Onwards and Upwards

Yet again, thanks for the support and goodwill. In particular Lazy Bicycle Blog, Manchester Cycling, Biking Brits, i b i k e l o n d o n and everyone else in the blogosphere, twitterverse and email..er…globe. A special thank you must go to Anthony Cartmell for setting up the website and continual assistance. Unfortunately for him, he only lives 2 miles away from me.

Embassy news is as follows:

LTP3 page has been opened up and links are being uploaded. This is for you to comment on Local Transport Plans and look at other areas as you please. We shall be creating a page for Cycling Strategy Documents to be uploaded so we may see what has gone before across the land in terms of broken promises in overly verbose documents with added greenwash.

In our Manchester Consulate, Chris Page at Manchester Cycling has set up a facebook page for the Embassy. Wonderful stuff. There is also a twitter account (@GBCycleEmbassy)

I wrote last week to the Cycling Embassy of Denmark and they’ve written a lovely message back expressing support plus advice on what they do & how they do it. I shall post this on the Embassy forum, as I will all my correspondence. It is quite clear that our aims and ambitions are going to be very different from the Danish Embassy and indeed the Cycling Embassy for the The Netherlands (launching next year) – whereas they have a cycling culture, political will and standards of cycling infrastructure, we have car culture, political greenwash with empty platitudes and crap cycling infrastructure.

Deepest apologies but I would like to make the final confirmed date for our inaugural meeting the 29th January. This is because too many people have written to me saying they can’t make it on the 8th (either because they live in far flung areas of our Empire or maybe their hangovers are still clearing). Same venue as before. This also gives me more time to stockpile Fererro Rocher for your welcome packs. Over the next few weeks I shall be encouraging discussion on organisation structure (many have come forward stating they wish to set up Consulates across the country), partnerships, policy, funding etc. This ensures that by the time we meet and greet, it’s a simple matter of finalising issues. I think it’s going to be quite straightforward as the aim is simply to get more people on bikes, to create proper infrastructure to facilitate this based on best practice across Europe and the World and make riding a bike as easy as riding a bike.

I will start contacting pertinent charities and groups over the weekend to form partnerships. If you have any ideas on who we should be contacting, or you are an interested party, please let me know.

Personal news:

I have an office Christmas party to attend in Brighton Friday afternoon where we shall be remembering the birth of Jesus Christ in the traditional British way of drinking enough alcohol to float a Raleigh Grifter. I shall refrain from Twitter et al as a mark of respect to good manners and taste.

I’m putting in my order for a Batavus Old Dutch Friday morning. I’m selling my KHS 3000 Mountain Bike (barely used) and Carerra Zero (fixed wheel) to make room and justify expenditure to The Wife. I’ve sampled riding Dutch bikes now and they make me feel like a child again – in particular the just getting on a bicycle with no need for special clothing or preparation and going about my day. That is proper freedom.

I leave you with a piece of film that reflects what we should be aspiring to (and don’t take any ‘times are hard’ rubbish. If a fraction of the budget for new road schemes and electric cars was spent on proper ‘Sustainable Transport’ it would be easily achievable) – people going about their business on bikes with not a helmet or high viz tabard amongst them. It’s sped up of course – the Dutch don’t have to cycle everywhere at breakneck speed like the British seem to.

Oh, and thanks to Freewheeler for inspiring my resolve 🙂

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Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Mr Hammond?

Don't Panic!

As the chilly Autumnal mists clear, the World of British cycle campaigning finds that not only have the goalposts been moved, but the playing field has been sold off as well.

Road.cc report can be found here

Yesterday I posted the initial DfT Press Release regarding the Spending Review. However, further detail seemed to emerge in the form of Annexes to the original statement (they may have come out at the same time in fairness, I don’t wish to speculate). Below are the key points that effect cycling;

Local Sustainable Transport Fund
We are establishing a £560 million local sustainable transport fund to challenge local authorities outside London to bid for funding to support packages of transport interventions that support economic growth and reduce carbon emissions in their communities as well as delivering cleaner environments and improved air quality, enhanced safety and reduced congestion.

This replaces a range of previous grants for sustainable forms of travel. It represents a significant increase in funding for sustainable travel, which the Government believes can both support economic growth and reduce carbon emissions.

