West Sussex County Council Gets It Kind of Right. Accidentally.

Absolutely no space for decent cycling provision here. Oh, no siree…

A little while ago, I wrote this post on the National Cycle Network Route 2 between Worthing & Brighton. More specifically, this point where the approach to a junction opens out to 3 lanes heading westbound into Worthing on a 30mph road, perfect for putting your foot down, sticking your finger up to ‘the man’ (or ‘society’ as I like to call it) and competing in testosterone fuelled gladiatorial combat for the road ahead. This stretch of cycle path runs along a converted pavement (sorry, ‘shared use facility’) and is wide enough to intimidate pedestrians or for two cyclists to pass with enough space for a Kleenex tissue, laid side on, between handlebar ends.

However,  extensive gas main works needed to be carried out recently and something so extraordinary occurred that West Sussex County Council and their private contractors could actually be praised for….well, kind of helping cycling a little bit, albeit on an accidental technicality. Firstly, this is how it looked before…

A Cavalcade of Crap

Anyone on a bicycle would have to negotiate a weird slalom of street furniture before picking up the segregated narrow cycle path along the beach. And here is a close up…

A Close Up of the Cavalcade of Crap

To reiterate, this is a National Cycle Network route. The on-road cycle path terminates in a left turn arrow directing a bicycle rider to cross a shared bit of pavement (coloured red) to then pick up the segregated route into town. The bi-directional seafront path is barely wider than the on-road strip of green paint you can see in the picture above but is always far more pleasant than the road and you get the bonus of a beautiful sea view.

However, when the road works had been completed and the barriers cleared away, just look at what they’d done….

Yes! They had realigned the street furniture to allow easier passage for cyclists (and even pedestrians as cyclists were no longer weaving about and the sight lines had improved)!

Still crap in Global infrastructure terms but Hosanna!!

…and the picture below is looking back towards Brighton, also showing what I meant earlier about the on-road path terminating in a left turn.

Staying with the photo above, what I personally would have done was reduce the carriageway to two lanes (one right turn, one straight ahead), removed the pedestrian refuge and widened the seafront path to not only improve the comfort of cyclists, pedestrians, parents with pushchairs and mobility scooter users (of which there are many in Worthing) but you could even add planting to create a far nicer and sustainable gateway into Worthing. After all, the road is 30mph all the way from Worthing to Brighton.

West Sussex County Council has yet to wake up to the genuine benefits to tourism and local businesses that the bicycle could bring as it remains stuck in a Thatcherite time warp. It provides cycle facilities that constantly look like they were designed as an afterthought or the result of a drunken bet, even despite the highways budget going up this year. That said, I wish to acknowledge that this realignment of street furniture is an improvement however trivial or accidental it may be.

Of course, for every positive action, there’s always a negative reaction, which is why a sculpture was installed right in the middle of the cycle path just round the corner.

Normality is resumed.

Go West, Look East

This weekend marks the AGM of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain and will be held in Bath & Bristol (details here). Since the Embassy started last year, I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to be shown around infrastructure ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous via the Scottish (which at times also veered toward the ridiculous). Although we shall be kicking off with a leisurely jaunt along the Bath Bristol Railway Path which I’m really looking forward to, the pace will only quicken when we discuss what we are as an organisation and where we’re going.

The reason is simple; it could have been a predictable year in cycle campaigning. Some additional decent momentum with LCC and their Love London Go Dutch Campaign building up to Mayoral elections followed by the Parliamentary Bike Ride followed by Bike Week with its accompanying optimism of rising numbers of cyclists followed by everyone going on their holidays and then the cycling numbers receding as Autumn takes hold.

But on 4 November 2011, Mary Bowers, a 24-year-old Journalist for the Times was knocked off her bicycle and to this day tragically remains in a coma. And The Times decided to do something about it.

To say the World of cycle campaigning as a result lurched to breakneck speed would be bordering on reckless understatement. Cycling was suddenly thrust beyond the realm of cycling magazines, blogs and internet forums and out far, far into the public domain. Every day brought a new initiative, pledge or commitment from politicians and officials in National and Local Government. There were excellent protest events organised such as Pedal on Parliament in Edinburgh and of course London Cycling Campaign’s excellent ‘Love London, Go Dutch’ ride, both remarkably well attended considering the atrocious weather that usually marks the transition to a British Summer. Thanks to The Times Cities Safe for Cycling campaign, I make the suggestion that more was achieved for cyclists than established campaigns had been trying to do for years [through no fault of their own, I hasten to add].

