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UCL symposium on cycling and culture: are your tyres fully inflated?

ucyow3c9 May 2014

pencil-icon By Thomas Cohen

Or so read the tweet announcing the imminent start of this event on 1 May, which took place under the auspices of the UCL Transport Institute, in connection with its transport and culture theme.

Chairing was Professor Iain Borden of the Bartlett School of Architecture.  He set the wheels in motion with a challenge to the audience: how do we talk about aspects of cycling culture? Are they ineffable? “The feeling of the body as it spins its legs and cycles its bicycle and spins through the streets of London…it’s actually not very easy to put that into words.” Nine speakers then attempted to do just that.

Flickr - http://bit.ly/1g3D3aA

Flickr – http://bit.ly/1g3D3aA

There was a diverse audience at the event, from representatives of London Cycling Campaign to local authority officers, transport consultants, plus a healthy sprinkling of UCL folk. Everyone got stuck into the subject matter and the debate was typically robust, as you might expect at a cycling event.

Michael Hebbert (UCL Bartlett School of Planning) wowed us with a vision of the boulevard as purpose-built for urban living, with the bicycle centre-stage.  “There is a lot to be said about the erotics of cycling down a street canyon, feeling the built environment form caressing you on either side of your face as you cycle,” intoned the professor.

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Buddhas of Suburbia: faith, migration and suburban change in London

zclfg5811 March 2014

If there’s one thing to take home from American film culture, from The Virgin Suicides to American Beauty, it’s that the suburbs are a place to be avoided at all costs. Replete with murderous instincts and repressed sexual desires, they are to be treated with scorn by urbanites and the few suburban refugees who manage to escape.

Hindu goddess in gold at the Shri Kanaga Thurkkai Amman Hindu Temple

Hindu goddess

Perhaps this unfair reputation stems from the suburban aesthetic: when the soul is furnished by identikit architecture that presumably houses conservative cultural habits, it is unsurprising that we see the suburban subject as living a boring life, unworthy of academic reflection or investigation.

In her Lunch Hour Lecture, Dr. Claire Dwyer (UCL Geography) rescued suburbia from this prejudicial inertia, demonstrating through an architectural, geographical and cultural comparative analysis of faith loci in Greater London that the suburbs can be a place of dynamic modernity where space is contested, deconstructed and re-mapped.

The first half of Dr. Dwyer’s lecture focused on newly developed or proposed institutions such as the Jain Temple in Potter’s Bar, Hertfordshire and the Salaam Centre in Harrow, which show how the suburbs are on the forefront of cultural innovation. (more…)

Cycling, walking or driving – what are the risks and benefits?

news editor12 February 2013

Cyclist by Cyberslayer on Flickr

A cyclist tackles the London traffic, courtesy of
Cyberslayer on Flickr

pencil-iconWritten by Rosemary Willatt, UCL Sustainability Stakeholder and Communications Coordinator.

Is cycling really that dangerous compared to walking or going by car? Are the health benefits really worth the risk of death or serious injury?

On 28 January, as part of UCL’s Environmental Sustainability Topic Lunch Series, Dr Jenny Mindell presented on the risks associated with three modes of transport – cycling, walking and driving.

Dr Mindell started by covering both the health benefits of physical activity and negative effects of inactivity. She presented several studies where cyclists had better health than others using metrics such as mortality rates, explosive muscle power and aerobic fitness. She also explained that air quality is lowest inside cars.

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Celebrating science outreach success

news editor28 August 2012

Written by Rebecca McKelvey, founder of in2scienceUK

Abrahim Ahmed

On Wednesday 22 August, the 2012 in2scienceUK cohort came together at Teachfirst’s offices in London Bridge to celebrate this year’s science placements.

The UCL-inspired scheme, now in its third year, brings together outstanding AS science students from the poorest schools in London with research scientists, for a summer placement where they can experience research science first hand. During the evening, everyone at the event found out more about why the programme exists.

Why do we need this scheme?
While just 7% of children in the UK attend private schools (Source: The Good Schools Guide), they represent 48% of those going to the most prestigious selective Universities. In comparison, just 2% of those on free school meals attend those universities, illustrating the huge distinction between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.

During the evening, we heard from Abrahim Ahmed from Leyton Sixth Form College, who was one of 68 students to have a placement this year. He said:“Carrying out  lab experiments at UCL with Dr Frances Edwards was a truly inspiring experience. I learned about the brains of Alzheimer’s disease patients and how to carry out in vitro electrophysiology patch clamp recordings, which really cemented my interest in science. I cannot wait to go to university to study a bioscience degree”.

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