Gareth's Blog

Recent Posts

Archives

Archives

cycling Archives - Terra Infirma


Browse All

15 November 2017

Sustainability Signal vs Noise

Fascinating piece of research by Sustrans which found that 78% of city-dwellers would like to see more segregated cycle lanes even if it meant losing road space for motor vehicles. This flies in the face of the raging media battles where you would think lycra-clad cyclists were a widely detested menace to society.

I was asked to comment on the research as a local Councillor and gave it a full-throated welcome. In a way I'm lucky as the patch I represent is very liberal and generally pro-walking and cycling –we're 20 minutes walk from the city centre, which also helps. Colleagues in the suburbs often feel under more pressure as there is nothing noisier than the anti-cyclist and leaving the car in the driveway isn't as easy. A recent court case where a cyclist on a road-illegal bike fatally collided with a pedestrian hogged the headlines for a week; 35 people died in car-related accidents in that same week and didn't garner a mention.

Such noise obscures other Sustainability trends such as the strong public support for renewables. In fact the climate change denial movement relies on noise in environmental trends to detract from the worrying signals. But the left can be as guilty as the right: I often read about soaring inequalities in the UK when inequality measures haven't changed significantly for 30 years and are actually lower than just before the financial crash and the subsequent austerity. That's not a political statement, that's simply a fact.

I have made it a rule to do some simple fact-checking on anything before I comment in public – I even check the provenance of oft-used quotes before using them in this blog which can be very interesting... Let's look for the signal, rather than the noise.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

25 October 2017

Me & My Mobike: Adventures in the Sharing Economy

The Chinese Mobike scheme has just hit my city of Newcastle upon Tyne, so on Monday I grabbed my camcorder and gave it a go – with hilariously sweaty results!

I've been mulling on the business model ever since. At 50p per half hour hire, I can't see the scheme being financially viable without other forms of income, yet there is no obvious advertising as there is on Boris bikes in London (and those still require a hefty subsidy from the taxpayer).

From a big 'S' Sustainability point of view, I'm still not sure of the benefits given the limitations of the bikes – as you will see in the video, you're not going to take them too far, so they're unlikely to reduce private car journeys. They may cut taxi journeys and reduce pressure on public transport. They may of course form a gateway to proper cycle commuting, but I'm always wary of tangential benefits – I like to see a clear path between investment and outcome.

So, the future of transport or a vanity project? Only time will tell, but I'm afraid I'm sceptical about their chances – more than happy to be proved wrong.

 

 

Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

13 October 2017

Sustainability Bites 13/10/17

Here's this week's edition of Sustainability Bites where I really struggle to find anything to criticise in the UK Government's Clean Growth Strategy, so I turn to Donald Trump who never fails to disappoint.
 

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

29 August 2017

Anybody can do Sustainability

IMG_2793

My summer of cycle action continued yesterday with another first – I entered a race. A proper race with entry fees, commissionaires, rules, closed roads and a number pinned to my backside. It wan't any old race, though, it was the UK's only urban cyclocross in the Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle with road, path, grass, dirt and cobbled sections, plus a couple of obstacles requiring a dismount.

I don't have a cyclocross bike and my road bike has neither low enough gearing for the tough climbs nor tyres chunky enough to handle the off road bits, so I removed the pannier rack from my clunky old hybrid and used that. As I lined up (at the back of the bunch) on the start line, I realised I was one of just two riding flat handlebars and platform pedals.

So how did I do? Well I lapped the other guy on a non-specialist bike and beat 12 of the others, coming 11th out of 24 novices. I was delighted! I spent the rest of the afternoon watching the other races, drinking beer and berating my cycling buddies for not giving it a go.

How would I have done on the 'right' bike? Looking at the finish times, I'd have been lucky to move up one place on the standings. The main limiting factors were the power in my legs, my mediocre descending skills and the mechanical problem which led to a skipping chain on the last lap and a half. The last was bad luck, the first two could have been improved with some dedicated practice of which I did zilch, relying on my road cycling fitness and working it out as I went along.

