Why People in the UK Don’t Cycle No 6 – British Cycle Infrastructure

Apparently, Brooks also dabbled in Surrealism whilst developing their prototypes before they settled on a traditional leather saddle.

According to Wikipedia,

‘Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur…’

‘As they [Surrealists] developed their philosophy, they believed that Surrealism would advocate the idea that ordinary and depictive expressions are vital and important, but that the sense of their arrangement must be open to the full range of imagination…’

Although the epicentre of the Surrealist movement is cited as Paris immediately following, and as a reaction to The Great War, I would argue that Highways Authorities in Great Britain in the late 20th/early 21st centuries are a worthy successor through their Surrealist installations across the land, never short on elements of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non-sequiturs.

Ceci n’est pas une cyclepath
(Pease Pottage, West Sussex)

One would have thought it simple to design for the bicycle. After all it’s so simple, a child can use it. A surrealist juxtaposition forms because Britain excels in making the most complicated mode of transport simple and the simplest modes of transport complicated.

Warrington Cycle Campaign started it’s always entertaining ‘Cycle Facility of the Month’ back in March 2001. They even have a book out first published in November 2007 (proceeds to CTC’s worthy Cyclists Defence Fund). The problem is that it’s a few years on and highways authorities across the land either still haven’t got to grips with the bicycle, or simply see the bicycle as an imposition to ‘progress’, or are utterly hostile to the bicycle based on prejudices that really shouldn’t be lurking in any professional environment. Local cycle campaign groups are only usually consulted when the plans are programmed for construction so even if they object it’s too late, but at least Officials can then say that they’ve consulted with those ‘cyclists’ whilst rolling their eyes and ticking another box.

No funny caption, just marvel at the surreal incompetence (from ‘Facility of the Month – January 2012)

When a new road is constructed, motorists are drawn to it because it offers speed, directness & quality of surface. It is often touted as the ‘solution’ to a problem that nobody seems guilty of creating but that doesn’t matter anymore because, thanks to the new road, the problem will never, ever occur again, apparently. When a new cycle path is constructed, cyclists shy away from it because they don’t need surrealism on the way to work or school. They are often ponderous, indirect and are often barely converted pavements with poor sight lines, overgrown vegetation and of course, pedestrians, who are probably wondering what they did to deserve such Hell.

There are four classifications of cycle infrastructure in Britain [as I see it based on observations at local cycle campaigning level]:

Dirt Cheap

Usually a ‘Town Centre’ route from an outlying suburb where you may get to your end destination in under three days – Directional signs only. Inexplicable Dropped Kerbs also fall into this category.

Cheap and You Should Consider Yourselves Grateful

Usually a ‘Town Centre’ route from an outlying suburb where you may get to your end destination in under a day – Combination of directional and ‘Cyclists Dismount’ signs, some converted pavements and on road cycle-paths (paint only) – some of it possibly paid for by Section 106 money if it runs past a new development. Tactile paving is provided to catch bicycle tyres and trip the elderly (even more lethal in snow). This is to fulfill standards that the designer may have read. These facilities are defined by lycra clad experienced cyclists who correctly and pointedly use the road next to it, often armed with cameras to record abuse from motorists who think they should be using something that Salvador Dali couldn’t have thought up even after a bottle of ‘White Lightning’. Some ‘safe routes to schools’ often fall into this category – great ideas but the children still have to dress so they are visible from Neptune and are no match for a Land Rover containing children that are more important, apparently.

Ridiculously Expensive [According to Comments Section in Local Newspaper].

This is generally a scheme that has had money donated from an external source such as Sustrans. This fact of course goes straight over the heads of local newspaper letter writers and Wetherspoons Pub Frequenters who never let things like cold, hard facts get in the way of prejudice. Schemes vary from more expensive ‘Town Centre Links’ as mentioned above, ‘Railway Station links’ where at the end of a hard ride we are supposed to have a post-coital cigarette at seeing the amount of cycle parking provided (some of it under cover), converted paths through parks and lightly converted canal paths with strange gates at either end looking like the entrance to Narnia complete with dog walkers. Also Beeching-era railway lines that make great cycle paths accidentally.

F*ck me, HOW MUCH!!

The above phrase is often spoken by both cyclist and member of the general public, but for differing reasons. Still far, far cheaper than a road scheme, this is where we enter Grand Designs such as ‘Cycle Superhighways’ where painting the previous three categories a shade of Barclays blue creates continuity and changes it magically for the better for some reason. This is often the most tragic of categories as so much is often promised and some political will has been found before the cold hands of compromise and lobbying strangle the usefulness out of it, sometimes with the worst possible outcomes. This category also includes well used segregated bi-directional cycle paths that are in reality for unbelievably narrow people or the population of Lilliput, often going from somewhere to nowhere because they aren’t part of a decent, coherant network. These are generally routes that people currently use and would use because they follow the desire lines for the commuting public. As a result, they are generally heavily trafficked and therefore the stakes (and costs) are considerably higher. A lot of the money would have been spent on Feasibility Studies alone.

And we still haven’t mastered junctions.

