Saturday, 16 November 2013


This is an impassioned plea for you to work with the London Cycling Campaign and other cycling bodies to improve our cycling infrastructure urgently. If you only read and action that, then my job is partly done.

I love cycling more than I fear it. I can’t believe I wrote the last bit of that sentence. However, the horrendously sad news that five London cyclists have died in nine days seem to be continuing this dangerous perception of cycling.

It makes me sad.
It makes me sad that this is a perception, but more sad that five people have lost their lives on London’s roads and that five families and countless friends have lost a loved one. The perception is a reality.

I hear you spout ‘that cycling in London is statistically safe’. After five deaths in nine days, it clearly is not.

Listening to radio debates and reading your response to these events, I can’t help thinking that people are really missing the point. Enough of this cyclist versus motorist nonsense. Cyclists do this, motorists do that, blah, blah, blah. It’s boring talk, and whilst each side may have a valid point, what does shine through strongly in this debate is that cyclists AND motorists need to co-operate, respect each other and get educated. However, most importantly, the infrastructure in London needs urgent change.

Three out of five of the deaths took place on Superhighway 2, between Aldgate and Bow and the woman who died at Bow is the third cyclist to have died there in two years. Enough!

Cyclists and the London Cycling Campaign have been calling for this junction and others to be made safe for years. Why are you not listening? Why are you prioritizing the quicker flow of motor traffic over cycling safety? We don’t need more blue paint on our roads Mr Johnson. They clearly don’t work. They give cyclists a false sense of security and allow traffic around them to drive with less care and attention. The lanes can suddenly stop, pushing the cyclist out in to the traffic. Vehicles come out of junctions encroaching hugely in the blue lane, squeezing the cyclist’s space further.

Oh, how I dream of a proper segregated cycle lane! Not just for space, but so I can cycle on a smooth road surface without swerving erratically to dogde potholes and solid waves of tarmac created by bigger vehicles. How often would you need to resurface a segregated cycling lane? Wouldn’t the cash saved in the long run pay towards increasing better infrastructure for cyclists and other road users?

All five of the deaths in the last nine days were caused by HGVs or buses. This is no coincidence. Whilst I appreciate your tips on the TFL website advising how to cycle with big vehicles, more needs to be done to educate on both sides. ALL London bus and HGV companies should have COMPULSORY cycle training. It should be a mandatory part of the driving test for everyone. Cyclists should get in the cab of a lorry and bus and see it from the drivers point of view, and may I be struck down by lightning by the cycling lobby, but all cyclists should have lessons before they cycle on the road. Whilst many boroughs do give free or subsidized cycle training, some do not. If every school in London and the UK made cycle training part of the curriculum, like they do in the Netherlands, we would have a new generation of safer drivers and cyclists. It’s a no-brainer!

Education takes time, but our poor cycling infrastructure does not have this time. We need to remove ALL barriers and dangers for people. We need to normalize cycling, but we can’t do this without your co-operation.

Can you please work with the London Cycling Campaign and do as they request?

• Install temporary protected space for cycling at Aldgate without any delay
• Commit to installing cycling and pedestrian-specific traffic lights at Bow roundabout
• Publish a timetable to upgrade the whole of Superhighway 2 from Aldgate to Bow
• Review and improve other dangerous junctions in London

Mr Johnson, if you want to make London in to the ‘Cycling City’ that you profess, then you need to take action now. Cycling infrastructure is seriously lagging behind your cycling policies.

Let this be your legacy Mr Johnson. Stop making people fear cycling. Stop these avoidable deaths. I love cycling and want it to be safe for everyone.
Make cycling safe.

Yours sincerely,

Mandy Norman

All views are my own.
Photographs taken from the London Cycling Campaign's website.
Email the Mayor now to stop cycling deaths:

Monday, 6 May 2013


I've never been one to feel sorry for myself for too long – quite frankly there are worse things that can happen. Having to cut short a cycling trip of a lifetime was gutting, but I made it on a sunny day in Harlingen. This meant one thing. I was going to treat myself to the biggest plate of pofferjtes you've ever seen.

I received so many supportive messages from friends and family who all helped me see how far I had come. Even though I hadn't reached my final destination, I had still achieved much of what I had set out to do. Together with Siobhan, we had trained for over 4 months to prepare us for the journey, cycling through the worst winter in memory and probably cycling 800 miles in that process. Together with my friend and 'ambassador' Jude, I have raised (including Gift Aid) £2843.75 for charity. Thank you to absolutely everyone who 'Believed in Me' and donated. But most importantly, I really hope that I raised awareness for a charity that I believe in – Special Olympics GB.

