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 🙂

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.

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.

Cycling to School

School days are the happiest days of your life apparently.

I remember being at First School when we were given cycling proficiency training. Some fire hose was laid out on the playground to recreate a T Junction and we learned how to cycle on the road. I did so well I received a copy of the Highway Code as a prize. That was in 1979.

In 1988 I decided to cycle to my Secondary School. Taking the school bus on its long circuitous route to get to the village where I lived was a soul destroying experience.  Above all I wanted the freedom to be with friends after school. The bicycle gave me that freedom. As I hadn’t cycled any distance for a while the weight had piled on a bit but I saved hard bought a Muddy Fox Courier and started to cycle the 7 miles to school. The weight fell off me and as I grew upwards and inwards my confidence and self belief grew which I badly needed as an adolescent. In 1989 I participated in the Grundig Mountain Bike World Challenge achieving a World ranking at the age of 16.  That year, I also cycled 100 miles in a day with two friends raising funds for Great Ormond Street Hospital. It was fun, but it hurt!

Let’s fast forward now to 2010. A London couple who let their children cycle to school by themselves have been warned they could be reported to social services unless they supervise the journey.

According to Road.cc, ‘today’s Daily Mail highlights the case of Oliver and Gillian Schonrock, who let their five year-old son and eight year-old daughter cycle the one-mile trip to school unaccompanied. They say it helps to teach the kids independence, self-confidence and responsibility.

But other parents and teachers at Alleyn’s Junior School in Dulwich are said to think the practice is irresponsible and dangerous. Head teacher Mark O’Donnell has told the Schonrocks that the school is obliged to consider the children’s safety and has a legal responsibility to refer the case to Southwark Council’s Children’s Services department if they fear the kids are being put at risk.

The children cycle on the pavement from their home in west Dulwich to the school. Their route takes them alongside roads that become busy with traffic during the school run. At the halfway point they cross a road where there is a lollipop lady on duty.

Mark O’Donnell said: “If a school feels a child in their care is at risk, they have a legal responsibility to notify the local authority. Is an eight year old responsible enough to come to school with a five year old and take responsibility when it comes to crossing busy roads? Or what would happen if the five year old has a tantrum?”

The Schonrocks say rules on child protection are to blame for the predicament they find themselves in. Mrs Schonrock, who as a girl took the bus to school from the age of four with her six year-old sister, said: “The question is do the government have the right to put an obligation on schools to not allow any level of risk whatsoever?”

London Mayor Boris Johnson today said the Schonrock’s should be applauded for showing faith in their children. In a column in the Daily Telegraph he said: “They have taken the sword of common sense to the great bloated encephalopathic sacred cow of elf and safety, and for this effrontery they are, of course, being persecuted by the authorities (who are now probably consulting a dictionary to see what encephalopathic means).

“If Mr and Mrs Schonrock have carefully assessed the route and considered the advantages and disadvantages, then they should overwhelmingly be given the benefit of the doubt and the freedom to make up their own minds.”

Although schools are not responsible for children on their journey to school, guidance from the Department for Children, Schools and Families says if a school “believes or suspects that a child may be suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm” then it must refer the case to social services.

Catherine McDonald, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Southwark Council, told the Mail: “As this is an independent school, it is for them to decide how they arrange transport to school with the parents of their pupils.

“However, if an independent school does contact us, we’d give them the same advice as we do to our own schools, that they should develop a school travel plan with parents and children so they can get to school safely and in a way that promotes healthy living and is good for the environment. This would include both cycling and walking.”

Cherry Allan, CTC Campaigns Information Co-ordinator told road.cc: “CTC is very disappointed to hear that Oliver and Gillian Schonrock’s decision to let their children cycle to school on their own has been described as “irresponsible”. All children should have the right to cycle to school: it allows them to travel quickly and independently through their local areas, providing not just autonomy, but a daily sense of achievement. To describe the Schronrock’s decision as irresponsible sends out a message that roads are for adults only, and undermines the health benefits of cycling to children – such as greater cardiovascular fitness and reduced levels of obesity – which far outweigh the risks.’

So there you have it. For what it’s worth I believe it is our duty to create safer streets for children to cycle in whether it’s through 20mph limits, segregated (and well designed for a change) cycle paths or redesigned streetscapes that are pleasant for the residents, as opposed to the rat runners. If all else fails, I’d simply stop all motor traffic between 8- 9am and 3-4pm so children can cycle or walk between school and home unhindered (and adults could improve their lives too). Then just watch the obesity levels plummet and the happiness levels soar.

Basically, adults need to bloody well grow up. At least the children are having a go.

I also think that encephalopathic means a disease of the brain. I love Boris Johnson!

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.

Cycling in the UK

Copenhagenize has written a blog post highlighting, or should I say sneering at, Vehicular Cyclists. For those not in the know, this is a style best illustrated [because I’m in the UK] by John Franklin in his book, Cyclecraft, whereby a bicycle holds a more prominent position in traffic to be seen – in effect to be treated as traffic. This instantly brings to mind every regular cyclist in Britain.