British Cycle Infrastructure is the result of the end users being treated like flies on a cow – consistently being swatted away as tiny annoyances and occasionally being given dung to feast on (that’s also cheap to purchase). If you look at a Dutch Streetscape, you are often under no illusion what local and national Government thinks of the bicycle. It is also easy to conclude what local and national British Governments think by looking at our streetscapes and this is yet another factor which, to the general public, makes the act of riding a bicycle as appealing as Badger Baiting with Peter Andre. This is yet another reason that makes the simple act of riding a bicycle continue to be seen as a peripheral, specialist and potentially dangerous activity (no movement ever got anywhere telling the general public how they should be feeling. If it looks dangerous, then that, as they say, is that).

Having said that, I do wish to acknowledge at this point that we do have excellent cycle training and trainers in this country doing invaluable work (often for free). I am making the argument that infrastructure done correctly would amplify their efforts a great deal. It’s also worth acknowledging the biggest irony that, thanks to organisations like CTC, there are reasonably good cycle infrastructure guidelines already out there.

I leave you with a film I made for the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain (our AGM is later this month – be there!!); the first three clips were shot on a David Hembrow Study Tour of Assen and Groningen whilst the final clip is of my everyday commute between Worthing and Brighton. When I arrived at the ferry port in the Netherlands, to make a train connection, I cycled the 37km from Hook of Holland to Rotterdam with a friend without consulting any maps or GPS and without hi-viz, helmets, hassle, fear or intimidation. Now think about the last time you rode a bicycle in the UK. Yes, surreal isn’t it?

Please also see:

Why People in the UK Don’t Cycle No 1: Class

Why People in the UK Don’t Cycle No 2: Culture of Fear

Why People in the UK Don’t Cycle No 3: DANGER!

Why People in the UK Don’t Cycle No 4: Driving is Easier

Why People in the UK Don’t Cycle No 5: Bicycle Maintenance

Advertisements

Brighton Rock

Looking west along Old Shoreham Road

A little while ago, I went for a lunchtime stroll with the always cheery and knowledgable Mark Strong (Professional transport Consultant who tweets at @ibikebrighton). My day job is just round the corner from a new cycle path being constructed in Brighton & Hove and, being unashamed cycle infrastructure nerds, we decided to check it out (I’m going to be 40 this November). Firstly, I’ll show you the plans that formed the consultation.

Here is the Eastern (Brighton) end – BHASVIC is the abbreviation of Brighton, Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College

And now the Western (Hove) end

Western (Hove) End

You will note that the ‘Scheduled  Junction Improvements’ were missing. Junction solutions are the eternal Holy Grail to British Engineers – Like trying to find a Wetherspoons pub that doesn’t contain someone with an opinion on UK immigration laws. However, it must be reiterated that these were consultation documents so too much detail would have created the Devil indeed.

Here is the artists impression..

I like the impressions above because, unlike other artists impressions I’ve seen, there’s a decent amount of honesty here; the pictures aren’t afraid to contain cars and the width of the cycle path in the diagram is set at 1.5m (which is actually the bare minimum you will encounter and not often). It also doesn’t try to deceive by suddenly showing billions of cyclists and pedestrians, a developing ‘cafe culture’ or a water trough for unicorns.

Old Shoreham Road was the original main east-west thoroughfare for Brighton & Hove until a new bypass was built to the north (A27) demoting the Old Shoreham Road to the A270. Being Britain, no effort was made to reduce traffic flow and as a result, as you head further west, it remains a nasty urban dual carriageway before rejoining the new A27 at Southwick. This means that congestion (particularly at peak) is high, especially with the infamous school run that bedevils all British conurbations. This road might be considered an ‘easy win’ in infrastructure terms being wide, as former trunk roads are. Some [‘expert’ British] cyclists might say that this was an excuse to have no infrastructure at all but, from experience, motorists tended to drive this section of road in an ethereal, vague, ‘wait a moment. Are you sure those brownies contained just chocolate’ way, particularly when it splits again to two lanes for a junction with no need to widen the approach.

This new cycle path is an attempt by the Council to link schools and colleges along the route with the now infamous segregated route on The Drive (where an attempt by the Council to rip it out was made a wee while ago) which links the seafront (NCN2) to the South Downs (I’ve always loved this website about cycling the South Downs Way – well worth a look).

Another remarkable thing about this scheme is that the Council went for a complete instead of partial road closure to speed up the works programme. As you can imagine, the local newspaper comments pages were full of fire and brimstone. I was able to complete my ‘I-Spy Book of Anti-Bicycle Bullshit’ with wondrous ease with such cheeky and rib-tickling gems as ‘why are we wasting taxpayers money?’ (Despite Sustrans putting up £330,000), ‘they are a menace’, ‘I nearly got knocked over by one this morning’, ‘they don’t pay road tax’ etc etc. Really, if these people went for a bike ride to go and buy their Vehicle Excise Duty and poured as much creative vitriol commenting on similar stories involving motorists where people and objects actually do get hit, often with graver consequences, they might realise why ‘they’ do it so much. Here is a plan of what happened next..

IT'S MAYHEM I TELL YOU! APPARENTLY.

