A bike ride to Tanzania

Ordinarily, the man standing beside the entrance to the mud and straw hut would have had skin the colour of deep black as the other Kenyans had. But he was old and his pigmentation was fading. Did he have grey hair? Do Kenyan’s go grey as they age? I don’t remember. Unfortunately although younger than me, I was facing an old man in Africa. His eyes were bleached and wayward and he was muttering incoherently.

Unsure how to communicate with a lost man who only spoke a different language I smiled and nodded and then ducked inside the low dark doorway of the mud hut that we were visiting. It was a simple hut of faded red Kenyan mud, roughly textured, with a low straw roof. A traditional hut of the Maasai, some of the world’s last remaining nomadic pastoralists – just like the ones we heard about in GCSE Geography. It was ramshackle, not even as tall as I was, with tarpaulin poking through the branches and straw on its roof. It was functional rather than beautiful and romantic; however, it had stripped living down back to the raw essentials of life: food, shelter and warmth. Was there love here? It was hard to tell.

I stepped inside and compared with London back in time 500 years. As my eyes acclimatised I could see a shaft of light coming in through a tiny open gap to the left. I was hit by the smell of livestock and woodsmoke and I started to make out the embers of a fire in the corner. The hut, although about the same size as a large car, slept up to 8 people from three generations with the men and boys and women and girls segregated on both sides. There was no privacy. Frequently, in the winter the animals joined their shepherds inside too.

Beside the fire I could make out a woman sitting, tending a large metal kettle and poking the fire underneath, she was bald-headed and dressed in the colourful traditional clothing of the Maasai women. She had a beautiful, clear-skinned face and wore an expression of complete calm. She was nursing a baby in a coloured sling around her neck.

We smiled at each other and immediately my heart broke. I’m not really sure why but this was one of my most moving moments of my life. Sharing this space with a fellow human who lived so simply really touched me. She seemed pretty content though, she, almost mysteriously, exuded an inner peace. It surprised me to feel so moved, I had been insulated for so long from my true emotions. Little did I know that this brief moment would be the start of a personal journey that would impact every single aspect of my life for the next two years.

Pretty soon the smoke in the hut and the heat from the fire and sun baking the room became too much for me. The smell was also quite unbearable and I had to leave. I gave a pathetic attempt at a warm gesture and bowed my head and walked out.

It was a real relief to leave the claustrophobic space and breathe the fresh air outside but it didn’t ease the momentous feelings (and sobs) that wracked my body.

Later that day we took to our mountain bikes and started riding out away from the Kenyan village of Olorte along unmade roads and spectacular scenery. We were heading to the Kenyan border with Tanzania. With every pedal, I was feeling that we were moving further and further away from the modern world and I embraced it.

As we neared our destination the road became a river bed and at points, it was little more than a track ascending a dried out waterfall.

We stopped occasionally and were met by the local shepherds – some looked as young as 10 years old. One took great delight in filming us with her last generation camera phone. I wondered what she’d do with those images. Despite spending all hours outside in the countryside the children were like children everywhere else in the world and were laughing and playing. In fact they seemed to take great joy in watching us struggling up the rocky paths.

Further on we came to a great plateau where a series of mud huts gathered, just as we’d seen in history books of ancient Britain. These huts were well maintained and beautifully presented. There was a mobile phone mast on the hilltop. The villagers appeared from all over the hillside and soon gathered around us. They looked on bemused at our bicycles as if they’d never seen one before.

The villagers crowded around our small group and gestured at the bikes. I dismounted and handed my bike to one of the villagers, who looked like he was in his early twenties. He excitedly hopped on my bike and started wheeling it forwards. It soon became clear that he didn’t know what to do, he could remain upright, in fact, he appeared to have incredible balance, but he couldn’t work out how to pedal it properly. He’d just push one pedal down and race forwards and then stop and pull the same pedal to the top of its stroke and push it down again. He gave up quite quickly and handed me back my bike with a bemused smile.