Last week I had another of those phone calls with a potential client who spent most of the conversation telling me why his business couldn't do Sustainability. I've heard it all – too big, too small, customers, suppliers, employees, bosses, buildings, technology – there's always an excuse to do nothing. However, I have rarely seen anybody who gives Sustainability a real go fail miserably – even those few who managed to alienate the rest of their organisation got plenty of good stuff done before they were shuffled out – and some of my favourite case studies involve small businesses with minimal resources.

Sustainability success is largely in the mind –  and those who don't line up on the start line are destined to stand watching the race from the sidelines, wishing they had taken part.

 

 

Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

25 August 2017

Some Sustainability ideas just weren't meant to happen...

IMG_2743One of my (many) pet hates in Sustainability is people and organisations trying desperately to make a trendy concept work when all the evidence points to failure.

Back in my last job, the 'in thing' was the eco-park – colocating recycling businesses around a materials recovery facility to provide a local zero waste solution. Sounds great in theory, but when my team was delegated the task of reviewing existing and planned eco-parks around the world as part of a feasibility study, we found that all of them had failed with the exception of one in Singapore where they have a centralised planning system and the businesses were given no choice as to their location. We presented our findings, but they were politely ignored, and the project trundled on regardless, soaking up more public money, until the sponsors couldn't secure the huge public investment required to make it happen.

I've long been sceptical about Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) as not reducing emissions seems like an odd way to reduce emissions – along with my nagging gut feeling that the second law of thermodynamics suggests that it will never work. I was very amused by with this piece by Tom Baxter of Aberdeen University pointing out that CCS will save as much carbon being emitted to the atmosphere as would not overfilling our kettles – hardly an impressive return for all the infrastructure required. Many green commentators have lambasted the UK Government for not investing a promised £1bn in CCS, but maybe they should be asking why the Government has got cold feet.

Public bike hire schemes are another I remain unconvinced about. Don't get me wrong, I like the concept of having readily available bikes, but the one in my own city, Newcastle, failed and there are reports around the world of either failures, low take up, theft and/or requirements for heavy subsidy. I can't help thinking that the main driver for each city to set up a scheme is keeping up with the Jones'.

The big question in all these concepts is are they really worth it? In the eco-park example, businesses will co-locate organically if there is economic reason to do so, in CCS, the cost/benefit ratio is surely crippling, and I can't help thinking the 6/7-figure subsidies/sponsorship required to maintain a bike hire scheme could be better invested in other cycle infrastructure to allow cyclists to move around our cities faster and more safely. Maybe we should be quicker to ditch ideas which don't seem to work, and invest our time, money and effort in those which do.

 

Tags: , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

9 August 2017

A Cycle-logical Summer

35466289613_1a5f8a3363_z

Just back from my second camping trip of the school holidays and the third this year – we're getting close to packing everything we need first time, now. But my personal highlights of the summer have all been on two wheels. My main target was my first century ride on the Cyclone sportive – 106 miles and the equivalent climbing of riding over Mt Snowdon and Ben Nevis (give or take 50m). Then, on a whim, I entered the Great Dun Fell sportive which finished at the radar station on top of the titular mountain via the UK's highest tarmac road. The 25-30% ramps and howling gale on this climb had me almost at a standstill at several points.

After those two brutal challenges, a ride with an old pal taking us from SW London out into Surrey on Sunday was a pleasant day out, but it was also a real eye-opener. I'm used to the almost empty roads of the North Pennines and Northumberland, so the traffic levels (powered and unpowered) were a real shock – more like a sportive than a coffee ride. Our route took in some of the most popular cycling stretches in the country (Richmond Park and Box Hill according to the the training app Strava) and the friction between the two-wheels and four was noticeable – "get a car!" was one bizarre piece of heckling, and my yell of remonstration against a Bentley driver who almost grazed my elbow was countered with an object hurled from the passenger window. Classy.

As we returned into Kingston, however, we were able to take a lovely long and interrupted car-free path along the river. Unsurprisingly, this is where we saw most families out riding. The centre of the town itself was undergoing a cycling/walking renewal with the previous slatherings of coloured road paint being upgraded with proper cycle paths, signals and signage.

