Resolution

Clearly its the trees fault. Maybe if it had High-Viz wrapped around it and.....

 

Firstly, apologies to Lo Fidelity readers about not posting as frequently as I should recently but my laptop broke and I pick it up from Mr Apple Repair Man tomorrow.

In my last post I suggested that along with the DfT, the Department for Health should also be lobbied as encouraging cycling would be of massive benefit to the nation’s health from tackling obesity to increasing general wellbeing.

Yesterday the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley published a White Paper outlining the Governments Public Health Strategy to create healthier lives and people which was given the snappy title of ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People: Our strategy for Public Health in England’.

Cycling is mentioned a massive 4 times in its 95 pages and I outline the excerpts below;

3.20 (Page 35) ……This year, the Government is supporting walking and cycling in schools through the Department of Health’s Living Streets ‘Walk Once A Week’ initiative and the Department for transport’s (DfT) funding for Bikeability cycle training. We are working towards every child being offered high-quality instruction on how to ride safely and confidently by the end of year 6 in school.

3.32 (Page 39) Active travel and physical activity need to become the norm in communities. The Department for Health will support local areas by providing good evidence on how to make regular physical activity and healthy food choices easier for their populations, for example by sharing learning from the experiences of nine ‘Healthy Towns’, as well as sustainable travel and cycle towns. Initial evidence from the first round of cycle towns showed that there was an increase in cycling across all social groups combined with a reduction in sedentary behaviour and single car use, when compared to people in similar towns.

Workplace Cycle Challenge (page 47)

CTC, the national cyclists organisation, has led a pilot project to encourage people to cycle to work in Swindon as part of its Cycling Champions programme.

The Cycle Challenge works by encouraging and supporting existing cyclists to persuade colleagues who rarely or never cycle to give it a try. The Challenge was a competition open to all organisations in the Swindon area to get most staff to cycle for just 10 minutes or more. Whole organisations and individual workplaces were encouraged to sign up via the Challenge website – individual cyclists within those organisations could log their personal details and record how much cycling they did.

Overall 853 participants cycled 37,180 miles between them, of which around 35,000 miles were for transport purposes (ie non-recreational travel). It is estimated that they saved 3,157 litres of fuel and £3,630 in reduced motoring costs and burnt about 35 million kilojoules of energy. (www.swindoncyclechallenge.org.uk)

All very nice but at no point does it address the real reasons why people don’t cycle in the first place. At no point does it address the fact that the motor car is a major hazard to public health, in both urban and rural areas and yet nothing is being done to curb its use. You can teach all the children you like to cycle, but if the roads look dangerous outside the school gates then it counts for nothing. You can declare all the urban areas you like to be ‘Cycle Towns’, but if the councils that run them remain as car-sick as they are at present and the roads to town centres and transport interchanges look dangerous, then it counts for nothing. You can create all the ‘Workplace Challenges’ you like, but we are now at the point where many, many adults in the UK have probably never known the joys of cycling, and without training or decent routes for them to learn a new skill with the added freedom that it brings then it all counts for nothing. If road safety isn’t correctly addressed and the car finally named as the chief culprit, then people will continue to fall ill and die from sedentary lifestyles and dangerous roads and it will all be for nothing. Government Cycle policy is a bit like offering the flu jab as a cure but with people continuing to die from influenza because they are afraid of needles.

It’s the councils that should be a primary concern as, like the Sustainable transport budget, this new public health budget is going to also be thrown to the regions with a new body (‘Public Health England’…..yes, it does sound a bit familiar doesn’t it?) overseeing the spend. Much more detail is required as the White Paper is big on rhetoric, but low on detail. As we have already seen, Sustainable Transport can be thrown open to all sorts of interpretation from charging points to electric vehicles to trunk road upgrades to ‘improve traffic flow’ and ‘reduce emissions’. Expect to see some fascinating and very artistic interpretations of the term ‘Public Health’ over the coming months. From a County Councils perspective it will probably mean more ‘Pavement Upgrades’ outside Hospitals and Health Centres, bless them.