After another 30 minutes of riding, we reached our destination, the rocky cliff that marked the end of the plateau with views across the African savanna stretching out in the haze before us. It was the end of our ride.

The Tanzanian border was just down the hillside and the local guide pointed us in its direction. It was a short walk across the scrubland to the border which consisted of stone cairns about 200 metres apart. That was it, we’d made it to Tanzania.

At the end of our African cycling adventure, sitting on a rocky outcrop, surveying the Kenyan savannah ahead of us, modern life appeared so distant. There were no phone masts, no roads, no planes, no music and as we sat and had a Tanzanian Castle Milk Stout I was struck by how far we’d come and how much this time was making me think. For once I actually enjoyed the destination as much as the journey.

I watched, but chose not to help, as the Maasai warriors cut the throat of the goat we were to feast on, but I must admit there was a strange thrill watching these men hold down our food with their bare hands whilst its blood and life-force pulsed from it. We were all invited to drink the still warm pulsing blood from the goat’s artery as it died.

After our feast, we began our re-introduction to the modern world as we headed back to take our flights home. At first, we saw red mud huts and red mud roads, and as the villages grew into shantytowns the scooters and plastic rubbish – plastic rubbish everywhere – started to appear. Wild dogs and western brands started to arrive too; the obligatory Coca Cola and Marlboro billboards beside these towns that resembled the Wild West of 19th Century USA. Tiny two-room hotels that doubled as butchers during the day. Bars, cafes and restaurants with overdeveloped frontages and breeze block backs, just like a film set. The only signs of progress from the Wild West were the worn tyres discarded alongside the road and the car mechanic shacks replacing the blacksmiths.

As the roads improved, the traffic increased and the buildings became more sophisticated. Gated shopping malls started to appear. Fast food names from the UK. Mobile phone coverage and internet returned. I switched my phone on. My phone showed 1250 WhatsApp notifications. My shoulders knotted.

Eventually, we were sitting in cars, in long traffic jams of idling pickup trucks outside Nairobi, the outline of dirty grey high rise buildings on the horizon. I felt sick.

I thought back to my time sitting in the Maasai mud hut by the fire and realised that everything we called progress wasn’t making me any happier: quite the opposite.

I’m not so stupid to see that having clean water, access to medicine, educating women, and not going hungry is immensely desirable, it just struck that me that it didn’t seem possible to have both worlds.

Once we start on this journey of progress it doesn’t seem to ever stop until we’ve gone too far.

When I returned to England I told Ken I was leaving.

A bike ride to the waterfall

I’m reminded of a time, a few years ago, when I decided to take a mountain bike to a waterfall on the Thai Island. The bike was old but had enough working gears and brakes to make the experience bearable and potential successful. I headed off in the humid air. I cycled past red cars and giggling girls on bikes and turned right off the main orbital road into the middle of the Island. I only had a rudimentary map for directions but it felt like the right way and I soon left the urban chaos behind. As I cruised along the road I saw clearings amongst the rainforest with men standing around, collecting coconut husks and lighting small fires, not rushing to complete their farming tasks. The road signs were worn, faded and weathered.

Pretty soon the road became a single grey strip of concrete, there were signs in English and in Thai ordering those on scooters not to tackle the road ahead. My back was soaked with sweat. It was hot and even hotter when the sun came out from the clouds.

I rounded a corner with a derelict house beside it and looked up – the grey concrete road had another scooter sign with a red line through it and it just went straight up. I’d never faced a road like it! Across the world roads never defied the contour lines like this one – it just headed directly up transecting the virtual lines on the map. It was going to hurt. It highlighted the arrogance of man’s machinery over the country’s topography, or did it simply use the least amount of concrete?

I made a valiant effort but my thighs were burning, the heat was intense and I was worried for my heart. For the first time since I started cycling, I got off and pushed. Even pushing was hard work, my heart fluttering as I pushed.

