What’s the Actual Solution for Sustainable Suburban Travel?

Considering most people’s commutes and daily errands are easily eBike compatible distances, even in big countries like the US. It’s quite obvious that we’re utterly failing in tackling our desperate climate and air pollution crises.

Not only would it be far cheaper to incentivise cycling and eBikes, electric kick scooters etc, but we would get rid of traffic, be healthier and happier. We’d take an immense amount of strain off of health services (who as we’ve heard, are overstretched and struggling).

It’s so bloody obvious, and yet we’re having to campaign for segregated bike routes. Why should we campaign for common sense? Why the fuck should anyone do that?

It’s becoming clear to me that electric vehicles of the non-autonomous variety are not going to solve much. We can’t get them into widespread use quickly enough when we consider how quickly the climate crisis is accelerating.

We can’t wait until 2025 for the other manufacturers to make EVs in significant volumes. Tesla are different because every car they’re building can instantly transition into being a RoboTaxi. No other car can, so they are effectively useless. And that’s new EVs. Let alone new fossil cars (including hybrids).

We also have a ridiculous situation with the sizes of cars ever increasing, the roads staying them same, while still encouraging people to cycle. Anyone think that makes sense? I talked to people at work about commuting by bike. They thought I was mad. When I asked if they would do it if there were traffic free routes, they said they would. It doesn’t get more clear than that.

The British Cycling survey that I participated in and that was just released showed that even ‘hardcore’ road cyclists don’t feel safe on the roads. How can you expect people to take up cycling for the first time in that kind of environment? I took several years off from cycling when I was younger. When I returned to cycling, I remember I was scared and had to slowly build my confidence back, starting on quiet roads. And I was an experienced rider with years of road riding in my past. So I can’t even imagine how it would feel to a complete novice.

So what do we do? For a start, instantly transition into spending all money that would be allocated to new roads into new or upgraded micro mobility infrastructure. Instead of simply patching up potholes so they can quickly wear out again, use the opportunity to redesign the entire road layout and incorporate cycling into areas previously thought too narrow. Make more one way systems in towns and cities. If the cars are autonomous, they’re not going to get confused and annoyed like us stupid humans anyway (if you’re anything like me). And if you’ve got half the road dedicated to micro mobility, then chances are we’re going to choose bike or scooter anyway.

We also need to improve public transport with electric buses. We need good quality cycle hire schemes for when you’re not at home and don’t have your own bike with you. Then of course there’s trains, trams, subways, high speed trains built alongside motorways (so they don’t destroy the countryside further).

Something you see in Denmark and Japan especially are bicycle “multi storey car parks”. Secure, paid bike parks in all urban areas, business parks etc that treat bicycles as real vehicles. Not cheap, disposable, rusty pieces of junk. These are essential in my view. People will probably scoff, but like I said, why should you campaign for common sense? When things have been proven in other countries, you just go ahead and implement it yourself.

We also need to reduce our populations to sustainable levels with common sense proposals to do so. We need to build up rather than out in our cities. We can’t all live in big, detached houses filled with crap we don’t need. We need to embrace tunnels more than we do now. I don’t agree with everything The Boring Company is doing but generally they are on the right track. Hyperloop is the holy grail when it comes to allowing us a way to continue global tourism into the long term without destroying the planet. But we don’t know how far away that is, and I’m getting away from the suburban focus of this post.

There are so many aspects of sustainability that go far beyond just transport. Maybe I’ll get into them in another post. But for now, please let me know if you have any other ideas for local transport. I might have missed something obvious.

One Thing I Don’t Understand About Downhill MTB

2012 Norco DH, Freeride, Trail, XC and 29er mo...
2012 Norco DH mountain bike (Photo credit: BikeRumor.com)

When you watch downhill, the world cup’s in particular where the courses tend to be the most technical and hard on the bikes, you often see guys losing a chain, having it jam or even break completely. It makes you wonder why they even run gears at all and don’t just go for a single-speed set-up.

The riders could try different gear ratios in practice and settle on one for the race. There don’t tend to be many pedalling sections in most courses anyway so you probably won’t lose much time even if you slightly miscalculate your gear. Plus, who has time to change gears when you’re hurtling down a mountainside trying desperately just to keep hold of the handlebars for 3 or so minutes?

By the time you actually find the right gear on your cassette you’re likely out of the pedal section and back into the technical parts or flat out downhill where your best bet is to tuck in tight and hold on.

