Posts Tagged ‘Transport’

A Very British Revolution

Of course, we saw this all the time on the Study Tour of The Netherlands…

It is now over a month since I returned from the Cycling Embassy Study Tour to The Netherlands. It has taken this long for it all to really sink in and I advise any of you who have any interest in cycling, transport policy, planning, or you just want to see what a country can do when it actually gives a shit about its people by giving them unfettered freedom and choice on how they get about their communities whilst giving consistent investment in their health and wellbeing. In fact, I advise you to go anyway just for the bike ride. At least over there you aren’t bullied by people in 1 ton metal boxes who think that they are essential to ‘progress’ and that killing at least 1,700 people per year is ‘one of those things’.

It would be fair to say that I came back from The Netherlands a changed man. An angry man at that. It’s all very well to sit in front of a computer, to look up a Dutch street on Google Streetview and draw your own wierd and wacky conclusions based on the British experience. It’s quite another thing to actually go over to see it in context and realise that their roads are not wider, that they didn’t always have masses of cycle infrastructure and that what they have got isn’t always perfect but they are constantly innovating and striving to make it so. When you look at a typical street in Assen, it becomes instantly apparent what local and national Government thinks about the bicycle. You can draw your own conclusions from looking at a typical British street – in fact, it’s probably better to focus on the pavement because that’s either where a bicycle symbol might be painted or where the cyclists are anyway because they view riding on the road as an extreme sport requiring clothing and lights that make you visible from Neptune.

Recent events in the news have thrown light onto another problem that can be encountered when pushing for decent cycling infrastructure based on best practice from mainland Europe.

We hate Europe.

Not all of us of course. I certainly don’t and if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably don’t either. As far as the latest call for a referendum goes, I personally believe that in the midst of a really big crisis, it’s not particuarly advantageous to turn to your neighbours and tell them to go f*** themselves. To a British cyclist [and therefore a small minority view], the Netherlands is a country of wonderful infrastructure where people of all ages are out on their bicycles, of multi storey bicycle parks, of railway stations where only having space for 20,000 bicycles gets the alarm bells ringing with local authorities, of schools where children are trusted and can cycle independently from a young age with their friends with no adult intervention. However, to many British people, The Netherlands is a place of red light districts, hen/stag destinations, clogs, Max Bygraves singing ‘Tulips from Amsterdam’, round cheeses, canals and a language that sounds like a bit of a laugh that got desperately out of hand.

A cycle path in Assen. It even has it’s own lighting.

In an earlier post, I stated my opinion that the reason 20′s Plenty campaigns across the country generally work is because they are community led campaigns as opposed to being cycle-specific. This despite Rod King (the jolly nice Founder of 20′s Plenty For Us ) being a pinnacle of the Warrington Cycling Campaign. Even though the benefits of 20mph speed limits in populous areas should be patently obvious, 20′s Plenty allows a wide range of community groups to ‘buy in’ to the concept. It seems strange that in the early years of the 21st Century, curtailing someone’s right to drive like a pillock should be regarded as part of an arsenal in the ‘War on the Motorist’ – stranger still having just returned from a country where 30kph (18mph) is the default on residential streets.

The point of today’s sermon is that promoting decent cycling infrastructure is difficult enough coming from a minority, and quite often not a particuarly liked minority at that. However, when combined with the fact that mainland Europe is being used as an inspiration, it may be too much for many to bear. If I close my eyes, I can see the smoke and sparks billowing as the Daily Mail Europhobicometer slams into overdrive.

We have to be thoughtful and innovative about how we take the message to a group of people that don’t know they want to cycle yet. Also to planners and engineers that may in some instances be reluctant to take different practices on board. Whilst on my travels in The Netherlands I saw examples of great community spirit as people of all ages went about their business by bicycle; I saw groups of children chatting away on their way to school and college. I saw groups of elderly people and couples off for a nice social ride in everyday clothing, sharing the latest news without harassment. I saw hundreds of children being picked up from school by bike, hurredly telling their parents and grandparents what they did that day. In a way, it was looking back to a Britain that I once knew where I cycled to school and on adventures with friends. Where local residents cycled to the local shop to buy a newspaper without fear or being regarded as a f***ing taxdodger. In a sense, it could be argued that countries such as Denmark and The Netherlands are more British than Britain as they have retained decent values that are still about in Britain but have been tempered by consistent anti-social, car-centric policies. I believe the Dutch and Danes are on to something that’s worth fighting for.

I leave you with this latest offering from Mark Wagenbuur that I urge you to watch as it is utterly superb. In particular, look at the dire situation The Netherlands found itself as it entered the 1970′s. Then think about a typical school run in Britain today and wonder how it could ever get better with current policy.

