May 20, 2015

Cycling in London: Look Mum, No Hands

From the Globe and Mail:

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London’s cycling cafés: A pint and a tune-up, please

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At Look Mum No Hands on London’s traffic-heavy Old Street (map here), there is no question what the shop’s owners are passionate about: bicycles. They’re everywhere. They’re displayed in the windows, they’re hanging from the ceiling, and rotating exhibitions of bike-themed art are showcased on the walls. This may be a place obsessed with cycling, but it’s not a bike shop.

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Look Mum 2

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The café and bicycle-repair shop was one of the first cycling cafés in London when it opened in 2010. In five years, it has expanded to a second location and a seasonal pop-up shop, while increasing its staff and hours of operation to meet growing demand. There are now more than a dozen cycling cafés all over the city, wherein two-wheeled commuters can get their busted tire fixed while enjoying a cappuccino or local craft lager.

Although cycling cafés are a Portlandia-level indicator that we’ve reached “peak hipster,” they’re also a sign of a larger cycling movement in London – specifically, one that crosses age, coolness and income brackets. Cycling culture is no longer restricted to a trendy fixed-gear rider or someone who fancies herself an amateur Bradley Wiggins (England’s 2012 Tour de France winner and most decorated Olympian). Suit-clad bankers are now riding across town and even the Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson can be seen biking to work in his – albeit less-than-fashionable – Marin hybrid. …

 In 2013, Mayor Johnson promised a $1.5-billion investment in bicycling over 10 years, making London a world leader for developing infrastructure. The city has started to add bike parking lots, segregated lanes and cross-town superhighways. “There are now 600,000 cycle journeys per day in London,” says Bogdanowicz. The figure equals that of Amsterdam, a city in which cycling has long been a mainstream mode of transport but has a population one-tenth of the English capital’s.

At Look Mum No Hands, the emphasis is on creating a collaborative and welcoming atmosphere for Londoners. The café is constantly busy with activity. There is plenty of bike parking and its calendar is filled with screenings for major cycling events, book launches, art exhibitions and even speed dating.

Speaking of dating: In February, Transport for London announced that the city’s bike use had reached its highest ever. Cycle use grew by 10 per cent over a year and is forecasted to grow by 12 per cent over the financial year. Sounds like true love.

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Look Mum

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Already Vancouver has the original Musette Caffe parallel the Hornby bike lane (and Burrard), between Davie and Drake, as well as the Musette Caffe Chinatown and Tandem Bike Cafe.  Any others happening?

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