Author Archives: bicycology

Bicycology mini-Tour 2012 Day 3: Photos

Today was the day we got ourselves a few places in a Car Park in central Coventry, and turned them over to alternative uses. A few highlights from our photos below:

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Bicycology mini-Tour 2012 Day 2: ride from Birmingham to Coventry

So, Day 1 was a film and discussion event in the evening in Birmingham. Maybe we’ll post some photos and a longer report about that sometime – but briefly, it went really well, with about 40 people turning up.

Day 2, Friday May 11th. We set off on a sunny but surprisingly chilly morning to cycle from Gung-Ho Housing Co-op to Coventry Peace House. Our convoy consisted of eight people with eight bikes, two trailers and about twenty panniers. The first part of our route was along a planned route through mostly back streets. We navigated by voice guidance on a GPS-enabled phone, which worked quite well. Discussion of how to get onto the Grand Union Canal stopped when we realised we were standing a few meters away from a canal bridge. We had lunch and very relaxed ride along the canal shared with ducks and a canal boat. Picturesque constructions allowed canal-side dwellers to picnic by the water at the bottom of the garden. A few showers of rain and a muddy surface made one bicycologist’s beautiful new metal mudguards clog considerably – creating resistance to wheel-rotation and much frustration. Soon after we left the canal the GPS navigation system broke down, but by then we were able to navigate into Coventry by local knowledge and a wide cyclepath. We magically bumped into the most local bicycologist in town, just in time for them to lead us to the Peace House. See some photo highlights below – more photos to be added soon!

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“Parking the Car… For Good!”

Bicycology is back and we’re going on a mini-tour!

Next Thursday 10th May 2012 we’ll be getting going (starting with a film night in Birmingham), then we’re riding to Coventry on Friday 11th, ready for a spot of creative direct action on Saturday 12th. Then we’ll be riding through Rugby on Sunday 13th, retracing the route featured in this CTC film from the 1950s (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP1KxPjh4RM) to see how half a century of Car Culture has changed things. We’ll be riding on to Leicester later that day, where we’ll again be running a film and discussion event the following evening – on Monday 14th. It’d be great to see you there, and if you can’t make it, why not tell your friends and help us publicise the event. Mention the link to this page in emails or on social media sites. Thanks!

For more information please see the Press Release, and links to posters for the events, below:

PRESS RELEASE 02/05/2012 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Patrick Nicholson on 07538 308103 / patrick_nicholson@hotmail.com            or Peter Pannier on 07583 497887

Photo opportunity: colourful activities featuring a dozen people promoting alternatives to cars. Photographs are also available on request from the organisers.

CYCLISTS PROPOSE TO PARK THE CAR… FOR GOOD!

Climate Change and rising petrol prices on agenda as activists raise questions about ‘car-culture’ on cycle tour of Midlands

Summary: As Petrol prices hit record highs [1], and the UK experiences the hottest March day and the wettest April on record [2], bicycle activist collective Bicycology [3] are coming to Birmingham, Coventry and Leicester as part of a cycle tour of the Midlands from 10th -14th May to raise questions about whether cars are the best way to organise transport in the 21st century. As part of their tour, Bicycology have organised a film and discussion evening, where they will show three short films and discuss the question ‘Can we park the car for good?’

Members of Bicycology, a cycling collective formed in 2005 that regularly appears at events and organises tours promoting cycling and environmental activism, are riding from Birmingham to Leicester, via Coventry and Rugby, under the slogan “Parking the Car… For Good!” [4]

Cyclist and cycle-activist Peter Pannier said the tour was all about “raising questions about the dominance of the car in UK transport, society and culture, and exploring alternatives.”

Transporting their bodies and their equipment entirely by bicycle, with no motorised support, the dozen members of Bicycology are hoping to bring their message to both cyclists and drivers, as well as to transport activists and community leaders. They are organising pedal-powered film nights, and reclaiming space from cars with what they describe as a “unique brand of creative and educational direct action”, and travelling between events in a riot of colour and music, thanks to a sound-system they pull with one of their bikes.

In Birmingham, the group have organised a film and discussion evening titled “Can We Park The Car For Good?” which will take place on Thursday 10th May, 2012, from 8.30pm Ort Cafe, 500-506 Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham, B12 9AH. The event is free and all are welcome.

