Thursday, 16 May 2013


I wanted to let people know about an amazing bunch of people who are trying to change the world for the better. A bunch of British architects and town planners are cycling across America and back to London. The project is called Portland to Portland (p2p) and the purpose is to explore the provision for cycling infrastructure in different cities and come up with solutions to present to the World Cycling summit. On the way they will be raising awareness for cycling and raising money for charity.

You can track their progress and find out more here. They started at Portland in Oregon, and will be passing through Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Chicago, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New York, Dublin, Oxford, ending in July at Portland Place in London. You can join them for part of the ride, or just give them a wave.

I enjoy cycling, but like many people, I get put off by the traffic, well.... that and the weather. On a day out in London with my kids, we did look at the Boris Bikes and I contemplated that we could visit far more places on bike than walking. Then I looked at the London traffic and returned to my senses. If it was just me I may have had a go, but with kids, who may have taken their cycling proficiency but were not experienced with traffic, then no. I did notice that cycling down the mall to Buckingham Palace and on towards Hyde Park looked lovely. Not only is there a lovely wide road, a pedestrian path and a cycle path, but also a horse path too and they were all rather empty.

There is a certain amount of freedom to be gained from cycling when you are young. I have a friend who loves cycling and her children are both confident and competent at riding anywhere. She also has an amazing bike with a cart on the front, which she can load with shopping or more often kids. When they were a bit smaller, she could fit 4 or 5 kids in the cart, and they all loved it! I remember seeing similar contraptions in Amsterdam outside a school, where a lady lifted half a dozen kids in and cycled away!

This is my problem at the moment, I am the taxi mum, and it is difficult to find a way round this. My youngest son is now starting to bike himself to school, but as it has hailed and rained all week we have not got off to a good start. He is probably tough enough to get a bit wet and sit in wet clothes at school all day, but I’m not tough enough to make him. My dad didn't like to give me lifts as a teenager. To be honest I could get most places on my own and enjoyed the independence, but there were a few places where I couldn’t get by bus and it involved long walks. I can vividly remember having to walk in driving wind and rain, with large lorries splashing past me, dressed in a denim jacket with a useless umbrella. I spent all day sodden and cold, and then walked home miserable in the rain again. I’m sure everyone in the UK remembers numerous such experiences.

I didn’t bike much because there were no cycle paths then and the traffic was dire, so I am grateful for how much things have improved. There are now cycle paths, and some rather less enticing cycle lanes, which seem to be just a line painted along the side of the existing narrow road, that drivers just ignore. There are also a lot more speed restrictions, sometimes enforced with speed cameras or speed bumps. The whole thing is still rather disjointed, so that you will still have to bike along a busy section of road to get from the cycle path to the pedestrianised town centre, but it is definitely improving.

There is the temptation to think that when petrol gets too expensive for people to drive anymore, then is the time to start cycling happily on traffic free roads. The problem is that it is too late then. Every journey is adding to the pollution. This week readings passed 400ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at the measuring station in Hawai. That is pretty scary seeing as the target was to stabilise at 350ppm to prevent severe temperature rises and runaway climate change. We really have been dragging our feet with our heads in the sand.

So we need to give a massive thank you for all the geniuses who contributed to designing and perfecting the bicycle – the most energy efficient way to travel, powered by renewable human energy, and pedal into the future!


  1. I live on the side of a hill, and never bike anywhere. I need to get fit! But when we bought our house, we did it with the needs of transporting kids in mind. We live a block from the primary school, and a block from the high school bus stop. We live five minutes walk to corner shops, 10 mins to a supermaket, and 25 mins to the centre of town. I do find I am mum's taxi for extracurricular activities, but we carpool a lot.
    But then there are the 'emergencies'. This morning I drove my daughter to school because she left her shoes in the changeroom after hockey, and they are not allowed on the bus in sports uniform... there's always something...

    1. Its great that you planned where you live and eveything is so near.