Wednesday, March 28, 2007

One less bike. One more car.

The same day that I posted Tricky's views on cycling in Darlington, he decided he would return to commuting to work by car. I'll let his own words explain why:

After another close shave yesterday by an ignorant motorist who doesn't know his highway code I have decide to stop commuting by bike and use my considerably larger Ford Mondeo and add it to the ever increasing queues on Yarm Road. Life is far too short, and after 15 years of commuting up and down Yarm Road, DBC have only made things far more dangerous for cyclists. The biggest culprit being the new bus lanes that even the buses don't use. Add to that the numerous pedestrian refuges and parked cars, and all you have is a road unsafe for cycling on.

Here is a question for you. When is a cycle lane not a cycle lane?

When it's a bus lane apparently, just after been pushed out of the aforementioned lane by a Citreon Xsara Picasso, who, give him his dues, did have his indicator on at the time when he very nearly side swiped me. When I confronted him about driving in a bus lane his defense for nearly hitting me was "Well you don't look like a bus either."

Can someone from the council amend their statistics on decreased car use and increased bike use, please?

The irony here is that, I believe, Tricky has been riding to and from work since before the Local Motion campaign began and before the council started to make changes.

Pedestrian Heart: Vital link for cyclists

In response to some anti-cycling posts on the Town Liar forum, Tricky tells us little about life as a bicycle commuter in Darlington and why the Pedestrian Heart is a vital link for cyclists:

I am one of at least 3 people that work at Cummins and commute from the West End of town via Coniscliffe Road. Previously, BPH, (before ped heart), we would travel through town using the Bus Lanes, in relative safety, and come out either at Stonebridge on the road or the cycle path (through Town Hall) and crossing over to Yarm Road.

Returning would have been a reverse of the route, Yarm Road, Stonebridge, Tubwell Row, Coniscliffe Road, etc.

As an experienced cyclist I have had no real problems in changing my route to now take me up and down Victoria Road, although the new road priorities on Victoria Road are making my life at little bit more dicey, but some of my other colleagues who just use the bike for commuting are finding it increasingly more difficult to get around. Only the other day another colleague from work ended up in hospital while trying to get to work via the ring road, he is now off work for at least 6-8? weeks.

Remember that these are cyclists who have been commuting for 20-30 years. My partner who is a bit of a novice has said to me if she can't ride through town then she is not going to start commuting by bike. I don't think this is what DBC had in mind when they started talking about getting people out of their cars.

It's hardly a cycle friendly town if it's not even safe to commute through town to work.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cycling Symposium Success

We will get details of the happening at the Symposium online as soon as we can, including a reduced version of the presentations made by the Cycling Campaign. A big thankyou to everyone who gave up their Saturday afternoon to come along and to hear what we had to say, and especially to those who also gave their views and asked questions.

A big thankyou also to Werner Brug of Socialdata for coming to talk to us all about the statistics involved.

The Northern Echo have a story in today's paper on page 11, which is also available online: Reduction in car journeys heralds campaign success.

Update: Coverage of increased cycling on the BBC site: Cars dropped in favour of cycling

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cyclist injured on inner ring road

On the Northern Echo forum, news of a cyclist injured on the inner ring road.

I am one of the many commuting cyclists who now uses the Inner Ring Road on a daily basis to get to and from work. I didn't think it was too bad at first but I have had 2 very near misses this week. One of my work colleagues wasn't so lucky tonight. Broken collarbone, cuts and bruises. And he isn't a lycra hooligan or a young BMXer tearing up and down the pavements shouting abuse at everyone. He is the sort of person that doesn't deserve to get knocked off. He rides in a sensible fashion, lights on his bike and a big day-glo safety jacket that you can see half a mile away.

We hope the rider makes a quick recovery, and gets back on his bike.

