Crap Cycle Lane V

On 15 November 2010, BBC News published the following..

A railway station in West Sussex is to benefit from improved transport links as part of a £5m scheme.

The work at Southwick railway station, which starts on Monday and is expected to last 11 weeks, will see improved access for pedestrians and cyclists.

Other improvements include a drop-off and pick-up area, and an improved cycle link from the South Coast Cycle Route.

Station Road will also be realigned so that it lines up more closely with the railway bridge.

‘Further improvements’

At the same time West Sussex County Council will resurface the whole length of Station Road, put in new dropped kerbs, road markings and paving.

Improvements will also be made to the area’s drainage.

Deputy leader Lionel Barnard, who has responsibility for highways and transport, said: “This scheme is part of an overall £5m investment in transport links along the A259 corridor and at local railway stations from Shoreham to Brighton and Hove.

“In addition further improvements are also being carried out at stations by Southern, including new cycle racks, platform waiting shelters and CCTV.”

The £5m was awarded by the government’s Homes and Communities Agency to support the Shoreham Harbour Regeneration Project.

And at last the work is finished! Let’s check it out…

The One Where NCN2 Meets The A259

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club is going to assume that you have already sampled the [slightly vague] delights of NCN2 and it’s circuitous tour of Shoreham by Sea. In the picture above you are now approaching the coast road (A259) where you are encouraged to join the new widened and resurfaced pavement….sorry, ‘Shared Use Facility’. At least, I think that’s what they want.

This photo is too boring to put a witty caption too

Here is a newly resurfaced and widened [and assumed] Shared Use Facility. Please note the very wide road that could have accomodated infrastructure based on the Netherlands model [or similar] as well as the HGV’s that use this road for Shoreham Port (which runs along the right of the picture above).

May the fun begin...

Further up the trail, we come to a Pelican Crossing where cyclists may cross to continue along NCN2 through the Port to Brighton. 

The Gateway to Brighton (and Hove actually)

 

Once you’ve navigated round the second set of bollards (because a piece of work is never actually finished in the UK as the workmen would already have been moved to the next job and the contractor would have already been paid the majority of the money so can afford to come back and complete the work only when the Client starts screaming), you will notice a bus stop.

Did we mention the wide road?

Of course you will have to cycle through the people that use the bus stop particularly at peak times. Please note the black bollard with the reflective ‘Shared Use’ roundel on it. Or not.

A new path has been created. Beside the by now incredibly wide road and junction that is supposed to be 30mph.

Here we are at the junction complete with sign and more incomplete works.

Nice isn't it? If that's your sort of thing. Look at the nice shiny wide road.

I’m afraid the Southwick cycle improvement gets even more vague here. Novice cyclists are left wondering whether to join the main carriageway where the T-Junction is, or dismount and walk the rest of the way or try and join the pavement on the other side of the T-Junction to keep cycling toward the Railway Station. The road has been changed into a slalom with double yellow lines, I assume to reduce speeds, with new car-parking alignments provided for the station with pick-up/drop-off point.

The little girl stood on the right is wondering what she did to annoy the Highways Engineers.

There is a chink of sunlight in this however. The new bicycle parking for the station is covered, in view of CCTV, and is convenient for the ticket machines.

Above is the view back down the slope to the road scheme. Wide enough to be convenient.

Anyway, let’s head back to main coast road. Please note that this road is also wide enough to take full properly designed infrastructure based on a continental model. Also please try not to note the old bunch of flowers tied to the traffic lights on the left – traffic speeds tend to get a little ‘enthusiastic’ through the night.

I think it’s pavement on the left and shared use on the right but West Sussex County Council are keeping its cards close its chest. According to Wikipedia, ‘Abstract art uses a visual language of form, colour and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world.’ Which sums up the UK’s approach to designing and implementing cycle infrastructure too.

Salvador Dali. Could have been a UK Highways Engineer if he'd done more Acid and White Spirit
Advertisements

Dispatches from the Edge

Well, spring is definitely in the air and a young mans thoughts turn to…cycling. Well, a slightly older man anyway. This week has seen perfect weather for riding a Dutch Bike through the Third World of Cycling that is the UK. A gentle cooling breeze and gorgeous sunshine tempered slightly by the exhaust fumes. This is also my fourth month of riding without a helmet which has been liberating. It must be said however that now I’m riding a civilised bike in a more civilised manner, I’m not putting myself in dangerous situations. Also, I can’t help but feel that if a car collided with me, the car would come of worst against the Beast that is the Old Dutch.

