As you may have read on this humble bike blog a few weeks ago (or not. Sit up at the back and pay attention), we recently got together with BikemindedRBKC, the fabulous, creative and highly motivating cycling campaign set up by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London to do some mutual nosying to see what each other is up to.
We were delighted to be featured on their fabulous blog, Bikeminded last month, and now it’s our turn to find out all about the great work they are doing in the borough to promote cycling. We spoke to the lovely Katherine King, Road Safety Manager (and urban cycling guru), RBKC who told us all about what they are up to as a borough, and about her own cycling lifestyle. And if you see lots of smiley, happy cycling folk on the streets of the London, chances are you are probably standing (or better still cycling) in Kensington and Chelsea.
Councils of the World…. your turn to pay attention!
Tell us how the fantastic Bikeminded blog came about and some background to the campaign…?
Thank you! Am glad you like our blog, the feeling is mutual. We received some EU money in 2010 to promote cycling and wanted to develop a campaign that would be a hub for cycling information in Kensington and Chelsea, and a way for people to connect with other cyclists. We also wanted to promote everyday cycling and show that people can be their same stylish selves on a bicycle. We did a lot of research to find out what motivates people to cycle and have tried to base our campaign on the top reasons people always mention for cycling.
How has the uptake to the campaign been…?
We’ve had an amazing response- both from local people and from the cycling community. We’ve made some great connections with people that have a real passion for cycling and are keen to help us promote it. We’ve got a growing twitter and facebook following, which is great for finding out more about what cyclists in our area need.
Can you tell us about who is cycling in Kensington and Chelsea?
Kensington and Chelsea is very similar to most of Central London. We have higher levels of people commuting to work- about 8% of people cycle to work, but just 3% of people cycle as their main mode. We have a lot more work to do to get people to hop on their bicycle for every day journeys rather than just the commute or occasional ride through our parks. As in other parts of London there are more young, professional men cycling than any other group.
Have you noticed any cycling trends emerging in your part of London – or london-wide in fact?
Cycling is definitely becoming more fashionable and we see more and more people out on gorgeous looking bicycles. People who’ve put some real thought into their outfits and how they look on their bicycles. That is really great to see as for a long time London has lagged behind the cycle chic capitals like Copenhagen and Amsterdam. We’ve also had the Boris Bike effect here so we see a lot of people out on leisure rides over the weekend and men in suits riding off to work.
What are the initiatives the RBKC undertaking for cyclists in the immediate future…?
We have a fantastic film competition which we’ve just launched, inviting film makers to show us why they love cycling. We heard that film is the most shared medium on the internet so we thought if we could generate some great films then we’d have a good chance of spreading the cycling message. It’s also a great way to support young film makers in the area as there are some excellent prizes up for grabs. We’re also about to open up a series of one way roads to two way for cyclists, which will mean that cyclists can avoid some of our main roads and that it’s easier to find your way around on a bicycle.
You’ve organised some really fun events for locals. Can you tell us a bit more about these…?
We thought about how we might be able to entice people out on a bicycle through their other interests- especially those people who might think about cycling but need some motivation to give it a go. So we’ve designed some tours with themes like film, music and theatre, which will introduce cyclists to some of our quiet back streets and hopefully give them the inspiration and confidence to cycle more often. We had a few sell out tours last summer so are excited about launching this summer’s series.
You asked me this question in our interview so ‘back atcha!’ How do find inspiration for your blog, which is wonderfully up to date?
When I started writing the blog I thought I’d run out of things to say within a couple of weeks, but there are always great things going on and new areas that we want to explore. At the moment we’re concentrating on cycling films because of our film competition, and are about to launch a cycle style competition with Harrods so we’re trying to focus a bit more of the fashion side of cycling.
What would you say to encourage anyone who is toying with getting back in the saddle but fears the mean streets of London…?!
When I first moved to London I’d never cycled in traffic before so was terrified. But I took some cycle training which was really fantastic for teaching me to cycle assertively, and then spent the first few months sticking to the canals and quiet roads. I’d definitely recommend that anyone thinking about cycling take up our free cycle training offer- most boroughs in London have free cycle training for residents. It’s great for building confidence and helping any new cyclist to understand the tricks to keep them safe. And make sure you plan your route and keep to roads that you are comfortable cycling on. If you ever find you’re feeling things are getting a bit dicey then just get off and walk to a street you’re happier cycling on.
What type of cyclist are you.. and what bicycle do you ride?
I guess I’m an everyday – utility cyclist, I try to cycle most places just because I prefer it to being squashed on a tube or waiting for a bus, it’s also a much more pleasant way to experience London. Over time cycling in London my confidence has grown and my knowledge of the quiet back routes has gotten better so I’m pretty comfortable going most places on a bicycle now. But I’m too lazy to wear special cycling clothes, I think I should be able to cycle in whatever outfit I’ve planned for that day so if it’s a special dress or something then I just cycle slower. I’m a fan of high, high heels which are of course far easier to cycle in than walk in which is one of the great benefits of cycling! I ride a pink Electra Townie, which I’ve had for 7 years now and it’s looking a bit battered. I should upgrade but it’s hard to let go of an old friend.
What would your ideal day out on a bike be in London…?
I love heading out for brunch at the weekends and my current favourite place is Caravan on Exmouth Market in Islington so I often take a lazy ride over there through the parks. Then cycling through Central London is great at the weekends since there’s so much less traffic so I’d head down into Soho or Marylebone for a mooch around the shops and probably a gelato since it would clearly be hot and sunny on my ideal day! And seeing as it would be so warm and sunny, I’d probably meet friends in the park for a picnic. I particularly like Regents Park or Kensington Gardens since they are so central for meeting up with people.
Thank you, Kathryn. And keep up the fabulous and very inspiring work, RBKC!