Step Into The Unknown

My Wife and I are still fortunate enough to be invited to parties that don’t involve Jelly, cakes with pictures of Postman Pat and tantrums if the participants get tired (but enough about me! ha, ha, ha, ha, ha etc). Although it’s always nice mixing in adult company, inevitably conversations at such affairs will turn to children – most notably, reasons why couples are putting off having them. I find these conversations fascinating (after I’ve got over the fact that they are better presented than me with a healthy, optimistic glow and enough disposable income to pay for yet another foreign holiday to a land so far away, the locations in my sons story books can barely hint at). What I find particularly fascinating is that the reasons given for not having children aren’t too dissimilar to the reasons given by this country for not adopting standards of best practice in cycling infrastructure based on countries that have had proven success.

We can’t afford it yet

When someone says this, what they generally mean is, ‘we want enough money to enjoy our current lifestyle complete with baby’. They have no idea yet as to how much their lives change fundamentally when a child comes into the equation – they can’t do and we wouldn’t expect them to. We could try explaining to them that they will make savings by not going out as much as you will want to be with your new baby at all times. Plus, you will perpetually feel as though you have just cycled the Tour de France on a Raleigh Grifter. You make ‘sacrifices’ only to realise that they weren’t really sacrifices at all and you could have done without long before.

It’s the same with decent cycling infrastructure. We fail to realise that, if implemented correctly with consistent political will and a budget more in line with a serious transport project as opposed to a weekly food shop at Asda, the country’s transport habits could change fundamentally. Massive savings could be made to health, road maintenance, environment and also wellbeing (a safer community is one that has people walking and cycling around it). Decent infrastructure, like all nice things will cost money. But it will be better than carrying along as we are and trying to fit the bicycle around it - seeing the crappy conditions that cyclists are provided with at the moment,  designed with no real knowledge of what a bicycle is actually capable of – which is tantamount to neglect.

We haven’t got the space

My Wife and I made some ‘sacrifices’ to move into a two bedroom house in anticipation of having a child (although we were never extravagant in the first place). We logically took the view in our lazier, more carefree days that one child would need one bedroom. We didn’t anticipate the clothing that lasts two seconds before the next growth spurt or The Battle Of The Grandparents To Save The Local High Street By Buying Everything In It For Your Child. These are nice problems to have and unwittingly puts us in the ‘sexual fantasy’ category for IKEA Marketing Managers looking to sell more storage solutions. Obviously everything can fit. We just needed to think more carefully about how we used our space.

One problem I’ve found recently is that when people think of Dutch Cycle Infrastructure, the word ‘Segregation’ may instantly spring to mind. ‘Segregation’ is a bit of a dirty word in British Cycle Campaigning as it is taken to mean ‘losing one’s right to the road’. This is to miss the point of segregation completely. Quite often Dutch segregation is achieved by getting the cars off the roads rather than building bike paths next to roads. This is something that people very often miss – including the Dutch. They have looked at their public spaces and thoroughfares and found useful and pragmatic ways to put the public first by correctly identifying and reducing the danger or completely removing the danger from the equation.

Quite often British campaigners will try to imagine what a Dutch street looks like and then try to mentally Photoshop it onto a street in their locality, instantly drawing their own weird and wonderful conclusions. This does not take into account vehicle speeds, volume, local networks etc. The Dutch have standards dependant on all these variables and prescribe solutions based on what they find. There’s space alright in the UK – we’re just too used to the car to think any other way and are too used to being beaten into accepting dreadful compromise. One thing is for sure – we have to address the current solutions offered to us.

We’re not ready!

There’s never a ‘right time’ to have a baby. Even with all the books and manuals in the World, it can seem like taking a leap into territory completely unknown to anyone else. If unsure, it helps if you can draw on experience, such as visiting a friend or relative that has a baby so you can get a feel for what’s involved and they can answer any questions you might have.

To get a feel for what is involved in decent cycling infrastructure, I’m leading a party of nine from the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain to the Netherlands to go on a Study Tour, organised by David Hembrow. We will ask questions, run a tape measure around the country, take too many photos and videos, and try to gain as much knowledge as we can so we can share it with you (just like when a baby arrives, I guess).

It may certainly be the case that some solutions over there won’t work over here.  But our solutions at the moment are appalling and I personally feel that we have a lot to gain. A lot of overseas solutions are not only alarmingly similar to what many in Britain believe is the right way such as reduced speeds, home zones and the like, but some have been campaigning for years to get it. If we can help to widen and clarify the knowledge base, then it won’t be such a step into the unknown.

Crap Cycle Lane VI

…it even has shade.

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

Here it is again without vehicles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trading Standards

This advert was made in Copenhagen by car manufacturer Citroen and I think it portrays quite a positive message for bicycle riding and motoring. The person wearing the anti-pollution mask at the beginning is showing the problem that the product we are about to see is going to solve – quite poignant in view of our recent heatwave. The basic premise is that instead of bicycle riders being covered in exhaust fumes, the Citroen C4 is a joy to cycle behind due to lack of emissions. It’s showing a car trying to give something back to the people. It’s saying that the car has it’s place, but the people come first. It actually made me want to rush out and buy a ferry ticket to Copenhagen for a spot of bicycle Nirvana as opposed to purchasing a Citroen, but never mind. Jolly good effort.

Then the clumsy bastards decided to air the advert in the UK.