I'm convinced the UK is undergoing a real transformation of attitudes to cycling, although the aggression we encountered shows there is a way to go. Here are some conclusions relevant to wider change for Sustainability:

  • You can't expect more sustainable behaviour in a system designed for business as usual;
  • Use demand to indicate where you should focus your effort as the 'bang for your buck' is highest;
  • Don't abandon people halfway – one nightmare of cycling (or any transport) is when cycle paths/direction signs evaporate just when you need them most;
  • Expect resistance, some understandable, much entirely irrational. Use the former as feedback, ignore the latter.

And lastly, get out and ride!

 

Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

10 July 2017

Me, the Tour de France and Green Jujitsu

TDF_2016_étape_11

Stage 11, Tour de France 2016, © Sapin88, creative commons licence

It's the first rest day in this year's Tour de France and I'm missing the action already. As I'm writing this, I'm listening to the analysis of yesterday's dramatic stage from The Cycling Podcast and I'll catch up on a couple more podcasts during the day. I've decided to do some filming video today as I can't watch the race and do that at the same time, and leave the grunt work I have to do in front of the TV tomorrow. You could say I'm addicted.

Yet rewind 5 years and the Tour de France, or any cycle racing, wasn't on my radar at all. I was a keen cyclist in terms of it being a pastime – a ride to a pub for a burger and a pint on a sunny day – but racing never caught my attention. Various earnest people had tried to explain its attractions over the years, but my entire interaction was the occasional glimpse of a snake of lurid lycra on a friend's telly and doping scandal headlines in the papers.

So what changed? Very simple. On 5 July 2014, the Tour's Grand Depart took the peloton through Wensleydale in Yorkshire. We had spent a couple of fantastic holidays in Askrigg in Wensleydale and were heading back that August. I knew those roads and those villages, so I wanted to see how they looked on the TV. That's it.

And I was instantly hooked – I've hardly missed a TdF stage since and my interest has spread to the other grand tours and the one day classics. So what changed?

Simple. That half hour or so of racing through Wensleydale and up over Buttertubs pass was where my world and the Tour overlapped – so I paid attention.

This is exactly what I do when I use Green Jujitsu for employee engagement for Sustainability – I find the overlap between the attention of the audience and Sustainability because that's where you get Sustainability through their filters and make it interesting and relevant to them. And it works!

Green Jujitsu Venn

 

Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

28 June 2017

Killer Sustainability anecdotes (and not in a good way)

ReadersLast week I retweeted a gif showing a well designed cycle crossing being used by a steady stream of ordinary people on bikes – the text of the tweet pointed out that better infrastructure meant more cycling. Somebody replied with a photo of one woman cycling on the pavement beside a cycle lane (she was cycling slightly away from the lane, so may have been heading for a cycle rack or a shortcut, who knows). I thought of half a dozen ripostes, none of them very witty, before deciding to ignore it.

Setting aside what urges would inspire someone to take time out of their day to dig out a picture to try to criticise cycle infrastructure, this illustrates the trap of anecdotal evidence. Apart from a highly-numerate few, we are naturally inclined towards stories and away from robust statistical analysis. So when somebody says "Huh, climate change is nothing new, the Romans used to grow grapes in York." the general public are more likely to file that factoid away than complex graphs of global temperature reconstructions. In the same way one out-of-context, statistically insignificant photo undermines my point regarding infrastructure.

Countering beside-the-point anecdotes is difficult; throwing the question back to the storyteller ("What is that meant to show?") is usually better than trying to argue or fight story with stats.

The flip side is in your own communications you should balance statistics and facts with stories – those anecdotes are what people will remember and relate to.

 

Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

19 June 2017

My big 2017 challenge - done!

IMG_2444

Last May, I went the full MAMIL. You know the cliché, I turned 45 and decided that the one thing missing in my life was a carbon fibre road bicycle. Having thoroughly enjoyed a summer of coffee rides and medium-length sportives in 2016 I set my goal for 2017 - a century ride.

I have ridden 60-80 miles in a day many times, but I'd never ticked over into that magic 100. How hard could it be? Well, my target wasn't just any 100 miles, but the 106 mile (171 km) Cyclone cycle challenge route with 7800ft (2350m) of climbing. Think of riding a bike over the top of Mt Snowdon and Ben Nevis in the same day and the Cyclone pretty much does that!* Read the rest of this entry »

Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

21 April 2017

A Cycle-logical Sustainability Opportunity

17972239_10100309071512778_8565556777937556897_oWhile most sensible people were tucking into their Easter Eggs last Sunday, I was braving (very) cold, wet and windy conditions up on the MoD's Otterburn firing ranges as part of the MoD Rocker cycle sportive (we went 106km horizontally, 1.9km upwards). The picture shows what I look like after climbing steadily for an hour then hitting a couple of brutal 17-22% ramps. It's not pretty!