Anyway, back to this lunchtime stroll (Heading west from the Dyke Road junction)

Above is where Chanctonbury Road meets Old Shoreham Road. There is already bicycle permeability here. With bollards as standard.

Setting out. At this point, the cycle path is 1.75m

Above is where the cycle path meets a junction to a residential street. Very tight radii to prevent fast cornering. Cyclists will have priority.

Above is a bridge where the road narrows and the cycle path and pavement merge to become shared use. The width of the path at this point is 2.34m. My primary concern is the fact that cyclists speed will be above average as they head down the hill. However, the sight lines are very good and space has been taken away from the main carriageway even at this point.

Work hasn’t started yet on the other side but significant space has been taken from the main carriageway.

Above are two pictures of a junction treatment. There is just a simple bicycle symbol and no other indication that it is a cycle path running across the face. The junction is on a gradient so the kerb is flush for cyclists using the cycle path and is elevated from the main carriageway. Whilst Mark and I were discussing the junction a car pulled out turning left and drove over the raised kerb to cut the corner. Oh well, it’s his suspension.

As usual trees become before people in Britain. As you can see however, there is ample room for Mark.

At this point the path is 2.4m. Bear in mind this is with flow and not bi-directional (I have seen bidirectional cycle lanes this width and narrower in Britain). You can even start to imagine young students riding side by side here when it’s completed.

I think there is much to applaud here. I have said before that when you look at a Dutch streetscape, it tells you exactly what local and national Government thinks of the bicycle as a transport mode – and exactly the same for a British streetscape too with narrow in-the-gutter-where-you-belong cycle paths, circuitous routes, vague signage and a constant feeling for the end-user that the designer and Government clearly hate them.

This scheme however has taken a lion share of space from motorists as opposed to pedestrians and sends out a subliminal message ‘we take the bicycle seriously here’.

I shall update you with more pictures as things progress, focussing on the other bete noir of British designers, ‘The Bus Stop’, as well as junctions as I would love to see what solutions they have in mind. Below is a picture of a junction I took in Assen last September whilst on the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain Study Tour. It shows a separate bicycle green phase in all directions (and bicycle riders making a right turn don’t even need to enter the junction). Just a hint.

NOTE: This is NOT Brighton & Hove

Which reminds me. For those that still think they can comment on Dutch Infrastructure from Google Streetview, David Hembrow apparently still has places on his Study Tour for May. I severely advise anyone involved in infrastructure design and policy implementation to go and see how it could and should be done.

Fragile Thoughts

Funnily enough, the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain would be happy to not see segregation here..

For a while now I have been in a bit of a quandary as what to write about, not because I had run out of ideas but because at the precise moment I wanted to jot something down, someone else would write a jolly nice blog post or an incident would occur that made me stop to reflect and underlined what had been at the back of my mind already.

It started with Joe Dunckley and his wonderful blog, ‘At War With The Motorist’ when in this post he wrote the following;

‘There was a bit of a monkey fight over the nascent Cycling Embassy of Great Britain recently thanks to an article by Carlton Reid on Road.cc (since rebutted by Jim).  Given that the organisation in question has only had a preliminary meeting and has not even launched yet, I don’t think it’s worth responding to any of the speculation and fantasies that have been flying around.  But the episode revealed something fascinating about the way the minds of veteran British cycling campaigners work.

They are all constantly in a state of abject fear that cycling is just about to be banned.

I found it very difficult following all of the comment threads on and about the Road.cc articles.  Cycling Embassy supporters kept being accused of wanting cyclists to be banned from the roads, but I could never trace the accusation back to anything relevant that the accused people had actually said.  And then I stumbled upon a fabulous forum thread that started with a very simple two sentence post, and it all fell into place:

‘Cycling Embassy of Great Britain’ have it VERY wrong
IMO. Their way will lead to cyclists being banned from Britain’s roads.

The Embassy folk and other onlookers were as baffled as I when it came to the origin of this “ban” theme in the comments.  But I now realise that many of our venerable vehicular cycling campaigners are thinking about cycling bans every second of the day.  Everything they see and do, the first question they ask themselves is: will this lead to cycling being banned in any way?  They can’t get out of bed in the morning without first contemplating what effect such an action might have on the likelihood of a cycling ban……………..’.

Interesting thoughts indeed. From personal local campaigning experience I can partially vouch for this view. After being presented by the Council with a hilarious ‘safe route to school’ involving more dismounts than a Grand National for drunk jockeys, we would say how we would suffer abuse from motorists who would assume that that’s where we should be after this piece of infrastructure that owed more to abstract art than cycling was built. The Council would ignore everything we said as the work was already programmed and we were actually looking at the final ‘Signed Off’ design. But at least now they could claim that they had ‘consulted with cyclists’.

To me, this is creating an even greater nightmare vision portrayed than the recent naysayers – that cyclists get eventually shoveled off the roads onto the crap that has been built already and continues to be built whether CTC, LCC, Cycle Nation, the Cycling Embassy or the Abstract Art Appreciation Society want it or not. All this debate seems to be carrying on based on a premise that Councils have suddenly downed tools and stopped building this dangerous, unfit for purpose rubbish or that they could be stopped at any time, which is equally optimistic at best.