Responding to calls from local government, the Fund will include a mix of £350m revenue and £210m capital funding over the next four years to maximise the toolkit of options available to local authorities

A small proportion of the fund will be allocated to provide continued funding for the successful Bikeability scheme, which offers high quality cycle training for young people. For the remainder of the funding, we will invite local authorities to develop packages of low cost, high value measures which best meet their local needs and effectively address local issues.

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club deduces that, as opposed to cycle training being brought in-house as was inferred before, it is being cast out across the provinces, where car-centric Local Authorities are already having to make massive cuts to their own budgets. A harsh winter will ensure that any cycling budget will be swallowed up in pothole repair, which is exactly what happened to the West Sussex cycling budget before the spending cuts. Cycling projects won’t have any dedicated funding but be lumped together as ‘sustainable transport’ – we’re being told to sing for our supper basically.

It would be fair to conclude that ‘reducing emissions’ will mean clearing traffic bottlenecks with ‘improved engineering’ and shovelling cyclists off the roads on well-intentioned but appallingly designed infrastructure such as shared use pavements. Again.

Environment
….The functions of the Renewable Fuels Agency are being transferred to the Department for Transport. The DfT will work with the RFA to consider how best to achieve this transition and to ensure that potential administrative savings are realised.

This has allowed us to focus financial support on key priorities that will reduce transport emissions and support low carbon economy growth. These include:

– Making provision for over £400m for measures to promote the uptake of ultra-low carbon vehicle technologies. These include:

– supporting consumer incentives for electric and other low emission cars throughout the life of this Parliament. We will continue to monitor the most effective way to deliver this investment, with the first review of the Plug In Car grant in 2012;

– continued investment in electric vehicle recharging infrastructure (Plugged In Places);
– research and development.
– Supporting the key elements of the carbon-saving transport programmes that are delivered by the Energy Saving Trust and Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, while working with both organisations to achieve efficiencies. Details will be confirmed shortly.

Believe it or not, the majority of us already own at least two modes of low carbon transport.  To locate the first, simply look down. Then you can use that low carbon form of transport to go and get another form of low carbon transport, your bicycle!  No mass building of power stations or carbon intensive construction of ultra low carbon cars with its required infrastructure necessary. If this country put its trust in walking and cycling for a change, at least this country won’t completely shut down in a power cut.  

Road Safety
As part of the simplification and radical devolution of local government finance, the Coalition Government will no longer be providing a specific ring-fenced grant to support road safety delivery and enforcement – including camera enforcement – at local level. This funding stream is being wrapped up into the wider local government funding settlement, and allocated by formula. These reforms will give greater autonomy and flexibility to local authorities in deciding how best to tackle their road safety problems. Additionally, the Local Sustainable Transport Fund will offer local authorities the opportunity to bid for funding for schemes offering safety as well as other local benefits.

Nationally, we are reducing the resources allocated to road safety research and marketing, distributing more of the available money instead for use in local targeted initiatives. We will reduce the THINK! budget by £12m per annum by 2014/15, so we will be focusing national marketing activity on those road users which represent the highest risks to others, and for whom a marketing approach is proven to be effective. We will also be making full use of lower cost mechanisms – such as social networking and the new educational courses – to target delivery cost-effectively and working closely with commercial partners to communicate key road safety messages. This approach has already proved successful; for example, 32,000 motorcyclists have joined a THINK! BIKER Facebook page launched earlier this year.

Motorised traffic isn’t a road safety problem in the eyes of DfT. If it can be said that ‘an Englishmans home is his castle’, it’s even more so with his motor car. All those that choose to joust with him on a bicycle will be expected to wear a full set of armour.

 The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club suggests that the DfT should embrace social media by repeatedly putting out the following message on Twitter, ‘Don’t look at this. Concentrate on the road’. That should help motorists. Until they get distracted by the radio.

It would be easy to write an apocalyptic conclusion from all this. The major cycling organisations have until March 2011 to work out where their cycling strategies go from here. However, cycling will never go away, as hard as Mr Hammond may try. We have to remain focussed on the DfT, and higher up with part-time cyclist David Cameron (to be fair it must be difficult to get out these days) until someone sees sense that cycling, walking and improved access benefits all as opposed to the macho big business posturing of High Speed Rail (which will only benefit larger towns and cities as opposed to the countryside it will machete through) or making roads even more unusable for those wishing not to travel by private car. 

