coldharbour Lane actively worsen conditions for people on bikes at this extremely busy junction.
  • Viable alternatives include:

moving several bus stops to Orpheus St. This would create a bus and retail hub in this currently under-used street only metres from the high street. Space on the high street (Denmark Hill) could then be reallocated to walking and cycling infrastructure.

Closing Daneville Rd to through motor traffic at the Denmark Hill end. This would allow the Coldharbour Lane junction to be simplified as a T-junction with segregated space for cycling and easier crossings for pedestrians (the Morrisons car park entrance could be moved to Wren St). This would also create a more pleasant retail / social / services environment on Daneville Road.

SUGGESTED ANSWERS – SECTION B. Pocket places

8. Pleas provide your comments and feedback on the Selborne Road plan

  • Accept.
  • Why not cobble or pave the whole close?

 

·       9. Please provide your comments and feedback on the Wren Road plan

  • Reject
  • It is virtually impossible for people on bikes to access Wren Road safely from the N or W as this requires turning right on C Ch St across four lanes of traffic.

10. Please provide your comments and feedback on the Artichoke Place/ Kimpton Road plan 

  • Accept

11. Please provide your comments and feedback on the Grove Lane Option 1 plan

  • Reject
  • It is impossible for cycles to safely access Grove Lane from the N or W as they have to cross four lanes of traffic. This plan introduces a nice cycle lane but does nothing to address how cycles will actually get to it.
  • The cycle lane makes no sense when there is space for a cycle track. 

12.  Please provide your comments and feedback on the Grove Lane Option 2 plan

  • Reject
  • It is impossible for cycles to safely access Grove Lane from the N or W as they have to cross four lanes of traffic. This plan introduces a nice cycle track but does nothing to address how cycles will actually get to it.
  • The cycle track is a good idea but will be of very limited use unless it’s accessible.

13. Please provide your comments and feedback on the D'Eynsford Road plan

  • Reject
  • Every possible combination has been proposed except anything providing for cycling
  • The ‘shared space carriageway’ option (3) will turn this area into a rat-run
  • The council have found room for extra car parking and removal of the median strip but not a segregated cycle facility. This is at odds with falling car use/ownership in the borough and their stated aim of increasing cycle modal share.

 


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Lessons from Amsterdam: Cycling in the fish bowl

Amsterdam has just hosted the first summer school dedicated to ‘Planning the Cycling City’. Cosmin Popan was one of the 30 students from 16 countries that enrolled in the three week programme. The ambition of the programme was to arm each of them with the right skills to transform their own cities into 'little Hollands'.  Cosmin tells us about his experience below....

 

Rush hour on Weesperzijde, one of the busiest streets in Amsterdam. 

'You have to go out of the fish bowl to understand a fish bowl', says Marco te Brömmelstroet in the introductory session of the programme, Planning the Cycling City. This metaphor, to which the professor in urban policy at University of Amsterdam and one of the organisers of the summer school would make reference again and again during the three weeks, does a good job to describe why the time was right for this idea to come to life. Amsterdam and Netherlands are said to represent state-of-the-art examples for aspiring cycling cities and nations, yet most Dutch fail to realise just how essential it is that they start sharing their precious know-how across the borders.

 

Pushed to think outside this ‘fish bowl’ by Meredith Glaser, an American who is the Amsterdam-based officer for Denmark’s Copenhagenize cycle-infrastructure consultancy, Marco came to realise just how big 'the moral obligation' for the Netherlands to share their cycling expertise with the rest of the world is. 'When Meredith approached me I thought it's a good way to fill in the first steps of putting cycling in the academic agenda and teaching', tells Marco.