What the Embassy is hoping to create is a decent mix in more ways than one. It will never be an Embassy intention to cede a cyclists right to road and it’s not an Embassy ambition to see a fully segregated cycle path network everywhere either because that’s silly and isn’t happening anywhere else in the World, including the Netherlands. We do believe in Dutch, and other Global best practice, infrastructure standards being applied that supersede the current guidelines alongside new approaches to traffic planning & movement around towns and cities. We feel that this is just one measure but a fundamental one that needs to occur to lift cycling from something viewed as a dangerous and specialist activity by the masses to an everyday activity that also happens to benefit the masses.

The recent exchanges of words about the Embassy from journalist Carlton Reid and Cycle Nation ended amicably enough, and as Embassy ambitions slowly become clarified there should be no reason why a spirit of amicability and collaboration shouldn’t continue (especially as I own an ipayroadtax cycling jersey). However, it made me consider just how fragile the house of cycle campaigning seemed to me. As if by magic, a short article cropped up on Velo Mondial that ended with the following,

‘….The reason why Velo Mondial highlights this article is because the candidate in New York sends the strong signal that stand alone cycling policy is vulnerable. When cycling is not embedded in a wider policy of sustainable mobility politicians can easily use a cycle path in their negative campaigning. A path is easily destroyed so politicians can have a field day promising just that. Cycling policy needs to find itself in a framework of policy ambitions a city should have regarding economic growth, social cohesion and environmental objectives. As long as that has not happened, cycling policy will be under threat in the years to come’.

The BBC picked up on the £22 million spent in Bristol and the City Council are defending their record. I have no doubt that Bristol Cycle Campaign, along with CTC Right to Ride & Sustrans Reps did their damndest to get the money spent correctly. However, I think the whole premise was wrong. Let me explain, or rather I’ll let Geoff explain,

[from road.cc]

‘Conservative councillor, Geoff Gollop, said the new cycle routes had been created at the expense of motorists.

He told the BBC: “The Cycling City initiative brought in match-funding which has delivered new cycling routes but these have largely been achieved at the expense of the majority of road users – by reducing road space or capacity.

“Whilst we recognise the merits of promoting cycling as a leisure activity for the individual – delivering personal health benefits and helping to improve the environment for all – this form of travel is unlikely in the near future to be a major means of commuting.

“We do not believe the £22m project can be said to have been successful even in its own terms.”

This to me typifies the problem. Instead of the act of riding a bicycle being treated as transport getting a deserving share of the transport spend, £22 million is presented as a stand alone (but welcome nonetheless) boost to try and shoehorn cycle-specific projects around the car-centric infrastructure that already exists. Furthermore £22 million sounds like a lot of money. It is a lot of money. But as road.cc Editor Tony Farrelly commented,

‘Another comparison would be the £1bn overspend on widening the M25 I think the Public Accounts committee used the word “wasted” to describe that one. All the money spent on cycling over the past few years in this country doesn’t even add up to that one item in the roads budget.’

£22 million is just a headline grabbing figure in the great scheme of things. That anything was built and that new cyclists in Bristol were attracted at all should be considered a miracle when one considers, for example, the consultancy fees that probably leeched funds away.

Being a cycle campaigner in the UK is a bit like sitting in a game of poker where you know you are holding all the best cards and easily deserving of far more chips. However the opponents keep pulling aces out time and time again, barely concealing their cheating and changing the rules as they go along.

We all know that cycling is greener, more economic & healthier but we’re made to feel that this is somehow blocking the UK’s progress to becoming greener, more economic and healthier.

One of the aims I had when establishing the Embassy was to stick to Central Government and to point out and keep pointing out that riding a bicycle has implications and societal benefits that cover lots of departments beyond transport. If we don’t join the fray, then an activity that was commonplace in fairly recent memory will continue to be regarded as a stand alone pastime to be abused by Council Highways Departments and ignored by 97% of the population. And they barely know what they’re missing anymore.

A Local Group for Local People

This never happens

WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS OPTIMISM

On Wednesday night I attended a very productive Worthing Cycle Forum. It’s wonderful to see such cycling enthusiasm regardless of the loss of daylight hours and weather that has been inclement to say the least. What was also gratifying was the mix of people there; we had representatives from local council, the County Cycling Officer, campaigners, ‘civilian’ cyclists and even representation from Worthing’s Youth Council.

In this post I wish to outline how I went about re-establishing a cycle campaign group in Worthing (population: 100,000) and where we are now. The reason I wish to share this with you is that, with funding and knowhow for cycling (if there was any in the first place in the DfT) being thrown to the regions, it may inspire some Lo Fidelity Readers to try and get the ball rolling in their areas, or breathe new life into what’s already there. The money that’s potentially coming our way obviously doesn’t compare to Philip Hammond’s Big Money For Big Roads For Big Business Strategy That’s Very Big (or BMFBRFBBSTVB if you like) and could be hoovered up by bus companies and other ‘sustainable’ transport interests if we don’t get heard at a local level.