According to Road.cc

‘The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled that an advert showing a group of cyclists cheerfully pursuing a Citroën C4 car cannot be broadcast during children’s TV programmes because the bike riders concerned are not wearing cycle helmets.

The advertising watchdog made the ruling after receiving just one complaint from a viewer who “challenged whether the ad was appropriate to be broadcast at times when children were likely to be watching, because it could condone and encourage behaviour prejudicial to their health and safety.”

According to the ASA, the viewer had complained that “none of the cyclists featured in the ad were wearing cycling helmets,” and while that’s true in the 30-second version, the full, 1-minute version of the ad shown below does show two children wearing helmets about 20 seconds in…..

….In its ruling the ASA said that Citroën, which does not intend to air the ad in the UK again, had “pointed out that wearing a cycling helmet was not a legal requirement in the UK, although they accepted that it was good practice to wear a helmet whilst cycling.”

The company said that the ad, which was intended to show how “the C4′s engine stopped when the vehicle came to a halt at traffic lights, which was less polluting and more comfortable for cyclists,” did not show “cyclists were not shown to be riding in a dangerous manner and that there were no other vehicles in the road in the immediate vicinity of the cyclists.”

As a result, and with no children featured in the ad [according to the ruling, which presumably addressed the shorter version], the car manufacturer said it “did not believe the ad condoned or encouraged poor cycling practices on the part of children or anyone else.”

Clearcast, the independent body which pre-approves most TV advertising in the UK, said that while it recommended that children shown cycling in ads should be depicted wearing helmets, it “did not require adults to wear helmets because it was not a legal requirement,” and “did not normally place a scheduling restriction on ads featuring adult cyclists” The body added that it did not believe that the ad needed to be restricted from being shown around children’s programming.

In its ruling, the ASA said that it “considered that adults and older children would understand that the scenario depicted in the ad was fantastical and set apart from reality, because of the sheer number of cyclists involved, the lack of cars in their immediate vicinity and the fact that they were cycling in unison and chasing the C4. We therefore concluded that the ad did not condone behaviour prejudicial to the health and safety of adults and older children and was unlikely to cause harm to them.

“However,” it added, “we considered that younger children might not appreciate the fantastical nature of the ad and might consider that the ad represented a real-life scenario. We were therefore concerned that the ad might encourage younger childrento emulate a behaviour prejudicial to their health and safety, and therefore concluded that the ad should have been given an ‘ex kids’ scheduling restriction to ensure that it was not broadcast at times when younger children were likely to be watching.”’

I wouldn’t be suprised if Citroen are still laughing after the initial shock and bemusement, at how such an idiotic complaint missing the entire point of the advert could be upheld.

You see, in Europe, they treat riding a bicycle as something as simple as riding a bicycle. They don’t need to look like a brightly coloured teletubby dressed for an Afghanistan combat situation. They get on their bikes and go. In normal clothing. Most don’t even regard themselves as ‘cyclists’ as the bicycle is just a mode of transport. To get from A to B. Simply. In some European countries, they’ve created an environment where the wearing of a helmet, or surveillance on the helmet, or high-viz is totally irrelevant. As a result, many of their children don’t just cycle to school, they also cycle home for lunch too!! Those carefree days are gone in the UK. We call it progress.

Once again, as it clearly needs to be repeated over and over again, let’s look at how a civilized country treats its citizens as grown-ups with freedom.

Film above from the always wonderful Mark Wagenbuur channel on YouTube

Once again, please note that both genders and all ages were represented in that film. Proper bicycles with no testosterone fuelled, armour coated, lycra battles there.

All that aside, why aren’t people writing to the ASA to complain about car ads being in breech of the Trades Description Act? All the car adverts I see on TV seem to show their products speeding through empty urban streets with oddly romantic street lighting, rainforests and open tundra. They make no mention of the fact that their products killed over 2,000 UK citizens last year when used incorrectly. They don’t mention the likelihood of being stuck in tailbacks with other frustrated types looking for empty urban streets with oddly romantic street lighting, rainforests and open tundra. In Guildford. They don’t remind the potential purchaser that they have a duty to anyone or anything else when operating their product, preferably not using another product whilst using their product.

We need to not only return the humble bicycle from just a sports/recreation activity back a to transport mode that can be used in normal clothing but we need to create infrastructure that caters for the mobility of the entire population, as opposed to prioritising those that can drive at the expense of everyone else. Our children should be able to cycle or walk to school in conditions that won’t punish them severely (even gravely) if they make a slight error. Safety clothing must be rendered an irrelevance as opposed to the norm through best practice from Europe and around the World as opposed to the reckless rubbish we see currently. That is what any civilized county would do and what an advert that would be.

West Sussex County Council – So 1980′s

Ah-Ga-Doo-Doo-Doo, Push the bypass through some trees.......

West Sussex County Council has just published its Transport Plan 2011-2026 (or LTP3). [It] sets the strategy for guiding future investment in West Sussex highways and transport infrastructure, and sets a framework for considering transport infrastructure requirements associated with future development across the county’.