Firstly, the Embassy news;

  • Due to the work, family and friends commitments of me and the rest of team, we are pushing back the launch date. 1st April probably seemed easy in the wave of Euphoria that accompanied the start up meeting on 29th January. However, April Fools Day is also a date that can backfire greatly in PR terms, particularly with regards our naysayers. We are instead aiming for Wednesday June 22nd which is slap bang in the middle of Bike Week (venue to be confirmed). This will go up on the Embassy website.
  • A Wiki has been established and material is being slowly added. It involves a lot of work (particularly as it’s coming from volunteers) but the results are very good indeed. A massive thanks to those that have contributed so far and we are always open to more volunteers stepping forward to contribute.
  • I have been receiving a lot of messages from people that love the new logo as it represents the everyday bike. Again, a very big thanks to our representatives that put the MAN in Manchester, Mr C and A2BJim.
  • People have been contributing too financially. Thanks to all that have dipped in to their pockets thus far. If you believe in our beliefs, you know where to click.

Other news

As far as the budget is concerned, I was going to write something big and profound but what’s the point when you have wonderful articles such as this from Joe Dunckley and of course Caroline Lucas.

My quick view for what it’s worth is that the Conservatives are still locked in the totally misguided belief that the motor vehicle is the key to jobs, prospects and prosperity. And they have also relaxed planning laws which will just result in more sprawl requiring more roads. The mountain we have to climb politically makes Mont Ventoux look more like the South Downs. I don’t think these measures are deliberately anti-cyclist because quite frankly I don’t think we even feature on their radar.

We’re that sporty thing people do in funny clothing. We’re the thing you put bikes on the backs of cars and drive miles to find somewhere to do safely. It’s that thing that Companies, Councils and even Governments mention in their literature showing an airy-fairy commitment to a greener future without actually doing anything. But the bicycle doesn’t actually count in societal terms. The bicycle just isn’t taken seriously other than being a counter-cultural curiosity and a hindrance to ‘progress’ at best. At least with more people cycling and walking, we don’t have to bomb quite so many countries to the tune of billions and commit our brave armed forces to secure oil……..sorry, I meant facilitate a regime change to create harmony for its peoples through a fair and democratic process.

Anyway, speaking of idiocy, I leave you with this nugget of an article from Celia Walden writing in the Daily Telegraph.

‘I nearly killed a girl on Monday. She was cycling in front of me around Hyde Park Corner in 1950s shades and a pretty floral dress, so caught up in reveries of herself as the heroine of a French art-house film that she swerved into the middle of my lane without signalling. There was no helmet, of course, and no high-visibility gear – which would have marred the whole sunny tableau. The worst accident she could think of was that her skirt might flutter up to reveal a charming pair of white cotton knickers. That she might be spatchcocked across three lanes hadn’t crossed her mind: the Fair Weather Cyclist prefers not to think such morbid thoughts.

I had wanted to confine my rage to the FWCs – currently the most dangerous strain on the roads – but I fear that may be impossible: basically I loathe all London cyclists. Like the café-goers who sit out on our narrow pavements stoically sipping cappuccinos in a haze of toxic hydrocarbons, these people live in a fantasy world. To them, Leicester Square is the Piazza Navona and our dual carriageways the cobbled backstreets of the Last of the Summer Wine. Traffic signals don’t apply to London cyclists, up there as they are on the moral high ground with their officially endorsed sense of righteousness. Sociologically, polls have shown that they tend to be a preening, upper-middle class bunch. They use words like “pootle,” and cycle home “smashed” from the pub. If Marie-Antoinette were alive today, she’d have a bike – with a sweet little Cath Kidston basket.

No, on reflection, 1950s floral girl is not the most pernicious cyclist out there. At least she, after a near-death experience with a London bus or the onset of a little light drizzle, will permanently withdraw from the roads. As we near the Olympics and our new velodrome is completed, there will be a growing breed of young male racers to worry about. And of course this lot are so confident on the roads that they will all be plugged into their iPods, calmly humming “lalalalala” along to Sasha Distel as that articulated lorry indicates left. …..’

