What’s five miles? About eight kilometres our metric friends would say. 8800 yards our parents would say. A perfect distance to cycle to work Sustrans would say.
So to introduce Sustrans and their “Call to Action for 2020.” For our international readers, Sustrans is a British charity for which the last 30 years have been a constant campaign to improve the walking and cycling networks throughout the UK in addition to promoting sustainable transport. Today, the Sustrans cycle-ways allow a third of a million people to enjoy a daily traffic free commute to work. Their “Call to Action for 2020” has the specific goal of doubling the number of journeys under five miles made by foot or bike. Currently, us Brits jump in the car for nearly two thirds of trips under five miles and for one in five trips under a mile – not the healthiest of statistics.
Sustrans aim to alter this ‘travel behaviour’ and are lobbying government to reward sustainability when awarding investment for new housing and travel infrastructure. Simple ideas like ensuring new housing estates are not built without schools so that families do not have to drive to educate their children; that there are doctors, shops and other vital amenities within walking or cycling distance and that walking and cycling routes are integrated into road building and improvement plans.
It is a proactive rather than reactive stance. The charity’s Bike It scheme involves the education of children in the benefits of cycling to ensure there is a generation for whom cycling becomes the obvious choice for short journeys. Grass roots stuff hoping to inspire rather than coerce tomorrow’s commuters onto two wheels.
For us at Furious Green Ideas, the work Sustrans are doing is both furious and green. Furious in the feverishly busy way, not the angry cyclist who has just seen a car stop in a cycle lane way (stay calm out there guys!). Please head to the Sustans Call to Action for 2020 page for more details (all facts and figures for this post were pinched from their More Haste Less Speed piece).
As always guys, happy and safe cycling.
Ben and Ed
A question asked by everyone we’ve spoken to about the trip. Cyclists are an often misunderstood bunch and excitement at the thought of cycling 4500km in four weeks with infrequent access to showering facilities seems a tricky concept to convey. So, I put the question to myself – what is the motivation behind the trip?
For me it’s simple. I want to cross a continent under only my own propulsion. When put as simply as that, it sounds epic! With so many complications in modern day life, a stripped back adventure of pedalling 4500km unsupported and outside the constraints of tolls, traffic or timetables is, to me, the most appealing holiday I can think of.
In addition, there is an environmentalist aspect. We are both keen to approach our lives with sustainability in mind, from recycling our beer bottles to re-homing some quite horrendous woolly jumpers! Cycle tourism is the ultimate in sustainable holiday making and something we hope to promote during our trip, both in the UK and more broadly in Europe. It is fair to say that the EuroVelo network is still very much in the development stages. The guys at the EFC are doing some monumental work to get a signed infrastructure up and running and it’s up to us the cyclists to get out there, use it, comment on it and help it develop into a fully operational European-wide network.
It is a truly unique concept and makes our American and Australian counter-parts green with envy. A whole continent connected with criss-crossing routes which enable the two wheeled adventurer to visit some of the most spectacular sites in Europe is a tremendously desirable amenity. What’s more, the fact you measure the cost of your journey in miles per flapjack as opposed to miles per gallon of petrol means that it is an affordable means of exploring a country in these days of ever increasing fuel prices. And let’s face it – the price at the pump is only going one way.
We leave in four and a half months and have a great deal to organise. We want to get in touch with cycling contacts in the various countries we plan to cycle through (a draft route can be found here) in order to promote EuroVelo in that particular country so please get in touch if you can be of any assistance. A more detailed route will be coming soon.
In the mean time, happy pedalling!
We are well under way in planning our EuroVelo trip from London to Istanbul. Having completed a draft of our route, we have turned out attention to gear.
We are undertaking the trip on a strict budget and want to get the best value for money kit on the market. Now, you cannot underestimate the benefits of a good night’s sleep so our first question to you regards sleeping bags….
The alarm goes off, it’s seven thirty. Rain, lashing against the window, is audible above the quiet hum of the radio and in my sleepy state I hit snooze. The sound of the rain seems to increase in volume and intensity. I know that within half an hour, I will be battling into the headwind atop my trusty mountain bike on a cycle path alongside the A4. The month is February.