In Coventry, on Saturday 12th May 2012, the activists are set to take “direct action” to “reclaim car parking space as a public space”. The location is to be announced on the day.

In Leicester, on Monday 14 May 2012, the group have organised a further film and discussion evening, from 7.30pm, this time at The Western Pub, Western Road, Leicester. LE3 0GA (between Bede Park and Narborough Rd).

Patrick Nicholson argued that “the dominance of the car is neither inevitable nor desirable. The dark side of car culture is huge. From obesity to lung disease, climate change to strip mining, and a million lives tragically cut short globally every year, largely the young and the poor, cars are incredibly damaging [5]. But for some reason we put this out of mind”.

As more and more people struggle with rising petrol prices, Mr Pannier said, “It doesn’t have to be this way. When you think about how reliant on cars we’ve become, it can feel really daunting to even consider alternatives. But if we designed our world a little differently, we could free ourselves from the feeling that we need cars. Creating a world no longer dominated by cars won’t be easy, but the first step to making it happen is to understand the necessity of change, and to see that change is possible” [6]

Mr Nicholson added: “How has our society become so entwined and dependent on car culture? If you are wondering about the steps we could take to begin real changes and to free ourselves from this deadly embrace, please join Bicycology at one of our events [7] and help us map out a safer, cleaner, healthier future. Everyone is welcome!”

Notes for Editors:

[1] The average price of a litre of unleaded petrol in the UK reached a record high of £1.40/litre in March, followed by a new record high of 142.48p/litre in April. A survey at the University of Southampton has found that high petrol prices are partly responsible for an increase in people using their bicycles, with a third of 1,300 respondents getting on their bikes because of the record high cost at the pumps (see: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5i0aS8dQ4-bsJxPh_AZ-PC6AvzvUg?docId=N0000731335793414226A). In an article by the BBC, RAC technical director David Bizley was quoted as saying that “there is no end in sight to rising prices” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17490088.

[2] On March 25th, The Daily Record reported that “The Met Office said it had recorded a temperature of 22.8C (73F) at Fyvie Castle near Aberdeen, which is a new record maximum temperature for March in Scotland” (see: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/2012/03/25/hottest-march-day-on-record-in-scotland-as-fyvie-castle-hits-22-8c-86908-23801474/). More recently, Murray Wrdrop wrote in The Telegraph that “Provisional figures from the Met Office suggest Britain has endured its wettest April since records began more than a century ago in 1910” (see: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/weather/9237788/Britain-on-renewed-flood-alert-after-wettest-April-on-record.html).

[3] Bicycology is radical cycling collective founded in 2005. The group aims to make the links between cycling and wider environmental and political issues, and to use bicycles as tools for direct action and positive social change. For more information see: www.bicycology.org.uk/ and https://bicycology.wordpress.com

[4] Tour itinerary: Birmingham 9-10th May / Coventry 11-12th May / Leicester 13-14th May

[5] Awareness of the wide ranging harmful effects of the dominance of cars is growing. See, for example:

a) Ian Roberts “The Energy Glut”, Zed Books, 2010 http://zedbooks.co.uk/paperback/the-energy-glut

b) http://www.roadpeace.org/

c) http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/

[6] The World Car Free Network promotes alternatives and highlights examples of places around the world that are moving away from reliance on cars: http://www.worldcarfree.net/

[7] Scheduled events:

a) 10/5/12. Film and discussion evening 8.30pm Ort Cafe, 500-506 Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, Birmingham, B12 9AH

b) 12/5/12. Parking Day. Direct action reclaiming car parking space as a public space. Coventry. Location to be announced: contact us for details.

c) 14/5/12. Film and discussion evening, 7.30pm at The Western Pub, Western Road, Leicester. LE3 0GA (Between Bede Park and Narborough Rd).

My ride to work

Morning Sun

I ride a short commute of three miles. In the mornings, I ride out of the town and into a winding steep-sided valley. After four years of this, I cycle now almost on auto-pilot. I do remember though, how hard the hills were at first, it is super-steep in places around here, and it took perseverance to mentally and physically will myself up some hills. I am not especially fit, I am just familiar with the challenges, and when I get to a hill I’ve trained myself to ignore the fact that it is steep and daunting, and just keep pedalling.