Obviously she’s never travelled around a town or city in Mainland Europe with just a bicycle where the powers that be and the people actually give a toss. God knows what possessed her to write such angry, prejudiced drivel. Oh, no wait! She’s married to Piers Morgan, I KNEW there had to be something wrong with her! Phew! That’s that one solved. Enjoy the sunshine  gentlemen and ladies of course if you dare with Celia Walden behind the wheel.

Stylish Woman On Bicycle. Very bad apparently (Photo: Copenhagen Cycle Chic)

Cycling in London

Handsome chap on a bike....wait a minute! It's me! (Photo by Marco Leitão Silva and unbelievably, his lens didn't crack)

Well, that was a long pause between posts! Apologies for not posting over the last week or two but other things had to take priority such as family, friends and of course the day job. 

Marco Leitão Silva at the rather nice blog Cycling in London interviewed me a while ago about the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain and the finished article is here

I shall be giving an update on Embassy business tomorrow along with my own view on the Budget, although Mr C from Manchester Cycling sums it up very well here.

In the meantime I shall leave you with this latest film from Mark Wagenbuur about the problems Rotterdam faced when it was realised that only 25% of trips in the area were made by bicycle (yes, I know).

Full post on David Hembrows site.

Fragile Thoughts

Funnily enough, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain would be happy to not see segregation here..

For a while now I have been in a bit of a quandary as what to write about, not because I had run out of ideas but because at the precise moment I wanted to jot something down, someone else would write a jolly nice blog post or an incident would occur that made me stop to reflect and underlined what had been at the back of my mind already.

It started with Joe Dunckley and his wonderful blog, ‘At War With The Motorist’ when in this post he wrote the following;

‘There was a bit of a monkey fight over the nascent Cycling Embassy of Great Britain recently thanks to an article by Carlton Reid on Road.cc (since rebutted by Jim).  Given that the organisation in question has only had a preliminary meeting and has not even launched yet, I don’t think it’s worth responding to any of the speculation and fantasies that have been flying around.  But the episode revealed something fascinating about the way the minds of veteran British cycling campaigners work.

They are all constantly in a state of abject fear that cycling is just about to be banned.

I found it very difficult following all of the comment threads on and about the Road.cc articles.  Cycling Embassy supporters kept being accused of wanting cyclists to be banned from the roads, but I could never trace the accusation back to anything relevant that the accused people had actually said.  And then I stumbled upon a fabulous forum thread that started with a very simple two sentence post, and it all fell into place:

‘Cycling Embassy of Great Britain’ have it VERY wrong
IMO. Their way will lead to cyclists being banned from Britain’s roads.

The Embassy folk and other onlookers were as baffled as I when it came to the origin of this “ban” theme in the comments.  But I now realise that many of our venerable vehicular cycling campaigners are thinking about cycling bans every second of the day.  Everything they see and do, the first question they ask themselves is: will this lead to cycling being banned in any way?  They can’t get out of bed in the morning without first contemplating what effect such an action might have on the likelihood of a cycling ban……………..’.

Interesting thoughts indeed. From personal local campaigning experience I can partially vouch for this view. After being presented by the Council with a hilarious ‘safe route to school’ involving more dismounts than a Grand National for drunk jockeys, we would say how we would suffer abuse from motorists who would assume that that’s where we should be after this piece of infrastructure that owed more to abstract art than cycling was built. The Council would ignore everything we said as the work was already programmed and we were actually looking at the final ‘Signed Off’ design. But at least now they could claim that they had ‘consulted with cyclists’.

To me, this is creating an even greater nightmare vision portrayed than the recent naysayers – that cyclists get eventually shoveled off the roads onto the crap that has been built already and continues to be built whether CTC, LCC, Cycle Nation, the Cycling Embassy or the Abstract Art Appreciation Society want it or not. All this debate seems to be carrying on based on a premise that Councils have suddenly downed tools and stopped building this dangerous, unfit for purpose rubbish or that they could be stopped at any time, which is equally optimistic at best.