This supersedes their LTP2 document, ‘which had the key aims of delivering safer, less congested and less polluted roads and improved accessibility.

Yes, I know. Please try to stay awake.

The main document runs to 80 pages and is filled with real treats if you like verbose greenwash barely concealing an utterly car-centric doctrine stuck firmly in the past. In their Long Term Strategy, this is what they have to say about cycling (Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club shall attempt to give a commentary in bold),

Cycling is one of the most sustainable transport modes and offers tremendous potential for improving our society’s health, economic efficiency and mobility, in addition to helping us tackle climate change. Maintaining or increasing the levels of cycling in West Sussex is, therefore, very important and will contribute to each of our objectives.

Cycling is also a popular leisure activity particularly in the rural area where the public rights of way network provides and extensive facility for cyclists to use.

The key aspects of our approach to cycling are:

Cycle Network Construction – Gaining a better understanding of, and overcoming, barriers which deter people from cycling (such as their current policy of not regarding the sheer volume of traffic as a problem but as an economic driver that needs to be catered for further to the detriment of everything else). Using a wide range of physical infrastructure, construct and improve joined up town networks and public rights of way which are linked in to new development. While balancing the needs of all users of the transport system ( should read, ‘While putting the motorist first’), cycle network infrastructure could include; cycle lanes, cycle tracks, signing, cycle stands, shared surfaces, toucan crossings, reduced speed limits, traffic calming, and refuges to suit local circumstances (or put simply, the same dangerous, cheap, poorly designed, compromised drivel that they’ve always provided).

Maintaining Cycle Infrastructure – maintain infrastructure to a good standard using an asset management approach which considers whole life costs, making improvements where these are needed and affordable. (No, the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club has no idea what ‘asset management approach’ means either. The ‘and affordable’ bit  probably makes the rest of it meaningless anyway as there’s never any money for cycling projects as local campaign groups are all too aware. To quote ‘The Day Today’, this is clearly written by people who have ‘an Armitage Shanks Defecation Interface Scenario’ as opposed to just taking a shit).

Travel Behaviour Change Initiatives – travel planning and promotional initiatives to encourage cycling and to identify local issues in schools, communities, businesses and new developments (issues might include the fact that no-one rides a bike to school or work because the roads are regarded as dangerous thanks to previous Transport Plans and the ‘cycling infrastructure’ provided was clearly designed by someone who had a childs Kaleidascope crudely sellotaped to each eye).

Skills Training – Bikeability cycle skills training to equip our community, and particularly the most vulnerable, with the skills they need reinforced by education delivered through school travel planning. (with this Transport Plan, the most vulnerable are going to need all the skills and travel planning they can get, which is quite strange considering we are talking about riding a bicycle which I always thought was quite a simple activity)

Community Involvement – involving the cycling community to highlight local priorities and to develop cycling infrastructure and initiatives to meet local needs (and then ignore them as it will involve cost implications. Whilst it’s good that they at least mention ‘involving the cycling community’, surely the whole community should be involved too as they are potentially cyclists).

Promoting Cycling – communicating the benefits of cycling through our Staff Travel Plan and by supporting national and local awareness events with our partners.

Phew! So what are the main priorities of West Sussex County Council?

Our priorities will tackle the key issues we face and bring about radical improvements to quality of life for the people and businesses in the County. Our highest priorities are:

1 Improvements to the A27 trunk road and complimentary public transport improvements to the current bottlenecks at Chichester, Arundel and Worthing (not currently programmed) to increase capacity, improve reliability and safety and increase the competitiveness of local businesses and attract investment. (increase traffic volume and create more congestion)

2 Programmed improvements to the A23 trunk road at the current bottleneck between Handcross and Warninglid to increase capaacity and improve the safety record. (increase traffic volume and create more congestion)

3 Maintain the highway network (to assist in the increasing of traffic volume and creating more congestion)

4 Whilst major schemes are a high priority for us, they are likely to take many years to deliver. It remains important that alongside these priorities we continue to work with our community to improve the safety record on our local roads, increase usage of healthy and sustainable modes of transport, and provide access to services (which is all lumped together at the end because it won’t happen all the while they persist in car-centric policies that increase traffic volume and create more congestion).

I can’t wait to see what other LTP3 documents across the country look like! It’s a plan for 15 years into the future that somehow manages to look 25 years into the past.

Here is another film of cycling in the Netherlands. Just because, really.

 

When Cyclists Matter

I believe this has featured on other blogs but everyone needs to see this.

Another marvellous film from Markenlei (Mark Wagenbuur), this time focussing on public and media attention after an incident involving a large pick up and 4 teenage cyclists in the Netherlands.

I would advise that British (and I would suggest North American) Lo Fidelity readers watch this in a seated position with a stunned look bordering on incomprehension at a nation that actually gives a toss about its citizens.

 

I must also point you in the direction of Darlington Cycling Campaign for this wonderful post that puts a bit of good old British crappy perspective around the whole thing. David Hembrow adds Netherlands gloss.

To illustrate media perception in the UK, here is a letter in last week’s Worthing Herald. In the same issue was a story about some teenagers that were injured when the driver lost control of his car at speed. No-one wrote a letter about that. It’s just one of those things.