 

As soon as they worked out the practicalities of setting up the Cycling Summer, the next challenge was not only to select 30 students amongst the 45 candidates, but also, as Meredith admits, to choose the topics of discussion for each of the 13 lectures: 'Each of these could be a three weeks summer session in itself! Just that makes it difficult to squeeze in two lectures and discussion into a two and a half hour time frame. It's really tough'. The domains ranged from historical, social and political context, to land use, crossings and public space, data and visualization, wayfinding, multimodality, marketing and bikenomics. These keynotes were punctuated with field trips to various sites in Amsterdam and other cities in Netherlands and abroad, as students were assigned to build up not only some practical skills, but also to develop their own critique of the shortcomings they come across in the 'Cycling Paradise'.

 

 

53% of children in the first year of secondary education cycle to school every day in Amsterdam. Photo: Lisa Ratner.

The general impression is that cycling levels have always been high, if not constantly booming, in the Netherlands and that this is due merely to the flatness of the country. Contrary to these lazy explanations, the historian Ruth Oldenziel says that there are multiple reasons for the current levels of cycling: 'The role of the market and civil society as well as their tight connection is under estimated. The local cycling union in the Netherlands, for example, moved towards the car when this technology became mainstream, but it also incorporated cycling and financed separate bicycle paths. This didn't happen in other countries. Equally important was the role of class. Whereas cycling was regarded as a lower class thing in most countries starting in the 1920s and 1930s, it was seen as class neutral in Netherlands'. Amsterdam's cycling is seen by Oldenziel as 'an accident of history, not the work of policy makers, but rather the result of activism and late automobility'.

 

Watch a documentary about the protests in Nieuwmarkt, Amsterdam, in the spring of 1975. They are considered a turning point for Dutch cycling.

A similar take is shared by the sociologist Giselinde Kuipers, who shows that physical infrastructure alone can't be held responsible for the high levels of cycling in the Netherlands. She makes the case for the bicycle as a national symbol and pride for the Dutch: 'Throughout the history there has been little distance between classes and social status groups here. Also, the Calvinism reinforced a rather egalitarian society, with little ostentatious demonstration of power as well as sober “bourgeois” lifestyle promoted top-down. All these contribute to the high levels of cycling we have today'.

 

These less visible infrastructures seem to have had a higher impact than often acknowledged on the current state of cycling which, surprisingly for many, hasn't increased from 25% modal share nationwide in the last four decades. What we experience today is more of a self-sustained yet fragile cycling bonanza hardly encouraged through a dedicated national plan for this mode of transportation. 'Cycling is self-organising, informal, a social activity and a bit anarchistic', admits the architect Stefan Bendiks, who observes that a car minded thinking is still prevalent when designing for cyclists in the Netherlands. He's amongst the few practitioners advocating for Amsterdam to be more of a 'living lab' for cycling that doesn't work with common standards, as he dismisses current pragmatic solutions such as left turn lanes at intersections, push-button bicycle stoplights or greenwaves. 'The more and more complex and technical solutions for cycling aren't very smart', contends Bendiks.

 

Watch this this rap video promoting cycling in Amsterdam.

This deeper understanding of cycling complexities will be taken away, not only by the 30 foreign students who came to Amsterdam this summer, but they will also help Marco and Meredith think how to take their vision to the next level. Marco te Brömmelstroet has unveiled his future aspirations: 'All this academic knowledge deserves a master programme of two years itself. You come to the University of Amsterdam and you learn research skills and you get a multi-disciplinary Master where you learn to do sociology studies, engineering studies in Delft, historical analysis, transition studies, maybe cost-benefit analysis. So we all have our strengths'.

 

The students who attended the summer school Planning the Cycling City. Photo: Meredith Glaser.



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My Ride London 100 experience

On Sunday 2nd August, our Activism Coordinator Amy completed the Ride London – Surrey 100, riding as part of Team LCC to help raise valuable funds to support our work campaigning for safer cycling in the capital. At the time of writing she’s raised a total of £555 and as a whole team they’ve raised more than £10 000! You can still sponsor the team here.

Ride London was honestly one of the best experiences of my life so far. I’ve done a fair few sportives, runs, and other competitive events over the years, but Ride London 100 was something else! I can highly recommend it to anyone thinking about doing it.