Or has it? Now that the dust has cleared, the protest rides ridden and the best Parliamentary china has been cleared away, I’ve listed below some of the key points and achievements extracted from a report by the jolly nice instigator of The Times campaign, Kaya Burgess.

‘….Support

Nearly 40,000 people have signed up to The Times’s ‘Cities Fit for Cycling’ campaign.

Prime Minister David Cameron, Opposition leader Ed Miliband, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson and Mayor of Salford Ian Stewart have all backed The Times’s campaign, while Cambridge, Brighton and Leeds councils have all voted through official support and ten cities back the campaign. A host of famous names also backed the campaign in the first few weeks.

A Westminster debate saw 77 MPs attend a debate on cycle safety.

Cycling becomes a major issue in the London mayoral elections. A cycle-specific hustings is hosted by The Times and Sustrans for the five main candidates.

About 45 per cent of all regular cyclists are aware of The Times’s ‘Cities fit for cycling’ campaign.

More than 10,000 people take to the streets of London and Edinburgh in support of cycle safety.

Minicab chief John Griffin, boss of Addison Lee, pledged his support to the campaign after angering cyclists.

Lorries

Crossrail refused entry to 31 of 253 vehicles bringing building materials to sites because they failed safety standards imposed to protect cyclists.

The Department for Transport are discussing with insurers whether incentives can be offered to hauliers who fit their lorries with extra safety equipment to protect cyclists.

Construction companies are also exploring ways to improve cycle safety.

Leading engineers call for every bus and lorry to be fitted with sensors to protect cyclists and pedestrians by 2015…

…Dangerous junctions

At least 85 per cent of councils (366 of the 433 councils in Britain) contain a dangerous cycling blackspot, according to 10,000 points nominated by Times readers.

Transport ministers promise to study the cycling blackspots nominated on the map and investigate ways to improve them.

Safe cycle lanes are to be made law in Wales, with plans to force local councils to develop and maintain safe routes.

Local councils no longer have to seek permission from Government every time they install a rear-view “trixi” mirror at dangerous junctions, due to pressure from The Times.

A scheme in Paris allows cyclists to turn the near-side corner of a T-junction at a red-light. Similar schemes in Britain could give cyclists their own short green phase to allow them to get a head-start from lorries and HGVs.

Futuristic projects to build elevated, enclosed cycle lanes would cost a prohibitive £38 million per kilometre. But less hi-tech projects have been constructed at a far more economical cost, such as elevated tracks in Copenhagen and pedestrian and cycle-friendly bridges in Cambridge.

National audit

Polls conducted by The Times revealed much about the habits of drivers and cyclists, while more than 10,000 submissions were added to a reader-generated map of Britain, showing where the most dangerous spots for cyclists can be found.

Funding…

….A £100 million annual fund to finance cycle infrastructure should be set aside, according to leading transport charities. But the £4.9 billion Highways Agency budget has already been cut by 20 per cent.

Transport for London received £15 million in the Budget to put towards improving dangerous junctions.

The Labour Party will consider adopting parts of The Times’s ‘Cities Fit for Cycling’ campaign, including the call for more funding, in its own manifesto, during its policy review in autumn. Voters credit Labour as the party which has responded best to cycle safety concerns.

Copenhagen has undergone a £77 million cycling makeover in the past decade, with another £28 million earmarked for upcoming projects. This far outstrips spending in the UK.

Training for cyclists and drivers

The Times revealed that councils are failing to claim millions of pounds in funding for children’s cycling, putting pressure on councils to improve on last year’s figures, when fewer than 200,000 children took a cycle training course funded by their local authority.

There will be guaranteed Bikeability funding for the whole of this Parliament.

Speed limits

Cutting speed limits to 20mph in trial areas showed a 50 per cent reduction in the number of cyclists killed or serious injured, and a 60 per cent reduction in casualties among child cyclists.

The Scottish Parliament has called for more 20mph zones in response to cyclist fatalities north of the border.

The AA throws its weight behind calls to extend 20mph speed limits.

Business involvement

Norman Baker, the Transport Minister, promoted The Times’s call for more corporate sponsorship in promoting safe cycling.