After moving  to Worthing in August 2007, I did a bit a bit of research into what local cycle campaign groups were about and found the website of one that hadn’t been updated since about 2001. I decided to establish a group called Worthing Revolutions. It was decided that we add an ‘s’ to make ‘Revolutions’ as ‘Revolution’ would sound a bit too, well, Revolutionary for Worthing. The inaugural meeting was in early 2008.

The person who created the original group turned out to be a very nice chap called Anthony Cartmell. The reason the original campaign group had fallen a bit by the wayside was due to work commitments and he was raising a young family (which ironically is where I’m at now). He is CTC through and through and even created their website. He was welcomed back on board (even doing a sterling job of creating our new website) along with others that were to form a core of regular volunteers. Amongst the volunteers were Sustrans and CTC representatives, but we were also fortunate to get the Borough Council Cycling Champion on board almost from the start (and has barely missed a meeting since).

Worthing Revolutions meets every month in a hotel bar with ample cycle parking outside. We wanted it to be an informal chat about cycling and a review of any cycling stories that had made the local press. That’s where our story could have ended but I didn’t want it to become another campaign group that just met up over a pint without being consulted on anything until it was too late.

We created the Worthing Cycle Forum in 2009 which I chaired. It was our ambition from the start to keep it open to the public. This was because [from experience] I had seen to many Forums disappear behind closed doors where councillors would listen and then ignore everything cyclists said but could now claim that at least they had ‘consulted’ with them. We wanted to keep accountability and transparency. This is where having a councillor on board from the start helped. We were able to not only get a regular booking in the Town Hall, but also awarded a small amount of Council funds to print leaflets and posters to promote the first event. We invited all agencies with an interest in cycling along; Sussex Police, local NHS Trusts, Schools and Town & County Councillors. The NHS couldn’t send anyone because their representative that dealt with such matters was off ‘long term sick’. I’ll let the irony of that sink in.

We now have consistent support from Worthing Borough Council and Simone Makepeace (ex-CTC employee and very knowledgeable West Sussex County Cycling Officer). We have developed a wish list of infrastructure we would like to see in the town and next year we will be holding monthly rides to conduct photo audits of things that work or don’t work (and why). These will end in a pub because I started the group and because I bloody well said so. Worthing Revolutions still meets every month and acts as a steering group for the Forum.

The point of all this is that The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club believes that it is imperative that cyclists of all disciplines and ages engage with all local agencies such as councillors, local NHS Trusts, School and the Police. Not only does it get a dialogue about cycling going, but it should become a two-way street, where cyclists should get consulted about future property and highways developments in their locality. It means cyclists will get a greater say in how Section 106 money is spent. With further spending cuts on the horizon, cyclists are going to have to learn to shout very loud at local level. It must be said that if there isn’t much in the way of local development in your area, there won’t be as much money floating around in the form of Section 106. We’re very lucky in Worthing to have large developments taking place where things like cycle parking and infrastructure are [I believe] part of the planning conditions. Above all, developers want to open a dialogue with our Cycle Forum as its pointless providing what they think are decent facilities that no-one uses.

It would be far more advantageous for a wider range of cycling views to get involved in local matters as opposed to the older gentleman of the vehicular persuasion (that normally turn up at cycle forums and into which age range I am rapidly heading). To be fair, they are dedicated people and their experience is needed. The problem is that through no fault of their own they don’t understand what the novice cyclist really wants and cycling levels won’t just pick up again as though the country has woken up from a long collective bout of amnesia. Above all, we must not be afraid to speak with local politicians and agencies. More often than not, they’re reasonable people and you are after all fighting for the same thing; a better place to live.

Phew! That’s my personal view on a local level. My National Plan will follow shortly…

Nice Cycle Lane No 1

Signage at each end of the Prom

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club believes that it has become a bit maudlin as of  late. To brighten the mood a little, I strolled in to Worthing Town Centre last Saturday with The Wife and The Boy and I thought I’d take a few photos for you to show a traffic free shared use facility that works. This is thanks to  a surprisingly positive and progressive Worthing Council, the brilliant volunteers in the cycle campaign group and of course the considerate cyclists and pedestrians of Worthing. Alas, the weather was feeling very maudlin so please believe me when I say that Worthing does actually look very nice when you chuck a bit of sunshine on it.

Above is the prom toward the western end looking east. The lines you can see are the original cycle path which was removed after a pedestrian sustained brain damage after colliding with a cyclist in 1994. The council had to pay £100,000 in damages and cycling was banned. It was a regrettable incident, make no mistake, but could you imagine if cars were banned from stretches of road after a death or serious injury?

We’re getting closer to the town centre now. The Cycle Campaign Group I established 2 years ago successfully argued that shared use in this instance would be better than reinstating the cycle path. This is because it was felt that a marked path would be too narrow – certainly too narrow for leisurely family cycling. In the photo above, please note the fact that in some places the prom is wider than the road that runs alongside it so there was no reason why cyclists and pedestrians couldn’t mingle quite happily. We also felt that if there was a marked path here it would increase the scope for conflict – it wouldn’t stop pedestrians drifting into it, or toddlers toddling into it. Above all it was felt that it would push speeds up as cyclists of a more vehicular bent would see it as their territory and woe betide anyone that strolls into their path. The local paper (Worthing Herald) tried to stir things up (sorry, ‘promote active debate’) printing letters promising an apocolypse if cycling were ever reinstated. It was if they were secretly hoping to report on a 19 bike pile-up. As a campaign group, we remained calm, stated that the incident in 1994 was regrettable but not commonplace and thousands have been killed and injured on our roads since then. Above all, we did our best to promote considerate cycling (even getting bells made with our website address on to hand out to lucky cyclists).