As I reached the top of the road, it headed off to the right, and I finally felt able to remount and try and try and make my legs circulate again. I cycled past a group of bemused looking workers sitting in the shade with nothing in particular to do.

I continued onwards, the road alternating between its dramatic upwards gradients and more gentle curving upward stretches. I got off and pushed again. I had drained my water half an hour ago and it was now drenching through my skin, my t-shirt and shorts were soaked through. I could smell me as much as I could smell the dusty road and countryside.

Eventually, I came to a turning, with an old metal sign directing me to the waterfall, and I headed off the concrete road and pointed the bike downwards onto a little rough dirt track. There were potholes and ruts so it wasn’t much of a respite. I cycled past some more derelict houses and some inhabited ones too. The inhabited ones often had dogs barking, and I realised that the island seemed to have packs of wild dogs.

The dogs were thin but sleek and wild-eyed and barking. They kept barking and chasing me. The last time I’d been chased by wild dogs I’d been on a motorbike in the desert and I had the confidence to outrun them. We’d failed and I remembered the time we crashed off the edge of the piste in the failing light and landing on our sides, looking back to see that fortunately, the pack of dogs had given up their chase. We were only bruised that time and we mounted the bike again and headed out down South.

Back now in this Thai Island, I was unsure of my horsepower on this shabby mountain bike and my dead limbs and gasping lungs. I carried on, through the packs of barking dogs as is my way. The dogs seemed to lack the courage of their barks to actually make contact but it was unnerving and certainly motivating. I was already dreading facing the dogs again on my return journey back home.

Eventually, the track swung upwards and I could see a straw-covered hut in front of me.

I’d reached the waterfall which was a low key tourist site. I was very pleased to see a little hut selling cold drinks to tourists which was manned by two Thai people. I smiled and said hello to them as I dismounted and tried to casually park my bike up against a large concrete slab beside the road. Pleased with my standless bike parking I started to walk towards the stall.

The two stall owners who had previously been staring at me blankly started to say something to me and pointed at my bike. I thought they were admiring my bike skills but actually, they were pointing out that I had parked my bike right beside a bright green snaked that was now poised and ready to strike me. My heart felt like it couldn’t take much more stress and I very slowly inched away from the bike towards the stall. When I felt that I was at a safe distance I risked a glance back towards the snake, which fortunately appeared to have lost its stimulus and was now slowly sinking back towards the concrete slab.

I bought some water from the stall owners, and then shaken by my close encounter with the green snake cautiously set about following the narrow foot track down to the waterfall.

After about 10 minutes walking I finally reached the waterfall, although sadly all I could see were the smooth slabs of rock as there hadn’t been any significant rainfall on the island for months.

How to become a Net-Zero human

You’ve probably seen your council declare a climate emergency, or heard one of the many companies recently state their Net-Zero intentions. But what does Net-Zero mean, and how does being Net-Zero apply to a human?

The UK Government, and all those who have signed up for the Paris Accord have the legally binding objective to reach Net-Zero by 2050.

This means the amount of CO2 their activities emit is balanced by an equivalent volume of CO2 being removed from the atmosphere.

Making a country or a multi-national Net-Zero is complex but we could speed this up significantly by asking all our citizens to become Net-Zero.

So here’s how to make yourself Net-Zero voluntarily.

  1. Find out how much you emit and for what activities. There are a number of tools for this but by far the simplest is the WWF’s carbon footprint calculator. Simply answer about 20 questions about your lifestyle and the website calculates your footprint based on averages. It also gives you a nice breakdown of the areas of your life that create the greatest emissions.

In my example this shows my lifestyle emitting 7 tonnes per year.

2. At this point we could simply pay an offsetting company to offset our 7 tonnes every year and announce that we are Net-Zero, but the scientists don’t agree. To avoid claims of green-washing you must also make a commitment to reduce your emissions going forwards and present any offsets and any renewable energy sources in a table.