The incoming mayors of both Liverpool and Salford have pledged to explore bike-hire schemes in their cities, following the model of the Barclays Bikes in London.

Cycling commissioners

A House of Commons inquiry into cycle safety heard demands for David Cameron to appoint a cycling tsar to represent the needs of cyclists in government.

Boris Johnson, in securing re-election as London Mayor, pledged to appoint a cycling commissioner.

The Times’s call for every city to have a cycling commissioner won government support after a Westminster debate on cycle safety.

The new Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, also pledged to appoint a cycling commissioner…….’

By the way, here is The Times’s ‘Cities Safe for Cycling’ Manifesto

Great stuff (especially when you consider the timeframe) but you will note that there are a lot of pledges, ‘calls for…’, ‘explores..’ and reviews but as to whether this will turn into firm action (and more crucially, funding for that action) remains to be seen. I personally still remain severely sceptical about the state of infrastructure in this country which is the best chance we have of increasing numbers of everyday cyclists through subjective safety. This is why I feel that there will always be a need for a Cycling Embassy of Great Britain as long as it never deviates from its core mantra of ‘Infrastructure, Infrastructure, Infrastructure [to aid and assist training, promotion et al]’. Even when other groups launch campaigns pushing for Dutch Infrastructure such as LCC, or start holding policy reviews about ‘Going Dutch’, we should still be there to assist or support if needed but mostly developing our knowledge base and demonstrating what ‘Going Dutch’ actually means as a benchmark. We should all know only too well that to deviate or go for compromise will force us down the wrong road (pardon the pun) again with yet more crap infrastructure. And no cycling organisation wants that. Much of our current infrastructure continues to be a published joke, designed and built with the same result as a Toddler group given the chance to design the successor to Trident. However if it starts to join up in their idea of a network, cyclists right to certain roads could be brushed aside as easily as Cycling England. And don’t think it can’t happen.

NOT to be confused with the West Sussex County Council Sustainable Transport Plan

People are still signing up to the Embassy website, making generous donations and giving some excellent reasons for joining which is fantastic and I thank you personally for placing your faith in our fledgling organisation. I shall be reading out some of the reasons at the AGM (not giving names or details away of course) as they really warrant a listen. Above all, we need fresh input (and a new Press Officer) so please, please come along and help shape our destiny. Some good ideas have already been submitted for discussion and it won’t be the same without you. I’ve even ordered nice weather for you so you have no excuse.

After having a think on the Brompton this morning (I’m commuting 24 miles a day on the Brompton at the moment in training for this in case anyone wants to pop along for support), I was trying to think of a metaphor or some such that best summed up the frustration of taking perfectly good ideas from Europe and getting them back to Britain.

Me at the front at an earlier Smithfield Nocturne after stampeding through the pack like Bonnie Langford on Amphetamines

Suddenly, the classic ‘Penguin Game’ from ‘Jeux Sans frontieres’ leapt to mind. Take a look and imagine Britain enjoying playing in Europe, not taking it that seriously and getting tangled up occasionally but when a good idea tries to get carried back it either gets spilt, spoilt or upset in some way. The coloured water represents Dutch cycling infrastructure. But I think you guessed that already. I know it’s not a cycling clip but enjoy one of my favourite TV moments and see you in beautiful Bath & Bristol this weekend.

Local News

From Worthing Herald (10 April 2012)

‘DESPITE a no parking sign and a small picket fence, gardeners are still having their hard work ruined by cars.

The New Growth Garden Team is a voluntary group working under the Worthing charity – Storm, and it has recently started work on a small garden in Union Place.

Despite the group’s best efforts to keep people off the plot of land, which used to be used for parking, they are still coming back to find tyre marks through the middle of their seed beds.

Ginny Cassell, a member of the team, has been door knocking to tell everyone about the work being done and the parking restrictions, but said this “hasn’t stopped the problem”.

She said: “At the moment they are just seeds so we can cover it up and hope for the best, but we’re about to start putting in plants and if you drive over these you will kill them.

“We thought we would love to make something nice in the middle of the town where people could be peaceful instead of stressed.”

The group has been tending the area once a month since the winter, but has started making more regular visits now the planting season is in.

Sir Peter Bottomley, MP for Worthing West, witnessed the group’s misfortune, and donated £20 so they could buy more seeds.

He said: “They’re setting a public example by improving a bit of open space where the police station used to be.

