Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Farewell Cycling Campaign - Hello Darlovelo

Yes, I realise it's more than a year since anyone posted here. There are good reasons.

Firstly, due to a gradual reduction in active members, Darlington Cycling Campaign took the decision in 2012 to merge its activities with Darlovelo. The latter had recently been restructured by its members, with the aim of expanding its campaigning role, so it made sense to combine our efforts. Darlovelo's website is currently undergoing a number of updates that will reflect this change in the near future.

Secondly, all our contributors have over time become otherwise engaged. Richard & Beatrix are working in Bremen on cycling policy in Germany, Mike is a full-time family man, and Duncan is now working at Bikestop, leaving little time for any of us to provide a regular input.

Be that as it may, those of us who are members of Darlovelo will do our best to sustain this blog as the voice of cycling campaigning in Darlington by mirroring posts from the Darlovelo site. Meanwhile, if there are any other budding cycling campaigners who would like to get involved, please get in touch.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shopping by Bike

An interesting northern online discussion has been taking place this month about shopping by bicycle. Kim Harding in Edinburgh has been arguing for better cycle access to shops, a tax on car parking space, and more convenient secure cycle parking. Tom Bailey in Newcastle  argues:

"You take places where the majority of shoppers are already walking, you make them a bit more bike friendly, you put in a few cycle routes covering the last mile or two in each direction and then you do a bit of advertising.  These places are called High Streets".

So how does this apply to Darlington? Back in 2007, as part of our ultimately successful campaign  for cyclist access to the newly pedestrianized town centre, we blogged an article about the economic benefits to retailers of cyclist shoppers, something that Kim echoes in his article. But just how convenient is it to shop in Darlington?

Well, once you are in the pedestrian area, and the comfort of access to it is pretty variable, shopping right in the centre is pretty convenient. There is good quality bike parking at a number of key points around the main shopping streets, from Northgate at the north end to Blackwellgate to the south. But try almost anything else, and you soon discover that the design of the pedestrian heart was carried out without cycling in mind.

Kim quotes Jan Gehl telling us to invite people to walk and bike in cities by developing quality streetscapes. He might have added that we should actually think about what it is like getting from A to B in these landscapes on a bicycle. Three examples spring to mind in Darlington:

1. Travelling from the town centre to the railway station, a major route for cycling in Darlington. Starting from the Pease Monument in the centre of town, you would hope to be able to cycle down the direct route towards the station, Priestgate. But no, this is one way for motorised traffic in the opposite direction, with no contraflow for cyclists. So there are two alternative options. One is to cycle round a large detour, taking in Crown Street, to arrive at the foot of Priestgate, and then on to the officially signed route to the station via Borough Road. The second is to use the cycle path below the Town Hall, but this delivers you to the wrong side of Parkgate, one of the busiest roads in Darlington. Many cyclists opt here for the obvious and use the pavement.

2. Travelling along Skinnergate and on to Duke Street. This is part of the pedestrianised zone between 10am and 5pm, so is relatively pleasant during these hours. But before and after it is used, one way, by motorised traffic. The fact that cyclists use the street in both directions appears to have confused motorists and police alike, judging from the reactions I have received whilst cycling along. A year ago, as previously reported, one motorist felt it necessary to stop me and tell me off.

3. Cycling to and from the town centre to the nearby Sainsburys on Victoria Road. This supermarket is just a few minutes' cycle from the town centre, yet there is simply no provision been made available for cycling access. Given that it lies on the dual carriageway that is the inner ring road, most cyclists choose to use pavements to access the store. Moreover, returning towards town via the obvious route (S. Arden Street), cyclists are confronted with two short one way streets going the wrong way.

A market town like Darlington still has enough small shops to make shopping by bicycle a pleasant experience. But the devil is in the detail. Planners have clearly not thought through properly what shopping on a bicycle means. These three examples do not require large sums of money to resolve. rather, as Jan Gehl says, they need planners to be thinking more seriously about how to invite cyclists to shop.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Why it is not enough to just train cyclists: Infrastructure is needed if you want to get people on bikes:

David Hembrow surprises us again with an excellent post about the "efficiency" of simple training for cycling: Without the development of cycling infrastructure (where it is needed not just where it does not disturb the car) the work of e.g. "Bikeability" will be done in vain. He also argues that with the (cheap) expense for cycling infrastructure Britain could solve some of its state budget problems.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Critical Mass Ride in Darlington?

Saturdays Critical Mass ride was a complete success.Not from the from the sheer number of people that didn't turn out for it but for the fact that it brought new people together and demonstrated a group of people riding bikes can promote positive reactions from non riders..Eight riders turned out,some in fancy dress,some dressed as they normally do for a bike ride.
The reasons for fancy dress were twofold,a bit of fun and also to soften the impact of a group of cyclists riding together in a busy town centre.The main reason behind the Critical Mass ride was to celebrate a birthday with a group of like minded people that have one common factor,everybody for whatever reason  rides a bike.

                                Photo by kind permission of Simon James.

The group gathered,greetings were exchanged and hands shaken.It was time for the off.A slow ride to South Park through the Pedestrian Heart and stopping briefly in the Market Square.
Making our way down Duke Street along Skinnergate turning left in Blackwell Gate and onto High Row.At this point readers may start to think how stupid can someone be to take a group of cyclists along a very busy pedestrian street on the busiest day of the week? well,I did and I am not stupid(educationally challenged yes but not stupid).But cyclists have a right to ride through the Pedestrian Heart,a right that was fought for long and hard by the Darlington Cycling Campaign,any day of the week.
The route was a cycled at walking pace,saying "hellos" and "thankyou's" to lots of people along the way.We had a "wow" factor and a really big "cute" factor and that was the in the form of a Tricycle complete with Mother and child in fancy dress,people even came up to chat to them and ask about using a Trike.And so it was that we headed on to South Park for Ice Cream and a drink.
Slowly the group broke up,other commitments,family duties,meetings to go to.Before we all drifted off we agreed on one thing,that we would do it again,soon.
So I say a big thank you to all that took part,Darlovelo,20's Plenty for Me,Darlington Cycling Campaign,Kranksbikes,Dr.Coffee's Cafe,Sally,Brian,Geoff,Mathew,Annie,Simon,Bel,Miri and Duncan.

Post Script;
As I was riding across town to meet up with the others,I noticed at the last two junctions cars had "given way" to me,stopped and let me turn when they had right of way.Making my way through North Lodge Park,several people said good morning.On arrival at the Arts CentreI thought about this and I wondered if it was because I was dressed as a Vicar.Was it the power of the cloth or the bicycle?