I've been training quite hard for this and a tougher sportive (on paper) in 2 months time. Being self-employed I can go for a ride when it suits me, but it always surprises me quite how many other people I pass out on the road during office hours. We are clearly in a bike boom.

I spend quite a bit of my time promoting cycling as everyday commuting (rather than just for MAMILs like me), but a recent study by Evans Randall Investors of 61 offices in London found that there was a serious lack of facilities for cycling commuters. There was on average just one shower per 240 employees and fewer than one in five offices offering places for cycling commuters to store work clothes.

This seems to me like a golden opportunity for both quick wins and employee engagement. Whether simply providing decent cycle storage facilities, setting up a cycle club, or engaging with the local authority to improve cycle access on/off site, you can not only reduce your impact, but make the local environment better for everybody. Gotta love that!

 

Photo © Neil Bradley

Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

27 March 2017

Cycle helmets and Sustainability

IMG_2092

Another thought from last weekend's trip to Amsterdam with eldest child. I never used to wear a cycle helmet, but I got one when I bought my road bike last year, because I now ride faster and harder, and I need one to comply with sportive rules. I've started wearing it more often when out on my town bike too, partly our of habit, partly out of solidarity with the kids. So I rolled into Amsterdam with a lump of polystyrene on my head.

Of course, I stood out like a sore thumb. No-one wears a helmet in Amsterdam. No lycra or 'athleisure' wear either – just ordinary clothes (although there were a few MAMILs outside the city dressed exactly as we do here in the UK). And everybody rattles along at quite a pace on those clunky-looking 'Granny bikes' – certainly faster than the stately 10mph at which Harry and I were trundling.

I've never understood the bile which parts of the UK media and public throws at cyclists. Calls for us to pay the mythical 'road tax', mandatory cycle helmets, insurance, registration plates. I can't believe that so many people are so resentful that they aren't allowed to drive a tonne and a half of pollution-spewing metal at 70mph without a few restrictions, that they think those who choose to push 10kg of alloy, emissions-free, at 12mph should somehow shoulder the same burden.

We will hit a tipping point of course. In the Netherlands almost every driver also rides a bike, so bike-bile doesn't occur. (Well, it kind of does, as tourists who don't know what they're doing seems to wind up the locals – see pic). But I've found the same in organisations. Once a critical mass of people are involved in Sustainability, it becomes 'the new normal' and the resistance fades. But the key to getting that critical mass is to make the price of entry as low as possible – no mandatory cycle helmets, literally or metaphorically.

 

Tags: ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

20 March 2017

An Important Sustainability Lesson from the Netherlands

dutch cyclingOn Thursday, the eldest child and I set off on our bikes to Amsterdam – Harry had won the ferry tickets in a prize draw from a cyclocross race he'd won. We made a little video about our trip which you can watch below – and yes he really did slide into a stinking stream on the way to the ferry. He was very lucky he wasn't injured, but we both had a whiff of stagnant water about us for the rest of the trip.

As always on journeys abroad, I had my eyes peeled for different approaches to Sustainability. Eight years ago, a business/pleasure trip to Belgium had really brought home the difference between that country and the UK on renewable energy at that time. However this time the difference wasn't apparent; the number of wind turbines we saw approaching the Dutch coast was similar to the number we saw along the North East coast of England on our way back to the Tyne on Sunday morning.

The biggest difference I noticed was the cycling infrastructure. A friend of mine, on seeing our video, said we had managed to make the Tyneside cycle paths as good as the Dutch ones, but there is an extremely important difference. By chance, the old riverside railway on the north bank of the Tyne has been converted into Hadrian's Cycleway, connecting our neighbourhood with the ferry dock. If the dismantled railway route wasn't there to build the cycle path, I doubt we would have cycled at all – we'd have been dodging lorries the whole way.

