The Croydon Bike

By - Tuesday 18th December, 2012

A bit of an unfortunate title. Could be taken the wrong way. Stick with me.

There’s something about Amsterdam that I really admire and I wish that we could have more of in this country, and it is something that I believe that Croydon could do really well. No, not that! I’m talking about cycling. There are miles and miles of cycle routes around Croydon but I don’t see many cyclists using them or even cyclists generally. How can Amsterdammers be so into it? Between 40% and 50% of all their journeys of under three miles are made by bike. It must be that they are encouraged to do it from a young age and it stays with them throughout their lives. It’s not as if they have a poor transport system over there as the tram system is brilliant, they have an excellent bus system as well, and there are plenty of cars. Oh, and boats and barges.

Perhaps they have a more environmental mind set and appreciate that cycling is better all round. I wouldn’t want to be a 17 year old in this country that had just passed their driving test and was saving for a first car. The insurance premiums these days are horrendous not to mention the price of petrol and the road tax and add in servicing and MOTs. Plus the fact that so many ‘affordable’ old cars were taken off the roads with the trade-in initiative of recent years.

If we started to encourage youngsters to cycle from a very early age, or even introduced the cycling proficiency test into the national curriculum, we would be equipping them with a transport mode for life. At the same time we’d be making them healthier and fitter. Once the kids are doing it, then it can spread to the parents and they would be encouraged to cycle, making them a family of cyclists. Britain’s cycle lanes would then resemble those of Amsterdam where all ages, shapes, and sizes are on bikes and whizzing around seemingly carefree. They’re probably thinking about all the good they’re doing by not driving! Also, in Amsterdam’s markets you even have whole stalls dedicated to selling cans of spray paints so people can colour customise their machines.

The Flyover of tomorrow? (Photo by Massimo Caterinella)

I feel Croydon’s contribution to this movement can be, as above, a “Croydon bike”. A distinctive machine, designed by local students and experts, and made here in the borough by locals for locals thus creating an industry of manufacturing and servicing jobs. The bikes could be made in a variety of sizes and could be traded in for a bigger or newer one when required. The traded in one can then be reconditioned and sold on. I would be keen to hear from bike dealers, engineers, etc. to discover if this is an idea that could be taken on. I have a preliminary design for a Croydon bike so it would be interesting to share the concept with engineers and designers. We certainly have bike retailers in the borough that would have plenty of expertise to share and I’m aware of bike clubs that would also be a good information resource, so please come forward.

I wasn’t going to come out with this at this point, but I really want to get my fellow Croydonians’ minds buzzing with this idea, especially now when I give you an idea of the preliminary design of how distinctive this Croydon bike could be. So here’s a design exclusive for The Croydon Citizen.

We start with the word – C-R-O-Y-D-O-N. The two O’s are your wheels. The Y is the the steering column, front forks and handlebars, the R is your rear forks, the N is the main frame that joins these together, the D is the shape of the saddle and the C is a bar surround at the front where a basket, rucksack, and front lights can all be attached. That’s your Croydon Bike.

There’s a bike retailer in Upper Norwood that has started stocking bikes that have their frames made from bamboo. Yes, bamboo, the food of pandas. It may be low on nutritional value but it is big on strength. Most of our experience of handling bamboo is the canes we use in our gardens which do not inspire a lot of faith when it comes to strength, but in some parts of the world bamboo is used for scaffolding and has even been used for simple suspension bridges. It can even be grown in the shape of the intended structural use. I even recently purchased three pairs of socks made from bamboo fibres.

Now, these bamboo bikes are expensive to buy, presumably because they are expensive to make. Or because it is early days using an exotic material new to the industry, but with time and increased production the costs can eventually be kept down. So we could start to build a sustainable industry to encourage and improve a sustainable mode of transport using one of the most sustainable materials on the planet. That has to be a good thing. Maybe the building with bamboo is a wish too far, but the supplier of the current bikes is a UK company that designs and crafts them, so it is being done and the expertise is within these shores.