“I’m sorry that some people managed to park their car on the ground, but they took that in good heart.”

Ginny thinks that this could be a mistake coming from “old habits” when people used to park there, but she is now asking people “not to do it any more”.

From Shoreham Herald (10 April 2012)

A CAMPAIGN calling for a crossing to help children get to school more safely has taken a big step.

Candy Bromage collected just under 1,400 signatures, calling for a safe crossing point in Upper Shoreham Road, and handed the petition to West Sussex County Councillor, Angie Mills last week.

Mum-of-two Candy said: “I was really pleased with the number of people who signed. Everybody was in agreement with us.”

Two weeks ago, the Herald reported how Candy and fellow parents and neighbours wanted to see a crossing, between the Holmbush roundabout and Southlands Hospital, so children could use it on the way to Glebe Primary School and Shoreham Academy.

Parents said the stretch of road was so dangerous, they would not allow their children to walk to school, and so drove them instead.

Mrs Mills, who is also chairman of the Adur County Local Committee (CLC), which can allocate road safety priorities for the area, said she was happy to get on board  with the campaign.

“There are a lot of schools in the area, and it is a very dangerous road for children to cross,” she said.

“Most of the parents are taking their children to school by car, which is exactly what we are trying to avoid.

“Of course, it’s not just children who need to cross the road, it’s elderly and vulnerable people too.”

The petition will taken to the next meeting of the CLC,  on May 24, where solutions will be discussed,  but there was a long road ahead for the scheme, said Mrs Mills.

“It will not be done for a while, because it has to go through various procedures,” she said.

Any scheme would also need to be examined by the county council’s highways department.

Candy said it was “brilliant” that Mrs Mills had joined the fight.

“It is a shame they can’t get it done in six months, but we knew that was very unlikely.

“Hopefully, by this time next year, we will have something.”

She thanked everyone who had put their name to the campaign.

She said: “Just thank you for everyone’s support.

“We will carry on until there is a crossing there.”

At the start of the campaign, Candy, mum to 14-year-old Tadley, and Mitchell, 10, told the Herald:  “We want a tunnel, a bridge, a zebra crossing, and pelican crossing. We don’t care how they do it. As long as it’s safe.

Kim Lee, of Greenways Crescent, said she agreed with there was a need for a crossing: “I have two kids, and I won’t let them cross the road to school, so I drive. A lot of people do.”

Glebe head teacher Ann Walton also got behind the call, and wrote to the council’s highways department.

She said: “We want as many children as possible to walk, scoot or ride to school, but that’s impossible because of the dangerous road.”

A view of Upper Shoreham Road (looking toward the Holmbush roundabout which is incredibly fast and furious) may be found here

Note that there is enough space to have Dutch style cycle Infrastructure. And then some Danish style cycle infrastructure next to it. And some nice planting. And still have a nice road for car use.

Of course, my adopted home town of Worthing and neighbouring Shoreham by Sea are both in West Sussex – The Council with a Highways Authority that rewrites the dictionary definition of ‘draconian’, that regards the motor car not so much as a mode of transport but more as a masturbatory fantasy and regards the bicycle (the thing that would attract more tourism, health and wellbeing, particularly for the more elderly coastal demographic) as something poor people might do and really should be shovelled out-of-the-way. Anyway, I wish the group the very best. I’d love to see a new crossing and indeed proper infrastructure for all to use not just for the many schools in the area but shops and businesses too.

Here is a film by Mark Wagenbuur on 25 ways to cross a major road in the Netherlands partly because it contains an at-grade bicycle crossing which might be quite a nice addition to Upper Shoreham Road but also to highlight how The Netherlands is separated from us by a stretch of water but it might as well be another solar system. The full post is here. British viewers may wish to look away for fear of weeping.

To lighten the mood a bit more, further east on Old Shoreham Road, here is what Brighton & Hove City Council are doing for their schoolchildren here and here.

Finally, to completely lighten the mood to near hilarity, I leave you with this letter from the Worthing Herald published on 30 March 2012 that….well, I’ll leave you to judge.

’30’ limit is a danger’           

‘MY son recently reached the age of 16 and bought a motor scooter for commuting to school/college and socialising, etc.

However, according to the law, his machine must not travel faster than 30mph.

Limiting youngsters to 30mph may have been intended as a safety measure but in reality it is quite dangerous.