A couple of these signs were put up on the backs of beach huts that face onto the prom. It is to cover all bases from a Local Authority Health & Safety point of view. Toward the bottom it says, ‘Consider wearing a helmet and wearing conspicuous clothing’. One of the gratifying things I’ve noticed since I moved to Worthing is that, not only is there an above average amount of cyclists in the town, but hardly any of them wear helmets or high-viz. Sheffield Cycle Chic came down to the seaside earlier on this year and this fantastic post of happy cyclists in Worthing is well worth a look.

I just like the fact that they put shared use signs on everything, historical or otherwise! As I write this, I can happily report that there have been no  incidences, serious or minor. Every time I take a stroll along the prom [in fairer weather] I only see happy cyclists mixing it up with pedestrians, wheelchair users and mobility scooters. A cycle hire firm has opened up at the eastern end and Councillors have reported that they are doing very good business indeed.

The Eastern end of the prom is being developed and will link the prom with the Worthing to Brighton stretch of National Cycle Network Route 2. Our campaign group was even consulted on the design! NCN 2 is a Sustrans route that is supposed to stretch right the way along the South Coast (Folkestone to Penzance I believe). And that is where we shall stop before we get maudlin again.

So What Do We Do Now?

A wonderfully apt sign in Blackheath, Surrey

WARNING: CONTAINS STRANGE SEXY TALK (Strange in that it came from an Englishman)

Had the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club started 25 years ago, it would have been quite a quiet, pleasing and delightfully tatty newsletter with articles about such exotic things as that new Mountain Bike fad or trying to understand Moultons or maybe a recommended cycle tour to Glastonbury.

Nowadays, the casual reader might be forgiven for thinking that cycling is facing the end of its very existence. Thanks to technological advancement of the Internet, every day seems to bring a new horror story requiring  journalists and blog writers to constantly downgrade their forecasts and dispositions from ‘bad’ to ‘’catastrophic’.

Before we begin today’s sermon, it needs reiterating that the end of the World is not nigh for cycling and never will be. Like sex, cycling is too fun, it gets you hot and sweaty (if you like it fast), it makes you more alive and sexier the more you do it, it gets you to where you want to go and, being cheap, it is a filthy, slutty transport mode that will never be disciplined (which is why a few repressed British citizens don’t like the idea of it). Phew!….erm….forgive me! All that smutty talk aside, let’s look at the Britain we find ourselves in;

 

CTC

From their website

CTC Today

Today CTC has around 60,000 members encompassing all ages and types of cyclists with elected representation at national and local level backed by a professional staff.

CTC provides a wide range of activities and services designed to enhance the riding opportunities for existing cyclists and make it easier for new entrants to take up cycling. These include CTC Cyclists Helpline for advice on all cycling matters, local groups with a huge range of rides, local and national events. Our services have been refined by thousands of cyclists to make sure they are exactly what you need to get enjoyment and security whether you ride 100 miles or 100 yards. In particular third party insurance and legal aid are free to all members. CTC also offers a wide range of insurance and public liability products tailored to the needs of cyclists, employers, clubs and associations, cycle hire centres etc. If you are not out on your bike, the members’ magazine, Cycle, is free six times a year and sets your imagination free to plan your next ride. Search the site for lots more

CTC has campaigned for cyclists’ rights throughout its existence. Major successes include the development of the National Cycling Strategy and representing the cyclists’ voice in the countryside, protecting the right to ride on roads, paths, trails and towpaths. The CTC’s Right to Ride Network has over 500 accredited local representatives throughout the UK and Ireland working for all cyclists.

In 1936 CTC created a first cycling proficiency scheme in response to increasing cyclists’ casualties at the time. This was adopted as a national programme run by RoSPA in 1948 and has been in use almost ever since. Today CTC is at the forefront of a next generation of cycle training initiatives enabling people to cope with the conditions of today.

What we are aiming for

CTC is committed to a vibrant and broad base that encompasses all sectors including offroad and adventurous cycling, sport and leisure. CTC believes that all cyclists must defend all elements of the existing road and trail network as safe and comfortable places to ride, so the diversity of cycling can be maintained. We use the phrase “Making cycling enjoyable, safe and welcoming for all” to summarise our aspirations.

Being a member and ex-employee, I’ll always have great affection for CTC. However, it’s that last paragraph that I have issues with. It seems to completely ignore the soaring rates of car use that have occurred over the last few decades. You can train people all you like, but if a road looks dangerous, it counts for nothing. I have a few hair-raising moments on my commute every week and I’ve raced Mountain Bikes at World Cup level and have thousands of leisurely miles under my tyres, just as you probably have, dear reader.