In the Netherlands, there is no such lottery. Every route has a cycle route. Every roundabout had a outer cycling ring. Every junction is properly signposted.

When we hit Amsterdam, we didn't need to work out a good cycle route to get through the bustling city centre to our hotel – we just picked the roads that went where we wanted to go (although if you watch the video, Harry was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of Amsterdamers shooting past us on bikes and mopeds as we made our stately way along the canals).

The generic lesson from this experience is: we must make every option a Sustainable option. Customers, employees and stakeholders ideally shouldn't have to make a choice between Sustainability and non-Sustainability, and, if they do, the decision making process should be heavily tilted towards the former.

Then we get Sustainability by default.

And then we win.

 

Tags: , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

19 September 2016

Blinkered views block the road to Sustainability

blinkers

George Osborne may have been unceremoniously booted out of the UK Treasury by incoming PM Theresa May, but one of his legacies will live with us for decades as May rubber-stamped his deal with the Chinese Government to finance new nuclear reactors at Hinkley Point. For a man who denigrated renewables on value for money grounds, Osborne's parsimony deserted him on Hinkley, with even nuclear's biggest proponents wincing at the cost of the new facility.

Unrelated, but related, The Independent's Sean O'Grady launched an anti-cyclist tirade at the news that West Midlands Police are fining drivers who skim rider's elbows. He completely omits to mention that the crackdown was in response to the Police's own evidence that only 2% of serious collisions involving cyclists were the cyclist's fault.

Both can only be explained by ingrained mindsets. Osborne clearly buys the old "renewables too expensive, nuclear too cheap to meter" myth and O'Grady plays the old "cyclists aren't real road users, so should simply keep out of the way" saw. Neither men are stupid, but they manage to argue stupid things because humans tend to see the world through a rather fixed worldview.

I cleave to the belief that the biggest barrier to sustainability is just six inches wide, the space between our ears. For sustainability to become the norm, we've got to change these, and many other, worldviews. Rants, like mine above, won't work to change those minds – we've got to find ways of finding the common ground and moving on from there. What I call Green Jujitsu.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

25 July 2016

Ready to take your Sustainability up a league?

steep climb

I'm shaking the lactic acid out of my legs the day after the toughest cycle I've done in a long, long time (possibly ever), a 75-mile sportive around the North York Moors with plenty of brutal ascents and descents (the pic above is actually from the Yorkshire Dales, but we did quite a few 25%+ climbs yesterday). What shocked me was, having come in the top 9% on the 'Standard' route in the 64-mile Cyclone sportive a month ago, I just scraped into the top half of the 'Standard' table yesterday. Added to that, at least two thirds of the participants did one of the two much longer, tougher routes than the one I did. It was sobering – I was suddenly plunged into a different league and it wasn't entirely a comfortable experience.

There are definitely different leagues in the Corporate Sustainability world. At the top we have those such as Interface, Unilever, Tesla, GE and, arguably, Marks & Spencer who are transforming the way they do business. The next level down contains the kind of business that signs up to the RE100 (100% renewable energy) pledge which will be tough to meet, but who aren't going through such a level of transformation. Below that are the companies who may be doing exciting things, but don't have really challenging targets. The bottom two leagues are those who are following the rest at a distance and those doing nothing.

What I find interesting and frustrating in equal measure is that many practitioners define themselves against the others in their league rather than aiming to leap up to the next level. Like my cycling, doing well at one level feels much more comfortable than being mediocre to poor in the next level up. But if you stay in your comfort zone, your efforts will inevitably plateau.

So what are you going to do to challenge yourself? Stretch targets matching those in the league above make a fine starting point.

 

Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

18 July 2016

Changing Hearts and Minds for Sustainability

world brainBefore the horrors of the last few days, it must have been a slow news period as the Telegraph rolled out another of their 'lycra lout' articles about the village of Great Budworth which claims to be under siege from the two-wheeled menaces. I think one anecdote summarises the story:

"One nearly crashed into my brother's car as he was pulling out of the drive and shouted at him."

Or, translated into objective language:

"My brother pulled out on to a road without looking properly, nearly knocked someone off his bike, endangering his life, and was surprised that the guy was angry about it."