Any motorists/motorcyclist who thinks 30mph is fine, I challenge them to drive, for one week at 30mph, maximum everywhere, including roads like Goring Road which have a 40mph limit and the A24 and this dual carriageway is not far off being a race track.

It is nigh on impossible to keep to this speed  everywhere.

It produces a queue of impatient drivers behind you, which leads to some dangerous overtaking and allows no room for manoeuvre.

If, as most people agree, riding on two-wheels is less safe that four wheels and the law allows 16-year-olds to drive on two (dangerous), why not allow 16 year olds to drive on four (safer)?

If that is not acceptable, at least increase the maximum speed they can drive at to 40mph.’

The Winds of Change

The Future. For Britain. In 1992. And now again, apparently.

I was cycling to work this morning through very thick sea mist. The ‘March winds’ have not really materialised here on the South Coast. The winds of change are definitely picking up however.

At the beginning of March, I went to Portcullis House to represent the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain at the Labour Cycling Summit, chaired by Ban Bradshaw MP and Maria Eagle MP (Shadow Secretary for Transport). This was triggered by The Times ‘Cities Fit for Cycling’ campaign. All the usual suspects were there from safety campaigners, road designers, local government and road users, including HGV operators. It was remarkably cordial and some good points were made such as the need for systemic change in the training of future engineers to stopping thinking car first and foremost. I made the following points:

  • That The Times ‘Cities Fit for Cycling’ campaign is an incredible effort that should be acknowledged for, at the very least, taking cycling issues ‘out there’ far, far beyond the realm of Cycling groups and internet chat rooms.
  • That current cycling infrastructure is great if you like ‘abstract art’ (always good to get an early laugh in).
  • If adults need to not only put on body armour to commute to work but also put surveillance measures on that armour, than what hope is there for our nations children wanting to cycle to school?
  • Whilst there’s a lot of incredibly hard work done in the name of Bikeability (which I personally believe should change it’s name back to ‘Cycling Proficiency’. It is a life skill, not a jolly sounding activity) along with Sustrans ‘Safe Routes to School’, there needs to be a quality network of routes to get the 98% considering cycling again through methods with proven success such as those used overseas. Otherwise, parents may indeed ride to school with their children but instead of going on to the shops they nip back and get the car out, due to lack of dedicated ongoing route, lack of subjective safety and the very act of riding a bicycle looking like an overly complicated specialist activity.

What was particularly pleasing was that there was no political point scoring and it was accepted that whatever happens from here on in, it is a cross party issue.

Last week, I went to the House of Commons to represent the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain at the launch of ‘The Summer of Cycling’ which any organisation, group, shop or magazine can support. All the usual suspects were there in cycling and cycle campaigning. “It’s always the same bloody people” someone quipped (and no, for a change it wasn’t me). It has a shiny new website that will develop as the week’s progress with a facebook page and twitter feed. The premise is simple; if everyone that rides a bicycle pledges to get someone who would not normally ride a bicycle to ride a bicycle then the amount of people riding bicycles would double. Simplest ideas are always the best and all that.

At this point, I would normally write something with distain about promotion being one of usual the soft options we always settle for in campaigning to the detriment of everything else because it’s cheap. However, it would be sheer lunacy to not to get some extra promotional mileage out of the Olympics being held in Britain this year, particularly with the success already achieved on road and track. It helps that Philip Darnton is at the helm. He not only has the uncanny ability to sniff out a fiver in a force nine gale – essential for cycling in Britain as it currently stands, but to amplify the meagre funding that cycling in Britain has come to expect through the years, with Cycling England being the classic example.

Summer of Cycling is run for the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group (on which the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain sits) and was created by 23 organisations late last year. It was confirmed at the meeting that Minister for Transport Norman Baker has pledged £20,000 for this venture (slightly less than the list price for a Volkswagen Tigua Crossover 2.0 TDi 140 BlueMotion 5 Door) with another £70,000 going to Bike Week (slightly less than the list price for a BMW 750i 4 Door Saloon).

This lunchtime marked the 2012 Budget delivered by George Osborne. Cycling is mentioned in the official document twice.

