Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Poor Policy Ideas that Deter Cycling

1. Compulsory Helmets

Have you noticed how many people wear cycle helmets in Darlington? Young kids, of course, a fair number of "sports cyclists" trying to reach the urban speed limit, and most officers involved in Local Motion.

Given the present climate of danger for cyclists, this is not surprising, and for children especially extremely sensible. However, taking this a step further and advocating compulsory helmets is a major mistake that many non-cyclists advocate. Look at the facts:

- cycle helmets can only protect adequately in a simple sub-14mph fall, and are almost useless in a collision with a vehicle travelling at speed. Consequently helmet wearing has very little if any impact on the level of genuinely serious injury and fatalities.

- compulsory helmet wearing allows legislators to move their focus from the real problem (speeding and badly driven vehicles) onto secondary factors such as helmets.

- compulsory helmets lead to a reduction in the level of cycling, and so an increase in coronary related deaths at a level at least 10 times larger than the number of lives supposedly saved by compulsory helmet wearing. See "How helmet promotion affects cycle use".

- studies have shown that the most important factor affecting the numbers of cycle accidents is the level of cycle use. Those countries where cycling is most common - Denmark and the Netherlands - have the lowest number of cycling fatalities per kilometre cycled. Moreover, they also have the lowest level of cycle helmet use - just 0.1% in the Netherlands, compared to the UK's 22% in 1996. See "Cycle use, risk of fatality and helmet use in Europe and USA" for more details of the research.

'Today we all stand at a crossroads between a US-style car culture and a sustainable European multi modal system. The decisions we take now and the levels of investment that we attach to them will determine where we end up'
- UK Commission for Integrated Transport

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Steady Filming for Bikes

It seems Darlington Cycling Campaign are not the only group trying to devise a low-cost means of shooting steady, high-qualitgy video from a bike. This Waukisha, Wisconsin biker is developing a home-made steady cam for use on bicycles. Click through to view some sample footage and the ongoing discussion about its development.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Main Roads for Cyclists!!

I say Chaps, things have to change! The main roads, the radial routes have to be sorted out for cyclists so people going to work or to school can use them safely!! Yarm Road, North Road, Woodland Road, Coniscliffe Road, Grange Road they have to get cycle paths or clear red cycle tracks on the road and no "give way" signs at junctions.

There should be a clear signal to car drivers from the council that they are not mother's only baby any more. There are pedestrians and cyclists and public transport, and they should have as many rights on the streets as car drivers. Or even more because they don't pollute the world as much as indivual transport - a bus can replace more than 30 cars! So just imagine Woodland Road with buses, full cycles paths and happy pedestrians!

But it does not work if the council and the highways department does not wake up to the needs of the majority of the traffic (which is not car drivers, poor things).

But how do we wake them up? Is there a helpful councillor with visions and ideas and courage? Send your ideas to your councillor and this blog!! Tell your councillor about our blog!!

Friday, July 07, 2006

Cycling in Darlington - Putting It In Perspective

Well, it's been over a year now since Darlington Borough Council was awarded £5.74m to develop new sustainable transport initiatives. What have we got for our tax money?

A fine cycle path along West Auckland Road was already being built anyway, and is spoilt by the fact that at every road crossing, cyclists must give way to cars. There is the Local Motion campaign, with lots of hype and PR and, more usefully, door-to-door visits of local people, trying to help them change their travel habits.

Then there is the Pedestrian Heart, a building site at the moment, but with the promise of??? Cyclists, already ignored by road engineers during the building phase (where do cyclists go, for god's sake?), will be given 6 months to prove that we are all angels, after which (since all humans are not angels) we will be banned from using our bikes there.

We are promised a number of new cycle paths, but there is no plan to join any of them up into a proper set of complete, safe, cycle routes. The nearest we have got to this is unsafe, on-road, "advised" routes.

The research that launched Town on the Move in 2004 stated clearly that cycling was the key to changing peoples' travel habits. Yet cyclists are still being treated like second or third class travellers.

The local authority's aims are both time and vision limited. There is a reluctance to engage with the real problem - that motorists have been given the freedom of town roads for too long - for fear of alienating potential voters. But this also reflects the meagre sums being allocated to cycling anyway, when compared to motoring. A recent article in Guardian Unlimited points out that the Department for Transport budget this year is £13.4 BILLION. Last month it made a great PR song and dance about doubling its grant to Cycling England - from £5 million to £10 million. Maybe you can figure out what that is as a percentage of its total budget.

Truth is, the level of government commitment to cycling is pathetic, and the level of ambition at local level reflects this. There has been much talk of using "soft measures", ie persuasion, to encourage more cycling, and indeed much money is being spent on PR by Local Motion. But the execution of this PR has been hijacked by the New Labour Spin Industry to sell a product that is devoid of substance. Of prime concern now are the "good stories" being pumped out to national media about the wonderful things that are happening in Darlington. Any dissent - or even critique - is strictly verboten.

The sad fact is, the council's own research repeatedly confirms Darlington Cycling Campaign's position - that many people would cycle more if only it was safer and more convenient. But as long as the motorist's "King of the Road" psychology is not openly and politically challenged, we'll all have to either continue Rambo Cycling to get through the traffic, or accept that we must break the law and share pavements with pedestrians. And cycling in Darlington will continue to be a minority sport.