Thursday, December 13, 2007

Staindrop Road to Egglestone View cycle path approved

A NEW cycle path will be built in a riverside parkland as part of a wider environmental scheme.

Darlington Borough Councils planning committee gave permission for the path along the Cocker Beck near Cockerton.

It will run from Staindrop Road to Egglestone View and give students from Branksome School a new access to school.

It will also include three timber bridges.

- The Northern Echo: School cyclists on track

Bike congestion in Copenhagen

Wouldn't this be a nice problem to have in Darlington? This bike lane has 25,000 bikes a day using it!

[Found, as ever, via Cycleliciousness]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Routes scheme tops lottery vote

A scheme to build a national network of cycle and walking routes has won a £50m lottery grant by topping a public vote.
The Sustrans: Connect2 project, which will improve travel in 79 communities, beat three other environmental groups with 42% of all ballots cast.

The People's £50 Million Lottery is the largest ever publicly-decided award.

Sustrans CEO and founder John Grimshaw said: "The hard work starts now to build those bridges, tunnels, crossings and networks of paths."

- Routes scheme tops lottery vote

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

A human/solar powered off-grid rock and roll touring apparatus

You could say that we're foregoing automobile's on this tour, but the truth is that we're embracing bicycles.

A human/solar powered off-grid rock and roll touring apparatus.

The Ginger Ninjas are on a 5000 mile tour from Northern California to Southern Mexico, carrying all equipment on their bikes, including this 1000 watt human-powered sound system.

The human powered PA makes extremely low-impact music touring possible, sans automobile and sans electric outlet; it also makes it possible to play music in any location.

A comparison is made between the energy consumed by different touring bands.

See for touring dates and technical details of the system.

What's within your two miles

Cliff Bar created their 2 mile challenge, based on the fact that 40% of US urban transport journies were of two mile or less. The average journey within Darlington is a similar distance. As part of the challenge, they allow users to enter their address into a map which will show the 2 mile radius around their house. The map is searchabe, so shops, pubs, parks and banks within easy cycling distance can easily be found.

My map shows pretty clearly just how bikeable Darlington is. Personally, I'd say everywhere within town is easily cycleable - my workplace is only just within the circle, but is easily reached in 15 minutes.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Sustrans Connect2 - Vote now!

There's £50 million worth of funding up for grabs from the Lottery. One of the four projects is Sustrans Connect2, a UK-wide project that aims to improve local travel in 79 communities by creating new walking and cycling routes for those everyday journeys.

Who gets the cash is decided by a public vote. Lines have opened and voting takes place until Monday lunchtime.

Get voting!

(Only one vote per phone number counts, so don't phone from work if anyone else there might be voting...)

Feeling Loved in the Pedestrian Heart

There I was cycling nonchalantly through the Pedestrian Heart, careful as always in case a pedestrian suddenly remembered that Big Mac and changed course two feet from my handlebars. When suddenly from behind me, I heard a loud whistling and shouting.

My natural reactions kicked in - am I doing something wrong here? Has the trial period ended prematurely, and the council employed Climate Change Police (encouraging it, that is)to make sure we are all off our bikes and back in our cars?

Stuff that, I thought, they'll not get me, and on I went, still nonchalant of course (don't want to look riled, do we). The shouting and whistling continued for a good 20 seconds, but I felt well out of their reach by the time I came to a halt to find somewhere to park. Anyway, maybe they weren't shouting after me?

I turned round to double check this was true. SHOCK! My rucksack had vanished from my rear basket. Suddenly the penny dropped. All this shouting and whistling was indeed directed at myself, but for positive reasons. People actually wanted to help me in my hour of loss. And then I remembered where I was - Bremen, Germany. All this fear and guilt had followed me 1,000 miles from the "debate" back in Darlo about cycling in the Pedestrian Heart. But here, it's an utterly inappropriate response. Of course cyclists use this pedestrian heart - look at the width of the street compared to the number of pedestrians.

I got may rucksack back within 20 seconds, with 6 or 7 people directing me to the police hut where it had just been handed in. Bikes are part of everyday city centre life here, and the people are proud that they are encouraging healthier, sustainable lifestyles.

Hope is certainly a much more attractive feeling than fear. Merry Xmas all.

Bremen Pedestrian Heart

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Council Cycle Forum dates, 2008

Next years Council cycle forum dates are:

* Tuesday 4th March
* Tuesday 3rd June
* Tuesday 2nd September
* Tuesday 2nd December

All of the meetings will take place in Committee Room 2 at the Town Hall and will begin at 6:15pm.

Members of the Campaign exec attend these as named members of the forum, but other members of the Campaign can attend as well.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jan Gehl for Darlington (on a Bike)

As Darlington approaches the end of the 6 month trial period for cycling in the Pedestrian Heart, and the final year of Cycling Demonstration Town funding, there are some crucial decisions about to be made about the future of cycling in the town.

Small town (UK) thinking (of which there is much here and around the country) says that cyclists are not popular, dangerous, anti-disabled etc etc. National thinking, leading experts in the field, and best European practice says that cycling in the Pedestrian Heart should only be a first step towards less car access to the town centre, and much much more public transport, cycling and walking access.

Copenhagen urban planner Jan Gehl confronted similar problems 40 years ago - before today's best practice was developed. Indeed, many argue that he has been personally responsible for much of today's progressive transport/urban planning thinking.

He has advised London, and even Wakefield and Castleford, in the past. Surely it is time for him to come to Darlington. Can I suggest that, should the Cycle Demo Town monies not run to bringing him here, and we get a silly decision on Ped Heart cycling, we invite him to join a mass protest ride through the town - along with members of Cycling England, who have so generously funded cycling in Darlo?

Thanks to John Wetmore from across the pond for directing us to this interview he carried out with Jan Gehl in London. John is a great pedestrian advocate - and friend of cyclists. You can see more of his american public broadcast videos here.

Cyclists are better shoppers than motorists

Originally uploaded by [Zakkaliciousness]
Cycleliciousness has another great post on why cyclists are better shoppers than motorists

Some stats from the post:

* Cyclists purchase smaller quantities each time they go, but they visit the shops more often

* Motorists are in the minority in shops in urban areas - between 25 to 40 % of customers, depending on the day of the week

* Barely 25 % of motorists leave a shop with two or more bags of goods (as opposed to 17 % of cyclists). Therefore, 75% of motorists have nothing to prevent them from using other transport forms

* Another study, this time in Berlin, showed a massive increase in cross-neighbourhood movement when they introduced a 30 km/h (18.6mph) speed limit for cars, except on major routes. People were simply using their bikes and the public transport to get around and they found themselves more mobile as a result. Up to 40% in some cases, for trips between home and the shops

* Similarly, a survey carried out in Strasbourg indicated more than 30% increase of visits to the shopping area of the city after pedestrianisation and closureto through traffic in the town centre

* A survey carried out among consumers in Bern, Switzerland, established the ratio between the value of purchases made and the parking area used by each customer over a year. The profitability was highest in the case of the cyclists - €7500 per square metre for cyclists, €6625 for motorists

Go and read the original post, cyclists are better shoppers than motorists, for more details.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

School car-exclusion zones

While searching for articles about 20mph zones, I came across a Northern Echo article about a car exclusion zone set up a five minute walk from a school in Durham - Pupils launch car-exclusion zone.

It's not clear from the article whether it is all cars which are excluded from the zone, or if it's just a voluntary/suggested zone for parents dropping their children off at the school. I'd guess it's the latter.

I wonder what difference this would make to Darlington's traffic patterns if it were implemented across all schools in the town?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Link Dump

I've had three useful blog posts sat in my feed reader for a couple of days, waiting for time to blog about them properly. In the absence of that time appearing, I thought I would put up a quick list. I'll try to write about them in detail later.

Goldmine for bike advocacy groups - link to a PDF of useful info.

The Amazing Cyclist Fashionistas of Copenhagen! - advice for female cyclists.

Why Do We Ride? - discussion of why Copenhageners ride their bikes so much.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Debunking excuses for taking the car #1: We've got to carry a lot of stuff

Exhibit A:

An entire band going to tour Mexico. By bike. They're carrying all their equipment, including instruments, PA and a dog!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Vote for Sustrans Connect 2

Transform local travel in 79 cities, towns and villages across the UK by creating new walking and cycling routes for the journeys we all make every day.

