Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Woman Who Stops Traffic, tonight at 9pm on Channel 4

In this compelling new three-part series Kris visits two towns and a city – Marlow, Boston and Durham. Each is a traffic black-spot. Can Kris persuade people her idea of going car free for just one day a week is a runner?

Professional trouble-shooter and creative problem solver, Kris Murrin is on a mission to stop traffic for just one day in three of England's most congested locations. King Canute tried to stop the tide rising, but Kris has to convince local councils to get behind her campaign and then change the behaviour of car users who rely on their vehicles to get from A to B daily.

Kris's journey starts in the Buckinghamshire town of Marlow, where car ownership is one of the highest in the country. Her aim is to get one in five cars off the roads to simultaneously promote healthier lifestyles and encourage a greener way of life.

She is no stranger to challenging situations and has canoed down the Amazon, climbed to the base camp on Everest and competed in some of the toughest yacht races in the world. But Kris has got her work cut out trying to convince parents to ditch their cars for the school run here.

Kris' second challenge lies in the Lincolnshire town of Boston, where road traffic is already a serious issue and obesity rates are the worst in the country. Boston is a town whose council is dominated by 'Boston Bypass Independents' rather than main party politicians, so how will Kris persuade the locals to give up their cars for the day?

Kris' journey concludes in the City of Durham, where she is encouraged by the enthusiasm of the local council. They already provide several services to get the residents of Durham walking, cycling and using public transport and Kris hopes to build on this positive car-free thinking.

Can Kris change the motoring habits of road users in Marlow, Boston and Durham? Watch The Woman Who Stops Traffic, Channel 4, Tuesday 26 February 9pm.

- Channel 4: The Woman Who Stops Traffic

Update (11/02): The final part, about Durham, is on tonight at 9pm.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cycling in Darlington's Pedestrian Heart

At last night's Council Cabinet meeting, it was agreed to extend the trial on allowing cycling in Darlington's Pedestrian Heart for a further nine months, until November 2008, to allow for a Disability Impact Assessment on cycling in the town centre, an educational programme on responsible cycling to be carried out and inter-generational work with older people on concerns about cycling to be carried out.

The full report to Cabinet, and its recommendations, can be read on the Council website. It is an excellent, detailed report and covers all of the arguments for and against cycling in the town centre and I'd recommend all members read it (at least once!). It is also worth reading the appendices, which include an excellent map of where cycling is and isn't allowed (option 1 is the map you need) and the views of various interested parties.

Six months ago, I would not have been surprised if cycling had been banned last night. There were large numbers of councillors whose instinct was to ban cycling in the pedestrianised area, and a very vocal group of members of the public regularly writing in to the Northern Echo calling for a ban.

For the last six months, Council officers have worked incredibly hard to enable cycling in the town centre and we as a campaign have tried to produce evidence that cycling in the town centre is safe, rather than relying upon instinct or generalisations.

However, probably the biggest factor leading to the acceptance of cycling by the majority of the public has been the behaviour of almost all cyclists using the pedestrianised area for the last six months.

There is still a lot of work to be done in the next eight months; one Councillor last night stated that children were "often" not seen by cyclists! I think this demonstrates the level of unthinking, anti-cycling attitudes still present in some areas, making sweeping, serious generalisations without any factual basis.

Last night's decision, despite not being an outright decision to allow cycling, should be seen as a big step forward and very positive outcome.

Based on all the evidence, the only rational outcome is to allow cycling in the pedestrianised area as any other outcome is either more dangerous or unworkable. However, we understand why the trial is being extended and will endeavour to work with the Council in order to reach a sensible outcome in November.

Update: The Northern Echo: Councillor’s warning over ‘chavs on bikes’ is a report on the Cabinet meeting. It's a strange report, as you'll see if you read my comments below the article.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Darlington Cycling Campaign AGM, Friday 15th February

Friday 15th February is our AGM, in the right-hand room of The
at 7pm. We hope to see as many members as possible there.

The retiring committee will make their reports on what has been a very
busy and successful year, and we shall elect a new committee.

A report on the last year's activities can be found online.