In the spirit of private enterprise and franchising, the Low Fidelity Bicycle Club recommends that we invite Fietsberaad to take over sustainable transport infrastructure guidance as no-one in the DfT or Local Authorities can design anything properly.

Above all, stay happy and keep singing

..Ms Pendleton goes off to town on Reynolds 531
She does it ‘cos it’s quicker
and she’s knows it’s way more fun

So who do you think you are kidding Mr Hammond,
if you think old cycling’s done

(with sincere apologies to Bud Flannigan!)

Cycle Campaigning Simplified No 3 – The Cycling Action Travel Plan Strategy Solution

Sometimes a dog will gnaw away at something it shouldn’t. I’ve found that the best way to distract the dog is to find a nice stick and throw it, instantly releasing the thing that you don’t want gnawed. This is basically the same attitude that the Government & Local Authorities take with cycle campaigners.

The stick in this case is usually a document that either ends in ‘Action Plan’, ‘Strategy’, ‘Travel Plan’ or that perennial favourite, the Local Transport Plan (LTP). Cycle campaigners sometimes get very excited by such documents. Some will even have copies of the original ‘Action Plan’ or ‘Strategy’. These will often be between 10 and 20 years old and incredibly long and verbose with pictures of people in stonewash jeans on Raleigh touring or shopper bikes.

When I worked at CTC, there used to be regular meetings where we would all discuss what was happening in each department and what was happening in the wider World of cycling. Although I have the utmost respect and admiration for Roger Geffen (CTC Campaigns Director), my heart would sink when he would enthusiastically outline CTC’s involvement in the latest Government Cycling Strategy or 10 Year Plan. If I closed my eyes I could hear the Ministers saying ‘fetch the stick cyclists! Fetch! Go on! Over there!

Some of you may have just responded to your local authorities Local Transport Plan (or LTP3). This document will mention the word ‘sustainable’ quite a lot along with the usual airy fairy commitment to reducing carbon and regeneration. However, you will realise as you read further that to a Highways Department, this is best achieved by sorting out traffic bottlenecks to ease congestion on their strategic road network – in essence, not looking at the sheer amount of cars as a problem and using engineering to try and arrive at a solution. In the past, it would have been Bypasses, Inner Relief Roads and the stunning decision that dual carriageways in town and city centres would be a good idea to relieve congestion. Nowadays, with reduced budgets, it just involves expensive consultation fees and tinkering around the edges.

These documents will mention cycling in the same way that Samuel Beckett mentioned Godot. It will use phrases such as ‘upgrading infrastructure’ and ‘linking networks in town centres’ in a beautifully ethereal way but won’t actually commit to reducing car space in favour of walking and cycling, which is the solution.

As far as cycle infrastructure is concerned, there needs to be a concerted push for a National Standard based preferably on the Dutch model, which favours better streetscape design and segregated facilities where appropriate – basically giving the streets back to the residents. Until then we should be telling Local Authorities NOT to proceed with any more Cycle Paths or Shared Use Facilities as they are nearly always badly compromised by developers and Highway Departments’ agendas and designed by Rolf Harris on ecstasy.

Can you tell what it is yet? (Picture from Weird Cycle Lanes of Brighton & Hove)

For the moment, like Beckett’s famous characters, we’re left waiting, being treated like tramps on the roadside for an answer that will never appear if we continue with this drivel. Until the next round of Local Transport Plan Consultation or Government Cycling Action Travel Strategy, of course! Maybe THIS time will be different!!

Cycling – Pleasure or Pain?

'I like cycling around Basingstoke'

I cycle to work. I cycle 12 miles to work to be precise. My route takes me from the seaside town of Worthing to metropolis of Brighton & Hove (a ‘Cycling Demonstration Town’ would you believe?) I cycle along the A259 coast road amongst the huge Lorries bound for Shoreham Port and the cars on the work and school run and the vans with the obligatory England flag fluttering forlornly from their roofs.