Within the messages that I received, was one from my friend Andy. He told me that after reading my little blog it had inspired him to get back on a bicycle after 30 years. It is true what they say, you never forget how to ride. Thanks Andy for sharing that with me, it brightened my day.

Even though my trip was short-lived, it re-inforced the fact that I have great friends and that we are surrounded on the whole by kind people who really want to help you. The Dutch excelled themselves on that front, as you all did. Thank you so much!

But most importantly, the motto for Special Olympics rings so true for me today. 'Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.' I might not have won the dream, but I had a jolly good go at it! And let's face it, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark aren't going anywhere. It's just a great excuse to come back and try again, although maybe in bite-size chunks! Mum – breathe out.

If you would still like to donate, please click here. A poorly knee and battered pride are surely worth a few quid!

And as this was a cycle to Eurovision, I think it's only right to sign off with Switzerland's entry from 2012 – 'Unbreakable'. I dedicate this to everyone, but particularly my Special Olympic athletes.

'You can do anything you want, doesn't matter how hard it is. You can do it . . .
Swim against the stream, following your wildest dreams. . .


Morning All! I'm afraid that I have bad news. On Monday evening I incurred a knee injury. Although not horrendous, I know that I need to rest it for up to 10 days. The last day has been very difficult, as I've been deciding whether to continue on land, or come home. Yesterday I had to come to Harlingen by 4 buses, relying on them being empty and the kindness of people, of which there were many. I love the Dutch! However, the truth of the matter is that getting around on public transport with a bike when you're not riding it is not easy. Two weeks before this trip, my friend had to pull out and I had to reorganise what I had spent 4 months planning. And yesterday, whizzing past those tulip fields and looking at them through the window of the bus when I should have been smelling them as I rode by broke my heart. It's been a difficult decision to make as I know how much support you have all given me, how eager you've been to hear of my progress and the money you've donated for me to do this ride.

I've therefore made the very difficult decision to come home and fly back out to Copenhagen in a weeks time. I'm so sorry to relay this news, but hope you all understand. Riding my bike with an injured knee is just not possible and could cause longer term damage. To have this happen so early on was my worse nightmare, but it has made me realise that I will be coming back to The Netherlands to ride my bike one day. It's beautiful! And coming to this decision has not happened without tears. I'm totally gutted!

However, here are some little facts and figures. Miles done in training: 800. Miles done on the ride:150. :-(

I want to thank everyone for their support and the money raised for this very important and special  charity - Special Olympics GB.


Today (30th April) was an important day in the Netherlands. It was the last ever Queen's Day and the day the current Queen abdicated to hand over to her son, Willem-Alexander.

Whilst most people were heading down to Amsterdam for the celebrations, I was heading north. Unfortunately though, today I had to do it all by bus - 4 to be precise, as have had an injury to my knee and wanted to give it a rest. This has been a little frustrating, as today was my day to go past the tulip fields and over the Afsluitdijk causeway which is 30km long and links northern Holland with Friesland, crossing the sea. Although I had been nervous about this crossing, I was looking forward to the challenge, so it has been a rather disappointing day on that front.

However, I did arrive in Harlingen to enjoy some of the Queen's Day celebrations there. Street markets and parties. Here are some pics.

And to celebrate Queen's Day today, it can only be one song – Denmarks' entry from 2007.


It was a wet, grey and windy start to my arrival in Hoek van Holland. I befriended a couple of older ladies on a bike ride to the Keukenhof gardens, but they started riding the wrong way and then one had a problem with her tyre so I'm afraid I had to say goodbye as had 60 miles to cycle.

It decided to chuck it down in the morning and my cycling chic was at this point well and truly down the pan. As I reached The Hague and Schrevenigen beach, the sky was starting to clear and kite surfers were on the beach. And you thought I was mad on my bike!

On I pedalled through sea side towns such as Noordwijk, along sand dunes and through Kennemerland National Park, a wooded area next to the sea. I was following the North Sea Cycle route today. (Route 1b).

The Netherlands is such a fantastic place to cycle. All cities and towns are joined together by separate cycle routes and everyone of all shapes, sizes and ages are on their bikes. I met a Dutch retired couple who were doing a route around Holland and another lady who was taking 12 weeks to make her way up to Norway. I did ask her about Eurovision and it seems she was a little apathetic, although when I told her Anouk is representing the Netherlands this year, her ears twitched and I think she might even have been impressed!

Being on the bike is so fab, as not only do you feel the wind in your face, but you smell everything. The fish and chips of sea side towns and the sweet aroma of the tulips growing in the fields.

I arrived in Egmond a very tired bunny. Miles cycled today: 60


I chose Bulgaria's 2007 entry 'Water' as it was a big hit and also a good dance tune. I thought Siobhan would like it. I couldn't have been more wrong.