CTC is a membership organization made up of very experienced cyclists that haven’t a clue how to project themselves to the general public. They have voluntary regional representatives (Right to Ride reps) who diligently turn up to every local cycle meeting and Council Forum, correctly berating councils for trying to shovel cyclists off the roads onto poorly designed infrastructure but instead pushing for vehicular cycling provision that you know no novice in their right mind is going to use so back to square one.

Sustrans

From their website

Sustrans makes smarter travel choices possible, desirable and inevitable. We’re a leading UK charity enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day. We work with families, communities, policy-makers and partner organisations so that people are able to choose healthier, cleaner and cheaper journeys, with better places and spaces to move through and live in.

It’s time we all began making smarter travel choices. Make your move and support Sustrans today.

We’re a catalyst – we make smarter travel choices possible.

We campaign – we make smarter travel choices desirable.

We influence – we make smarter travel choices inevitable.

All stirring stuff until you realise that their solutions often bring pedestrians and cyclists into direct conflict with no space ceded by the motor car. When their paths work, they are very, very good. However, more often then not, they don’t and are in fact pavements. This creates a further problem because when a cycle route inevitably peters out on a pavement doesn’t mean that a novice cyclist is then going to rejoin the road. They will simply continue to use any pavement, whether the council has painted a bicycle symbol on it or not there by creating further conflict.

British Cycling

From their website

British Cycling is the National Governing Body for cycling in Great Britain whose aim is to inspire participation in cycling as a sport, recreation and sustainable transport through achieving worldwide success. British Cycling manages all elite aspects of the sport including events and performances at GB level and governs the development of cycle sport in England. It also represents Great Britain at UCI, the World Governing Body for Cycling, which oversees the sport at an international level.

British Cycling also provides essential services to the Home Country Governing Bodies in Scotland and Wales, the Scottish Cycling Union (SCU) and the Welsh Cycling Union (WCU) who are involved in the promotion and development of cycling at all levels including the focus on the Commonwealth Games. British Cycling provides essential services to these governing bodies including the administration of membership, licences and insurance as well as providing strategic guidance and support on all aspects of cycling.

British Cycling is entering an unprecedented period of expansion in the run up to London 2012 through increased funding from UK Sport, Sport England and commercial partnerships and will drive a real and tangible legacy for cycling beyond 2012. The legacy has to be one of an increased volunteer workforce and a large British Cycling membership base. Full details of British Cycling’s Whole Sport Plan 2009-2013 will be announced over the coming months.

British Cycling has achieved much in cycle sport and has much to be proud of. However, although they mention sustainable transport, they are to everyday cycling what the X-Factor is to tasteful discretion.

It would be easy to paint a depressing picture of where to go from here, now that Cycling England is to be disbanded in March 2011. But Cycling England was always on shaky foundations being a Quango that could be held at arms length by ministers. I also acknowledge that I’ve glossed over a lot of good works achieved by organisations such as CTC and Sustrans. However, what can’t be denied is the relentlessly low modal share that cycling has had for decades. The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club would like to tentatively put forward the following ideas;

A Non-Vehicular Union with organisations such as CTC, Sustrans, Living Streets and Disability Groups given representation. There should also be representation from the cycle industry, health professionals and architects with any interest in streetscape design and public transport interchanges. There needs to be firm partnerships struck with the Fietsberaad and other European partners. There has to be better infrastructure guidelines set with less conflict between non-vehicular modes of transport. There must be a push for lower speed limits in towns and cities with reallocation of road space where necessary. We shouldn’t be creating crap facilities for cyclists anymore. We should be creating decent facilities for people that don’t know they’re cyclists or pedestrians yet.

As I’ve written before, the public won’t necessarily support an exclusively cycling campaign. But they will support something that benefits them as pedestrians, potential cyclists and even motorists.  

Above all there needs to be a relentless education of ministers and, in the spirit of Big Society, decent well honed campaigns with volunteers including handsome cycling bloggers standing up and being counted.

These are early rough thoughts obviously and more will be added.  But anything that gets a debate going is better than doing nothing. Which worryingly is what seems to be happening. Whatever happens next is either going to be fascinating or infuriating.

Make Hammond History

Big Business People Doing Important Big Businessy Things. They need Big Business Infrastructure. Like that Big Business Flipchart. For Big Business People

Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond MP announced big plans for transport infrastructure spending.

Along with the eight schemes announced by the Chancellor last week, work will therefore begin on a total of 24 schemes as a result of the Department for Transport’s spending review settlement.

The schemes given the green light today, subject to statutory processes, will deliver major upgrades to relieve congestion at the following locations either through widening or managed motorways schemes:

– M60 Junctions 8 – 12
– M1 Junctions 32 – 35a
– M60 Junctions 12 – 15
– M1 Junctions 39 – 42
– M62 Junctions 18 – 20
– M25 Junctions 5 – 6/7
– M25 Junctions 23 – 27
– M6 Junctions 5 – 8
– A556 Knutsford – Bowdon

The following key local infrastructure projects were also confirmed, subject to a best and final offer from local authorities:

– A new single carriageway bypass which will ease congestion in Sefton and improve access to the region’s motorway network;

– An integrated package of sustainable transport improvements in Ipswich including improved bus facilities and walking and cycling routes;

– Improvements to M5 J29, east of Exeter, providing access to new housing and employment areas;

– A bypass to the north of Lancaster, connecting the port of Heysham to the M6;

– Improvements on the A57 east of M1 J31, near Todwick;

– A new road in Taunton to provide additional cross-town capacity and access to areas of brownfield land; and

– A new bus station and associated transport improvements in Mansfield.