I cycle around those that turn suddenly without indicating, amongst those that desperately need to make a phone call on the move, avoiding the car doors opening and the buses that overtake to suddenly remember that they are in fact buses and need to pull over once in a while in front of me.

The question is, do I enjoy cycling, or do I enjoy the struggle?

I cycle nearly every day, I go to to cycling meetings and forums, I buy the latest cycling periodicals, I write on internet forums, I write this brilliant blog and enjoy reading the wonderful blogs and opinions of other cyclists. 

But when was the last time I really enjoyed my cycling for nothing more than just cycling?

Two occasions sprang to mind; the first was during the summer when I would bring out the Mountain Bike and in the evening I’d occasionally commute home along the South Downs Way – beautful countryside stretching away to the north, the deep blue sea to the south and other cheerful people on the trail. The other was when I occasionally cycled to my parents which takes in the Downs Link (Shoreham by Sea to Shalford, Surrey) in its 37 mile entirity – beautiful countryside and other cheerful people on the trail.

When I worked as a CTC Information Officer, with the exception of the wonderful Lands End – John O’Groats route pack, the most popular route sheets requested were for exotic items such as Cycling in the Netherlands, the North Sea Cycle Route and the Danube (all traffic free to varying degrees).

Why is traffic free only associated with leisure? Why can’t more road space be given to decent  infrastructure such as the Netherlands that shows cycling off for what it can be? Direct, quiet, fast or slow, healthy and above all fun. I’m not saying that all Britain should be segregated – as has been pointed out to me recently, Highways Engineers have been trying to shovel us off the road for years leading to the dangerous, poorly designed rubbish we have today. Indeed, I could take Sustrans National Cycle Route 2 if I wanted a relatively traffic free option for my commute, but it’s either too narrow, or I have to dismount, or it goes around the houses (and that fully operational port).

This country needs to drop the empty platitudes and actually start getting serious about sustainable transport through removing private cars from the equation, reducing speed limits in towns and installing decent (and by that I mean Dutch and not UK designed) infrastructure where applicable. In short, making the simple things in life like riding a bike or walking to work or the shops actually achievable and attractive for the masses [again]. Until then, commuting will always be associated with pain rather than pleasure.

The Highway Code (Rules for Cyclists) – The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club Version

Please find below the ‘Rules for Cyclists’ as outlined in The Highway Code adapted by me to give more accuracy (in my humble opinion).

59 Clothing.

You should wear

• a cycle helmet which conforms to current regulations, is the correct size and securely fastened. It won’t necessarily help, but will make motorists think they can drive like lunatics around you because you are ‘protected’ and make cycling look much more dangerous than it actually is, putting everybody else off cycling. Which is exactly the desire of motor companies (like Volvo and Fiat), that funnily enough actively promote helmet use.

• appropriate clothes for cycling. Avoid clothes which may get tangled in the chain, or in a wheel or may obscure your lights. Do NOT wear lycra as that is very, very bad and our obese society will judge you for some reason.

• light-coloured or fluorescent clothing which helps other road users to see you in daylight and poor light because normally they can’t be bothered to look for you unless you’re lit up like a Mardi Gras carnival float

• reflective clothing and/or accessories (belt, arm or ankle bands) in the dark for that extra nerdy/librarian look

60 At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector. White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp. HOWEVER if your bike has been stolen or cost £20 at a car boot sale and you merely wish to get to the bookies/public house (Wetherspoons ONLY)/next crime scene then why are you even attempting to read this? [Law RVLR regs 13, 18 & 24)]

61 Cycle Routes and Other Facilities.

Use cycle routes, advanced stop lines, cycle boxes and toucan crossings unless at the time it is unsafe to do so. Use of these facilities is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills which you will need lots of because the facilities are normally designed by someone having an epileptic fit. But they can make your journey safer IF you are the last person on Earth and even then they are a waste of time and space.