Long live the Embassy.

Living the Dream

Wow, Ambassador! The DfT only handed out Digestives....

Firstly, I would like to thank all those who messaged me on this blog or emailed me privately expressing their support for the idea of an independent Cycling ‘Embassy’ for Great Britain. Whatever happens, it will be based upon the Cycling Embassy of Denmark as I believe we need the same model here in the UK. The ball has already started rolling and a volunteers forum will be starting up as an information exchange/meeting point. The URL has been confirmed and I shall release details shortly (thanks very much to a very willing and able volunteer. The first of many :-) ).

An early Mission Statement is as follows

An Embassy, free from the burden of history, legacy and ties, created to work in partnership with fellow organisations and charities in Great Britain, mainland Europe and around the World trading ideas and experiences in how to promote cycling and make cycling infrastructure work in urban and rural contexts.

To develop relations with private companies already committed to Green & Sustainable values and promote the truth that cycling can produce a fitter, healthier, happier workforce saving billions in ‘sick’ days to the British economy.

To lobby relevant Government Departments that cycling is a solution to transport congestion, noise pollution, carbon emissions, deaths and serious injuries on our roads, obesity and illnesses from more sedentary lifestyles, stress and expense.

To politely correct the Department for Transport that ‘Sustainable Transport’ actually means walking, cycling and public transport as opposed to spending further millions on expanding the road network which will only sustain more pollution, deaths & serious injuries and congestion, like the decades that preceded. The idea is to make something sustainable for future generations to inherit.  A bigger M25 isn’t it.

To redefine what Road Safety in the UK means by working with relevant groups; to highlight what the real dangers are, to enforce a duty of care to the most vulnerable and promoting prevention, rather than cure. This will be through a raft of measures including reduced speed limits in urban areas and changes in streetscape design to put community needs before those just travelling through them. We will strive to create an environment where helmets and other forms of protective wear are seen as unecessary as opposed to essential. We will strive to make riding a bicycle as easy as riding a bicycle.

To work with local authorities and relevant parties to redefine Cycling Infrastructure Design Standards in the UK and bring them in line with best practice in partner countries. ‘Hierarchy of Provision’, although well-meaning and correct in principle is too open to abuse or compromise by practitioners that know little about the requirements of cycling (or indeed walking) yet may wish to know more.

To encourage better communication with exchange of knowledge and ideas between architects, transport planners, designers & engineers as to how to get more people cycling [and walking] and improving access for all to town & city centres and transport interchanges. Also working out what makes decent cycle infrastructure work and how it benefits society as a whole.

To protect cycling proficiency for children and adults. It is an essential skill that did us very well in the past, as it can again in the future.

To have fun. It’s why we started cycling in the first place.

Obviously I now throw the floor open to suggestions as it’s now or never. As I look out across the still snowy South Downs, I acknowledge that this is going to be a quiet month as far as cycling news and blogging is concerned which gives us a chance over the Christmas period to reflect on the wonderful cycling experiences we’ve all had through the changing seasons of 2010 and set out the stall for 2011.

I am firmly of the belief that there needs to be new way in cycle campaigning; this is not to say that what has gone before has failed. It is simply outmanoeuvred by a car lobby that can market itself as green when accused of polluting and portray itself as a victim when attempts are made to call it to account over danger and subsidy. Cycling England, for all its faults, cost approximately £200,000 p.a. to run. Honda’s ‘Impossible Dream’ advert alone cost £5 million. They really want to sell cars, even if no-one can actually afford them right now.

It’s time to cast off the lycra and put on the charm. More plans follow and please feel free to join me for the ride which may be painfully short or wonderfully long. The doors of the Embassy will be opening shortly and you are welcome if you wish, fellow Diplomats. But don’t nick all my Fererro Rocher, I don’t care if it is Christmas.

The Sound of Silence

If a tree falls in the middle of the forest, and no-one is around to hear it, it would still make more noise than the British cycle campaigning establishment

 

Being an only child, I was fairly used to quiet and solitude; the purr of a chain combined with birdsong whilst cycling along local bridleways or the wind through the trees where I used to occasionally sit and read anything by Enid Blyton or Roald Dahl. Now I’m older I seem to get increasingly nervy around silence; not hearing my son breathe or stir via the intercom at night for example and not hearing a peep from the Cycle Campaigning establishment since the furore regarding Cycling England a month or two ago also puts my teeth on edge.

About a month ago, it was declared that Cycling England would cease to be as of March 2011. Cycling blogs were alight with hot debate over why such a small concern should be abolished when it also became apparent that there would be no real provision for cycling within the Department for Transport. We learned that cycling was literally going to have to sing for its supper with funding thrown out to the provinces and the ‘Sustainable Transport Fund’. If you needed to feel even more nervous, it would appear that the parameters for what constitutes ‘Sustainable Transport haven’t been set by the Department for Transport and Philip ‘no clever funny middle name as he’s just a tosser’ Hammond MP. This means that the Council can make the same ridiculous interpretation as Central Government  – that adding lanes to a motorway can constitute ‘Sustainable Transport’ as it ‘improves traffic flow’ which reduces emissions (conveniently sidestepping the fact that it creates more traffic but that can be dealt with at a later date or preferably by a later generation). This is a bit like BP arguing that they have done the Gulf of Mexico a favour by releasing catastrophic amounts of oil into the eco-system; it ensures that only the fittest creatures survive thereby creating a stronger, more efficient Gulf of Mexico for future generations.

