Civilian Cycling

May 12, 2017

bike at the cathedral

There is much chat among cycle campaigners about ‘citizen’ or ‘civilian’ cyclists – those people who are just using their bikes to get around, generally in their ordinary clothes, looking relaxed and happy, rather than (as Mikael Colville Anderson described the average London cyclist) as if they were being hunted down by dogs.*

I even try and fulfil this role myself, adjusted for the Scottish weather and my general inability to put together an outfit that by any stretch of the imagination could be described as ‘chic’. Maintaining a relaxed and happy mien is sometimes possible as long as I stick to the rural back roads and Bigtown’s somewhat patchy off-road network, but there’s always a point here or there where I have to take my life into my own hands, assume everyone is out to kill me and generally gird myself for battle before taking on the traffic.

In Seville, despite a complete lack of wayfinding so we were lost more often than we were found (for some reason my companions allowed me to navigate) this never happened once. Seville’s comprehensive cycle network meant we could just cycle around like civilians, if not actually like the Sevillanos themselves, who can generally be seen cycling along no handed, rolling a cigarette, perhaps with a pal perched in the front basket of their hire bike.

map of knowledge

The marked up map from the bike hire company which not only described the main cycle routes, but also flagged up the best tapas places.

There has already been much digital ink spilled on our Seville cycle trip, which had its own hashtag (yes, we are aware there are only four of us), a storify, and a rather more serious dissection of what makes it work as a cycling city despite there being many things which were less than ideal about its cycling infrastructure. So I don’t have much more to add here, except to show you my holiday snaps, some of which are actually a bit holidayish, albeit with perhaps a little more emphasis on bikes and urban design than is strictly conventional

sightseeing by bike

smiley bollard

shady bike lane

flamenco by bike

shady square.

Oh, and the food was incredible, the Sevillians use their oranges to make wine not marmalade, which is a massive improvement, the flamenco was pretty damn amazing …

passion for tea

… and the Spanish even manage to make an acceptable (I’m told) cup of tea.

* indeed, I think this may be in the draft Tory manifesto …


Vamos a Sevilla

May 1, 2017

And then, with a bang – almost as if the Weather Gods were paying attention to our puny human calendars – it is May and suddenly there as proper warmth in the air. The hare has gone from sitting looking hunched and miserable in the wind to stretching out sparked out in the sunshine (at least until its pesky human hosts attempt to go out and photograph it.) And I, who have been thinking every day as I get dressed how sick I am of my winter clothes, had to shed not just my gloves and hat but actual jacket on the cycle into Bigtown this afternoon.

I had better get used to it, because on Thursday, as soon as the election is safely over (at least the local one – when it comes to the general election, I’m just putting my fingers in my ears until its over, although I will vote, don’t worry), I am off with my wheely suitcase but not my bike to Edinburgh and thence to Seville where the same gang of four who took a highly serious study tour to Amsterdam back in September will be conducting a thorough investigation into the cycling infrastructure of ‘build it and they will come’ poster child, Seville.

And by thorough we mean really thorough because it’s well known that I can get lost getting out of a wardrobe, so we’re likely to end up giving any wayfinding in the city a brutal workout (obviously my companions are all skilled navigators AND know how to use the GPS on their phones, but I’ve a tendency to be impatient and lead from the front whether I know where I’m going or not. POP organisers, you can stop sniggering at the back now). We’ll also be ensuring that the infrastructure can be as easily used when you’re coming back from the bar as when you’re going to it, and that the bike hire system can be worked out by someone whose Spanish has been learned from a phone app that is heavy on phrases like ‘where is the train station?’ and ‘would you like more beer?’ but rather lighter on phrases like ‘give it some welly‘ which is, as I recall, the key to getting a Boris Bike out of the docking station. If our trip to Amsterdam is anything to go by, there will undoubtedly also be testing of the ease of using bikes for spontaneous shopping trips, finding a decent cup of tea, riding a bike having been lured into drinking mojitos and discovering how many kms of Seville’s segregated bike network need to be ridden to work off excessive consumption of tapas and other Spanish goodies.

I think even the most earnest of kerb nerds would agree, that’s a pretty good assessment of a city’s bike infrastructure. Although we’re open to inspecting any interesting floating bus stops, innovative junctions or nicely angled kerbs should anyone want us to have a look. And if you’ve any other suggestions, bike-related or not, for what to see, do, eat, drink or experience in Seville, bring them on.