62 Cycle Tracks.

These are normally located away from the road, but may normally be found on footpaths or pavements. Cyclists and pedestrians may be segregated or they may share the same space (unsegregated). When using segregated tracks you MUST keep to the side intended for cyclists (until another cyclist approaches when you both suddenly realise it’s too narrow) as the pedestrian side remains a pavement or footpath. Take care when passing pedestrians, especially children, older or disabled people. Everyone will drift into the cycle lane for no reason, usually plugged into a phone. Always be prepared to slow down and stop if necessary as they wander about aimlessly. Take care near road junctions as you will have difficulty seeing other road users, who will not notice you. You might as well be using the road instead of this poorly designed, dangerous drivel. Otherwise it’s like given the choice of watching either Love Island or Big Brother. At gunpoint.  [Law HA 1835 sect 72]

63 Cycle Lanes.

These are marked by a white line (which will be entered by ALL other road traffic) along the carriageway. Keep within the lane when practicable through all the sunken drain covers and broken glass. When leaving a cycle lane check before pulling out that it is safe to do so and signal your intention clearly to other road users which will be ignored. Use of cycle lanes is not compulsory and will depend on your experience and skills, but they can make your journey safer if you are in Copenhagen or Amsterdam or Groningen or Germany or anywhere else EXCEPT the UK.

64 You MUST NOT cycle on a pavement UNLESS the Council has painted a white bicycle on it. There is a difference APPARENTLY. [Laws HA 1835 sect 72 & R(S)A 1984, sect 129]

65 Bus Lanes.

Most bus lanes may be used by cyclists as indicated on signs. Watch out for people getting on or off a bus. Be very careful when overtaking a bus or leaving a bus lane as you will be entering a busier traffic flow and the bus driver thinks he/she is at Le Mans. Do not pass between the kerb and a bus when it is at a stop UNLESS you’re unbelievably thin.

66 You should

• keep both hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear or sticking the finger up at yet another example of incompetent driving

• keep both feet on the pedals UNLESS you are trying to do a really cool trick to impress your friends to justify owning a BMX whilst in your 20’s.

• never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends. You’ll get abuse from motorists that confuse ‘a country drive’ with ‘Paris – Dakar Rally’ anyway.

• not ride close behind another vehicle UNLESS it’s slowed down just after overtaking you for a sudden turn or speed camera or police patrol car.

• not carry anything which will affect your balance or may get tangled up with your wheels or chain such as barbed wire, which MAY be the only thing that stops motorists passing so closely.

• be considerate of other road users, particularly blind and partially sighted pedestrians. Let them know you are there when necessary, for example, by ringing your bell if you have one. Try using common courtesy, which is an ancient craft that died out years ago.

67 You should

• look all around before moving away from the kerb, turning or manoeuvring, to make sure it is safe to do so. Give a clear signal to show other road users what you intend to do. This will be ignored.

• look well ahead for obstructions in the road, such as drains, pot-holes and parked vehicles so that you do not have to swerve suddenly to avoid them. Leave plenty of room when passing parked vehicles and watch out for doors being opened or pedestrians stepping into your path, particularly heavy users of mobile phones, the lemmings that they are.

• be aware of traffic coming up behind you. They know not what they are doing.

• take extra care near road humps, narrowings and other traffic calming features . They are supposed to improve road safety. In reality, they turn something as simple and easy as riding a bicycle into some form of gladiatorial combat and were designed by the person that devised the course for ‘Extreme Wipeout’.

• take care when overtaking. Wave to stationary traffic and smile to indicate you are passing them safely. This should cheer them up no end.

68 You MUST NOT

• carry a passenger unless your cycle has been built or adapted to carry one. Those carefree days are over, apparently.

• hold onto a moving vehicle or trailer UNLESS you are going for £250 on ‘You’ve been Framed’ or you live in Hill Valley.

• ride in a dangerous, careless or inconsiderate manner. The Daily Mail thinks you will anyway but ‘dangerous, careless or inconsiderate’ also describes their take on journalism.

• ride when under the influence of drink or drugs, including medicine UNLESS it’s quite nice. [Law RTA 1988 sects 24, 26, 28, 29 & 30 as amended by RTA 1991]

69 You MUST obey all traffic signs and traffic light signals. That means NOT breaking red lights. The wearing of a replica professional team kit does NOT make you immune from all traffic laws. You know you are doing wrong because of the self-righteous yet furtive look you always have when you’re doing it. FAILURE to comply means ALL OTHER ROAD USERS INCLUDING LAW ABIDING CYCLISTS and SOME OTHER PEOPLE I’VE JUST THOUGHT OF have the right to abuse you. [Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD reg 10(1)]

70 When parking your cycle

• find a conspicuous location where you think it can be seen and passers-by can ignore.