From November 26th, you will be able to vote online for Sustrans' Connect2 Project. For further details, please see:

Top Gear Trans-London Race

Last night's Top Gear featured a race through rush hour London, from the western to eastern ends(?) of the North Circular.

James May drove a Chelsea Tractor. "The Stig" took public transport. Jeremy Clarkson went by speedboat. Richard Hammond went by bike.

The results?

1. Bike
2. Speed boat
3. Public transport
4. Car

They didn't go into a lot of detail about the times, but public transport beat the car by 15 minutes.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

How much do you ride?

Via Cycleliciousness, who we seem to be linking to a lot recently, come the following statistics:

The Netherlands - 1019 km
Denmark - 958 km
Belgium - 327 km
Germany - 300 km
Sweden - 300 km
Finland - 282 km
Ireland - 228 km
Italy - 168 km
Austria - 154 km
Greece - 91 km
France - 87 km
UK - 81 km
Luxembourg - 48 km
Portugal - 35 km
Spain - 24 km

Those are the average distances cycled by a person in the country, in a year.

To put the figures into perspective, I cycle from Springfield to just west of the town centre, and back, five days a week during term-time, with one extra trip a week to Hurworth on most of those weeks. A usual day is about five miles in total (8km), which takes me about 15 minutes each way.

In a year, this, plus some other short local trips, gets me about 1000 miles (1600km), about 60% more than the average Netherlander. In two weeks of commuting, I match the UK average. I did double the UK average in one day this year!

For someone with a "proper" job, who would work five days a week for 47 weeks of the year, less than a mile and a half each way for a cycle commute would get you Holland's average.

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Billion Bikes: Cycling in Copenhagen

The Danes have done a lot right when it comes to bikes.

This video (which I found on the excellent, but hard to spell, Cycleliciousness blog) is the first of a five part podcast from A Billion bikes. (Parts four to five are also on the Cycleliciousness blog.) There's about half an hour of video in total, so I've not watched it all yet.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Darlington Cycling Campaign Meeting today, Friday 2nd November, at 7pm

A meeting of Darlington Cycling Campaign will take place tonight, Friday 2nd November, starting at 7pm, in The Britannia pub (on the inner ring road, just round the corner from Bondgate (map)). All members are welcome!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Age is no barrier to cycling, part 2

Juat as old(er) age is no barrier to cycling, this post from Cycleiciousness shows that kids can get in on the act as well.

West Park Four X Track Opening

The Cycling Campaign was at the official opening of the West Park 4 X Track on Saturday.

Ivan Illich on bicycles

A century ago, the ball-bearing was invented. It reduced the coefficient of friction by a factor of a thousand. By applying a well-calibrated ball-bearing between two Neolithic millstones, a man could now grind in a day what took his ancestors a week. The ball-bearing also made possible the bicycle, allowing the wheel -- probably the last of the great Neolithic inventions -- finally to become useful for self-powered mobility.

Man, unaided by any tool, gets around quite efficiently. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer in ten minutes by expending 0.75 calories. Man on his feet is thermodynamically more efficient than any motorized vehicle and most animals. For his weight, he performs more work in locomotion than rats or oxen, less than horses or sturgeon. At this rate of efficiency man settled the world and made its history. At this rate peasant societies spend less than 5 per cent and nomads less than 8 per cent of their respective social time budgets outside the home or the encampment.

Man on a bicycle can go three or four times faster than the pedestrian, but uses five times less energy in the process. He carries one gram of his weight over a kilometer of flat road at an expense of only 0.15 calories. The bicycle is the perfect transducer to match man's metabolic energy to the impedance of locomotion. Equipped with this tool, man outstrips the efficiency of not only all machines but all other animals as well.

The ball-bearing signaled a true crisis, a true political choice. It created an option between more freedom in equity and more speed. The bearing is an equally fundamental ingredient of two new types of locomotion, respectively symbolized by the bicycle and the car. The bicycle lifted man's auto-mobility into a new order, beyond which progress is theoretically not possible. In contrast, the accelerating individual capsule enabled societies to engage in a ritual of progressively paralyzing speed.

Bicycles are not only thermodynamically efficient, they are also cheap. With his much lower salary, the Chinese acquires his durable bicycle in a fraction of the working hours an American devotes to the purchase of his obsolescent car. The cost of public utilities needed to facilitate bicycle traffic versus the price of an infrastructure tailored to high speeds is proportionately even less than the price differential of the vehicles used in the two systems. In the bicycle system, engineered roads are necessary only at certain points of dense traffic, and people who live far from the surfaced path are not thereby automatically isolated as they would be if they depended on cars or trains. The bicycle has extended man's radius without shunting him onto roads he cannot walk. Where he cannot ride his bike, he can usually push it.

The bicycle also uses little space. Eighteen bikes can be parked in the place of one car, thirty of them can move along in the space devoured by a single automobile. It takes three lanes of a given size to move 40,000 people across a bridge in one hour by using automated trains, four to move them on buses, twelve to move them in their cars, and only two lanes for them to pedal across on bicycles. Of all these vehicles, only the bicycle really allows people to go from door to door without walking. The cyclist can reach new destinations of his choice without his tool creating new locations from which he is barred.

Bicycles let people move with greater speed without taking up significant amounts of scarce space, energy, or time. They can spend fewer hours on each mile and still travel more miles in a year. They can get the benefit of technological breakthroughs without putting undue claims on the schedules, energy, or space of others. They become masters of their own movements without blocking those of their fellows. Their new tool creates only those demands which it can also satisfy. Every increase in motorized speed creates new demands on space and time. The use of the bicycle is self-limiting. It allows people to create a new relationship between their life-space and their life-time, between their territory and the pulse of their being, without destroying their inherited balance. The advantages of modern self-powered traffic are obvious, and ignored. That better traffic runs faster is asserted, but never proved. Before they ask people to pay for it, those who propose acceleration should try to display the evidence for their claim.

So says Ivan Illich.

Found on Kent's Bike blog, which has all the relevant links.

Age is no barrier to cycling

At a recent meeting at the Town Hall, some older ladies were protesting at 60 year olds being encouraged to cycle. The chair of the meeting pointed out that he had recently started cycling again, and was older than them.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Darlington Cycling Campaign Meeting 2nd November 7pm

A meeting of Darlington Cycling Campaign will take place on Friday 2nd November, starting at 7pm, in The Britannia pub (on the inner ring road, just round the corner from Bondgate (map)). All members are welcome!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Today's Obesity Report and Yesterday's Transport Report

Listening to the news headlines this morning, leading on a government-backed study on obesity, reminded me of the hit and miss nature of our understanding of where society is going - and how it has already shaped our thinking.

In response to John Humphrys' assertion that obesity has grown as supermarkets have grown, Sir David King, the government's chief scientific advisor and head of the Foresight Programme which drew up the report, cited driving to a supermarket as part of the problem.

But one hour earlier, Betty McBride of the British Heart Foundation, taking on the mantle of government basher, doggedly stuck to changes in food labelling, food advertising and cookery classes in schools as the key weapons in the fight against obesity. And of course the food labelling will help us all "when we shop at Tesco's".

Good as it goes, but interesting how the thinking of even the British Heart Foundation has been shaped and limited by the very social forces with which it is trying to deal. Listening to that interview, Ms McBride assumed that the better food regime would be developed in and around our supermarkets.

In the town that recently rejected a Tesco development, in the only town that is both a Cycling and a Sustainable Travel Demonstration Town, we could do with following Sir David King's lead, and examining the transport policy - and health - implications of supermarket culture. Yesterday's post, reporting on a transport safety report, suggested that urban planning is making it too easy for cars, and too difficult for walkers and cyclists. Today's study describes our society as "obesogenic", because of its endemic gearing towards a sedentary lifestyle.

Might it be possible that a healthy lifestyle involves seeking out healthier foods on foot and on a bike, rather than (only) "on supermarket shelves"?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

What's your carbon footprint?

According to the Government CO2 Calculator, mine is 1.06 tonnes per year (compared to a national average of 4.48 tonnes per year).

