Sunday, May 31, 2009

Campaign Rapid Response for Bike Beauties

Nicole watching on as Andy and Marie crack on with the repair.

The Campaign was called out today on its first urgent repair job for the Beauty and the Bike project. The Cycling Campaign has been commissioned to provide a repair and maintenance service for the wonderful dutch bikes for the duration of the project. The bikes are being hired by the young women from Velodarlo, a self-managed bicycle sharing scheme that makes attractive dutch bikes available to the people of Darlington for a small charge.

Until now, we've been dealing with minor issues such as cabling, basket installs and re-tightening nuts and bolts after bike transit. But today Nicole called with a rear tyre puncture, after a thorn got into the inner tube. The Excelsior bike, like most in the Velodarlo fleet, has 28" wheels. A call to Halfords revealed that these are regarded as "rare these days" in this country. Funny how a town can be so behind the times that "modern" here is already becoming "out of date" elsewhere, but that's so-called entrepreneurial capitalism for you.

So a 27" inner it had to be. Step forward the heroes of the hour, Campaign members Andy and Marie. They were over to Nicole's house within the hour complete with tool kit, and had the tube replaced after another 30 minutes. After the job, they both said that the task with a dutch bike is totally different to the usual UK mountain bike, with chain guards and hub gears to grapple with. And with the size and type of spares also differing, the chances are that one of the local bike shops would have had problems. But they reckon that with a few more tube changes, the Campaign should have the collective knowledge to manage future issues without a problem.

Nicole is now back on two wheels again, and will be seen on the roads of the town tomorrow morning on her way to her Maths GCSE.

Good Luck Nicole!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reducing car use by promoting cycling - how is Darlington doing?

In his excellent blog, David Hembrow posts to a story about how many of the ten most likely measures to decrease short car journeys made in towns involve promoting cycling. (I'm reproducing the list below, but you should click through to his blog, as he provides links to real life examples of each measure.)

Here's the list, with bike-promoting measures highlighted:

* priority for cyclists at traffic lights
* make a town impossible to traverse by car (segmentation)
* providing good and safe bicycle routes
* improve accessibility of schools for cyclists in comparison to motorists
* decrease number of parking places
* parking at a fee/higher parking fees
* maintenance of bicycle parking facilities
* free/high-quality bicycle parking
* delivery services
* promote independent cycling by children

As you can see, six of the ten measures involve promoting cycling.

Now for a fun game. How many of these measures have been implemented in Darlington?

Priority for cyclists at traffic lights? No. There still isn't a single Advanced Stop Line in the whole town. At some tucan crossings in town which are not signalised (i.e. not synchronised with other lights to promote traffic flow) there are very long waits when there's no reason they couldn't change straight away.

Make a town impossible to traverse by car (segmentation)? No. Though it is impossible to traverse by bike, if you still to "safe" routes.

Providing good and safe bicycle routes? There are now some safe cycle routes (such as the ETC, the Riverside Route, the black path) but they often require indirect routes, have missing sections, require dangerous road crossings, are ungritted in winter or have long sections which would feel unsafe in the dark.

Improve accessibility of schools for cyclists in comparison to motorists? Increasing the numbers of children travelling to schools by bike has been one of the major successes in Darlington. However, this has been through soft measures like bike training, reward schemes and easy infrastructure like covered bike parking. I don't know of any schools where measures have been put in place to actually make it easier to get to a school by bike than by car.

Decrease number of parking places? Not in public car parks, though I think new building schemes have had the parking spaces limited. There are several resident only parking schemes around the town centre periphery.

Parking at a fee/higher parking fees? The hourly parking charge has recently increased in council car parks, though parking is free after 9pm, all day parking is still very cheap and the 3 for 2 offer is, I think, still running.

Maintenance of bicycle parking facilities? What bike parking facilities? There are some sheffield stands scattered about, but parking when quickly calling in to the town centre or visiting a school or other building is still very poor.

Free/high-quality bicycle parking? See above. Also, where is the secure parking for commuters to the town centre?

Delivery services? Pretty much all the supermarkets offer deliveries for internet shopping, and some offer the chance to have shopping bought in store delivered. Is there scope for an enterprising person to offer a drop-off point in the town centre for people to leave their shopping and then deliver it later in the day?

Promote independent cycling by children? There has been a lot of promotion of cycling to school, but is there any to encourage children to cycle to their friends' houses, to after school clubs or the cinema? If they did, would there be secure parking available or safe, legal routes?

Have I missed any brilliant schemes? Car use in Darlington has supposedly fallen, but how much of that is down to the recession or limited to the school run? How much more could it be reduced with the above methods?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bike and Trains Study Tour, Netherlands

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The All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group visited the Netherlands in April 2009 with officials from British cycling organisations. This excellent video by Newcastle-based Carlton Reid of QuickreleaseTV documents the group's findings.

Carlton Reid will be a guest speaker of Darlington Cycling Campaign this coming autumn.