For example.
In 2021 I pledge not to take any flights and to reduce the emissions from the stuff I buy by not buying anything new. I buy our renewable energy from Bulb Energy which is 100% renewably sourced.

Along with my emissions, these green tariffs, and my offsets, I am a Net-Zero human.

CO2e (tonnes)
Gross emissions CO2e7.0
Green tariff-2.5
Net emissions0

3. Offset the remaining emissions. Although the UN Carbon Credit scheme can be economically attractive I would rather support a scheme that is closer to home. It is also proven that rewilding the countryside has a huge benefit to the environment from both an emissions and bio-diversity point of view so I plant trees with Trees For Life who are re-wilding Glen Affic in Scotland.

It costs £6 per tree with Trees For Life and it is calculated that 5 trees will sequester 1 tonne of CO2 per year, so to offset our 4.5 tonnes we require:

CO2e Tonnes4.5
Trees (Tonnes x 5)22.5
Cost (£6 per tree)£135

So, in line with scientific concensus, I can claim that I am a Net-Zero human by making a public commitment to reduce my future emissions, buying 100% renewable energy, and offsetting the remaining emissions with a rewilding project in Scotland.

Of course, it’s a great start to be a Net-Zero human but to make sure our planet is inhabitable for future generations we really need political change locally and nationally which is why I support the Green Party.

Darren Moore runs One Point Five Comms which helps businesses and organisations become Net-Zero.

If this has inspired you to become Net-Zero too then please let me know below in the comments.


My Grandad didn’t like to talk about his experiences during the war but he did write them down. I thought I’d share his personal account of an unforgettable episode in the conflict with Japan during the Second World War.

We think this occurred in October 1944 in the Gulf of Martaban, Burma (Myanmar).

Sgt. R.E.S. Moore

I reported to 354 Squadron and was crewed -up as a replacement gunner in a crew who were all Canadians. The rest of the crew had already completed about 100 hours of operations so I was always ready to fly as a spare-bod in order to finish my tour at the same time as the rest of the crew.

The squadron carried out two main types of operation. A-Flight conducted low-level bombing and machine-gunning attacks against coastal shipping. B-Flight were mainly engaged upon convoy escort and anti-submarine duties. My crew was in A-Flight but I flew as a spare on several operations with B-Flight crews. Our operations were usually of 10 to 16 hours duration, the longest I did was 22 hours to Singapore where our bomb-load was a single 2501b. bomb. This trip involved five aircraft whereas the usual number was one or two, four of the five were lost on the run-in. During an operation we gunners would change positions every two hours, rotating between rear turret, beam position, nose turret and mid-upper turret.

On operations, we wore a light jungle suit, battle dress top, head set and throat mike, Maewest, parachute harness and a baseball-cap. I don’t know why we wore baseball caps but everybody wore them, it must have been the Canadian influence, the jungle suit was a very light sidcot with a lot of pockets which contained our “survival” kit in case we were shot down.

We had:

  • water purifying tablets
  • a magnifying glass to use to make a fire
  • fishing line( no rod )
  • shark repellant dye
  • a commando knife
  • a machete
  • a compass
  • and we carried a .38 revolver.

Towards the end of our tour we were briefed to attack a target off Cox’s Bazaar on the Arekan Coast the japs were shipping petrol in lighters towed by small paddle steamers. We arrived at first light and shot them up from an altitude of about 50 ft. and they blew up. The steamer had a light machine-gun similar to a Lewis gun for defence but as we approached everyone dived overboard, I don’t blame them either.

The next day another crew was short of a gunner and asked me to stand- in, I was about 30 hours behind my crew so agreed to go with them. We went to the same place at the same time with the same result.

The following day my crew was detailed for operations and at briefing, sure enough, it was the same time same place. It was our 2nd Pilot’s wedding anniversary and he was apprehensive so asked if there was any chance of fighter cover. He was told in no uncertain terms that there would be no request for fighter cover for a single Liberator.