This is a reality for 3% of the UK workforce every morning. A reality which we at Furious Green Ideas would love to see encompass more of the commuters living within five miles of their place of work. We want more people to enjoy a daily mini-adventure as man and machine battle through whatever is in their path on their way to work with the added bonus of not worrying about finding a parking space.
We realise however, that despite the best intentions, most of us are fair-weather cyclists. If there is a splash of rain or the mercury has dropped to single figures then the car seems to be a far more attractive option. And in terms of comfort it perhaps is. That is until you experience the delight of peering in on those bored looking drivers sat in queues of traffic while you (safely and legally) sail past. It is the most acutely satisfying feeling any morning can bring, no matter what the weather throws at you.
It is that feeling which drags me out of bed and into my well worn cycling jacket, leg warmers and winter gloves every morning. But that is not to say you need all the gear to become a cycling commuter. In winter, a bike with lights and reflectors for night cycling, a warm jacket, gloves and a helmet are all you need to kick start the healthiest way to get work.
So dust off that rusty steed in the garage or check out eBay for some bargains on both bikes and accessories and join the two wheeled commuting community, I can assure that you’ll never look back.
Birmingham to Istanbul – 2000 miles and 10 different countries. The bikes must be at least 20 years old and cost under £50. A month long tour sampling the various varieties of refreshment on offer along the way. May/June 2013, thoughts?
I hope all is well, speak soon,
And so the idea was born. The rudiments of which dreamt up whilst revising for finals exams at university as an attempt to escape the monotony of 19th Century French literature. The trip seemed simple; take four weeks and try to visit a few places still on the “To see” list in a green and environmentally friendly way, whilst working off a few pounds in the process!
Crazy but I like it.. Count me in I reckon who all’s behind this plan?
Yes let’s have a Skype and a catch up soon, was going to ask if you’re going to be in Brussels again anytime soon? I’ve moved back there!
So, the plan evolved. Ben was keen to include the EuroVelo network into the plan and, having moved to Brussels, the idea was that the city would become our starting point. More discussion followed and the plan to ride on £50 bike became less and less attractive as the gravity of the challenge was realised.
We then discussed an aim. What did we hope to achieve by cycling 2000 miles in a month, ending up at the tip of Europe? This is when FuriousGreenIdeas was born. We wanted our journey to have an environmental aspect and the EuroVelo network, as a seriously decent idea, seemed like an obvious choice. We wanted to champion the work they have done and aid in the publicity and development of the network. Usage is key to development and we feel the more people know and use the routes, the more funding will become available to improve what is already an impressive European-wide facility.
And this is where we find ourselves today. We have a route (albeit 2000 miles longer than initially anticipated), we have an aim and we have five months in which to build a network of contacts throughout Europe who can help us publicise the EuroVelo network to the maximum number of potential cyclists as possible.
Keep checking FuriousGreenIdeas for further updates and feel free to get in touch!
Ben and Ed
Why “furious” green ideas??
A not-so-subtle reference to the work of Noam Chomsky – an inspiration not only for his work in linguistics but also for his activism and his environmentalism.
Although we’re generally pretty calm people, there are plenty of things in this world to be furious about. This blog is about using our fury to good effect and becoming active inthe things we care about – the environment, cycling, language and travel, food and drink.
Idea number 1 – cycle the length of Europe, from London to Istanbul. In doing so, we want to show as many people as possible along the way how great cycling is – whether for a long distance budget holiday or just for getting to work in the morning. By using, promoting and reporting about the EuroVelo routes (more here) we’ll provide proof that you can have a better, healthier, more sustainable holiday, soon to be made even easier with the completion of 14 uninterrupted cycle routes across the continent.
We set off in August, and preparations have already begun: planning the route, getting into cycling shape for our 150km a day regime, and arranging promotional events with local cycling associations in the 13 countries we will pass through.
Watch this space for updates on this and future projects!
Ben & Ed
Our route crosses 13 countries and follows three main EuroVelo routes : Route 5 ‘Via Romana’ Route 6 along the river Danube, and Route 13, the Iron curtain trail. Setting off on August 10th, we hope to reach Istanbul in just over a month.
Cycling has increased by 16% in London since 2006. Cycling related accidents have increased 50% in the same period (2011 saw 4497 incidents, 16 of which were fatal). London Assembly calling for double the funding for TFL to support cycling safety related projects and comes with big backing from the bumbling Boris. Let’s wait and see…