In addition, the Transport Secretary announced a pot of over £600m of funding for further local authority projects. Local authorities will be invited to bid for this funding over the next few months. Councils will be challenged to consider the cost, scope and possibility of local funding when bidding.

The Government believes this competitive process will ensure that the greatest possible number of schemes, with the best value for money, will be able to proceed, facilitating economic growth and providing jobs across the country.

Philip Hammond said:
“Whilst we have had to make some tough choices, I am pleased that spending on transport was treated as a priority for the Government in the Spending Review.

“This Government sees transport as a key driver of growth nationally and in the regions. So I am delighted to be able to give the green light to 24 new transport projects and a fund worth over £600m for many more schemes to bid for.

“Taken together, this investment will not only bring benefits in terms of reduced congestion, shorter journey times and more efficient public transport, but also provide a vital economic boost. For every pound we spend on Highways Agency schemes, on average we will get back £6 of benefits and in many cases there are even higher returns for local authority schemes.

“Transport is vital to securing the UK’s long term prosperity. That is why these schemes are so important and why I will continue to argue for investment which delivers long term benefits for both the travelling public and the economy as a whole.”

The Government also announced that the Highways Agency will continue work on developing a further 14 schemes in preparation for them to start in future spending review periods, as funding becomes available, and will review the design of a further four with the aim of finding a best value solution.’

I like the way in the detailed motorway plans, the hard Shoulder being used to increase traffic flow becomes a DYNAMIC Hard Shoulder! At least until someone breaks down. One shudders to think what cycling improvements have been planned for Ipswich.

History has shown us beyond doubt that building more roads and increasing capacity of existing roads just creates more traffic with the resultant knock on effects to surrounding areas. This has been common knowledge since the A40 Westway via the M3 Twyford Down to the A34 Newbury Bypass. However, Mr Hammond is oblivious to all this, just as the public enquiries were for many road schemes and ‘improvements’ through the years.

Bikehub reported on Sustrans response

‘… Sustrans has reacted strongly to Hammond’s announcement.

Jason Torrance, Sustrans’ Policy Manager, said:

“Sustrans is dismayed that the Government is missing a golden opportunity to put right a broken transport system, despite its green promises.

“The Secretary of State for Transport proudly boasts that his lengthy list of road transport schemes bring benefits of £6 for every £1 spent. But sustainable transport schemes that encourage active travel offer much better value, at £8 for every £1 spent. And they directly address the congestion issues that today’s announcement claims to solve.

“And there are other benefits.  Given that 1 in 20 UK people are now being treated for type 2 diabetes and 1 in 10 for obesity – both illnesses that are exacerbated by physical inactivity – improving the health of the nation, and tackling the costs attached to that, has to be seen as critical.  With this in mind not prioritising walking and cycling should be unthinkable.”’

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club does not regard this as reacting strongly. In fact it’s barely reacting. Personally, I’ve written stronger letters to the Worthing Herald. The CTC website is showing no reaction at all. Anyway, that’s another debate.

The DfT has also just launched its THINK! ‘Be bright, be seen’ campaign.

Not content with building more dangerous roads, they seem to have entered the spirit of Halloween with a bit too much vigour on a site that is bound to scare children (and more importantly their parents) making cycling look like a dangerous activity and putting them off.

Here is an example ‘gory story’;

‘The girl who didn’t dress bright in the dark

She always liked to look her best

So didn’t wear a nice bright vest

Or any clothing that was bright

When she was out at nearly night


But traffic couldn’t see her see

And now she isn’t so trendy

A car drove right into her guts

And covered her with bruisy cuts’

I’ve checked and I still can’t find anything informing parents that when they drive, they are in control of a heavy vehicle that can maim and kill if not driven correctly, and that they have a duty of care to the children of others, not just their own.

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club would like to start a campaign of its own;

Make Hammond History Reshuffle the Kerfuffle!

Obviously The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club wishes Mr Hammond no harm (although we would like to drive really close to him at speed if he ever gets on a bicycle). We feel that there must be wholesale reform of a Department for Transport that’s not entering the spirit of the twenty first century with their belief that ‘sustainable’ means ‘bigger roads’ or ‘electric cars charged by fossil fuels’.

We suggest getting brown wristbands made up to represent the utter dung cyclists have had to put up with and will have to endure now that many speed cameras have been switched off and Cycling England disbanded with no viable alternative and cycle infrastructure thrown to the provinces that couldn’t design a cycle facility if their lives depended on it.

A bit like this, but brown. And 'Hammond' instead of 'Poverty'.

Who would have thought that something as simple as cycling could be made to look so dangerous, complicated and strangely irrelevant in the wake of ‘progress’? Oh well, if ‘Make Hammond History’ doesn’t work there’s always ‘Make Baker Better’. The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club is open to ideas.