This incident illustrates again, why cyclists should be allowed in the Pedestrian Heart. The following post on the forum, is a rant about pavement cyclists in which the author says they could make a fortune if they set up an injury claim business based on cyclists hitting and seriously injuring pedestrians. However, the statistics point to the fact this business would fail, as it would have had only one client in Darlington in the last thirteen years. A business getting compensation for cyclists, unfortunately, would do very well...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

How the Bicycle Shone

I swear by every rule in the bicycle
owner's manual

that I love you, I, who repeatedly,

with accompanying declaration of despair,
tried to repair

you, to patch things up,
to maintain a workable relationship

The opening lines of Ode, by Gillian Allnutt. The Campaign this morning received a letter of support for our Symposium from the local poet and supporter of pedal power. A lovely gesture that reminds us how inspirational a relationship with a bike can be, not least when compared with the multi-billion pound car seduction industry.

You can read a reveiew of How the Bicycle Shone here. There's a link on the review to Amazon if you'd like to buy a copy. Or come to the Symposium to hear the rest of Ode.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vital Cycle Path Completed

Just as we finalise our points for Saturday's Symposium, the nice chaps at the council have spent a chunk of the "Cycling Demo Town" money on re-surfacing the 5 metres of footpath at Leadyard Bridge,with lovely segregationist designs, and a slab of expensive paving at the bridge end (suggesting this is as far as it goes). Ah, the old paradigm kicks in again. Note the citizens of Darlington observing the segregation of the path. I counted about 12 people when I shot the picture, and it was exactly 50/50 which side they took.

Thanks lads, an excellent illustration of where this very silly logic takes us. Hopefully on Saturday we can nail which national best practice reccommends 5 metre long cycle paths. Maybe soon we can think about how people really use urban space before building such works of art.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Darlington Cycling Symposium Position Paper

Darlington Cycling Campaign has now produced a position paper for presentation at the Symposium.

We have highlights of the paper on the Darlington Cycling Symposium website, from where you can also download an electronic copy of the paper.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

More works in progress

Nick Wallis has some photos on his blog of some of the work on bike infrastructure currently in progress in the town: On the bike 1 and On the bike 2.

Highlights for me include the "hole in the wall" behind M&S which will connect the tucan crossing over the ring road from Russell Street with the back of M&S and the East Street. Once completed, this will allow me to access the Pedestrian Heart from North Road without having to cross the Northgate roundabout. If the path along the river is ever extended past Magnet, a huge proportion of the population from the east end of town will be able to get from home to the town centre without having to ride on a main road.

Benefits of a car-light culture

We realize now that the cocoons of our cars kept us well insulated from the people around us. Our genuine interactions were with family and coworkers, the only people who saw us stripped of the metal that clothed and protected us. Our neighbors, we discovered, were virtually strangers.

In Confessions of an Empty-Nester, the writer talks about some of the positive changes that may come about if more people started using their car less. I'm convined that a car-light community would see reductions in anti-social behaviour, as well as the environmental and safety improvements; turning life in a town into something like rural living used to be.

Pedestrian Heart blamed for buses running late

ARRIVA bosses have blamed buses running late in Darlington on the town's Pedestrian Heart and traffic problems.

Company chiefs made the claims at a heated public meeting at Skerne Park last night.

The Park East community partnership, which incorporates Skerne Park, had called Monday's meeting to quiz Arriva on the estate's unreliable bus service.

Tony Stevens, Darlington depot manager, said: "We have a problem in Darlington - and that problem is too much traffic coming into town.

"It's purely, simply traffic. By 8am, North Road, Coniscliffe Road, Woodland Road, are full."

- Northern Echo: Pedestrian Heart blamed for buses running late

The Echo's headline is slightly skewed, as problems caused by the Pedestrian Heart works will go away in time while problems with congestion will only get worse unless we get people out of their cars and onto public transport, bikes or their own two feet.

Unfortunately, while buses are unreliable and get stuck in the same traffic as cars people will not give them a chance. Darlington needs more bus lanes.

A proposed bus lane on North Road was not put in place because of protests from residents. This morning, and most mornings, there were only seven cars parked on North Road where this lane was proposed (from Thompson Street to Morrisons); otherwise buses could have a clear run cutting a huge chunk of time from their journey and make the bus much more attractive to those living in the North of the town.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Neighbourhood Fix-It

Neighbourhood Fix-It looks like a useful way to report any problems to the council, but is especially good for reporting bike path problems, as the map enables you to pinpoint exactly where the problem is rather than using street or path names.