What I’ve found a little disturbing is the way that the wrath and fury seems to have subsided save a few handsome journalists and blog writers. I like to think that the major players are just recovering from the shock and are now in a room somewhere, with secret plans  being drawn up to produce an all new campaigning, lobbying, gnashing of teeth version of Cycling England built on sturdier foundations. Then again, I also have a direct debit for the National Lottery.

Shortly after Hammond’s statements, including the hilarious assertion that electric cars would be the way forward, well and truly putting the ‘car’ in carbon, the CTC and Cycle Nation held a conference in Edinburgh hosted by SPOKES (the Lothian Cycle Campaign). Lots of people spoke and gave presentations including the very nice Philip Darnton, Chairman of Cycling England. Notes of all the topics covered can be downloaded from the excellent Spokes website - at least, nearly all. Roger Geffen gave a chinwag on ‘The Segregation Debate – Reflections from Copenhagen’

The only notes of this segment were kindly compiled by a Spokes representative and reads as follows

Roger Geffen (CTC Right-to-Ride). Why is he sceptical of segregation, if it works in practice in parts of Europe like Denmark and Netherlands? CTC doesn’t reject it outright but supports the Government’s ‘hierarchy of solutions’: Traffic reduction and speed reduction; re-allocation of road space, junction re-design and other infrastructure; and segregation last – though it’s appropriate in some circs, eg inter-urban dual carriageway.

Problems of segregation in town – junctions more dangerous, need 270′ vision instead of 90′;cyclist/pedestrian conflict.

Success stories: Copenhagen, New York, Bogota. (Lo Fidelity Note: And Amsterdam, and Groningen and…)

Main issue is two legal framework differences – 1 driver liability, and 2 drivers give way to peds/cyclists when turning, even if have green light. Different legal framework leads to different driver behaviour. Needs lot of political will to change this in UK – possible strategy for future. Boris suggests allow cyclists to turn L at red light but this leads to cycle/ped conflict.

According to one source, it ended up as a slightly heated debate. The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club would have pointed out that the Governments ‘hierarchy of solutions’ are intrinsically car-centric and methods of traffic reduction and speed reduction, re-allocation of road space, junction re-design and other infrastructure always translates as ‘pinch points’, converted pavements, lethal on-road cycle lanes that terminate at parking bays and so on. Lest to say, none of CTC’s contribution has made their weekly emailed newsletters.

This post isn’t about the segregation/vehicular debate however (although like the Netherlands, the Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club believes that engineers should start properly designing out the private car from urban areas before looking at segregation instead of the UK method of tinkering around the edges so as not to annoy the ‘poor beleaguered motorist’). This post is about how we take cycle campaigning to a more coherent, robust level that can shout loud. And it will need to.

Let me say at this point that I love the CTC; I worked for them so know very well their passion for cycling. I love their proud heritage. Their legal assistance (free to members) has helped me successfully on the two times I was knocked off my bike by careless motoring. They have campaigned for the rights of cyclists through the years, be it on the road or off the road by allowing cyclists on to the bridleways. However, one niggling question always sits at the back of my mind; is the CTC, being a membership organisation representing predominantly touring cycling, the correct mechanism to represent and deliver the interests of all cyclists in the twenty first century?

If it is then at the moment it faces an open goal as no other cycling organisation would have the campaigning/lobbying nous to step into the breech come March. To do this though it would have to start listening to ideas that their membership may find unpalatable, and digest the fact that generations of potential cyclists are continuing to be lost to the pull of the motor car and the society that successive Governments are continuing to build around it.

This is conjecture pure and simple, but The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club would like to see the development of a privately funded (or part public/part private) lobbying group in the same dynamic as the Cycling Embassy of Denmark. It would be like the TfL’s Centre of Cycling Excellence, but this time with the Excellence. It could get companies with green credentials to put their money where their mouth is and lobby the Government directly about the merits of cycling and what Road Safety actually means. Partnerships should be struck with organisations in Britain, mainland Europe and Worldwide such as CTC, Fietsberaad, the Danish Cycling Embassy and New York City Transportation Planners for best practice (as I believe the argument goes way beyond just vehicular/segregated). Architects and engineers with an interest in transportation and urban design could be brought on board. The possibilities are endless if you look beyond the horizon of British cycle campaigning. Philip Darnton could Chair something that didn’t have foundations built on the shifting sands of a Quango.

By lobbying the Government, we need to question the Department for Transport why cycling is peripheral on their agenda, we have to lobby the Department for Health to keep reminding them that we have a solution to obesity, we need to let David Cameron know that he can save a couple of million pounds in happiness surveys by just getting everyone cycling.