As we were approaching the target at about 50ft. we were attacked by three Zekes (Zeros), they came in line ahead and as we were so low they had to break away upwards which made them a relatively easy target. We shot down the first two then our skipper said “we are going-in” no formal Dinghy Dinghy business. I was in the mid-upper turret and was halfway down from it when we hit the water and I was pitched forward. Seven of us were in the water with the dinghy deployed when the last of the Zekes gunned us in the water killing the pilot and the 2nd. pilot, after three passes it flew off. The rest of us got into the dinghy and started paddling towards the shore which was about a mile away. Progress was very slow so I got into the water and started swimming pushing the dinghy, it wasn’t until I got back to camp that I was told that there were sharks in those waters.

We reached the shore, as we were pulling the dinghy up the beach we heard shouts in the bush (it was bush, not jungle) and ten men in Japanese garb carrying rifles with bayonets appeared. I think that they must have been Koreans as they were very big, over 6ft. tall we couldn’t understand them but they got their message across with their rifles and bayonets. They took us into the bush to a track where they had a lorry parked. We were put into the lorry with the help of rifle butts and they drove off.

We were driven for one and a half or two days non-stop except for when the guards needed a comfort stop, then we were allowed out for the same purpose. Finally, we arrived at a prison camp at Tavoy in South Burma.

The commander was a Major Ipsui and the second in command was Captain Shintu, after the war, I read in the paper that they had both been tried for war crimes, including shooting eight Australians in front of their own graves, and executed by hanging.

We were taken from the truck into the compound, it was just a compound with no gates, wire or watch towers just a bamboo screen. In the compound were two wooden stakes with two naked P.O.W’s. tied to them with barbed wire and left in the sun.

They took us into a basha on our own, it had no furniture at all and we were given nothing to eat or drink until the next day. We were then given a small mug of water and some revolting stew of some sort of meat I think. At intervals, a Jap came in and asked us where we came from and what squadron. Although it turned out that they knew we were from 354, where it was stationed and the name of our CO.

On the third day, we were sitting on the floor, our Flight Engineer (a rather large Anglo-Indian ) was sitting under the window which was just a hole in the wall which could be covered by a bamboo flap. The guard put his head in through the window and the F/E reached up and grasped him by the neck and pulled him in through the window! I don’t know if he was dead or merely stunned but he lay there very still. We were surprised that he had done such a foolish thing (in retrospect it was not so silly) but we went out through the window, pushed our way through the bamboo screen of the compound and ran as fast as we could until we reached some vegetation and on and on until we reached the jungle. We kept going until we could go no further then rested overnight before continuing.

We kept going running and walking for six or seven days and were nearing the end of our tether. We had very little to eat or drink and it was difficult to sleep in the jungle with the noise and the biting insects, we decided that we would have to ask the Burmese for help. Back on the squadron, we had been told that if we came to a river and followed it upstream it would lead us to a village. Coming to a river we went upstream until we came to a village, we were approached by an old Burmese man and our Anglo-Indian F/E was able to make him understand that we needed help.

The old man took us to a basha and indicated that we should go inside, he stayed outside. Inside we found a Jap officer (the Japs used to leave an officer in charge of occupied villages to keep order and check on crops etc.) He drew his revolver and started ushering us towards a cell at the rear of the basha. As we were going along the corridor somebody called out “shoot him”, I was at the back of the crew just in front of the Jap, I turned around and kicked him as hard as I could in the groin. The rest of the crew joined in hitting and kicking him beating him until he lay still then we ran out of the basha.

Outside there was no sign of the Burmese man, which was just as well as there is no knowing what we might have done to him, but there was a vehicle similar to a jeep with several cans of petrol in the back. We all piled into it, I got into the passenger seat, then came to the big anti-climax none of us could drive. My father had had a car before the war and I had a vague idea of what he did so I fiddled about for a while and got it moving. We travelled for a long time in bottom gear before I managed to operate the gear lever and changeup. We were able to travel for many miles as the track was not too bad and we had the cans of petrol. Eventually, we ran out of petrol and had to start walking again.