Govt. Advisers Back 20MPH Limit

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety has come out in favour of our campaign for a 20mph speed limit in urban areas. And new speed cameras, which measure a driver's speed over a certain distance, should be a priority for the Home Office, say its authors.

The executive director of the parliamentary committee told the BBC this morning, "People want to walk and cycle, or want their children to walk and cycle, but are often afraid of traffic going too fast down their road".

More details about the report, called Beyond 2010 - a holistic approach to road safety in Great Britain, can be found here.

Towards a New Culture for Urban Mobility

"Towards a new culture for urban mobility" is the title of the European Commission's new Green Paper on urban transport. It was adopted on 25 September 2007 and opens a debate on the key issues of urban mobility: free-flowing and greener towns and cities, smarter urban mobility and an urban transport which is accessible, safe and secure for all European citizens.

With this Green Paper the Commission wants to set a new European agenda for urban mobility, while respecting the responsibilities of local, regional and national authorities in this field. The Commission intends to facilitate the search for solutions by, for example, sharing best practices and optimising financial means.

- Cycleliciousness - Towards a New Culture for Urban Mobility

Friday, October 12, 2007

Yuba Mundo cargo bike

The Yuba Mundo cargo bike now has a UK distributer; This Is Loads Better (who also sell loads of other cool bikes).

The Yuba Mundo offers "environmentally friendly transportation, economic viability, unsurpassed cargo capacity, the ability to carry passengers, healthier commuting and affordable mobility". The Yuba is based on the Xtracycle long bike system.

If you order before the end of the month, you can get the 6-speed version for £380, instead of the usual £425. Ten percent of every order goes to the Re-Cycle charity.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Blogging for the Environment

October 15 is Blog Action Day, and the theme this year is the environment. If you have a blog and want to join in, all you have to do is use that day to post something related to the environment, in whatever way, shape, or form you prefer. You can pick an environmental issue that has meaning for you and let us know why it's important. Organize a beach or neighborhood cleanup and tell us about it. If you're into fiction writing, give us a story with an environmental theme. Have a podcast, videoblog, or photoblog? Join the fun! The idea here is to have a mass effect on public awareness by sharing as many ideas in as many ways as possible.

If you're game for participating, go register your blog with the 7,000+ other blogs (with 5 million readers!) that are already signed up. Also, see the Blog Action Day blog for more on how bloggers can change the world.

- Blog Action Day

That's next Monday. I'll try to post something here. If you have a Darlington- or bike-based blog and are going to take part, leave a link in the comments and I'll compile a list in a later post.

Green Wave - green lights for cyclists

Copenhagen has, on certain stretches of bike lanes featuring heavy traffic (15,000 + bikes per day), started coordinating the traffic lights to give cyclists a 'green wave' all the way along the route.

This means that if you ride 20 km per hour you'll hit green lights the whole way.

- cycleliciousness: Green Wave

How long until we have this in the UK?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Strike Bikes Built Under Workers' Control

135 sacked workers at the Bike Systems GmbH bicycle factory in Nordhausen,Thuringen (in the old GDR) have resumed production of bicycles under workers' control, by occupying the factory since 10th of July 2007.

If you are thinking of buying a new bike in the near future, have a look at their Strike Bikes web site. Click on "english" to get a babelfish-style translation. For 275 euros - under £200 - you get a city bike with a state of the art hub dynamo, three gears, and reverse-pedal braking. The workers are trying to build up 1800 pre-orders by 2nd October to create a viable basis for production under workers' control.

You can email your support to

Monday, September 24, 2007

20MPH urban speed limits

On a cycling forum earlier today, I asked the question "Can anyone give me a decent reason why the urban speed limit shouldn't be dropped from 30mph to 20mph?"

The replies (and arguments) which followed throw up some interesting and useful figures.

Bikes fastest for commute in Edinburgh

TWO wheels beat four during the latest "commuter challenge" to find the quickest way to travel into Edinburgh city centre.

The annual time trial to see which is the fastest way to get to work saw bicycles and motorbikes take the honours in four races from the edge of town to Frederick Street.

Motorbikes came out on top in the journeys from Ocean Terminal and the Ingliston Park and Ride. But the cyclists, who were described by event organisers as typical commuters rather than competitive racers, were fastest on the trips from Newcraighall Station and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

The slowest journey was in a car from Newcraighall Station, taking 43 minutes to travel the 5.3 miles.

- Bikes roll ahead in commuter challenge

I can ride home from work (west end to Haughton, about 2.5 miles) 8 minutes faster on my bike than it can be driven during rush hour.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Contested Streets - Copenhagen

I've just finished watching this fantastic ten minute film about traffic in Copenhagen. You should watch it too:

Here are some notes I jotted down while watching it, to give you a flavor:

* Commuting traffic: 1/3 bike, 1/3 public transport, 1/3 private car
* Very few helmets
* Normal clothes, including skirts
* Baskets
* Some fantastic bikes!
* 4 lane road, with heavy traffic, reconfigured to take space from cars to give to bikes - same capacity as before, but slower and safer
* About five minutes in, pedestrianised shopping area - with bikes!
* Removed car parking, to create a "people street"
* Pedestrian-priority street - open to pedestrians, bikes and cars - two way for bikes and people, one way for cars - a mix of users, cars go really slow. Less rigid on pedestrians or car streets, now mixing them safely
* Bike investment is small money compared to cars investment
* Do it a bit at a time; never have a big plan to switch from cars to people, because you'll lose the election - people will think it's impossible, but it isn't.

[Found on the cycleliciousness blog.]

Friday, September 14, 2007

Some other blogs

* Bikecentric: ride, write, recycle
* gwadzilla: Rants on Cycling and on Life
* cycleliciousness: Copenhagen Bicycle Culture

Some great links from the comments on an earlier post about Copenhagen girls on bikes.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Cycle Chic - Copenhagen Girls on Bikes

"Social Documentary in High Heels", is one way this blog has been described. It's about bicycle culture in Copenhagen, Denmark. 35% of the population - 550,000 people - ride their bike to work or school each day. Bicycles are such an integral part of our culture and there are many aesthetic aspects on the streets at any given moment.

Perhaps we can inspire people in other countries to commute by bicycle or lobby for better bike conditions in their cities by providing a portrait of a city that lives and breathes bikes.

At the very least, enjoy the view from our saddles.

- Cycle Chic - Copenhagen Girls on Bikes

This is what cyclists look like when cycling becomes 'normal'.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Hell O' The North 2007

This year's Hell O' The North ride takes place on Sunday. Registration is from 08:30 - 09:30 at the Dolphin Centre. You can enter on the day for a fee of £6 (which inludes a T shirt) or £2.50 (without a T shirt).

The route is 100 miles. Assuming the route stays the same, there's a map linked to from my blog post about the Hell O' The North 2006.

I did it last year on my mountain bike. I think I was the last to finish. The weather was terrible last year, in particular the headwind for the first 60 miles. It took me ten hours and it hurt. A lot. I'm doing it again this year - I'll be on my blue Solitude drop-bar singlespeed big-wheeled MTB.

Update: Had a great ride yeaterday, despite the weather. My right knee no longer functions as it should.

A big thanks to the Council for organising such a good event.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Banning cars from near schools

Banning vehicles from the vicinity of schools could help reverse the decline in walking seen in the UK in recent decades, said the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP).

At present, 38 per cent of all journeys under two miles - which could be covered by up to 30 minutes' brisk walking - are taken by car, adding to the "twin crises" of obesity and climate change, the report warned.

- 'Ban cars near schools to tackle problem of obesity'

No mention of bikes in the article, but an interesting idea. (A bike could make the 2 mile journey in 12 minutes, assuming a 10mph average speed...)

Some comments on this from Darlington's Cllr Mike Cartwright on his blog also: Obesity, Cars and CO2. In the comments for that post (which you can only access via the main page of the blog, not the individual post), Kate Davies makes the point that working mothers may be more seriously affected by this proposal as they need to be able to drop the kids off and then get on to work. However, if the exclusion zone were fairly small, they would only need to walk the last bit to the school, and they may get to work faster if the traffic congestion is eased.

Friday, August 03, 2007

City Cycling - Online Magazine

City Cycling is a magazine about cycling in the city. It's available online, and there are 26 issues for you to have a look through.

The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema

The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema is a travelling cinema which is powered and transported using only bicycles.

The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema is the only UK touring bicycle-powered cinema, uniting art, education and sustainability by:

* Screening D.I.Y films, independents and small productions
* Demonstrating how to generate power locally and independently of fossil fuels
* Engaging people in idea of sustainability
* Cycling the cinema from place to place

Throw in top hats, 50’s usherettes and a touch of the circus weird… and you’ve arrived at The Magnificent Revolutionary Cycling Cinema!


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Cycling in Europe - Conclusions

So there it is, cycling in the Netherlands and Germany can be just as variable in quality as in any other country - although the standards by which quality gets judged tend to be much higher than those in the UK.

What really puzzles me is this. Is traffic engineering in the 21st century really a science, or is it just a political football? I ask this honestly of the traffic enginners of Darlington, and of the politicians who rule them.

This trip clearly demonstrated that, when planning for cycling (as, we are told, Darlington, Cycling Demonstration Town, is doing) a raft of traffic measures is at the disposal of traffic engineers to consider, whenever a new scheme is developed. These include - all of which have been clearly illustrated on this blog:

*priority to cyclists at crossings with side roads
*cycle rings around roundabouts
*scrapping of centre lines on narrow roads to enable cycle paths to be created
*20mph zones
*shared space projects
*cycle paths that use both road space and pavement space at different times, depending on space availability
*making car driving in urban areas more difficult, to get people out of their cars
*cycle streets
*one way streets for motor vehicles that are two-way for cyclists

I genuinely ask - do these traffic engineering tools ever get considered in a town like Darlington, or are we victims of car-induced brain death in this department? Would it not be useful to at least have a traffic planning process that required engineers and politicians to explain why they have rejected such solutions, rather than never even having to consider them?

What this variation in cycling provision also suggests is that a grading of cycling provision - independent of country - is both appropriate and possible. The cyclist priority roundabout in Ijmuiden would get 5 stars, the cycle paths on country roads in Friesland only 2 or 3.

Similarly, our (current) right to cycle through Darlington's town centre feels something like a 4 star hotel, with no dangerous vehicles, plenty of space, and only the sudden changes in direction, and ongoing obliviousness, of pedestrians to consider. The ring road, on the other hand, could be classified as the equivalent of a whorehouse, with cyclists the unpaid prostitutes.

Just as houses are now subject to an eco-grading when they are sold (well, at least 4-bedroom houses at the mo), maybe we should introduce the same scheme for roads.

Ah well, back to the joys of the little island.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cycling in Europe 6 - Bikes on Trains

Our last hours in the Netherlands included the remarkable Groningen railway station. Underneath a large, open forecourtthat is devoid of traffic, resides a massive bicycle parking area, with what seemed like tens of thousands of bikes parked up.

Groningen, with a population of 185,000 is about twice the size of Darlington, roughly as big as Sunderland. And this is the kind of picture that can be imagined if we had a cycling-friendly culture in the north east of England.

We put our bikes on the train in Groningen, and again space is tight. It's the rush hour on a small local train to the border town of Nieuweschans. From here, it's a short ride to the border, but remarkably the cycle route takes us into Germany without a hint of a border crossing. Only the change in road signs and bus stops give away the change of country - we actually crossed the border on a small path that runs alongside a single-track railway line.

Trains in Germany are quite different - an entire carriage at the rear of the train is given over to cyclists. The seats are lined up along the side walls, and can be up or down depending on the number of bikes.

In both cases, though, we need to pay for the bikes, (daily tickets cost 6 euros in the Netherlands, 4.50 in Germany) whatever the journey. So compared to the UK pluses and minuses - we don't pay for bikes on trains in the UK, but there is little space, and we must book in advance. In the Netherlands there is still little space, though it is at least a walk on service. In Germany, taking the bike is a lot easier, though again requires payment.

So we arrive at our destination, Bremen. A few days to cycle around and gain some further impressions before the return home.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cycling in Europe 5 - Shared Space in Drachten

After the overnight in Sneek, a wet morning's cycling to the town of Drachten, comparable in size with Bishop Auckland, and with a Shared Space project on its inner ring road. Ten miles out from Drachten, the road - and cycle path - are closed for road works. What do we get instead? This specially constructed, temporary diversion for cyclists. This was in a small village, and it even had a nice lady at the end of it to stop traffic so that we could cross a busy road.

The Shared Space concept is one that is gaining increasing support across Europe. In Drachten, the project is based on the removal of traffic lights on the busy inner ring road, and their replacement with roundabouts, and junctions like the one in this video.

A bit like a zebra crossing for cyclists and pedestrians, but without the beacons! We used the crossings ourselves without a hitch, but what we noticed was that a routine was established by cyclists whereby they signalled their intention to cross with a wave of the appropriate arm, and local car drivers were waiting for the signal. In other words, local customs had developed to deal with uncertainty.

The one car that failed to stop was a Polish-registered vehicle. The cyclist in question, however, was alert to the possibility and probably stopped in time when he registered that the Polish driver was dreaming rather than looking. This, we conclude, is the hub of the problem. Like Poles, most British car drivers also currently dream in these situations, safe in the assumption that they have absolute right of way.

How can we change such behaviour to something more appropriate to urban driving? After so many years of motor dominance in our urban spaces, we are still trying to develop cycle routes in towns like Darlington on the assumption that the motorist should not be disturbed. Yet in contradiction, there is now said to be a hierarchy of traffic modes that puts the disabled, pedestrians and cyclists above motorists in terms of priority.

This theoretical commitment now needs practical application to tackle the major barrier to urban sustainable transport development - British car driver behaviour. Rather than run away from the issue, we badly need politicians, local and national, who will show leadership, and start the long haul towards more considerate - and aware - urban driving.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cycling in Europe 4 - Friesland Surprises

You sometimes forget when visiting a country like the Netherlands that it is made up of towns, cities, regions, each with their own unique identities. Crossing the 30 kilometre dyke on the Ijsselmeer reminded us of this fact.

South of the dyke is Holland proper, not to be confused with the rest of the Netherlands (cf with use of "England" for "Great Britain"). North of the dyke is Friesland, a largely rural area famous for its cows.

What immediately struck us as cyclists was the change in traffic treatment. Where previously we were given clear priority of crossing motor traffic - at side turnings, for example - in Friesland the approach is more tentative.

Crossings like the one in the picture ask cyclists to give way to car traffic - and car drivers take the hint by driving faster, and with less awareness of what is going on around them in much the same way as Brits.

The first major town we passed through after the dyke, Bolsward, proved to be typical of the region. Here, the town centre has a 30kph (20mph) speed limit, and little or no separate cycle paths. With cycling as popular here as in the rest of the Netherlands, the streets are loaded with brave cyclists and rather aggressive motorists - though thankfully far fewer than in Darlo.

The layout of Friesland roads became apparent as we continued on to Sneek. Small country roads typically have no central line, but instead are narrowed either side with non-mandatory cycle paths, to both warn motorists that cyclists may be round the next corner, and to give them less of a feeling of the open road. Here is one example.

Is this a chicken and egg problem? Does good behaviour follow clear traffic measures that give cyclists priority, or are such measures not possible where motorists are typically possessive about their road space? Perhaps the clue lies in the politics of the different regions, though little can be gleaned from the electoral arithmetic of the 2006 Dutch general election.

But it does make sense, that if strong political leadership is forthcoming, anti-social driving behaviour can be challenged. And what is clear from this experience is that national patterns of behaviour can and do vary. Darlington pundits take note - stop hiding behind the "we are British, we can't do it" excuse for inaction.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Cycling in Europe 2 - Joy in Central Holland

Within 300 metres of getting off the ferry in Ijmuiden, we are confronted with a magic roundabout. A cycle ring towards the outer rim gives cyclists priority over vehicle traffic joining and leaving the roundabout. We know this phenomenon from previous visits to Bremen, where we have filmed a roundabout that is designed for motorists to give way to cyclists on entering or leaving. (Have a look at the Things to Come video on our 2007 Cycling Symposium site for an idea of what this means).

This bikezone article gives an overview of the problems with British roundabouts from a cyclists' point of view.

Accident rates at roundabouts are a concern in most industrialised countries. It just seems that some (including the UK) can't imagine a solution that gives such priority to non-motorised traffic. Yet studies consistently suggest that driver awareness and attention is the key to reducing accidents. Even at these cycle ring roundabouts, cyclists are watching out for sleepy car drivers. A clear run through a roundabout for a car driver reduces their propensity to pay close attention to details like cyclists.

We team up with Martin (above), a cyclist from North Shields who is touring Holland for a couple of weeks. Martin has Dutch parents, but sounds Geordie through and through after being brought up on Tyneside. He struggles to enjoy cycling in North Shields, but loves it here in Holland. Martin's choice of cycling on Tyneside is partly economic - he is not burdened by the spiralling costs of car ownership, and has adjusted his lifestyle accordingly.

Then we cross the nearby river on a ferry that separates cars from cyclists/pedestrians, the former paying for the crossing, the latter not. So pricing policy favours sustainable transport there.

When we come across this small railway station in Castricum, we realise the depth of cycling culture in this part of the world - hundreds of bikes used to commute to a station the size of Thornaby.

We say our goodbyes to Martin, who is heading up to the islands. A short train trip from Castricum to Anna Paulowna near the dyke to the north is perhaps less inspiring, and explains why most bikes are left behind. Whilst it is possible to walk on a train with your bike without pre-booking, it costs six euros for a bike "day ticket", however short the journey. And there is little space to store bikes in the designated areas - maybe 2 or 3 bikes at a time in two or three spaces near doorways.

When we tell a passenger we are heading for Germany, they mention in passing how German trains are both better and cheaper. Judgement withheld until later.

After two days of rain, at last the sun comes out as we leave the train. Coupled with a decent breeze on our backs, the long ride to and over the dyke now becomes genuinely exhilarating. Tim decides to burst into song. The joys, the joys.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Cycling in Europe 1 - Tyneside

Two of the Campaign's members are off to Holland and Germany for a few days to experience first hand day-to-day cycling in nearby European countries. No lycra-clad thousand miles and more style cycling - this is a leisurely journey to Bremen in northern Germany by bike, ferry and train.

The start of this short investigative trip was the 12 miles or so from Newcastle Central Station (a horrendously wet day inhibited cycling direct from Darlo) to the ferry terminal at North Shields. This meant using the riverside cycle route along the north of the river Tyne.

Much of the route followed a very pleasant track bed, presumably an old industrial railway line, frustratingly interrupted by regular crossings of roads. At each of these crossings, the former bridge had been demolished, to be replaced by a long descending run (resulting in a gathering of speed) to the road crossing, followed by various barriers to maintaining that speed - barriers, give way signs, roads with no warnings to motorists to take care, and of course your average uneducated UK urban car driver who blasts his youthful way through such situations with a full throttle in a 30 miles an hour zone. All this followed by the steep climb up the other side.

One aim of our trip is to try to understand why so many of our motorists can be so unhelpful towards cyclists; another is to consider whether the adage that "we can't change them - this is Britain" is really true. This is crucial to us finding ways to make driving behaviour more considerate. We overnight on the ferry to Ijmuiden in Holland to see how - and if - they do it over there.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tyne & Wear Metro and Bikes

This coming weekend, I'll be up on Tyneside with my bike. The weather forecast is horrendous, so I took a look at the Metro web site to see whether I could, in an emergency, take my bike on board a train. I foolishly though that, having recently returned from Berlin, where the local train operator is actively encouraging cyclists onto their trains with their bikes, there might be a chance.

Alas, the only mention of bicycles is in the "Terms and Conditions" document, which specifically bans bikes from trains. In response I have sent the following letter:

Dear Metro,

Isn't it about time you woke up to your responsibilities regarding climate change and started to make it easier for cyclists to use the metro system? Having viewed your conditions of carriage, I see that you have a blanket ban on bicycles on metro trains. Compare this with more progressive cities like Berlin, where there is currently a major campaign being run by the local train network to encourage cyclists on to their trains with their bikes.

Excuses are now not good enough. We badly need to encourage the use of sustainable transport in our towns and cities. Please reconsider this backward rule, and look at ways in which you can become a partner in finding local solutions to climate change.

Any experiences of trying to take your bike on to local trains would be helpful.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Be careful out there...

A cautionary tale from Nigel on the Hamsterley Trailblazers forum:

Went out on the road bike today for a training session. Just leaving Darlington via Branksome area of town, when a group of what can only be called morons (the local chavs) decided to jump out in front of me and block the road with themsevles and their bikes, this left me with no time to stop or find a way around them. Needless to say I ended up on the floor, and needing hospital treatment for concussion, a head injury and a small amount of skin removed from my right leg. Luckly they were not after my bike. However be warned this is happening more and more, I'm also in the Darlo Harriers, and we are getting bricks and bottles thrown at us when out training, this does not just happen in the rougher areas, but increasingly throughout the town.

Pedestrian Heart: letters about bikes

There have been another couple of responses to my letter published in The Northern Echo the other week.

* My blog post about the original letter and my reply.
* The first reply to my letter, from K Devin.
* Today's reply from Mrs Paddy Dinsdale.

There are several points raised in these letters and the campaign is working on a reply. I thought it would be worthwhile posting some points and responses here, as the Echo limits letters to 200 words.

It is possible for bikes to give way to pedestrians without dismounting and pushing the bike. As there have been no recorded instances of any accidents between cyclists and pedestrians (other than one which took place on the roadway), I see no reason why cyclists should have to dismount. There have been many accidents involving cars and pedestrians, so why are there not more letters to the Echo demanding slower speed limits across the town?

Cyclists in Europe are allowed to cycle in pedestrianised areas. Two members of the Cycle Campaign are visiting one such area in Germany soon, and will post here about it.

My point relating to the new design making it much safer for cyclists to use the area was not relating to the safety of cyclists, but to the safety of all users. Cyclists used the town centre roads before the pedestrianisation work began without coming into conflict with pedestrians, and the new design makes the area even safer for pedestrians.

As has been said many times, banning cyclists from the town centre would force us onto the surrounding ring road. The percieved danger caused having cyclists ride in the pedestrianised must be measured against the very real danger of forcing cyclists onto the ring road.

I am very sorry that some people feel unsafe using the town centre, but to ban one group of users because of the irrational fear of another group would be madness.

The campaign has sent a letter detailing some of these points to the Darlington and Stockton Times. It will hopefully be published soon, but here is an exclusive preview:

Spectator (June 8) asks "Why should cyclists be allowed in the Heart?". He omits the crucial adjective. Does he wish to prevent responsible cyclists, simply because one of the many manifestations of youth anti-social behaviour is irresponsible cycling? If so, he should ask himself why the irresponsible behaviour that he saw was permitted, and how it would be prevented if all cyclists were banned.

The decision to permit cyclists was taken at a meeting of the cabinet in November 2004, when the following facts were presented:

1. Prior to development of the Pedestrian Heart, cyclists used roads through the town centre to access areas such as the station (via the ring road crossing).

2. There had been 45 accidents to cyclists, including a fatality, on the ring road since 1988, 13 in the five years before the report.

3. There had been no collisions between cyclists and pedestrians on pavements over a four-year period. The only such collision occurred on a road. In that time, there had been 14 accidents involving a private car and pedestrian, 3 accidents involving a taxi and pedestrian, 5 accidents involving a public service vehicle and a pedestrian, one accident involving a police car and a pedestrian, and 2 accidents involving a car and a cycle.

During this period there were no recorded accidents involving a cyclist and pedestrian.

More recently, in July 2004, a cycle/pedestrian accident had taken place on Northgate - thiswas on the highway.

4. Advice of the Department of Transport is: “For any new pedestrianisation scheme, there should be a presumption that cycling will be allowed unless an assessment of the overall risks dictates otherwise. In conducting this assessment, the risk to cyclists using alternative on-road routes should be taken into account. This is particularly important if the alternative routes are not safe or direct and cannot be made so”

The full report is available for all to study on the Council website.

Darlington Cycling Campaign are not aware of any local reasons why Darlington should be an exception to this guidance. Some towns e.g. Cambridge, are currently opening to cyclists previously pedestrian-only areas, others such as Cardiff are considering it. We fully share the resentment of irresponsible cycling. We particularly resent being associated with such behaviour. Furthermore, we do understand the perception that even responsible cycling is dangerous. However, the facts clearly demonstrate that the risk is in truth very low indeed. It is our perception that the behaviour of pedestrians is already changing, and there is a much more relaxed acceptance of responsible cyclists. Spectator may also be heartened to learn that there will soon be cycling policemen in the Pedestrian Heart, as there are in York.

Spectator is in error in suggesting that cyclists in York are banned from the pedestrian areas. They are banned only during the times when the areas are exclusively for pedestrian use. These are the same hours that used to prevail in Darlington before the Pedestrian Heart was developed – but cycling was not banned in Darlington during those hours.

If cycling in the Pedestrian Heart were to be banned, those who had campaigned for it would have to examine their conscience the next time a cyclist is injured or killed on the ring road.

Monday, June 25, 2007

DHL, G4S and Unichem vans park in bike lanes

Since these companies are repeat offenders, I'd like to let the internet know that DHL, G4S and Unichem vans park in bike lanes. Specifically, the contraflow bike lane on Northgate in Darlington. Bikes heading north out of town have to cross into the one way traffic coming the other way, risking being hit by busses.


This photo was taken a while ago. This morning was the same, but with a DHL van and G4S van parked further down the bike lane.

Update 26/06/2007: Just Unichem and DHL this morning...
Update 02/07/2007: Just G4S this morning...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Site Updates

I'm going to be making some small changes to the website soon. I've just made a start at reducing the number of labels we use to tag posts. There were starting to be a lot of labels with only one post, so I've deleted most of these (I left ETC, as the Eastern Transport Corridor is likely to become a bigger issue once it's completed).

Ironically, in the process of deleting labels, I've created a new one. Post which are considered noteworthy will be labelled as such, to enable them to be found more easily later. I did this after discovering a rant I wrote abut what needs to be done in Darlington, and realising that I'd forgotten all about it: The City That Never Walks.

If anyone has a favourite post, let me know and I'll label it as noteworthy: email me, comment here, or comment on the post itself.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Original plans for the Pedestian Heart works

Thanks to Stephen for emailing a link to the original plans for the Pedestian Heart, which clearly show that cycling was planned in right from the start.


Some interesting/scary statistics on 32Sixteen: Forget The Road To Basra:

British Servicemen Killed in Iraq in 2007: 24
Cyclists Killed on Britains Roads far in 2007: 74*
Pedestrians Killed on Britains Roads far in 2007: 336*

* based on 2005 accident figures

As Bez says in the comments, those statistics would appear to suggest that survival is easier when you have a machine gun.

Change Your World

Change Your World

Ever wonder how life would be if we travelled in ways that benefited our health and our environment? We'd have safer roads, cleaner air and a better quality of life.

It's easier to do than you think. Change Your World is asking you to swap just one car trip from 1-7 July and choose something that's better for the planet instead.

And guess what? If we all give up one car journey that week we'll reduce car traffic by 10%.

(Found via the Howies blog)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Recycling: Bikes in Darlington's Pedestrian Heart

There's yet another letter in today's Northern Echo using the dictionary definition of pedestrian to question why bikes should be allowed in the Town Centre.

COULD someone please direct me to the much vaunted "Pedestrian Heart" of Darlington?

I looked up the word pedestrianise, in the Chambers Dictionary, and the definition given is - an area set aside for walkers only. Well, where is it?

Two cyclists were weaving their way through the walkers outside Marks and Spencer in Northgate one morning recently - one was even doing what I think is wheelies. Amazed by this, I made inquiries and found that cyclists can cycle anywhere in the newly-paved area of our town.

So, can someone please direct me to the pedestrianised area of Darlington? Thanking you in anticipation. - Mrs P Dinsdale, Darlington.

Ok, so they've used "pedestrianise", rather than "pedestrian"... To save me some time the next time a letter like this is published, I thought I would post my reply here, then I can just copy and paste next time:

Once again a letter is published which uses the dictionary definition of a pedestrian as a reason for banning bicycles from Darlington's Pedestrian Heart. Do the writers of these letters appreciate that their definition also excludes pushchairs, prams and wheelchair users? Thank you, however, to Mrs P Dinsdale for a timely reminder to all cyclists that they are allowed to cycle within the area in which most motorised vehicles are excluded.

I myself cycled through the town centre on Saturday, although I was unable to wheelie as I was pulling my 18-month-old daughter in a trailer. The new design makes it much safer for cyclists to use the area, as it has made the streets much wider, and I had no problems getting through the area. I also cycle through the area twice a day when going to and from work, again with no problems.

Do those who object to cyclists in the town centre realise that the majority of cyclists are responsible cyclists? They are parents taking their children to school. They are teachers on their way to work. They are people going shopping.

Responsible cycling in Darlington town centre is safe, pleasant and fun. More people should try it.

Update: The letter is published in today's Echo (Tues 19th June) and on their website.

There is a quiet revolution afoot, but the Government is not rising to the challenge

Steve Richards thinks that there is a quiet revolution afoot, but the Government is not rising to the challenge

I detect an understated revolution from below, one that is only indirectly connected with decisions taken by elected leaders in this country or anywhere else. The revolution is in its early days. I predict confidently that it will lead to a dramatic decline in car usage and holidays in far-flung places.

Indeed I wonder whether we are seeing the beginning of the end of cars, at least in cities.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Cycling Festival - Wet but Productive

Sporting our spanking new Campaign banner, DCC's presence at the annual Darlington Cycling Festival in South Park proved well worth it. Over 20 new members joined the Campaign, and some heated debates about the qualities of Darlington's ongoing infrastructure improvements kept everyone warm.

Let's hope for better weather next year.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Great Divide Race starts today

Today is the start of the Great Divide Race. This is a self-supported race following the Great Divide bike trail, from the Canadian border to the Mexican border.

The Great Divide Race is a self-supported, solo competition following the 2,490-mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. Traversing Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, the route demands over 200,000 feet of climbing along it's length. Competitors carry all equipment necessary to negotiate the backcountry, restocking on food and other supplies from the small towns along the route.

You can follow the race via the Great Divide Race blog and listen to the riders' phone-ins on MTB Cast.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Leaving the Pedestrian Heart - Northgate cycle lane update

I've blogged earlier about vans parked in the contraflow bike lane on Northgate. this morning was no different, with two DHL and one Unichem van forcing any cyclists heading north out of the lane and into the path of oncoming buses.

This needs sorting out before someone's badly hurt.

Darlington Cycling Festival, South Park, Sunday 17th June

Darlington Cycling Festival takes place on Sunday 17th June in South Park. People who are attending the festival to have a stall include Groundwork, Local Motion, Police, Surestart and Sustrans. The idea of the day is to put across a positive message about cycling and include all age groups so hopefully there will be something for everybody including some guided rides and displays from a mountain bike team and a BMX team.

The event runs from 11:00 to 4:00.

Darlington Cycling Campaign will have a stall so come along for a chat. If you've any particular praise or criticism of the cycling infrastructure that you'd like us to pass on, if's much easier to do so in person than by email.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What would it take for you to consider Darlington to be a beacon of cycling excellence?

The Government has issued its response to a cycling related ePetition, and Darlington gets a mention. (See the full response and the petition by clicking this link.)

Through Cycling England, we are also funding 6 Cycle Demonstration Towns. The project provides over £8m for the 6 selected towns - Aylesbury, Brighton, Darlington, Derby, Exeter and Lancaster to help them become beacons of cycling excellence.

What would it take for you to consider Darlington to be a beacon of cycling excellence?

My own personal measure is to consider the journeys I could make with my kids in a trailer behind the bike without resorting to riding on the pavement at some point. Currently these are very limited.

Monday, June 04, 2007

20mph and a Speed Management Strategy

Just as we learn that Portsmouth City Council are working towards a 20mph speed limit throughout their city, and just three months after Darlington Cycling Campaign's call for similar measures in our town were dismissed as too ambitious, I accidently come across a consultation process for Darlington and County Durham's Speed Management Strategy.

Naturally enough, the Campaign was not alerted or informed about this consultation process, and the deadline for responses is today, June 4th. One of the key objectives of the proposed strategy, which is billed to run until 2011, is to reduce the risk to vulnerable road users. Hmm, wonder if that might mean cyclists?