What surprises me is that neither the story-teller, the brother, the journalist or the editor realised the stupidity of this line. I'm sure they're all intelligent people, but they regurgitate this nonsense because it backs up the way they have already made up their mind. This is known as confirmation bias.

As a Sustainability practitioner you will have come across this phenomenon time and time again. The presumption that Sustainability must cost more, despite all the facts and figures you provide. The presumption that renewable energy will never be cost effective despite plunging prices. The presumption that Sustainability is not a core business issue despite the fact that those who do Sustainability better have been shown to make more profit. The 'zombie arguments' from climate change deniers refuse to die for this very reason.

Like those in the Telegraph article, there is no point in trying to confront those 'misconceptions' head on (just have a look at all the Godwin's-Law-breaking arguments on Twitter for proof). My Green Jujitsu approach works on the heart as well as trying to appeal to the mind, by getting people involved in Sustainability using their core skills and interests. For example, it's said that the Netherlands doesn't suffer from this us-and-them battle between motorists and cyclists because almost all drivers cycle as well, so they identify with being on two wheels.

So if you are locked into a war of attrition over a Sustainability issue or project, stop, take a step back and think about how you can make it appealing to your opponents' hearts as well as minds.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

29 June 2016

Urban Sustainability in Walthamstow

miniholland orchard

I'm down in North East London for a couple of days learning about the 'mini-Holland' project in Walthamstow – a substantial investment in making suburban streets cycle/walking/people friendly. I'm here with my local councillor hat on, but I thought some of you would be interested in both the design concepts and some of the change management 'issues'.

You see, the mini-Holland projects have kicked off some pretty virulent opposition, including organised demonstrations. Even when I tweeted I was on my way to see the project, I got two negative replies saying the changes had caused traffic chaos while doing nothing to increase cycling, with only one person being positive. So progress has been fairly gnarly despite the Council's extensive attempts at consultation and co-design.

play bollardsFor many people, me included, it is hard to see who would prefer to have thousands of cars rat-running through their street every day rather than a mini-orchard and wildflowers - see pic above. The project involves some really lovely design touches, such as the bollards/kids' obstacle course hybrid shown right and lots of other beautification.

While some of those who opposed changes have changed their minds, many others, as we have seen, have stuck to their guns. Unfortunately, the project manager could offer no magic wand to deal with this, other than a tin hat, and one of the team confided to us that he probably would turn down a similar project role in the future as it had been so tough.

This is a real shame as we could see benefits just pedalling around – the traffic restricted shopping streets were clearly much more vibrant than those with traffic. The dad cycling past with his 6 year old son on the roadway was highly symbolic of a better future. As with many elements of sustainability, we know where we need to be, but getting there is the challenge.

 

Tags: , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

20 June 2016

I like to ride my bicycle...

cycloneOn Saturday, I finally tested my cycling ability (and new midlife-crisis carbon-fibre bike) at the Virgin Cyclone Sportive – 64 miles around Northumberland and including the notorious Ryals climb - hence the grimace in the pic! I did much better than I expected, coming 83rd fastest out of the 855 who finished this circuit [head swells alarmingly] - not that it's a race. No.

Actually, I'm just as delighted about my eldest son suddenly getting the cycling bug, with a 'can we go on our bikes' a constant refrain. With the younger two already keen, and their mother enjoying a tootle on two wheels too, the Kane family is gearing up for many enjoyable days out.

And next week I'm off down to the big smoke with my Councillor hat on to see the 'mini-Holland' in Waltham Forest to learn how to bring cycling to more people here in Newcastle. All in all, I'm spending a lot of time on or thinking about bikes.

Cycling is, obviously, the best thing in the world. It is low carbon, healthy, promotes clean air, cheap (unless you're a middle aged man...), supports local services, creates convivial communities – the list goes on. And, compared to many solutions to the climate crisis, it's a pretty easy way to engage with your employees. Decent bike storage, showers and lockers will go a long way to promote cycling to work. Working with local authorities to improve cycle links to your premises can lead to even bigger gains. Providing maps, maintenance courses and organising cycle events can help even further.

Are you cycle friendly? You should be.

