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.