If anyone can manage in the next couple of hours, you can email comments on the strategy to

Monday, May 21, 2007

Pedestrian Heart: Northgate bike lane update

Heading in to work today (slower than usual having taken a MTB to the ribs in Hamsterley yesterday) I saw that the line marking on Northgate is now in place for the contraflow cycle lane and the bus stops.

The cycle lane allows bikes to travel against the direction of the one way system on Northgate, from Boots to McDonalds. It is a 'mandatory' cycle lane, being painted with a solid white lane, meaning that vehicles should not enter it at any time. There are also double yellow lines in place. This morning, a secure courier van was parked in the cycle lane outside the bank, meaning anyone trying to use the lane would have to pull out around the van into the path of oncoming vehicles...

Access to the bike lane, when coming from the Pedestrian Heart, is via a bit of road which allows cyclists to bypass the No Entry signs. This morning there was a delivery truck parked in this bit of road, forcing cyclists to ride through the No Entry signs, into the path of oncoming vehicles...

Update: This morning there was another van parked in the bike lane as I rode past in the opposite direction, forcing anyone heading out of town into the path of oncoming buses (who get very close to the bike lane when coming off the roundabout).

Tomorrow morning I'll be carrying a camera with me and will photograph any vehicles parked in the cycle lane. Stay tuned...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bikes on trains: how we used to live

So, we could do it in the Fifties...

Part two can be seen on the site I found this on: Film Of British Cycling Club Outing (1955)

Greenbank Road junction update

All the road markings seem to be in place now at the almost-completed Greenbank Road junction but there doesn't seem to be any sign of Advanced Stop Lines or filter lanes for bikes. This is a key junction for cyclists and it's a crime that there has been no provision made for bikes, despite there being, in our opinion, ample space.

I approach this junction from the town centre each morning on my way to work. I can, just, get past the queue of cars by filtering on the left and then wait just over the stop line, in the middle of the lane, until the lights change. This is easily the safest place for a cyclist to be at this junction and I am easily able to clear the junction and move back to the left a little before I slow any cars. This process would have been made much safer with the inclusion of an Advanced Stop Line and a filter lane.

Pedestrian Heart update

Most of the shuttering has now gone from High Row, meaning cyclists can now safely use this route through the Pedestrian Heart, making it much easier for me to call at a cash machine on my way to and from work, but also allowing travel from Conniscliffe Road, down Blackwellgate and into the town centre.

Some yellow chalk markings have appeared on Northgate in front of Boots. The work 'BIKE' is used, so the contraflow bike lane would seem to be getting nearer completion.

There is also some marking on the traffic island at the end of Commercial Street, where it joins the Northgate roundabout, which could possibly be for a bike lane. If this is what it is, it looks like bikes will have to give way to cross entrances/exits of the roundabout, so I will be avoiding it. Of course, it could also be nothing to do with bikes and could be to do with the new shopping centre.

The little 'twiddly bits' which will allow bikes to bypass the No Entry signs on Northgate and Bondgate look to be almost completed.

Council update

Nick Wallis reports that he is to remain as cabinet member in charge of transport, and also hints that things may be moving on two important links for people travelling into the town centre from the east end of town:

A cycle/pedestrian bridge will be built across the East Coast Main Line on Haughton Road, and I hope there will be substantial progress on the cycle path along the Skerne towards the town centre.

The bridge on Haughton Road should make a huge difference. This will make the new route from Albert Road to the town centre viable (past Banatynes and down Borough Road to get over the ring road and into the Pedestrian Heart by going past TK Maxx). Getting to Albert Road is still a bit hairy for Haughton, Whinfield and Springfield residents though as there is no alternative but to ride on the road or pavement from the Seat garage onwards.

The Riverside Path development mentioned sounds like there may be progress on extending the route past Magnet, which will link it up to Valley Street and then onto the Russell Street crossing of the ring road. This would mean an almost traffic-free route to the town centre for a large portion of the town. The secluded nature of the route does make it unattractive as a route to work for a large part of the year, however, so work to make Haughton Road and North Road safer for cyclists still needs to continue (or start, in the case of North Road).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bikes on Trains - Photo

Darlington Cycling Campaign: Bikes on Trains

Members of Darlington Cycling Campaign, Tim Stahl and Mike McTimoney, meet with Liberal Democrats, including Fiona Hall MEP, at Darlington Station, to discuss the government's attempt to block EU legislation which would require train companies to provide more space on trains for bikes, pushchairs and wheelchairs.

From left to right: Dr Tim Stahl, Ian Barnes, Alan Macnab, Cllr Malcolm Dunstone, Cllr Martin Swainston, Fiona Hall MEP, Mike McTimoney, Robin Cradock and Dr Robert Upshall.

More details on the previous blog post: Bikes on Trains

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Ride of Silence

On May 16, 2007, at 7:00 PM, the Ride of Silence will begin in North America and roll across the globe. Cyclists will take to the roads in a silent procession to honor cyclists who have been killed or injured while cycling on public roadways. Although cyclists have a legal right to share the road with motorists, the motoring public often isn't aware of these rights, and sometimes not aware of the cyclists themselves.

In 2003, Chris Phelan organized the first Ride Of Silence in Dallas after endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz was hit by the mirror of a passing bus and was killed.

The Ride Of Silence is a free ride that asks its cyclists to ride no faster than 12 mph and remain silent during the ride. There is no brochure, no sponsors, no registration fees and no t-shirt. The ride, which is held during Bike Safety month, aims to raise the awareness of motorists, police and city officials that cyclists have a legal right to the public roadways. The ride is also a chance to show respect for those who have been killed or injured.

Thanks to Dan for letting me know about this.

It's probably too late to organise anything big for Darlington, but would anyone be interested in a Ride of Silence through Darlington next Wednesday evening? Please email or comment here of you're interested.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Bikes on Trains - Letter from Berlin

As it is a European Parliament initiative that has raised the question of bikes on trains, Darlington Cycling Campaign felt it might be useful to observe how travellers in a bike friendly country handle the issue. By chance, one of our members is currently working in Berlin, and sent this photo of a father and his two kids using the city's S-Bahn.

In fact, all local trains in Berlin have carriages with flip-up seats that allow for bikes, prams and wheelchairs to occupy space. There is a small extra charge for bringing your bike on a train, but as so many people use public transport - and cycle - they typically buy an annual or monthly pass. A monthly pass costs 8 euros for a bike on top of normal fares. Students pay 145 euros for a full annual travel pass that includes a bike pass. All Berlin students are obliged to buy one. Given how little a monthly bike pass costs, and indeed an annual travel pass for students, the network is heavily used, frequent, and always being used by cyclists. As in this picture, there are often too many for the designated spaces, so cyclists use any other available open space on a carriage.

Bikes are expected on local trains - just as they are, interestingly on those Berlin pavements where a cycle path does not exist. Berlin is not the most cycle-friendly city in Germany, but the clear perspective of cyclists and non-cyclists is that cyclists can use their judgement to make joint use of pavements - and trains - safe for everyone. So rather than using restrictive travel laws that make it complicated and, judging by the previous post, impractical to take a bike on a train, here in Berlin it is a natural and easy part of getting around. And travel laws are flexible enough to allow cyclists to use spaces other than so-called "designated" spaces.

This essential trust in cyclists is what I think is badly lacking in the UK, due of course to the fact that so few Brits cycle, and this majority of non-cyclists stereotype cyclists around their chavs-on-bikes obsessions. Whilst the European Parliament debates compulsory designated space, those countries with a pro-cycling perspective are busy making it easier to use non-designated spaces. This picture, for the average thinking Berliner, is a sign of the success of their environmental policies. To the typical Darlington transport commentator, I suspect it is an outrage that should be punished with a £500 fine, skateboarder-style.

Comparing Berlin's approach to the debate in the UK, and the government's apparent desire to oppose compulsory space on trains for bikes, wheelchairs etc (could someone point to a website with the UK government's position - googling failed to come up with anything), it seems there is only one conclusion. The current regime of privatised railways - just as with our beloved privatised buses in Darlington - cannot deliver what is required in the 21st century. They are not fit for purpose. They badly need reforming so that they can actually serve our public transport needs.

