Of Manchester Meetings and Man Made Madness


Firstly, for the second meeting of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain we are heading up to the North West for an afternoon in Manchester. Details are here.

Key topics to be discussed are:

The Constitution, which you can view here in draft format.

Governance – as we need to nominate and agree the board.

The agenda is here.

If you can’t make it, but have something you would like to say on any point in the Agenda, or wish to become part of the Board of Governance of the Embassy, please contact me directly by email on thecyclingjim@gmail.com for mention in the meeting.

Again, many thanks to Mr C of MCR Cycling blog for organising. Hope to see you there.

Anyway, now for motoring infrastructure news. According to Road.cc

People in Glasgow will next weekend be given the chance to walk, run or cycle on a new facility built in the city at a cost of £692 million, and it really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity – the facility in question is the northern extension to the M74 motorway, running through the south-eastern suburbs of the city, which is due to open to motor traffic in June.

This stretch of motorway is only 8km long. That’s approximately £90 million per km of motorway.

Another road project that’s reaching completion is the A3 Hindhead Tunnel. This is an area that means a lot to me as I was raised nearby in Elstead and used to take my old trusty Mountain Bike there frequently. People were given the chance to walk through the tunnel, last weekend. 10,000 missed the opportunity and were very upset according to BBC News. You can see pictures of the walk courtesy of this slightly too enthusiastic blog.

It opens to motor traffic [only] in July, replaces the last remaining stretch of single carriageway road [outside London] on the A3 making it a motorway in all but name and runs for 1.9kms at a cost of £370 million. That’s about £195 million per kilometre.

The reason I mention these schemes is that I would like to draw your attention to these pictures.

Shared Use Path on A259 & junction of Gardner Road, Fishersgate, Nr Brighton & Hove

This is on the A259 about a mile toward Brighton from this stunning sustainable transport solution. It is on the junction of Gardner Road and where I would peel off to start cycling up to where I work in Hove. The junction has been altered and has this wonderful shared use path alongside it.

Entrance to Gardner Road, but wait! What delights are in store?

I shall be covering this section in a future post but I wanted to show you this piece de resistance of quality British craftsmanship at its best..

Wonderful. So discreet it just blends in with road.

The sunken hole they are covering up is at the precise point the shared use path joins Gardner Road at a 90 degree angle, giving the cyclist a chance to either stumble across the entrance of the junction carrying along the A259 to greater delights, or just break their neck trying to join Gardner Road. It has been like this for weeks.

The point is that dangerous, circuitous, badly designed and implemented drivel like this is continuing to appear at an alarming rate, making cycling look attractive to no-one and I view this as a real problem. Often, such as in the example just given, it encourages pavement cycling as people are just going to use any old pavement regardless of the status that the local authority has bestowed upon it. What’s worse, the general public will get the idea that this is what local cyclists asked for, that riding a bicycle is a peripheral activity and therefore an imposition on the more serious matter of motorised traffic flow, and can lead in extreme cases to harassment from motorists of bicycle riders [quite rightly] electing to use the road instead.

In this instance, like many others, it sends out a clear message as to what the Government and Local Authorities really thinks about cycling. In West Sussex, they have pleaded poverty to cycling groups again stating that there is no money in the pot. This is despite the Council highways budget for 2011/12 being set at £49.4 million which amounts to an increase of £4 million. (Source: WSCC Leaflet ‘Your Council Tax – Your money and How We Spend It’)

In the Netherlands, more people cycle because the Government both nationally and locally have consistently sent out a clear message since the 1970’s that cycling is taken incredibly seriously. Their solutions are not always perfect but the results are undeniable.

Here is a film of a party of Australians going on a Study Tour of Cycle infrastructure around Assen with David Hembrow. His blog post here.

The Embassy is not about trying to put segregated cycling infrastructure everywhere as that hasn’t been done anywhere else in the World. Nor do we believe that a cyclist should cede the right to road primarily because it shouldn’t even be an issue – they are public highways paid for by the public for use by the public (and thanks to Carlton Reid for highlighting reasons why). We do however believe that the rubbish that passes for Cycling Infrastructure in the UK must stop. It is an international joke with the worst possible punchline.

The Embassy believes that where infrastructure is implemented, it must be of a high standard utilising best practice from Europe and beyond as opposed to guidelines that are open to abuse. After all, they have examples of proven success and have had decades to make all the engineering mistakes for us. Above all, cycling needs to be regarded as transport receiving a far more deserving spend of the transport budget, sending out a clear message that riding a bicycle is valued with all its clear benefits acknowledged ranging from health and wellbeing to pollution and social mobility (according to a census taken recently where I live in Worthing, approximately 23% of the local population don’t have access to a car).

If the nation pleads poverty, think of the M74, the A3 Hindhead Tunnel and if that’s not enough the Highways Agency could overspend by £1 billion on widening the M25.

There’s money out there alright. Let’s give local campaign groups something to really fight for instead of the watered down dross and petty excuses to then be told it’s what they asked for and, no, they can’t see the safety audit. I’d like to be able to apply for tickets to walk or cycle along wonderful cycle infrastructure in the UK prior to opening. An asset that attracts all types of cyclist, benefits all and is safe and direct. I’m not holding my breath for the moment so I’m doing  this instead later in the year.

See you all in Manchester!

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