  • [The Government] is committed to tackling congestion, improving connectivity and supporting cycling in and around London. The Government will explore the case for using the Planning Act 2008 to streamline the planning process for the proposed additional river crossings in East London, for example at Silvertown, which will reduce peak period delays and congestion in the area……In addition, the Government will grant £15 million to TfL for investments in cycle safety, which will include improved provision for cyclists at junctions across the capital under consideration in TfL’s cycle safety junction review’
  • 2.255 London cycle safety grant – The Government will allocate £15 million to TfL for investment in cycle safety. This will include improved provision for cyclists at junctions across the capital currently under consideration in TfL’s Cycle Safety Junction Review.

In the same document, £56 million is going to the Bexhill-Hastings link road. Which is slightly more relevant to me as I live in Sussex and not London. I’m not sure what the implications are for the rest of the country.

This very week, the idea of privatising the roads was presented in a speech by David Cameron to the Institute of Civil Engineers. Some commentators were quick to say on Twitter that it was just a smokescreen mainly to detract from the NHS and Social Care Bill and partly because there are many that are convinced that we have reached ‘peak car’. At War with the Motorist believes we shouldn’t worry as cyclists about it anyway as it will only affect Trunk Roads (Motorways in all but name) and Motorways. I personally believe that the Income Tax changes were the smokescreen and what we are actually seeing is a nation three years into a deep recession with a deeply car-centric Government that thinks ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ is a challenge as opposed to a warning.

I can’t help but feel that the proper stuff that will actually succeed in enabling consistent mass cycling is as far away as it ever has been. At least people are starting to listen now and act. High quality cycle infrastructure will cost serious money – nice things generally do. Surely it’s better to get the right measures in now and get to put an end to the well meaning but crap facilities being built in our name as opposed to seeing more roads being made increasingly unusable with no safe, quality alternative. Or new private or publically built roads having the usual dreadful or non-existent provision. It’s always cheaper to get it right at the design stage than to retro fit afterwards.

The winds of change are certainly blowing. But not quite hard enough to clear the mist yet.

Etape du Crap

My last post plundered some of the wonderful images sent in to the Warrington Cycle Campaign for their ‘Facility of the Month’ pages (and to reiterate, buy the book and send it to your local Highways Authority. Proceeds to CTC’s Cyclists Defence Fund).

In September 2001, this wonderful Turning Circle/Bicycle Layby/No, I actually have no idea what they were thinking either, was Facility of the Month. It is in the Campaign’s home turf of Warrington.

Yesterday, it surfaced again in the Daily Mail (and thanks to Lazy Bicycle Blog for the heads up). I was quite glad to see that ‘Silly Season’ has returned a little bit in the face of a potential humanitarian crisis in Libya.

It is the latest example in a long line of questionable planning decisions by councils – a cycle lane measuring just 15ft long.

Cyclists using the roads of Warrington, Cheshire, are apparently supposed to use the semi-circular track to help them get ahead of drivers.

Alternatively, this road to nowhere could have been designed by local pen-pushers to help cyclists execute a U-turn on a leafy avenue which runs between the Stockton Heath and Appleton areas of the town.

The spare-lane has been cut into the verge, covered in tarmac before a white cycle symbol was painted onto it – presumably to make sure there was no doubt as to who this strange example of highway planning was for.

The highway blunder was spotted by DSA Licensed driving instructor, Dave Horgan of Horgis School of Motoring.

‘The council need to think twice before putting up confusing signs and this sort of thing is an example,’ he said.

‘This is one of the reasons it costs so much to learn to drive nowadays.’

I’m a little stumped as what Mr Horgan’s comments mean as this nugget of infrastructure doesn’t appear to have been signed, has been sitting there for 10 years as forlorn as a Verve album and is probably ignored by motorists driving past as though their cars will detonate if they drop below 50mph. I also feel that there may be other real and pressing factors as to why the cost of a driving test has risen so much such as Middle East instability or the fact that insurance is seen as peripheral to many motorists yet operating a mobile phone is essential.

Anyway, Tuesdays post along with the above mentioned article got me thinking further about interesting ways to highlight the drivel that Councils have been getting away with for years in the name of ‘sustainability’. The sort of stuff that allows them to produce brochures and plans that gloss over their jeopardising cyclist and pedestrian safety and not understanding the bicycle as a simple and effective mode of transport.