Above all, we’ve got to do something. The sound of silence is starting to get deafening.

Why People In The UK Don’t Cycle No 4 – Driving is Easier

 

Still simpler than cycling through Guildford

‘Driving a car is simpler than riding a bike, why that’s ridiculous!’ I hear you say dear reader. You’re right of course, but in the UK we persistently go out of our way to make the more complicated mode of transport simpler, and the simpler mode of transport more complicated.

I received a thought provoking response to an earlier post from a Lo Fidelity reader in Swindon who wrote the following,

‘….I think most people use their car because their car is more convenient. I’m a cyclist and even I do this. Two real world reasons for not cycling I’ve heard in my office:
– I have to drop the kids off at/pick the kids up from school on time
– I can’t be bothered to maintain a bike
Cars keep you dry and warm/cool, get you places quickly, don’t make you sweaty, don’t need any special clothing, don’t find hills a struggle, easily carry other people, kids and luggage/shopping.

I actually have to go to a lot of effort to cycle. If I wanted to make the 1.5 mile trip to my parents’ house right now I’d have to remember to take the lock, put some hi-viz on, put my gloves on, walk to the shed, unlock the bike, walk back down the garden, lock the back door, tuck my trousers into my socks, take stuff off when I got there and lock the bike only to have to unlock the bike and put it all back on again for the journey home. To drive I’d have to remember to put my glasses on, walk out the front door, get in the car and go.

YES, some of that is because of the bike I use and choices I make. But it’s a real faff!…’

Unfortunately, I think he’s right and has summed up British attitudes perfectly. Here is how I start the day as a cyclist;

Wake up, change The Boys’ first steaming nappy of the day, put on Endura Base Layer and Shorts plus jersey and three quarter length Endura baggy shorts (ironically to look less like a cyclist) with reflective Buff and Altura Night Vision jacket (in black) & Mavic MTB shoes, prepare lunch, get bike out of shed, walk it through house (ignoring The Wife gritting her teeth), put on helmet (only to make my wife feel better even though she doesn’t mind me not wearing one when I’m riding the Brompton) & gloves, check lights, ride to work, carry bike into office (I’m allowed to keep it inside as there is no covered parking so no need to carry a lock), shower (we have one at work), sit at desk.

Here’s how it could be if I decided to drive to work;

Wake up, change The Boys’ first steaming nappy of the day, shower (we have one at home), put on regular clothes, prepare lunch, grab keys, get in car (parked outside in the street at no cost), drive 12 miles to work, park in visitors bay, walk up to office, sit at desk.

The car sounds simpler doesn’t it? However that is me overcomplicating the simple and over simplifying the complicated.

Let’s now see how much simpler things would be if I adopted my Grandfathers cycling routine

Wake Up, wash, dress in work clothes, pick up lunch, get bike, ride to work, leave bike outside building.

All of a sudden cycling starts to look easy doesn’t it? I also bet that most cycle commuters on the European Mainland have a routine more similar to my Grandfather than me (even though he has been dead for decades), and that if they were to read my routine they would bury their heads in their palms.

My routine also allows for no spontaneity; I can’t just stop off at a pub to meet a friend because that involves finding somewhere safe to park my bike and not looking so much like a ‘cyclist’. Even stopping at a shop becomes a tiresome chore because I (and I’m sure any others in the UK through no fault of their own) become ‘locked in’ on the commute. In trying to get free of the rat race, I’ve created my own one.

The reason it’s so easy in a car is that UK politicians and society has bent over backwards to make things easy for the car from roads to parking to cost to out of town convenience. This has come at massive expense to communities, businesses and all other forms of transport that are often shoveled off the road onto crap infrastructure in the name of safety. What should be a simple bike ride into the centre of town often looks dangerous, circuitous and not worth the effort.

However, let’s look at my full routine for driving to work.

Organize finance, look for correct car, purchase car, buy insurance, check that car has MOT and the correct Vehicle Excise Duty (based on emissions), change The Boys’ first steaming nappy of the day, shower, put on regular clothes, prepare lunch, grab keys, get in car, check that there is enough fuel, pull out (although I’m loathe to surrender the space as I know it will be a struggle to park near my house when I return), get fuel, join queue of frustrated drivers trying to join A27, drive along racetrack that is A27 between Worthing and Brighton within the speed limit with full concentration thus incurring the wrath of  ‘expert’ drivers of more powerful cars, leave A27 at Devils Dyke and join queue on slip road, watch other motorists drive alongside the queue slowly to nip in where a gap appears increasing the levels of rage and frustration of motorists immediately behind, make sure radio is on Classic FM to ease frustration and wonder how and why people do this every day at great cost to their health, wellbeing and environment, park in visitors bay, walk up to office, sit at desk.

Not so easy and pleasant put that way is it? Motoring advertisers will of course gloss over a lot of that last paragraph (many new cars come with ‘free’ VED too to save you the hassle but often calling it ‘Road Tax’ even though it hasn’t existed since 1937 and doesn’t pay directly for the roads).