   

   Before the Ride

On Saturday evening I trekked up to London from my home near Portsmouth to stay at a friend's in Finsbury Park. I was dreading my 4.30am alarm clock and had a fractious night's sleep panicking that I was going to miss my alarm. But I didn’t, thankfully! Up I got, forced myself to eat some shredded wheat, and hopped on my bike to cycle the 6 miles or so to the Olympic Park.

Once there, it was a bit of a mission to try and find my start entrance and bag drop area, but once sorted, I joined Andy and Jim, two other Team LCC riders who were starting in my wave. I only had about 25 minutes or so to wait by the time I was in the starting pen and enjoyed chatting with Andy and Jim about our training and what times we were hoping for. 

At precisely 6.36am, our starting horn went off and away we cycled to the melodies of Journey “Don’t Stop Believing” (I was totally happy with that song choice), out of the Olympic Park, straight onto closed roads. Everyone was blasting, keen to get a few miles under their belts, me included. Looking at my speedometer and seeing 0.5miles; suddenly 100 miles felt like a terribly long way! 

I knew Jim and Andy would be quick, but I thought I’d try to stick with them as long as I could. That didn’t quite go to plan as I lost them through one of the tunnels about 4 miles in and didn’t want to risk a sprint to catch up so early in the ride! So I carried on riding on my own, enjoying the closed roads and keeping up as much speed as I could. 

Setting a target

Now, I know it’s not a race. But I did have a personal target; I wanted to challenge myself to complete it in a time that warranted people’s kind sponsorship. So, I was hoping for a sub-6 hour ride. But, having not ridden 50+ miles in a few months and only managing to fit in hilly shorter rides for my training, I wasn’t really sure how my body was going to cope, nor how much I should be leaving in the tank for later. But as the ride progressed, I was feeling good, and was cruising at a nice 20mph or so for the first 30-40 miles out of London. Those 40 miles went by pretty quickly which was a welcome sight as I glanced down at my speedo! As we got out of London, the scenery turned greener and I began to think on to the hills, packing in some energy bars and stopping to fill up my water bottles.

Hills, what hills?

Newlands came and went with no dramas (I live on the South Downs and do a lot of mountain biking, so my regular rides include some healthy hills as standard, making me fairly immune to the inclines that some might have been worrying about). But I was soon anticipating Leith Hill. By the time we entered the Surrey Hills, I’d managed to spot Jeremy, another Team LCC rider, and enjoyed riding for a few miles with him. Having been on my own up until that point, it was nice to talk to someone.

As we began the ascent up Leith Hill, Jeremy slipped away a little and I powered down and willed the top to come. I was surprised to see some other riders walking up already, even before the climb had really kicked in. It gave me the motivation to crack on and show these guys, with their expensive bikes and kit, how it’s done. 

Speaking of which, I’d barely seen any female riders thus far, a handful, but it was certainly a testosterone fuelled pack, and I was outnumbered massively. It’s such a shame and I know the organisers are trying to encourage more women to ride, but there’s still a long way to go. However, it made me want to prove a point, that we girls can ride too and ride fast. So I thoroughly enjoyed overtaking a few of the men up Leith Hill, (yes, I know I have a terribly competitive side).

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I soon reached the top. The descent down was great fun, and I found myself confidently speeding through the tree-lined roads, happy that no cars were going to creep up behind me, or speed up round corners ahead. It allowed me to enjoy the ride and push my bike and test my handling more than I would usually on open roads. It was utterly invigorating and I was grinning the whole way down. Riding on traffic free streets is great for the soul, I’ve decided. More of that please.

Onto Box Hill and having heard the infamous name so many times, I was expecting a killer climb. I stayed steady, wanting to save some fuel in the tank for when it got tough. But after a couple of turns, instead of the sight of more uphill tarmac, I spotted the café and heard someone say “this is the top”. ‘Is that it?’ I thought. Well, that wasn’t worth half the fuss! Shove me round it a few more times and make me go faster and then maybe I’ll agree with the hype. Either way, I was pleased to have got that behind me and went on to enjoy the stunning views as I began to wind down. 