• use cycle stands or other cycle parking facilities wherever possible and do NOT let the vandalised bicycle already there with the kicked in wheels put you off in any way.

• do not leave it where it would cause an obstruction or hazard to other road users although they will find some reason to moan whatever you do.

• secure it well so that it will not fall over and become an obstruction or hazard UNLESS outside the Daily Mail offices (Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT)

71 You MUST NOT cross the stop line when the traffic lights are red. Some junctions have an advanced stop line to enable you to wait and position yourself ahead of other traffic. They will generally have motor vehicles waiting in it. [Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 36(1)]

Road junctions

72 On the left. When approaching a junction on the left, vehicles will turn in front of you, out of or into the side road. Just before you turn, check for undertaking cyclists or motorcyclists. Do not ride on the inside of vehicles signalling or slowing down to turn left despite the fact they just overtook you at speed.

73 Pay particular attention to long vehicles which need a lot of room to manoeuvre at corners. Be aware that drivers may not see you. They may have to move over to the right before turning left. Wait until they have completed the manoeuvre because the rear wheels come very close to the kerb while turning. Do not be tempted to ride in the space between them and the kerb. In fact, if you see a lorry indicating or making a turn just STOP for goodness sake. The World is a brighter place with you still in it.

74 On the right. If you are turning right, check the traffic to ensure it is safe, then signal and move to the centre of the road. Allow for BMW drivers that will still overtake you even in the middle of your manoeuvre. Wait until there is a safe gap in the oncoming traffic and give a final look before completing the turn. It may be safer to wait on the left until there is a safe gap or to dismount and push your cycle across the road. No-one is going to stop as motorists are always in a terrible hurry for some reason.

75 Dual carriageways. Remember that traffic on most dual carriageways moves quicker than the speed limit but it’s acceptable because they are all experts [in their own opinions] and when an accident occurs, it is clearly a problem with the road. When crossing wait for a safe gap and cross each carriageway in turn, like Mark Cavendish on MDMA and Lucozade. Take extra care when crossing slip roads. Bear in mind the Highways Agency don’t actually want you there at all, yet can’t put a proper segregated route in because that involves thinking and doing stuff.

76 Roundabouts can be hazardous ONLY if motorists are about and should be approached with care.

Roundabouts

77 You may feel safer walking your cycle round on the pavement or verge. If you decide to ride round keeping to the left-hand lane you should

• be aware that drivers may not easily see you as they will be tuning into a different station from Radio 2 as we’re all supposed to hate Chris Evans now.

• take extra care when cycling across exits. You may need to signal right to show you are not leaving the roundabout and that you exist

• watch out for vehicles crossing your path to leave or join the roundabout or do whatever they bloody well like

78 Give plenty of room to long vehicles on the roundabout as they need more space to manoeuvre. Do not ride in the space they need to get round the roundabout. It may be safer to stop and go to a nearby pub to wait until they have cleared the roundabout. And then a couple of other lorries after that.

Crossing the road

79 Do not ride across equestrian crossings, as they are for horse riders only. Do not ride across a pelican, puffin or zebra crossing. Dismount and wheel your cycle across EVEN if you are wearing a hooded top with the hood up smoking a B&H on a ‘Mountain Bike’ where only the wheels are working.

80 Toucan crossings. These are light-controlled crossings which allow cyclists and pedestrians to share crossing space and cross at the same time. They are push-button operated. Pedestrians and cyclists will see the green signal together. Cyclists are permitted to ride across and will inevitably get in the way of a pedestrian who will write to the local paper because they are a bloody stupid idea.

81 Cycle-only crossings. Very rare. Cycle tracks on opposite sides of the road may be linked by signalled crossings. You may ride across but you MUST NOT cross until the green cycle symbol is showing. Try to ignore the hatred simmering from the motorists you’ve stopped as you’ve added about 10 seconds on to their journey time. Do NOT forget to press the ‘Wait’ button again on the other side as courtesy to other cyclists who may be approaching. Somewhere. [Law TSRGD regs 33(2) & 36(1)]

82 Level crossings/Tramways. Take extra care when crossing the tracks (see Rule 306). You should dismount at level crossings where a ‘cyclist dismount’ sign is displayed. Then feel a little foolish when you see the replacement bus service pulling out from the station car park.