This is true of FMB riders as well. It’s a gravity based sport so even though there are some pedalling sections in some courses, generally you don’t have to do much of it if you stay on course. I get why some tracks work better for short travel full suspension bikes instead of the generally preferred hard-tails but I can’t really ever see a situation where you would benefit from running gears. One brake is also probably enough for most FMB courses, but of course, not in downhill where you need two of the best brakes money can buy.

But to summarise, I want to see single-speeds in downhill racing. The bikes would be simpler, more durable and more beautiful too. If it’s not allowed in the technical rules currently, change it UCI.

Now this is Freeride Mountain Biking!

After watching this, it makes me think twice about the use of the term Freeride in mountain biking. The FMB world Tour (F for Freeride) should be Freestyle, because this is the true definition of the term Freeride. It’s pure exploration and doing what only freeride / downhill mountain bikes can do.

It’s very different to BMX style trick contests on man made courses.

Dear British Cycling Public

No offence to these people who at least have in common with me the love of cycling, but what are you doing wearing those ugly safety vests in the middle of the day? I’m honestly baffled by this phenomenon when I see so many people doing it around town and across the whole nation.

It’s not that I don’t want people to feel safe while they’re out on their bikes on our dangerous roads. It’s just I want to see more people riding, and I think a lot will be put off if they think that they have to dress this way to ride. It’s not cool, in fact it’s completely uncool. It’s not like I would care if people wore them when they went out walking. It wouldn’t make people think twice about walking in future. Cycling is different because it’s optional. I want people to think yeah that looks cool, I want to go and buy a bike now, not be put off by things like this.

Like I’ve said, I want people to feel safe on their bikes, and there is a time and a place for hi-vis clothing. You can get sleeker cycling jackets that do the same thing, but aren’t dorky vests. The other thing to note: they’re designed for wearing at night. To be honest, even at night you don’t need these things. I have a helmet with some reflective stickers on the back of it. They’re not obtrusive in daylight but they help at night. I have lights which I can attach to my handlebars and my bag to shine behind me. My pannier has a reflective patch on it. I have reflectors on my spokes, pedals and the seatpost to help as well. Unless I’m going out into unlit country roads at night, these things combined are going to keep me safe. No one can convince me that I’ll ever need a fluorescent yellow vest.

I’m certainly not that into fashion. I like to look good and occasionally make style statements of sorts like everyone else, but that’s really as far as it goes. However, it doesn’t take a genius to think of ways to stay visible during the day while still keeping your dignity. Wear bright clothes if you feel safer that way. If you’re a girl, a yellow dress for example. If you’re a guy, a bright T-shirt or whatever. Why not just buy a brightly coloured bike to begin with. A white bike will get you noticed for sure. Having said this, even if you wore completely black clothing, a black helmet and had a black bike I still doubt any driver with half decent vision is going to miss you in broad daylight. I mean black does contrast with the background when it’s daytime.

But my despair at the great cycling public doesn’t end with those yellow vests. I think it’s fair to say that 90% or more of the bikes I see out on the roads, are cheap, nasty and ugly looking pieces of junk. The good quality bikes I see are usually very old and battered. I mean yes, I do see some nice bikes out, but they’re very few and far between. When I do see one, I love the conversations that happen when I’m waiting at the train crossing and another rider comes up to me. I say “hey nice bike” and they say the same back to me. Then we have a great conversation about our rides, and it’s fun. You would never lean out of your car and say to the driver next to you “Nice car! Where did you get it?” and them replying with anything other than “You what mate?” before pressing the up button on their driver side window.

When you’re a cyclist, a proper cyclist with a proper bike, not a rusty piece of shit, you’re instantly a part of a huge community. I’m proud to be a part of it. It’s nice when someone coming the other direction nods and smiles at you, or when they compliment you on your bike and the customisations you’ve done to it. When people say to me “£300, that’s a lot for a push bike isn’t it?” the reality of the enormity of the task of educating people about cycling is hits me once again, and you think, am I ever going to stop seeing these junk bikes everywhere I go?

People keep saying that the huge success of GB in the Tour de France, World Championships and Olympic games on both the road and track will lead to massive increases in the number of people taking up cycling. Personally I’m not sure if I believe that. I just feel like the difference between sport and commuting / leisure riding on our congested roads is just too great. A lot of drivers don’t associate them at all and will see cyclists on the road as a nuisance even if they love professional cycling. I really hope that it does make a massive difference, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

As much as it’s kind of cool that it’s an exclusive club right now, I wouldn’t mind a bit if we increased the membership dramatically in the coming years. It’s about time. There are many other subjects to touch on, like helmets and whether they should be mandatory among other things, but I’ll have to come back to those another time.