Newspaper cutting

After a day or day and a half, we saw a military camp but we stayed hidden in the bush because we were not certain whether it belonged to friend or enemy. Some Indian soldiers appeared but we stayed hidden as there were more Indians fighting for the Japs than for us. Eventually, we saw an English officer and made our presence known.

We were such a motley looking crew with an unlikely story that we were kept in the cells while Calcutta and our base were contacted to establish our bona fides. This done we were taken by lorry to Calcutta and flown back to Cuttack. Back at base we spent one night in hospital, I had gone from 10 stone down to 7 stone most of which was put down to dehydration.

During debriefing, I made very clear my views about being sent to the same place at the same time three days in succession. An officer took exception to this and I was put on a charge- conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline etc. etc.

The next day I was taken before the CO. who congratulated me on my safe return and told me that I was being recommended for an award. He then tore a strip off the officer who had charged me. I said that I wasn’t concerned about any decoration but was still very upset that five of my friends had been killed because of a lack of forethought and commonsense. The CO. then dismissed the charge.

Grandad High Ercall Salop 1945

COVID-19: A Pause for Global Dimming?

The sky is so clear today, isn’t it?

Global Dimming is an interesting phenomenon.

The effects of contrails and black carbon in the air are thought to block the sun rays coming to earth and therefore reduce the greenhouse effect. The last time we saw such a restriction in contrails was just after 9/11 which could have been the reason for a mean increase in land temperature at that time.

Looks like we’re getting another experiment.

There is even some evidence to link the cleaning up of Scandinavia’s air in the mid 80’s to be responsible for changing weather patterns over Africa and causing the Ethiopian drought that brought about Live Aid.

Read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_dimming and the

Horizon transcript here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/tvradio/programmes/horizon/dimming_trans.shtml

In the news!

Nice to get an honourable mention on the London Cycling Campaign website thanks to my active travel campaigning:

CW9 takes another big step forward.Read in full.

And thanks to the local newspapers for publishing my articles:

Warren Farm, a nature reserve under threat. Read in full.

How Ealing Half Marathon inspired me to run. Read in full.

Ealing Cyclists Bring Water to Masai. Read in full.

The Guardian’s take on our Banksy. Read in full.

Carbon Emissions 2017

And here it is, the long-awaited 2017 Carbon Footprint calculation!

Using our utility bills, car and rail mileage, the Climate Care calculator, the lame Virgin Rail Footprint calculator, the excellent SCNF one and NEF‘s I have calculated that our family’s footprint is about 11 tonnes.

To put this in perspective 11 tonnes is the same amount of CO2 emitted as  one business class flight to Australia.

This is broken down in the graph.

Electricity 2.13
Gas 2.83
Food 2.10
Clothes/Stuff 1.00
Car 1.51
Holidays 1.37
Total 10.94

This is down from 12.22 last year ( despite adding in stuff and food) because of our greener holiday choices, and more use of train travel.  Electricity usage is down slightly thanks to switching entirely to LED lightbulbs and being more careful, gas slightly down too probably just due to weather variations, although the Hive may have helped by allowing us to remotely switch on and off our hot water. Food and clothes emissions are still difficult to reliably calculate although we have made progress with our flexitarian choices, reducing our beef consumption and eating more non-farmed fish.

There’s a great graph here to help with food choices:

This graph from Business Insider also has a great breakdown of the explanations behind the food emissions calculations.

Our next step is to really try and work on our domestic gas usage – so double glazing is next on the list.


Here is 2016’s breakdown.

Let’s help give Chiswick back it’s villagey feel

The traffic along the High Road in Chiswick ruins the lovely villagey character and cafe culture that Chiswick once had. Sitting outside the High Road Brasserie I’m struggling to hear my companion over the noise of a truck accelerating past and the delicate flavours of my blueberry pancakes spoilt by the taste of diesel fumes in the air.