I would like to suggest organising a bicycle race using a particular British town or city’s cycle infrastructure ONLY. I originally wanted road cyclists to be involved but that would probably be suicidal for them and their bikes in particular so maybe just mountain bikes instead – after all, many ‘Town Centre Links’ or ‘Greenways’ are not too dissimilar to ‘North Shore’. If held on the weekend, it may have to be abandoned due to parked cars. I believe however, if it took off, that it should be called ‘Etape du Crap’ or even ‘Crap Etape!’ (said in exactly the same way children would say ‘Crackerjack!’) although feel free to chip in with your own suggestions. In fact, if you commute and you get to an awful bit of cycle infrastructure, just yell ‘Crap Etape!’ before riding it. Passers by may wonder what the Hell you’re doing but at least you might feel better.

'...and the peloton steams over the tactile paving toward the...oh, bugger'

Just a thought.

In the meantime, here’s another post from Mark Wagenbuur via David Hembrow’s ‘View from the Cycle Path’. Please note that even when a full-blown construction project is on, the temporary cycle lanes are better than most British cycle infrastructure. Even when just a diversion, I would like some of what they’re having.

All the Fun of the Fair

Apologies that it’s been a while since I last posted but things have been very, very busy at Lo Fidelity Towers. The Boy has teeth pushing through with a vengeance which is bad enough for the poor little mite but they’re also deciding to make their push every morning between 2.30 and 4.30am. As a result, I look as though I’ve been punched in the face yet happy to be punched in the face as I weave the Old Dutch Bike through the school run stationary traffic.

On the cycling front, I’m soon to be guest blogging at Cycling Mobility magazine and my first post explaining my vision for the Cycling Embassy of Great Britian goes out on Monday. It’s probably too diplomatic, but I’d rather not get flailed alive by people getting the wrong end of the stick.

As I’ve stated before, riding a Dutch Bike gives one a lot of time to think. Freed up from the heads-down-Tour-de-France-peleton-of-one that is the default for British Cycle Commuting I can take great gulps of sea air and look at stuff such as the fun fairs setting up along the seafront. In a way, there are many aspects of fun fairs that, for me, have similarities with cycling in Great Britain…

The Carousel

Like Close Encounters of The Third Kind. But in Bognor.

 The fun fair carousel is a bit like the ongoing ‘Battle of Blackfriars’. TfL and the Conservative Assembly members are crammed into the control booth, with Fleetwood Mac’s ‘The Chain’ blasting out so loud, they can’t hear the screams of the people on the ride. ‘Do you want to go faster?’ they keep yelling over the tannoy. From time to time they will try and alter the angle and spin. Occasionally someone tragically and needlessly dies or is injured as a result of poor maintenance or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time but that doesn’t matter to TfL. Just keep the punters going faster and faster. If they crank up that music nice and loud, they don’t have to hear a thing.

For further reading on the Blackfriars Bridge debacle I strongly recommend the London Cycle Campaign website this brilliant post by Cycle of Futility, I Bike London and of course, Crap Cycling and Walking in Waltham Forest

The Arcade Coin Machine

It’s mindless, but still better than watching ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ on every level

I admit that I used to love playing these machines on family holidays in the 70’s and 80’s. I believe that these machines accurately represent local and national government spending on cycling. The money that you are looking at through the glass represents the transport budget. You put our money in hoping, often in vain, to get something back in the way of investment for cycling and sometimes some pennies drop out. Sometimes you can hear money drop but it doesn’t make it to you. That’s your local authority syphoning off yet more money for pothole repair to ease traffic flow, or maybe a strategy document that might as well have been written by Ken Dodd on ecstacy.

Dodgems

Due to Coalition cuts, this might be the new driving test.

To some, it’s a fun way to pass five minutes. I agree, but I would go one step further and say they should be re-branded from ‘Dodgems’ to ‘School Run’. The fact that the lady in the foreground  has let her childs hands on the wheel may occasionally happen in real life as it allows a parent to answer a mobile phone call. After all, cars practically drive themselves these days, don’t they? Also, children learn from a very early age that as long as they are encased in a car or car like object, they’ll be safe if they collide with anything else.

The House of Mirrors

Again, more fun than ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ on every level.