I’m setting myself a couple of New Years Resolutions;

  1. I’m trading in my Mountain Bike and buying a Dutch Style Roadster because I had no idea that this shop was open in Brighton. How it slipped under the Lo Fidelity Radar, I’ll never know. I want to do Lo Fidelity cycling, appease the nagging of a certain Dutch Cycle fan & local campaigning friend of mine and write about my findings.
  2. I want to establish a Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, committed to forging partnerships with British & European partners, Architects & Urban Planners, attract funding from private companies and lobby all Government Agencies on how the benefits of cycling could save the country billions, make them look cooler and ‘well fit’ (if you talk that way) and make them feel better about themselves. I want to see the rule book on cycle infrastructure design guidance re-written as, although I believe the CTC is correct in principle on ‘Hierarchy of Provision’, it is too open to abuse by County Council Highways Departments. We have to adopt a more robust Dutch model that ‘disarms’ the motor car and creates a level playing field for walking and cycling (although the ‘20’s Plenty’ campaign is making great progress). I want to do this with increasing levels of help through the year as I have a day job, a wonderful wife and 7 month old son, and I would like it to stay that way.
  3. I would like to grow more vegetables and finally use that home brew kit I bought months ago.

The second resolution might be of interest to you. You can make it yours too if you like. If the Government can’t do joined up thinking for cyclists, then cyclists had better do it.

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Persecution Complex

'...I'm sorry sonny, but you held the traffic up for 30 seconds so that's 6 months in a Young Offenders Home.'

According to Wikipedia, ‘a persecution complex is a term within psychological discourse afforded to an array of complex behaviours that specifically deal with the perception of being persecuted for various possible reasons, imagined or real’.

It is very easy for British cyclists to feel persecuted; on the road, cyclists can get direct physical abuse from motorists who just don’t know or just don’t care. These are very rare occurrences but can be enough to put someone off cycling for life. For others, there’s a constant perceived threat simply from the high volume of traffic speeding past them, often in very close proximity which can be regarded as unpleasant at best. When we decide to use specially designed ‘facilities’, we can’t help but wonder what on Earth we did to annoy the local Council to deserve such dangerous rubbish.

For many cyclists, the only contact they have with opinions from non-cyclists is through the internet. If you decide to write a blog about your cycling experiences then congratulations! How wonderful that cycling has compelled you to get your feelings down in pixels. The problem is that internet forums and blog posts can attract the more ‘passionate’ viewpoints and arguments to the extent that a cyclist can feel quite persecuted and hopeless in the face of what may be perceived as ignorance or prejudice. Sometimes you will attract special interest groups or people simply looking for an argument. However, everyone is entitled to their view and learning the opinions and ideologies of others merely enriches the life experience. Even if they’re utterly moronic.

Another common battlefield is the local press. Cyclists can feel persecuted and powerless in the wake of people writing in to moan about an example of reckless cycling on a pavement or how cyclists should ‘pay their way’. Maybe they had a bad experience to provoke the letter in the first place.

Never lose sight of the bigger picture; the vast majority of the Great British public is utterly unaware of what’s going on in the cycling World and even less so on the internet or even the local press. It’s not that the British public is hostile to cycling & cyclists. They’ve simply forgotten the fun they once had and how simple and effective this mode of conveyance can be.

I still get incredibly heartened when members of the public attend local cycle meetings & forums or approach me when I assist at events such as Sustrans ‘In Town Without My Car Day’. They ask questions that might invite snorts of derision from more seasoned cyclists, but why should they know? Successive Governments and a relentless motoring lobby have pushed the simple pleasures like riding a bicycle from run-of-the-mill to not-on-your-life. It’s seen as something that doesn’t fit a lot of lifestyle choices (unless it’s bolted to the floor in a gym).

British cycling groups such as CTC are still trying to get over the massive shock of losing a generation to the motor car. They put on a brave face and act as though cycling will somehow muddle through in the ever changing car-centric landscape. It will survive of course but is that what we really want when we are, after all, part of the solution? This is the main area of perceived persecution for cyclists; the feeling that cyclists are being designed off the roads and not being taken seriously at national Government level by being pushed at arms length to the provinces. It is up to organisations such as CTC to not lose sight of that bigger picture and keep pushing National Government for cycling to be placed firmly on the sustainable transport agenda.

What has been rewarding, particularly where I do a lot of campaigning in Worthing, is the positive response from the public and the town council to campaigns such as opening up the promenade for cycling and the push for 20mph zones across the town. People like the idea of wide traffic free routes encouraging family cycling and safer streets across the town. There’s no reason why this cannot be delivered in towns and cities across the land through a combination redesigned streetscapes, reduced speed limits in residential areas and segregated cycling routes taking space from the motor car as opposed to the pedestrian or wheelchair user.