At this point I checked the time, I must have been on about mile 75 and figured I had around an hour and a half to reach the finish if I wanted to finish in sub-6 hours, 12.36 was my cut off.  The pressure was on, and I was determined to do it. I stopped for a quick drink refuel, wolfed down some energy bars and cracked on. 

The last 25 miles feel like a bit of a blur now, I remember being surprised at how it was nearly over and was also surprised I was still feeling strong. I‘d been waiting for a bout of exhaustion, the bonk, a puncture, or something to go wrong and was beginning to get excited that it may just go smoothly! I kept telling myself to keep going, and keep going as fast as I could. 

Support from the side-lines

The crowds through the villages and on the streets were a huge boost at this point. As were all the volunteers and marshals  along the course, tasked with keeping us all safe and on track. What an incredible effort from all of them; they all deserve a huge thank you.

So many people had come out, all along the course, at the crack of dawn, to cheer people on. I always find that kind of support really heartening, and love that about events like this. I wish the people shouting “You go girl”, or “Well done, you’re doing great” knew how much of a boost it gave me, and others I’m sure. It gives me a massive surge of energy, and makes me want to cry and smile at the same time, I love it. I can’t even begin to think what it’s like for actual athletes, competing in stadiums or for massive crowds. I’m a bit jealous really, that would be awesome. If I could do any job, no limits, I’d be an athlete, I’m not sure what sport; but I’d definitely want to be a pro at something.

Anyway, where was I? So, I started to see more buildings, and when we crossed the M25, I knew I was on the home straight. Into London we came and it was exhilarating blasting along the streets, lined with people and banners. Wimbledon Hill took me a little by surprise, but not enough to threaten my 6 hour target. I powered through the final few miles, watching my speedo count up to 100 and began to get excited, I’d nearly done it. I tagged onto a few small groups for a bit, catching a bit of a lift and trying to maintain my speed. I was actually surprised at how little I’d been able to do that throughout the whole ride; work with a group. It’s what I planned to do, and seemed the obvious and sensible way to get through the 100 miles efficiently and as best I could. But the pack was actually more spread out than I thought, and the groups riding together were always going a bit too fast for me to jump on the back quick enough. 

The last few miles were really exciting, when I saw blue paint on the streets, I knew I was close. With the Thames on my right, and Parliament in sight, I pedalled hard. My speedo said it was around 12.10pm; plenty of time. I found myself overtaking a guy in a coloured jersey and was enjoying passing other riders, the adrenaline kicking in. Coming up to Trafalgar Square and through the arch onto the Mall was pretty epic. I sprinted to the finish and saw the coloured jersey man come up behind me. I kept up and we had a friendly sprint to the finish. And wow, and what a finish, cycling across the line to the cheers of the crowds and over the line was something I’ll never forget. It was all quite emotional really.

And that was it, coloured jersey man and I congratulated each other, I took the obligatory ‘look at me I’ve finished’ selfie, wanting to capture that little moment forever, and then went off to collect my bag. Job done. 5 hours 41 minutes after I set off. I was very happy with that and amazed that my body coped as well as it did. I felt like superwoman. 

Would I do it again? Of course I would. Would I try to go faster? Yes, definitely. Maybe next year I’ll aim for an ambitious 5 hour target. And then who knows, I’ll probably move up to Manchester, become best friends with Laura Trott and cycle my way to Olympic success at Rio. Ok no, that’s not going to happen, but I can day dream.

What I will do though, is get back to work. LCC campaigns for space for cycling, so our streets can be safe for people to cycle all of the time, for any journey, at any age, and ability, and on any bike. We shouldn’t have to wait for one weekend a year to experience the joys of cycling on traffic-free streets; whether it’s taking on a 100 mile challenge, or riding with your kids through central London during the FreeCycle event. We all deserve that safety and that freedom, every day of the year. That I hope, might not just be a daydream. 

You can still support Team LCC and donate to help us fight for a city that is safe for cycling.

 



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