We need to make motoring the expensive, dangerous pain in the arse that it actually is. We need to make our towns and cities civilised again by making walking and cycling more pleasant. We need to improve the nation’s sense of health and wellbeing. We need to reduce the amount of people killed or maimed on our roads day in day out. It has to be addressed in a positive way (because it is) or else it will be deemed by the Complication Merchants as ‘A War on the Motorist’.

By the same token, I am doing my bit to make cycling simpler for me - My bike is in my local bike shop to change it to a pleasing hub geared tourer/roadster. It’s time to enjoy the commute again – and cycling.

We have to make the complicated complicated and the simple simple. It’s really very simple. Not complicated at all.

Why People In The UK Don’t Cycle No 3 – DANGER!

The Guildford school run

According to Wikipedia, a ‘Parallel universe or alternative reality is a self-contained separate reality coexisting with one’s own….Fantasy has long borrowed the idea of “another world” from myth, legend and religion. Heaven, Hell, Olympus, Valhalla are all “alternative universes” different from the familiar material realm’. I would also like to tentatively add cycling.

To seasoned cyclists, the World of cycling is a vast one. It’s a World of touring, mountain biking, commuting and racing. Of hybrids, recumbents, fixed wheels, hub gears, single speeds, drop bars, carbon, steel and child seats. Of Bromptons and Moultons and old classic Bikertons. Of segregation, integration, helmets, high viz and ‘cycle chic’. All of this is passionately discussed and debated on cycling websites, forums, blogs, twitter accounts and the good old printed press.

But take just one small side step away from that World, and the average Briton can be happily and totally ignorant of cycling for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t take a lot to make that side step; just looking at the busy roads around where they live usually does it. And then going indoors.

If you were to walk up to a non-cyclist in the street with a clipboard and , once you’ve convinced them that you’re not after any money, ask them why they don’t cycle the main reason will be that the roads are too dangerous.

And that is where you should conclude your survey.

You could lead them to all sorts of statistics. You can point out that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the dangers. But the same can be said for running with the Bulls in Pamplona – If you run through the streets as a large group, you achieve a critical mass so when the Bull goes charging in only a small percentage get injured.

You could ask them to consider the fact that by driving, they are part of the problem. But the majority of Britons are happy not to ‘rock the boat’, to be a part of the silent majority whilst silently praying that the cost of motoring doesn’t escalate too much. Many would love to cycle, they really would. But they simply don’t know how to start or who to ask for advice or they simply haven’t got the time. And besides, the roads are too dangerous.

It doesn’t matter what the per mile rates for cycling death or injury is. You can train all the adults and children that you like to ride bicycles. But if the roads around them look dangerous, all that effort would have been wasted and some more bicycles are left rusting in sheds. Cycle Campaigners simply cannot grasp the fact that there are many people in the UK that have never cycled. At all. Not just ‘never cycled on a Brooks saddle’, I mean never cycled. What’s worse is that unless campaign organisations start understanding the magnitude of the problem, many more people may never experience the fun and liberation of cycling either.

My 12 mile commute to work is along the A259 from Worthing to Brighton. As I’ve written before, although it quite a wide road in places, it’s very busy with the infamous school runs and white van men and lots of HGV’s serving Shoreham Port. I passed my cycling proficiency in 1979. I’ve raced Mountain Bikes at World Cup level, I’ve helped teach beginners how to ride, I’ve commuted through Central London and through open countryside for years and yet I still find that stretch of road quite hostile. At work, my non-cycling colleagues hold me in the same regard as the Jackass team. To reiterate, this is just for riding a bicycle.

If you need further evidence that the roads are dangerous, then you need look no further than that doyen of local newspaper letters pages, the pavement cyclist. These will generally be novice cyclists that find a particular piece of road intimidating (maybe based on how they drive it) or believe that they can cycle on any pavement because the council has painted a bicycle symbol on some of them so it must be alright. Many pavement cyclists simply don’t want to be classified as cyclists or be bound by any of the laws of the land such as lights, reflectors or being the bicycle’s lawful owner.

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club believes that two things have to happen in the UK; there has to be seismic change away from draconian car-centric policy (in particular the misguided notion that motoring is the key to growth, jobs and prosperity) to open up our cities, towns and countryside alike, and there has to be a combination of speed reduction and infrastructure based preferably on the Dutch model (meaning a combination of methods and NOT only about segregated cycle paths). Above all, Government Departments and local councils have to realise what the definition of ‘Sustainable transport’ actually is (Hint: not widening or extending roads). If this doesn’t happen, then cycling will remain a counter-cultural curiosity, something that can be held at arms length and forgotten as easily as Cycling England.

There have been massive debates on blogs recently about such issues as segregation versus vehicular cycling or adopting Strict Liability laws such as in most of mainland Europe. Lots of great stuff was discussed by some very knowledgeable and lovely people. But if I was to discuss these issues with my wife’s friends or with acquaintances in my old village local, they would look at me as though I was from a parallel universe. If British cycling limps along its current path, it might as well be.

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