"When I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." - H. G. Wells

 

Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

1 June 2016

Wild(ish) in Wooler

wooler

I wasn't planning on blogging today – in fact I had intended to be waking up for my fourth morning under canvas (well, nylon) at Wooler at the north end of the Cheviots. However our deliberations on the weather came to an abrupt conclusion when the cheap gazebo we used for cooking took off yesterday morning, leaving me standing in a field, holding a full cafetiere in a stiff northerly wind, with a surprised expression on my face. However difficult it was to dismantle the tent in the wind yesterday, it was going to be easier than doing it with the same wind plus precipitation this morning.

But before that slightly dramatic end (thank god most people left our field on Monday – that flying gazebo could have done some real damage) we had a fantastic time. Breakfast with buzzards soaring overhead then swooping down and scattering rabbits, some really gorgeous walks with picnics, the boys playing in the stream that runs through the camp site, dinner al fresco and bedtime stories as the sun went down (see pic). I also got to sneak off for a 46 mile coffee ride on my brand new carbon fibre road bike (well I have just turned 45 so I had to buy one).

I try not to get too romantic about the 'back to nature' element of camping – all the high-tech fabrics, sleeping bags, inflatable mattresses, gas cooker and cool bags make our annual family forays very comfortable. But there is something wonderful about being buffeted that wind, hearing the peep of the oystercatcher protecting its young in the middle of the night and watching the kids really get down with nature (although the 'slug licking' maybe went a tad too far).

Is the model of embedding oneself in nature while wearing a Polartec fleece and a Gore-tex cagoule the one for our sustainable future? Appropriate technology allowing us top quality of life in harmony with our fantastic natural world sounds like a winner to me.

Although the fate of our gazebo, now lying mangled in Wooler's household waste recycling centre, reminds us what happens when we get it wrong.

 

Tags: , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

4 April 2016

Sustainability & Freedom

bike at big waters

Last Tuesday, I got on my bike for the first time since I dislocated my finger in early January (it's been a very long haul), and toured some of the nature reserves of Newcastle with Mrs K before dropping down onto the Tyne and heading back home. Apart from a short break to sit outside a pub in the sun with a local beer. "The Freedom!" I thought "The Freedom!"

It's a weird one, because this was one of the most sustainable days out I could imagine, yet sustainability and freedom are often seen as polar opposites. Both the right and left of the political spectrum are more than happy to argue they are incompatible.

But think about the freedoms of sustainability: the freedom to enjoy clean air, beaches and rivers, the freedom to get clean energy without being in hock to various oppressive regimes around the world, freedom to sell your own energy to the grid, freedom to cycle or walk wherever you want, freedom from extreme weather or rising sea levels. I'd prefer any of these to the freedom to sit in a car in a traffic jam on a hot day.

The point I'm trying to make is that to cope with all the information we have to process, we narrow our thinking to certain frames. If we frame sustainability as anathema to freedom, then people will switch off. If we frame sustainability as a form of freedom, people will take note.

Tags: , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane no responses

14 September 2015

Being right isn't enough

Angry managerYou'd have to have the heart of Katie Hopkins not to be moved by the refugee crisis – a humanitarian disaster unfolding in front of our eyes. The reasons for this huge movement of people are many and some commentators have linked the mass movement of people to the impacts of climate change.

To me, this is wrong. Not wrong as in factually incorrect, but the wrong argument to make at the wrong time. It comes across as opportunistic bandwagon jumping when emotions are high – and will make the general public, the people we need to win over, less likely to hear the warnings on climate, not more – "There they go again..."

One of the reasons I don't join pressure groups is this kind of one-eyed hectoring. It frustrates me when I hear it from all parts of the environmental movement from cycling lobbyists to anti-fracking militants (for the record I'm very pro-cycling and moderately anti-fracking). It's fine if campaigners just want to feel good about themselves, but if they really want to make a difference, they need to be much better attuned to the public mood.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Posted by Gareth Kane one response

Free monthly bulletin:

Learn how to help your business go green from the comfort of your desk..

View events

By Gareth Kane

Everything you need to know to integrate sustainability into the DNA of your business.

Submit button

By Gareth Kane

A highly accessible, practical guide to those who want to introduce sustainability into their business or organization quickly and effectively.

Submit button

By Gareth Kane

The smart way to engage effectively with employees

View events