The next exciting installment is here

Last Tango in Parris

Journalist Carlton Reid has brought this to everyone’s attention on his brilliant website.

The title of this post refers to Matthew Parris, an ex-MP and columnist. In 2007 he wrote a column in the Times ranting against cyclists.

‘A festive custom we could do worse than foster would be stringing piano wire across country lanes to decapitate cyclists. It’s not just the Lycra, though Heaven knows this atrocity alone should be a capital offence; nor the helmets, though these ludicrous items of headgear are designed to protect the only part of a cyclist that is not usefully employed; nor the self-righteousness, though a small band of sports cyclists on winter’s morning emits more of that than a cathedral at evensong; nor even the brutish disregard for all other road users, though the lynching of a cyclist by a mob of mothers with pushchairs would be a joy to witness.’

That’s just the opening paragraph! He then carries on in a way that makes Jeremy Clarkson’s words read like a bedtime story involving kittens. To be fair, Mr Parris was probably unaware of the fact that hilarious country dwellers were stringing wire between trees and fence posts on bridleways to garrotte cyclists and horse riders (it certainly wasn’t to catch 5ft tall foxes). Thankfully these were, and are rare events but you have to ask what passes through the minds of these spineless, spiteful people to summon up such hatred through these words and deeds.

The article received over 200 complaints to the PCC and an apology followed.

Let’s fast forward to last week’s Spectator. Mr Parris discusses the Monsal Trail in the Peak District National Park. Four disused railway tunnels are being opened up to create a path with easier gradients for cyclists, horse riders and walkers allowing decent connections to other routes. Part of the funding is coming from Cycling England.

(Further reading about the trail can be found at this wonderful blog post from the Worthing Wanderer)

However, Mr Parris continues,

‘……. couldn’t cyclists themselves be more involved in the funding of Cycling England — some £160 million per annum? Cyclists have a strong sense of community and are good at organising (as I know to my cost, having once upset them). I would hazard a guess that as an overall group they do not represent a particularly disadvantaged section of society. They pay no road tax. Cyclists do already support a range of cycling organisations, local and national, out of their own pockets: why not this one, if they want it to continue?….’

Regular readers of this blog (and Carlton Reid’s website) will of course have spotted his cardinal error; Road Tax hasn’t existed for over 70 years and even then it was heavily subsidised. Cyclists have always contributed to road building through Central and Local Taxation, often contributing to the creation of conditions hostile to cyclists. As seasoned cycle campaigners know, cycling budgets at National and Council level are woeful. West Sussex County Council have just confirmed that there is no money in the pot this year for cycling due to all the recent pothole repairs and of course cuts, cuts, cuts, except where motoring is concerned. (Actually I’m glad they haven’t any money because there’ll be no more of this, this or this)

Mr Parris continues,

…at an ancient and historic copper mine I visited in neighbouring Cheshire two years ago, a group of volunteer enthusiasts have been clearing away rubble for many years, all unpaid and all in their spare time. Most cyclists are by definition fit, strong and healthy. Campaigning by cycling groups will have been part of the genesis of this Monsal Trail project. Why not involve campaigners in the work itself? Shifting rubble is not highly skilled; it would be fun to be involved. Walking and horse-riding groups, to all of whose members these tunnels are planned to open, could join in’

and then he enthuses,

‘… how to collect the money? Here, government can help co-ordinate: if cyclists were to consolidate their organisations into a sort of AA of cycling, a range of benefits — like using this trail, or public cycle-racks, or railway provision for cycles, or discounts in cycle shops, could be made dependent on showing the badge.’

The CTC has been around since 1878. They successfully campaigned for cyclists’ right to be on the road, and to use bridleways (years before the Mountain Bike). They offer free third party insurance to members, free legal assistance and discounts in cycle shops.  Above all, they have volunteers working across the country; People that fight in their spare time to open up trails, to get our voice heard in Highways Departments that couldn’t care less and to secure funding through whatever means.

All this for something so beautifully simple, previous generations did it without even thinking.