What I do notice and take great delight in is the gradual daily changing of the fields, trees, hedgerows and wildlife. During the recent “indian summer”, that one blissful week of late summer sun, my ride was bathed in a warm morning light, and later in the day the bright afternoon light brought out the sharp contrast in the textures of leaves, ivy flower heads with hoverflies buzzing, purple sloes and lime-green lichen, old-mans beard growing amongst the blackberries. I remind myself that I would not see all this if I was speeding past in a car, and I probably would be less likely to stop and pick some blackberries for a pie on the way home.

Textures and colours

The last few mornings have been really sharp, and bitter. I tried to cycle without gloves in the frosty weather last winter, but I found the wind-chill so excruciating that I soon went and bought myself a pair of properly insulated and wind-resistant cycling gloves. Other essential items I carry as my work-commuting kit in a little under-the-saddle-bag are; a mini-multitool, puncture kit and tyre levers, and sometimes a lock. My bike has a sturdy rack and rather than take a pannier with me everywhere I like to bungee anything I need to carry on to this. I may be lucky, down here in the sunny south, but I rarely get caught out in the rain. It may be as little as a few times a year that I arrive home half-drowned, a minor inconvenience. I have been left stranded due to bike malfunction only once (when my tyre exploded) and even then I managed to walk my bike into work. I can rely on my bike to get me somewhere on time far more than I can buses and trains.

Evening Shadows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I notice only a few other cyclists who ride the same stretch of road as me regularly. It is always nice to see them, and I feel like we are part of a small and unspoken community. If I am pushing my bike rather than riding, they will always stop and ask if I’ve got a puncture, or need any help.

On part of my route, the residents insist on parking their many cars on the street right outside their houses, causing a series of tricky to negotiate car-chicanes. Despite the fact that the problem is clearly caused by the selfishness of car-owners, I still regularly face the brunt of the anger created by this situation. I cannot cycle as fast as a car can drive along the single carriageway left by the parked cars, and often drivers become irate at just a small delay, or perhaps at not being able to overtake a cyclist.

I also am astounded at how big a risk most drivers are willing to take. I wonder if  they are risks they would never take if they were not cocooned in the apparent safety of their cars. My route is winding with high hedges, the road has a national speed limit, so drivers can be travelling at up to 60 miles-per-hour. Almost every day a driver will overtake me at a point where they cannot see if there is any oncoming traffic, rather than wait behind me for a few seconds. I am certain that these same drivers would not cross a road on foot without looking. Often I am slightly ahead, and higher up than a driver, and I am also able to hear the oncoming traffic far better than anyone in a car. I contemplate whether in such an emergency situation a car would chose to pull over into a nice squishy cyclist or continue into the path of an oncoming car.

Despite all of this, I  still find myself looking forward to getting on my bike at the end of the day and flying along the downhill stretches. Cycling benefits my frame of mind as much as anything else, the simple repeated exercise of turning the cranks and feeling the momentum gathering as my bike picks up speed helps my mind relax and my thoughts to become clearer for when I arrive home.

Country lanes

I love it.

I’d like to hear of other people’s regular rides, and their experiences of cars, countryside, cityscapes and changing landscapes…perhaps you’ll be inspired to write a blog post of your own.

Bike Foundry – Birmingham

A couple of Bicycologists recently took a trip to visit to Birmingham to visit the Bike Foundry (http://www.birminghambikefoundry.org) to add to our general knowledge of DIY & co-op bike projects & to keep in use the mechanic skills we developed on the City and Guilds course we participated in a few years ago.

The Bike Foundry is based in the slightly bizarre setting of a music studio building (they needed a “quiet” tenant in the rooms above the recording studio) in an industrial part of Birmingham called Digbeth, close to the town centre. It’s a workers co-op, part of Radical Routes and run by a small group of people, including one full-time paid employee.

Replacing brake cable

They offer maintenance skills training, cycle training, repairs and fix donated bikes to sell on at a reasonable price – although they are currently looking for more donated bikes to fix up. It is sad to think that the city of Birmingham, once the centre of the Bicycle Manufacturing boom in the UK, is now struggling to yield enough second-hand bikes for the mechanics at the Bike Foundry to work on and provide to the good folks of Birmingham who are in need of decent second-hand bicycles. They usually sell each bike almost as soon as it is fixed up. If you’re reading this in Brum and you have an unwanted bicycle get in touch with the Bike Foundry. They have also started to sell a range of handmade cycling caps and felted ‘lobster’ gloves made from charity shop jumpers.

