31 January 2009

Saints alive! Brompton Oratory and bad cycle lanes

Cycled past the Brompton Oratory (right) this morning, the splendid Catholic church in West London which somehow gave its name to the folding bike.

There's a statue of the much-venerated figure of Cardinal Newman adorning the church, so why not of the Brompton's much-venerated designer Andrew Ritchie, patron saint* of the ingenious folding personal transport solution, who used to live just opposite in the bike's early days.

According to the church's website, the name 'Brompton Oratory' is incorrect, though that's exactly what the sign outside calls it. They maintain its correct name is the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but I wouldn't have been so keen on a bike called 'Mary'.

We'd been having an inline skating lesson with Mike van Erp, who's great fun and a brilliant teacher, and being a very active cyclist (whose bike-cam videos of bad drivers appear on YouTube) is obviously the right sort of chap. I only fell over when I laughed. Quite often, then.

We explored the back streets of posh West London on our way home. Down Ebury St (Google map below) is a contraflow cycle lane in a one-way street that's a bit like those cures that are worse than the disease.

The lane (right) forces you to ride right alongside the line of parked cars. One hastily opened door and the best you can hope for is a nice memorial at Brompton Oratory. Unless you ride out a safe distance from the parked cars, in which case you're staring down the barrel of the traffic gunning the other way.

But the lane isn't completely useless: on our visit, it was reassuring to see that the cycle lane did serve a useful purpose, as a taxi park.

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* Of course, the patron saint of the bicycle is in fact the Madonna del Ghisallo. I'll try to remember that next time I have a bike nicked.


  1. If you make it all the way to the south end of Ebury Street safely, don't forget to admire the house (no. 180) on the right where Mozart composed his first symphony. There's also a statue of him (as a young boy) at the junction with Pimlico Road.

  2. Well pointed out! Last week, as I was testing out the British Library newspapers site, I did a few text searches on Mozart in the Burney collection of 18th century papers. Mozza evidently made quite a splash in 1760s London: there are many adverts for his concerts, generally along the lines of 'A CONCERT by Mafter W.A. MOZART, a Childe who plaies as fkilfully as the moft Accomplifhed Mafter'.

  3. Cyclists should have good Segregated Cycle Paths of at least 2 metre or 7 foot.Those Lanes are Lethal we have the same style over here in Dublin as the UK,it is all very Pathetic.

    If they the Government want People to use the Bicycle more they have got to make it safer for us to do so. Madonna Del Ghisello the Patron Saint of Bicyclists must Remember that ,very good Blog I just discovered it on Crap Waltham Forests Blog. Dublin Ireland.

  4. Incidentally I have a Brompton Foldy since 2004,Great little Bike.

  5. Cheers! I was in Dublin last August with a pal, en route to cycling in a very wet Galway. The cycle paths in the capital were as patchy as they are here in London (we'd arrived on the ferry, and biking to and from Heuston was something of a challenge, with the canalside route helping a little). Tomorrow I'm intending to feature one of my favourite bad cycle facilities, a curiously botanical one in Westminster. Watch this space...

  6. It is always Nice Looking at Pictures of London.I have the Link now to your Blog so I can have a Look when you put something New in it. Keep up the good Work of Posting bad Infrastructure in London.

  7. Here in Cambridge we're familiar with cycle lanes that lead cyclists into the Door Zone (http://www.camcycle.org.uk/newsletters/74/article5.html), though these are not contraflow lanes as in Ebury Street.

    One thing about the Ebury Street lane is that car occupants who are just about to open a door will be facing cyclists, whereas on Trumpington Road they will have their backs to cyclists. I wonder if that reduces the number of "doorings"?