What the Embassy is hoping to create is a decent mix in more ways than one. It will never be an Embassy intention to cede a cyclists right to road and it’s not an Embassy ambition to see a fully segregated cycle path network everywhere either because that’s silly and isn’t happening anywhere else in the World, including the Netherlands. We do believe in Dutch, and other Global best practice, infrastructure standards being applied that supersede the current guidelines alongside new approaches to traffic planning & movement around towns and cities. We feel that this is just one measure but a fundamental one that needs to occur to lift cycling from something viewed as a dangerous and specialist activity by the masses to an everyday activity that also happens to benefit the masses.

The recent exchanges of words about the Embassy from journalist Carlton Reid and Cycle Nation ended amicably enough, and as Embassy ambitions slowly become clarified there should be no reason why a spirit of amicability and collaboration shouldn’t continue (especially as I own an ipayroadtax cycling jersey). However, it made me consider just how fragile the house of cycle campaigning seemed to me. As if by magic, a short article cropped up on Velo Mondial that ended with the following,

‘….The reason why Velo Mondial highlights this article is because the candidate in New York sends the strong signal that stand alone cycling policy is vulnerable. When cycling is not embedded in a wider policy of sustainable mobility politicians can easily use a cycle path in their negative campaigning. A path is easily destroyed so politicians can have a field day promising just that. Cycling policy needs to find itself in a framework of policy ambitions a city should have regarding economic growth, social cohesion and environmental objectives. As long as that has not happened, cycling policy will be under threat in the years to come’.

The BBC picked up on the £22 million spent in Bristol and the City Council are defending their record. I have no doubt that Bristol Cycle Campaign, along with CTC Right to Ride & Sustrans Reps did their damndest to get the money spent correctly. However, I think the whole premise was wrong. Let me explain, or rather I’ll let Geoff explain,

[from road.cc]

‘Conservative councillor, Geoff Gollop, said the new cycle routes had been created at the expense of motorists.

He told the BBC: “The Cycling City initiative brought in match-funding which has delivered new cycling routes but these have largely been achieved at the expense of the majority of road users – by reducing road space or capacity.

“Whilst we recognise the merits of promoting cycling as a leisure activity for the individual – delivering personal health benefits and helping to improve the environment for all – this form of travel is unlikely in the near future to be a major means of commuting.

“We do not believe the £22m project can be said to have been successful even in its own terms.”

This to me typifies the problem. Instead of the act of riding a bicycle being treated as transport getting a deserving share of the transport spend, £22 million is presented as a stand alone (but welcome nonetheless) boost to try and shoehorn cycle-specific projects around the car-centric infrastructure that already exists. Furthermore £22 million sounds like a lot of money. It is a lot of money. But as road.cc Editor Tony Farrelly commented,

‘Another comparison would be the £1bn overspend on widening the M25 I think the Public Accounts committee used the word “wasted” to describe that one. All the money spent on cycling over the past few years in this country doesn’t even add up to that one item in the roads budget.’

£22 million is just a headline grabbing figure in the great scheme of things. That anything was built and that new cyclists in Bristol were attracted at all should be considered a miracle when one considers, for example, the consultancy fees that probably leeched funds away.

Being a cycle campaigner in the UK is a bit like sitting in a game of poker where you know you are holding all the best cards and easily deserving of far more chips. However the opponents keep pulling aces out time and time again, barely concealing their cheating and changing the rules as they go along.

We all know that cycling is greener, more economic & healthier but we’re made to feel that this is somehow blocking the UK’s progress to becoming greener, more economic and healthier.

One of the aims I had when establishing the Embassy was to stick to Central Government and to point out and keep pointing out that riding a bicycle has implications and societal benefits that cover lots of departments beyond transport. If we don’t join the fray, then an activity that was commonplace in fairly recent memory will continue to be regarded as a stand alone pastime to be abused by Council Highways Departments and ignored by 97% of the population. And they barely know what they’re missing anymore.

West Sussex County Council – So 1980’s

Ah-Ga-Doo-Doo-Doo, Push the bypass through some trees.......

West Sussex County Council has just published its Transport Plan 2011-2026 (or LTP3). [It] sets the strategy for guiding future investment in West Sussex highways and transport infrastructure, and sets a framework for considering transport infrastructure requirements associated with future development across the county’.

This supersedes their LTP2 document, ‘which had the key aims of delivering safer, less congested and less polluted roads and improved accessibility.