After entering the problem, the information is emaild to the council.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Samuri tries to collect wasps with spoon

Your average anti-cyclist car driver (which in my experience, is pretty much all of them [there you go, I stereotype drivers, I’m as bad as them]), have a severe problem with cyclists using *their* roads, seeing them as unsuccesful, dangerous, aggressive law-breakers who just slow everyone down. Cyclists should pay road tax (whatever the f*** that is), insurance, pass a test, stop jumping red lights and get off the f***ing pavement. I’m not sure which bothers me most to be honest, the quite sad fact that we’re surrounded by so many idiots who rant away without ever bothering to think about what they’re saying, or the fact that cyclists are all grouped together, one cyclists rides like a c**k, ergo they all must be c**ks.

I’m going to try to address each point in succession. This argument is clearly as pointless as trying to collect wasps with spoon but it’ll make me feel a bit better.

Samuri has a potty mouth, so don't read his rant, Breaking Point, if you're easily offended. Lots of useful, if scary, facts and figures.

Council Debate on 20mph Zones

According to Lib Dem Mike Barker, posting on the Town Liar forum, 20mph zones were discussed by the Council last night.

Just managing not to doze off in the public gallery of the Council Chamber last night, as local "democracy" went through its laborious paces below me, with the thermostat on the central heating system apparently turned up to "tropical", I tuned in to the "debate" on 20mph zones in the town, only to hear our beloved Labour spokesman say that 20mph zones were proving very successful, the number of them would soon be increased and then he said, "...and I hope in due course we shall be able to cover much of the town in this way."

Sounds like great news!

Residents call for safety move on The Broadway

A petition is being prepared by residents of a Darlington street who believe an accident is imminent because of poor road markings.

Residents of The Broadway, off Yarm Road, in Eastbourne, have complained to ward councillor Ian Haszeldine that the absence of road markings at the busy junction with Yarm Road is a danger to road users.

The matter is compounded by extra traffic using The Broadway for access to Heathfield Primary School and as a shortcut for the industrial estates in Lingfield.

Residents are calling for the road to be made a 20mph zone, and for extra markings to keep the junction free from parked cars.

Heathfield School is one which has had good results in encouraging its pupils to cycle to school and it would be a shame if safety fears led to a decline in the numbers cycling to school, or if the school felt it had to discourage cycling as has happened at at least one Darlington school.

Ironically, the very thing which encourages cars to make use of this street as a rat run is also what makes it key to cycling in the area; it enables access to the Lingfield industrial estates without the need to ride on the large McMullen Road/Yarm Road roundabout.

Calls for traffic calming

There are two pieces in today's Northern Echo where residents of Darlington are calling for traffic calming and/or a reduced speed limit.

In today's Northern Echo is a letter representing the views of residents of Eastmount Road, Darlington, calling for traffic calming. (The letter is from a Hurworth resident, which is why the Echo have incorrectly added Hurworth to the letter.) Having been in contact with the letter writer, I understand that residents would be supportive of a 20mph speed limit being introduced on Eastmount Road.

OVER many months, friends living on Eastmount Road have expressed concerns over the volume and speed of traffic using this road.

They have suffered a number of incidents involving damage to property and vehicles.

The extent of the danger was tragically illustrated by a fatal accident on this road in early December.

Therefore, on their behalf, I contacted Councillor Nick Wallis, Darlington Borough Council's cabinet member for transport, to pass on their concerns in the hope that traffic-calming measures may be considered for the area.

This road is potentially a key link for cyclists as it connects both Haughton Road and North Road to Valley Street from which the town centre will soon be accessible without needing to ride on the ring road. It may also link with the Riverside Path, if this is extended past Magnet.

In view of the fatalities and damage to property on a residential street, its proximity to a play area, and its importance to the town's cycle network, it seems clear to me that Eastmount Road/John Street is a prime candidate for traffic calming and a reduced speed limit.

Update: ianh has posted Nick Wallis' response on the Town Liar forum