June 07, 2006

Revolution! Britain embraces the bicycle

Writing about web page http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/transport/article656400.ece

I had started to wonder in recent months whether there were more cyclists on the roads compared to a year or so ago, but according to today's quite incredible Independent front page, we are in the middle of a Revolution:

Independent front Page

Britain is in the grip of a cycling revolution as clogged roads, concern at global warming caused by air pollution and the quest for improved fitness persuade millions to opt for pedal power. After a decade of stagnation in the number of bicycle journeys, new figures show there has been a dramatic leap in commuters and leisure cyclists focused on Britain's cities and the burgeoning network of cycle routes. In London, trips by bike have increased by 50 per cent in five years to 450,000 per day while figures obtained by The Independent show use of the National Cycle Network, covering 10,000 miles of urban and rural pathways, rose last year by 15 per cent to 232 million journeys.

It is argued in the piece that this growth has happened in spite of forms of institutional or government support. I wonder where the University figures as a supporter of cycle commuting to our car clogged location? We're in the middle of a 20 million development of the Business School at present and, as far as I can tell, not one single penny of that is to be devoted to the provision of basic facilities to support cycling to the building.

Indeed, a quick glance through the material about this on the university website for staff indicates that, when we undertake new developments, "the local planning authorities require the University to develop a transport framework which includes a variety of serious measures to reduce car use and promote alternative forms of transport." Given the absence of any plan for even basic cycle parking facilities around this our newest building, it appears that we can willfully ignore such 'requirements'.


May 31, 2006

The Learner as Network

Writing about web page http://weblogg-ed.com/2006/the-learner-as-network/

I really like reading the urgent, in–your–face, passionate postings that Will Richardson writes in his blog Weblogg-ed.

In 'The Learner as Network' he writes:

The idea that each of our students can play a relevant, meaningful, important role in the context of these networks is still so foreign to the people who run schools. And yet, more and more, they are creating their own networks, sharing, aggregating, evolving to the disdain of the traditional model of schooling that is becoming more and more irrelevant.

In a similar vein, a commenter on one of his recent posts writes:

Instead of trying to prepare our students for what the world looked like when we were 18, let’s try to prepare them for what the world is going to look like when they’re our age.

Where are we fostering what Richardson calls "network literacy"?

the functions of working in a distributed, collaborative environment is an important aspect of learning and education that precious few of our students get a chance to practice. And it is only by practicing these skills, whether teachers or students, that they can truly be learned.

May 15, 2006

Technorati profile

Technorati Profile

Edited.


May 12, 2006

Cycling debated in the House of Commons

Follow-up to Road Rights from Off message

Via the ever reliable Velorution, I learned that the campaign to alter proposed changes to the Highway Code which would reduce cyclists' status as road users has reached the floor of the House of Commons, where it has been taken up, and cycling has been debated more widely, very impressively by Mark Lazarowicz, Labour MP for Edinburgh, North and Leith. Here's the Hansard record of the debate.

May 11, 2006

What Is the Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years?

Writing about web page http://www.nytimes.com/ref/books/fiction-25-years.html

From the New York Times:

Early this year, the Book Review's editor, Sam Tanenhaus, sent out a short letter to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to please identify "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years".

And the results are staggeringly close to where my votes would have gone. The winner was Toni Morrison's Beloved which I have read and re-read and taught to many groups of students and which is spectacular and strange and beautiful. The runner-up is Don DeLillo's enormous overview of post-war America Underworld – an astounding novel, even if you only read its opening scene set during a legendary baseball game in New York in 1951.

I'd have Beloved and Underworld as my 1 and 2. Well whadya know? Yesterday I'm a metrosexual and disturbing social figure. Today I'm in full agreement with "a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages" in the US.


May 10, 2006

Cycling, sterility and emasculation

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1771302,00.html

Matt Seaton, The Guardian's cycling columnist and author of The Escape Artist (which I've recently finished reading) writes a striking and unexpected column today.

While most of his columns deal with the more prosaic matters of cycling and cycle maintenance and topics such as David Cameron's aversion to panniers, today's piece discusses the issue of cycling and male infertility and ends with a sudden leap into cultural analysis. Seaton suggests that the claim that cycling induces sterility is an "unsavoury confection of fantasies and anxieties" about the New Man:

Is it possible that – under the guise of fearing for his sexual wellbeing – what is actually feared is the New Man? Is the metrosexual man on his bike so disturbing a social figure that what is wished for is his emasculation?

May 08, 2006

Bicycle is king of the road as gas costs rise

Writing about web page http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/05/05/business/wbbike.php

Via Velorution, I read this interesting piece from the International Herald Tribune. My sense of the changes in London is that bombs on the tube have been as much of a contributor to the sharp uptake of cycling as the congestion charge.

London may be the greatest success story in the new wave. When Mayor Ken Livingstone introduced a congestion charge in 2003 on vehicles entering the city center, a surprising side effect was a 28 percent surge in cycling in the first year. The city says overall cycling mileage has doubled in the last five years and it aims to achieve another doubling. In some cases, merchants who were initially nervous actually saw sales rising as the population of more fluid bus and cycle lanes fed them more customers. What has also been discovered worldwide is that accident rates have dropped wherever cycling has gained momentum, as cars are forced to slow down and as they become more accustomed to sharing the road. "We're seeing a lot of people willing to try this and now it's getting safer as we get critical mass," said Silka Kennedy–Todd, an official in London's transport office. "The number of accidents has roughly fallen in half as the number of cyclists has doubled.

May 05, 2006

Blair must go now

Writing about web page http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/charlie_whelan/2006/05/post_67.html

Charlie Whelan, a former Brownite bruiser, pulls no punches today following the local election results:

The prime minister won't quit of course; it couldn't possibly be his fault that no one wants to vote Labour anymore could it? Realistically the only people who can rid us of Tony Blair are the Labour MPs, though we cannot expect too much from a bunch of people who voted in favour of the war. I don't know what MPs do in their spare time but they clearly don't listen to their constituents much. If they did, they would surely have moved before the last election to dump their leader. The big question today is: will this so far spineless bunch of people finally have the guts to do the dirty deed.

May 03, 2006

The Apprentice and Blair's Britain

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,1766121,00.html

Provocative, persuasive piece of analysis of The Apprentice as a cipher for Blair's Britain from Jonathan Freedland, one of The Guardian's most persistently reliable and interesting columnists. In the space of a column the analysis has a lot to say not only about television but about our socal and political cultures, about ethnic diversity, meritocracy and the potential irrelevance of a university business education. Freedland's big conclusion, however, is that The Apprentice teaches us that

deference is far from dead, it's just that now there is a new class to be deferred to – the aristocracy of wealth. And in this new nobility, Alan Sugar's blood is purest blue.

Good humour and competence in the saddle

Writing about web page http://search.bikelist.org/getmsg.asp?Filename=touring.10604.1170.eml

From the Bike Touring List, Eric S. Sande provides an eloquent articulation of what I've been thinking and feeling about cycling myself recently. I've almost surprised myself about how I've become less aggressive about the poor behaviour and performance of drivers and others on the roads. Prompting cyclists to "learn to abandon value judgements based on incomplete evidence", he writes:

The successful bicycle commuter, and by extension the bicycle tourist, can and should develop qualities of forgiveness and acceptance, but these cannot be allowed to outweigh strength, technical skill, and preparedness. Only the total package of good humor and competence can serve to make these experiences enlightening, in my opinion.

It all gets a bit Zen and the Art towards the end but a provocative little read nonetheless.


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