Volunteers have always been the backbone of cycling, from those that build and maintain Mountain Bike trails, to the Sustrans Rangers acting as custodians of the National Cycle Network, to the volunteer marshals at road and mountain bike events across the land, to all the campaign groups, to the devilishly handsome cycling blog writers to the venerable CTC.

In conclusion, Matthew Parris is nothing more than a misguided fool who needs to do more research. Maybe he should do a bit of volunteer work in the CTC offices. He might learn something.

London Cycle Superhighways

Two of the London Cycle Superhighways opened at the beginning of the week to a guarded response. Obviously a scheme like this (which cost £23million in total) is going to invoke a broad spectrum of emotions.

For the purposes of this blog post, any reference to these new routes will focus on CS7 which runs from Merton to the City. This is because when I lived in London for a while I used to cycle from Morden to Camden Town every day which would have taken in much of this new cycle route. I had no trouble on this route with motorists, partly because most of the time I was passing stationary traffic. It is, as you can imagine, a very busy route and therefore will feel intimidating to the novice cyclist.

Route_7_Superhighway_21.05.10

It is all too easy for the experienced cyclist [in the UK] to feel sceptical about the scheme and even easier to pick apart TfL’s Utopian vision of a carpet of blue filled with relaxed, happy cyclists. We know all too well the diabolical levels of infrastructure that exist already (and for which Local Authorities must hang their heads in shame). However, I would like to tentatively offer the following observations;

Some have criticised the fact that CS7 uses the A24, a main thoroughfare into Central London. I would imagine TfL did this for the following reasons:

  • If one of the aims was to create a modal shift from car to bicycle, putting this revised cycle lane on a major thoroughfare with cyclists perceived to be making better progress would assist in this shift.
  • If the ‘Superhighway’ was projected on a route taking in quieter residential roads, for example to the east of the A24, then all those people living to the west would have to make their way across the A24 to get to it. It is better for residential streets to feed into a cycle route. Also, if it is on a major road, it will pass more shops, schools, transport interchanges etc.

I’m pretty sure the cycle paths are blue to match those used in Copenhagen  (obviously the colour. Not the design and engineering standard). It’s pleasing that TfL have used their branding to keep it recognisable and simple for novice cyclists and although it’s flattering that Barclays saw the colour and thought that big banking could be associated with the humble, egalitarian bicycle, I sincerely hope this is not the beginning of some form of PFI initiative.

Although Transport for London (TfL) would have consulted extensively with the Boroughs, they must have consulted with cyclists at some point regarding the design and layout. I would like to know at what design stage this consultation with the end users took place. From experience, cycling groups generally see the plans when the construction work has already been programmed giving little or no scope for change. Although I’m sure TfL consulted form the start, it would be interesting to read what feedback they received purely for other councils and cycling groups to take note. (If you want to read about a consultation excerise that went well to cheer you up, please read here)

If it gets more people experiencing the pleasure and freedom that cycling brings than that’s wonderful as if they really are just tarted up ‘Crap Cycle Lanes’ then they should get loads more feedback on how to make them work. This would be fantastic as normally it is experienced cyclists that get consulted and even then only rarely. There needs to be a broader range of people giving feedback from all levels of cycling experience, all ages and ethnic origins.

Although there have been attempts at a London Cycle Network before with differing levels of success, I’d like to think of this latest venture as Cycling Infrastructure Version 1.0. Maybe there will be an upgraded version in the future that not only gives a fresh coat of blue paint but also a raised curb separating cyclists from traffic and pedestrians. Maybe the future version will tackle the issue of cars and vans parking in them (often lawfully, it must be said). Crucially, maybe a future version will give greater clarity at junctions with, dare I say it, PRIORITY (although that will probably come with Cycling Infrastructure Version 90.0).

In conclusion, I tentatively applaud Transport for London for at least giving it a shot and trying to be progressive. As long as they actively encourage and are transparent with feedback, learn how to listen and look to examples set in Copenhagen and Amsterdam we may see that cycling utopia yet. London and indeed the rest of the UK, has everything to gain from making this work and making it an exemplar.

For views from the front line, I recommend Real Cycling, London Cyclist, Crap Cycling & Walking in Waltham Forest or Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph.