Saturday, December 25, 2010

Whinfield Road - A Step Forward?

Darlington Cycling Campaign was recently consulted on proposals to develop new cycling infrastructure in the north of the town. Such consultations occur on a regular basis. but what makes this particular proposal exceptional is that it is the first that is being made on a busy arterial road, Whinfield Road, and will involve the reduction of space for motorised traffic in favour of cyclists. The map here shows the proposed stretch in red, connecting existing routes marked in yellow (advisory) and green (actual cycling infrastructure).

For some time now, we've been arguing that more visible, and more direct cycle routes are needed if more people are to get on their bikes. The core of the local authority's strategy had been to try to avoid busy roads altogether by developing signed "alternative routes" on quiet side roads. Thus, rather than cycling down North Road, we are encouraged to use the signed route down Pendelton Road, running parallel. The advantage is that a series of signs are relatively cheap to install, legally simple, and of course they do not incur the wrath of the motorist by threatening their road space. The disadvantage is that they can be, as is the case with the West Park route, somewhat roundabout, and still requiring the use of relatively busy roads.

The Cycling Campaign believes that the UK needs to adopt the best and most successful European practice. Cycle routes should be direct, continuous and safe. This therefore requires the best infrastructure to be developed where traffic is heaviest, and where cyclists are most likely to want to travel. So for example Parkgate, between the railway station and the town centre, should be the "dual carriageway" of cycle routes. It is one of the busiest roads in urban Darlington, yet one of the key cycle routes for everyday cyclists. So it is good to see the local authority taking an important step forward by tackling one such busy road.

The process is still in its early stages, and we cannot yet predict whether existing plans will in fact be carried out, or what opposition might lie around the corner. We have expressed our own views about the proposals. The off road cycle path proposal between Sparrowhall Drive and the Haughton Education Village is an excellent addition to safe routes to school in the town. However, the proposed on-road cycle lane along Whinfield Road itself, from Whinbush Way east to the Stockton roundabout, whilst commendably reducing space for motorised traffic through the elimination of central hatching, is only advisory. It is interesting to consider why.

The satellite image above shows a short stretch of Whinfield Road, where the proposed new cycle route is to be developed. As with much of the road, there is ample space for an off-road cycle path on either side of the carriageway. On busy main roads like this, with significant HGV traffic, this is our preferred option. Subjective safety is crucial if we are ever to attract people who don't cycle now, to use such roads. This option has been rejected on grounds of cost.

Our second preferred option, at least as an interim solution, would be an onroad mandatory cycle lane, something along the lines of our artists' impression below.

Since there is ample off-road parking, this would surely be a solution that offers a small degree of subjective safety to cyclists, without the recurring problem of motorists parking on the cycle lane (which would, unlike an advisory lane, be illegal). However, even the cycling community appears to be somewhat unclear about a way forward here. The objection put forward by the local authority is that such a lane would prevent motorists from accessing off-road parking, since they are legally not allowed to cross the continuous white line. This reasoning was confirmed when we asked Sustrans.

Yet it seems a great pity that arguments about the legality of crossing a white line at the side of the road (think of these lines along the side of that other busy road we have surveyed in the past, the A167 to Newton Aycliffe) can prevent rational discussion about best practice. These kinds of rules existed in Germany. They got round them by amending the law and introducing different widths of continuous white line for these new circumstances. These can be crossed by motorists wishing to access parking spaces.

In fact, to return to the need for continuity, good cycle routes can embrace both off-road cycle paths and on-road mandatory cycle lanes, as long as the one seamlessly transfers to the other. There is no good reason why certain sections of this route, where most appropriate, run behind parking areas, whilst others run between parked vehicles and moving traffic. There are examples of such situations in the council's proposals, but the "advisory lane" approach inevitably means that cyclists again have to give way to motor traffic. Rather than continuing on their own dedicated and protected cycle route, they are deemed to be "re-joining the carriageway", as in the detail from the proposals below.

The irony of all of this concern about crossing white lines to park a vehicle is that the supposed "hierarchy of road users", which places pedestrians and cyclists first and private motor vehicles (and particularly stationery ones) last, is turned upside down. New infrastructure has to be designed around the needs of those wishing to park their private vehicles along the public highway.

We all know how much there is still to do in the UK to encourage cycling. So we should give credit to Darlington Borough Council for tackling a difficult but important stretch of road. But perhaps David Cameron should take a leaf out of his own policy book, and ask his Ministry of Nudging to shove an elbow the way of his Transport Secretary, Mr Hammond, and ask him to sort out his white lines.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

EDIT: To add yet another model to this debate, have a look at this proposed new cycle lane in Cambridge. The Cycling Campaign there have also expressed concern about motorists parking on advisory cycle lanes. Here they proposed, and appear to have won, the idea of double yellow lines along the length of the cycle lane.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Contraflow Signage

Earlier this year, Cambridge Cycling Campaign succeeded in winning local council support for the setting up of trial "cyclist contraflow" signs in parts of Cambridge. And as one of Darlington Cycling Campaign's members pointed out to me today, Cycling England has been encouraging all cycling towns to make one-way streets two-way for cycling.

Here in Darlington we have already asked officers on a number of occasions to consider this. One area where this is perhaps more urgently required, however, is at the Duke Street exit of the Pedestrian Heart. Here, cyclists who leave the town centre are confronted with a particularly narrow road outside the Coop Bank, a road that is designed to be one-way for motorised traffic.

This picture shows the view from outside the town centre. This evening, on my way home from the station, I was cycling out of the town centre on this stretch when I noticed a car accelerating towards me and beeping his horn (at 8pm in the evening). He seemed in a great hurry. The reason soon became clear. He screeched to a halt before I was able to exit the narrow road into Duke Street to tell me off for cycling "the wrong way down a one way street".

Having obligingly opened his car door to tell me so, I hung on to it in order to inform him that, in fact, he was entering the Pedestrian Heart, an area in which cycling is allowed both ways. But this was not enough for my car-centric friend, who clearly believed he had the right to speed into the pedestrianised Skinnergate because the bollard had been lowered.

Clearly, there is an education job to be done here. And what better way than to introduce, as is the case in many other countries, contraflow signs on one way streets. The usual safety "experts" will of course argue that "for safety reasons" this just cannot be introduced. But why is this deemed so unsafe, and ONLY in the dear old UK? Because we continue to pander to bad motorist behaviour, rather than developing an expectation of care when driving in built up areas. Contraflow cycling contributes to this.

Look again at the picture above, and you can see a so-called "flying motorcycle" sign. This is supposed to signal a road that is two-way for cyclists, but not motor vehicles. But how many motorists understand this? Especially when there are time restrictions which run out in the evening.

Perhaps more pertinent in this case is the question - why do motorists, other than commercial vehicles loading and unloading, require access into Skinnergate at all? Their only possible destination is a couple of hundred yards from this exit anyway. Would it not make sense "for safety reasons", and indeed to save the NHS some money by encouraging a bit more walking, to simply keep motorised traffic out of the town centre altogether?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Darlovelo Autumnal Excursion

Darlovelo is organising an Autumnal Social Cycle Excursion for members and friends on Saturday 23rd October 2010. The Darlington Cycling Campaign-backed dutch bike hire scheme was set up earlier this year as a follow up to the Beauty and the Bike project, and has recently appointed a Promotions Officer to organise events and manage bike hires.

Darlovelo has been constituted as a member-run organisation, and is open to all cyclists who support the aims of the project, not just people who wish to hire bicycles. Membership is just £5 per year, and you can get in touch via the Darlovelo website.

The ride will start at 2pm on Saturday 23rd October 2010 at Darlington Arts Centre. It will take a tour of the bicycle friendly streets in the town, through russet parks, and amber lined avenues, returning to the Arts Centre for a warm drink and a slice of home made cake.

If you have a biking buddy, or would like to introduce someone to the delights of cycling then bring them down. Darlovelo can provide bikes and they can share the experience with you. There may be a very small charge for hire for non members. (If you would like to ensure that there is a bike available, please let Darlovelo know in advance that you will be coming.)

Wrap up warm, and put your peddling boots on to join us!

Bikes Stolen in Darlington (Again)

A poster at Singletrackworld has just posted about another bike theft in Darlington. Two bikes in fact, a Whyte E120 and a Boardman FS Team. The owner had three bikes stolen last year, and beefed up his security as a result. This looks like a targetted theft. The E120 XT was black with silver rock shox rebas and flow wheels with silver spokes. The Boardman was a standard FS team in silver with a fizik saddle as the only change.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Darlo Pedal Picnic This Sunday

Come along to Darlington Cycling Campaign's Pedal Picnic this Sunday! The pedal picnic is an alternative to a "critical mass". The aim is to stimulate discussion on cycling around Darlington using the infrastructure that we have. It is designed for everyday cyclists, and is more a social, rather than a sports, event.

Meet at the Arts Centre, Vane Terrace at 1pm(1300hrs) this Sunday (22nd August).

Bring a bike, some food or food to share and some waterproofs,just in case of inclement weather. The route I have in mind and have already "test" ridden, is to leave the Arts Centre and head to Cockerbeck Park/LNR, using the advisory route(yellow) on the Tees Valley Cycling map, Darlington. On leaving Cockerbeck, we shall cycle around the edge of Branksome until the off-road cycle path is reached. This path is then followed to Westpark where we shall stop and picnic. After the picnic the route follows West Auckland road, on the roadside cyclepath, until the junction of Brinkburn Road. We'll then follow the advisory route back to The Arts Centre via Willow Road, Pierremont Road, Pierremont Crescent, Millbank Road, Cleveland Avenue, Trinity Road and ending back at the Arts Centre.

For those who would like to join a critical mass ride, the nearest event is organised by the soon-to-be-born Newcastle Cycling Campaign on the last Friday of every month.

Edit: A low turnout, but a lovely day. Darlington will always be in the forefront of the "slow town" movement, so these things will take time to develop. Unperturbed, the organisers are meeting on 31 August to plan the next ride. Watch this space!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Launch of DARLOVELO 25th July 2010 at the Cycling Festival

On Sunday 25th July 2010 we shall launch our Bicycle Hire Scheme and Club: DARLOVELO at the Cycling Festival in Darlington's South Park!

The Cycling Festival will be on from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is open for everyone!

We shall bring brand new bicycles for you to try. They will be presented by the girls from our project "Beauty and the Bike".

All our bicycles are city bikes for your everyday transport. Most of them are comfortable red Dutch bikes with a basket for your bag and lights powered by a hub dynamo. Many of them have skirt guards and chain guards, so you can cycle with your best clothes and still look relaxed and comfy!

In Europe, Dutch bikes are used by men as well as by women, because they are wonderfully easy to ride, you have a great overview and can chat with everyone from your saddle.

At our stall there will be also "Kranks,Bicycle Servicing and Repairs": You can ask Duncan everything about bikes, their maintenance and repair. Bring your bike, he will check it.

And the Cycling Campaign members will talk to you about anything around cycling in Darlington. We shall bring maps for you to take. And we shall discuss difficult bits of infrastructure with you and give you tips how to treat awkward car drivers and how to smile at nice motorists.

You can also put wishes for social rides forward, the DARLOVELO club will take your requests and develop a social-bicycle-ride-program on the bases of your wishes.

Come along on Sunday!!!! Bring your friends, family and bicycles!!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Vancouver: Preparing a Cycling City

A Cycling Campaign Talk with Bonnie Fenton, former Chair of the City of Vancouver's Bicycle Advisory Committee

When: Friday, 2nd July 2010, 7 pm
Where: Darlington Media Workshop (Arts Centre)

How does Darlington compare with other towns and cities around the world that are starting out, from a low base, to make cycling a popular everyday means of transport? Vancouver, in British Columbia, Canada, is a city with a similar transport history to ours. But a new regime is trying to change things. On entering office at the end of 2008, Vancouver's centre-left local government pledged to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world by 2020 and cycling is part of that plan. Vancouver currently has a cycling mode share of about 4% and has set a goal of 10% by 2020.

Cycling advocacy was a rather slow slog for many years in Vancouver but the seeds that have been sown seem finally to be bearing fruit. Bonnie will take a look at the development of cycling in Vancouver (and the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition) over the past 10-15 years. She will touch on issues like:

* getting started: making friends at city (town) hall
* knowing what you want: with car traffic or separated facilities?
* reaching the non-converted: education and promotion
* the money question: can we afford (not) to do it?
* "the next Paris": public bike sharing
* signs of progress: peer pressure forces and two Vancouver city councillors to take a cycling skills course

Many of these issues are central to Darlington as well, and reflect much of the work of the Cycling Campaign here:

* consulting with the council over infrastructure
* cycling in the Pedestrian Heart
* arguing for good cycling infrastructure on main and busy roads
* the film and book "Beauty and the Bike“ (which has already been screened in Vancouver!)
* our Bike Hire scheme Darlovelo (10 bikes, rising to 30 bikes soon)

Come along and meet Bonnie next Friday evening, July 2nd, at 7pm, and enjoy a rare chance to meet a cycling advocate from across the ocean.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Darlington Cycle Challenge

The Darlington Cycle Challenge is a free, incentive based initiative organised by Challenge for Change and the CTC working with the LocalMotion team at Darlington Borough Council to promote cycling in Darlington Borough.

The Challenge takes place this year between 5th July and 25th July and we're hoping to get 50 local companies to register and over 600 people logging trips during the Challenge period.

The Darlington Cycle Challenge is not about cycling to work, but just about getting people to discover the joys of cycling. By registering on our website, you are automatically entered into a draw to win a bike worth £450. People who log trips during the Challenge can win High Street shopping vouchers and people who encourage others to try riding will be given Odeon tickets.

Companies who encourage the highest percentage of staff to try cycling will also win cycling "packs" to distribute to their staff and also gain excellent positive publicity.

Please check out the website to see what is happening.

Darlington Cycle Challenge website

My workplace took part in this last year with a lot of staff getting involved, including getting a mention in a retirement speech as something that had got a colleague into cycling as something she'll continue in retirement.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Ecotopia Bike Tour Starts Here!

Darlington Cycling Campaign, in cooperation with Darlington Friends of the Earth, is hosting the start of the Ecotopia Bike Tour of Europe! Come and join us!

Where: Clow Beck Eco Centre, near Croft
Time & Date: Saturday, 8pm - 10pm June 26th 2010
What to Bring: Food, drink, bike

The Ecotopia Bike Tour 2010 will ride through the UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. Their 1700km itinerary is focused around climate justice issues, and will take more than two months: from 26 June until 31 August 2010. The journey starts with us here in Darlington.

Tour members arrive throughout the afternoon at Darlington Bank Top station with their bicycles, and will be heading for the Clow Beck Eco Centre for an evening social and overnight camping. We require a few Campaign members to accompany the group from the town centre to Clow Beck. An initial group will be arriving mid-afternoon, and will join us in Stanhope Park for the Community Carnival. A second group will arrive at Bank Top station at 18.34. We plan to accompany the cyclists to Clow Beck at 18:45, starting in the Market Place outside the Dolphin Centre.

As hosts, Darlington Cycling Campaign will be screening the film Beauty and the Bike. We would also hope to provide our guests with food and drinks, but this depends on our members stepping forward to help out with a contribution. If you can help with food, drinks, or cycling out to Clow Beck, please email us, or ring Richard on 07967 972092. But most important of all, please come along to the social!

If you are coming to Clow Beck, it is situated about 1 mile west of Croft Village. Take the A167 (carefully - renowned for blind motorists) to Croft on Tees, cross the bridge over the river, and follow the main road through the village. Just outside the south end of Croft, turn right and follow the signs to Clow Beck Eco Centre. See the map of the Clow Beck area below.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bringing the Arms race to Darlington

As one local cyclist yesterday commented on Twitter, apparently it is OK to incite violence towards cyclists. From the letters page of the Northern Echo:
READERS afflicted by pavement cyclists may be interested in a device my brothers and I made a few years ago for a TV programme. It consisted of a steel plate studded with spikes and hinged at one end which could be attached to a walking stick and folded up. On the approach of an errant cyclist on the footpath, a flick of a finger could deploy this mini stinger into the cyclist’s path. The resultant punctures to a bike tyre immediately transformed the rider to a pedestrian.

P W Anderson, Consett , County Durham

This declaration of cold war by the Echo has just been warmed up somewhat by a snappy response by blogger Karl McCracken:
The thing is, I’ve been thinking for some time that I need a sting in my own tail . Just as PW Anderson feels the need for a first-strike weapon against bicycles, I feel I need one against certain drivers. In this crazy arms race, I’ve realised that I need something to really discourage those drivers who think they can pass as close as they like - so long as they don’t actually hit you , there’s no harm done. Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Could this be what is termed the "Green Economy" in action, the "jobs answer" to the proposed slashing of North East jobs by our new government? Whatever, we look forward to the Northern Echo's next joyful celebration of cyclist bashing.

PS Memo to Peter Barron : Many new cyclists use pavements, particularly alongside busy roads, when there is no cycle path. Discuss.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Cycling in the rain of the Netherlands

This last week, cycling to work has been an absolute pleasure. The weather has been perfect for cycling on a morning (cool but dry and sunny); in fact, since the snow cleared, we've had pretty much perfect cycling weather in Darlington for the last three or four months.

But I still see the same few cyclists on the roads and bike paths. maybe three or four other riders on a good day, on my 2.5 mile to work that goes through the town centre.

Meanwhile, on a rainy day in Utrecht in the Netherlands...

(Mark Wagenbuur's excellent video found via David Hembrow's excellent blog: A view from the cycle path - Utrecht in the rain

Friday, May 14, 2010

The cycling potential of UK towns

A new tool to help identify where the best places are to invest in cycling has been launched by consultant Steer Davies Gleave.

The cycling potential index aims to provide an objective measurement of cycling potential by scoring three attributes of an area: its hilliness, socio-demographics, and length of journey to work trips.

The index can provide results at different levels of spatial detail, such as an entire urban area or a neighbourhood. You can download the paper for more information on how the index was calculated, along with the full rankings of the 47 towns and cities that were surveyed.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Child Traffic Safety - Compare and Contrast

Netherlands-based Mark Wagenbuur has just uploaded another fascinating video on his youtube channel, this time about child traffic training in the Netherlands. Little needs to be said, except that Mark states towards the end that there were 15 child traffic deaths last year in the Netherlands. This compares with 124 in the UK in 2008. The UK population is 61.4m, the Netherlands 16.5m. Do your maths. Then have a look a look at this video and think for a second about how it differs from the UK.

The vast amount of energy, money and peoples' focus on self-defence measures for cyclists in the UK appears to be diverting us from the real problems.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Simple Logic for Cycle Infrastructure

Netherlands-based Mark Wagenbuur has recently uploaded several new videos, one of which shows those situations in the Netherlands where you have cycle paths vs. those where you do not:

The logic is simple and obvious - the greater the amount and speed of motorised traffic, the greater the need for safe and high-quality cycling infrastructure. David Hembrow explores this logic further with a recent post on his blog.

But behind this policy lies a wider approach to urban planning. Residential streets are designed for residential use, and road planning ensures that rat-running, the scourge of many of Darlington's streets, is simply not possible.

A few examples of this have appeared in Darlington, notably on the Haughton cycle route on Brunswick Street. But this is the exception rather than the rule for residential streets. Developing a cycling culture in Britain requires town planners and politicians to consider urban development more holistically. Cycling cannot simply be bolted on to an existing plan. Rather it needs to be an integral, and contributory factor, in a wider vision for residential streets, urban mobility, and the place of motorised traffic in our living spaces.

The opportunity is now there for Darlington, and other UK towns, to adopt just this approach, with Local Transport Plan 3, which will frame future transport thinking until 2025, now under consideration. But rather than being scared off by the excellent standards of infrastructure apparent in David and Mark's videos, local authorities in the UK would do well to look again at the example of Bremen in our own film, Beauty and the Bike. In Bremen, levels of cycling are high (25%) despite very patchy standards of infrastructure. Here, cycle paths were first installed in the 1970's, at a time when traffic levels - and infrastructure build standards - were generally much lower than today.

But behind the development of cycling infrastructure even then was a policy of urban planning that recognised where and how motorised traffic should be organised. The infrastructure pictured here also includes a ramp across every side street that slows down turning traffic, and gives priority to cyclists on the cycle path. Moreover, these side streets all have 20mph speed limits, are typically one way for motorised traffic but two way for cyclists, and lead to nowhere for through traffic.

The double concerns of everyday cyclists in the UK - poor infrastructure and motorist behaviour - mirror perfectly the wider perspective that has lain behind core urban transport policy in this country. Thankfully, a debate is now opening up that questions this. As this post is being written, Lynn Sloman is speaking in Darlington on the findings of a report commissioned by the Department for Transport to independently quantify the results obtained by the three Sustainable Travel Demonstration Towns; Darlington, Peterborough and Worcester. Her excellent book Car Sick offers a way forward for de-motorising our urban centres. Cycling Campaign members are there to meet her.

LTP3s around the country really have to decide - is cycling going to continue as a bolt on to car-centric urban transport policy? Or is it time for the UK to begin the long process of de-motorising our towns?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Beauty and the Bike-What Happened Next?

The excitement of the film premiere is over. Back we go to "normal" life in Darlington. We've managed to keep the beautiful dutch bikes - in fact we're going to buy 40 more this year and expand the bike hire scheme. But how many girls will keep on cycling? We know that cycling is still "uncool" for many UK teenagers - perhaps because it feels so unsafe on our meagre infrastructure? Here, one of the girls from Beauty and the Bike, Lauren Pyrah, comes behind the camera to ask what is happening to the Darlington girls now. Kate, one of the original group, is joined by Francesca to shout the praises of everyday cycling. But Ashley has stopped. Why? And will politicians listen?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Beauty and The Bike film in Velosophie magazine

Beauty and the Bike makes an appearance in German magazine Velosophie, page 22.

I don't read German, but Beatrix does:

Note: On page 13 John F. Kennedy praises the bicycle!!!
And on page 27 they advertise a pedelec with a trailer (young mum and toddler)

I am quite impressed by the variety, Chic and Charme of Velosophie.

The next article will be in „Radwelt“ the magazine of the ADFC (the CTC of Germany) in April
And after that a review of the film in „Radtouren Magazin“ in May

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dear driver of baby poo brown Renault Scenic

Please don't overtake me over the top of the railway bridge on Haughton Road. It's not wide enough.

View Larger Map

Hint: that's why I was riding in the middle of the lane.

Lucky you got in to the left before going head on into that car coming the other way, eh?

So, please don't do it again, thanks.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blocked bike path on Borough Road

Another regular annoyance on my ride to work, is the red Astra that parks over the bike path exit on Borough Road.

Blocked Borough Road filter

This short length of bike path allows cyclists to legally bypass the No Entry on the northern end on Borough Road, and forms part of one of the main radial routes into town, as well as being on the Sustrans NCN14 route.

When heading into town, cyclists using the bike path alongside Haughton Road have to cross the entrance to Bannatyne's gym and then use the filter to get onto Borough Road. As shown in the Google Streetview below*.

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This isn't the easiest manoeuvre and is made harder by the fact there are also often pedestrians crossing in the same place, so cyclists have to watch where they're going while looking behind themselves back up Haughton Road for gym members turning left, forwards on Haughton Road for people turning right and into the gym car park for people heading for Haughton Road. Add in people sometimes driving out of Borough Road, or the access the the Bannatyne's HQ, which is also behind you, but on the left and behind a wall and you've got a situation that's not made easier by the parked car!

I've reported the car to the police via email, with the above photo (but with visible car reg plate) attached, so look forward to their response.

(*Incidentally, if you have a look up the bike path on the Streetview photo, you'll see that there's a family on the bike path. Doing the illegal, but safest, thing of using the pedestrian side of the segregated path to avoid them at the point they were photographed would have you heading for a bin.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

2010 AGM

Darlington Cycling Campaign is holding their Annual General Meeting at 7pm on Monday 29 March at the Media Workshop (behind Darlington Arts Centre). Whether you ride a bike or simply have an interest in cycling as a means of everyday transport and sheer good fun, then Darlington Cycling Campaign would like to meet you.

As well as electing members to the committee, the meeting will set out its aims for the coming year and give some information on the exciting new project darLOVElo. This is your chance to help influence the way the needs of all types of cyclists will be met by Darlington Borough Council this year beyond. So, whatever your interest – more cycle parking, dealing with dangerous potholes or the provision of safe cycle lanes that actually take you to where you want to ride, then the Darlington Cycling Campaign is for you. Membership is currently free, but this may change, and the emphasis is on having fun for a good cause.

Darlington Cycling Campaign’s 2010 Annual General Meeting. 7pm on Monday 29 March at the Media Workshop (behind Darlington Arts Centre). Cycle parking is available at the Arts Centre.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Traffic Pinch Points - A Hazard To Cyclists

Karl McCracken, our guest speaker for Friday night has a post on his blog about pinch points and the hazard they present to cyclists.

This struck home to me, because there are three pedestrian refuges that I pass in quick succession on my way home from work each day which have caused me more than a few worrying moments recently. Actually, it's not the pinch points that cause the problem, it's the average motorist's inability to judge speed and distance that causes the problem, and this inability is highlighted at these pinch points.

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The first isn't too bad, but there are often parked cars around making the approach trickier. This is also the point where cars "released" from the throughabout back down the road catch up with me, meaning a nice succession of cars to pass me.

View Larger Map

The second is a bit trickier, as it's on an odd bend just after the top of a slight rise in the road and before a descent. It is not wide enough for a car to get through at the same time as me yet I often have cars desperately trying to get by me here. I often ride down the following hill swearing and gesturing to the car (now) in front of me.

View Larger Map

Then, still swearing, I meet pinch point number three where another car races past.

There's another one just after this, but I turn off here (squeezing past the car-for-sale parked half blocking the pavement, but that's a separate rant).

I'm going to be taking Karl's advice for dealing with these from now on:

I’m trying a modified technique:
I. Will. Own. That. Road. (Girlfriend).
Never mind this looking over the shoulder and pulling across if it’s safe - my moves will be accompanied by the full arm-out hand signal, and I will be riding through these kill zones at about 50-60% of the distance from the road’s edge. I will be doing this on every single one, and only IF when I get into one, I find that it’s ridiculously wide, will I then pull across to let cars pass safely.
It’s time to reclaim the streets

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Karl McCracken Guest Speaker

Leading cycling campaigner, Karl McCracken is the guest speaker at Darlington Cycling Campaign’s forthcoming open lecture event.

The second event of the new DCC season is on Friday 19th March when we welcome Karl McKraken. He has titled his illustrated talk "What's needed to make riding a bike part of the transport rather than the sports & leisure agenda"

This will certainly chime with any cyclist who views their bicycle as a legitimate means of everyday transport and yet wonders to themselves…’Surely, things could be better than this?’?

Karl’s talk will be very much an open forum, with everyone encouraged to ask questions and voice opinions. For more information on the McCracken view of everyday cycling, please visit his website at

The talk is being held at Darlington Arts Centre on Friday 19th March, starting from 7.30pm in the Media Workshop, Entry is free and open to all.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Bike Film - Now for the Politics

After cinema screenings here in Darlington and in Bremen, Germany, Beauty and the Bike was released on DVD along with the accompanying book in December 2009. The short online film has attracted over 35,000 views in less than three months. Enquiries have been coming in from all over the world. Now cycling advocates are starting to use the film as a starting point for debate about the state of cycling in their own towns and cities.

For example, this local councillor in Vancouver, Canada, has posted the online short on his blog, and there will be a public screening in the city soon.

Screenings in New Zealand, USA, France, Spain and Germany, as well as in various UK cities, are all now taking place or being planned. In most cases, women are taking the initiative and organising these events.

The political challenge implied by the film revolves around how to make cycling more attractive than driving in towns and cities. Here in Darlington, we have ideal conditions to do so. The town is just the right size, and with relatively easy topography, for cycling. If you strip away all the urban planning junk - extra right-turn lanes for little side streets, railings to herd pedestrians like sheep, silly short stretches of parking - that car-centric planners have thrown up these last 30 years, the main arterial roads are generously wide. There would be no problem designing safe, pleasant cycle paths along these key routes.

Then there is the safety issue, one that is known to deter a majority of women from cycling. A useful review of a number of studies that examined the relationship between cyclist safety and infrastructure concluded, not suprisingly, that good quality infrastructure that gave space for cyclists, resulted in far fewer accidents. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand this. Prevent the chance of accidents in the first place by giving cyclists safe space, rather than making such a big issue of cyclist self-protection having just decided to throw him/her into dodgy situations.

Many (mostly male) cyclists go on about "dangers" being exaggerated. Very true. Once you are confident on a bicycle, there's plenty of "dangers" that can be handled. But this "machoer than thou" approach misses the point. The question needs to be asked, what would most ordinary people prefer? Cycling amongst fast, speeding traffic, or cycling on a separated cycle lane? On such preferences, people choose to cycle (in Copenhagen, Bremen or Amsterdam) or not (in most towns and cities in the UK, including Darlington).

Our good friend David Hembrow, who appears in Beauty and the Bike, has been showing the world what good cycling infrastructure can be like, with excellent posts about his home town of Assen in the Netherlands. He describes this safety issue as "subjective" safety in the following terms:
Subjective safety - Are you near fast moving traffic ? Is it easy to make a turn across traffic ? Do you have to cycle "fast" in order to keep up ?

And you can improve subjective safety by improving the conditions for cyclists. And in response to the macho school he says:
Don't make the mistake of thinking that subjective safety is a concern only for inexperienced cyclists. No-one suffers from cycling being pleasant.

Interestingly another regular blogger near London, who says he was previously in favour of road-sharing with cars, has now come out in favour of separate cycle lanes. Not least after studying the example of David Hembrow.

Then there is the relative convenience of driving or cycling. In most cycling-friendly towns and cities, a conscious decision is taken to make much of the urban environment people, rather than car, centric. The design of streets tends to relate to the needs of the communities living on them, on the assumption that these streets are shared space, and not private car parks. Town and city centres are typically car free, and around such centres, one-way systems are organised in such a way that driving across town is difficult and complicated. Only delivery services make regular use of such streets. Cyclists are generally not bound by such one-way traffic rules.

Consequently, car drivers learn that these spaces are predominantly for pedestrians, children and cyclists, and unlike the average Darlo motorist tanking down Skinnergate at 5.30pm after the bollards come down on the Pedestrian Heart, they get into the habit of driving with care.

British motorists' driving habits were one of the shocks for the visiting Bremen girls in Beauty and the Bike. But when you look at the amount of road space car drivers have in this town, it's almost as if the authorities are begging us to zip through the town. Why this hypocrisy about road safety? Surely if we want drivers to slow down, we should be designing our roads in a way that encourages slow speeds?

Which brings us to the virtuous circle of the busy urban street - take space away from cars to slow them down, and give it to separated cycle paths. The carrot of quality cycling infrastructure. The stick of less space for cars. Where the fuel escalator failed - it changed nothing but the money in peoples' pockets - this approach to tackling congestion is working elsewhere. Berlin is the most obvious example. Here, the financial crisis has forced the city council to adopt cycling as the answer to congestion, rather than building new, expensive roads.

Are we beginning to see a coalescing of views around building cycling infrastructure where it is needed most - alongside busy urban roads - rather than where it is easy, and doesn't disturb the car driver? With a Darlington-made film at the centre of such debates around the world, Darlington Borough Council is currently consulting on a Local Transport Plan for the next 15 years. Would this not be an opportune time for such a debate to take place in Darlington itself?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Carlton Reid Talk in Darlington

Carlton Reid, that’s Mr. Cycling to you and I, is the Darlington Cycling Campaign’s first guest speaker of the 2010 season. Carlton possess an unrivalled knowledge of all things cycling and certainly has a thorough understanding of the issues and concerns as well as solutions for the likes of you and I, that is, the every day cyclist, be that for leisure and pleasure or simply getting from one place to another.

The evening promises to be insightful, amusing and fun. Entry is free, alas the beer is not…you could of course bring your own!

Check out Carlton on the following websites…enjoy.

Where Darlington Media Workshop (The Arts Centre)
When Friday, 15 January 2010
Time 7pm for a 7.30pm start.

Looking forward to seeing you!