According to this thought provoking blog, Vehicular cyclists are ‘a small, yet vocal, group that is male-dominated, testosterone-driven and that lacks basic understanding of human nature. They expect that everyone should be just like them – classic sub-cultural point of view – and that everyone should embrace cycling in traffic and pretending they are cars. They are apparently uninterested in seeing grandmothers, mothers or fathers with children or anyone who doesn’t resemble then contributing to re-creating the foundations of liveable cities by re-establishing the bicycle as transport’. A little harsh I think and a massive disservice to all the men and women across the UK that campaign and fight for the rights of cyclists.

Because in the UK it is a fight. I believe that to be a cyclist in the UK you have to comprise:

One part Bloody Mindedness (for dealing with today’s road network, and in particular, its users) plus

Two parts Stoicism (for dealing with the options open to us which are often well meaning but nearly always badly designed) with

A smidgeon of Persecution Complex (for dealing with the constant feeling of being erased off a road network that cyclists and pedestrians have more right to).

The interesting point however is that he believes that vehicular cyclists are against cycling infrastructure of any kind. This is massively oversimplifying the issue and is wide of the mark for this simple reason; British Cycle Infrastructure is Utterly, Utterly, Utterly Diabolical. It is designed by people who don’t know anything about cycling but clearly know lots about squiggly lines and dismounting. People are already ripping into the new London Cycling Superhighways, but not because they don’t want the infrastructure. It’s because the designers honestly believed that painting the same crap blue would somehow change everything, whilst ignoring the issue of what actually makes a decent piece of cycling infrastructure work such as priority at junctions.

I would love to see Danish and Dutch style infrastructure here, I really would. I live by the sea and work by the sea with a 12 mile ride in between. I would have the golden opportunity to justify buying a Pashley Guv’nor to The Wife, I could throw my helmet into the sea whilst cackling like a maniac. Above all, I could really enjoy cycling again, as opposed to being part of the Rat Race. I know that Sustrans have created NCN2 between Brighton and Worthing which I could use but it’s nowhere near European standards.

The golden question is should we be really be campaigning for cycling facilities such as those best typified in Groningen as opposed to the constant struggle to maintain a presence on the roads? Should we be fighting for a European Directive on cycle facility design influenced by Denmark and the Netherlands? Should Cycle Campaigners be forging greater alliances with Masterplanners or pedestrian and wheelchair user groups along with movements such as Transition Towns to create more accessible and liveable towns and cities?

It can’t be any worse than the realm we find ourselves in where the car is king and the poor cycle paths are for the wretched serfs.

Crap Cycle Lane I

On Saturday I needed to run an errand so I unfolded my Brompton and decided to check out the new Findon to Worthing Cycle Route installed by West Sussex County Council. It runs along a single carriageway stretch of the A24 (which has a 40 mph limit being a suburb of Worthing). This ‘Shared Use Facility’ cost the local Council Tax payer an eye-watering £221,000 so surely for that kind of money it must be brilliant!

Alas, this is Britain dear Reader. I don’t know how they did it but yet again they made cycling look ponderous, dangerous to cyclist and pedestrian alike and a bit of a waste of time if you actually want to get anywhere.

Slow, apparently

Here is a stretch at the Southern end (facing back toward Worthing). Please note the slalom round the tree, the need to write ‘Slow’ at repeated intervals along the pavement (sorry, ‘Shared Use Facility’). Also, please note all the driveway entrances with loss of priority at these plus all the junctions. Meanwhile, the cars flash past regardless on a nice wide road which is what you need in an urban setting.

Russian Roulette. On a bike!

Here’s an interesting conundrum! Not only do cyclists have to give way but the exit to this petrol station is obscured by the hedge so you won’t know if a car is pulling out until they are on you (pardon the pun). You also have to give way for the entrance too (can’t be inconveniencing motorists now can we!) and then give way at the junction a bit further up, and again at the junction a bit further up………….

At least the trees are nice

This is a personal favourite. The Bus Shelter Slalom. Just pray that a pedestrian doesn’t step out to see why their bus is late! Did I mention that lovely wide road that’s perfect for cycling?

Of course, if you try cycling on the road now, you might get abuse for not using this dangerous dross that would make Evil Knievel think twice.

The path, despite being billed as the Findon – Worthing Cycle Route, actually fizzles out about a mile before Findon but the Council seems to think that just putting up an ‘End of Route’ sign will stop novice cyclists continuing on the pavement anyway.

This is one of my [many] pet hates regarding this type of facility – it encourages cyclists to use any pavement regardless of whether the Council has painted a bicycle symbol on it or not. Everyone else frowns, shakes their head and then complains to the local paper but you can’t blame novice cyclists for doing this – after all, if the Council have said it’s OK to cycle on a particular pavement (sorry, ‘Shared Use Facility’) then what’s wrong with cycling on all the others?

Motorists are happy because it gets bicycles off the roads allowing them to speed up which seems to be what people want in their built up areas.

Who would have thought that designing for something so simple could be so difficult? And this isn’t even the worst ‘Shared Use Facility’ in Worthing, but more on that another day.