All this sounds like very New Labour language. But New Labour seems so wedded to the companies currently delivering our public transport, that they have lost sight of their core ideology - to keep reforming and come up with something new. Is it too much to suggest that New Labour is the new Old Labour? And maybe even vice versa?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Bikes on Trains

Fiona Hall, Lib Dem MEP (Member of the European Parliament) for the North East, is visiting Darlington this Saturday, April 28th, as part of her campaign to make trains more accessible for cyclists and wheelchair users. Darlington Cycling Campaign are supporting the campaign and will be meeting her at the station.

The European Parliament voted for a resolution to require trains to have extra space for bikes, pushchairs, wheelchairs and sports equipment. This is going to the Council of Ministers and the UK Government have said that they will fight against the proposals in the transport ministers' meeting. The story so far is on Fiona's website:

* Fiona backs extra space for bikes, buggies and wheelchairs
* Government will fight against extra space on trains

Campaign members use the train on a daily basis, using bikes at either end of the journey:

I find my journey to York quite easy by bike and train and it is a lot quicker than driving. I think there is potential for a lot more cycle/train commuters in Darlington.

I use the train quite regularly for work and it often makes sense to take my bike. I have done this on several occassions from Darlington to Newcastle,
Durham, York and Middlesbrough.

So, bikes and trains can live happily together. Or, can they?

Booking a bike on a train is very difficult and time consuming, so I have a bike at both ends (bike 2 lives on York Station).

The main problem that I face is the insistence that I make a reservation for my bike. This is a problem because, if I'm attending meetings, I don't necessarily know what time they will finish. I have missed trains where I've made a reservation or faced a long wait for my train if the meeting finished early.

More space on trains is clearly needed, both for bikes and wheelchairs/scooters.

(we regularly use the train with our kids and it only takes a couple of families doing the same and the lobbies are stuffed full of pushchairs.)

Monday, April 23, 2007

Getting on their bikes for carbon challenge

From today, Julie, 43, and Alasdair Ross, 44, from Darlington, and their two children are to rely on bicycles for transport. Mrs Ross said the challenge was laid down at her Weight Watchers class after she reached her target weight.

To help Mr and Mrs Ross and Stephanie, 14, and Hannah, 11, with the task, Halfords have given each of them a bike.

Mrs Ross said: "The hardest bit is going to be for my husband, who has to travel quite far to see clients for his business. He's allowed to ride a bike to the station and catch a train and then ride it at the other end. I work for the business at home, but I do quite a lot of voluntary work with the Brownies and the church, and travel to that. It's not totally feasible that we can carry on without the cars afterwards, but, hopefully, we'll get quite fit and cut down how much we use them in future."

Halfords also gave the family a collection of accessories to assist in carrying out their day-to-day chores, including cycle locks, a selection of panniers and backpacks, reflective waistcoats and baskets.

Northern Echo: Getting on their bikes for carbon challenge

Good luck to the Ross family.

My own family gave up our car 9 days ago and we've not missed it so far. We hardly used our car, and resented spending money on car tax, insurance, servicing, MOT, etc, so we sold it. We're viewing it as a one year experiment, initially, but we'll see how it goes.

We're using internet shopping for our groceries, buy meat from a local butcher and have just signed up for an organic veg box delivery.

Our two kids are a lot younger than the Ross', so we've bought a bike trailer. Buses, trains, bikes and walking get us about. We've booked a hire car for our main summer holiday.

If the Ross family would like any advice or support, I would be happy to offer it. If anyone knows them, can you pass on this blog address?

Update: I just realised that we've not been given free bikes by Halfords! How does that work? Can we have some? ;)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Selling biking to the Dutch

If ever there’d be television ads for bicycling in the US, you can be sure they’d feature locations the actors drove to, and a whole lot of helmets and other specialty clothing. Dutch bicycle advocacy ads, in contrast, feature couples making out on a (single) bike, helmetless children on bikes, business suits and dresses on bikes blasting through motor traffic outside the lines, Saddam Hussein on a bike shooting Americans, and the pathetic qualities of drivers and driving, including the possibility of a car bomb taking you out. “Bicyclists live longer.”

Found on the excellent Cleverchimp blog.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"Bloody cyclists!" - a rebuttal of some anti-cyclist propaganda

"Bloody cyclists!" - a rebuttal of some anti-cyclist propaganda

This is a note prompted by recent anti-cyclist propaganda in the press. Although the cause of the ranting was, in this case, the presumably intentional misreporting of the EU's proposed Fifth Motor Insurance Directive, this is not the first time that journalists have chosen to pick on cyclists. Increasingly drivers seem to believe that the road belongs to them and anybody who strays onto it is asking for trouble. But it doesn't belong to them, it belongs to all of us, and the cause of road fatalities is not vulnerable road users straying into the motorised lions' den, it's careless, thoughtless, aggressive drivers.

The "usual suspects" of these rants are: cyclists don't pay road tax, cyclists don't have insurance, cyclists don't have to pass a test, cyclists jump red lights and ride on the pavement and cyclists should be on the cycle paths.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Good Time to Review Ambitions

15 months ago, The Guardian published a feature story by Matt Seaton about Darlington's ambitions as a Cycling Demonstration Town. The article was based on a long interview with then Cycling Officer Oli Lougheed.

Despite Oli's apparent chipper attitude to his job, with £1.5m rolling in from Cycling England to spend over 3 years, he moved on to Manchester shortly afterwards. But the article is instructive in laying out both the short-term ideas and long-term ambitions/vision of the local authority.

As we argued at our recent Symposium, the local authority alone can be quite good, if they get it right, at short-term plans. Witness the near doubling in cycling in Darlington over the past year. But long term ambition requires much more. Some quotes from the Guardian article are instructive:

Under the new scheme, Darlington's transport team plans to put in nine or 10 "radial routes", running from the periphery right to the centre....The new radial routes will reassign priorities where they intersect the ring road, and will make all the formerly pedestrianised areas dual use. The philosophy here is that cyclists can coexist perfectly safely with walkers, European-style; where it is clear that an area is dual use, cyclists automatically adjust their behaviour, slowing down and riding sensibly...."The object is to create boulevards rather than traffic corridors," says Tim Crawshaw, the council's chief designer of the public environment.

"The difficult thing is that you build the infrastructure and promote it," says Lougheed, "but it takes years for people to change their habits."

The hierarchy of road users that transport officers like Lougheed now work to reads as follows: disabled and visually impaired people first, pedestrians next, then cyclists, public transport, delivery vehicles, cars used for business with more than one occupant and, at the bottom of the heap, single-occupancy motorists.

As I cycle down a broad residential street with Lougheed, he tells me how a simple measure like taking out the central white line will reduce traffic speeds. Without the sense of a safe, segregated corridor down which they can drive at 35mph, motorists instinctively move towards the middle of the road. But then they become aware of needing to drive more slowly in case they meet a car coming the other way. All of a sudden, they're driving at 25mph - just because a white line has been taken out.

The Cycling Campaign has been doing considerable research on peoples', and especially motorists' habits. Yet we see very little sign yet of these being challenged by, for example, reassigned priorities where radial cycle routes intersect the inner ring road. Indeed, the current works behind Marks and Sparks indicate otherwise - cyclists will cross the ring road with pedestrians at a Toucan crossing.

With Darlington something like half way through its Cycling Demonstration Town period, this would be a useful time to reassess these ambitions:

*Were they really there in the first place, or was this just media spin?
*Will we still get our 10 radial routes, or have some been dropped?
*What happens when radial routes hit the inner ring road?
*How does the hierarchy of road users tally with the allocation of road space?

These and many other questions should not only be asked of the council. The reason why ambitions change or get dropped is as much through political opposition as lack of political will, and in Darlington there are certainly at least two outside lobbies who are doing everything they can to keep cycling at the very bottom of the hierarchy or road users.

But Darlington cannot simply "demonstrate" to the rest of the country what can be done. We also need central government support to get further up that hierarchy. Depressingly predictable, then, that our leaders failed to see the connection between the recent petition to 10 Downing Street (to give cyclists and pedestrians priority over motorists at minor road junctions) and their "new orthodoxy in transport planning", the hierarchy of road users. RIP Joined Up Thinking.