The anonymous blogger keeping cycling on the agenda in Hackney

Pic: Harry Ashman

Daily average cycle stages and trips made by bike in 2015 rose to 0.67 million, a leap of 63 per cent from 2005 according to a TFL report from last year.

Anonymous blogger the Hackney Cyclist has seen this huge swell in numbers on London’s roads first hand and works to create the best environment possible for cyclists in the city.

Through the Hackney cyclist blog they have processed five million cycle trips from four years worth of data onto their campaign site where they aim to make London “as safe and comfortable for us to cycle here as it is in the Netherlands”.

The Hackney cyclist raises awareness of issues for cyclists in the area and keeps a keen eye on council cycling projects giving no nonsense reviews of real world effectiveness of bike lanes and

ELL spoke to them about their latest project: tracking every one of the bikes that has travelled down the Goldsmiths Row now the past four years.

The recording was made possible by the use of the first ever digital cycle counter in the UK.  The counter is displayed on the Hackney Council website and shows the number of cyclists using the route daily as well as averages for the year.

The Hackney Cyclist said that they happened across the counter on the website one day and became interested in the different patterns: “If it was a warm day I would check it and if it was rainy I would check it, and this got me thinking what all the data would look like together, so I put a freedom of information request in with the council and they sent me all the data on an excel sheet and got to work putting the numbers through all sorts of calculations.

The counter is only a small feature in Hackney but its introduction is part of Hackney council’s wider “Move by Bike” scheme which is a drive to get as many people riding bikes as possible.  It includes organised rides like the “Bike around the borough” which are hosted regularly and last year broke the record for the biggest ever “bike bus” which is a group of cyclists following a set route picking up more riders as they go.

The data collected is key in helping understand who is using Hackneys bike lanes and why.  The amount of trips on weekends is roughly half of the journeys made in the week demonstrating that Hackney has a popular flow of weekday commuters.  The Weekends may have half of the number of trips but in the summer this still amounts to 2000-3000 rides with 1000-2000 in the winter. It shows the true scale of the past four years of cycling on Goldsmiths Row.

The scale of data tabulated is massive with over 5 million separate entries on one excel spreadsheet.  For the Hackney Cyclist the route of his passion and dedication to making cycling safer and more accessible goes back a long way.

They said: “I started cycling as a child when I grew up in the countryside, I gave it up when I became an adult and then moved to Hackney back in 2002 or 3.

“When I lived there I got the bus everywhere which took forever so I ended cycling after someone gave me a bike because they were moving away!  When I started using it I found out how much quicker it was to get around.

“I cycled around London for years then and got a little into road cycling and as part of that I cycled to Amsterdam and that was the beginning of it really because when I was in the Netherlands I saw how children could ride with adults and not wear helmets.  Before I had gone to the Netherlands I had been told everyone cycled because it was so flat and the roads were very narrow but it isn’t true.  The cities are just like London but with cycle lanes, that realisation is what started a ten year journey!”

This drive to make London a safe haven for bikes started the needed work of the Hackney cyclist and through his blog and twitter account he publicised agenda of change and a constant striving for better standards for cyclists.  These efforts have been rewarded with over three thousand twitter followers making the Hackney Cyclist an authority voice in cycling advocacy. The Hackney cyclist told us that “a lot of People started to feel the same way as me in 2012, the Cycling embassy of Great Britain was formed and the London cycling campaign turned away from its traditional causes to focus on bike lanes and bringing new people into cycling.  That movement grew and I was part of it really, and as it grew and I saw more places and thought writing about it could help.”

Goldsmiths Row is a popular road for commuters as well as those travelling to attractions like the Broadway Market and Colombia Road flower market.

It is a key part of London’s Cycle Network Route 9 which travels all the way from Chingford in North London to the centre of the city.

The 5,000,000 rides along bike path have firmly enshrined its position as a bike path but the Hackney cyclist explains on his website that Goldsmiths row was “formally called the ‘Black Path’ or the ‘Market Porters Route’ as this was where farmers would walk their livestock into the City of London back when London Fields really was just fields”.

200 year old map of Hackney pic: Mapco 2010

The situation in Hackney is not perfect though, the Hackney cyclist points out the problem with many of the routes in Hackney is their eventual merging onto a main road.

“That’s why you don’t see an increase in the numbers” said the Hackney Cyclist, “you’ve got older, vulnerable people who might be carrying shopping or kids cycling to school.  The kids can go on the canals and ride on all these little routes but as soon as you get to a main road you really hit a barrier.”

Hackney Council said they were running several schemes to improve cycling in the borough.

One is to close roads to cars leaving them free for pedestrians and cyclists, they have closed over 100 so far.

Councillor Feryal Demirci, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Transport and Parks told ELL: “We are proud to be known as London’s cycling borough but want to get even better. London is facing a clean air crisis so it’s absolutely vital that we get even more people out of their cars and walking or cycling.

“That’s why we have closed over 100 residential streets to through traffic, with many more to come over the next few years. We also want to build protected cycle lanes on Wick Road and are looking at putting dedicated space for cycling on other key routes like Queensbridge Road.

“Most of the busiest main roads are managed by TfL, so we’re working with them to put protected space on Seven Sisters Road and exploring options for other roads they manage.”

The Hackney Cyclist will continue to write on the situation for cyclists on Hackney and if you want to see how the numbers of cyclists changes over this winter you can find the site here.

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