This was annoying, repetitive and actually made me feel a bit anxious – like techno music. I couldn't wait for it to end. How in the name of god did it even come 5th? 2007 must have been a bad year.


With only 35 miles to do today and the ferry not leaving until 11pm, I decided to have a slow start to the day and take advantage of my hosts' hospitality. Their home is in Heybridge, not too far from the Basin. A lovely but windy stroll around it and you can see Maldon and it's harbour, and just by where they live are some little house boats - some in better nick than others.

My hosts went above and beyond their call of duty, making me lunch and then sending me on my way to Harwich via Colchester. The sun was shining and the ride was great. I followed the National Cycle Route 51 most of the way, passing Abberton reservoir, yellow fields full of rapeseed and a pub where the landlady looked like Bonnie Tyler.

I arrived in Harwich meeting a group of lads on their way to Holland for Queens Day in Amsterdam. They had cycled all the way from London that day with no training and little rucksacks on their backs. That's between 85-90 miles folks. Mind you they couldn't stand up in the bar on their way to bed.

Was actually quite surprised by my accommodation on the ferry. Check this out. Flat screen TV and everything!

Time for bed, but before I do, here is my random fact of the day, followed by my Eurovision song.
Random Fact: Colchester is the oldest recorded town in England.
And my Eurovision song for the day could be one of 3 songs, all with the name 'Shine', as the sun decided to shine for me today. Does anyone know how many songs have been in Eurovision with this title? Answers on a postcard please.

And today, it's Greece's entry for 2013. Alcohol is Free.

Well, at least this had a bit more gusto about it. And I applaud the sentiments behind the song about alcohol being free. Unless of course the song is about the detrimental effects of free alcohol on society - it's hard to tell when you don't speak the language. There was a sort of punk sensibility about this with the men in skirts jumping around on stage, and I liked the traditional greek sound (and the man with the moustache). However, It still wasn't very good – and I really wanted to like it. If this was being played in a bar, I wouldn't leave, but I would ask them to turn it down. Or maybe I would just move away from the speaker.
An honest 5.
Sorry :(


Day one started well. However, those of you who know me, might know that the first day of my big trips are well – full of drama. Ten years ago, on the start of a big trip to South America, I spectacularly missed my first flight by falling asleep in the departure lounge and then sitting at the wrong gate. Well this time, think Chevie Chase's European Vacation's roundabout scene but in Harlow and you might have an idea.

Miles I was meant to ride: 51
Miles I actually rode: Atleast 60 (Remember this for the end)
Random fact of the day: Did you know that Harlow is the birthplace of fibre optic communication?
Knights in shining armour included: Taxi driver in Harlow, man in 4x4 and my B&B hosts.

I waved goodbye to my Eurovision buddie Jude and made my way through the streets of north London and on the Lee Valley path. This runs from the Thames, right up to in to Hertfordshire. You pass suburban and urban areas, as well as beautifully painted house boats.

For some reason I came off the path early and had a 'lost moment' in Waltham Cross. Mind you, I still arrived in Harlow in time for lunch. Now then, Harlow is surrounded by cycle paths that twist and wind around the town. It confused me and it well and truly confused my bike sat nav, sending me on a 20 mile goose chase. Back in Harlow, a cab driver saw my distress and both followed and in the end had to escort me 3 miles out of the city centre in his cab. He did this for free! Buy that man a beer!

Onwards and upwards, I pedalled through little villages, in between hail storms and rainbows, pausing to check the way. A man in his 4x4 stopped to check I was OK. Cyclists, never judge a man by his car!

It was getting late (7ish) and I was physically and mentally exhausted. After a lot of thought – all of about 5 seconds, I had decided to ride in to Chelmsford and get a cab to take me the extra 10 miles to Heybridge, my stop for the night. I'd already done about 60 miles, more than my quota for the day and I wasn't going to make myself ill and spoil the rest of this trip. So, stopping to call my hosts to let them know, they responded and said they would come and pick me up. Yippeeeee! Mum, you see, I am sensible!

So the Eurovision song for the day has to be dedicated to the four people who saved the day. My heroes!

And here is the first day of the Siobhan Eurovision Conversion Meter. I chose Tom Dice's 'Me and My Guitar', which is one of my favourites of recent years. (Belgium 2010). Seems it wasn't one of Siobhans.

What can I say? For my first review I was expecting something more interesting. This was woefully unimpressive, lacking the craziness I was expecting from a Eurovision entry. He sounded like a talent show version of someone who I can't really place because they are so bland and unmemorable. He wasn't terrible, but he was incredibly boring. Also, his lyrics made no sense (howeer, I am not holding that against him). Overall, I feel a bit numb about this. However, having listened to this twice now, I still do not care about him. Nor indeed, about his guitar.

A generous 3.