How will we ever return Chiswick to calmer more civilised place for humans?
Well good news – Will Norman and TFL have the answer. Through their mini-Hollands programme, they have managed to tame Kingston and car controlled Walthamstow and make them clean, green and spaces fit for humans to live, breath and unwind in.

TFL has the bold goal to make 80% of all trips in London by foot or by cycle which also has the side-effect of removing the noise and pollution of cars and trucks from our London streets. The side effect of these schemes and #CS9, in particular, is that ‘rat-running’ cars, on the increase now thanks to the WAZE and Google Maps apps, will be cut off and blocked from racing down our side-streets to cut through to the A4.

Already in central London 460,000 km are cycled every day – imagine how London would feel if these 150,000 daily trips were carried out by car rather than by cycle?

Cycle Superhighway 9 is just a tiny part of a bigger brighter safer and greener future for Chiswick and given the predicted increases in population and traffic in London, endorsing and supporting TFL’s vision for a nicer Chiswick is the only way we might return to the Chiswick we all want to work and live in.

TFL need your responses to their consultation before the end of October. Have your say here – and vote yes:
its go-ahead depends on you.

Following on from the debate about #CS9 at the George IV on Tuesday 17th October I’ve been thinking about the following points.

  1. The general consensus that Chiswick is happy to have a cycle lane just not along the High Road.
    If the cycleway doesn’t follow the High Street then there will be no reduction in the cycling casualties along the High Street and people will continue to be seriously injured and die along this stretch of road.

    People are dying and being seriously injured every year on the Chiswick High Road.

    Not only that but if the goals for increasing the number of journeys by walking and cycling are to be met then ultimately we will need to end up with high-quality cycleways along the Uxbridge, the A4 and the High Road. #CS9 is a very positive and simple start in the right direction.

  2. That TFL had specified the wrong type of road for the Cycle Superhighway along the High Road.
    TFL’s guide to cycling infrastructure was interpreted during the meeting that it recommended white lines painted on the road in a High Street setting. What the audience failed to understand, was that although people still think of Chiswick High Road as a High Street it is actually an incredibly busy road with hundreds of thousands of car journeys per week. This means the design warrants the segregated cycleway approach as it is the only way to safeguard its users.  In fact, even the original blue painted Cycle Superhighways were as dangerous – the only way to save cyclists from the risk of serious injury and death is to segregate them in space and time.
  3. That a Cycle Superhighway will have the wrong type of people speeding through Chiswick on their way elsewhere and will spoil the villagey atmosphere.
    I cycle to work in Chiswick from Ealing along this route. I am courteous and obey the traffic laws. I cycle in my normal work clothes to and from a number of local businesses along the High Road and my colleagues take the same route to work by bicycle as well. The High Road is often full of very busy, aggressive car and van drivers who are rushing through Chiswick to get to a destination elsewhere. These car and van drivers often break the law by using the mobile phones at the wheel and jumping red traffic lights. These people and the road that already divides the High Road makes a previously peaceful and green place feel grey, urban, polluted and dirty. As the figures and illustrations  just taking hundreds of cars off the road will create a more peaceful, less polluted, more human-friendly environment.  Safe and segregated cycling infrastructure is proven to do this across London and the World.


There were also three very strange but obviously genuine fears from the local community:

  1. A lot of roads in Chiswick are 20 mph and there is no way of policing speeding cyclists.
    There are three answers to this point:
    a. It is actually quite difficult and energy consuming to cycle at sustained speeds above 20mph and would be impossible along this route – most cyclists hit 15mph at a peak around town and it’s only possible to sustain speeds greater than 20mph for long journeys without the stop-start of city cycling.
    b. The route for the cycleway is along the High Road which has a 30mph speed limit.
    c. I’m pretty sure everybody who lives in Chiswick, bike users and pedestrians alike would love the 20mph limit to be policed but unfortunately, the Police rarely prosecute car drivers for breaking this limit let alone the less dangerous bike users.
  2. The TFL scheme is very expensive and cyclists should pay for it.
    The entire route (from Olympia to Hounslow) would cost £70 million which is funded by TFL, not the tax-payer. To put this in perspective, the new Power Road bridge on the South Circular is costing half this at £35 million just for one bridge that is about 25 meters long.
  3. Cyclists are currently cycling on the pavement and this is very dangerous.
    It does appear that cycling on the pavement is becoming more prevalent and is something that as someone who cycles I have previously been very critical of. However, since the risk this poses to pedestrians is insignificant compared to the numbers of pedestrians struck by cars whilst they are on the pavement the Police have decided to turn a blind eye.
    The obvious question is “Why do cyclists feel the need to cycle on the pavement when it is slower and hard to do?” And the overwhelming answer is because they are intimidated and scared of being on the road, the obvious answer to this problem which will be solved in one stroke is to provide safe, segregated cycleways.

In summary, a cycleway should be built along the Chiswick High Road to save people like you and I who bike to and from work in Chiswick from serious harm and possible death.

So let’s build #CS9 along Chiswick High Road and make Chiswick a safer, quieter, greener space for all.

Have your say here – and vote yes:
its go-ahead depends on you.

Are you a Community Ghost?

Deborah Orr’s lovely article in the Guardian this week ‘Value your health: head for the inner city, and swerve the ‘burbs’ got me thinking. Her premise is that people who live in the Inner City are healthier than people, like me in Ealing, who live in the ‘burbs’.  The reason? Because people in the Inner Cities walk more.

The ‘burbs’ of Ealing have wonderful opportunities for walking and active transport so I feel that the ‘burbs’ can be just as healthy,  and certainly significantly more active than people who live in the countryside and rely on their car as the only form of transport.

Beyond the obvious and frequently stated advantages of active modes of transport (I’m grouping  walking and cycling  here) that could address a number of our nation’s ills in a stroke:

Personal benefits:  Walking and cycling reduces obesity, decreases high blood pressure,  and can often help with depression.

Physical benefits:  Walking and cycling substantially decreases air pollution (BBC).

Business benefits: Local shops thrive as people walk and cycle to them, rather than drive to supermarkets.

There’s also compelling evidence that there are substantial social benefits to active transport in the ‘burbs’ too.  The neighbours we all know in our community are the ones getting about by foot, the ones on their bikes, the ones who stop for a chat whilst walking their dogs. These are the people who are the heartbeat of their communities, encouraging social bonding, acting as the glue in our country. In fact when we examine the NHS’s ‘Five Steps to mental wellbeing’ we see that “To Connect” is number one.

It is impossible to connect with your neighbours in the ‘burbs’ if you walk out of your house straight into your car (that you obsessively) park directly outside your house.  There’s no opportunity for your paths to cross with others, no casual serendipitous encounters. Not only is this having a detrimental effect on ourselves, but also on our society as a whole.

I believe that millions of people missing out on these community micro-interactions means we are less likely to tolerate our neighbours and this is responsible for the increase in tension and hate across the country and online.  

This is a big part of Yuval Harari’s book “Sapiens”, where Yuval speculates that without the ability for humans to ‘gossip’ and interact frequently in their communities we wouldn’t have been as successful at colonising the world as we have been.

These vital micro (or as long as you like!) interactions that would have previously occurred as we walked out of homes to go to the local football game, left our houses dragging our kids on foot to the local primary school, or as we wandered down the road to pick up some food from the local shop: They’ve all been lost.

The good news is, they’re  actually still there. Just a small change in behaviour has meant I rarely spend a day without bumping into one of my friends or acquaintances from my social network by accident – making me really feel part of a network – connected in the real world.

So why not give it a go next time you go to pick up your car keys or maybe try a change in behaviour once a week and see how different it makes you feel – I guarantee it will make you feel healthier, happier, more connected and have better interactions with your friends and family.

Don’t be a community ghost.