Most of our time at the Bike Foundry was spent fixing-up a couple of bikes that were to be sold on. The Foundry repair the second-hand bikes to a really high standard, every part is checked and serviced if needed, and they have a good range of spares and replacement parts for bits that can’t be salvaged. We fixed a pink ladies racer, and long neglected child’s bike – which needed almost every part of it servicing. It was well worth all the work we put into it, as it was to be used in a project by the Bike Foundry at a local Special Needs School where they have decided to put Bike Polo on the curriculum as a physical co-ordination and self-esteem building activity.

feisty bike polo

Bike polo seems to be one the Bike Foundry’s big passions and on Wednesday evening we went to a wickedly icy pitch to play polo. Birmingham is not lacking in good bike polo players and we shyly took part in one game, but weren’t quite up the their precise ball thwacking skills. The pitch got more slippery as the freezing night wore on, and despite the amount of falls, skids and tumbles, everyone was playing on regardless.

moving out the bikes to make room for 'tool club'

Thursday evening is the Bike Foundry regular ‘tool-club’, where anyone who signs up for a modest yearly fee can come along and use their well-equipped workshop & tools. Tool-club was busy and buzzing with people and their bikes. The bands in the music studios had just started up for the evening, so it had it’s own mingling of soundtracks drifting in from the surrounding rooms as people turned up with their bikes to repair. We could see how appreciative the people who brought their bikes along were to be able to use proper tools and bike stands – making bike repair so much more of a pleasurable, easy and sociable experience. It’s a great idea, and something every town & city could benefit from.

A posting here would not be complete without some talk of food, and we must mention the fantastic friendly Lebanese bakery & cafe we frequented. When we were not fixing bikes in Birmingham we were mostly munching our way through falafel, pittas, pickles, lebanese flatbreads, houmous and baba ghanoush….mmmmm.

Thanks to all in Birmingham for having us to visit – We were impressed with the dedication and enthusiasm of the Bike Foundry folks and the genuine interest and love they have for all things cycling. It seems like they are a real asset to the cycling community of Birmingham, and they have lots of exciting plans to improve and grow in the future.

Gwersyllfa at Hinsawdd Gweithred Beicioleg Arddull!

Bicycology arrived at Climate Camp Cymru on Thursday afternoon. I wasn’t there till Friday afternoon, so what happened on Thursday will have to get covered by someone else, but I had a great time when I was there.

We took a train that took a little over 3 hours (and two changes), but involved meeting two people we knew for chats about all things bike and climate related (and lots else besides).

When we arrived we jumped straight into the Environment Awareness Day the locals had organised in the shopping centre in the middle of town. Bicycology already had a ‘Free Bike Fixin’ presence, and we hooked up our new pedal-powered green traffic light and set up some sounds – only to discover that music was banned due to the lack of a licence, and the microphone was picking up noise from the generator.

Free Bike Fixin

Free Bike Fixin

A few trips to the charity shops later and we were playing a children’s story tape and some sound effects (unfortunately unhealthily loud coal mining noise was not on the list of 80 sounds), and wearing a brand new second hand Bicycology Green jumper…

After fixing up a few gears and the usual chatting about pedal-generators and cycling tips we set off up the mountain (no kidding) for the camp.

A little bit of sweating and lifting later we arrived at the snugly situated camp, less than 100 metres from a black as hell hole in the ground, and sandwiched between a main road and a dual carriageway…. in a nice way!

There were a fair number of structures, and we sort of set up in the Tat Shop, with a leaflet stash, bunting and bike fixing banner.

The plenary featured a Bicycologist (masquerading as a Stupid Planer) talking about adopting residents, and residents talking about adopting Climate Campers (and a Smash EDOer, Rossporter and Mainshiller talking about well, I think you can guess…)

Anyway, twas all quite inspiring thinking about such locally supported campaigns and the future scope for camps and action and all that…

Afterward we hung up a charity shop sheet and screened ‘Green Machine’ (pedal-washing machine), the G8Bikeride film, Bungeeboy’s Heathrow film, and some other shorts, before bed.

