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