Yes, I know. Please try to stay awake.

The main document runs to 80 pages and is filled with real treats if you like verbose greenwash barely concealing an utterly car-centric doctrine stuck firmly in the past. In their Long Term Strategy, this is what they have to say about cycling (Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club shall attempt to give a commentary in bold),

Cycling is one of the most sustainable transport modes and offers tremendous potential for improving our society’s health, economic efficiency and mobility, in addition to helping us tackle climate change. Maintaining or increasing the levels of cycling in West Sussex is, therefore, very important and will contribute to each of our objectives.

Cycling is also a popular leisure activity particularly in the rural area where the public rights of way network provides and extensive facility for cyclists to use.

The key aspects of our approach to cycling are:

Cycle Network Construction – Gaining a better understanding of, and overcoming, barriers which deter people from cycling (such as their current policy of not regarding the sheer volume of traffic as a problem but as an economic driver that needs to be catered for further to the detriment of everything else). Using a wide range of physical infrastructure, construct and improve joined up town networks and public rights of way which are linked in to new development. While balancing the needs of all users of the transport system ( should read, ‘While putting the motorist first’), cycle network infrastructure could include; cycle lanes, cycle tracks, signing, cycle stands, shared surfaces, toucan crossings, reduced speed limits, traffic calming, and refuges to suit local circumstances (or put simply, the same dangerous, cheap, poorly designed, compromised drivel that they’ve always provided).

Maintaining Cycle Infrastructure – maintain infrastructure to a good standard using an asset management approach which considers whole life costs, making improvements where these are needed and affordable. (No, the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club has no idea what ‘asset management approach’ means either. The ‘and affordable’ bit  probably makes the rest of it meaningless anyway as there’s never any money for cycling projects as local campaign groups are all too aware. To quote ‘The Day Today’, this is clearly written by people who have ‘an Armitage Shanks Defecation Interface Scenario’ as opposed to just taking a shit).

Travel Behaviour Change Initiatives – travel planning and promotional initiatives to encourage cycling and to identify local issues in schools, communities, businesses and new developments (issues might include the fact that no-one rides a bike to school or work because the roads are regarded as dangerous thanks to previous Transport Plans and the ‘cycling infrastructure’ provided was clearly designed by someone who had a childs Kaleidascope crudely sellotaped to each eye).

Skills Training – Bikeability cycle skills training to equip our community, and particularly the most vulnerable, with the skills they need reinforced by education delivered through school travel planning. (with this Transport Plan, the most vulnerable are going to need all the skills and travel planning they can get, which is quite strange considering we are talking about riding a bicycle which I always thought was quite a simple activity)

Community Involvement – involving the cycling community to highlight local priorities and to develop cycling infrastructure and initiatives to meet local needs (and then ignore them as it will involve cost implications. Whilst it’s good that they at least mention ‘involving the cycling community’, surely the whole community should be involved too as they are potentially cyclists).

Promoting Cycling – communicating the benefits of cycling through our Staff Travel Plan and by supporting national and local awareness events with our partners.

Phew! So what are the main priorities of West Sussex County Council?

Our priorities will tackle the key issues we face and bring about radical improvements to quality of life for the people and businesses in the County. Our highest priorities are:

1 Improvements to the A27 trunk road and complimentary public transport improvements to the current bottlenecks at Chichester, Arundel and Worthing (not currently programmed) to increase capacity, improve reliability and safety and increase the competitiveness of local businesses and attract investment. (increase traffic volume and create more congestion)

2 Programmed improvements to the A23 trunk road at the current bottleneck between Handcross and Warninglid to increase capaacity and improve the safety record. (increase traffic volume and create more congestion)

3 Maintain the highway network (to assist in the increasing of traffic volume and creating more congestion)

4 Whilst major schemes are a high priority for us, they are likely to take many years to deliver. It remains important that alongside these priorities we continue to work with our community to improve the safety record on our local roads, increase usage of healthy and sustainable modes of transport, and provide access to services (which is all lumped together at the end because it won’t happen all the while they persist in car-centric policies that increase traffic volume and create more congestion).

I can’t wait to see what other LTP3 documents across the country look like! It’s a plan for 15 years into the future that somehow manages to look 25 years into the past.

Here is another film of cycling in the Netherlands. Just because, really.