I ended up doing gate duty till 3am, listening to a flautist and warming wet legs on a rocket stove fire.

Saturday focussed on a walk out of the camp, a tour led by Residents Against Ffos-Y-Fran (see photos). The mine is insanely hideous, as you would imagine, and epic in scale – even from what little you could see from the limited area the police allowed us to roam on (common land, since you ask). A few people got a bit of hassle from attempting to walk down a road the police decided wasn’t acceptable to walk down, including one guy who was bitten by a police dog and arrested – I didn’t see any of this though.

Walking Near the Mine

Walking Near the Mine

Viewing the Devastation

Viewing the Devastation

Clowns and Horses

Clowns and Horses

I did have a chat with a copper about why accidentally killing an innocent non-protestor is pretty unforgiveable and a sign that police tactics and training and attitude are, well, wrong, rather than… just a mishap, which went pretty well actually, especially given that he was holding his alsation on a leash, and it may well have been the one that bit the bloke earlier (I didn’t hear about that till later). The alsations were lovely but went bloody mad when I waved goodbye to the two doghandlers, god knows what they do to them to turn them so nasty…

In the morning a couple of us attended the DIY Wind Turbine workshop given by a guy from V3 Power, which was very inspiring. Then I gave a workshop on Pedal Generators and basic 12 Volt to answer some people’s bemusement from the first workshop (both were attended by over 30 people).

Pedal Generator Workshop

Pedal Generator Workshop

Saturday evening we put on an open air cinema spectacular – showing ‘Wild Horses’ (there were lovely ponies up by the mine, and the mist rolled in and out of the camp a few times), ‘Duck and Cover’ (a hilarious but sadly real American Civil Defence educational film about preparing for imminent Nuclear Attack), ‘The Humble Magnificent’ (to now standard guffawing in all the right places and applause at the end), ‘Cyclists Day Out’ to amusement and joy, bits from ‘Return of the Scorcher’ (amazement at the loads carried by bikes, and loads of bikes, in China and Holland) and the first half hour of ‘Fourth World War’ (covering mainly Argentina after economic collapse in 2001, and Palestine intifada).

Sunday involved dancing the hokey-kokey and playing Goldenballs’ new consensus-sound game as the conclusion to Molly Scott Cato’s thought-provoking and exciting economics workshop attended by 50 plus people at the end (words that *really shouldn’t* go together I think you’ll agree). After that I had a great chat about Transition and its limitations with some random dinner queue folk, then there was a closing plenary that involved lots of insanely quick consensus decision making and fine facilitation. Then we played some tunes as the Tat Down tatted away marvelously, before loading up and riding down the mountain (more fun than going up, of course) and enjoying a train journey back where the Climate Camp essentially took over the train.

Soul not Coal!

Peter Pannier
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Climate Camp Cymru
Residents Against Ffos-y-Fran
Wikipedia entry about Ffos-y-Fran
Earth First! Action Report
Monbiot on Merthyr
South Wales Police Report

Ahem, of course, the Open Cast Coal Mine is not (according to Miller Argent) a horrific blot on the landscape and threat to the climate and future existence of life on earth, but on the contrary, “will create a better and safer environment for the local community for the benefit of future generations”.

Bicycology Massive

There were no less than five Bicycologists present on June Critical Mass in London, as well as the Bicycology soundsystem, Son of Pedals, which had been repaired just in time for the event. G8 Bike Ride veteran DJ Eon took the back seat of the tandem and played some nice tunes as the Mass made its way down to Brixton for a gathering to pay tribute to a fallen comrade, Marie Vesco, who was tragically run down and killed by a car on June 4th whilst on a ride down to Brighton for the SmashEDO Carnival Against the Arms Trade. After a minute’s silence under the tree outside the library where Marie used to give out free food the Mass headed North again, moving relatively quickly until the police tried to enforce the loudspeaker ban in Parliament Square. This resulted in all traffic coming to a halt for a good quarter of an hour before the DJ eventually agreed to proceed without music. Of course he cranked it up again before he was outside “the zone” but the police let it go and the Mass concluded with a bit of a rave outside the gates of Buckingham Palace. Doug was filming and has uploaded his footage to the Internet Archive.