The House of Mirrors is supposed to be a maze like puzzle giving a vision of alternate realities to our own. I also think it represents the Vehicular vs Segregation debate. It’s just an illusion. Vehicular Cyclists are all rough, tough fellows who like exhaust fumes and would regard cycling along the A40 Westway as a mere bagatelle. Segregationalists are only people that would have segregated infrastructure everywhere including the drives leading up to their houses. Then you leave the House of Mirrors to realise that we are in the same reality seeing the same thing, that the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany does not have segregated infrastructure absolutely everywhere because even they will say that that is a bloody stupid idea and what we all really want is the difficult mode of transport to reflect that difficulty and the easiest modes of tranpsort to reflect that ease for all ages and gender, just like in continental Europe that have proven success in obtaining high bicycle modal shares with lower casualty rates. Obviously there will be different views, but I simply cannot believe we are still ignoring what’s been occuring across the North Sea. Since about 1975. Funnily enough the ideas for current Great British cycling infrastructure came from a House of Mirrors. Actually, I made that last bit up, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

I got all that from cycling past a fun fair on a Dutch Bike. Mind you it was into a headwind.

Crap Cycle Lane VI

…it even has shade.

 

Welcome crap fans and what have we here? Is this the portal to another sublime cycling dimension? A Velocipede Valhalla, if you will.

..the idea being that the Patient Transport vehicle knocks you over and then takes you and your bicycle to hospital. Which is nice.

 

Don’t be stupid! This is the UK! This is Brighton & Hove in the UK to be precise, which became a Cycling Demonstration Town in 2005 (in the same way that Milton Keynes is an Architectural Treasure Trove). The local campaign group Bricycles, despite doing a very good job with the Green Party in protecting some of the only passable infrastructure in the City, are under no illusions about the Council they are up against.

(This from their excellent website. The last paragraph could be about any cycle scheme by any Local Authority in the country).

Anyway, I digress. We are in the North Laine area which is choc full of independent shops and a pleasing diversion from the usual fare that passes for a British High Street these days. If this network of narrow streets was anywhere else in mainland Europe, the motor vehicle would have been designed out creating a more pleasing atmosphere for shoppers, residents, pedestrians and bicycle riders alike. Sadly, like every other Highways Authority in the UK, Brighton & Hove remains glued to the 1980’s game of ‘Let’s See How Many Cars We Can Possibly Cram Through Here As If Our Lives Depended On It.’

Here it is again without vehicles.

The bridge at the top is the main concourse for Brighton railway station. One way traffic can cascade down the hill, under the bridge where it becomes two way. Traffic coming up the hill has to turn left by the No Entry signs. Except you, that is, dear bicycle rider! Yes, a special contra-flow cycle lane has been combined with a Tommy-Simpson-Mt-Ventoux tribute hill climb. Quite impressive considering the designers probably had no idea who Tom Simpson was.

Motor traffic heads off up this easier gradient for either the seafront or the gyratory by the Railway Station.  Let’s take a closer look at the contra-flow on offer to us.

The light at the end of the tunnel. What the entrance to Heaven might look like with a crappy cycle lane.

The cycle lane is slightly elevated from the traffic lane with a relatively good finish. The gradient is very steep, however.

And this is where it stops. The traffic lane is still one way at this point so the bicycle rider, already on a steep gradient either has to dismount (which is the default for British Cycle Infrastructure) or meander into oncoming traffic turning into this road that provides a nice little rat run to the A23. Or collapse off your bike as a tribute to the great Tom Simpson and yell the mythical words ‘Put me back on the bike!’ (again, the default of British Cycle Infrastructure).

Brighton Station. Excellent access if you're a taxi driver. Utter bile for everyone else.

This is the cycle lane and railway station concourse in context. The barriers to the left are closed as work is being carried out to renovate the canopy. That area would normally have lots of bicycle stands which are incredibly well used. Which begs the question as to why bicycle (and pedestrian and wheelchair) access is so utterly appalling?

If you wish to find out more about the late, great Tom Simpson, BBC4 recently showed a brilliant documentary called ‘Death on the Mountain: The Story of Tom Simpson’ which hopefuly they will show again (if we all nag them enough). His Wikipedia entry, is of course, here.

If you wish to see how cycling infrastructure can be designed and built correctly in a manner that doesn’t dump you in oncoming traffic or leave you guessing with all the tension of an Agatha Christie novel as you approach a junction or ask you to get off and push every 10 metres, then yet again, here is a film from Mark Wagenbuur.

and here is another one showing junction design the Dutch way.

We continue to ignore the tried and tested, proven success of Mainland Europe at our peril. Tom Simpson moved there (the Breton fishing port of Saint-Brieuc to be prescise) as he knew it had a better cycling culture and would improve his chances of success. Strangely, I think I know how he felt.