So stop feeling persecuted. The public don’t hate you. More often than not, they simply don’t know yet the wonders that await them with two feet or two wheels. The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club thinks you’re wonderful and beautiful for reading this far. If you’re feeling down, go out for a nice bicycle ride. Otherwise The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club will come round and persecute you.

Crap Cycle Lane IV

Yes, crap fans, here is the next exciting installment of Crap Cycle Lane II where we take you from the Magic Roundabout down to the sea!

Nice if you're The Stig. Crap if you live here.

As a postscript to the roundabout, West Sussex County Council completely resurfaced it a couple of months ago. This beautiful new surface is coupled with the fact that they didn’t narrow the profile to accomodate a proper cycling facility with the potential for slowing traffic down. This means that at night you can hear the screeching tyres of ‘hot hatches’ speeding around what is a residential area with two schools and a clinic. For some reason, people accept this.

Better than Hampton Court maze

Anyway, let’s cycle to the sea British Infrastructure style! Firstly use the shared use facility and into what should be a nice residential road, pleasant for cycling.

Worthing Cycle Superhighway

Alas, I’ve found that ‘recommended cycle routes’ also tend to be ‘rat runs’ and so it goes with this fast straight piece of road, perfect for the motorist in a hurry. Just add parked cars and novice cyclists for a beautiful slalom!

Whoosh!

I’m going to have to hurry things along as there’s a lot to get through (which I find a bit odd for a simple cycle ride to the sea). Having crossed a fast chicane and taken a quick detour through a housing estate you continue south down this road to another junction and on to a tunnel under the railway line

Nearly at the tunnel!

You can nearly smell the sea can’t you?!!

NEARLY at the tunnel!

To pass under the railway you have to skirt a Trading Estate first. The occasional blue bicycle signs should take your mind off the massive trucks swinging in and out.

The Tunnel of Love. And Urine.

Don’t forget to dismount! Dismounting and walking are an essential part of cycling in the eyes of a Highways Engineer. 

Cycling was easy and convenient once upon a time

This is where it starts to get interesting. Once back on board your trusty steed you cross the road here and pick up the first cycling contraflow lane.

It's incredible what paint can do

Over the busy road…

Pointless

What’s this?! A new road layout for cyclists?! the sign of course is alerting motorists that this is the only place where they have to be aware of cyclists, despite there being a cycle contraflow lane along the road.

Ta da!

As you continue on to the sea (if by now you can remember what a ‘sea’ looks like) you will notice to your left a reasonably nice contraflow cycle lane….

They nearly got it. If it went anywhere.

Why they couldn’t realign the road so the layby was on the right with the contraflow on the left I’m not quite sure. It fizzles out at the end of this short residential street too. I think it’s to get cyclists somewhere near the hospital nearby. If someone opens their car door without looking you can take a more direct route.

Welcome to.....a dual carriageway

At the end of the residential bit, I think cyclists heading south either have to pick up this 30mph dual carriageway or cross in front of any vehicles swinging in plus the cycle lane and on to the pavement to a pelican crossing on the right. The cycle route continues over the other side. How you get there is a little vague, but that would have involved thought from the engineers. Instead we have the same thought process that came up with a 30mph dual carriageway being a good idea for a town centre.

Suicide

Above is a close up of where you would have to cross.

Lots of space for fast traffic. Perfect for Town Centres.

The picture above is looking North from whence we came. On the left is the shared use path from the pelican crossing. Please note that no space has been ceded by motorists, who still enjoy loads of space to speed into and out of town. In the Netherlands, they might have reduced the traffic flow to single carriageway, provided a decent, wide cycle path segregated from pedestrians, added planting and even additonal parking for residents. But this isn’t the Netherlands.

You might as well dismount again...

At the end of the cycle path you cross the roundabout entrance to pick up the road to the right and start the push (quite literally!) along the final furlong! Well, done for making it this far!!

Nearly there!

The road you’ve just entered is 20mph and is two way past the car park entrance on the left up to the busy Royal Mail sorting offices on the right where a natty little cycle contraflow has been added! Let’s take a look!

Worthing Sorting Office. Which will worsen when Royal Mail stop using deliveries by bicycle.