I hope that this inspires some of the aforementioned engineers, designers, and bike retailers to come forward and discuss the suggestions raised. There’s a buzz in the borough at the moment that we are in the early days of a renaissance and the manufacturing industry can be very much part of that. Let the manufacturing cycle begin.

Andrew Dickinson

Andrew Dickinson

I'm a long term resident of Croydon and I'm lucky to live and work in the borough. As a schoolboy my proudest moments were playing representative football for Croydon where I would fight tooth and nail to win for the borough and contribute towards its sporting reputation. For 18 years I worked up in London and became distanced from the town. Now I've re-engaged with the place over the last 20 years and feel frustrated in finding a way to vent my passion for Croydon (as I'm too old to play football) so I'm always on the lookout for any new initiatives to bring positivity to the place. I live on Bramley Hill with my lovely family and I have an allotment locally. I'm a keen amateur in gardening, environmentalism, permaculture, photography and website design. I'm an oyster mushroom farmer, run a social enterprise called Green Croydon, I'm part of the Croydon Fairtrade steering group, part of the Croydon ReUse Organisation, current chair of Croydon Transition Town and a community gardener; I'm on the borough Food Programme, Parks and Social Enterprise steering groups and a community apple presser. I currently work for the council as an officer creating and promoting community events in the beautiful Wandle Park. I put on the Croydon Environmental Fair each year and the Summer of Love theme and festival was something I dreamed up. I inspired the 'I would make Croydon better by' theme. There's also the Give and Take events in Surrey Street. I started the monthly Arts, Crafts and Vintage market in Exchange Square. Formerly I was a Turf Projects trustee, a Croydon Radio presenter and part of the Old Town business association.Between all this, I write the occasional article for the Citizen. I support local artists and local musicians by enabling the space for them to create I also support local independent journalism.

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  • Kake

    The Croydon Bike — love it!

    (As an aside, bamboo fibre is also good for overnight nappies for babies — very absorbent. The only snag is they take forever to dry after you wash them.)

  • Andrew Dickinson

    Thanks Kake. I would love to see these being pedalled around town even if not in bamboo but certainly the design.Would you be seen on one? Yes I’ve seen those nappies.Towels are the other popular product for the absorbency again. More and more products are appearing in the shops made from bamboo.The socks are especially comfy.

    • Kake

      I’m a walker rather than a cyclist, so I wouldn’t use one myself, but I’d love to see others using them.

      You can also buy bamboo yarn if you happen to be a knitter — I’m kind of wishing I’d picked some up in the Allders closing-down sale as I know they used to sell it.

  • Liz

    What a great idea – thanks for your initiative Andrew – I will spread the word. There’s a small shop just opening on the Godstone Rd in Purley – past the new motorbike shop, which says it specialises in bike parts and repair -not sure if it’s motorbikes or bikes, but I will mention this to them. (I have some bamboo socks too – and also use bamboo nappies by the way!)

  • Paul Williams

    I like the idea but Croydon’s roads are unsuitable for children & this isn’t going to change in the short term.

    The current Tory administration are beholden to the car, which is the transport of choice of their
    heartland. They are not interested in putting i basic safety measures, let alone the infrastructure to put Croydon in the same league as Amsterdam.

    • ArfurTowcrate

      Not sure that Labour are that much different.

  • Wesley Jordan Anthony Baker

    Hi Dave really enjoyed this article as I graduated in transport design last summer and cycling to the other side of London and back. I’ve also noticed the lack of other cyclists and Its a shame as you can get to Brixton on a weekday at 9 am and find your in a group of say 10 or more cyclists. I’d love to meet to see if there’s anything I can do to help.

  • Leon Of London

    Currently the cycle lanes available to us are no good in Croydon, potholes and uneven markings everywhere, you have to ride carefully if you’re racing bike, small wheeled user.

  • ArfurTowcrate

    Roberts Cycles have been building bikes in Croydon for about 50 years – their workshop is at 89 Gloucester Road in Selhurst.

    • Andrew Dickinson

      Brilliant! Thank you