Yes! The entrance at the other end has an entrance for cyclists only that cuts right across the entrance to the busy sorting office. Perfect for the novice cyclist looking to gain a bit of confidence.

In all its glory!

All we have to do now is turn left out of this road (cyclists can’t turn right here anyway despite a Library and the Town Hall being nearby) and head to the sea!

Well done!

All you have to do is cycle down this 20mph road (which is blatantly ignored by motorists), along the bus/cycle lane through the pedestrianised bit and you are finally at Worthing Pier!!

Then go home, pack your bags and head to Copenhagen, Amsterdam or Grongingen to find out how the Council should have done it.

Happy cycling!

Crap Cycle Lane II

Goodness! What’s this? A cycle path to the centre of Worthing AND the Seaside AND all for another eye-watering sum of money! I bet it’s wide and continuous and paved with gold!

I’m focusing on this roundabout because I think it best illustrates where UK cycling infrastructure differs from best practice examples in the Netherlands and Denmark. This facility was completed early 2010 to show off just how advanced our designers have become in trying to kill cyclists and pedestrians.

This shows the first sign in context. The plucky cyclist having just come to the end of a side road now has to cross the entrance to the junction (I assume by dismounting on to the pavement and crossing the road). Traffic can swing in quite quickly to get to a nearby Industrial Estate.

So far so good! The cyclist now has this bit of pavement to negotiate (providing no-one steps out from the house behind that hedge or anyone opens their car door). West Sussex Council Engineers must have spent whole minutes on this.

Here the cyclist has the option of trying to cross this fast roundabout exit to get to the town or straight on to further delights!

What’s that you ask? Priority for cyclists? Don’t be silly dear reader, this is the good old UK!! According to the new Transport Secretary, ‘The War on the Motorist is over’ because they’ve had it really tough for the last few decades. That converted pavement (Sorry. ‘Shared Use Facility’) takes you to the Town Centre and Seafront but more about that in a moment. Lets go round the corner to the next roundabout exit.

The cyclist wishing to continue west has to cross this fast moving entrance. Please note that this roundabout is in a residential area with a 30mph speed limit yet has a dual carriageway section running into it to allow the school run mum or our baseball capped friends in converted Vauxhall Novas the chance of a good run up.

The other side at the exit point. Also, please note the word ‘End’ put at various points to denote End of Route. Because novice cyclists are going to stop cycling on the pavement now aren’t they? It took the Council Engineers about 5 seconds to type ‘End’ on their drawings yet I think they missed a bit of trick. I think they could have written something better like LOOK OUT!!!!!’ or ‘PISS OFF! IT”S A PAVEMENT NOW, CAN”T YOU TELL??’ or just a stylish ‘FIN’.

Moving swiftly on to the next exit (because cycling is quick and easy and fun don’t you know), the cyclist (now filled with adrenalin) crosses this fast exit, around the weird chicane to the next exit which is conveniently right next to a petrol station exit.

Yes! Not only does this exciting roundabout entrance split to two lanes (to get the speed up that motorists desperately need in a built up area) but this car is pulling out from a petrol station. Ironically, they also sell alcohol which you may need if you made it this far.

If you’re coming across from the petrol station you connect with the Shared Use Facility I pictured earlier streaking off in to the distance toward the Town Centre and Seafront. Having cleared the roundabout (congratulations!) you can now head to the sea! You can start to hear the seagulls. And start wishing you also had wings.

There now follows a piece of engineering brilliance that  Brunel would have, well, laughed at. The hedge obscures a pavement stretching back to a small cul de sac (I nearly got clobbered by a fellow cyclist while taking pictures there).

And here we are at the glittering end of a sparkling cycling facility! The cyclist has to cross the pavement on to the end of the cul-de-sac and then onto the road toward to aforementioned Town Centre and Seafront.

There are further delights further along the route but I didn’t want to exhaust you.

The roundabout is still it’s original size allowing cars to continue flinging themselves round at speed. Now that they think cyclists are out of the way they can go even faster which is exactly what you need with two junior schools (both with ignored 20mph zones) and a Family Centre for pre-natal check ups and baby classes just off one of the exits.

I’m sure that in the Netherlands the profile of the roundabout would have been narrowed with a separate segregated path built away from pedestrians and giving cyclists priority over motorists. But this isn’t the Netherlands.

For all intents and purposes, we might as well be on Mars.